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Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 04:30 pm

Everything old is new again, Part 2

 This caught my eye the other day. ““The conspirators against our liberties who have been admitted from abroad through the liberality of our institutions, are now organized in every part of the country.” Another well-known author on the same topic, I learned, believed that these conspirators religious doctrines demanded compliance, with the result that they were more committed to their faith than to the principles of American democracy such as republicanism, liberty, and individual rights.

The author of the first sentence quoted above was Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the Morse Code. The second author I cited was one of Illinois’s heroes, pamphleteer Elijah Lovejoy, the abolitionist martyr of Alton. Our Muslim neighbors might be consoled, and their neighbors surprised, to learn that the  villains that excited these views were Roman Catholics, who in Morse and Lovejoy’s day had begun arriving in the form of Irish, German and Italian migrants. (I learned this from “Elijah P. Lovejoy, Anti-Catholic Abolitionist” by John A. Duerk in the current number (Summer 2015) of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society.) 

The reminder than the U.S. has survived such deliriums with its liberties more or less intact is cheering. The fact that such deliriums keep recurring, that they are apparently born of resident viruses that have infected our body politic from the first, is not. 


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