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Then, having done it, we can take the ground explicitly, and clear of all ambiguity, that they who exclude themselves are not Americans, and are not acting in their complaints or agitations, on any principle that meets the tenor of our American institutions. Nothing will be more evident, and they should be made to bear the whole odium of it. If to keep their people apart from the dreaded influence of Protestant Christianity, they were to buy townships of land, or large quarters in our cities, to be occupied only by Catholics, walled in by their own by-laws, and allowing no Protestant family, or tradesman, or publican, to reside in the precinct no one to enter it without a pass; and then to come before our legislatures in petition that we will distribute moneys to support their roads, and pay their constables and gate-keepers; they would scarcely do a greater insult to our American society than they do in these separations from our common schools, and the petitions they are offering to be justified and rewarded in the separation.
But we tax them, it will be said, for the support of the common schools, and then, receiving no benefit from the tax they pay, they are obliged to tax themselves again, for schools of their own. It is even so, and for one, apart from all resentment, I rejoice in it; unless they have grievances put upon them by the organization of our schools, such as justify their withdrawal. We tax the Quakers for defect of military service, and bachelors who have no children, and we ought, much more, to tax the refractory un-American positi taken by these Catholic strangers, after we have greeted them with so great hospitality, and loaded them with so many American privileges. If now they will not enter into the great American institution, so fundamental to our very laws and liberties, let them pay for it, and measure their deserts by their dissatisfactions. If they will be foreigners still among our people, let them have remembrances that interpret their conduct to them in a way of just emphasis.
Meantime let us be sure also of this, that a day is at hand when they will weary of this kind of separation, and will visit on their priests, who have required it, a just retribution. One generation, or possibly two, may bear this separation, this burden of double taxation, this withdrawal of their children from society and its higher advantages, to be shut up or penned as foreign tribes in the state, thus to save the prejudices of a discarded and worthless nationality; but another generation is to come who will have drunk more deeply into the spirit of our institutions, and attained to a more sufficient understanding of the hard lot put upon them, in this manner, by a jealous and overbearing priesthood. Then comes a reaction, both against them and their religion; then a flocking back to the schools to reap their advantages; and it will be strange if the very measure now counted on as the means of their preservation, does not, of itself, become one of the strongest reasons for the alienation of their children from it. Of this we may be quite sure, and it ought not to be any secret to them, that their children of the coming time will at last find a way to be Americans; if not under the Pope and by the altars, then without them.
Neither let it be said that this is a matter which lies at the disposal of politics, and that our political demagogues will sell any thing, even our birthright as a people, to carry the vote of a campaign. The experiment has just been tried in Detroit, with a most signal and disastrous failure. In cases where the issue touches no religious interest or feeling of the Protestants, and the Catholics can be gained to throw a casting vote on one side or the other, the politicians will not deal so absurdly, if they consent to buy that vote by some great promise, and I have so little confidence in many of them, under the prodigious temptations of a canvass, as to have it for granted, that they will stick at nothing which is possible. But here, thank God, is one thing that is impossible, and whatever politician ventures on the experiment, will find that he has not worked his problem rightly that if Catholics can be often united and led in masses to the vote, so Protestants will sometimes go in masses where they are not led, save by their principles. That our legislatures can not and will not be gained to allow the ruling out of the Scriptures, and all religious instruction from the schools, as in New York city, I am by no means certain—I very much fear that they will but that they can ever become supporters and fund-holders to ecclesiastical schools, or be induced to give up common schools, I do not believe. Whatever politician or political party ventures on that experiment, will find that he has rallied a force manifold greater against him than he has drawn to his aid. A point so thoroughly un-American, so directly opposite also to the deepest convictions of the great Protestant majorities of the country, can not be carried, and, if pressed, will suffice to fix a stigma that is immovable upon any leader who is desperate enough to try the experiment.
Here I will close. The subject is a painful one, and not any the less so that the line of our duty is plain. It can not be said by any, the most prejudiced critic, that our conduct as a people, to strangers and men of another religion, has not been generous and free beyond any former example in the history of mankind. We have used hospitality without grudging. In one view it seems to be a dark and rather mysterious providence, that we have thrown upon us, to be our fellow-citizens, such multitudes of people, depressed, for the most part, in character, instigated by prejudices so intense against our religion. But there is a brighter and more hope ful side to the picture. These Irish prejudices, embittered by the crushing tyranny of England, for three whole centuries and more, will gradually yield to the kindness of qur hospitality, and to the discovery that it is not so much the Protestant religion that has been their enemy, as the jealousy and harsh dominion of conquest. God knows exactly what is wanting, both in us and them, and God has thrown us together that, in terms of good citizenship, and acts of love, we may be gradually melted into one homogeneous people. Probably no existing form of Christianity is perfect—the Romish we are sure is not the Puritan was not, else why should it so soon have lost its rigors? The Protestant, more generally viewed, contains a wider variety of elements, but these too seem to be waiting for some process of assimilation that shall weld them finally together. Therefore God, we may suppose, throws all these diverse multitudes, Protestant and Catholic, together, in crossings so various, and a ferment of experience so manifold, that he may wear us into some other and higher and more complete unity, than we are able, of ourselves and by our own wisdom, to settle. Let us look for this, proving all things, and holding fast that which is good, until the glorious result of a perfected and comprehensive Christianity is made to appear, and is set up here for a sign to all nations. Let us draw our strange friends as close to us as possible, not in any party scramble for power, but in a solemn reference of duty to the nation and to God. I can not quite renounce the hope that a right and cordial advance on our part-one that, duly careful to preserve the honors of Christianity, concedes every thing required by our great principle of equal right to all, and as firmly refuses to yield any thing so distinctively American as this noble institution, identified with our history as the blood with the growth of our bodies—will command the respect and finally the assent of our Catholic friends themselves. And since God has better things in store even for religion, than the repugnant attitudes of its professed disciples can at present permit, I would even hope that he may use an institution so far external to the church, as a means of cementing the generations to come in a closer unity, and a more truly catholic peace; that, as being fellow-citizens with each other, under the state, in the ingenuous days of youth and youthful discipline, they may learn how also to be no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God.