A. Cleveland Coxe
A physician of highly respectable position, has lately sent me several of his own contributions to one of our newspapers, from which I extract the following paragraphs:
"It is related that when the Huguenot Mother, Perrotine Massy, and her two daughters were burned at the stake, one of the latter was delivered of a child in the very midst of the fiery furnace, which rolled out of it alive and almost unscathed. A bystander picked up the child, thus miraculously saved, but was ordered by the bailiff, Helier Gosselin, to throw it back into the flames that it might be consumed with its heretic mother."
This happened in the isle of Guernsey, under Queen Mary the Bloody.
"One cannot read such a recital as this without a shudder of horror; it outrages every sympathy and sensibility of our nature, and we feel like doubting, almost, its veracity. Judging of a Helier Gosselin after our own standard of virtue, we are compelled to the belief that either himself and the class to which he belonged were exceptional beings of different moral mould from the mass of humanity, or else that human nature must have settled into a sad state of degeneracy in the times of Mary Tudor, from which, happily, it has since elevated itself.
"But is this conclusion correct? What if we state that today,— in our very midst,—in the bosom of the Church, within those circles of society where the tenderer attributes of human sympathy are most cherished and cultivated; within the closer and dearer limits of the family and the fireside, crimes are committed, daily and hourly, that rival the savage brutality of Gosselin!
"Gosselin did not believe that he was committing a crime; on the contrary, he no doubt supposed that he was fulfilling a stern religious duty, so much the more meritorious as it was costly to his moral sentiments."
After arguing that no such excuse can be found for another class of child-murderers, the writer adds:
"The terrible fact exists, the bloody work goes on day by day, the cruel actors in it are taken by the hand, public conscience sleeps, the law looks blandly on, and society felicitates itself upon its moral progress and high religious standard.
"Then the crime must be so skillfully covered up that it never sees the light; that old and well-established law of events which forces crime to the surface where it must be discovered, has ceased to act!
"Wrong again. No general fact is better or more universally known than that of the existence of this crime; there are few members of any community who could not point the finger at someone who is guilty of it; proposals and means to its commission are boldly advertised throughout the country; knowledge of these means are retailed from one to another in every grade of society; the guilty even boast of their guilt, and laugh at the timid fears of those whose consciences still feebly restrain them from yielding to these examples of evil.
"It will have been divined what crime is alluded to; there is but one .that could exist under such conditions, and that is murder of the unborn human offspring —willful destruction of the existence created by God for an undying soul; a flying in the face of the Creator by despatching to Him, untimely, a witness that shall live to confront the murderer in the day of judgment.
"Murder is always murder, whether it consist in the destruction of the apparently formless ovum, or the full grown man. In either instance the organic animal life, concurrent with the spiritual, has been arrested in its progress; a specific creation, endowed with all its attributes of immortal as well as mortal existence has been destroyed, so far as it is destructible, and the perpetrator of the deed has taken upon himself the responsibility of sending a soul back to God who gave it. There is a social difference; society and human relationships miss the murdered child or man, and do not miss the unborn child which has never yet taken its place among them, but that is all; there is no difference in the accountability to God for the destruction of a work which is His from the beginning. The Psalmist says:
My bones are not hid from thee, though I be made secretly, and fashioned beneath in the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book were all my members written;”
Which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.—Ps. cxxxix.
"If then this crime is so prevalent, so widely known, and so horrible and bloody in its character, how does it come about that it should be tolerated and tacitly ignored in a civilized and Christian community? Wherein consists the fatal errour that renders either its commisson or toleration possible in a land where lesser crimes are so vigorously frowned down and punished?
"The basis, the ultimate element of this error lies, as the present writer believes, in a mistaken popular notion that denies both spiritual and animal life to the foetus, at least up to quite an advanced period of gestation. This notion has governed and does govern, even now, the laws of the land, as well as popular opinion. It seems strange that the simple thought that the germ not interfered with would in time become a man, should not have carried with it a deeper sense of the importance of that germ and of its intimate relations with spiritual life. Suffice it to say here, that no physiologist doubts at the present day, that the relations of the ovum an instant old to the immortal life of a newly created soul, are the same as those of a man who has reached the allotted three-score-years-and-ten, so far as the facts of the existence and individuality of that soul are concerned.
"But the fallacy, the opposite to this doctrine, naturally carries with it the popular impression that to destroy the unformed child, is a mere peccadillo, the furthest possible removed from such a terrible crime as murder. Add to this facility for the accomplishment of such a design; familiarity, which always softens the hideous aspect of crime; the force of example; laxity of the law; moral carelessnes, an educating of the mind, so to speak, to the admission of such guilty deeds as a sort of matter of course, and we have the state of things which actually exists.
"It is difficult to state how extensively practiced is this murderous habit. It would be safe to say, perhaps, that unborn generations have been lessened of late nearly one-half by criminal interference with the laws of nature.”
From another journal I extract the following alarming statements:
"The report of Dr. Harris, the Register of Vital Statistics in New York, speaks volumes and furnishes food for earnest reflection. The returns of births in the city of New York, during the six months ending Sept. 30, 1866, show 5,745 births, of which 868 were children of native parents, 3,246 were of foreign parentage, 398 had foreign fathers only, 339 had foreign mothers only, and the parentage of 894 was not stated. This shows a total of 3,983 children of foreign parentage born during that period, while only 868 full-blooded natives were ushered into this world. The Doctor asserts that the returns are manifestly incorrect, but remarks that the tables show a decided preponderance of children of foreign parentage. In Brooklyn, 1,991 births were registered; 776 were children of native parents; 807 of foreign; 213 had foreign fathers; 137 had foreign mothers, and the parentage of 37 was not stated. This shows a total of 1,157 children of foreign parentage born in Brooklyn, and as decided a preponderance as in New York. The Doctor thus shows how many babies have come into the world, and their parentage, but unfortunately the records do not show the condition of the parents—if they did, what a tale would be told of city life! Our New York correspondent recently copied an extract from Dr. Harris's report, in which he referred to the crime of child murder, and asserted that the bureau should have returns of from 27,000 to 30,000 births in New York annually, and half as many in Kings Co., that is unless marriage is a farce and child murder more frequent than he believed it to be. According to the best calculation which can be made of the births last year we do not believe that the records will show 12,000 in New York, and yet the Doctor insists that by the laws of social progress there should have been at least 27,000. If these figures be correct what has become of the absent 15,000 babes? The still-births will perhaps number 2,000, leaving 13,000 to be accounted for. The great question is where have they gone to? The Doctor's figures may be exaggerated, but diminish them as we may we cannot escape the fact that thousands of children are sacrificed yearly.
"It is a subject of common remark that rich people have small families; the middle classes do not overburden themselves with 'olive branches'; but the poorer classes are literally 'fruitful and multiplying.’ The returns themselves show more than four foreign births to one native, and everybody knows that the foreigners are to a great extent among the poorer classes. The poor do not have children because they can better afford them than the rich, but the latter do not have them because they consider it unfashionable; they do not care to have the trouble of rearing their offspring and, not only themselves but the less wealthy classes, find no difficulty in getting rid of the children during the periods of gestation, when such a process may be considered comparatively safe. This is a bold assertion, but one that will be borne out by the facts if ever they can be collected.
"A glance at a morning journal published in New York shows no less than thirty advertisements of persons who, ‘for a consideration.’ will 'remove obstructions, from whatever cause.’ Few of our newspapers are free from these advertisements, so that those who l run may read.
"Dr. Harris knows that did not the 'oath of Hippocrates' forbid, physicians could reveal tales of this crime which would startle the community and assist him to account for infants, more or less, which his theories say should have made their entree into this wicked world every year."
My late Pastoral calls forth from a Boston editor, a very kind notice, which he follows up in the following vigorous language:
"For nearly two years we have been speaking as much and as strongly as we dared, probably more than was accept able to our readers, on the dreadful theme. The thought of it has been to us literally an infinite and inexpressible sorrow; we could not shake it off; it has haunted us like a stifling, hideous dream. The crime has at length grown to such monstrous proportions, that no human language can suffice to describe it. Why, all the other sins and horrors of our land put together, our recent slavery, our late civil war, and all the drunkenness, and even the enormous curse of frauds, robberies, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders, which we are now going through,—all these rolled into one lump, do not equal the mass of shocking and inhuman depravity which the American people are guilty of in this one particular. Our whole social and domestic life and being are suffering and wasting away under the 'deep damnation' of it. Nearly all our walks of fashion, wealth, position, respectability, and even of piety, or what passes for such, are full of it. Our Protestant Churches are cursed, we sometimes fear, beyond the hope and the possibility of redemption, by the horrible impiety of it.
"Some strange, diabolical visitation seems to have well-nigh burnt the conscience all out of our people on this point. Even our religion has lost its guarding and protective efficacy in this most sacred and most awful province of morality, which is indeed the very holy of holies of humanity itself. The devoutest members of our Churches, or those who seem such, rush into the secret house of life, and turn it into a Moloch shrine, without even the slightest twinges of compunction or remorse. Protestant Christians of the first circles even boast of their sacrifices to that dreadful devil, and freely encourage others in the hideous and hellish worship.
"Surely, then, it is high time that the Protestant Clergy should cease their eternal wranglings about orthodoxy and doctrinal righteousness, and begin to think of those living, practical duties and virtues on which the very life of humanity depends. They ought, long before now, to have addressed themselves most seriously to grappling and struggling with this monstrous evil. They will have enough to do, we can tell them, to preach a conscience into their people in this matter; for the task is indeed hardly less than to 'create a soul under the ribs of death.' If they cannot blow and feed into a strong flame the few faint embers of moral life that yet live in this behalf, then, most assuredly, their candle-stick will soon be removed out of its place; and the sooner the better. Indeed, that the light of reason and conscience and religion should have so far gone out, under their teachings, in this most vital point, is such a mixture of crime and blunder as we do not well see how they can survive. It almost looks as if not merely one, but all the screws were loose in their cause. It is in marriage and motherhood that the very life of the whole thing is centered. To fail in this is to fail utterly. What saves us here, will needs have, and will deserve to have, possession of the ground. Without this, our doctrinal virtues, and 'vital pieties' are the starkest shams, and putting faith in them is the steepest of heresies. If Protestantism cannot serve us in this behalf, then the days of Protestantism are numbered, and it cannot hasten too swiftly into its grave."
I have selected this from a large number of similar specimens of journalism, because, while it gives such a strong confirmation to my own words, it adopts, from beginning to end, the Jesuit's hint that Protestantism is to be credited with these immoralities. I am no admirer of Sectarian Protestantism, for the whole Reformation owes its arrest and its apparent defeat, to the divisions of the Reformed and to the Sectarian bodies which disfigure and enfeeble modern Protestantism. But, I assert that, with all their faults, Protestant nations are, almost everywhere, comparatively pure, in their social life, if they be contrasted with those nations in which Romanism is supreme. In a word—compare the Northern and Middle States of America, with Brazil, with Mexico, with Italy, with Spain. We are bad enough, but, thank God, the ministers of religion are not our leaders in shameless vice; they do not live in lewdness; they do not afford a spectacle of every form of sensuality and licentiousness, and seduce women and children into the vilest forms of life-long captivity to sin. That such is the moral condition of many Romish countries is too well known to require elaborate illustration; but a public document, lately issued by the government of Brazil, openly sustains these charges, and asserts that the morals of the people cannot be elevated, while their priests afford them an almost universal example of dissolute living.