Benjamin Gwinn Harris.

Speech of Benjamin G. Harris, esq., of St. Mary's County upon the reports of the Committee on secret societies, in the House of delegates of Maryland online

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Online LibraryBenjamin Gwinn HarrisSpeech of Benjamin G. Harris, esq., of St. Mary's County upon the reports of the Committee on secret societies, in the House of delegates of Maryland → online text (page 2 of 2)
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prive this class of our citizens, of privileges and rights, which in
common with others they have heretofore enjoyed, and which it is
considered are equally secured to all by the Constitution. When
they have complied with the laws and have become naturalized,
by the force of the term and by virtue of the Constitution and the
laws made there under, they become invested with rights and pri-
veleges which to conspire to deprive them of merely because they
belonf to this class, would be as gross a violation of those rights
and.privileges, and of the Constitution which secures them, as
would be a conspiracy on their part to efTect that purpose in
reo-ard to the native born. The Constitution knows no dis-
tinction between the two dosses, except where the distinction is
made too clear for cavil. The native born, the foreign born, (he
Protestant and the Catholic citizens recline under the shadou' of (hat
great pyramid, all equally protected from the scorching rays of bigo-
try and persecution. Under (hot sacred charter which class or sect,
will vou drive away fust ? Which is least entitled to remain there?
no one will dare to say ; and if no one will dare to say, how date
any (o act ? No matter how intense your American feeling' may
be whenever one class or sect sliall combine to drive another from
the protection of the Constitution or (he full enjoyment of their
well defined rights under it, such a course becomes a violation of
that "obedience" to it, "as^Ae supreme law of the land sacrcdlij
ohligatory upon all its parts and members.''^ Patties based upon
dideienl constructions of the (Jonstitulion and upon the policy ((»
be pursued under it, have always existed and were con(empl;i(e(l
as a necessary concomitant of a free government, but parties form-
ed of religious sects or i)f different classes of our citizens were iti
anticipation frowned upon by our gloiious forefothers and can have
no just existence under our Constitution. The course advised in
this platform towiiids our foreign-born citizens, is not only a vio-
lation of the sacred charter of our rights but a dishonorable breach
of (hat sacretl pledge which our huvs held out (o (hem. Will you
then do violence to al| these //-uc Ameiicap feelings? Will neither


oaths or honor bind you ? For purposes allempted to be, but not
concealed, you can appeal to the "briglit examples of patriots, states-
men and warriors of the Calhoh'c faith whose names are associated
with the glory ofthe past, and the gratitude of the present time," but
the '"glory of the past anc] the gratitude of the present time" in your
keeping, cannot it seems, be meeted out to those patriots, states-
men and warriors, who leaving tlieir fatherland have given the
energies of their minds and bodies and have poured out their hearts
blood in defence of this their adopted home.

The idea of pnoscribing a whole class or sect of our citizens for
the political opinions or conduct of indiviiluals belonging to that
class or sect is an injustice wliich could only sinctrely enter and re-
main in ihe heart and mind of a fanatic — llie political trickster will
pursue that course for his selfish ends. In all justly governed
countries individuals alone are held responsible (or their conduct.
Ctin I not believe from his professed principles that Brownson
should not be entrusted with office under this Government, and
yet be willing to entrust Judge Taney and others of the Catholic
faith with its dearesi rights? Could I not with propriety re-
fuse to advance to oftice any natui-alized citizen who should pro-
fess principles and pursue practices detrimental to our political
system, and still consider it my duty to support one of the same
class whom I believed to be faiihful to the Constitution, and cor-
rect in his political piinciples? These propositions are too plain
for discussion — they are perfectly in accordance wi*!i the Constitu-
tion — and yet, sir, the declarations in this Platform which you
are called irpon to adopt rejects these self-evident propositions.
The Constitution frowns indignantly irpon these distinctions be-
tween chisses and sects ; this Platform creates them, and we fear
may perpetunte them.

But, sn-, liow grossly inconsistent would the adoption of this
Platform make every member of the majority of this House.
Previously to 1853 they were enrolled as members of either the
Democratic or Whig Paiiy. When did any one of you as a
Whig or a Democrat profess the detestable principles which I have
adverted to? Never! It was not in 1840 when the Whig Ten-
fral Committee nobly rebuked the sentiments contained in this
Philadelpiiia Platform, and advanced as the true principles of our
Government, the sentiments and views I have to day advocated.
It was not when Giistav W. Lurman, a naturalized citizen, and
Nathaniel F. Williams, Wm. Chcsnut, and John P. Kennedy,
all native born, could set at the same political board and enterlatn
the same political principles. Let us goto these fathers of the
Stale for their counsel. I read it sir, for the instiuclion of this
House and the people. ''In this country every man is permitted
to woiship his Maker as his conscience may approve. Our laws


and ConstilLitions were framed to secure (0 all thU g'.otious pri-
vilege. The native and naturalized citizens tvre equally entitled
10 the blessings of our Government: all are equal and when u
stranc^er lakes up his abode here, and has remained among us
durin'g the time presciibed by the naturalization laws, he has a
right to become a citizen and will be eiiiiiled to the privileges of
citizenship. " When tliey publislied these noble sentiments,
as a rebuke to an expiessiotr of sentimenlsof an opposite charac-
ter, they called upon the Whigs f.f Mai y land to endorse them and
the Whigs of Miuyland did endorse them. Have any of those
signers of that address renounced those principles? If they have,
let us know them and detest them — find if any of those who baltleil
then for those principles sliall lunv solemnly record iheir votes
ao-fiinst them, let the lecord be pieserved, and ;a some iuture, but
not distant day, they will receive their dsie reward.

But, sir, to come down from IS 10 to 1852. Can any membei
of either of those old parlies here present deny that he and his par-
ty acted upon these pure principles wliich were always advocated
by both, and which 1 have feebly advocated here to day ? The
prosciiption of either naturalized citizens or Roman Catliolics
would then have been justly abhorrent to you all and you would
all have actively combined against the men or paiiy who should
have proposed it. You Whigs of 1852 circulated from one end of
this land to the other that intolerant New Han-rpshire ought not
to have the honor of furnishing a President. You Democrats suc-
cessfully responded that New Hampshire, though tainted with sin,
like Nazareth of old could send forth one who was true to his
duty as a man and faithful to his country as a citizen. That man
was FRAMvLiiv PiERCK — a uauie which it is refreshing to breathe
in the mitlst of the intolerable stench which rises from the Phila-
delphia Pandemonium — a name which the people will ever honor
as synonymous with patriotism in spite of the contemptible efforts
of the vermin race of politicians to defame it — the charge then
that New Hampshire was intolerant and the defence that Fank-
lin Pierce was an open, avowed and active friend of religious tol-
e\'-xtion, proved that you all united in favor of that great principle.
Was there any avowal of your determination to cut off and pro-
scribe our naiuialized fellow-citizens in tlieir rights and privileges?
none! and the man or the parly who would have announced such a
de. "gn would iiave met the just and indignate rebuke of you all.
Will you then in so short a space of lime be inconsistent with
yourselves upon questions, in regard to which common sense,
truth, justice and patriotism can give but one answer and that dia-
metrically opposite to the perilous doctrine taught in this Plat-
form ?

But, sir, the work of these Philadelphia conspirators would not
have been complete without they could have introduced the Holy
Bible as a cloak for ilieir hypocrisy, and call upon the Almighty


Father as n wilnessof llieir vvickediies.?. How dare (hey to ex-
pect 10 deceive iiumkiiul by liolding in one hand that Holy Book,
ihe true source of love and benevolence to our race, and yet hold
in the other the 5lh article of this platform teaching that the poor
are lo be avoided and despised — that j^overty is inconsistent
with honesty — and (luiL the ;jffi//;e/- stands upon the same level
with [he felon 9 That article it is true is dictated by the desire
(o exclude the poor of Europe, but its language is insultino- to the
poor everywhere. Let us analyze it. To use iis own lano-uao-e it
"unquaiifjedly condemns" the emigration of the poor to our
shores, but offers "a friendly reception and protection" to the
honest emigrant. Cannot the 2^oor be honest? It offers an
asylum in this country to those who seek it, from "love of lib-
erty and haired of oppression." Cannot the poor love libeity
and hate oppression ? But when and where did these Bible
reading men obtain their authority or discover th& propriety of
(liscrin)inating against the poor? Not fiom the institutions of
our country, nor from the book of God, but from the depravity
of their own hearts, (^an they discover any word or sentence in the
Holy Code which they insist shall be a school book for the
lengiliand breadth of this land, that instructs thein to discard the
poor? Not one ! But if there are any who are treated as the
special favorites of God, and whom he orders man to protect and
sustain under the penalty of loosing his favor, they are this class of
our fellow beings. His promises and denimciations abound in
regard to this matter — the former for those who will relieve the
miseries and soothe the sorrows of the poor and distressed, the
latter for those who shall shut their ears to their ciies. "He
who considereth the poor the Lord wilT remember him in the
days of his trouble." "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of
the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard."

If, sir, the curse of God is thus denounced upon the individual
who shall (urn his back upot) the poor, what will be (he fate of
this great nation upon which he has showered his blessings if, it
shall have its councils darkened by such false teachers? He the
great God makes this land to overflow with his munificent boun-
ties. He loads our tables with luxuries which 'lives himself knew
not of; shall we even worse than Hives, refirse to the poor of the
world the very crumbs which fall from these tables. God forbid
(hat ourcotuilry should thus call down the scathing of his wrath.
Let us then repudiate these heathen teachers... It is plain (hat.
their principles will not stand the test of the Holy Book, and ihey^
acted not unwisely when in their new Platform, they relievet^
it from their contamination. I (ru'st that before (he next granj^
council assembles (hey will see the folly of being guilty of th.^
double crime of Conrmitiing sins which make the "angels wcep^
and of calling on the Almighty, as it were, to endorse them." . „^



Online LibraryBenjamin Gwinn HarrisSpeech of Benjamin G. Harris, esq., of St. Mary's County upon the reports of the Committee on secret societies, in the House of delegates of Maryland → online text (page 2 of 2)