D. M. Bennett

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DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett
D. M. Bennett.png
BornDecember 23, 1818
DiedDecember 6, 1882
OccupationFreethought writer, journalist
Tomb in Brooklyn

DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett (December 23, 1818 – December 6, 1882), best known as D. M. Bennett was the founder and publisher of Truth Seeker, a radical freethought and reform American periodical.[1]


Shaker Life[edit]

Derobigne M. Bennett and his sister Letsy Ann were admitted as Shakers at New Lebanon, New York, in 1834.[2] Living in the Church Family's First Order, he worked as a shoemaker, boys' caretaker, herbalist, physician, and scribe, writing part of the Journal of Inspirational Meetings in 1840 before his questioning nature became evident.[3] His life with the Shakers ended in 1846 when he eloped with Mary Wicks at the same time his sister Letsy Ann Bennett eloped with John Allen, all four of them slipping away from the Shaker village unnoticed.[4]


After leaving the Shakers, Bennett evolved into a "freethinker", founding the Truth Seeker newspaper with his wife Mary Wicks Bennett in 1873.[5] In 1878, Bennett wrote that "Jesuism", rather than Pauline Christianity, was the gospel taught by Peter, John and James.[6]

On 1 September 1873, D.M. and M.W. Bennett released the first tabloid edition of Truth Seeker. Its masthead announced its purpose:

Devoted to: science, morals, free thought, free discussions, liberalism, sexual equality, labor reform, progression, free education and whatever tends to elevate and emancipate the human race.

Opposed to: priestcraft, ecclesiasticism, dogmas, creeds, false theology, superstition, bigotry, ignorance, monopolies, aristocracies, privileged classes, tyranny, oppression, and everything that degrades or burdens mankind mentally or physically.[7]

Truth Seeker was extreme for its times, and it persists to this day though in self-resuscitating form. D.M. Bennett is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. His monument, erected by his fellow freethinkers, is covered with his statements.

Bennett was the subject of the biography D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker (2006) by Roderick Bradford and a 2009 documentary.[8]

Obscenity prosecution[edit]

United States Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock had Bennett arrested on December 10, 1878, for mailing Cupid's Yokes, a free-love pamphlet. Bennett was prosecuted, subjected to a widely publicized trial, and imprisoned in the Albany Penitentiary for thirteen months, in which his health greatly suffered. Despite a strong campaign in his favor for President Rutherford B. Hayes to pardon him, Hayes declined, pardoning the actual author (Ezra Heywood) instead.[9]



  1. Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery: New York's Buried Treasure by Jeffrey I. Richman
  1. ^ "D. M. Bennett". findagrave.com.
  2. ^ New Lebanon Church Family Vital Records, Western Reserve Historical Society Shaker ms. III:B-14b.
  3. ^ Derobigne Bennett and Isaac Newton Youngs, Journal of Inspirational Meetings (1840-1841), Western Reserve Historical Society Shaker ms. VIII:B-138.
  4. ^ Isaac Newton Youngs, Domestic Journal of Daily Occurances (1834-46) [New Lebanon], New York State Library, Albany, New York, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Shaker Collection
  5. ^ Bradford, Roderick. "D. M. Bennett".
  6. ^ Bennett, D. M. "The Progress of Jesuism". The Champions of the Church: Their crimes and persecutions. p. 84.
  7. ^ "Truth Seeker Journal". ISSN 0041-3712. Archived from the original on 2012-11-11. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  8. ^ "Truth Seeker D. M. Bennett". Theosophy forward.
  9. ^ D. M. Bennett Pardon Campaign, Church and State UK[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bradford, Roderick (2006). D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker (New York: Prometheus Books). ISBN 1-59102-430-7
  • Jacoby, Susan (2004). Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (New York: Metropolitan Books). ISBN 0-8050-7442-2

External links[edit]