Philadelphia, July 26th, 1797. THOMAS CUMPSTON
The subscribers of the foregoing address were the same with those which have subscribed this representation and petition to the Legislature.
On the subject of the foregoing address the Common Council of the city have determined, "That being strongly impressed with the laudable design of the petitioners, the existence of the evil complained of, and its pernicious effects, they have given all the consideration in their power to the representations of the petitioners, and lament that while they have every inclination to afford the relief prayed for, they feel themselves wanting in the power."
The address to the Magistrate was as follows: "To the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Magistrates of the city and liberties of Philadelphia.
The memorial and representation of a committee appointed by delegates of the churches and congregations of Christ Church, St. Peter's, St. Paul's, the German Lutheran, German Reformed, Methodist, Third Presbyterian, Catholic, St. Mary's, Baptist, Associate, Free Quakers, Scotch Presbyterian, African, Second Presbyterian, Moravian and Swedes, worshipping Almighty God in the city and liberties aforesaid, RESPECTFULLY SHEWETH,
That the different churches, and religious societies whom they represent are greatly aggrieved and distressed by the numerous and flagrant violations of an existing law of this state, made for the suppression of vice and immorality.
Your memorialists state that, in direct transgression of the said law, the public stages do constantly enter and depart from this city as freely and frequently on the Lord's day as on any other day of the week, to the general disturbance and shameful violation of the religious rest to which that day is consecrated, and even to the interruption of the worship of God in several public assemblies near which the said stages pass:
That numerous other carriages of every description, by going from and returning to the city on said day, do also interrupt many of the assemblies for religious worship, and convert the city into a scene of incessent noise, confusion and disorder:
That amendments have been publicly advertised for the Lord's day and admission to them offered at a reduced price, with a view to entice the young and unthinking to violate their duty both to God and man:
That children and youth are allowed to engage in the public streets and on the commons near the city in the most boisterous and unlawful sports and diversions, to use the most prophane and unseemly language, and by going into the river to bathe near one of the assemblies for religious worship, not only to offend against all law, but to disregard and violate all the sentiments of decency, and to bring reproach on the manners and civilization of the city.
That houses of ill-fame and places of lewd resort are permitted to exist, with a publicity that is alike injurious to the virtue and disgraceful to the character of our city:
That many taverns and other places of public entertainment, by keeping open house on the Lord's day, and at other times by permitting unlawful games, riotous practices, and drinking to intoxication, trangress the design of their license, essentially injure the morals of the community, and greatly disturb the peace of the inhabitants:
Your memorialists are at a loss to conceive how these and many other contraventions and evasions of the act for the prevention of vice and immorality, (passed by the legislature of the state, shortly after our city had been delivered from that awful visitation of heaven, by which thousands were suddenly swept into eternity) can have passed unnoticed and unpunished by those who are set to enforce the laws. Your memorialists cannot conceive that it is reasonable to expect that private individuals should incur the odium and the persecution resulting from becoming informers, in regard to actions which are so public
that no eye can avoid beholding them, and so offensive that they force themselves on the notice of every sense and feeling. To refuse, in such cases as these, to execute the law, unless individuals become informers and prosecutors, will ever prove in effect an evasion of it.
Your memorialists state these facts and sentiments to the magistrates of the city and liberties, with the most unreserved freedom - not from any want of respect to their persons and offices, but because the nature and importance of the subject forbids them to present it in any equivocal language, or under any indecisive aspect. The enormities are notorious and disgraceful, and in every lawful way we are determinately set on obtaining their suppression and removal. We speak in behalf of that part of the community (it is not vanity to assert it) which best deserves encouragement and protection; and we confidently trust that the justice of our cause will induce the guardians of the city to pursue such active and vigorous measures as will speedily remove the evils of which we complain.
That a written answer to this address should be returned by the magistrates was, from the nature of the case, not to be expected. But your petitioners are assured by the committee who presented it, that the mayor of the city, after expressing it as his sincere and strong desire that he might be instrumental in suppressing the disorders which form the subject of complaint, and after consulting the recorder on the nature and extent of the law by which his agency was to be directed and sanctioned, had stated to the committee that the said law was, in several respects, greatly defective.
On the whole, then, it appears by what your petitioners have now submitted to the legislature, that the corporation of the city esteem their powers insufficient to authorize the religious assemblies to extend chains across the streets, during the hours of worship on the Lord's day; and that the magistrates find themselves circumscribed in their endeavours to prevent and punish vice and disorder, by the imperfections of the law under which they are called to act.
Your petitioners, therefore, most earnestly entreat the legislature of the State, either to pass an act immediately granting to the religious societies the right to protect themselves from disturbance, and interruption by the method already specified, or else so to enlarge the powers of the city corporation, as that this privilege may be granted by them. The justice and propriety of such a measure your petitioners believe to be fully and incontrovertibly shown in their representation to the corporation already recited; and this idea, it will be observed, is recognized and acknowledged in the answer of the common council.