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are of all others the most certain. In a period of little more than forty years, by the agency of associations like this, more than thirty-five millions of Bibles and Testaments have been distributed throughout the world, and more than six millions of them within the limits of our own land. Let us persevere in this noble enterprise. And let each one of us resolve to secure for himself, against the hour which sooner or later must come to us all, that consolation which I doubt not is at this moment cheering the decline of your late venerable President, (Dr. Pierce,) — the consolation of reflecting, that it has not been for the want of any proportionate contributions or proportionate efforts on our part, if every human being has not had a Bible to live by, and a Bible to die by.
I move the adoption of the Report.
DESTRUCTION OF THE URSULINE CONVENT.
A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF MASSA
CHUSETTS, MARCH 12, 1835.
I would willingly be excused, Mr. Speaker, from any participation in this debate. I am entirely aware that little personal satisfaction, and certainly no personal popularity, is to be gained by an expression of the sentiments which I entertain upon the question at issue. But having, by a position not of my own seeking, been led into some investigation of the occurrence under consideration, immediately after it took place, I feel that it would be a desertion of duty for me to remain entirely silent.
I beg the House to believe that I have not seized upon the topic as an excuse for making a speech. Materials, indeed, there are in the circumstances of the case, which well might serve such a turn. Old and hackneyed as they may seem ;- ; threadbare as they may be supposed to have become, by their continual wear and tear, for the last six or seven months, in the public papers, in private conversation, in the reports of Committees, and in the arguments of the Bar, — I yet venture to say that there are not only unexhausted, but almost unnoticed, incidents in the history of this transaction, which, in the hands of one skilled and practised in touching the strings and sounding the stops of the human breast, might be made to harrow up the sternest soul, and freeze the youngest blood among us.
But I have no such skill, and have risen for no such purpose. I would, on the contrary, separate this question, as far as possi
ble, from every circumstance appealing to the mere feelings of
I would throw out from both sides of it all that is calculated to excite either sympathy or prejudice, and would hold an even hand between a blind commiseration on the one side, and an averted hostility on the other.
And now, Sir, what is the exact question before us? It appears that on the night of the eleventh of August last, an insti. tution, established partly for purposes of religion, partly for purposes of education, and partly for purposes of charity,- an institution established under the laws of the land, and paying the price of protection to the government in the prescribed form of annual taxes, - was besieged by a mob, sacked, pillaged, and burned ; and this — not silently, not secretly, not in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye - but by a course of concerted measures, openly and publicly carried on for a period of six or seven hours in succession, in the presence of thousands of spectators, while not a single arm was listed in its defence.
Upon these facts, universally admitted, the proprietors of the institution have presented a claim for indemnification, and upon this claim the two counter Reports, now under consideration, have been submitted to this House.
There are some things in both of these Reports with which I cordially agree; there are other things in both of them from which I entirely disagree. Not that I intend, by this remark, to couple the two documents as having, in my humble judgment, equal claims upon our favorable consideration. By no means. The whole spirit of that presented by the majority of the com mittee, I am happy to agree with ; in one single principle only do I differ from them. The whole spirit, on the other hand, of that submitted by the minority of the committee, I am as happy to dissent from ; in one accidental, and perhaps unintentional, admission, only, can I at all agree with them. I do not propose, Sir, to enter into any very detailed analysis of either of these papers. But before I proceed further, I beg leave to call the attention of the House to two or three paragraphs in the report of the minority. And especially would I call to them the attention of the signers of that report themselves; for I am willing to believe that they are as yet unaware of its full import. On the nineteenth page of the printed document containing these reports, is this extraordinary sentence, — “ The moment this Commonwealth consents to tax herself for the repair of damages, which have, or have not, resulted from her own injus. tice or criminal neglect, she countenances a belief that she is willing to admit her own responsibility as an accessory to the wrong. Dignity, then, is not preserved nor regained in this way." Countenance a belief! Why, Sir, if damages have resulted from the injustice or criminal neglect of the Commonwealth, she is already an accessory to the wrong; and no admission of her responsibility is required to countenance, nor will any denial of her responsibility suffice to discountenance, such a belief. And as to her dignity, — I leave the gentlemen to judge whether it is least compromised in such a case by denying and refusing to repair the wrong, or by confessing and making amends. One thing, Mr. Speaker, I will grant to the gentlemen, and that is, that the whole strength of this paragraph, inconsistent and absurd as it is, is needed to sustain the conclusions at which they have arrived.
Again, on the twenty-third page of the document, it is thus written, — "Let the fathers and guardians of our State help the friends and professors of their own religion.” Pray, Sir, what is their own religion? What distinction less broad than that which includes the whole Christian church, throughout all the world, — Roman Catholic and Protestant Catholic alike, -comprehends the religion of the fathers and guardians of our State? The people of Massachusetts are indeed, for the most part, Protestants, and ever may they continue so ! But the State, thank heaven, is yet allied to no Church, and never may it become so! Religious freedom, and not merely religious toleration, is her motto, and the minority of the committee will strive in vain to blot it out.
But the argument of the minority report is mainly based upon a form of oath, which previously to 1820 was a part of the Constitution of Massachusetts, and which was ordered to be taken and subscribed by all the officers of the Commonwealth. Now, the Convention of 1820 abolished this oath ; but the minority report, having been written originally in professed
and admitted ignorance of its abolition, asserts, in its amended form, that it was only “laid aside for one more concise.” Sir, my friend from Worcester (Mr. Kinnicutt) has sufficiently answered this singular position. He has told us truly that the Convention of 1820, composed as it was of the most distinguished men of Massachusetts, did not assemble for the purpose of criticizing and amending the phraseology of the Constitution, and spent none of their time in that frivolous employment. But even if it were not so, even if the oath itself still disfigured our charter, I undertake to say that the doctrines of the minority report could not be legitimately drawn from it. Some years ago, there was published, under the direction of this Legislature, a little volume containing the records of the Convention which originally framed our Constitution. In this meagre skeleton of a book, there is one fact clearly and distinctly set forth. In every instance in which the word Christian is used, or in which any allusion to religion or to the privileges of its professors occurs in the Constitution, it appears that an effort was made to introduce an exception, excluding Roman Catholics from the common family of Christians. And in every instance it failed. And what does that prove, Sir ? Why, that our fathers in 1780 were unwilling to assume the ground, which the minority of this committee in the year 1835 have taken, that Roman Catholics were, ipso facto, aliens from our Commonwealth, honoring " the Pope as their liege lord,” and having " their country in Italy.” Even at that day, if any Roman Catholic chose to renounce his allegiance to all foreign sovereigns, potentates, and prelates, or to declare upon oath that no such allegiance existed, our fathers were willing to believe him; and he was eligible to the chief magistracy, or any other
; office in the State. And even this renunciation, or declaration, was only required of Roman Catholics in common with all other candidates for office, whatever might be their creed. So much, Sir, for the basis and superstructure of the minority report!
And now, Mr. Speaker, let me declare distinctly the opinion which I have formed upon the question before us. I go for the claim of the Petitioners, and I think this Commonwealth is