New York (City) Board of aldermen (1675-1897)o.

The important and interesting debate, on the claim of the Catholics to a portion of the common school fund; online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryNew York (City) Board of aldermen (1675-1897)oThe important and interesting debate, on the claim of the Catholics to a portion of the common school fund; → online text (page 1 of 18)
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[Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1840, by James W. White, in the Clerk's OfBce of the DistrSct
Court of the Southern District of New York, ' ' ^ '


On presenting to the public a report of the late impoitant fund to which they, in common with others, nad contribut-
discussion before the Common Council of the city of New ed; and in order to supply the wants of their own poor so
York, on the subject of popular education, and the Petitisn far as they had the means to do so, they established free
of the Catholics tor an alteration in the present mode of ad- schools subject to their own control.

ministering the school fund in this city, it will uut be con- More particular attention having been recently called to
sidered inappropriate to accompany it, by way of preface, the subject, some action on the part of the Catholics was
with a brief narrative of the agitation of the question here deemed necessary, and a Catholic Association was formed in
during the present year. The following statement is ac- this city in the early part of (he present year, for the purpose
cordingly given of the proceedings on the subject. of obtaining a remedy, if practicable, for the grievance un-

There will be found in the debate information respecting der which the Catholics labored in this matter. Weekly
the Common School System, its origin and its operation meetings were held for several months in the school house
throughout this State, sufRcient for all general purposes. — attached to the Cathedral Church — political views and feel-
A more detailed reference to that portion of the subject will ings were most sedulously excluded from all their proceed-
therefore be unnecessary here. With Catholics and with ings — men of all political parties paiticipated in the move-
the Catholic Church, the education of youth has ever been ment — memorials were presented to the Common Council
an object of peculiar solicitude, as the vast means will tes- of the city of New York for relief, their prayer was de-
tify, which this Church (let her enemies say what they will) nied, and the subject had thus acquired a cousiderable
has always provided for popular instruction, through the public interest previous to the meeting of the Association
agency of her religious orders and otherwise. But in all and of the general body of the Catholics, which was held on
cases it has been one of their most anxious cares that the the evening of the 20th of July last, in the school house
instruction imparted should not only not impair religious above mentioned, immediatelv after the return of the Right
faith, which is the basis of all moral good, but should Rev. Dr. Hughes from Europe.

strengthen and confirm it in the minds of those upon whom At this meeting the very Kev. Dr. Power presided, and
the benefits of education were conferred. In the early and it was ably and eloquently addressed by him and by the Rt.
middle ages, this task of education was discharged through- Rev. Dr. Hughes, and also by other gentlemen. The
out Christendom almost exclusively by ecclesiastics or reli- meetings from that time forward were regularly held once
gious persons who maintained numerous schools in which in two weeks in the basement room of St. James' Church,
instruction was free to all who sought it. _ Men were then and assumed a most important character. Bishop Hughes
not divided as they are now in their religious belief. But delivered on every evening an eloquent and instructive ad-
with the conflict of creeds, came an altered state of things dress on the subject. The very Rev. Dr. Power also fre-
wherever it prevailed. The religious spirit, which, in Ca- quently addressed the meetings in his powerful and impres-
tholic times, led men and associations of men, voluntarily give manner, and occasional speeches were likewise made
and without hope of earthly reward, to devote their lives and by several Catholic gentlemen who took a warm interest in
their faculties to a compliance with the counsel of mercy, the proceedings.

that declared it to be a divine virtue "to instruct the igno- On the ICth of August, an "Address of the Roman Ca-
rant,' had in a great measure disappeared, and nothing tholics to their fellow-citizens of the City and State of New
equivalent had arisen in its place. Alter a tune, however, York" was adopted by the meeting of Catholics held on that
various governments attempted the establishment ot general ^ ^^^ j^ ,^^g published in pamphlet form, and also in an
national systems of education, and in those countries extra issued from the office of the New York Freeman's

that would be acceptable to all alike. It is not necessary Societv

here to refer to the various plans that nave been agitated or „ * „ _ . . i ^

adopted in ether places. The history of the subject in this ^ ^^ ™ ^]^^ °^ SeP*""be.> a petition to the Common
State is the only one which it will be necessary to glance at. V°"A'"i °,- *"® "^ "', ,?''' ^"''J'' ^°',' ''elief'^^-^s adopted at
Here the system (by what means it matters not at present ^^^ Catholic meeting held on that day m the basement of
to inquire) gradually assumed a form under the manage- ^*- '^''™'=*' Church, and was forthwith presented by a com-
ment of the Public School Society of the city of New York, '"'"*^®' deputed for the purpose, to the Board of Aldermen
which it is believed education has not assumed in any other ^^"° ^®''*^ *r*? '" session. A copy of the petition is an-
country— a form of which religion not only constitutes no ^^^^^ *° *'^ introduction.

part, but in which it is avowedly excluded. To such a sys- After some discussion and postponements, the 29th of
tem Catholics could never give their confidence — and what October was finally appointed by the Board of Aldermen to
rendered it still more objectionable with them, was the fact hear the Catholics and those opposed to them, by counsel or
that it had a strong anti-Catholic tendency, especially in the otherwise, on the subject of their petition — the Public School
character of the books that were used for school exercises. Society and the Methodist Episcopal Church having sent in
The Catholics generally declined to participate in what they to the Common Council remonstrances against granting
considered to be, at the best, the very dubious benefits of the prayer of the Catholic petition. On that day and the
this system. They complained of the unjust administration succeeding one the debate took place, of which the present
of the public fund by which this system was supported — a publication furnishes a faithful report. 'j

The proceedings of the several Catholic meetings on this jurisprudence, or in other stations in public life, where do you find
subject since the one of the 20th of July inclusive, wpre ""odels worthier of imitation than those by whom the pages ofCatho-
f,-r>m timp tn timp fullv and accuratelv vPDOrted in the New ? t" story are adorned. Passing again fiom these to the ornaments
tiom time to time tuny ana accmaie y lepoiiea m ine X^ew of ancient literature, of classic Greece and Rome, and wh.le desola-
York Freeman's Journal, and the loUowmg interesting ex- tion and barbarism passed over Europe with their trains of evils,
tract from the speech of Bishop Hughes at the last meeting, ^^ho, by patient, persevering industry, gathered up the fragments of
which was held on the subject, on the 19th of October last, pn^ient hteraure to adorn the human mind ? It was done by the la-
is taken from that Journal of the 24th of the same month. Xtclr^^idSu I'l-e, Z" J^u wlirtinZhrcrolfcThr n^c!^
It is given here as being particularly appropriate and in- thing of which to be ashamed. You will find no reason for the sup-
structive. pression of all these things with which Catholics can charge them-

Speaking of the introduction into the Public Schools of foW^'r/thnHni'll^f v"-,?"'' department if you take away the

,y ^ , ^ c -n I I 4. -i 1 • 1 XI T.- 1 volumes Oatliolics have written, and the mighty libraries they have

the works of Protestant writers exclusively, the Bishop collected, your shelves will present a barren appearance. Why, we

asked, have the testimony of eminent Protestant scholars themselves, attest-

" What reason they (the Trustees of the Public Schools) had to give d"f mo'rf than allX Prf,«t°n n u ,n °", ^'^' °"^"' °'' ^^r^i^i^^^-

for the mtroduction of these writers-Robertson, Hume and others- led ""in histo v TuHsZdencP ^^^^ every of know-

, ^ ^1 tj u I, .u 1 .1 u leu^e — in nisroiy, jurispiuaence, and canonical and Civil law — in a
wha reason they could have when they knew there were such a „o,d ;„ ^{^- appertaining to human knowledge, it was found
multitude of Cathol.c writers, to suppress even the least occasional that the great predominance was'due to Catholic labSr and a. hoUc
mention of Catholic waiters ? Was u because Catholics have nomen .recess; and why then do we not find one page to adorn these school
who have labored m the fields ofsc.ence to uriprove the htim^ b„oks trom authors like these. Again, wlfere are there poets like
Now, thou-h It may be a secret to those gentlemen there is no de- Catholic poets ? Take from Englan^d the works of Catholic writers
partment ot His ory or Philosophy ,n which the mind of a Cathohc _take away her Chaucer, and Spenser, and Shakspeare, and Dry-
Iras not taken the lead ; and the time was when tlie Catholic arm den, and Pope, and you take away the cream of Enghsh literature,
was found the s rongest in pushing the Sun ol Science up the Then if you turn your minds from these things to orhers not so im-
Heavens Who has produc d w^rks of Theology like ours. In mediately essential to the cultivation, but to the'adornment of human
£-'i°l,C J^! .^i„l^i °!J^Z, Z I?^^'". !LJ!iri?.?, *^°°ill Jui liff-'='''-^the study of th_e_mathematics-and who was the first to

d, and ar-

mighty stroke of the Goth and the Hun and when society was dis- Then againln irchi"trcturrand Urrp^licrtlorto'thrcTnX^ucaouTf
solved, we found Catholic minds presiding over its reconstruction, bridges, which at one period of European history could not be con-
aymg Us foundations broad and deep, and doing every thmg calcu- structed. without calling in the aid of some learned man from a dis-
lated to improve the public mind. Who redticed a mass of rude cha- tant country, who wasusually some humble Monk who knew how to
racters into letters which we now caH our alphabet Who but Ca- throw the daring arch, to span the river, or to cross the otherwise im-
tJjohcs who thus gave a languase to Europe by establishing Its basis passable valley.'^ Take away from England even the architectural
Nay more, after tbat who mtmduced that mos important branch of structures left by Catholics, and what w?,ll remain? Scarcely any-
civi ization-agriculture ? It was the Monks, by whose industry thing. Oxford would disappear, and the greater part of Cambridge,
and labor the reclamied wastes became the model farms" of Europe, and nothing would be left but St. Paul's, of which Lord Kingsbury
and flora them agriculture spread. said, after seeing St. Peter's, it was scarcely fit for anything but to be
We hear much o free government and of Parliaments, but was that blown up by gunpowder. If we turn from these things to inventions,
a Protestant 'nvention ? Pjo, it was a Catholic invention ; for it was ^e may ask, 'who invented the art of printing ? A Catholic. Who
copied trom the Cathohc Church. 1 he first models of representative originated that by which information was sint round through every
governnrent, and of dignified and noble parliaments, were the coun- vilfage and hamlet-the post-ofhce ? A Catholic. AVho fnvented
cils of the Catholic Church, m which every part of that church had the clock to tell what time of day it is? A Catholic. Who invent-
us representative. 1 hence, then the idea was borrowed, which has ed the compass to guide the mariner across the trackless ocean ? A
been the pride and boast of England and of this country after her, of Catholic. What is it that Catholics have not done ? And if this is
representative government. But 1 might speak also of navigation, the history of this people, why is it that these teachers despise them.
Who discovered the continent on which we now live. Was it not a and why is it that not a line from Catholic authors is permitted in
Cathohc ? Who made the second voyage to this continent, and their books ? And they pretended to be all impartiality and to pos-
stamped his name upon it ? Was it not a Catholic? Araericus sess feelings of the most liberal and philanthropic character. But
Vespucius. Who m;ide the first voyage round the globe ? Was it turn awayftom this again to another thing. There are afflictions
not a Catholic? And Catholics were the first to visit both the East and resting on the children of sorrow, some of' whom are deprived of
the West Indies; they traversed seas to carry the knowledge ot Jesus si„ht, and the sunbeam falls to the earth in vain for them. Now it
Christ to the ignomiit and they then becanie acquainted with the was a work of benevolence to discover eyes for these children of sor-
physical position of different countries, and they conveyed that know- row, and to place them at the end of their fingers-or in other words
ledge to the world either in letters or other documents, and added a to enable them, by running their fingers ov'er raised characters, to
mass of human knowledge, whichhad assumed a gigantic size before read with rapidity ; and it is to a Catholic that the invention is to be
Protestantism first^ sprang out of the earth. And while things ot a aUributed. Again there is another class, the deaf and dumb, who
less beneficial tendency were going on in other parts of the globe, can neither hear nor speak. Now happily for them, there is an in-
Catholic Missionaries -200 ycais ago, penetrated this country and vention, which emanated from a benevolent heart, by which they can
continued a chain round iiom aiiebec to the Mississippi. While communicate thought, and for this they are indebted to a Catholic
persecution was going on in he North and the South, with which priest. The language for the deaf and dumb, was the invention of
Catholics had nothing to do, their free banner waved over Maryland, [be Abby Ponza, a E^enedicline of Spain,
where the righls ol conscience were recognized. They went to the

Indians, not to destroy bui to convert, to save, and to civilize. And Now if these gentlemen of the Public Schools will place Catholics

if we turn our eyes from these things to others, we shall see those under a dark cloud, I see no reason why we should not penetrate that

things which are calculated to reflect honor ou those who efTecled cloud, and cause some part of the rajjs of our former glory to return to

their'accomplishment. When we see the alleviation of the infirmi- "s. It was then again the Abby L'tpee, who on visiting two sisters

ties of human life, we naturally ask ourselves to whom the world was t^us afflicted, as a man of God, was himself afflicted that he could

indebted for the act of mercy. Who planned the structures and laid "°' communicate to them the Christian religion. He began to move

thf foundations of these hospitals for the afflicted, and asylums for the ^y signs, and continued to improve on his attempt, until at length he

decrepid, the aged, and the young and exposed infant ? Were they acquired the means of communicating with the deaf and dumb with

not all introduced and established by the benevolent spirits and the ^^e and rapidity.

enlightened minds of the Catholics ol antiquity ? Turn your minds Who was the founder of Sunday Schools ? It was Saint Charles

to other structures, and then ask who laid the foundations of the uni- Borromeo— a Catholic. In a word there is no department of know-

vorsities? Who originated the idea ? Who aided their establish- ledge in which Catholics have not been distinguished. But to go

ment? It was Catholics alone, and if you blot out the benevolent in- further, who discovered a quicker means of communication than the

stitutions with which the earth is still studded, for which the world railroad? It is not used so extensively in this counliy as in some

is indebted to Catholics, you will find bnt few insignificant ones others, but it may be important even here, if an invasion should be

remaining. It you turn again from these things to the men distin- made of any part of our coast, to communicate information to Wash-

guished by their own intellect— to warriors, and legislators— to men jngton and receive an answer back in less time than it could be done

distinguished by their eloquence, by their scientific attainment.?, in by railroads; he would deserve a prize who should invent the means

of sending information from Niagara to Washington an J resaivins; This Society, however, is composed of gentlemen of various sects
an answer bacli in six or seven hours. And yet the equivalent including even one or two Catholics. But they profess to exclnde all
of this has been done by a Catholic priest who invented the tele- Sectarianism from their scliools. If tliey do not exclude sectarian-
graph. If we turn to music, who has brought it to its present state ism, they are avowedly no more entitle I to the School Funds than
by the perfection of instrumental music ? Wlio has tiught the can- your Petitioners, or any other denomination of professing Christians,
vas to speak ? And who has given life and animation to the cold If they do as they profess, e.xcUide sectarianism, then your Petition-
marble .' Catholics. And alllhe boasted superiority of Protestants ers contend that they exclude Christianity, and leave to theadv;inta|:e
is yet an infinite distance from the productions of Catholics, and of infidelity, the tendencies which are given to the minds of yoth
they are proud to distraction if they succeed in producing a tolera- by the influence of this feature and pretension of their system. If
ble copy of that which Cathclics have invented. I have thus en- they could accomplish what they proless, other denominations would
deavored to claim for Catholics that to which they are confessedly en- join your petitioners in remonstrating against their schools. But
titled. The gentlemen ot the public schools have not treated us fair- they do not accomplish it. Your Petitioners will show your Honora-
ly or honorably, when they have thought proper to fill their pages for ble Body that they do admit what Catholics call sectarianism, (al-
the instruction of our children, from Hume and Robertson, and other though others may call it only religion) in a great variety of ways.
Protestant writers who were all opposed to the Catholics, and have In their •22d Report, as far back as the year 1S27, they tell us, page
not given one sentence from Catholic authors." 14, that they "are aware of the importance of early religious instruc-

tion," and that none but what is " exclusively general and scriptural

'PTT'TTTT AlV" in its character, should be introduced into the schools, under their

1 Hi lllUJiN. charge." Here, then, is their own testimony tliat they did introduce

TO THE HONORABLE THE BOARD OF AL- ^"<^ authorise " religious instruction" in their schools. And that

■r»T?UTvri?AT m? tw n^V nw TSIIT'-Hr vriRir 'hey solved, with the utmost composure, the difficult question on

L>EKMEJN OJ^ Itiih Cili: UJI^ JNJ^W YUKit. ^hich the sects disagree by determining what kind of " religious in-

The Petition of the Catholics of JYeio York Respectfully struction" is "exclusively general and scriptural in its character "

T> f . i J J Neither could they impart this early religious instruction" them-

Kepresents : selves. They must have left it to their teachers, and these armed

That your Petitioners yield to no class in their performance of, and with oflicial influence, coidd impress those " early religious instruc-

disposition to perform, all the duties of citizens. They bear, and are tions" on the susceptible minds of the children, with tlie authority of

willing to bear their portion of every common burthen ; and feel dictators,
themselves entitled to a participation in every common benefit. The Public School Society, in their report for the year 1832, page

This participation, they regret to say, has been denied them for 10, describe the effects of these "early religious instructions," with-

years back, in reference to Common School Education in the city of out perhaps intending to do so, but yet precisely as your Petitioners

New York, except on conditions with which their conscience, and, have witnessed it, in such of their children as attended those schools.

as they believe, their duty to God, did not, and does not leave them " The age at which children are usually sent to school, aifords a

at liberty to comply. much better opportunity to mould their minds to peculiar and e.xclu-

The rights of conscience in this country, are held by both the con- sive forms ot faith, than any subsequent period of life." In page 11
Btitution and universal consent, to be sacred and inviolable. No of the same report, they protest against the injustice of supporting
stronger evidence of this need be adduced than the fact, that one class "religion in any shape" by public money, as if the early religious in-
of citizens are exempted from the duty or obligation of defending struction which they themselves authorized in their schools, five
their country against any invading foe, out of delicacy and deference years before, was not " religion in some shape," and was not sup-
to the rights of conscience which forbids them to take up arms for ported by public taxation. They tell us a.o^i') in more guarded lan-
any purpose. guage, " The trustees are deeply impressed with the importance of

Your Petitioners only claim the benefit of this principle, in regard imbuing the youthful mind with religious impressions, and they

to the public education of their children. They regard the public have endeavored to attain this object, as far as the nature of the instl-

education which the State has provided as a common benefit, in tution will admit." Report of 1837, page 7.

which they are most desirous, and feel that that they are entitled to In their 33d Annual Report, they tell us that " they would not be

participate ; and therefore they pray your Honorable Body that they understood as regarding religious impressions, iu early youth as un-

may be permitted to do so, without violating their conscience. important. On the contrary, they desire to do all which may with

But your Petitioners do not ask that this prayer be granted, with- propriety be done to give a right direction to the minds of the chil*

out assigning their reasons for preferring it. dren entrusted to their care. Their schools are uniformly opened

In ordinary cases men are not required to assign the motives of with the leading ot the scriptures, and the class books are such as re-
conscientious scruples in matters of this kind. But your Petitioners cognise and enforce the great, and generally acknowledged principles
are aware that a large, wealthy, and concentrated influence is directed of Christianity." Pa^e^7.

against their claim by the corporation called the Public School Socie- In their 31th annuarreport for the year 1839, they pay a high com-

ty. And that this influence, acting on a public opinion already but pliment to a deceased teacher, for the " moral and religious influence

too much predisposed to judje unfavorably of the claims of your Peti- e.xerted by her, over the three hundred girls, daily attending her

tioneis, requires to be mot by facts which justify them in thus ap- school," and tell us that "it could not but have a lasting effect on

pealing to your Honorable Body, and which may at the same time, many of their susceptible minds." Page 7. And yet ia all these

convey a more correct impression to the public mind. Your Peti- " early religious institutions — religious impressions, and religious

tioners adopt this course the more willingly, because the justice, and influence," essentially anti-Catfcolic, your Petitioners are to see

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Online LibraryNew York (City) Board of aldermen (1675-1897)oThe important and interesting debate, on the claim of the Catholics to a portion of the common school fund; → online text (page 1 of 18)