March 6, 1870.. 1870.. Good. - Octavo, 7-7/8 inches high by 5 inches wide. Approximately 250 words penned on three sides of a folded sheet with Croly's monograph embossed in blind at the top of the first page and the text of the third page penned vertically on the verso of the first. A substantial letter addressed to the American philosopher and historian John Fiske in which David Goodman Croly discusses plans for the first issue of the "Modern Thinker": "I enclose another prospectus of the 'Modern Thinker,' the first number of which I hope to have out by June...." and suggests that Fiske might have an interest in becoming an editor for the periodical: "I shall myself get out the first two numbers but if the means can be raised you will probably be invited to act as editor of the subsequent publications...." Wanting to make an impression and "shock people" he asks if Fiske can help "not in money but in the furnishing of one striking article...." Signed "D.G. Croly". Folded for mailing, there is some slight minor smudging and soiling. The letter was once tipped into a scrapbook as attested by some light glue stains to the blank page. A RARE autograph.
The Irish-born American Journalist David Goodman Croly (1829-1889) was associated with the New York "Evening Post" and the "Herald" before moving on as managing editor of the "World". During the Civil War, he sought to discredit the Lincoln administration and the abolitionist movement by co-authoring an anonymous pamphlet purporting to be written by an abolitionist who promoted the intermarriage between whites and blacks. This 1864 pamphlet, titled "Miscegenation" played on the racist fears common among people of the period. In effect, Croly coined the term miscegenation for the first time. In 1870, Croly published the journal "The Modern Thinker" under the pseudonym of David Goodman. The journal was a vehicle for the positivist and Spencerian philosophy of Croly and some of his colleagues including John Humphrey Noyes. The periodical ran from 1870 through 1873, a total of only 3 issues. Among other works, Croly authored a "Primer of Posivitism" (1876) and the early attempt at futurology "Glimpses of the Future: Suggestions as to the Drift of Things" (1888). It is interesting to note that David Goodman Croly was the father of Herbert Croly, the co-founder of the Progressve periodical "The New Republic".
The American philosopher and historian John Fiske (1842-1901) was one of the leading popularizers of Spencer's theory of social evolution and published several articles and reviews for The Modern Thinker.
A review of the periodical published in "The Journal of Anthropology, Volume 1, No. 3 (Jan 1871)" page 355, reads: "The following extract from the introductory 'Egotisms' of the editor will show the position intended to be occupied by this new American periodical. 'The projector of The Modern Thinker is a Positivist, of the school of Auguste Comte. He does not, however, unqualifiedly accept all the speculations of that great philosopher. It is his desire to be liberal, and to open the pages of this publication to the representatives of all the advanced schools of thought, especially to the adherents of Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill.' The questions treated of in the present number are full of interest, and they are discussed with ability, and with praiseworthy absence of dogmatism. Amongst the best articles are 'The Last Word about Jesus,' by John Fiske...."
"The most fantastic of [David] Croly's literary undertakings - a radical periodical entitled The Modern Thinker - appeared in 1871 [actually 1870]. 'No journal heretofore published in the United States,' he announced, 'has made it its special business to give expression to the advanced thought of the time on philosophical, scientific, and religious questions.' The Modern Thinker would 'employ the best minds of the age as contributors.' And Croly mentioned Spencer, Huxley, George Eliot, Ernest Renan, Darwin, and the four leading disciples of Auguste Comte: Littre, Harrison, Bridges, and Congreve. Although the contributors proved to be somewhat less spectacular than advertized, they were distinguished, and the new magazine was intelligent, provocative, and filled with radical ideas." -- David W. Levy: "Herbert Croly of the New Republic: The Life and Thoughts of an American Progressive" (Princeton University Press, 1984).