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Title: Plots of the Jesuits!

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 14, 1842

Publication information: New York Aurora 14 April 1842: [2].

Source: Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00410

Contributors to digital file: Kevin McMullen, Lucas Reincke, Jake Byers, and Jason Stacy




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Plots of the Jesuits!

We went down, yesterday afternoon, to the scene of the grand fight, on Tuesday, between the Irish and the Spartans.1 The windows and blinds were completely smashed. In the bar room, we noticed several heaps of bricks and other missiles, carefully preserved in such a manner as to be evidences of the devastation. But singularly enough, there were numerous objects totally uninjured, (we were informed that all was just as it was left by the rioters,) in positions, right through which it was absolutely certain the missiles must have projeeted, in order to reach the places where they lay.

Their were drinking glasses, for instance, behind which we beheld stones and billets of wood, that by some mysterious process, had been sent directly through the said glasses, without injuring them in the least. We cannot minutely describe the whole appearance of the room; but we question whether any of the speculators were not filled with marvel as to how certain pieces of furniture kept whole, in the positions they then occupied.

That there was a great row nobody doubts. But that there was any danger to the inspectors or to the safety of the ballot boxes is very questionable. And there appeared yesterday such a studied desire to make as much as possible of the affair—such a careful anxiety to impress every looker on with an opinion that far more had been done than was really done—so much of misery put on for the occasion, in the entire spectacle—that we shouldn't wonder if the Catholics themselves started the whole rumpus, merely to generate sympathy for their cause, and to make capital of. These jesuits understand how to play their cards as well as the other fellow.

We do not mean to assert that the damage and disturbance were not from the antagonists of the Irish, in some instances. No one who saw the bloody heads and the bruised limbs that the police office, on Tuesday night, swarmed with, but must have known that the foreign rowdies met with a warm reception from some quarter or other. But we honestly believe that the smashing of the priest Hughes'2 windows, and much of the damage done at the Sixth Ward Hotel,3 came directly at the instance of the Catholics themselves.

The bare faced farce at Dunn's,4 and an impartial consideration of the whole matter, justify any man in arriving at this opinion.


Notes:

1. The Spartan Association was founded by Irish immigrant Michael Walsh (1810–1859) in 1840. Walsh, a former reporter for the Aurora in 1839, founded this group of a "rough amalgam of an Irish secret society, a political gang, and a workingman's club, complete with its own banner, rituals, and unrepentant plebian style." This group was anti-Tammany Hall (who ran the Democratic party in New York) and anti-capitalist, as Walsh felt the party had too close of a relationship with the local banks and that wages had become too low for the working-class. The Spartans used violent strategies to attempt to diminish the power of Democratic Tammany Hall. The Spartans were able to take control of Tammany Hall nominating conventions in 1842 and named their own candidates. The fight in question occurred due to Walsh and his gang supposedly seeing Tammany supporters distributing ballots outside the Sixth Ward Hotel (William Mason Cornell, The Life and Career of Hon. Horace Greeley [Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1872], 133–138). For further reading, see Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 327–338; and Kenneth T. Jackson, Lisa Keller, Nancy V. Flood, The Encyclopeia of New York City, Second Edition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010). [back]

2. Bishop John Hughes (1797–1864) was not only a representative of the New York Catholic Community, but also had influence in Tammany Hall as a leader of the Irish Catholic Democrats. The Bishop rose to power amongst his people because of his demands for equality for Catholics in New York, and for fighting the notion correlating the United States with Protestantism (John Hughes, Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes, Archbishop of New York: Comprising his Sermons, Letters, Lectures, Speeches, Etc. (New York: Lawrence Kehoe, 1866), 2: 728–738. For further reading, see: Charles P. Connor, "Dagger John: The Unquiet Life and Times of Archbishop John Hughes of New York," Catholic Historical Review 66, no. 2 (April 1980): 254–255; Terry Golway, Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2014), 33–38. [back]

3. Located in the Five Points neighborhood in New York City, the Sixth Ward Hotel served as the neutral territory where all Democratic factions could meet (Tyler Anbinder, "'We Will Dirk Every Mother's Son of You': Five Points and the Irish Conquest of New York Politics," Erie Ireland 36, [2001]: 29-46).This venue saw many meetings become brawls over endorsements and which faction would maintain order within the territory (Board of Assistant Aldermen, Proceedings of the Board of Assistant Aldermen [New York: Municipal government publications, 1846], 26: 317–320). For further reading, see: Kevin Kenny, New Directions in Irish-American History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 105–125. [back]

4. James Dunn, the manager of the Sixth Ward Hotel, filed a police report claiming that over $450 of damages occurred. The Committee found Dunn to be entitled to the money to fix the damages. These damages were accredited to the "mob" at the Sixth Ward Hotel, and thus the comptroller issued the funds to Dunn from the city of New York (The Board of Assistants, Journal and Documents of the Board of Assistants, of the City of New York [New York: Municipal government publications, 1846], 20: 317–320). For further reading, see: Kevin Kenny, New Directions in Irish–American History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 105–125. [back]


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