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Mobs and education.

“On Sunday forenoon,” says the Liberator of December 21, 1860,

the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society (Theodore Parker's Fraternity) held their usual Sunday meeting in Music Hall. It having been rumored for several days previous, that Mr. Phillips was likely to be mobbed and assaulted, a large detachment of police was in attendance at the hall, at an early hour. Before the services commenced, large numbers of the police were stationed in two small rooms adjoining the platform. Others were stationed in various parts of the hall, and building. Members of the detective police force were also present ......

The regular religious exercises of the day were conducted in the usual manner.

I was present here last Sunday, and noticed that some of the friends of the speaker expressed their sympathy with his sentiments by applause. You will allow me to request that to-day, at least, we preserve the usual decorum of this place and this hour, and listen — even if you should like anything particularly — in silence.

About a fortnight ago,--on the 3d of this month,--certain men, supported by the Mayor, broke up an anti slavery meeting. I propose to consider that morning, as illustrating American education. Some of you may think that everybody talks, now, of slavery, free speech, and the negro. That is true; and I am not certain that the longest liver of you all will ever see the day when it will not [320] be so. The negro for fifty, or thirty, years has been the basis of our commerce, the root of our politics, the pivot of our pulpit, the inspiration of almost all that is destined to live in our literature. For a hundred years, at least, our history will probably be a record of the struggles of a proud and selfish race to do justice to one that circumstances have thrown into its power. The effects of slavery will not vanish in one generation, or even in two. It were a very slight evil, if they could be done away with more quickly.

Fredrika Bremer said, the fate of the negro is the romance of our history. It will probably be a long while, a very long while, before the needle of our politics will float free from this disturbance, before trade will cease to feel the shock of this agitation, before the pulpit can throw off vassalage to this prejudice and property, before letters take heart and dare to speak the truth. A bitter prejudice must be soothed, a bloody code repealed, a huckstering Constitution amended or made way with, social and industrial life rearranged, and ministers allowed to take the Bible, instead of the Stock List, as the basis of their sermons. Meanwhile, you must expect that every shock and oscillation of the stormy elements will stir up the dregs of society, lewd fellows of the baser sort, to deeds of anger and outrage; and meanwhile every honest and earnest man will speak, and every such man will be glad to hear, as occasion calls, of this the great duty that Providence has placed in our hands.

I bate no jot of trust that this noble trial of self-government will succeed. Heirs of a glorious past, we have manhood enough to be the benefactors of the future, and to hand down this hard-earned fabric, freed from its greatest, perhaps its only, danger.

The planting of these states always amazed the casual observer, and has been a subject of the deepest interest to [321] thoughtful men. “The wildest theories of the human reason were reduced to practice by a community so humble that no statesman condescended to notice it, and a legislature without precedent was produced off-hand by the instincts of the people.” The profoundest scholar of that day said, “No man is wiser for his learning,” --a sentiment which Edmund Burke almost echoed; and it seems as if our comparatively unlettered fathers proved it. They framed a government which, after two hundred years, is still the wonder and the study of statesmen. It was only another proof that governments are not made, they grow, that the heart is the best logician, that character, which is but cousin to instinct, is a better guide than philosophy. Wordsworth said, of a similar awakening:

A few strong instincts, and a few plain rules,
Among the herdsmen of the Alps, have wrought
More for mankind, at this unhappy day,
Than all the pride of intellect and thought.

That sunrise has colored the whole morning of our history. It is the cardinal principle of our national life, that God has given every man sense enough to manage his own affairs. Out of that, by a short process, come universal suffrage and the eligibility of every man to office. The majority rules, and law rests on numbers, not on intellect or virtue. A sound rule, and, if not the only one consistent with freedom and progress, at least the one that best serves these. But the harm is, that, while theoretically holding that no vote of the majority can authorize injustice, we practically consider public opinion the real test of what is true and what is false; and hence, as a result, the fact which Tocqueville has noticed, that practically our institutions protect, not the interests of the whole community, but the interests of the majority. Every man knows best how to manage his own affairs. Simple statement, perfectly sound; but we mix it up [322] somehow with that other rule, that every man is eligible to office, and then we hurry on to the habit of considering every man competent for everything. Does a man achieve success in some particular point, we hail him a universal Crichton, and endow him with a genius for all work. A mechanic invents a new stitch in a carpet-web; straightaway he is named for Congress. Does a man edit a Respectable Daily to bankruptcy, we put him on a commission to choose for us water not fit to drink, or let him carry a railroad half-way to ruin, by paying dividends that were never earned. That militia colonel survived a Western brawl,--call it a battle and a victory, and choose him President at once. This man is a brilliant historian,--send him Ambassador to England. Another has argued ably an india-rubber case,--send him to fade out in the Senate. Does a man fail utterly,--a bankrupt poet or office-seeker,--he edits a newspaper. We lack, entirely, discrimination. Because a man is entitled to draw upon us for fifty dollars, we put a thousand to his credit. That a man edits the Tribune so as to pay,--no very high order of talent,--is no proof that he knows better than other men who should be President of the United States. Bayard Taylor may be a genius and a traveller, without the least trace of patriotism or the least spark of a gentleman. A hundred years ago, you must have served an apprenticeship of seven years to make a shoe; now talk seven months on the right side, you may be Governor of a State.

I said that, in spite of the heedlessness and good nature of this mistake, the rule that every man should be eligible to office is the best rule you can have. Our large measure of national success, in spite of this heedlessness, shows how truly the Swede spoke when he said, Quantula sapientia regitur mundus,--“How little wit it takes to hold office!” But, though life be long and sunny, one fit of severe illness [323] is a great evil. It is quite true, that routine incapacity stumbles along very well at common times; but there come hours when we need a pilot, and then we suffer. Such an hour we have just passed through.

Certain men, who seem utterly ignorant of the principle, that only by letting each man speak exactly what he sees fit, at the time he chooses, can the progress of truth be secured, attempted to put down certain other men, assembled to discuss the abolition of slavery. I want to look at that attempt as illustrating the ignorance of the actors, the ignorance of the press, and the incapacity of the city government. And I take this subject specially because it enables me to lay before you a correct account of the course of events that morning, which no journal of the city has bestirred itself to procure. And I seize this, the first opportunity given me, to do justice to both parties, --the assailants and the assailed.

Look first at the press. With the exception of The Atlas and Bee, no one of the daily papers has uttered one word of hearty, fitting rebuke of the mob. They have all serious objections to mobs in the abstract, but none at all to mobs in the street, none to this particular mob. This was not a case of virtuous men refusing to obey a bad law, of whom it has been well said, “They do not dispute the right of the majority to command, they only appeal from the sovereignty of the nation to the sovereignty of mankind.” But this was a blow at the right of free speech, a right which no sane man in our age and land denies. Yet you have still to read the first word of fitting, fearless, hearty rebuke, from the Boston daily press, of a mob, well dressed, met to crush free speech. I have known Boston for thirty years. I have seen many mobs. With one exception, I have yet to see the first word of honest rebuke, from the daily press, of a well-dressed mob met to crush honest men; and that exception was the Boston [324] Daily Advocate of Mr. Hallett, in 1835 and 1837. Let me say, in passing, that it is a singular result of our institutions, that we have never had in Boston any but well-dressed mobs. Still they are dangerous precedents,--well-dressed men hire hungry mechanics to mob free speech. Beware! such men may “better the instruction.” The “flour mobs” followed close on the pro-slavery mobs in New York. But such a press,--what a tool, what a despicable tool!

The press will think me unjustifiable, perhaps, for they affect to have discovered that there was no mob, only the majority taking rightful possession of a public meeting. We will consider that by and by.

The press says the mob was composed of “Boston gentlemen.” A very natural mistake for a press which does not know a mob when it sees it. But can we let that description stand? Broadcloth and fine linen do not make a gentleman! Ill manners and ignorance do not make one. Earning a right to twelve months in the House of Correction does not make one. [Laughter.] Resisting the laws to help the stock market does not. Running. before you are sent, with volunteer haste, to do the dirty work of base men, does not make one. And yet these are the only colors by which men before unseen made themselves visible that day on the surface of affairs. One must be born again into the Kingdom of Mammon, before he thinks such men gentlemen. And as the ringleaders were not born in Boston, let us save the dear old town from the disgrace of having them called Boston gentlemen. The gossip of the street says they were excusable on account of pecuniary losses,--they were men out of employ. The ringleader said he came there to save his property. Let us examine of what material the mob was really made. We have a right to inquire, it is important we should know, who make up this Chamber of Inquisitors, this new [325] Star-Chamber, which undertakes to tell us, as Archbishop Laud and Charles Stuart told our fathers, what creed we shall hold, and what public meetings we shall attend. Who were they?

Weak sons of moderate fathers, dandled into effeminacy, of course wholly unfit for business. But overflowing trade sometimes laps up such, as it does all obtainable instruments. Instead of fire-engines, we take pails and dippers, in times of sore need. But such the first frost nips into idleness. Narrow men, ambitious of office, fancying that the inheritance of a million entitles them to political advancement. Bloated distillers, some rich, some without wit enough to keep the money they stole. Old families run to seed in respectable dullness,--fruges consumere nati,--born only to eat. Trading families, in the third generation, playing at stock-jobbing to lose in State Street what their fathers made by smuggling in India. Sweep in a hundred young rogues, the grief of mothers and the disgrace of their names, good as naughts to fill up a place in what is called “society,” and entitled as such to shrink from notice,--but the motes we do not usually see get looked at when they trouble our eyes. Snobbish sons of fathers lately rich, anxious to show themselves rotten before they are ripe. [Hitherto there had been no demonstrations from the hearers, except occasional suppressed laughter at the speaker's sarcasms. The laughter here was received with hisses by a portion of the audience.] These, taking courage from the presence of bolder rogues, some from jail and others whom technical skill saved therefrom,--the whole led by a third-rate lawyer broken down to a cotton-clerk [hisses], borrowing consequence from married wealth,--not one who ever added a dollar, much less an idea, to the wealth of the city, not one able to give a reason or an excuse for the prejudice that is in him,--these are the men, this is the house of nobles, [326] whose leave we are to ask before we speak and hold meetings. These are the men who tell us, the children of the Pilgrims, the representatives of Endicott and Winthrop, of Sewall and Quincy, of Hancock and Adams and Otis, what opinions we shall express, and what meetings we shall hold! These are the men who, the press tells us, being a majority, took rightful possession of the meeting of the 3d of December, [applause and cries of “Good,” ] and, “without violating the right of free speech,” organized it, and spoke the sober sense of Boston!

I propose to examine the events of that morning, in order to see what idea our enlightened press entertain of the way in which “gentlemen” take possession of a meeting, and the fitness of those “gentlemen” to take possession of a meeting.

On the 3d of December, certain gentlemen--Rev. J. Sella Martin, James Redpath, Mr. Eldridge, Mr. O'Connor, Mr. Le Barnes-hired the Temple for a Convention to assemble at their request. The circular which they issued a month before, in November, invited the “leaders and representatives of all the antislavery bodies, and those who have done honor to their own souls by the advocacy of human freedom,” to meet them in convention. Certainly the fops and the clerks of Boston could not come under that description. The notice published the day before proclaimed that the convention “was not met for debate, that each speaker should confine himself to giving, briefly, his views on the question, ‘How shall American slavery be abolished? ’ ” Does Mr. Fay, or any one of his associates, dare to say, in the presence of the citizens of Boston, that he entered that hall to join in good faith in any such investigation? The temper and quality of the meeting was shown by the statement of that notice, that it chose the anniversary of the “martyrdom.” of John Brown as the day for its meeting, and mentioning his [327] death as “too glorious to need defence or eulogy.” If any one of Mr. Fay's associates entered that hall with written resolutions in their pockets, denouncing John Brown and expressing “horror for his piratical, bloody, and nefarious attempt,” by what claim, as gentlemen, do they justify their presence there?

But waive that, and grant that they were rightfully present. When a convention assembles at the call of a committee of gentlemen, it is a well-recognized and settled right and custom of the callers to organize that convention through a committee, or otherwise to appoint officers for the body. If the committee report a list, it is sometimes put to vote, and sometimes not. When a vote is taken, it is mere form; for all well-disposed men, if they contest a convention, uniformly leave it the right to organize itself, and meet it, if anywhere, on the passage of its resolutions. In conformity with this custom, the Rev. J. Sella Martin took the floor as temporary Chairman. He appointed a committee to appoint officers. That committee reported a list, with Mr. Sanborn of Concord as Chairman. Mr. Martin announced him, as he had an entire, well-recognized right to do, for the Chairman of that meeting.

But suppose the Convention chose to insist on its strict right, and to organize itself without regard to its callers. Then it was perfectly in order for any member to address the temporary chair, and make a motion to that effect. Did any one do it? No. On the contrary, one person, who seems to shrink from having his name known, nominated Mr. Richard S. Fay as chairman [ “Good!” cheers and hisses], and put the motion. This anonymous skulker does not seem to know parliamentary law enough to remember that he should address the chair, or that he should wait to have his motion seconded; but without that, and without any call for the nays, Mr. Fay assumes [328] to be Chairman. There having been, then, in the eye of strict parliamentary law, no motion,--for all the books lay it down that “no motion can be made without addressing the chair,” --there having been no motion, no seconding, no call for the nays, there being no announcement of the vote, either by the Chairman or by Mr. Anonymous, when Mr. Richard S. Fay walked to that platform and assumed to be Chairman, he announced himself the ringleader of a mob [applause, and one cry of “No!” ] by the strictest letter of parliamentary law. Journals which undertake to know, style him the rightful Chairman. And when Mr. Douglass, in common courtesy, handed him a glass of water, Mr. Fay says, “This acknowledges me as Chairman!” Profound logician, this Mr. Fay! A glass of water is his title to office, and Mr. Frederick Douglass is authorized to confer it.

And then commences an exhibition of his wonderful powers as a presiding officer. The moment a chairman takes his seat, the first duty is the call for the appointment of secretary and other officers. This wonderful meeting had no officer, except its equally wonderful Chairman. Unburdening himself of his coat, he was not self-possessed enough to find in his pocket the scroll of resolutions which every one saw protruding from it,--whereupon he said, “I thought I had got among honest men.” Some bystanders thought this insolence. I am rather inclined to believe it possible, that, having escaped from the mob to our platform, he was congratulating himself upon having gotten for once among honest men. [Much laughter.] He then undertakes to read the resolutions, and offer them to the Convention, ignorant again — ignorant again — that there was just one man in that meeting, and only one, who had no right to offer a resolution, and that was himself, on his own theory; for every boy knows, except this young cotton-clerk, that no presiding officer is entitled to offer a resolution. [329] following, then, the example of Mr. Anonymous, who nominated him, he does not wait to have the resolutions seconded, he does not call for the nays, but he declares them carried. This could not have been fright, for although he was observed to tremble and grow pale when hundreds cried out “Shame!” at the reading of his third and fourth resolves, yet some one saying, “Don't be frightened, we won't hurt you,” had considerably reissured him. [Laughter.] Then somebody makes a motion to adjourn. Mr. Fay puts it. While he is doing so, Mr. Frederick Douglass addresses him. He turns, introduces Mr. Douglass to the audience, and gives him the floor, ignorant again-ignorant again — that a motion to adjourn is not debatable. Some one in the audience, while Mr. Douglass is speaking, reminds him there is a motion before the house. This vigilant Chairman waves the speaker aside, puts the motion to adjourn, declares it carried, and then introduces Mr. Douglass again to this adjourned Convention, and bids him remember the rule of the call, to speak briefly, and to the point! [Great laughter.] And then this adjourned Chairman of a dead Convention sits and listens half an hour to a speech from Mr. Douglass. Whereafter, another man makes a motion to adjourn; he puts it, declares it carried, and then,--on the poet's principle, “twice he slew the slain,” --recognizing, I suppose, that even his mob, twice adjourned, is done with, takes his hat and vanishes,--this orderly Chairman!

Common chairmen, before quitting their conventions, appoint a committee of finance, to see that the expenses are paid; but this opulent and magnanimous, Union-loving Chairman, [cheers and some hisses,] having announced that he came to the hall to save his property, does it by leaving his victims to pay the expenses. [Laughter.] And when Mr. Hayes reminded him, during the pendence [330] of the motion to adjourn, that he must not do so until he had arranged for the payment for the hall, this representative of State Street defied Mr. Hayes to compel him to pay for the hall he had used. I blush, even for State Street, under such a fact. And the gallant men who followed him-O shame even to Boston dandies!-were heard encouraging each other with cries of “The police are with us,--the other side pay for them, and we use them!”

Some men assert that Mr. Fay really came to that hall to put down free speech by violence. As it was said that no man was ever so wise as Lord Thurlow looked, so these citizens think no honest man was ever so ignorant as Mr. Fay appeared. I am inclined to believe that he came there designing to crush that Convention in a parliamentary way, but did not know how to do it. Like the captain of the Maine schooner caught in our harbor narrows [here a youth in the gallery raised the mob cry, “All up,” which failed, however, to produce any sensation], who, when some one asked, “Who captains this schooner?” called back, “I undertook to captain her, but find it rather too much for me” ;--so Mr. Fay undertook to captain a parliamentary mob, but found it rather too much for him. Being fully determined, however, to crush the Convention, and finding the quiet and trained friends of it able to outwit and out-general him, he took refuge in violence. He challenged his opponent to a duel, then knocked him over the head with the but of his pistol while his back was turned. Lord George Bentinck leaped from the sporting field and the race-course to the leadership of the House of Commons. Perhaps Mr. Fay thought he could do as much.

After the kid-gloved mobocrat had left the hall, Mr. Sanborn, quietly requesting the real friends of order to remain seated while the mob followed its leader, showed [331] them that all their labor had been in vain. Then Mr. J. Murray Howe, without any flimsy veil of parliamentary pretext, a bully girdled by bullies, failing to excite any violent resistance, urged or incited the police to arrest all whom his followers struck, on the ground of removing the cause of the disturbance. And the shameless Mayor closed the scene [hisses],--the plot unmasked by the quiet discipline of the friends of order was disclosed, and the City Government succored its defeated accomplices by clearing the hall in the prostituted names of law and order. [Loud cheers and some hisses.]

I have named only the leaders of this mob, and described the pitiful quality of their followers. You will ask me, How did such a mass influence the Mayor? I am sorry to say, that among that crowd were men influential by wealth and position, men seldom seen in an antislavery meeting, whose presence there at that unusual hour,--ten o'clock in the morning,--sitting in silence, was an encouragement to their personal friends, the mob. You may see, still looking down on Washington Street, the gilded names of Lawrence and Dickinson, and, side by side, the proud motto, “The Union, the Constitution, the Enforcement of the Laws.” [Cheers.] One of those names, which the city has hitherto loved to honor, was present in that crowd, in a class of meetings where he is seldom seen,--never at ten o'clock in the morning,--while his personal friends resisted, with the encouragement of his unusual presence, the enforcement of the most sacred of all laws, that of free speech. Need I explain any otherwise the servility of the Mayor?

Some men say that free speech was really crushed out on that occasion. No. On that same day, that same meeting held a session, addressed by the most hated of its speakers, expressing their opinions on slavery and the scene of the morning. The exact, literal truth is. that [332] Mr. Richard S. Fay stole the Tremont Temple from those who had hired it. Let us hope he will pay his debts without going through court. Those men whom he fought can say they were never sued yet for any hall they had used; he cannot say as much to-day. Doubtless they intended to crush free speech; but do not let us dignify Jack Sheppard and Dickens's Fagin into Cromwells and Bonapartes. These mobocrats intended to be Cromwells. So did the two tailors who undertook to tear down the throne of George III., and issued the famous proclamation, “We, the people of England.” History does not record that they succeeded; neither did their imitators on the 3d of December. Still, these angry and misguided men incurred very grave responsibility. Stealing a hall is not very bad in men who hardly know what they are about. Violating the rights of your neighbors may be forgiven, when the parties offending will soon repent, and those rights are no more affected than the sun by the cloud that passes over him. But when Mr. Fay had housed himself in luxury and quiet, at night, that lawless and coward spirit which he had stirred up and let loose broke into the houses of our hated and friendless colored people, pursued any one of them it dared follow, finding him alone, cruelly beat, almost to death, several, and ill-treated many of them. If any one of those mangled men had died of his wounds, Richard S. Fay, in the sight of God and all honest men, if not of the law also, had been a murderer. The atonement he owes to our city which he has disgraced, is a public acknowledgment of his crime. The compensation he owes to those men pillaged and beaten by his followers, is to see that, so far as gold can, their sufferings are alleviated. Let us hope that the wealth and the influence which countenanced his wrong will move to aid him in his repentance.

The picture is one of men undertaking work for which [333] their education never fitted them,--a common mistake of American life. There are thousands among us engaged in mechanical routine whose souls have large grasp, and take in the universe. Critical hours unveil the lustre of such spirits. Our self-made men are the glory of our institutions. But this is a case of men undertaking to join in public debate and preside over public meetings, whose souls are actually absorbed in pricing calico and adding up columns of figures. It is a singular sight. White men, having enjoyed the best book education, to see them struggling with two colored men, whose only education was oppression and the antislavery enterprise! But in that contest of parliamentary skill, the two colored men never made a mistake, while every step of their opponents was folly upon folly. Of course, upon the great question of moral right, there is no comparison. History gives us no closer parallel than the French Convention of Lafayette and Mirabeau assailed by the fish-women of the streets.

Let us turn now to the part of the City Government. Every man eligible to office,--but with a race like ours, fired with the love of material wealth, with a continent given us by God to subdue and crowd it with cities, to unite the oceans with rails,--in such an age and with such a race, trade must absorb all the keenest energies of each generation. The consequence is, that politics takes up with small men, men without grasp enough for large business; with leisure, therefore, on their hands; men popular because they have no positive opinions,--these are the men of politics. The result is, as Tocqueville has hinted, that our magistrates never have more education than we give to the mass, that they have no personal experience of their own. Such men do very well for ordinary occasions, when there is nothing to do. Common times only try common men. In a calm sea all boats alike show mastership in floating. On the [334] 3d day of the month, we might have supposed every man to know that a meeting was to be protected against a mob, that the duty of the police was not to settle disputed questions and motions, but only to see that they were argued out without violence,--that they were there to arrest any man who committed an assault. The absurdity of turning the Convention out of doors to quiet its tumult, is the method of a quack who stabs his patient in order to cure the disease.

But our Mayor, poor as he is, did know all this. He was awed out of his duty by the social position of the mobocrats. The individual policemen were respectable and orderly, evidently disposed to enforce order, had they been allowed. No complaint can be made of them. But we know neither them nor their chief. For us, the Mayor represents the City Government. I hold him, single and alone, responsible for the success of the mob. [Slight hissing.] Abolitionists are the best judges; they have been through many such a scene. They assert that, if they could have been left alone, they could have quelled that mob, unaided. [Derisive laughter.] Mr. Hayes, of the Temple, the most competent witness in the city, offered the Mayor, on the spot, to keep order within the building if he could be allowed six men; and he has publicly avowed his belief, that, had the chief simply announced, from the platform, his purpose to keep order impartially, order would have reigned; but the mob knew that the police, in spite of their individual feelings, must obey orders, and were therefore, of course, on the mob side. The rioters were constantly boasting, “The police are all right,” “They are with us,” “Three cheers for the police!” [Cheers and hisses.]

To the courtesy and forbearance of the Abolitionists the Chief of Police has borne public witness. They were the only persons assaulted, yet they were the only persons [335] arrested. They were the only persons knocked down, and they were the only persons carried from the hall by the police. The chief says that individual Abolitionists were removed by mistake. Singular that this mistake should never have happened to those who were using their canes and their fists, and should have taken place only in regard to persons conspicuous for their courtesy and forbearance!

The friends of the Mayor urge that the mob was too strong for the whole force of the government. Let him show that he spoke one word, that he lifted one finger, that he remonstrated with one rioter, and we will grant him that excuse. But the pilot who says the storm is too strong for him must show that he put his hand once, at least, upon the helm, to see whether it would obey the hold.

Our present Mayor is not singular; he does not stand alone. We have not had a decent Mayor for ten years. [Sensation, and vehement hisses.] Vassals of the grog shop, and mortgaged to State Street, what could you expect from them? Of course Smith and Bigelow are beneath notice,--mere hounds of the slave-hunt, a hand's-breadth ahead of the pack. But these other degenerate magistrates find here and there a predecessor to keep them in countenance; indeed, all the Mayors on the Atlantic coast are their models, with one or two noble exceptions. That mob which Messrs. Fay and Howe inaugurated spent the night among our colored citizens' dwellings, beating, kicking, and stabbing all whom they met. The police were on special duty in those streets in the night. The morning opened, the courts assembled, the magistrate took his seat. The only person arrested for that night's disorder is one black boy, fourteen years old, who had defended himself against bullies!

I do not remember precisely the mob against the Irish [336] in Broad Street, but I am told that the same is true of that riot, that none but those assaulted were arrested. I have known three cases of magistrates quelling mobs. One was Neal Dow, in Portland,--not necessary, some thought, to fire. But let us grant Portland her fame,--she has quelled a mob. Providence, also, under a magistrate whose name I wish I could remember, (Governor Arnold, I am told,) quelled her mob with bullets; and last year, Mayor Henry, of Philadelphia,--a name that ought to be written in letters of gold,--taught purse-proud ignorance and brutality to obey the laws. The wealth of Philadelphia petitioned him not to allow Mr. Curtis to lecture. One of the petitioners waited on him and said, “Sir, do you know the treasonable sentiments of Mr. Curtis?” “No, sir,” was the answer; “I know only that it is my duty to protect him.” “Do you know, sir, that the wealthiest houses have petitioned you to stop the meeting?” “Yes, sir.” “What shall you do if they appear, and put a stop to the lecture?” “Send them to the watch-house.” [Applause.] Mr. Curtis lectured, and Mayor Henry was re-elected. While such men live, I am opposed to rotation in office. [Laughter.]

It is a long while since we have had such a Mayor. Your magistrates have always needed twenty-four hours, and closetings with indignant citizens, before they learned their duties. In 1835, Mayor Lyman,--a lawyer, a scholar, a gentleman,--instead of protecting Mr. Garrison, or dying in front of him, spent the critical hour of the mob's existence in vaina intercessions with his personal friends, in pitiful appeals to drunken broadcloth, [slight hissing,] and went home to realize the noble opportunity he had lost of endearing his memory to law, liberty, and the good name of the city, to realize the grave duty he had failed to meet, and to spend his after life in bitter and unavailing regret over that disgraceful and wicked hour of [337] his magistracy. But he lived,--he lived to repent; and later services did endear his name to the Commonwealth. There is no evidence that our more recent Mayors know even enough to be ashamed.

The men of that day lived to beg pardon of the very persons they had mobbed. All Boston glorified them that month; they walked State Street in pride. But you would think me cruel, to-day, if I gibbeted their names. The hour is near, it knocks at yonder door, when whoever reminds an audience that Richard S. Fay and Mayor Lincoln broke up an antislavery meeting will be considered, even by State Street and the Courier, bitter and uncharitable, [hisses,] as eminently unchristian, in reminding the disgraced and the forgotten of their sins.

What was the meeting thus assailed? It was a meeting met to discuss slavery,--a topic which makes the republic tremble, the settlement of which is identical with the surviving of our government,--a topic upon which every press, every legislature, every magistrate, south of Mason and Dixon's line, flings defiance at the Union, amid the plaudits of Mr. Fay and his friends. What day was it? The anniversary of the martyrdom of the only man whose name stirs the pulses of Europe in this generation. [Derisive laughter.] English statesmen confess never to have read a line of Webster. You may name Seward in Munich and Vienna, in Pesth or in Naples, and vacant eyes will ask you, “Who is he?” But all Europe, the leaders and the masses, spoke by the lips of Victor Hugo, when he said, “The death of Brown is more than Cain killing Abel; it is Washington slaying Spartacus.” [Laughter from some parts of the hall, and from others applause.]

What was the time of this meeting? An hour when our Senators and Representatives were vindicating the free speech of Massachusetts in Washington, in the face [338] of armed men. Are we to surrender it in the streets at home, to the hucksters and fops of the Exchange? This day on which I speak, a year ago, those brave young hearts which held up John Brown's hands faced death without a murmur, for the slave's sake. In the light of their example, God forbid we should give up free speech!

Whom is it proposed to silence? Men who for thirty years, from the ocean to Kansas, sacrificing reputation, wealth, position, seeing their houses pillaged, their friends mobbed in the streets, have forced this question on reluctant senates and statesmen, until at last, all other issues driven out of the arena, God chains this age to the redemption of the slave. Victors in such a fight, after such a field, after having taught this nation, at such woful cost, the sacredness of free discussion, who are these traders that weigh their gold against our rights? Who is this boaster parading his two hundred thousand dollars, and telling us he will spend every one of them to “put down this agitation” ? He “put down this agitation” ! That attempt was announced before, from the steps of the Revere House. The unhappy statesman, defeated, heartbroken, sleeps by the solemn waves of the Atlantic. “Contempsi Catilinae gladios, non tuos pertimescam.” The half omnipotence of Webster we defied; who heeds this pedler's empty wind?

How shall we prevent such insolent attempts for the future? Educate the future Fays more thoroughly. Teach them the distinction between duties and dollars. Plant deep in the heart of the masses the conviction of the utter sacredness of the right of free speech. Our fathers made their sons hate the Pope so thoroughly, that hatred of Popery is no longer an intellectual conviction, but has become a constituent element of Yankee blood and bone. Put the sacredness of free speech into the same condition! Carve in letters of gold in every [339] school-house this letter of our loved Governor elect,--the best word a Massachusetts Governor has said since the first Winthrop gave his fine definition of civil liberty. Mr. Andrew says:--

“ The right to think, to know, and to utter,” as John Milton said, is the dearest of all liberties. Without this right, there can be no liberty to any people; with it, there can be no slavery.

And Mr. Andrew goes on:--

I care not for the truth or error of the opinions held or uttered, nor for the wisdom of the words or time of their attempted expression, when I consider this great question of fundamental significance, this great right which must first be secure before free society can be said to stand on any foundation, but only on temporary or capricious props.

Rich or poor, white or black, great or small, wise or foolish, in season or out of season, in the right or in the wrong, whosoever will speak, let him speak, and whosoever will hear, let him hear. And let no one pretend to the prerogative of judging another man's liberty. In this respect there is, and there can be, no superiority of persons or privileges, nor the slightest pretext for any.

Thank God for such a Governor to come! [Applause.] Make that Massachusetts, and then we may stop a boy in the streets and make him Mayor, sure that, without need of thought or consultation, he will gird himself to protect unpopular free speech, and put down fashionable riot, instead of lazily protecting fashionable riot, and putting down unpopular free speech.

I have used strong words. But I was born in Boston, and the good name of the old town is bound up with every fibre of my heart. I dare not trust myself to describe the insolence of men who undertake to dictate to you and me what we shall say in these grand old streets. But who can adequately tell the sacredness and the value of free speech? Who can fitly describe the enormity of the [340] crime of its violation? Free speech, at once the instrument and the guaranty and the bright consummate flower of all liberty. Free speech in these streets, once trod by Henry Vane, its apostle and champion. Free speech, in that language which holds the dying words of Algernon Sidney, its martyr. As Everett said, near forty years ago:--

I seem to hear a voice from the tombs of departed ages, from the sepulchres of nations that died before the sight. They exhort us, they adjure us, to be faithful to our trust. They implore us, by the long trials of struggling humanity, by the awful secrets of the prison-house where the sons of Freedom have been immured, by the noble heads which have been brought to the block, by the eloquent ruins of nations, they conjure us not to quench the light that is rising on the world. Greece cries to us by the convulsed lips of her poisoned, dying Demosthenes, and Rome pleads with us in the mute persuasion of her mangled Tully.

Let us listen to the grave and weighty words of the nephew of Charles James Fox, Lord Holland, in his protest when British Tories tried to stop the discussion of Catholic Emancipation,--words of which Macaulay says, “They state a chief article of the political creed of the Whigs with singular clearness, brevity, and force.”

“ We are,” Lord Holland says, “well aware that the privileges of the people, the rights of free discussion, and the spirit and letter of our popular institutions, must render--and they are intended to render--the continuance of an extensive grievance, and of the dissatisfaction consequent thereupon, dangerous to the tranquillity of the country, and ultimately subversive of the authority of the state. Experience and theory alike forbid us to deny that effect of a free constitution: a sense of justice and a love of liberty equally deter us from lamenting it. But we have always been taught to look for the remedy of such disorders in the redress of the grievances which justify them, and in the removal of the dissatisfaction from which they flow; not in restraints on [341] ancient privileges, not in inroads on the right of public discussion nor in violations of the principles of a free government.”

Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection,--they have many friends and few enemies. We have praised out Union for seventy years. This is the first time it is tested. Has it educated men who know their rights, and dare to maintain them? Can it bear the discussion of a great national sin, anchored deep in the prejudices and interests of millions? If so, it deserves to live. If not, the sooner it vanishes out of the way the better.

The time to assert rights is when they are denied; the men to assert them are those to whom they are denied. The community which dares not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves.

At the conclusion of the exercises, Mr. Phillips's friends flocked upon the platform to congratulate him. After a while, Mr. Phillips left the platform, accompanied by several friends, who were joined, in the lower entry, by some twenty in number. As the party emerged from the building to the avenue leading from the hall to Winter Street, a large crowd was found collected there, who set up various cries, such as ‘ There he is!’ ‘ Crush him out! ’ ‘ Down with the Abolitionists!’ ‘ Bite his head off!’ ‘ All up!’ &c., and surged toward Mr. Phillips, with the manifest purpose of preventing his egress. In this, however, they were balked by the resolute front of his friends and the energy of the police, who forced the crowd to give way.

On entering Winter Street, the mob, which almost blockaded the street, yelled and hissed, and gave vent to their impotent rage by such cries as those given above; but the party proceeded down the street, and up Washington Street, surrounded by a strong detachment of police, and followed by an immense throng of people, many of them, however, friends of Mr. Phillips, and determined to protect him from injury. No demonstrations of violence, happily, were made. The singular procession excited the attention of people living on the [342] route largely, and the windows looking on the street were crowded with faces expressing wonder and curiosity. Arrived at his house in Essex Street, Mr. Phillips entered, with a few of his friends, when three cheers were given by some of those present, which were answered by hisses from the other side. Deputy-Chief Ham then requested the crowd to disperse, which they did, though somewhat slowly, and with manifest reluctance. So ended the disgraceful scene.


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