Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Speech and Resolutions Concerning Philadelphia Riots [1]

June 12, 1844

PUBLIC MEETING.

At a meeting holden in the city of Springfield, on the evening of the 12th June; on motion of E. D. BAKER, Esq, DAVID J. BAKER, Esq. of Kaskaskia, was unanimously chosen to side over this meeting; and on motion of Dr. HENRY, BENJ F. JAMES, Esq of Tremont, was chosen Secretary.

The object of the meeting being stated by ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Esq. of Springfield,---to be a desire, that the subject of the recent Philadelphia riots, as connected with, and promoted by the whig party, should be fairly discussed, and understood by the citizens of this State and country. On his motion, the following Preamble and Resolutions were submitted for the action of the meeting---supporting them by able and forcible arguments:

WHEREAS, There seems to be a determined effort making, by the so called democratic party, to charge the blame of the late riots in Philadelphia, upon the Whigs; and to ascribe that blame to a supposed hostility of the Whig party in general to foreigners and Catholics; and, WHEREAS, truth, and justice to ourselves, demand that we should repel the charge; therefore,

Resolved, That in admitting the foreigner to the rights of citizenship, he should be put to some reasonable test of his fidelity to our country and its institutions; and that he should first dwell among us a reasonable time to become generally acquainted with the nature of those institutions; and that, consistent with these requisites, naturalization laws, should be so framed, as to render admission toPage  338

citizenship under them, as convenient, cheap, and expeditious as possible.

Resolved, That we will now, and at all times, oppose as best we may, all attempts to either destroy the naturalization laws or to so alter them, as to render admission under them, less convenient, less cheap, or less expeditious than it now is. Resolved, That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. Resolved, That we reprobate and condemn each and every thing in the Philadelphia riots, and the causes which led to them, from whatever quarter they may have come, which are in conflict with the principles above expressed.

Mr. Lincoln . . . at a meeting of the whigs convened for the purpose of investigating the causes of the Philadelphia riots, said that he had not yet seen an account of this affair which he could rely upon as true---(I should like to know how he is to judge of the correctness of any report.). . . . Mr. Lincoln however was incorrect in stating that the Catholics demanded the exclusion of the Bible from the public schools . . . all they wanted was the privilege . . . of introducing and using their own translation.

Mr. Lincoln expressed the kindest, and most benevolent feelings towards foreigners; they were, I doubt not, the sincere and honest sentiments of his heart; but they were not those of his party. . . . Mr. Lincoln also alleged that the whigs were as much the friends of foreigners as democrats; but he failed to substantiate it in a manner satisfactory to the foreigners who heard him. . . .

Annotation

[1]   Sangamo Journal, June 20, 1844 (resolutions); Illinois State Register, June 21, 1844