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Boston Evening Transcript

The Outrage

Citation Information:"The Outrage," Boston Evening Transcript, 13 August, 1834.


The general excitement occasioned by the proceedings of night before last at Charlestown, and which yesterday-for the honor of the city be it said-raged among us with an earnestness corresponding to the atrocious character of that affair, has today, in a good degree, subsided. To the active exertions of the Mayor, and other municipal authorities-the spirit and unanimity with which these were seconded by the whole community, and especially the great meeting called at Faneuil Hall-and finally, to the very commendable course pursued, as will be seen, by the Reverend Bishop Fenwick-must it be attributed, that after so stormy a day, the night passed off without disturbance in any direction. At Charlestown, also, the proceedings of the public meeting undoubtedly had a similar effect.

Among all the comment excited by this unprecedented enormity, we have noticed none which more justly describes the nature of the case than that of the Atlas, a portion of which we transfer to our columns.

What a scene must this midnight conflagration have exhibited-lighting up the inflamed countenances of an infuriated mob of demons-attacking a convent of women, a seminary for the instruction of young females, and turning them out of their beds, half naked in the hurry of their flight, and half dead with confusion and terror. And this drama, too, to be enacted on the very soil that afforded one of the earliest places of refuge to the puritan fathers of New England-themselves flying from religious persecution in the old world-that their descendants may wax strong and mighty, and in their turn be guilty of the same persecution in the new!

We remember no parallel to this outrage in the whole course of history. Turn to the bloodiest incidents of the French Revolution-roll up the curtain that hangs before its most sanguinary scenes-and point us to its equal in unprovoked violence, in brutal outrage, in unthwarted iniquity. It is in vain that we search for it. In times of civil commotion and general excitement-of confusion, and cruelty, and blood-when the edifice of civil society was shaken to its base and crumbling into ruin-when the foundations of the great deep were broken up, and rapine and fire and murder, were sweeping like a torrent over the land-in times like these there was some palliation for violence and outrage, in the tremendously excited state of the public mind.

But here there was no such palliation. The Courts of Justice were open to receive complaints of any improper confinement, or unauthorized coercion. The civil magistrates were, or ought to be on the alert, to detect any illegal restraint, and bring its authors to the punishment they deserve. But nothing of the kind was detected. The whole matter was a cool, deliberate, systematized piece of brutality-unprovoked-under the most provoking circumstances totally unjustifiable-and visiting the citizens of the town, and most particularly its magistrates and civil officers, with indelible disgrace.

The violation of the tomb in the garden, alone, would seem sufficient to justify these remarks, severe as they are. The feelings with which, yesterday morning, we witnessed the rude exposure of those remains to the glare of the day, and the gaze of an indiscriminate multitude, are such as we hope may never be aroused again.

The destruction of the Bishop's Lodge, in front of the Convent, has not excited much comment; but we cannot forbear expressing our regret-especially since the publication of the course adopted by that prelate on this occasion-that a large and valuable library, consisting of classical and other works, should have been utterly consumed in the common ruin which overwhelmed the whole establishment; not a single book was saved.

We rejoice that no occasion arose last night for the application of any of the means provided by the authorities and the citizens generally, for the preservation of good order. Large numbers of volunteers acted as special constables and watchmen during the night, the firemen were on the alert, and the Independent companies had made arrangements for very prompt attendance in case of necessity, but fortunately none of their services were required.

MEETING OF THE CATHOLICS. So great was the excitement among the Catholics, that Bishop Fenwick deemed it necessary to call a meeting at the Church in Franklin street. The account of which, we copy from the Gazette of this morning.

At 6 o'clock several hundred were assembled, when the Bishop came in and addressed them for about thirty minutes, in a most eloquent and judicious manner. He deserves the warmest commendation from his Protestant fellow citizens, for the admirable style in which he managed this business. Previous to speaking, the Bishop read a part of the fifth chapter of Matthew, containing the following among other verses:

"you have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, not to resist eveil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other.

"And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two.

"You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you."

Bishop Fenwick then proceeded to address his hearers, embracing several hundred of both sexes. He spoke of the destruction of the Usuline Convent and the adjacent buildings. He spoke also of the beauty and utility of that institution, and alluded to its growing popularity among the intelligent classes, both in this vicinity and at a distance. Among the pupils of the institution were some from Louisiana, and the West India Islands. After denouncing the conduct of the incendiaries in appropriate terms, he asked, "What is to be done? Shall we say to our enemies, you have destroyed our buildings, and we will destroy yours? No, my brethren, this is not the religion of Jesus Christ-this is not in accordance with the spirit of that blessed religion we all profess. Turn not a finger in your own defence, and there are those around you who will see that justice is done you."

The Bishop then complimented the City Authorities and others for the stand they had taken in defence of the rights of the Catholics; and he assured his hearers that they had the sympathies of all respectable citizens. The destruction of the Convent, he said, was an act of the most degraded of the human species, and it met with no favor from the intelligent people of Boston. He impressed upon the minds of his Catholic brethren the fact, that it was not their duty to seek revenge for this vile act; and said that that man was an enemy to the religion he professed, and would put the Catholic Church in jeopardy, who should raise a finger against their opponents at this time.

The Bishop said he had no fears that those who were present would act in opposition to his advice and if any acts of violence were committed, it would be by those who, with perhaps a commendable ardor and alacrity, were rushing to their aid from a distance, and who may not have correct information on the subject. He enjoined it upon all present as solemn duty, to inform these individuals, if they should fall in with any of them, of what he had said, and the advice he had just given them.

He concluded his admirable remarks-which were delivered in a most impressive manner-by assuring his hearers that the Public Authorities were not idle spectators of what was passing. They are on the alert, (said he) and it is your duty to remain quiet, to remain peaceable, and they will see you righted.


A meeting was called yesterday afternoon by the Selectmen, for the purpose of obtaining an expression of the opinions of the citizens, in regard to the recent outrage. Dr. Thompson was chosen Moderator, and P. Dodge Esq, Secretary. The following resolutions were passed:

Resolved, That a liberal reward be offered by the Town, for the detection of the authors of the outrage last night committee.

Resolved, That a committee of five persons be appointed to report such resolutions as it may be expedient for the town to adopt, and to nominate a Committee Vigilance.

The following persons were appointed: Hon E. Everett, Capt Whipple, John Soley Esq, William Austin Esq, and John Skinner Esq.

The above committee retired, but soon returned and reported the following preamble and resolutions:

Whereas, The Ursuline Convent, in this town, was attacked last night by a riotous and lawless assemblage, its peaceful and unoffending inmates-consisting exclusively of women and children-driven out, and the Convent, after being pillaged, was, with the adjacent buildings, reduced to ashes, therefore

Resolved, unanimously, by the citizens of Charlestown, in town meeting assembled, that we regard with feelings of indignation and horror, the aforesaid lawless acts of midnight violence, committed within the limits of town.

Resolved, unanimously, that the citizens here assembled consider it a duty to themselves and the town, to take all proper measures to ascertain the authors and perpetrators of the aforesaid acts of violence and outrage, committed in a manner unexampled in this country-in defiance of the laws, and in violation of those feelings of honor and humanity, by which the innocent and defenceless are place under the protection of all good citizens.

Resolved, That it is the incumbent duty of all good citizens, to co-operate with the Selectmen and the magistrates in detecting and bringing to justice all persons concerned as perpetrators and abettors of outrages so discreditable to the community in which we live, and to the country at large.

Resolved, That the following persons be appointed a Committee of Vigilance, whose duty it shall be in conjunction with the Selectmen, to take such measures as may be necessary to reserve the public peace, and to detect the perpetrators of the outrages last night committed, biz: Gen N. Austin, Joseph Tufts, Esq, David Devens, Esq, J. K. Frothingham Esq, Capt L. Turner, Dr A. R. Thompson, Capt Joe F. Boyd, Benjamin Thompson Esq, Dr J. S. Hurd, and Wm Sawyer Esq.

Resolutions were also passed, authorizing the Committee of Vigilance to offer a suitable reward, not exceeding $1000, for the detection of the projectors of the conflagration, to be paid in proportion to the degree of guilt proved against the offenders, and requesting the Governor of the Commonwealth to offer a suitable reward for a similar purpose.

The Rev Mr Byrne, Catholic Priest, made some just and pertinent remarks, and assured the meeting that he had used, and he hoped effectually, the most untiring exertions to prevent a reaction on the part of the Catholics. He was listened to with marked attention.

Mr Everett, after reading the resolutions, drawn up by himself, made a few brief, but energetic remarks, and the resolutions were carried nem con.