Skip to main content

The Catholic Rows not ended

image 1image 2image 3image 4cropped image 1

The Catholic Rows not ended.

Every evening since Tuesday last, the upper part of Mulberry street, and all of the thoroughfares in the neighborhood of St. Patrick's Cathedral, have been in one continued uproar, from the setting in of night until day dawn.1 The Irish, it seems, are possessed of the idea that their church is to be attacked; and the wicked priests do all they can to fan the flame. Patrols and squads of angry men, jabbering in their peculiar brogue, pass along the walks every few minutes. Numbers of the most enthusiastic sleep all night in the cathedral, and keep up a sentry guard, as garrisons do when invested by the enemy. In the day time, the serpent tongues of their reverend commanders are busied from house to house, in pouring poison into the ears of their credulous flock. They know well enough that the results they profess to fear are ridiculous and utterly out of the question; but it suits their malignant natures best to see as much strife and dissension as possible.

At midnight between Thursday and yesterday, a man went up Mulberry street and the cross streets thereabout, knocking at the doors of the houses tenanted by Irish, with an axe, and calling upon them to arouse, and come forth. Before long, as many as two hundred were out, and arranged in rude, military style—most of them carrying their "own peculiar," the shelalah2; and thirty or forty who occupied the front ranks, armed with loaded guns. The whole livelong night they marched to and fro, making darkness hideous with their howlings and their exhibitions of warlike ferocity. The inhabitants of the neighborhood were kept up till morning, without sleep, in very fear that the next moment might bring devastation and bloodshed to their bedsides. A gentleman, resident in Mulberry street, who was at our office yesterday, informed us that his wife was lying ill, and that in consequence of the terror caused by the conduct of these brutal savages, her sickness is very likely to result in a fatal conclusion.

All this occurred in the vicinity of the Cathedral, which, the Irish were told, was in danger of attack from American Protestants. Many of them entrenched themselves in the body of the Cathedral, from whence, during the night, guns were regularly fired at intervals. What purpose this was for, we cannot tell, though it was supposed by several who live thereabout (and from whom we have the account principally) that the firing was intended as evidence of their being possessed of a good supply of munitions of war, and so scare away any attack.

In view of the shameful concessions made to these people, of late, by the Tammany party—and the evidence that they can cut pretty much what capers they like, scathless—who need wonder "that such things are?"3


1. The event last Tuesday, April 12th, that Whitman is speaking of is the election that involved all of the seats on New York's common council. Whitman also talks about the election and the results in other Aurora editorials. See: [untitled], April 12, 1842, Vol I, No 119, 2, Col 1; "Results of the Election," April 13, 1842, Vol I, No 120, 2, Col 1; "The Late Riots," April 15, 1842, Vol I, No 122, 2, Col 1. For further reading, see: Martin L. Meenagh, "Archbishop John Hughes and the New York Schools Controversy of 1840-43," American Nineteenth Century History 5, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 34-65. [back]

2. Shillelagh. A type of Irish walking stick, with a club or cudgel on the end. [back]

3. Whitman is perhaps quoting Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish author and theologian. The full quote reads, "That such things are in the heavens, is also known in the earth, but only to those who are principled in good, and who have not extinguished in themselves the light of heaven by natural lumen and its fallacies; for they think and say, when speaking of heaven, that such things are there as the ear hath not heard, nor the eye seen" [italics original] (Emanuel Swedenborg, A Treatise Concerning Heaven and its Wonders, and Also Concerning Hell: Being A Relation of Things Heard and Seen [London: E. Hodson, 1817], 131). [back]

Back to top