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This provision was adopted unanimously. It was the common ground of justice and equality, upon which all religious denominations could stand in harmony and security. It expressed in plain language the true principles of religious toleration, the correctness and necessity of which had been thoroughly vindicated in the history and experience of each of the colonies. It was heartily concurred in by Protestant and Catholic-by Puritan and Cavalier -by Quaker and Huguenot-each and all of the religious sects and denominations agreed upon this great principle as a platform, a common ground upon which they and their descendants in all future time could and would stand in the bonds of brotherly affection. [Applause.]
By another clause of the Constitution no man can hold any office under the government of the United States, or under any of the state governments, until he has subscribed an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. This oath must be taken, and ought to be kept, not only by presidents, and governors, and judges, but by the mayors of your cities and all their subordinates in office. [Tremendous cheers and applause.]
Now, fellow-citizens, permit me to inquire, in all kindness, how can the members of this political society, called “Know-nothings," take upon themselves a solemn oath by which they shall stand pledged to raise up a religious test as a qualification for office, in the very teeth of the Constitution, by proscribing men on account of their religious faith? Will they excuse themselves upon the ground that they did not know of this clause in the Constitution? (Cheers and laughter.]
Will they tell us that they did not know the history of their own country, that they did not know of the sufferings and persecutions to which their fathers had been subjected on account of their religious faith-that they did not know that the obligations and principles of their society were at war with the genius of our whole republican system and in direct conflict with the principles of the Constitution ? [Loud cheering.]
If they did not know these things, surely there was wisdom in calling themselves " KNOW-NOTHINGS.” [Tremendous cheers and roars of laughter.]
Those who do not know should be made to learn and feel that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land; that all men who live under it, and enjoy its protection, must yield implicit obedience to its requirements, in all its parts and provisions, whether they like them or not. (Cheers and continued applause.]
Their likes or dislikes have nothing to do with the question. We live under a government of laws, and the supremacy of the laws must be maintained, no matter from what quarter or motive the resistance may come. [Great applause.]
The equality of all the states under the Constitution, and the right of the people to decide for themselves what kind of local and domestic institutions they will have, are cardinal principles in the Democratic creed. [Loud and enthusiastic cheers.]
To these fundamental propositions let me add another, which forms the corner-stone in the temple of our liberties. It is, that all men have an inalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and under our Constitution no man ought or can be proscribed on account of his birthplace or of his religious faith. [Loud cheers and applause.]
These are the issues which the Democratic party of the nation have to meet and maintain before the people in all the states. Let no consideration of partisan policy or temporary advantage induce us to swerve a hair's breadth from our principles. If we meet the questions fairly and directly, and fight the battle boldly, and should even suffer a temporary defeat, yet we will have the proud satisfaction of knowing that we have saved our honor at the same time that a glorious triumph awaits us in the future. [Applause.]
Then, fellow-Democrats, let us stand by our arms and be ready to fight the allied forces of Abolitionism, Whigism, Nativeism, and religious intolerance, under whatever name and on whatever field they may present themselves. [Enthusiastic cheers and tremendous applause.]
And if, after struggling as our forefathers struggled for centuries in their native land against civil and religious persecution, we and our children shall be finally borne down and trampled under the heel of despotism, we can still follow their example—flee to the wilderness, and find an asylum in Nebraska, where the principles of self-government have been firmly established in the organic act which recently passed Congress.
This speech very naturally drew upon Mr. Douglas the enmity of the zealous members of the order. It was the first blow aimed at them. It was the first invocation to the Democracy to stand by their principles and treat the Know-nothings as their political enemies. In the Western States the order made rapid progress. It formed the centre around which all and every description of political interest hostile to the Democratic party rallied. Though the Nebraska Bill had been supported by a majority of the Democrats in Congress, and had been approved by the administration of General Pierce, still no attempt had been made to constitute a support of it a test of Democracy. But those Democrats who were hostile to it, having united with the Abolitionists, Free-soilers, and Know-nothings upon a platform of the proscription of every supporter of the bill, its friends had, as a matter of necessity, to rally to its support and to the support of its Congressional advocates.
THE CHICAGO MOB OF 1854. Congress adjourned about the first of August. Mr. Douglas left Washington soon after, and reached his home in Chicago about the 25th. In the mean time there had been extensive preparations by the Know-nothings and their allies to prevent any appeal by him to the people, such as he had made in Philadelphia. Some of the reverend gentlemen with whom he had had a controversy about their remonstrance took an active . part in the matter. There was a thorough and complete organization established not only in Chicago, but throughout all the northern part of Illinois, to meet him every where with personal insult, and, if possible, to prevent his being heard. After he had been in the city some days, public notice was given that, on the night of the 1st of September, he would address his constituents at North Market Hall. The mayor
the city, the Hon. I. L. Milikin, was invited and consented to preside. The announcement of his intention to speak was received with great excitement. The newspapers warned the public to be there, and not to allow him to deceive the people by his sophistries. One paper, appealing directly to the prejudices of the Know-nothings, announced that Mr. Douglas had selected a body-guard of five hundred Irishmen, who, with arms in their hands, were to be present, and compel the people to silence while he spoke, and thus he would claim that they had, by not objecting, admitted his arguments and defense to be complete. Strange as it may seem that such a statement should obtain credence in an intelligent community, yet the fact is unquestionable. In a day or two after, another paper, hostile to Mr. Douglas, declared that there was a feverish sentiment prevailing in the community indicating a season of violence, and proved its assertion by citing the fact that every revolver and pistol in the stores of the city had been sold, and that there were orders for a large number yet unfilled.
The fact that violence was to take place at the meeting was daily impressed upon the public, but with consummate dexterity it was stated that Douglas intended to overawe the public by an armed demonstration. It is needless to say that this was utterly destitute of truth. All he asked, all he desired, was an orderly meeting, that he might be heard in explanation and defense of the Nebraska Bill.
Under such circumstances as these assembled the meeting on that September evening. During the afternoon the flags of such shipping as was owned by the most bitter of the Fusionists were hung at half-mast; at dusk the bells of numerous churches tolled with all the doleful solemnity that might be supposed appropriate for some impending calamity. As the evening closed in, crowds flocked to the place of meeting. At a quarter before eight o'clock Mr. Douglas commenced to address the multitude. The whole area in front of the building, and the street running east to Dearborn and west to Clark Street, were soon densely packed. The roofs of houses opposite, and windows, balconies, and every available standing-spot, were occupied. He had hardly commenced before he was hailed with a storm of hisses; he paused until silence was comparatively restored, when he told the meeting that he came there to address his constituents, and intended to be heard. He was
instantly assailed by all manner of epithets and abuse. He stood his ground firmly, contesting with that maddened and excited crowd. His friends—and he had friends there, warm, devoted, and unyielding Democrats—were indignant, and were disposed to resent some of the most indecent outrages. Mr. Douglas appealed to them to be calm; to leave him to deal with the mob before him. He denounced the violence exhibited as a preconcerted thing, and in defiance of yells, groans, cat-calls, and every insulting menace and threat, he read aloud, so that it was heard above the infernal din, a letter informing him that, if he dared to speak, he would be maltreated.
We never saw such a scene before, and hope never to see the like again. What we have described is a pretty fair description of what took place during that protracted struggle. Until ten o'clock he stood firm and unyielding, bidding the mob defiance, and occasionally getting in a word or two upon the general subject. It was the penalty for his speech in Philadelphia. It was the penalty for having made the first assault upon Know-nothingism. It was the penalty for having dared to assail an order including within its members a vast majority of the allied opposition of the Western States. We have conversed since then with men who were present at that mob; with men who went there as members of the order, pledged to stand by and protect each other; with men who were armed to the teeth in anticipation of a scene of bloody violence, and they have assured us that nothing prevented bloodshed that night but the bold and defiant manner in which Douglas maintained his ground. Had he exhibited fear, he would not have commanded respect; had he been suppliant, he would have been spurned; had he been craven, and retreated, his party would in all probability have been assaulted with missiles, leading to violence in return. But, standing there before that vast mob, presenting a determined front and unyielding purpose, he extorted an involuntary admiration from those of his enemies who had the courage to engage in a personal encounter; and that admiration, while it could not overcome the purpose of preventing his being heard, protected him from personal violence.
The motive, the great ruling reason for refusing him the privilege of being heard, was that, as he had in 1850 carried the judgment of the people captive into an endorsement of the
Fugitive Slave Law, so, if allowed to speak in 1854, he would at least rally all Democrats to his support by his defense of the Nebraska Bill. The combined fanatics of Chicago feared the power and effect of his argument in the presence and hearing of the people. They therefore resolved that he should not be heard.
So far as this occasion was concerned the object was successfully attained, and if there were any doubts as to the fact that the course agreed upon had been previously concerted, the experience of the following few weeks served to remove all question on that subject.
Mr. Douglas announced his intention to speak at several points in the state, there being an election for Congressmen and state treasurer then pending. Every where throughout the northern part of the state he was greeted upon his arrival by every possible indignity that could be offered, short of personal violence. Burning effigies, effigies suspended by ropes, banners with all the vulgar mottoes and inscriptions that passion and prejudice could suggest, were displayed at various points. Whenever he attempted to speak, the noisy demonstrations which had proved so successful in Chicago were attempted, but in no place did they succeed in preventing his being heard. At Galena, Freeport, Waukegan, Woodstock, and other points in the very heart of the Abolition and Know-nothing portion of the state, he made strong, clear, and brilliant addresses in defense of the great measure. He justified the repeal of the Missouri restriction upon the same ground that he had justified the Compromise measures of 1850—that it was neither a Pro-slavery nor an Anti-slavery measure—that it was a surrender and a final abandonment by Congress and the federal government of any authority or claim of authority over the subject of slavery in the Territories; and that it recognized in the people of the Territories, acting through their Legislatures, and through their state conventions, full, exclusive, and complete power to prohibit or introduce, to exclude or protect, African slavery within their respective Territorial limits.
In 1854 he proclaimed that doctrine in the face of an excited Abolition mob, drawing from them the fiercest denunciations. In 1858 he proclaimed the same doctrine in the face of a mass meeting at the same place, and, for the first time in the history of the Nebraska Bill, it was discovered by those who preferred