Skip to main content

Hugh B. Macculloch to Walt Whitman, 15 June 1888

Dictated. Dear Sir:  loc.02917.001_large.jpg

Col. Robt. G. Ingersoll2 will shortly contribute to THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW a brilliant article in defense of his views of Christianity, which were powerfully assailed by the Rt. Hon. Wm. E. Gladstone, in the May number of the Review.3 The controversy between these two most gifted writers and orators of modern times is chaining the attention of all classes of thinkers, and is recognized as the most stirring and memorable debate of the century.

For a limited period the following offer is made by me to new subscribers to THE NORTH  loc.02917.002_large.jpg AMERICAN REVIEW: For a yearly subscription at $5.00 the REVIEW will be sent you, postage pre-paid, with a free copy of Mr. Allen Thorndike Rice's4 valuable "Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln," a remarkable book by thirty-three remarkable men (see enclosed circular).5 The price of this highly successful book alone has never varied from $4.00.

If you desire to follow the course of the Gladstone-Ingersoll controversy in the leading Review of the country, and avail yourself of this exceptional opportunity kindly send me your order on the accompanying card, and oblige,

Yours respectfully, Hugh B. Macculloch

Beyond the fact that Hugh B. Macculloch worked in advertising for the North American Review in New York City, we have no further information on this person.


  • 1. The dates June 15,1888 and June 28, 1888 are stamped in blue on the first page of the letter. [back]
  • 2. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]
  • 3. William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898) was a British politician, serving as Prime Minister for four separate terms. The essay Macculloch mentions responds to Ingersoll's "Letter to Dr. Field," which appeared in the January 1888 issue. Near its conclusion, Ingersoll asserts his agnostic views, "Neither in the interest of truth, nor for the benefit of man, is it necessary to assert what we do not know. No cause is great enough to demand a sacrifice of candor. The mysteries of life and death, of good and evil, have never yet been solved." In response, Gladstone writes, "How good, how wise are these words! But coming at the close of the controversy, have they not some of the ineffectual features of a death-bed repentance?" Ingersoll's June letter furthered the debate then being promoted by The North American Review as the Ingersoll-Gladstone Controversy. [back]
  • 4. Charles Allen Thorndike Rice (1851–1889) was a journalist and edited and published the North American Review in New York from 1876 until his death. His Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (1888) was published by The North American Review Publishing Company. [back]
  • 5. Macculloch is referring to a collection of essays on Abraham Lincoln edited by Allen Thorndike Rice. Featured authors included Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass, Henry Ward Beecher, and various Congressmen, governors, and journalists. See Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln: by distinguished men of his time, Allen Thorndike Rice, ed. (New York: North American Publishing Company, 1886). [back]
Back to top