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teacher to maintain the discipline of his school; and to enforce those rules which he was as much bound to observe and execute as the scholars were bound to obey.
Need I say, in a court of law, that no punishment could be severe in a case like this? Need I allude to the authorities which give to the master in the school-room the power and the duty of a father—the power to enforce obedience, and punish resistance, especially such organized and open resistance as this? Need I remind the Court of the other facts in this case, the authority which the father himself gave to the master to punish his stubborn boy—the authority never withdrawn, and never revoked ? No! may it please your Honor, I pass by all these points, for I wish for time to discuss the only question which requires, or deserves discussion—the real question in the case. And that is, whether the regulations which have been referred to are illegal and unconstitutional ?
The laws with regard to our public schools are so dear to every citizen, so important in our free government, that they are familiar to every one.
Free schools are established and maintained at the public charge. The children of all citizens without any distinction whatever, are allowed to attend them, and all receive the same course of instruction and are governed by the same rules. The general nature of the studies is regulated by positive statutes, but the details of discipline, the selection of teachers, the choice of books and the general management of the schools is given to school committees ; which have large legislative, and almost judicial powers delegated to them by the laws. The general law which regulates the course and class of studies in our schools, is found in the Revised Statutes, chapter 23, section 7.
It provides that “piety, justice, a sacred regard to truth, love to their country, humanity and universal benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance, should be taught. All these are to be taught, but first of all, piety.
In the execution of the duty which is imposed upon our school committee, of prescribing the mode and the means by which piety shall be taught; in the execution of the statute of 1855, which requires that a portion of the Holy Bible should be read daily in every school; and in the execution, also, of their general duty, to direct the discipline and management of our schools, they have passed the following regulations, which apply to all the public schools in Boston :
The morning exercises of all the schools shall commence with reading a portion of Scripture, in each room, by the teacher, and the Board recommend that the reading be followed with the Lord's Prayer, repeated by the teacher alone, or chanted by the teacher and children in concert, and that the afternoon session close with appropriate singing ; and also that the pupils learn the Ten Commandments and repeat them once a week.
Substantially similar regulations, embracing a part or the whole of these recommendations, have always existed in our New England schools. These precise regulations have existed in our Boston schools for years. They were published widely, they were read in the schools, they were universally known, and universally acquiesced in. They were established, not for Catholics alone nor for Protestants alone-they were established to favor no particular creed; no one yet has dared to charge that they were established with any sectarian views, they were established for all, acquiesced in by all—and no one can doubt that they were useful and beneficial to all.
Had there been any feeling that these regulations were arbitrary or unjust—had there been any conscience so sensitive that they became a burden-had any parent, or any child, of any sect of Christians objected to them, there was the fullest opportunity for remonstrance and redress. But it was not so. No teacher was requested to suspend the rules, there was no remonstrance to the school committee-no request to modify or abolish these apparently wise and useful regulations—there was no appeal to the courts, which enforce the laws, nor to the legislature which enacts them. The children obeyed without a murmur, and the parents acquiesced either from indifference, or from satisfaction.
It was in opposition to these regulations so long obeyed, so long acquiesced in, under which year after year our Catholic citizens with pride and satisfaction saw their children receiving and sharing with all others the benefits of a free and liberal education, that it has been found necessary to resort to open violence, to a deliberately planned and arranged rebellion
against the discipline and authority of our schools,—a rebellion which might gratify the ambition or aid the far reaching designs of the priest, but could only end in the ruin of those misguided children, who were at once their tools and their victims. These are the regulations, and this is their history.
And now, since it so plainly appears that my client was justified in punishing this deliberate and wilful rebellion against these rules so long established, so long acquiesced in, so long a part of our invaluable public school system, the counsel for the prosecution are forced to take the ground that these laws and regulations themselves are illegal and unconstitutional.
The Court cannot have forgotten the very able and learned opening argument of the counsel for (the prosecution. The issue is plainly made by him, that the regulations which I have read are illegal and unconstitutional, and therefore I cannot avoid it or refuse to meet it, if I would. His general argument, if I understand it correctly, is this :
Our Constitution declares that every citizen shall have full liberty to worship God according to his own conscience.
The statutes of 1852 require that children should, for at least three months in the year, attend some public school.
All citizens are taxed for the support of public schools, and therefore, have equal rights in them.
To require the scholars to repeat the Ten Commandments infringes upon their liberty of conscience, and the rule is, therefore, unconstitutional.
Any attempt to enforce an unconstitutional law is illegal, and any punishment whatever, for a refusal to obey such a law, is illegal.
If these arguments are sound and unanswerable, then the Bible must indeed be banished from our schools forever.
If a Catholic child not only has a right, but is bound by law to attend school; if, because all citizens are taxed, he has the rights which are now claimed, and if what he chooses to call his scruples of conscience, are to be obeyed—then he is not obliged to recite nor to hear the Ten Commandments; he is not obliged to repeat nor to hear the Lord's Prayer; he is not obliged to read the Protestant Bible nor to hear it read ;either would offend his Catholic scruples—all are violations of his liberty of conscience.
This is indeed a great question—the greatest and gravest question, in my judgment, which this Court will ever be called upon to determine; and as it is now for the first time presented here, it is fit that it should be seriously and solemnly discussed, and that it should be met and decided upon those broad principles of justice and law which will satisfy all good citizens of every sect and race, all who love and are willing to obey our laws. No one who knows and cherishes the history of our country, -no one who watches now, with fear and hope, the dark and threatening signs of the times,-no one who reflects upon those essential qualities, those cardinal virtues in the citizen, upon which alone a republican government can be founded, and by which alone it can be sustained,—but must feel and know that this is a question, the importance of which cannot be overrated or exaggerated ;—a question which must be met boldly, fearlessly, and with entire frankness ;-a question which requires very plain dealing, and justifies very plain speaking also.
My own wish is to avoid all extreme grounds, and to avoid all questions which will widen the threatened breach between our citizens. I chiefly desire to speak to the complainant, who has been instigated to bring this case before the court, and to his brethren and friends. I speak to the alien, the emigrant, and the exile, who have found refuge here from the wrongs and oppressions of the Old World. I appeal to them at once, and forever, to abandon as most dangerous and most injurious to the true welfare of their children, the counsels of those who would array them in opposition to the laws, who would teach them to separate their children from those free schools where all meet beneath the same roof, speak the same tongue, learn from the same books and enter together the great republic of letters.
I appeal to them, to disabuse their minds of the prejudice that their liberty of conscience is to be invaded or violated. No intelligent Catholic parent really believes it or fears it for a moment. I appeal to their own cherished hopes and wishes for the welfare of their children whom they love. I appeal to their experience of past years, and to the bitter lessons of these past few days. I ask every parent to look back upon his own life, upon his own daily sorrows and regrets that a free school was
never open to himself, and then to decide whether he will sacrifice his children also—whether he will dare, at the bidding of priest or politician, to leave his offspring in the shadow of that same darkness; and sadden and darken their lives by the same cloud of ignorance which has overshadowed all his own weary, hopeless days.
Unless I can support and sustain these rules as consistent with freedom of conscience—as consistent with the purest spirit of religious toleration; unless I can show to our adopted citizens, our adopted brethren, that side by side our children can consistently and properly receive the education which the laws give freely and equally to all—unless they can join their little hands, and lift their young hearts in common prayer to the Father of the fatherless, then these regulations will no longer be defended or justified by me.
Need I deny the unjust charge that the laws of our free Commonwealth are hostile or severe, to our adopted citizens ? Need I say that ours are no inhospitable or unfriendly shores ?
Every western breeze that finds it unseen path over the wide Atlantic, bears an invitation across the ocean, welcoming the exile and the alien, the poor and oppressed of every clime, to the land of the free. Our freedom is our birthright and our inheritance; broad as our land, free and unfettered as the wind, which sweeps from one ocean to the other. And this our birthright and inheritance which our fathers purchased with their blood, we offer to all and willingly share with all. In the Old World the inheritance of the people is the heavy burden of that feudal system, under which the lands and the titles, the wealth and the power are held by the nobles, and transmitted to their children generation after generation. The sons of the soil are bowed down by labor, and the sweat of their toil drops upon fields they can never hope to win or claim as their own.
Learning there is the inheritance of the rich only, and is not for the poor; they must bend their backs and bow down towards the earth, nor dare to look upwards to the broad sunlight of God's eternal sky; they must bow down their hearts and minds to endless, hopeless toil, nor seek to share in the eternal light of learning and knowledge, which God has given for all his children. The holy stars may shine forever in that far-off sky, but dark clouds are floating there between. They must not