WE are pleased to learn through our exchange papers that the excitement at Philadelphia and vicinity has abated, and to appearance subsided; and that the authorities are arresting some of those who took part in the disgraceful war against law and order. This is, so far at least, certainly right; but while those of the miserable clan of low and ignorant rowdies, who have been inflamed by cunning and designing men, are made to smart for their folly, madness and crime, we hope the leaders may be made to feel the dreadful responsibility that rests bu them. To arrest and punish the real actors in the late riots, and suffer those who led them on to deeds of murder and arson to go unrebuked, would be like fighting the smoke without resisting the fire which had caused it. We have watched the movements of certain dignitaries in and about Philadelphia, ever since the organization of what they were pleased to call the “Protestant Association,” an organization of several of the most popular religious interests in the country, for the express purpose of operating against the Catholics.
That every sect should enjoy the full liberty of speech, and a right to expose what it conceives to be the errors of other sects, is in perfect harmony with what we understand to be the spirit of our republican institutions; but their efforts should be directed by fair arguments and scripture testimony, and always accompanied with meekness and a desire to promote the advancement of that cause which breathes “Peace on earth, and good will towards men.” The union of several denominations for the express purpose of exterminating their religious opponents, while manifesting but little confidence on their part in the justice of their cause, the power of their arguments, or in the God whom they profess to worship, displays an attitude of decided hostility, which is eminently calculated to excite the worst passions of depraved human nature. Those clerical gentlemen who hare conceived the plan for the proscription and extermination of Catholics, should they succeed in butchering them down in our streets, or in driving them out from our country, would next proceed against all other sects and denominations. The Jews, the Friends, the Old School Baptists, and such of other denominations as should be found dissenting, would in their turn have to share the same fate: The example of Cain, in attempting the establishment of his religion by brute force, was never given to be imitated by the followers of the meek and lowly Lamb of God. And it is certainly very unbecoming in those who assume to be the “truly evangelical,” to meditate the suppression of their religions opponents by hurling bolts of vengeance which they, or an exasperated and an infuriated mob which they have power to raise and inflame, are able to throw. Such a course as the dominant religionists of Philadelphia hare pursued, very illy comports with their high sounding professions of benevolence, charity, christian zeal, humility, &c. Was it very benevolent to burn down the temples where their neighbors professed to worship God, because those who burned them could not agree in sentiments held by the worshipers? Was it christian-like to demolish the quiet dwelling-houses of unoffending citizens, and drive some hundreds of wretched families with their sick, their aged and their infants, destitute, into the neighboring woods for shelter from their cruel violence? Was it in keeping with their professions of zeal for the promotion of literature, to burn down the seminary of the “Sisters of Charity,” and commit to the flames the library of the Catholic priests? Yet streaming on the banners of the rioters were mottoes declaring the attachment of the murderers to the bible! Could anything be calculated to do greater injustice to that blessed book, or to bring it into greater discredit, than to present it as teaching men to murder each other? When the Catholics slaughtered seventy thousand Protestants in France, it is said they carried a dagger in one hand and a crucifix in the other; and when the Protestants mowed down the Catholics in the city of Philadelphia, they used the bible as their motto and password.
But why, some may inquire, do we charge the Protestants with being the cause of the frightful riots of Philadelphia? Because it is our firm conviction that they were the primary cause of it. King David was justly charged with the murder of Uriah, although he slew him with the sword, of the children of Ammon. And although the Protestant Association did not turn out as an organized body to destroy the Catholics or their property, yet they did, for several weeks prior to the outbreak, do all in their power to incense the mob, and are therefore, in our opinion, as guilty of the blood of the victims that perished through their instigation by the sword of the mob, as was king David of the death of Uriah by time sword of the children of Ammon. It cannot well be disputed that the clergy were in attendance in the public squares of the city, from day to day, with all their powers of eloquence, laboring to produce an incendiary spirit against the Catholics, by representing to them that the pope of Rome had issued orders to banish the bible from our schools, and to deprive our children of the use of that sacred book. That this was the prime cause of all the riot and bloodshed in the city cannot be successfully denied; for we have files of the Philadelphia papers in our office by which we were advised for eight weeks before the outbreaks, of those incendiary meetings, and of the inflammatory harrangues of the clergy which were in attendance. The clergy could not themselves have believed what they were representing to the people. They had no idea that the pope had sent over any such bulletin as they had described to enrage the people, and there fore the blood of those slaughtered victims is found in their skirts.
That the Catholics of the city and its environs had objected to the Protestant religion being incorporated as part of the system of popular education in those common schools which they were compelled to support by tax, we do not dispute; and to this they had a constitutional right to object, as it is a flagrant violation of the constitution or our country to impose a tax upon one portion of our citizens, under any pretext whatever, to support the sectarian dogmas of another. The constitutional right of which the Catholics availed themselves, or rather attempted to avail themselves of; is a right which the Protestants would sooner die than yield. Would the Protestants, under any consideration, suffer the Catholic bible and the Catholic religion to be taught in the common schools for which they are taxed? They would die first. Why then impose, or attempt to impose on the Catholics a burden which is worse than death, or violently take from them rights which are dearer than life? The Protestant Association is as destitute of an availing apology for attempting to deprive the Catholics of their civil and religions rights, as David was for coveting Uriah’s wife, or the rich man in the prophet Nathan’s parable, for seizing the ewe lamb of his indigent neighbor. The Protestants are by no means dependent on the common schools for opportunity to teach their children the bible or any creed they choose. They can read their bibles at home, or they can send them to schools which are taught at their own expense: they have Sunday Schools, Private Schools and Theological Schools, besides their church establishments for teaching what religion they choose. Nor have the Catholics ever, to our knowledge, attempted to deprive them of the full enjoyment of them. But still their language is, like that of Haman, “What does all this avail me, while I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate?” They cannot enjoy their privileges, unbounded as they are, unless they can see the Catholics and all non-conformists proscribed.
We neither intend to make or even imply any charge against the Protestant Grand Jury, which investigated the cause of the riots in May, for we know-not what testimony led to their decision; nor do we pretend to judge of the motives which governed them in making out and presenting their verdict; for aught we know, they may be the most conscientious, disinterested, and enlightened jury that could have been charged with the responsibility of that investigation, but from the moment we read their report, we expected the second riot. That verdict virtually justified the Protestants in those incendiary proceedings, in which, as we have shown, they labored for weeks to exasperate the mob against the Catholics, by attributing the cause of the riot to the attempt of the Catholics to remove the bible from the common schools. We hope, in the investigation of the cause of the late riot, which is now in progress, measures may be taken to ferret out the real originators of the disorder, and while their silly dupes are brought to merited punishment, their leaders may receive such rebuke as shall teach them forever hereafter to enjoy their own rights, without attempting again to infringe upon the equal rights of their fellow-citizens.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
August 15, 1844
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 478 – 482