Liberty for Europe – And More (1848)

Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 25, 1848

Liberty for Europe–Immense Demonstration

In conformity with the public announcement, the citizens of Philadelphia assembled in Independence Square yesterday afternoon, to testify their sympathy with the people of continental Europe at the prospect of their throwing off the shackles which have bound them for centuries. The concourse was immense, and exceeded any demonstration which has been held in the same enclosure for many years. There were three stands erected. The main one, in the centre of the square, was decorated with the American and French flags, which were mingled in festoons around the sides of the platform.

At a short distance from the main stand, an excellent military band was stationed, an hour previous to the assembling of the meeting, which in stirring strains discoursed most excellent music, exciting patriotic emotions in each breast as they struck up various national airs. Near them the German Manerchoir and Saenger band were stationed, having with them the German flag of liberty, black, red, and gold. This association chanted many stirring lyrics in their national language, which brought up fond recollections of Der Vaterland.

At the southeast and southwest parts of the yard platforms were also erected, from which speakers addressed the concourse in German, French and English. Throughout the enclosure the crowd was immense, and as it was impossible for all to hear the speakers, little knots of people were formed, who engaged in singing patriotic songs; this was particularly so with the French and Germans, and the “Marsellaise,” “Mourir de la Patrie,” and many of the odes of Beranger and Korner were sung with enthusiastic fervor.

One of the most interesting features of the occasion, was the organization of a spontaneous and distinct meeting near the south gate, which was composed partly of colored people, and which was addressed in good style by several colored men. A few years since the disorderly and riotous would not have tolerated such a thing in this city, but yesterday, to the credit of the occasion be it spoken, there was no disposition to interrupt or interfere, by the white persons present, on the contrary, when an attempt was made by one of the police to prevent the speaking, under the idea that it might lead to disorder, the citizens present interfered in favor of the speaker, and setting him up on his stool again, bade him go on. The speaking was very creditable to those engaged in this branch of the meeting, and the views of the orators were listened to with attention and respect.

From the principal stand the scene was exciting and interesting; the vast assemblage of persons in every part of the yard could be distinctly observed. At the east platform the orator could be seen addressing the concourse gathered around him, with the measured and slow address and gesticulation which distinguishes the deep-thinking countrymen of Herman. At the west, the rapid and earnest gesticulation of the orator, easily betokened him to be one of the excitable sons of La Belle France. Whilst in the south the Ethiopian declaimed away away to his crowd, his gestures being as ardent, his language as impassioned as those of any other speaker. By the side of the observer on the main platform, the rights of mankind were eloquently enforced by distinguished speakers; whilst the eye roved over the diversified assemblage, the groups of which were constantly changing, it lighted upon the flag of German liberty–black, red and gold; of French Republicanism–blue, white and red; of Italian Independence–red, white and green; whilst with it all, the cynosure of all eyes, waved the glorious stars and stripes of the land of the free and home of the brave. The ear was struck with the vast hum of many voices, over which sounded the tones of the speakers, and the melodious strains of the chorus, or the martial and national air by the military bands.

At the appointed hour the meeting was called to order by Benj. W. Richards, formerly Mayor of the city of Philadelphia, and on his motion, John Swift, Mayor of the city, was appointed the President of the day. The following citizens were appointed–

Vice Presidents.–J.F. Beisterling, Josiah Randall, Lemuel Paynter, George Faber, Henry Lelar, Robert Morris, John Robbins, Jr., George W. Farr, P.A. Fagan, Peter A. Browne, Lawrence Shuster, Banner Thomas, Thomas Quinlon, Joseph G. Clarkson, A. Bournonville, Hugh Clark, Mark Devine, Tobias Bechler, James W. Fletcher, Jacob Juvenal, John H. Dohnert, Charles De Haven, George Erety, George Devinney, John Lindsay, William V. Petitt, Goerge Follin, John Rutherford, Jr.

The following citizens were appointed —

Secretaries.–George T. Thorne, Robert E. Shulze, Wm. J. Reed. John Trucks, H.M. Phillips, Wm. Sloanaker, John Miller, Joseph S. Riley, Frederick Klett, T.W. Duffield, A.S. Schofield, Thos. S. Fernon, Dr. Geo. Seidensticker, A. Lafore, M. Richards Muckle.

As soon as the officers had taken their seats, Mayor Beisterling, acting as President of the day, announced the object for which the meeting was assembled, and spoke in eloquent terms of the important events which had occurred in France, presenting such glorious prospects for the cause of liberty and self-government. When he had concluded, a band of music made the square resound with the spirit-stirring notes of the anthem of France–the Marseilles Hymn–the assembled people accompanying it with reiterated cheers.

Henry D. Gilpin then arose and addressed the assembly, and on the conclusion of his remarks, offered the following resolutions, as expressive of the feelings of the assembled citizens:

Resolved, That the Citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, assembled on the spot where the Independence of America was first declared, the foundations of the Republic laid, and the right of absolute self-government asserted and vindicated by her people, hasten to congratulate the citizens of France on their glorious achievements in the same; … that we have sympathized with them in their struggles to redeem and to secure for a nation great intelligence, resources, arts, letters, enterprise and arms, those fundamental institutions, social and political which are the birthright of civilized man; that we have admired the fearless spirit, the steady purpose, and the generous forbearance, and the confirmed and continued public order which, in the midst of a revolution, and unaided by an organized government, have characterized the commencement and the early progress of this impulsive movement of justice, philanthropy and patriotism; that we shall watch with an interest the most profound and a confidence the most undoubting each successive step in their onward career; and that our sincere and ardent prayers shall be addressed to that Providence, which watched over and guided our own people in their day of struggle and of trial, to bless and to prosper every effort which shall spread through the old world freedom of conscience, equality of political rights, and governments, established by the will and with the consent of the governed, which shall secure to every man the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Resolved, That as citizens of Philadelphia, we recall on this occasion, with just pride, the events of seventy years, when in this city, and near this spot, and ere yet the government of the new Confederacy was fully organized, a Minister from France, first and alone among the nations of the old world, arrived to greet that young Republic, and address to it the language of cheering sympathy, and the offer of generous aid, and we rejoice, in this day, when the French people have vindicated for themselves the same right, to establish similar institutions, the first welcome voice of congratulation and confidence was from the Minister of the Republic of the United States of America, and a citizen of Philadelphia. …

Mr. Gilpin, introducing the resolutions, referred to the fact that yesterday a sun brighter than that of Austerlitz had shone upon the destinies of France. Yesterday the people of France, from her gay valleys and vine-covered hills, had assembled in their communes to elect delegates to form the representatives of the French Republic. The speaker referred to the unsuccessful character of the first French revolution. Its results, though they were unfortunate, had prepared the people for that destiny which now awaited them. Twenty-three years had passed away since the great and good Lafayette had visited his American brethren, to celebrate the fifty-fourth anniversary of the triumph of American freedom over a deceitful and false government. On that occasion, when he beheld the effect of half a century of enlightened freedom, he proposed as a sentiment, “The spirit and resolution to oppose tyranny which made America free — May the anniversary toast upon the jubilee of the next half century see Europe free.” Mr. Gilpin, in conclusion, adverted to the character of the late revolution, the manner in which it had been effected, and the measures undertaken by the Government.

Morton McMichael, Esq., said: The marvellous events which the last two or three weeks have given birth to, on the continent of Europe, appear to us rather like the grand revolving sun of a great vision than the sober certainties of actual existence. Thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, political fabrics, gray with the dust of many centuries, and which seemed indestructable–dynasties whose roots had struck deep, ceremonies believed necessary to natural existence–all these have melted away, or, thrown into the crucible of reform, have assumed new forms and new existence. France starts in a new sphere, and with institutions of a republic character; and the royalty which yesterday deemed itself secure for centuries, has been blown away like dew drops from the lion’s mane by the morning air. Mr. M. next adverted to the progress of free principles in German; the manner in which the King of Prussia had given way before the republican torrent–smaller principalities were forced to yield, and Grand Dukes without number had trembled before the popular demand; and after adverting in glowing terms to the prospects of Ireland, and the glorious prospects of liberty throughout the world, concluded his address.

Hon. Benjamin Champneys was next introduced. Mr. C. spoke of the state of things in France before the first revolution, the power of the nobles, the wrongs of the people, the abuse of the lettres de cachet, and the imperative necessity which brought about that revolution. That event had prepared the present generation for the proper exercise of freedom, and every occurrence of the late uprising demonstrated that the people were capable of governing themselves.

Joseph R. Chandler, Esq., was introduced to the meeting, and made some remarks which were highly appropriate to the occasion, and which were received with the most earnest demonstrations of approbation by the assemblage. He referred to the scene before him, the representations of beautiful France on his right, those of Germany on his left, and the Ethiopians immediately in front–all had come for the purpose of uniting in the expression of sympathy with France in carrying into effect her republican government. In touching terms he alluded to the oppressed condition of Ireland, and expressed the hope that the day may not be far distant when she may be able to assert her independence. Before concluding, Mr. C. made some humorous remarks in reference to the flight of Louis Philippe, contrasting his race form the indignation of the people, to that of the celebrated John Gilpin.

Hon. Wm. D. Kelley made some general remarks upon the events which have transpired in Europe, and prayed that God speed the spread of republican principles until monarchical institutions shall have been wholly swept away.

Gen. Peter Sken Smith said that he was glad to find so great a unanimity of sentiment among the people upon the subject of the republican reform in France, attributing it entirely to the force of example which the American nation has exhibited to the world. He desired that all the countries of Europe should be as successful in their struggles to throw off the yoke of oppression as France has been.

Wm. E. Lehman, Jr., Esq., alluded to the fact that the meeting was composed of persons of all political parties, and of every religious sect, as an evidence of the deep feeling of sympathy which exists in our community with the French. He thought the selection of Independence Square a most appropriate spot for the holding of the meeting, surrounded as it is with all the recollections of our own Declaration of Independence. Mr. L. uttered some thoughts upon the necessary results which must follow on the heels of the French revolution, and concluded with a reference to the virtues of Washington and the patriots of the revolution, whose ashes he thought out to be collected and deposited beneath the shades of the old hall from which American liberty was first sounded to the world.

Francis J. Brund, Esq., said–The French revolution may be divided into two distinct sections–the first against the nobility, the second against associated capital. It was customary to talk about the horrors of the first French revolution, and to hold out its example in terrorem to those who might be disposed to follow it. Americans were accustomed to behold eery thing relating to the continent of Europe through an English glass. But let us examine this medium, and we shall soon find that it is colored by the English aristocracy, the hereditary foe of freedom throughout the world. Why, if you read an English account of the United States, you would, if in Europe, and not knowing what is going on here, suppose that the republic is tottering to its foundation, and that the government established by Washington and Jefferson was on the brink of destruction.

The first French revolution had to pull down the social edifice of Europe as well as the political one; and it was an Herculean task, for all Europe was arraigned against France. The French nevertheless succeeded in pulling down nobility, socially and politically, but on its ruin the Bourgeoisie, the struggle between capital and labor, commenced. Political economists of old say that the price of labor is to be regulated by the demand and supply. That would degrade man to a marketable commodity. Man was the image of the Godhead, and his rights were inalienable. They were not accidental. It was customary to call these notions abstractions; and if they be abstractions, then the present Provisional Government of France was composed of very impracticable people. Mr. G. held in his hands the late speech of Louis Blanc, delivered in  the palace of the Luxemburg; but he had yet to learn that things relating to a man’s stomach were mere abstractions. He thought that they were substantial and real.

The political economists of former days would measure man’s labor by what associated capital could bring it down to; but its real value was what it was worth to the community, and not a whit less. This problem was not understood in the United States, because the laborer in the United States was sought after, instead of being obliged to seek for labor. Here twenty bushels of potatoes, fifty of wheat and one hundred of corn were produced where one was consumed; but in Europe the case was different. There millions existed without ever tasting meat, nay, bread itself was a luxury. In Silesia the weavers lived on oat meal put into cold water, because they had no fuel; and this state of things, this organization of society was to be changed. The laborer is worthy of his hire. He is not merely a candidate for the almshouse and the gallows, but a human being, entitled to life and education. It was not sufficient to declare that every man shall be free and equal; you must not put the means of oppression into one hand and leave the other without defense. Louis Blanc, one of the members of the present government of France, had told the timid and cowardly government of Louis Philippe, that it was time for them to listen to the complaints of the laboring classes; but instead of listening to them, the government attempted to forge new fetters. He told them one day the blouses would count their number, and then the throne and the government would be lost, and the blouses had counted and the throne was lost.

It was not only royalty the people had to put down, but monopoly. To associated wealth they had to oppose associated labor. Holland, as a republic, ground down the laboring classes; and Venice, that “drunkard of the blood of princes,” was an abject despotism. Hence it was that the French motto was, not simply “liberty and equality,” but “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Men shall not make war upon one another, but love each other as brothers. The manufacturer shall not destroy the independent master-workman, and there shall be no mortal combat between the manufacturers themselves to put down the man who has the shortest purse, and acknowledge him victor who has the longest. No! The laborer was worthy of his hire; and the French would organize their society in such a manner that labor would yield to every workman, not the starving prices allowed him by the capitalists, which just give him enough to recommence his slavish task on the day following, but the amount to which his labor benefitted society. And this was not only reasonable, but an act of sublime justice, in union with that doctrine of political economy which in the New Testament, was taught by Jesus Christ himself, who taught that all men were brothers, not only on the Sabbath, but on every working day of the week.


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