The Know-Nothings, part II (freemasonry)
We consider ourselves bound, as Catholic journal, encouraged and supported by the bishops and clergy for our devotion to the interests of Catholicity, to abstain, as a general rule, from all intermeddling with party politics. We do not think it fair or honorable to use influence we may acquire among Catholics, as religious journalist, against or in favor of any political party. We have no right to commit, or try to commit, the bishops and clergy who support us to one party or another. They in their official capacity do not enter into the political conflicts of the day, and tell the people of their charge with what party they must or must not vote, in order to discharge their duties as Catholics. We have good opportunities of knowing their views on the subject, and we do them only simple justice when we say that they wish to keep the church and Catholic interests in the country free from the passions, conflicts, and interests of political parties.
Believing such to be the policy of the ecclesiastical authority, and believing it only wise or prudent policy for Catholics in this country, we have always set our faces against the formation of a Catholic party in politics, and studied to make it manifest, as far as our Review could be regarded as an organ of the Catholic body, that Catholics are as free as any other class of citizens to belong to which of the great parties of the country they see proper, and that it is no more nor less a mark of Catholicity to support the Democratic party than the Whig, or the Whig than the Democratic. We have felt ourselves at liberty to discuss the great principles of government and administration, to treat of the morality of the philosophy of politics, but not to take sides for or against any party, which recognized loyalty to the constitution as a duty. In this the recognized organs of the Catholic body have with scarcely an exception, fully agreed with us. No Catholic journal, recognized officially as an episcopal organ, has suffered itself to be a partisan journal ; and we may say that it is and has been the settled policy of the church in America, and of all who in any way may be regarded as expressing her views and wishes, to keep Catholic interests independent of the conflicts of political parties, and to leave all Catholics in their quality of citizens free, saving loyalty to the constitution, to vote for such party as they in their conscientious convictions think best. As a matter of fact, though the majority of foreign-born Catholics, for reasons very distinct from their Catholicity, have usually voted the Republican or Democratic ticket, Catholics, like other citizens, have always been more or less divided in their political preferences.
In Ireland, and some countries on the continent, we have seen a Catholic Party in politics; but there have been reasons for such a party there which have not existed with us, There Catholicity has been connected in some way with the state, either as the object of its patronage or of its hostility, and Catholics have been obliged to enter the arena of politics, not as citizen only, but as Catholics, in order to defend the freedom and independence of their church, to repeal or prevent the passage of persecuting statutes, and to defend or to obtain equal rights with non-Catholics. Such was the case in the struggle for Catholic emancipation in Great Britain and Ireland ; such was the in the long struggles in France for freedom of Catholic education, and such will always be the case where the government undertakes to legislate in references to Catholic interests, either for or against them. But in this country the government professes to let the church alone, and not to legislate on religion at all. So long as it does let the church alone, and leaves her in her own sphere, and in regard to her own children, free to follow her own constitution and laws, and protects Catholics in their equal rights, as men and citizens, there is and can be no justification of a Catholic party in politics. To attempt to make it a Catholic duty to support one party would make, no unreasonably, bitter enemies of the party opposed, without securing the friendship of the party supported. Besides, it would be a sort of secularizing of the church.
Undoubtedly, there have been journals circulating chiefly amongst Catholics, and regarded as Catholic by outsiders, and demagogues enough, nominally Catholic perhaps, that have talked in boastful way of Catholic party and the great things it would do, and have endeavored to make use of the influence they exerted to commit Catholic body as such, and to turn over the so-called "Catholic vote" to one party or another. There has been, no doubt, too much of this, and Catholics and Catholic interests are suffering not a little from it. But the church is not responsible for it, for she never inspired it, and they who have done it have acted without her authority and against her wishes. Her wish is to pursue her spiritual mission in peace and keep aloof from politics, so long as they leave her the opportunity. Even in Ireland, where the clergy have been obliged, in order to protect the flocks, to assume, in some measure, the position of political leaders, we see, as things settle down into a less abnormal state, a decided disposition manifested by the hierarchy to withdraw Catholic interests as far as possible from the action of political parties, and thus render them independent of party successes or party failures.
But this wise, just, and prudent policy, which needs only to be stated in order to be approved by every sensible man, is threatened to be disturbed by the new part that has recently sprung up, under the pretence, wholly unfounded, that the Catholic Church has entered the field of politics, and is laboring to control the politics of the country. The Know-nothings are endeavoring to make the Catholic question a political question, to be decided by the action of political parties. Unhappily, we cannot deny that a few custom-house Catholics, that is, Catholics who are so only in name, or in the hopes of using Catholicity to help them into some petty office, and some journals that look upon the Catholic body as their stock in trade, have said some foolish things, and done what they could to make the appointing power believe that there is a "Catholic vote," and that they command it; but these do not represent the church, and have not, as non-Catholic politicians sometimes imagine, the confidence of the Catholic community. They are so little considered by us that we have not, perhaps, taken sufficient pains to disavow them. But in spite of all these may say or do, we repeat it, the church has not in the country entered at all into the field of secular politics, and has in no instance instructed her children as to the party they should or should not vote for. Catholic citizens are citizens as much as any other class of citizens, and have the right to vote according to their political preferences. If they have been more subjected to the influence of leaders than others, -- a fact which we do not concede, --it has not been by their clergy, nor by appeals to their Catholicity. As a body, whether foreign-born or native-born, they are without exception the most conscientious and independent class of voters in the country. Nevertheless, the Know-nothings, seizing upon a few isolated facts, which prove nothing against the church, will have it that she interferes in our elections, and is seeking, by Catholic votes cast under priestly dictation, to get control of the civil power, and massacre all the Protestants and non-Catholics, reduce them to slavery, or compel them at the point of the bayonet to embrace the Catholic faith. They abound in frightful stories about "secret conclaves," "popish plats," and "papal conspiracies" ; and some men, who ought to know enough to laugh at such things, really run away with a notion that out liberties are in danger, and that our republican institutions are all doomed ! Poor men ! they never stop to think that liberty is as dear to us as it is to them, and that we cannot destroy the republican institutions od the country without involving ourselves in the same ruin that we should bring upon our non-Catholic fellow-citizens. But the panic is produced, people are alarmed out of their propriety by the "rapid spread of poverty." "the growing influence of Rome," and the Know-nothings, taking advantage of the excitement which they themselves fanned, appear resolved to force our religion into politics, and to make it a direct subject of legislation. Let them turn, or attempt to turn, the government against us, and, as little as they know, they must see that the will bring Catholic interests into party politics, and force us, if we vote at all, to vote in reference to our own interests as Catholics, and compel the church, in defense of her own freedom and independence, to do the precise thing they so falsely accuse her of having done.
We regard this as a most grave objection to the Know-nothing movement. It brings into our politics the very element which, by recognizing the equal rights of all professedly Christian denominations, and granting special favors to none, it was the intention of our statesmen to exclude from them. The American principle is to leave religion to itself, and each religious community to the voluntary support of its own members, and free to follow with regard to them its own laws and discipline. The intention was to leave to the state, or the members of each religious denomination in their quality of citizens, in which all were equal, only secular affairs to deal with. All being free in their religion, and having all their religious rights protected, it was hoped the citizens might discharge their civil duties, and exercise their civil rights, without introducing into party politics their religious differences. Whether this truly American policy is, abstractly considered, the most desirable or not, it obviously is the only practicable policy in a country like ours, cut up as it is into a multitude of religious acts and denominations. The only sensible rule is either to exclude all religions but one, or to recognize the equal rights of all, and to grant them all equal protection, as involved in the protection of their equal rights as citizens. The former was wholly out of the question with us, and not to be though of. The latter was the rule adopted, and is the American policy. No class of persons in the country has more cheerful accepted this policy, or more scrupulously conformed to it than Catholics. It is this policy that the new party, if we understand it, proposes to subvert. It proposes to make religion an affair of state, and the religious differences of American citizens an element in our party contests. In this it is not American, but anti-American.
But we are told that the movement is not directed against Catholics as Catholics, but as foreigners. The aim is, that "Americans shall govern America." Why then introduce Catholics at all? All foreigners are not Catholics, nor are all Catholics foreigners. If Catholics are not to opposed in their quality of Catholics, or their rights and privileges affect on account of their being Catholics, there is no occasion for dragging them into the discussion, and the declamations against them are not ad rem. The majority of persons migrating hither since 1852 are non-Catholics. The emigration from Ireland has fallen off greatly, and instead of being two thirds of the whole immigration, as it was a few years ago, is now not one third. Its proportion will continue to be less and less every year. The great body of emigration is now from Germany, and three fourths of the German emigrants are non-Catholics. If the movement is simply against foreigners, it must be against non-Catholic as well as Catholic foreigners. Why then is it necessary to attack Catholics as such? Catholics, whether native-born or foreign-born, are as much disposed to maintain the rule that "Americans shall govern America" as non-Catholics are, and perhaps even more so. Indeed, Americans do govern and have governed America, ever since the war of independence. Foreigners, when naturalized, and it is only when naturalized that they can vote, are American citizens, placed before the constitution and laws on a footing of perfect equality with native-born citizens, and are therefore, in all that relates to governing, Americans, as much so as if they had been born on the soil. If the object is to alter the naturalization laws, and to require a longer residence in the foreigner before admitting him to the rights of citizenship, there is still no need of bringing Catholicity into the discussion. Catholics did not make the present naturalization laws, and are no more interested in sustaining them than any other class of citizens. The country passed them, and if it sees proper to alter them, it can do so. Catholics as citizens may or may not oppose it but unless they are to be altered to the prejudice of Catholic immigrants alone, they will take no part in the discussion as Catholics. They will enter the lists as Catholics only in case there is an attempt at exclusive legislation, either in form or in fact, against them; and is they do so, then the party avocation it, not they, will be accountable for bringing Catholicity into the field of politics.
But we are told that, through Catholics are not opposed precisely on account of their religion, yet the movement is against them because by their religion they render themselves foreigners. But this is a distinction where there is no difference. If we are foreigners by virtue of our religion, and it is only because we are Catholics that we are opposed on account of our religion, for it is precisely on that account and no other that we are opposed. The pretence is not true. We are ourselves Catholic, unworthy of the name if you will, yet Catholic we are, and as much so as any man in the country. Nevertheless, we are American, and have proved it, as all must confess, in our articles on The Native Americans and Know-nothings. In them we have proved that we are American in feeling and affection, and prepared to risk all our worldly interest in defending true Americanism against every species of foreignism. Did we not call down upon our heads the wrath of every foreign organ in the country, and receive some severe rebukes from a considerable number of our foreign-born Catholics brethren? Since the storm that was excited against us last year, let no one dare accuse us of not being an American. We love our country, and no man in the Know-nothing ranks has dared as much or made as heavy sacrifices for it as we have, whether wisely and needfully or not. We can show as long a line of American ancestry as any man in New England. We are American by descent, by birth, by residence, by education, by habits and manners, by sentiments and affections, and by the constitution and laws. We are American in every sense in which any many can be American. Do you mean, then, to tell us that, in becoming a Catholic, we have forfeited or renounced our Americanism? We deny it. By the American constitution and law we are free to be a Catholic as you are to be a Methodist or a Baptist. There is no law in the country, or less scripta or lex non scripta, that makes it obligatory on an American citizen to be a non-Catholic, or that declares becoming a Catholic o forfeiture or a renunciation of citizenship. Do no, then, undertake to obfuscate the popular mind on the subject. Say out openly that you intend to proscribe the Catholic religion, to place it under the ban of the law, and establish non-Catholicity as the legal religion of the country. Say out to the world that the profession of Catholicity in America is hereafter to be forbidden under pain of losing the rights of American citizenship and American nationality. But then boast no more equal rights, talk no more of founding your government on the rights of man, or religious liberty.
But "you are papist, and owe allegiance to a foreign potentate, are subjects of a foreign sovereign, and therefore cannot be American citizens." Know-nothings, indeed you are, if you believe that. Where have you lived that you have not learned to reject this silly pretence, got up by England in those days when she wished to persecute Catholics without incurring the odium of persecution? England persecuted Catholics for years, massacred them, hung them, exiled or imprisoned them, fined them, or confiscated their foods, solely, as everybody knows, because they were Catholics ; yet, as she pretended, not on account of religion but politics,--because, acknowledging the authority of the pop, they could not be loyal subjects to the British crown. It was a vain pretext in England, but it had a certain plausibility there that it has not and cannot have here. Catholic England has a two-fold relation to the pope, that of a Catholic people and that of a fief of the Holy See. The pope was not only the spiritual head of the church in England, as elsewhere, but he was also the feudal sovereign of the English state, lord paramount in the temporal order ; and when the crown became Protestant, it reverted to the Holy See as a forfeited or lapsed fief. It is true, that after the reformation no claim to it was made by the pope ; but it was easy for English statesmen to confound in the minds of the public the papal rights dependent on the feudal relations of England to the Holy See, and his rights as simply spiritual chief of the church. But here no such relations have ever existed. This country has never been a fief of the Holy See, and the pope has no feudal claims over it. His authority over Catholics in this country is simply his authority as spiritual head of the church,--an authority in an order above the state, and distinct from it. Obedience to it, therefore, can never conflict with any obedience due to the state.
The new party professes to be American, and the whole of its argumentation to prove that Catholics cannot be Americans proceeds on the assumption that Americanism consists essentially in holding American principles. Now any one who will take the trouble to examine our American system will find that one of its characteristic features is the disclaiming on the part of the state of all authority in the spiritual order, or the recognition of the perfect freedom and independence of religion. The state here does not tolerate all religions, for the power to tolerate implies the power to suppress ; but it recognizes the equal rights of all religions. Those rights are not grants from the state, they are recognized by it as independent of it, and sacred to it. It does not confer them, it respects and protects them. In acknowledging the equal rights of all religions, the American system acknowledges that the state has no authority in spirituals, and therefore in religious matters has no claim to the obedience or allegiance of any of its subjects or citizens. Hence, as the pope has only authority over Catholics in the spiritual order, no obedience he can exact of them, or which they owe him, can ever conflict with any obedience which the state with us even claims as its due. The party, then' in pretending that the obedience we owe as Catholics to the spiritual chief of the church is incompatible with our duty as American citizens to the state, not only to strike at the root of all religion liberty, but they make war on Americanism itself, and are on their own principles an anti-American party.
This clear enough to any one of ordinary capacity who will take time to think, and not suffer himself to be imposed upon time to think, and not suffer himself to be imposed upon by the idle declamation and false assertions of anti-popery lecturers and journals. A friend in Raleigh, North Carolina, sends us the following slip from a newspaper:--
"If the pope directed the Roman Catholics of this country to overthrow the constitution, to sell the nationality of the country as a sovereign state, and annex it as a dependent province to Napoleon the Little's crown, they would be bound to obey.---Brownson's Review, by authority of the Archbishop of Boston, Mass."
We suppose there are people in the country, not under guardianship, who can believe, not only that we wrote this, but that such is the real doctrine of the church. Now we never wrote one word of it, nor any thing from which it can be logically inferred. We suppose we go as far in asserting the papal power as any Catholic in the world, but we hold no such doctrine as in here ascribed to us. We believe the pope in the divinely appointed judge of the Law of God for all Catholics, but not the temporal ruler of states. The constitution of the United States is not repugnant to the Law of God, and is one which the people of the United States under the law had a perfect right to establish, and therefore the pope has and can have no right to command and overthrow. It is idle to speculate what Catholics would be bound to do, in case he should command it, because every Catholic knows that he never can command it. As for annexing our country to the crown of Napoleon the Little, or Napoleon the Big, it is sufficient to add, that "when the sky falls, we shall catch larks." The papal power lies in the spiritual order, and if he can interfere in temporal matters at all, it is only in the respect in which they are spiritual, and then not for the destruction, but for the protection, of the rights of individuals and nations.
But all this is gratuitous. The power we recognize in the pope, as regards us, be it more or less, is simply spiritual, and whatever obedience we owe him, we owe to him as the spiritual chief of a spiritual society, or, in one word, as the vicar of Jesus Christ. Both the power and the obedience are essential to our religion as Catholics, on which we can allow no secular authority or political party to interrogate us. Our religion, be it what it may, is no affair of the state. It is a matter of conscience, between us and God, and to him alone are we answerable for it. If we break the peace, offend contra bonos mores, commit crimes against the state, or fail in any of our civil duties, spare us not, but punish us as you do any other class of citizens. We ask no special exemption, or special favor. We acknowledge our obligation to demean ourselves as good citizens ; we hold ourselves amenable to the laws, and maintain the right of the state to punish us for any civil offences of which we may be guilty. But there we stop, and there you most stop. You have no right to go beyond, for that we conduct ourselves as good and loyal citizens is all that the state or society has a right to exact of us. All beyond is of the domain of conscience, where the civil power, or secular society, has not the faintest shadow of a right to penetrate. The whole question, then, narrows itself down to this, are we, holding ourselves as other citizens amenable to the laws for all civil or social matters, free, in this country, to be Catholics, or are we not? That we are by the constitution and laws and laws as they stand, is undeniable. Are we to remain so? If not, the new party are simply, whatever their pretensions or their circumlocutions, warring against religious liberty, and endeavoring to make this hitherto land of equal rights a land of no-rights to Catholics.
Have the so-called American party weighed well the principle they adopt? The same principle that disfranchises us may to-morrow disfranchise the Unitarian, the Universalist, the Quaker, the Congregationalist, the Presbyterian, the Episcopalian, the Baptist, and make the Methodist or the Mormon religion the only religion that can be professed by an American citizen. Once begin to discriminate between religions, and where will you stop? Have the Know-nothings considered the gross inconsistency they are guilty of in calling themselves the "American party," while they are warring against American principles, and in fact the characteristic feature of the American system, that of leaving all religions free? Have they considered --Protestants as they are, and embodying a goodly portion of Methodist and other Protestant ministers--what an admirable commentary they are furnishing us on the claim set up by Protestants to be the party of religious liberty,--a claim which never had any foundation but the vehemence and impudence with which it was asserted? The only things which would even seem to give a little plausibility to this claim were the religious liberty recognized by our American government, and the Catholic relief bill, passed by the British parliament in 1829. The recent ecclesiastical titles bill has taken away the credit of the latter, and the Know-nothing movement to disfranchise Catholics must of course take away that of the former. Do not the Know-nothings see that they are doing precisely the things required to give the lie to the liberal professions of Protestants, and to confirm all that we ever said of the intolerant and persecuting nature of Protestantism? Where is Protestant devotion to religious liberty, when it denies the freedom of Catholicity, denies the freedom of the Catholic conscience, and enacts that the American who becomes a Catholic shall lose his rights as an American citizen.
These Know-nothings-- we speak here simply as an American citizen-- are bringing discredit on our American institutions, and playing into the hands of foreign despots. The American boast is that our institutions are based on natural as distinguished from historical right, on the rights of man distinguished from the rights of castes, orders, or classes, and that they recognize and guaranty the equal rights of all. This is our proud boast in the face of the despotisms aristocracies, distinctions, and privileges of the Old World. As a necessary consequence of this doctrine of equal rights, we have recognized the equality of all religions, the equal rights of all denominations before the state. It is not by virtue of any positive law, nor by the virtue of any equal rights recognition of our religion by the state, that it has hitherto been free in this country, but by virtue of the equal rights of all American citizens, coincident, it is claimed, with the equal rights of all men. The state, abstaining from the legislating for or as she is concerned, to their own voluntary action of the state, but on the equal rights of all men, which it assorts, and for Americans pledges itself to protect. Now to disfranchise Catholics, or to debar Catholics from citizenship, is the denial of the doctrine of equal rights, which is adopted as the very basis of our institutions, and violates the essential principle of American democracy. It is to recognize in one class of men rights which are denied to another, and to create of non-Catholics a privileged class, a political aristocracy. We command this to the attention of those members of the new party who claim to be Democrats. What they are doing will not do to tell in aristocratic England, Imperial France, or despotic Russia. It will not do, in the face of the enemies of our republic in Europe, seeking every opportunity to bring institutions into disrepute and to cover the American character with odium or contempt, for the party to war against equal rights, and still call itself "the American Party." The Philistines would rejoice, and the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Thus far we have considered the party as a part opposed to Catholicity, and proposing to exclude Catholics from the rights of American citizens. As such it is undeniably anti-American, and hostile to both civil and religious liberty. Not precisely the same is to be said against it, regarding it simply as a party opposed to the naturalization of foreigners. The nation is undoubtedly competent to say whether it will or will not admit foreigners into the bosom of its civil and political society ; and if it determines to admit them, it belongs to it to prescribe the conditions on which it will do it. So much is unquestionable. But it is bound to keep good faith with all men, and it has no right to deprive and already naturalized of their equal rights of citizenship, and no right to alter its naturalization laws so as to render it more difficult for those who have already naturalized. With these restrictions the country has certainly the abstract right to modify or repeal its naturalization laws, and there is, no doubt a very general feeling in the country that it ought to do so. We enter here into no discussion of the subject, for we have heretofore given our views of it at length, and it does not specially interest us as Catholics. It is not in itself a Catholic question. It affects us as an American citizen, as it does all other American citizens, but not as Catholic, or, if so, only accidentally and temporally.
But we must say, and nobody will suspect us of undue foreign sympathies, that this outcry against foreigners is a little ill-timed, and not all justifiable. It has been from the beginning the policy of this country to invite immigration from abroad. One of the things set forth by the congress in 1776, in justification of the declaration of independence, was, that of King of Great Britain had “endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising conditions of new appropriations of lands." The laws have been so framed as to attract foreign settlers. Our foreign population may tell us with truth, that, if they have come here. it has been on our invitation, and if they have had facilities for speedily becoming naturalized, these facilities have been granted by us as inducements to bring them hither. It they have come in larger numbers than we expected, or even of a different class from what we desired, we must not blame them, for our invitation was to all, and without specification of class. If the laws have been to easy, and their administration too lax, we must remember that we, not the foreigners, have enacted and administered them. If the foreigners have not always conducted themselves to suit us, we have no right to complain, for it was one of the risks we ran. The promise on our part was to admit them, with a single exception, on a footing of perfect equality with natural-born citizens. When once naturalized, their rights are equal, and they are no more bound to consult our tastes, habits, sentiments, or pleasure, than we are bound to consult theirs, Whether under this head they have always been prudent, is a question on which our views are well know ; but it is certain that, being our equals, they owed no more to us than we owed to them. It is wrong to blame them for doing what we have expressly encouraged them to do, and given them the right to do. Having attracted them hither by the advantage we offered them, and placed them on a legal footing of equality with natural-born citizens, we have no right now to blame them for coming, to endeavor to treat them as inferiors, or to complain of them for doing what we claim for ourselves the liberty of doing. We are in fact unjust to them. The whole movement against them, though not unnatural, lacks justice to them and is dishonorable to is. Whatever is lawful for us is lawful for them, and we turn equal rights we accord into a bitter mockery, if we practically deny it.
That foreign-born citizens, coming from the same country, would naturally associate together, and form a foreign party,--an Irish party, a French party, or German party, and vote as such in our elections, was to be expected, and must have been foreseen. It was one of the risks we ran, and one of the disadvantages that it must have been decided to put up with for the sake of the advantages we hoped to reap from the migration hither. Men are drawn together by their sympathies, and settlers from the same country have naturally more sympathy with one another than they have with the inhabitants of the new country in which they are settled. Here is the foundation of that clannishness which we complain of in our foreign-born citizens. Americans naturalized in Great Britain, in France, or in Germany would be equally clannish. That there foreign settlers should retain a lively affection for the land of their birth, and take a deep interest in its affairs, long after having become naturalized, is in the natural course of things. How long did the English colonists regard the mother country as their home, and speak of going to England as going home? It required all the provocations which led to the war of independence, and all the sufferings, passions, and the calamities of that war, to wean our affection from the mother country, and make us feel towards her as towards a foreign nation. Indeed, we hardly feel so even yet. When we meet an Englishman, we do not feel that we meet a foreigner, and when we set foot in England, and hear the familiar sounds of our own mother tongue, we can hardly persuade ourselves that we are not still at home, in the bosom of our own kindred and friends. How much stronger must the sympathy that binds together settlers from the same country in a foreign land. A strange sky bends over him, an unfamiliar sun shines upon him, and unfamiliar stars look down upon him. Strange scenes, strange faces meet his glance; strange sounds grate his ear; and all conspires to make him feel that he is a stranger. The lower the class from which he comes, and the less literary or scientific culture he has received, and the fewer resources he has in himself, the more deeply must he feel his distance from home, and his loneliness. Think it not strange, then, that his heart gushes up into his throat and eyes, when he meets and old countryman, who speaks in the old, familiar tones, and talks to him of that dear old fatherland, all the dearer for his absence and distance from it. Here is reason enough for the disposition of foreign settlers from the same country to congregate together, and for a foreign party. All this is natural, and must have been taken into the account, when the naturalization laws were framed. We may well complain of naturalized citizens, if they set at work deliberately to form such a party, or labor to keep alive their foreignism, or try to prevent the foreign from coalescing with the native population ; but we must not blame them for what grows naturally out of their position, and what in itself is only creditable to their hearts.
Indeed, we ought not to forget that, if the immigrants sometimes try us, we also sometimes try them. They do not find all their expectations realized ; and the hardships they must endure under the most favorable circumstances are such as brave spirits night recoil from without disgrace. Let any one look at the poor emigrants as landed on our wharves, crowded into the wretched emigrants cars, and hurried away as so many cattle to the place of their destination, with not a sympathizing look, not a kind tone to greet them, unless they are so happy as to meet a countryman, and who, if he has been here long, is so changed that they can hardly own him, and he will no envy them the few advantages we give them. When we have seen in a western town a poor woman from Ireland or Germany, with one or two children nestling around her, sitting on the wharf or in a station-house, waiting for a steamboat or car to carry her further on, and think with what flushed hopes she left the old country, and how wearied, disappointed, and desolate she now feels, we wonder how her strength can hold out, or her reason maintain its throne. The heedlessness, cruelty, and contempt with which the poor creatures are treated makes our blood boil with indignation at our own countrymen. No one seems to think that they have human feelings, or that life is precious to them. It was our lot recently to be on a train of cars which came in collision with a gravel train, and cause, perhaps, the most serious destruction of human life that has been cause by a collision of any railroad. The greater part of the persons killed and wounded were second-class passengers. The papers in giving an account of them called them emigrants. Persons who chanced to inquire of us concerning the particulars, to our statement of the horrors of the scene and the numbers of killed and wounded uniformly added, "But they were emigrants," in a tone and manner that seemed to say, "It is no matter, we need n't care for them." This feeling, we are sorry to say, is almost universal among our countrymen, and we confess ourselves shocked at this culpable indifference. These poor emigrants had fathers and mothers, sisters, and brothers, as well as we, and as warm hearts in their country loved them as loved us, and as dear friends were grieved at their death as will be at ours. Life was as much to them as to us, and as tender ties were broken by their sudden death,-- we might, in the case which we refer, almost say murder,--as would be by the death of those who look upon them with such extreme indifference. A man is run over. "O, it is only an Irishman." A man has fallen from a house and broken his back. He is a foreigner, and we “pass to the order of the day." Need we surprised if the immigrants do not fall in love with us,-- it they do not readily fraternize with us? Love begets love, but hatred or contempt, cruelty or indifference, does not. It is a proof of the good temper and forgiving disposition of the poorer class of immigrants, that they are not more bitter towards us, and that they are, after all, disposed to become Americans. That the foreign immigrants are faultless we do not pretend, and our readers know that we have spread them no more than we have to spare our own countrymen. they have done, no doubt, many unwise things, many imprudent things, and some of them have done many wrong things ; but justice compels us to say, that their laws as they stand, we have much to reproach ourselves with in our manner of treating them, and have no right to raise an outcry against them as a body, or on the ground of their being foreign-born.
It will not do, moreover, to forget that immigration has served to enrich the country, and to enable us to develop its resources. We are not disposed to concede that we owe all to foreign immigrants, or to acknowledge that all the genius, talent, skill, and bravery of the country have been imported from abroad. Some foolish scribblers and babblers have vented in this respect a good deal of irritating nonsense, which has provoked no small portion of the hostility now raging against foreigners as such. The American people are not wise enough or meek enough to be told that they are simply nobodies, without showing a little resentment. But it cannot be denied, and ought not to be disguised, that we owe as much to the skill, the industry, and the labor of the foreign-born population. The have added probably six millions to our population, and we dare not say how many hundreds of millions of dollars to our wealth. Without them we could not have become the great manufacturing people we are, dug out canals, or built our railroads. Without them to supply the demand for labor and to fill the vacuum left by internal emigration, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and perhaps Illinois, to say nothing of Texas and California, now great and flourishing states, would have remained unsettled, mere hunting-grounds for the native Indians. These things must be taken into the account in deciding whether our naturalization policy is to be changed or not.
Many of the immigrant population are poor, but poverty is not a crime, and without a similar population who would be our servants, our domestics, our porters, our carries, our scavengers? Who would do our dirty or disagreeable work? If you have not a foreign population to do it, you must have a native population. They who work at the base of society always are and must be poor, but they are none less necessary than they who work at the summit, and are no more to be despised. Americans may make good masters, but they make bad servants, and were it not for the supply of servants sent to us by Ireland and Germany, we should be obliged to resort to negro slavery, and there would not be a free state in the Union. "But the foreigners introduce vice and crime amongst us." That all foreigners are not saints, we readily agree, that there is a rapid growth of vice and crime in the country, we concede ; but it must also be conceded that the natives are not all immaculate. Swartwout, Schuyler, Crane, Gardiner, and some others we could name, we believe were to "the manner born." If we exclude the criminals who fled here as such, or were sent here by their respective governments, making of our country a penal colony, the foreign-born population, taking into consideration their position, the trials they have, the sorrows which afflict them, the disappointments and regrets which sadden them, are really less vicious and criminal then the native population, and by far the most moral class in the country. The only reason why an impression to the contrary is entertained is that their vices are not precisely ours, and being different, they strike our attention more forcibly than those of our own countrymen, and with what a large a large mass of them become after several years of residence here, will come to the conclusion, that the populations of the countries from which they have emigrated are far more moral than the American, have a higher standard, and act from deeper and abiding moral principles. Yet we deny not that there are in the later immigration, especially since the revolutions of 1848, elements of which we had in our own national character too much.
Thus far we have thought proper to consider the party as an American party opposed to the naturalization of foreigners. It may be that our naturalization laws are too liberal, and need amending ; but this is not the fault of foreigners, and we ought to be on our guard against running to an opposite extreme. There is no cause for wrath, or bitterness against foreigners, and if we allow passion to rage, and undertake to legislate against them under its influence, we shall certainly by guilty of injustice. We have long foreseen the crisis that was coming, and have done what we could to soften it ; now that it has come, we entreat our countrymen to be calm and dignified, cool and deliberate, just and honorable, as becomes a great people.
Looking at the party from another point of view, we confess that, even if its objects were legitimate and such as we approved, we could not as an American republican or as an honest man give it our support. It is a secret political society, and as such us opposed to the spirit of American republicanism, which demands open avowals and free public discussions. It is hostile to individual freedom, for it demands absolute obedience on the part of its member to their chiefs, who are more despotic in their sphere, than any crowned head in Europe. It works in the dark, like the secret council of Venice, and is restrained by none of the checks of publicity. It is immoral, because in its very oath it makes falsehood obligatory on every one of its member. Whence comes the names of the party, Know-nothings? It comes from the answer, I know nothing, which one swears to give to every question put to him concerning the order. The member swears to lie, binds himself to falsehood upon falsehood. Now, the very initiation must vitiate the moral purity of the member, and tend to destroy what little of moral principle we have remaining in the community. It takes a dishonorable advantage of its opponents. It knows who they are, and what are their purposes, but meanly skulks behind the impenetrable veil of secrecy, and refuses to avow its purposes, or let it be known who are its members. These and a hundred other similar objections should induce honest and sober men to reflect on it character and tendency, and, if they have entered it without consideration, to withdraw from it as speedily as possible. There are no legitimate political objects in this country, where the people are supreme, that require a secret, subterranean organization, or that cannot be obtained openly, in a straightforward and manly way.
As to ourselves as Catholics, we have to meet the movement as well as we can. If reason and justice were likely to avail anything, there would be no ground of apprehension. How powerful is the organization, what are its real purposes, or what are its chances of retaining the ground it gains, we cannot say. That its purposes are hostile to Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, we cannot doubt ; whether it will effect any thing serious against them is not so certain. However this may be, Catholics we recognize no distinction of race or nation amongst us, and we are and will be one body, and share together whatever may be intended against any portion of us. There will be here no division amongst us, and as fares the foreign-born Catholics, so must and will fare the native-born. The lot of the one is the lot of the other, and in the hour of trial we trust there will be no desertion of one another, and the blow struck at any member of the Catholic body as a Catholic will be felt by the whole body and by every member. What we had to say of foreignism and we said when it seemed not too late to produce some effect ; but the movement has gone on, and we have as little wish as power to separate ourselves from the lot of our brethren, whether native-born or foreign-born. We are embarked in the same ship, and none of us will leave it. We must all stand by one another, and share each other's weal or woe.
Yet have we no cause to fear. The enemy can go no further than permitted, and cannot so much as touch a hair of our heads without the permission of our heavenly Father. Persecution there may be, chastisement there may be, but we have no fears that the church will be uprooted here. We have no belief that God has wholly abandoned this nation. Indeed, we see in these hostile movements against us signs of encouragement. Let us be prudent, and give no occasion to the enemy, and he will not be able to harm us. His power will be broken after a brief while, and a bright day will dawn for Catholicity in the New World.