“The Decline of Faith” – A page from the Bengali translation from the belongings of Victor Hugo Noyes

19th Century Freethought pamphlet

19th Century Freethought pamphlet

This page from a leaflet of John E. Remsburg’s “The Decline of Faith”, noted as “translated into the Bengalee language by Kedarnath Basu M.C. a leader of the Freethought Movement in Bengal, India”, is believed to be from Victor Hugo Noyes’ travel to India pre 1886. The image is courtesy of Nancy Benton.

Who was Remsburg?

Remsburg, John E., author and lecturer, was born in Fremont, Ohio, Jan. 7, 1848, a son of George J. and Sarah A. (Willey) Remsburg. He enlisted in the Union army at the age of sixteen; married Miss Nora M. Eiler of Atchison, Kan., Oct. 9, 1870; was a teacher for 15 years, then a writer and lecturer in support of free thought, his lectures being translated into German, French, Bohemian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian. Bengali and Singalese. He was superintendent of public instruction in Atchison county, Kan., for four years; is a life member of the American Secular Union, of which he was president for three years; a member of the Kansas State Horticultural Society; author of a “Life of Thomas Paine,” 1880; “The Image Breaker,” 1882; False Claims,” 1883; “Bible Morals,” 1884; “Sabbath Breakers,” 1885; “The Fathers of Our Republic,” 1886; “Was Lincoln a Christian,” 1893; “Was Washington a Christian,” 1899; “The Bible,” 1903; “Six Historic Americans,” 1906; “The Christ,” 1909.

Page 570 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. … / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.

The Wikipedia entry on Remsburg supplies more information.

“The Decline of Faith” was published in 1882 as part of a collection of Remsburg’s articles in The Image Breaker, put out by the Truth Seeker publishing company, out of New York. I find ads for “The Decline of Faith” published in a variety of freethought publications, but the real deal itself doesn’t appear to be online.

I would think it likely, Remsburg being a very popular speaker hailing from Kansas, that Victor Hugo Noyes had opportunity to see Remsburg speak in person. Perhaps Remsburg even had speaking engagements in Liberal, Missouri.

Note in the below page of testimonials, published in 1887, a clip from the Atchison Globe stated, “An edition of 15,000 Image Breakers in India has already been exhausted.”

And we even spy a testimonial by Kedarnath Basu, the translator. “They are full of terse, trenchant, radical matter, and will open the eyes of every reasonable man.”

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