May 29, 1863 THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
One of the essential differences, on which the Confederacy may pride itself, as making us a distinct people from the Yankee nation, is the complete absence of religious intolerance; while the prevailing Puritan element which dominates in the country to the North of us, constantly, necessarily, impels it to persecution of Catholics, wherever and whenever that diabolical spirit of intolerance can dare to show itself. We have already seen that a Catholic Church in Florida was wrecked and ruined by regiments from Maine, which provoked a sanguinary fight between them and some Irish troops in the same command. More lately we learn, from the Mobile papers, that during the short occupation of Jackson by Grant's army, the Catholic Church of that town was burned, while guards were set around the Baptist Church and the printing office of a Protestant religious newspaper. These facts are probably suppressed by the Yankee newspapers, because so large a proportion of their army, present and prospective, consists of Catholics. We shall endeavor to make the disgraceful facts known, however, to the remnant of Irishmen who are still so deluded as to fight for such a people, and to those who might be tempted hereafter to engage in so base a service. They may learn from this what kind of spirit actuates the sons of the Plymouth Rock, and what kind of usage they may expect in the future when the war is over and their services are no longer needed in the field. And experience in the past might have taught them as much before. Wrecking of Catholic churches has been almost as favorite an amusement with Yankees, as ever it was with Orangeman in the north of Ireland. Irish Catholics at the North cannot have forgotten the burning of the convent near Boston, by a mob of Puritan fanatics; and the blackened ruins of that building yet stand as a memento of the deed. They must remember the murderous outrage perpetrated upon a poor old Catholic priest at Ellsworth, in Maine, in 1854; the sacking of Newark church, in New Jersey, the same year; the church burnings of Philadelphia; the anti-Catholic riots of the "Angel Gabriel," in Brooklyn; the hundreds of instances in which the Cross has been pulled down from the front of their chapels all over these Federal States. They cannot pretend to forget also, that in the Know Nothing days (which for them will soon dawn again) the Irish militia regiments - simply because they were composed of Irish Catholics - were disbanded and disarmed by the Governors of several States - first in Massachusetts, and afterwards in Connecticut and Wisconsin.
Now, in the States composing this Confederacy, we can proudly say, no church was ever injured; no priest ever insulted or beaten by a Protestant mob. No Irish or Catholic was ever excluded from bearing arms for his adopted State in the militia; and when the crisis of the Know Nothing agitation - which had its birth in the North - at length came upon us, and there seemed some danger that the principle of religious equality would perish forever on this continent, and New York and Boston were entirely controlled by "No Popery" majorities - it was in Southern States, especially in Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee, that the evil spirit was met, resisted, and triumphantly trampled under foot.
Here, it will never rise again; and if it do, it will be as sternly crushed down. Religious intolerance is wholly abhorrent to the traditions and to the temperament of this people. The great majority of persons in these States are Protestants; and we trust far better Protestants, and better Christians, than the New Englanders; yet, in this grand struggle for the freedom and honor of our country, the Catholics who dwell amongst us, can joyfully bear their part - and a stalwart part they take, as any one may see by the achievements of our Louisiana troops - without a misgiving or an apprehension, that after disposing of the Yankees, we may next turn upon them. At such a suggestion, they will tranquilly smile; they know well, that when our independence shall be triumphantly established by the efforts and sacrifices of all alike, then all alike will enjoy its full blessings in equal measure.... Cromwell's prisoners, taken at Dunbar and Worcester, was not to be compared with it; for those prisoners were at least taken with arms in their hands. Perhaps the nearest approach to this transaction was the doom executed upon many thousands of the Irish during the last century, when they were forced to remove into the moors and wildernesses beyond the Shannon, under the terrible sentence, To Hell or Connaught!