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DELIVERED IN THE
NORTH CHURCH, HARTFORD,
DAY OF THE LATE FAST, MARCH 25, 1853.
BY HORACE BUSHNELL,
PRESS OF CASE, TIFFANY AND COMPANY.
LEV. 24: 22. YE SHALL HAVE ONE MANNER OF LAW, AS WELL FOR THE STRANGER, AS FOR ONE OF YOUR OWN COUNTRY: FOR I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD.
Ir is my very uncommon privilege and pleasure to speak to you, for once, from a text already fulfilled, and more than fulfilled in the observance. For we, as a people, or nation, have not only abstained from passing laws that are unequal, or hard upon strangers, which is what the rule of the text forbids, but we have invited them to become fellow-citizens with us in our privileges, and bestowed upon them all the rights and immunities of citizens. We have said to the strangers from Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, and indeed of every land, "Come and be Americans with us, you and your children; and whatsoever right or benefit we have, in our free institutions and our vast and fertile domain, shall be yours."
Thus invited, thus admitted to an equal footing with us, they are not content, but are just now returning our generosity by insisting that we must excuse them and their children from being wholly and properly American. They will not have one law for us and for themselves, but they demand immunities that are peculiar to themselves, and before unheard of by us; or else that we wholly give up institutions for their sake that are the dearest privileges of our birthright. They accept the common rights of the law, the common powers of voting, the common terms of property, a common privilege in the new lands and the mines of gold, but when they come to the matter of common schools, they will not be common
with us there—they require of us, instead, either to give up our common schools, or else, which in fact amounts to the same thing, to hand over their proportion of the public money, and let them use it for such kind of schools as they happen to like best; ecclesiastical schools, whether German, French, or Irish; any kind of schools but such as are American, and will make Americans of their children.
It has been clear for some years past, from the demonstrations of our Catholic clergy and their people, and particularly of the clergy, that they were preparing for an assault upon the common school system, hitherto in so great favor with our countrymen; complaining, first, of the Bible as a sectarian book in the schools, and then, as their complaints have begun to be accommodated by modifications that amount to a discontinuance, more or less complete, of religious instruction itself, of our "godless scheme of education;" to which (as godless only as they have required it to be) they say they can not surrender their children without a virtual sacrifice of all religion. Growing more hopeful of their ability, by the heavy vote they can wield, to turn the scale of an election one way or the other between opposing parties, and counting on the sway they can thus exert over the popular leaders and candidates, they have lately attempted a revolution of the school system of Michigan, and are now memorializing the legislatures of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and urging it on the people of these states to allow a change or modification of theirs that amounts to a real discontinuance; viz., to make a distri.bution of the public school money to all existing schools, of whatever description, according to the number of their scholars; and the moment this is done, plainly nothing will be left of the common school system but a common fund, gathered by a common tax on property, to support private schools.
Evidently the time has now come, and the issue of life or death to common schools is joined for trial. The ground is taken, the flag is raised, and there is to be no cessation, till the question is forever decided, whether we are to have common schools in our country or not. And accordingly, it is time for us all, citizens, public men and Christians, to be find