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Letter, 18 July 1844 (Trenton, N.J.) from James
   Morrow to John B. and Sarah Bull,
   (of Willington, S.C.)
  

| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |

Letter from a medical student from South Carolina describing his impressions of witnessing anti-Catholic riots of 1844 in Phildelphia between Nativists and recent Irish Catholic immigrants.

Letter, 18 July 1844, of Ja[me]s Morrow (1820-1865) was written from near Trenton, New Jersey, to his parents, John B. and Sarah Bull, residents of Willington (Abbeville Dist[rict], South Carolina), and describes the acts of civil disobedience that had recently occurred in Philadelphia between Catholics and Protestants and the resulting loss of life. At the time of the Philadelphia Nativist Riots, Morrow was a medical student at Philadelphia but he had found “comfortable lodgings with plain country people in a retired place about 30 miles from Phila. & 3 miles from Trenton, New Jersey,” from which he could reach the former city by “Rail-Road or Steamboat in two hours.”

“A few days before I left Philadelphia,” Morrow writes, “there had been fussing & fighting more serious than ever & even more wicked & disgraceful, I suppose that if the truth was known, not less than 70, or 100, were killed, or will die. Some of the wounded it was my duty to see as a medical student at the Hospital & their condition was pitiable.” Because of the rioting, the city had been placed under military rule. “Troops were arriving from the different quarters of the State & even a number of U. States troops were coming in,” according to Morrow. Then posing a rhetorical question, “why should people get cannon & muskets & shoot one another,” the correspondent surmises, “I have thought of it often, but I cannot understand it. The wickedness of their hearts must be one cause. Added to this they have the excitement of politics & they are urged on by a set of demagogue adventurers. The civil authorities together with the military seem almost as much at fault as the mob.”

The letter continues on to outline the events surrounding the acts of mob violence - “When the mil[i]tary marched to the scene of action they carried with them - as curious & silly spectators, thousands of innocent (except so far as an idle curiosity would make them otherwise) citizens who went along to see what was to be done. When they arrived at the place the commanding officer ordered them to disperse. This they did not do immediately for they could not, those outside did not hear the command, those inside the immense crowd could not move it they would until those outside had given way. They did not obey the commander & he ordered the soldiers to fire, & they did fire time after time into this multitude of persons till they were able to get away. Then the true rioters which was but comparatively a small band commenced skirmishing & fighting with the soldiers, & if reports be correct gained the victory. A large number of military was killed & wounded by [them].”

“This was brother & fellow citizen shooting brother & fellow citizen,” Morrow concludes. “How strange & unaccountable it does seem! Yet it seems… to be taken as a matter of course.”

| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |

 

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