Ingersoll and the Law

Ingersoll's law practice added to his fame. Starting in 1880, he defended Thomas J. Brady and Stephen W. Dorsey against charges of mis-assigning rural postal routes. The so-called Star Route Affair was the Watergate scandal of its day.

The nation watched Ingersoll deftly weave the longest trial defense in American history. After months of testimony Ingersoll secured accquitals for his clients. Cartoons of the time suggested that the trials mdae Ingersoll rich. In fact, he was paid only with a New Mexico ranch of little value.

In 1886, Ingersoll conducted a pro bono defense of Charles B. Reynolds, a Rochester, N.Y., freethinker arrested in Boonton, New Jersey, under an archaic blasphemy law.

Reynolds was convicted; Ingersoll paid the $50 fine himself. But so effectively did Ingersoll mock the idea of blasphemy laws in a free society that few states have brought prosecution for blasphemy since.