Archbishop Hughes speaks

The Right Rev. Bishop Hughes then rose to address the meeting, and was received with enthusiastic plaudits. He said he had listened with great attention to the explanations offered and it afforded him very great pleasure and consolation to have reason to believe, from the solemnity of the statements . . . that a higher and a holier feeling than mere politics was the soul of this agitation. (Applause.) The reason why he expressed this pleasure was, that of all things he dreaded the introduction of political feelings as most destructive of their internal peace, and of that calmness of mind which disposes man either for just judgment or the discharge of his religious obligations. He had known nothing which was so intoxicating in its effects, even on good men, as that unexplained chapter in the history of the human mind, the influence of party politics. He was glad, therefore, to hear the disclaimers which were made this evening; for when he had read, on a foreign shore, of the attempt made in one of the churches here to distribute papers in the pews, he felt how far that feeling influenced the actions of men.

He had come to this meeting because he believed it was not a political meeting; because the question which brought that meeting together was infinitely above anything that could be found in mere politics. It was a question, too, that was not new to him; it was a question on which he had deeply reflected before he had departed for a foreign land, not foreseeing that it would arise before his return, the question, namely, whether Catholic children, should ever be exposed to the danger of forfeiting their faith by an attendance on these schools.
For that purpose he had obtained a copy of all the books which it was stated to him were used in these schools, and he had examined them deliberately; and though he found some things that were objectionable, yet, on the whole, they appeared to him sufficiently free from anything that could be construed into a direct attack on their religious principles. He had had reason, however, since his return, to believe that, in fact, all the books had not been submitted to him, but that some books which contained objectionable matter were withheld. He had seen one such at least, since, and he was satisfied that no Catholic parent, who felt his responsibility to God, could suffer it as a schoolbook in the hands of his children; and therefore it was, that he was interested in the question which then engaged their attention; not as a politician, but as a Bishop having charge of this Diocese, answerable to the Eternal Judge for the discharge of his responsible duty, which included a jealous and tender solicitude that the infant mind received only suitable food, and such instruction as was salutary in its tendency.
Then, with these remarks, and those which had gone before, he felt, if politics were mixed up with the question under discussion, by others, that meeting was not responsible for it; and he hoped that in future time, politics, except as a corollary, would be wholly left out of consideration . . .