Robert M. LaFollette on Ingersoll


Populist reformer Robert M. LaFollette on hearing Ingersoll campaign at Madison, Wisconsin in 1876 -- from LaFollette's autobiography:

When he [Ingersoll] came to Madison I crowded myself into the assembly chamger to hear him: I would not have miss it for every worldly thing I possessed. And he did not disappoint me.

A large handsome man of perfect build, with a face as round as a child's and a compelling smile -- all the arts of the old-tie oratory were his high degree. He was witty, he was droll, he was eloquent: he was as full of sentiment as an old violin. Often, while speaking, he would pause, break into a smile, and the audience, in anticipation of what was to come, would follow him in irresistible peals of laughter. I cannot remember much that he said, but the impression on me was indelible.

After that I got Ingersoll's books and never afterward lost an oppurtunity to hear him speak. He was the greatest orator, I think, that I have ever heard; and the greatest of his lectures, I always thought, was the one on Shakespeare.