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1.—Report of the Committee relating to the Destruction of j the Ursuline Convent. August 11, 1834. 2. –Trial of John R. Buzzell, before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, for Arson and Burglary in the Ursuline Convent at Charlestown. Reported by C. PICKERING Esq., the Reporter of the Cours, 3.—Trial of William Mason, Marvin Marcy Jr., and Sargent Blaisdell, charged with being concerned in burning l the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on the night of the 11th of August, 1834. 4.—Argument of James T. Joustin, Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, before the Supreme Judicial Court in Middlesea, on the case of John R. Buzzell, one of the twelve individuals charged with being concerned in destroying the Ursuline Convent at Charlestown. Reported verbatim by l the Stenographer of the Atlas.
THE years 1833 and 1834 will be remarkable in the annals of our country for disregard of the laws, and illegal violence to persons and property. A tendency to substitute popular will for public law has discovered itself in the highest and the humblest classes of the community; and the example of the former will not escape the censure of having seduced the latter. In no country should the supremacy of the law, and its admiy nistration through the regularly constituted organs, be so earnestly cherished, as in this: for the law is the sovereign of the country—the great, efficient, and only safe representative of the people. The laws rule, and the people are parties to the laws; and in these principles lies the only practicable state of civil liberty. If the laws cease to rule, or the people undertake to administer them by any other than legitimately constituted means, the barriers to anarchy and subsequent despotism are removed. Whilst the laws are respected, and the citizen is zealous to enforce obedience to them, the enjoyment of personal security and of property is absolute and uninterrupted; the civil power, strong in that respect and zeal, restrains our evil passions and performs the office of armed cohorts, which are indispensable to maintain the order of society, where despotic power prevails. But remove the efficient force which respect and zeal for the law produce—suffer the people in primary and irresponsible and local assemblies, to judge offences and to become the executors of their own decrees, and at once the bonds of society are loosened, the wants and the passions of the moment will seek the speediest means of gratification and prescribe the forms of execution. In such a state there VOL. xv.11. –No. 33. 27
is no security for property or life; and from this worst of uncer-
selves righteously employed, for any cause or no cause at all, to assail the free blacks, to burn and pull down their houses and their churches, to rob them of their dearly purchased earnings, and to beat them to death. The like spirit of justice, as wisely displayed, also exhibited itself in the interior of Pennsylvania; and the borough of Columbia, on the Susquehanna, enrolled itself among the dispensators of popular laws, by the persecution of the wretched blacks. So, portions of the sovereign people in the cities of Philadelphia and New York, undertake to maintain the purity and universality of popular suffrage, by expelling, with force of arms, all who differ from them in opinion, from the polls, destroying lives, and burning the dwellings not only of their opponents, but also of citizens who are not engaged in the contest, So, at Natchez, a wretch charged with the murder of his wife, having been acquitted, after a formal trial, by the court, was seized, upon his discharge from prison, by a mob composed of the most respectable citizens of Natchez and the surrounding country, taken to the edge of the town, and there stripped and scourged with one hundred and fifty lashes; inflicted, however, by none but gentlemen of good standing, and afterwards tarred and feathered, and driven through the city with beat of drum, followed by a crowd of one thousand citizens, who poured curses upon his head. So, in a remote county of Missouri, upon the verge of civilization, whither the ignorant and fanatic Mormonites had fled from the gibes and jeers of their better instructed neighbours, the sovereign freemen, assuming the power to proscribe such articles of religious faith as suit not their taste, attempt, by force of arms, to reform the creed, or to expel the new comers from the lands, which, in reliance upon natural rights, the constitution and the laws, they had honourably purchased and improved. But the Mormonite does not reject the use of arms, and is as ready to prove the divine origin of his faith as was St. Stephen, Bartholomew, Servetus, the adorer of Juggernaut, or any other zealot, who has sought the crown of martyrdom. Resistance produced civil war—the obvious and immediate consequence of the illegal assumption of power of one portion of the people over another; and after much destruction of property and life, the whole people, the truly sovereign people, through their rightful organ the legislature, are prayed to repair the injuries which illegal and preSumptuous violence had inflicted. Whilst we write, another instance of the workings of this spirit, so destructive of all the ends of political and civil association, is presented to our pen. A justice of the peace at Albany, having married an Irish girl to a Negro, but without knowing, as he asserts, that the girl was white, a mob seized the Justice, and blackened his face in token of their displeasure. The act of the Justice, even in its worst light, was not unlawful, and however his aiding in the unseemiy and revolting amalgamation of colours, may be reprehended, it is not by acts of personal violence inflicted by excited and lawless mobs, that the morals of the country, major or minor, are to be preserved. There are other and better modes by which such aberrations may be corrected. The censure of the press, and of orderly and respectable citizens, who frown indignantly upon the offenders, is all sufficient for the correction of the offenders. If it be not, let the offence be proscribed by law, and the offender duly punished after a fair trial and conviction. But Charlestown, Massachusetts, has offered the most memorable instance of the disposition of the people to take into their own hands the direct regulation of the affairs of the country, to dispense with the cumbrous and expensive intermediates of legislators and judges, and to attempt to preserve the purity of their religious faith, by an act of intolerance which would have added new trophies to the reign of a Mary, or to the zeal of the overheated disciples of Calvin. To an account and discussion of this last subject, we purpose to appropriate the reinainder of this article. The Order of Ursuline Nuns was first established in the year 1536, for the purposes of administering relief to the sick and af. flicted, and of superintending the education of female youth. It takes its name from the foundress St. Ursula. So exemplary have been the character and deportment of its members, and so beneficial its services in the cause of education and Christian charity, that when other religious orders of females were abolished by many of the European governments, this was not only permitted, but sustained. Unlike other religious orders, whose members, renouncing the pleasures with the duties of the world, devote themselves to seclusion avowedly religious, the Ursulines, by the rules of the order and their vows, are engaged in the service of humanity, which subjects them to public observation, and exposes their personal deportment and the character of their institution to the strictest scrutiny. Whatever jealousy or suspicion, therefore, might be generated towards religious orders shrouded in the obscurity which they cast about them and which separates them from the occupations, enjoyments, and sympathies of society, and removes them from the observation of civil officers and responsibility to the civil law, there could be no rational cause of enmity towards an institution whose members were openly engaged in the offices of charity, in the presence of the world; who might abandon their order at pleasure, and whose dwellings, generally filled with those who are not members of the community, are accessible, at all times, to the relatives and friends of the numerous inmates. An institution of this order was established at Boston in the year 1820, by Doctors Matignon and Cheverus, with funds given by a native citizen of that town. It consisted at first of four laI dies, who emigrated to this country on the invitation of these highly respected clergymen. In the year 1826, they removed to Charlestown, and occupied a farm-house at the foot of Mount Benedict, until they had reared upon its summit a more suitable edifice, for the purposes of education, in which they were employed; and this edifice was completed in the year 1827. The reputation of their seminary became widely extended, and the y number of their pupils, from New England, from the southern states, and from the British provinces, so rapidly increased, that, in the year 1829, it became necessary to add two large wings to the building, for their accommodation. Thus, on a piece of land before rude and uncultivated, a large and ornamental pile was erected. The grounds surrounding it were laid out with surpassing regularity and beauty, in lawns and gardens, enriched with various fruits and redolent with flowers, amid which, in a remote corner, affection and piety had consecrated the last sad mansion of the hallowed dead. The number of nuns dwelling in the institution varied at times from four to ten, each of whom held a distinct part in the economy of the household, or in the instruction of the pupils. A candidate for admission to this community, after a fixed period of probation, assumes the white veil, and enters upon a novitiate of two years, to obtain full experience of the discipline, duties, } and principles of the order, and thence to determine on the propriety of joining it for life. During this period, no vows bind her to the order, and she is at liberty to withdraw at pleasure. But if she persevere, the black veil is taken, with the religious promise, which devotes her to the institution for life. Should she afterwards repent, and desire to return to the world, she would be restrained by no forcible means, and her right so to do is protected by the laws and is so understood by every member. No penance or punishment is enforced or inflicted. Penance must be voluntarily performed, and always with the permission of the Superior, which can be obtained only when the applicant is in health. The number of pupils in the convent has varied, during the last five years, from forty to sixty. They were for the most part children of reputable families in the country, of various religious denominations, (the number of Catholics never exceeding ten at one time,) and were wholly unrestrained in their communications with their friends. No means were employed to influence their religious opinions.