|Vol. II, No. 10
Tebeth 5605, January 1845
The Israelites of South Carolina.
It is certainly surprising how difficult a thing it is to overcome prejudice, however foolish its origin and vague its scope. Daily we see long-exploded follies exhumed from their quiet sepulcher, to again pass over the earth, only to give place to some equally mischievous and silly notion. At the same time, it is painful to the lover of true and rational civil and religious liberty to be compelled to witness the constant inroads which parties strive to make upon the rights of others, however well these may be secured by the laws of the land. One would be led to suppose that in this country, of so vast an extent, and of freedom for enterprise, where the unrestricted exercise of all religions leaves each in perfect freedom to seek its own extension among all classes by persuasions and argument, no sect or division would strive to gain an unfair advantage over another, a prerogative, which, in the course of a just administration of the laws, does not belong to it.
Both these positions have been clearly exemplified by the course of the late governor of South Carolina, as exhibited in the proceedings of the Israelites of Charleston, held on the 16th of November last. If ever any class of men deserved consideration at the hands of their rulers, the Jews of South Carolina are surely entitled thereto. They are emphatically citizens of the state, not alone by grant of law, but because they themselves have striven for the independence of the land. From the time that the starry banner was flung upon the breeze, till this very moment, they have always ranked among the defenders of the soil on which they were born, or which they had chosen as their residence. If the number of these defenders has been small, say if you will, inappreciably small, it was certainly in proportion to their body in comparison with the other inhabitants; and never, we venture to say, was there brought against them a charge of treason against the sovereignty of the laws. If, therefore, the other inhabitants have a right to the consideration and the liberties which they enjoy, the Jews have it equally so; especially as they come not to ask any exclusive privileges, but to be left in possession of the immunities which the constitution guarantees to all, and to be allowed to join in the joys, the sufferings, and aspirations of their fellow-citizens.
Governor Hammond showed himself but little acquainted with his duties of a governor of a free people, by forgetting, or not heeding, the existence of a numerous body of men who are generally so well known as the Jews of South Carolina, some of whom have been legislators in the very capitol at Columbia, from which he dictates his proclamation. Was it the silly prejudice of the vulgar which prevented him from knowing of the existence of these men? was it because they are Jews who depart from the dogmas of those communities of which he professes not to be a member? No doubt, he was clinging in his imagination to times never known in this country since its freedom was established, which proscribed persons for their speculative opinions, and hence he forgot that there were such people as Israelites within the bounds of the state of South Carolina. There is nothing uncharitable in so designating Governor Hammond’s course; for in his apology he classes them with Deists, Atheists, Mormons and Mahomedans, no doubt for the purpose of throwing odium upon them, and to excite prejudice against them in the public mind. Did Governor Hammond know any thing of the opinions of the Jews, that he should so class them? And where, pray, did his fellow-Christians derive their code of morals and religious ideas, save the only one of a mediator, but from the Bible of the Israelites? How absurd, then, is it in him to cast odium upon them by such combinations, when at the same time he would necessarily stigmatize his own creed and religious opinions!
But to leave this point, it is still more painful to contemplate the attempt, thus clearly foreshadowed, to establish in this country, too, what Europeans call at times “a Christian State.” We acknowledge that by far the greatest number of inhabitants belongs to what is called the Christian church; but, independently of the difficulty of defining who are Christians, including Deists, Atheists, Mormons, and others: we contend that, as far as religion is concerned, the majority has no rule whatever over the minority by any right, either reasonable or constitutional. For, although the majority must rule in all republican countries, it is for all that restricted of right by a constitution, or the supreme law of the land, which throws its panoply over every inhabitant of the state; so that, for instance, he cannot be imprisoned without a charge being brought against him before a lawfully constituted magistrate, nor can he be tried without being confronted with his accusers, nor condemned without a verdict of a jury of his countrymen, or some tribunal specially authorized to pronounce judgment. It is needless to go into particulars which are apparent to all.—It hence appears that a majority cannot do every thing; and among the prohibited things is the abridgment of any one’s rights for opinion’s sake. It matters not in this respect whether the majority be Christian or Jewish; the constitution knows nothing of either; and it is well known that, in the fundamental charter of the United States, neither Christianity nor Judaism is mentioned by name. Consequently, neither can be said to govern the land, neither can be said to tolerate the other. The constitution found us living side by side upon the soil of America; both Jews and Christians had sacrificed blood and treasure in the achievement of the independence of the Union; both therefore were placed upon such an equality that a preference was given to neither; especially as the wise men who framed the constitution under the presidency of Washington, had seen the evils of a dominant church clearly proved in England and America, by the treatment Catholics, Episcopalians, Puritans, Covenanters, Independents, Quakers and Jews, had suffered or inflicted on each other. Let no one believe that such men as Franklin and Madison were ignorant of what they were doing; they knew and surveyed the whole ground before them; and it is not necessary for such an humble individual as we are to write their praises, which are best inscribed in the monument of legislative wisdom which they laid before the country as the effect of their mature deliberation.
It is the business of all classes of the community to look well to this instrument; and no one can safely depart from it, led by the powerlessness of his opponents, to enforce upon them a species of religious test before he admits them to equal rights. We repeat what our Carolina friends say, and what we advanced in one of our earlier works, the Jew is not tolerated in this country; he belongs to the constitution, which assures him the privilege of worshipping God as his conscience dictates to him. If even the Christians, therefore, are in the majority, and could with impunity violate the compact on which the state rests for safety, they may be sure that it would sooner or later react upon themselves with fearful retribution. A time may come, though we trust it never may, as it occurred in France, where religion was abolished by ACT OF THE LEGISLATURE, not because it was right, but because an irreligious madness had so enchained and enslaved the majority of the so-called freedmen of republican France, that for a while all opposition was useless and dangerous; and had these bloody fanatics of infidelity only known how to use their triumph with moderation, Christianity might never have been recalled to France as a prudential state measure, a sort of coup d’etat of the new dynasty. Or without this, if those whose numbers outweigh ours choose to dictate laws, that either we shall be excluded from some privilege, yes, even that of joining a universal thanksgiving for benefits which we have all received, or forego our opinions, it next may happen that a powerful sect may dictate to the weaker ones how they shall be Christians, and how they shall be thankful.
Since, then, Christianity is not recognized by the constitution of the Union, and the constitutions of nearly all the states, no governor has the shadow of an authority to call upon the inhabitants to pray to God through any mediator; for this procedure is at once a command, as far as a proclamation can do so, to worship God in a peculiar manner, and this one based upon Christianity, a religion professed at this time by many, but never intended to be the state religion, or favoured by the laws of the state, farther than to protect the various communities or congregations in the possession of their property acquired for the purpose of carrying on their peculiar forms and customs. This the Jews have an equal claim to,—it is their inalienable right,—and, consequently, are again upon a level with the majority who are Christians.
When, therefore, Governor Hammond called upon the people of his state to worship on thanksgiving day as Christians, he either meant to exclude the Jews from joining their fellow-citizens in their devotions, after their own manner, or he bid them depart from it and adopt the manner of those who compose, as he calls it, “a Christian people.” Now he must have known that even without taking into consideration Jews, Deists, Atheists, and Mahomedans, there are many so-called Christians in the very state of South Carolina, who do not believe in Christ as a redeemer? Did he mean to exclude them? Or did he not know when penning his proclamation, that there are many of the most enlightened men in his own state who are Unitarians, or persons who deny the divinity of Christ, nearly as much as we do? Was he aware that the leading literary periodical of the South, we mean the Southern Review, is edited by one of these men, by Rev. Mr. Whittacker? Yet these men call themselves Christians, and surely would be glad to worship God on thanksgiving day, without praying to any one except to God the Creator only!
We have expatiated upon this subject much more than we intended, because of its great importance. It is painful at all times to censure, especially those whom the people delight to honour as their rulers; but we would not deserve to superintend the only Jewish periodical in the Union, could we see our rights threatened, even the breadth of a single straw, without entering our most solemn protest. If “hereditary bondmen to be free, must themselves strike the blow,” how much more necessary is it for freedmen to defend the inalienable rights; and hence we are gratified that our friends in South Carolina have, with such rare unanimity, stood forth to defend their just cause. There are, to be sure, several exceptional passages, as we deem, in the letter to the governor, especially the last clause, where they allude to his retirement, which strikes us as in exceedingly bad taste, for it could not add to nor diminish from the wrong they complain of, whether Mr. Hammond or another were in the gubernatorial chair.—Another thing they were wrong in, not to point out to the governor the example of Governor Middleton, who, having, in March, 1812, set apart a day of thanksgiving, calling upon all Christian denominations to have service in their respective churches, made a handsome apology for the unintentional slight offered to the Hebrew congregation. (Vide Occ. vol. i. p. 435, in the History of the Congregations of Charleston, by N. L.) If they had done so, it is possible that Governor Hammond might have retracted his ill-advised proclamation, and thus been spared from penning a reply which is full of the common vulgarities against the Jews, which are only fitting to men of little enlightenment.—However, we cannot be too critical, especially as we see that in the remonstrance under question both congregations joined; and that out of respect due to their religion, neither the Rev. Mr. Poznanski nor the Rev. Mr. Rosenfeld attempted to keep the thanksgiving based upon the offensive proclamation.
Other matters contained in this correspondence we may discuss on another occasion; for the present, however, we have said enough, perhaps more than was expected from us.
At a numerous meeting of Israelites, held at the Masonic Hall, on the 16th of November, Michael Lazarus, Esq., was called to the Chair, and S. Valentine, Esq., requested to act as Secretary.
The Chairman explained the object of the meeting to be in consequence of the Governor’s Proclamation of 9th September, the tenor of which excluded the Israelites of this city and State from his invitation to public prayer and thanksgiving. His Excellency had been courteously addressed through a public and private source, calling his attention to the fact. After the lapse of some time, he having declined to notice their complaint, the following letter was transmitted to his Excellency.
To his Excellency James J. Hammond, Governor of the State of South Carolina.
The undersigned, Israelites of Charleston, deem it due to themselves as American freemen, sternly and solemnly to protest against the language and spirit of the Proclamation published by your Excellency in the Charleston Mercury of the 13th ult. Their voice of firm remonstrance, would have long ere this been heard, but that you had been addressed on the subject by others of our citizens, and we desired to afford you ample time to respond. This you have failed to do; want of time cannot therefore be plead as an excuse, and the silence which courtesy prompted, must now be broken.
That no conflict of opinion may arise as to the precise language of your Proclamation, we here insert it, as it originally appeared, over your official hand and seal.
“By his Excellency James H. Hammond, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the State of South Carolina.
“Whereas, it becomes all Christian nations to acknowledge at stated periods, their dependence on Almighty God, to express their gratitude for His part mercies, and humbly and devoutly to implore His blessing for the future:
“Now, therefore, I, James H. Hammond, Governor of the State of South Carolina, do, in conformity with the established usage of this State, appoint the first Thursday in October next, to be observed as a day of Thanksgiving, Humiliation and Prayer, and invite and exhort our citizens of all denominations to assemble at their respective places of worship, to offer up their devotions to God their Creator, and his Son Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world
“Given under my hand, and the seal of the State, in Columbia, this ninth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, and in the sixty-ninth year of American Independence.
By the Governor,
JAMES H. HAMMOND.
“Robt. Q. Pinckney,
You have thus obviously excluded the Israelites of South Carolina from a participation in the religious observances of the occasion. To do this you have adopted a phraseology as unusual as it is offensive. No casuistry however subtle,—no constructions however ingenious, can bring the mind to any other conclusion. It is true, you “exhort our citizens of all denominations to assemble at their respective places of worship,” and had you stopped there, you would have been clearly within the legitimate sphere of your official duty. But, sir, you go further; and state the particular creed upon which your Excellency would have “all these denominations” to unite!—all are invited “to offer up their devotions to God, the Creator, AND his Son Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.” Now, it is scarcely necessary to remind one so profoundly skilled in logic, as well as ethics, as yourself, that to invite one to do that, which you know his conscience forbids, if not a mockery of his feelings, is certainly not far removed from an insult to his understanding; and yet you must, or should have known, that to a respectable portion of your constituents your invitation presented no other features.
Sir, the Israelites of Charleston, while they hold in all proper respect all other denominations of their fellow-citizens, profess themselves a God-serving and prayerful people. They cherish with unfaltering devotion their ancient and holy religion. They contemplate with veneration its sublime truths; and they rely with calm confidence upon its glorious and inspiring promises. They too, in common with all others of the human family, have bowed their heads in humble submission beneath the chastening rod of their Creator, and in their turn, have also had cause, gratefully to acknowledge bounteous blessings bestowed by His beneficent hand. Judge then, sir, what must have been their emotions when they found themselves excluded by your Proclamation, from the general thanksgiving and prayer of the occasion!
So utterly repugnant to their feelings—so violative of the accustomed privileges—so widely variant from the ordinary language of such papers—so exclusive in its tone and spirit—did the Israelites of Charleston regard your Proclamation, that, although there are in the city two congregations of them, neither opened their doors for worship on the day you had appointed. Nor could they, with a proper reverence for the hallowed faith of their fathers, have acted otherwise.
Sir, it is not our purpose to enter with you into the discussion of doctrinal points; neither your orthodoxy, nor ours is now in question. We regard you in this issue only as the Governor of South Carolina, and we propose to test the position you have assumed, by that constitution, which you have sworn to support. Thank God, sir, that noble instrument, together with the Constitution of the United States, presents a glorious panoply of defence against the encroachments of power, whether its designs be bold or insidious. Under its universal and protecting spirit, we do not sue for toleration, but we demand our rights. Let us refer to first principles. From the reference both the Governor and the governed may derive salutary instruction. What says then the first section of the eighth article of the Constitution of South Carolina? The words are these (1st Stat. at L. 191):
“The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall for ever hereafter be allowed within this state to all mankind.”
Now, sir, we charge you with such obvious discrimination and preference, in the tenor of your proclamation, as amounted to an utter exclusion of a portion of the people of South Carolina. It would seem (and we say it without irreverence) as if the finger of Providence had penned that section of the constitution, in prophetic anticipation of the case in point. From your perversion of it, what monstrous evils might arise? if your Excellency could be justified in so framing your proclamations as to shut out the religious privileges of the Israelites, where are we to find the line of limitation? Instead of representing the whole people of the state in their various tenets and creeds, the governor would make his own opinion the standard of orthodoxy, be it what it may. Episcopacy and Presbytery would in turn exclude each other, as the views of the functionary who may happen to fill the chair might lead. Individual prejudice or prepossession would usurp the place of the constitution. An orthodox Protestant governor might exclude all who do not come up to his peculiar standard of faith; and the Catholic, the Unitarian, the Israelite, and numerous other sects, may find their privileges discriminated away, and their most cherished opinions crushed or slighted by a gubernatorial preference.
But, sir, while the constitution of our honoured State is cherished by our people, as it now is, the errors or misdeeds of those in authority cannot pass unnoticed, or unrebuked. It is a palladium that throws its broad and protecting influence over all who abide beneath it. It guarantees TO ALL, in its own expressive phrase, “without discrimination or preference,” the free and full enjoyment of every right, civil and religious; and we cherish its principles next to the Holy Testimonies of our God! It is a noble covenant of Liberty, won and consecrated by the blood of Heroes. The temple is pure and the shrine is sacred. If desecrated by the minister the fault shall not be ours. It is with hearts warmed by such memories, and minds kindling with such associations, that we now record this our solemn and emphatic protest against your proclamation, as unsanctioned by the letter or spirit o the Constitution, as offensive and unusual in language, as exclusive, arbitrary, and sectarian in its character.
In conclusion, sir, we would remind you that your term of office is about to expire. A few fleeting days, and the robe that you wear will grace the shoulders of your successor. We trust that for your own reputation you will, ere that period arrives, remove the impressions which the act in question has made upon the minds of a large portion of your constituents.
We are, very respectfully,
Your obedient servants.
[ The above letter was signed by upwards of one hundred Israelites, and transmitted to his Excellency. ]
The following reply was received from his Excellency.
“Gentlemen—I received to-day your memorial and protest against my Proclamation appointing the third day of October for Thanksgiving, which, in consequence of my allusion to ‘Jesus Christ the Redeemer’ you denounce ‘as unsanctioned by the letter or spirit of the Constitution—as offensive and unusual in language, as exclusive, arbitrary and sectarian in its character.’ I have received heretofore several private communications on the subject, and a public letter addressed me through the columns of the Southern Patriot; I made no reply to any of these, because I did not feel myself bound to notice them, and wished to avoid, if possible, a controversy of this nature. Your memorial and protest, however, signed as I perceive it is by over one hundred of the most respectable Israelites of Charleston, rebuking in no measured terms, and demanding, as I understand it, an apology, requires an answer. The simple truth is, that at the time of writing my Proclamation it did not occur to me, that there might be Israelites, Deists, Atheists, or any other class of persons in the State who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. I could not therefore have intended to wound the feelings of such individuals or associations of them. But I am aware that forgetfulness can never justify a breach of public duty, I do not therefore urge it in the least. And as you force me to speak, it is due to candour to say, that had I been fully on my guard, I do not think I should have changed the language of my Proclamation! and that I have no apology to make for it now. Unhappily for myself I am not a professor of religion; nor am I attached by education or habit to any particular denomination, nor do I feel myself to be a fit and proper defender of the Christian faith. But I must say that up to this time, I have always thought it a settled matter that I lived in a Christian land! And that I was the temporary chief magistrate of a Christian people. That in such a country and among such a people I should be, publicly, called to an account, reprimanded and required to make amends for acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, I would not have believed possible, if it had not come to pass. I have not examined nor am I now able to refer to the Proclamations of my predecessors, to ascertain whether they have limited their fellow-citizens to address their devotions to the Father or the Son or to the Father only, nor could I verify the motives which might have influenced them to do the one or the other. But I am of the opinion that a Proclamation for Thanksgiving which omits to unite the name of the Redeemer with that of the Creator is not a Christian Proclamation, and might justly give offence to the Christian People, whom it invited to worship. If in complaisance to the Israelites and Deists, his name must be excluded, the Atheists might as justly require that of the Creator to be omitted also; and the Mahometan or Mormon that others should be inserted. I feel myself upon the broad ground that this is a Christian community; and that as their chief magistrate it was my duty and my right in conformity with usage, to invite them to return thanks for the blessings they enjoy, to that Power from whence, and that Being through whose intercession they believe that they derive them. And whatever may be the language of Proclamation and of Constitution, I know that the civilization of the age is derived from Christianity, that the institutions of this country are instinct with the same spirit, and that it pervades the laws of the State as it does the manners and I trust the hearts of our people. Why do we observe the Sabbath instituted on honour of Christ? Why do our laws forbid labour on that day or the execution of civil process? it is because we are, and acknowledge ourselves, and wish to be considered, a Christian people. You appeal to the Constitution as guaranteeing ‘the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference to all mankind.’ If the laws recognizing the Christian Sabbath do not violate the Constitution, how can my Proclamation, which was compulsory on no one, do it? If both are unconstitutional, why have not the Israelites commenced by attacking these long-standing laws, and purifying our legislation? Do they deem it easier to intimidate one man, and extract from him a confession and an apology under the apprehension of their fierce and unrelenting hostility, than to reform the State? In whatever situation I have been placed, it has always been my aim to adhere strictly to the Constitution and uphold the Laws. I did not think, and do not now think, that I violated the Constitution of this State by my Proclamation. That forbids the legislature to pass any law restricting the most perfect toleration. I addressed to the Christian community, at their request, a Proclamation inviting them to worship in accordance with their faith; I had neither the power nor desire to compel any one to offer his devotions contrary to his faith, or to offer them at all. Those who did not choose to accept my invitation, were at full liberty to decline it, and if the Israelites refused to open their Synagogues, I had no complaint to make—no penalty to exact. Had they stopped at that, such a manifestation of their disapproval of my Proclamation would have been the more severely felt by me, because of its dignity and its consonance with true religious feelings as I apprehend them. But if, inheriting the same scorn for Jesus Christ which instigated their ancestors to crucify him, they would have felt themselves degraded and disgraced in obeying my exhortation to worship their ‘Creator,’ because I had also recommended the adoration of his ‘Son the Redeemer,’ still I would not have hesitated to appoint for them, had it been requested, a special day of Thanksgiving according to their own creed. This, however, was not, I imagine, what the Israelites desired. They wished to be included in the same invitation to the public devotion with the Christians! And to make that invitation acceptable to them, I must strike out the corner-stone of the Christian creed, and reduce the whole to entire conformity with that of the Israelites; I must exhort a Christian People to worship after the manner of the Jews. The Constitution forbids me to ‘discriminate’ in favour of the Christians; and I am denounced because I have not ‘discriminated’ in favour of the Israelites. This is the sum and substance of your charge. The terms of my Proclamation were broad enough to include all believers. You wished me to narrow it down to the exclusion of ninety-nine hundredths of my fellow-citizens. Neither the Constitution, nor my public duty, would allow me to do this, and they also forbid me to offer any apology for not having done it.
“Many topics in your memorial and its vehement tone I pass over without comment, because I do not wish to go farther in this unpleasant discussion, than briefly to state the prominent grounds on which I justify my conduct. And I cannot but hope that when you come to look dispassionately at the matter, you will perceive that the warmth of your feelings has led you astray, that you have taken offence without sufficient cause, and that in fulminating your wrath at me, you have exhibited a temper which in the end may be more painful to yourselves than it can be to me. Not that I do not regret sincerely that I have so unexpectedly incurred your enmity, but because I suffer little when I am satisfied that I have done no wrong.
“I have the honour to be
All of which the chairman submitted to the consideration of the meeting.
Whereupon, it was, on motion,
Resolved, That the whole subject be referred to a committee, who, after due deliberation, submitted the following
It is evident to your committee, that, on the appearance of the governor’s proclamation, the editor of the Southern Patriot brought the subject before the executive by stating through the columns of that journal, that the exclusion of the Israelites had given just cause of offence to many citizens of that persuasion. Some time after this, a gentleman, over his own signature, addressed a letter to his excellency, couched in the most respectful language. Had the governor been pleased to instruct his secretary to acknowledge either of these, simply declaring their exclusion an oversight, the matter would have been dropped at that point. But the courtesy usually extended in such cases was withheld on this occasion. His excellency did not, in his own language, “feel bound to answer,” and accordingly he took no notice of either. This strange, and as we consider, discourteous course, prompted a large number of Israelites to address him, and his rely to them forms the subject of your committee’s present report.
Your committee regret that the positions taken by the Israelites in their letter to his excellency, have been so erroneously construed and misstated in his reply. This of course they regard as unintentional on his part; but as an illustration of the remark, his excellency states in the very first paragraph, that his proclamation is denounced as unusual and offensive, in consequence of his allusion to “Jesus Christ the Redeemer.” It will be perceived, by reference to the letter of the Israelites, that such construction cannot be maintained. The only correct interpretation of their language is, that in so framing his proclamation they were entirely excluded from “a participation in the religious observances of the occasion.” That alone was their cause of complaint. Had his excellency, if he had even pleased specially to invite our Christian fellow-citizens, only gone a little farther, and extended it, as is customary, to all other denominations, no dissatisfaction, in the opinion of your committee, could possibly have existed among the Israelites. And was this an unreasonable expectation on their part? Or would it have been an extraordinary act on the part of his excellency? Assuredly not. He would have been but pursuing the course usual on such occasions—they but enjoying in common with other citizens an established privilege. His Excellency states that he had not before him, when he wrote his proclamation, those “of his predecessors,” to ascertain their mode of invitation. This your committee regret; for they believe he would have found that usage is against him. Of one thing they are assured; that it has been the pride of our governors to show their respect for the constitution, by the address with which they have on all occasions of this kind infused into its spirit what satisfies the most sensitive mind.
It is proper here to remark, that nothing is more common even in monarchical countries, having a state constitution, than for rulers to call on every denomination to offer up prayers at their respective places of worship. This practice prevails even in barbarous countries. If the Nile is tardy in rising, the pacha of a dominant mosque calls on persons of every sect to unite, but does not defeat the object by the mandate, and cry of Allah and Mahomet. Thus, if the governor was absolute, your committee cannot believe that a custom so general would be outraged against the followers of a particular faith. These comparisons, though rather mortifying to those constrained to make them, are nevertheless necessary. His Excellency—with a written constitution for his guide, has been pleased to act in direct contrast with this course. Your committee are too much in earnest on this subject to notice the sarcasm, temper, or taste of this letter from the “department of state.” They decline to comment on these topics—nor is it their right to have been informed of his Excellency's creed, any more than if he had been pleased to speak to us of his moral sentiments or private affairs. As citizens of the state, they are aware of the respect due the executive office, and shall not vary from the point of their rights. The feeling on their part is any thing but that of pride, that such a document should be filed among the annals of our state. With the miscellaneous remarks, theological, philosophical, they have as little to do; such views may suit ecclesiastical statesmen, and might form plausible reasons on their part, if efforts are ever made, to subvert the present constitution, and have one uniting church and state; but in the present form of the charter, it bears a far more liberal interpretation than his Excellency has given it.
Neither can your committee, for the like reasons, and they are constrained to add in self-respect, properly notice the classification, in which you are included, of “Jews,” “Atheists,” “Mormons,” &c. &c. except to expose the argument. The constitution has nothing to do with the relative numbers of the citizens—with popular or unpopular modes of faith. If either of these classes of citizens formed nine-tenths of the population, and the other tenth were Christians, with the present constitution, his Excellency, under his view, must exclude the minority of Christians, and interpret Mormonism, or any other ism, as the religion of the state.
Your committee notice also in his Excellency's letter, language which they deem calculated to excite the worst of feelings in our country. They cannot believe that it was penned with such intention, but it has been to them a source of much pain. They would notice particularly his allusion to the crucifixion of Christ, and depreciate it sincerely as tending to excite the prejudices of eighteen hundred years against a small portion of his constituents. They appeal, however, to their fellow-citizens of all denominations to support them in the declaration, that nothing is more common than for Israelites here and elsewhere to subscribe to the erection of churches consecrated to the numerous sectaries of Christianity; and they trust to be found at their post, in defence of the humblest of them, should fanaticism, or outrage of any kind, (which Providence avert,) ever assail them.
But on the main point, your committee in seriousness, as citizens of this state, and of the United States, would be unworthy of the rights secured to them, in common with all others, if they did not protest against the principles set forth in the governor’s letter, which if admitted, would form a base sufficient to measure away their rights, and the rights of others, for what affects you now, might at another time be fatal to the rights of other minorities. Such invasions silently creeping in, some future proclamation may make farther discriminations, expressing what the executive means by Christianity, and who are Christians. The worst species of wrong is the partial one that aims at the few; that abandons principles and strives to please numbers. Few or many, popular or otherwise, the Israelites hope to be found always upholding those principles, wherein as American citizens, they of right are at issue with the interpretation of the spirit of the laws as expressed by the governor. They maintain that the state government, like that of the United States, is a government of equal rights in religious privileges, as in all other things, and not as his Excellency infers, a government of tolerance, enabling rulers to give or to withhold. It would be an outrage on the constitution, and on the character of the patriots who made it free and equal, and on our countrymen around us, if any contrivance should make it otherwise. The rights therein secured form the general sentiment of the people of this country, and when attempted to be tempered with, find confirmation from the Congress of the United States, in such manifestation, as in the celebrated report of the Hon. R. M. Johnson, on the petition to arrest the Sunday Mails. To that noble exposition your committee would commend his Excellency's attention.
There are numerous observations in the governor’s letter, which, however much they may have wounded your feelings as Israelites, we prefer with a view to the suppression of excitement to pass without notice here. Even that impeachment of the purity of your motives conveyed in his question. “whether you found it easier to intimidate one man than to reform the state,” your committee, while in justice they are compelled to disclaim and repel the insinuation, will also permit to pass without farther comment. They desire to assuage, not to exasperate—and they cannot but believe that much that is harsh and wounding in his Excellency's letter, would not have been penned, but for the fact which he himself declares, “that he is not a professor of religion, and is not specially attached by habit, or education to any particular denomination.”
In conclusion, your committee cannot leave the whole matter with a safer guardian than the public opinion of the country.
After several animated addresses, the report was unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That these proceedings be published in the public journals of this city, and of Columbia, S. C.