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Mass Meeting in Union-Square, New York

The Illustrated London News, vol. 38, no. 1089, p. 467.

May 18, 1861


A Monster meeting in support of the Government in the present crisis of the nation was held in New York on Saturday, the 20th ult. Such a demonstration had never before been witnessed in the United States. A series of resolutions were proposed and unanimously adopted pledging the meeting to use every means to preserve the Union intact and inviolate, and agreeing to the appointment of a committee of twenty-five to represent the city in the collection of funds and the transaction of such other business in aid of the Government as the public interests may require. The following description of the meeting is given by the Times correspondent at New York:—"Early in the morning a Massachusetts regiment arrived, and was hurried on towards Philadelphia amid the cheers of the excited crowd. None seemed disposed to attend to any business except his country's. The ensigns that the day before waved from the flagstaffs of the principal buildings seemed in the night to have blossomed out into thousands of smaller starspangled banners, hanging from the windows and doors of almost every house and shop in the town. Nearly every man wore a Union badge of the red, white, and blue of the flag upon his breast. Most of the ladies as well wore cravats or badges of the same loyal colours. While the shops and the counting-rooms were deserted, the corners of the streets and the neighbourhood of the newspaper-offices were crowded with people anxious for the latest news from the South, for there were rumours, which were confirmed later in the day, that the railway-bridges between here and Baltimore were burnt, and communication with the capital cut off. At two o'clock the current began to move up town. The great Union meeting took place in Union-square at three o'clock. I have seen many large popular gatherings in Europe—the opening of the Great Exhibition, its closing days; the funeral of the Duke of Wellington; the fête of the Eagles in Paris, for instance—but I have never seen elsewhere so great, so orderly, or so earnest a crowd as that of Saturday in Union-square. The people of this great town were there in full force, realising the emergency, and ready to maintain the Union that has made New York what it is. Their patriotism and enthusiasm forced on their leaders, and drew from two at least who are known to have been Secessionists within three weeks, strong Union speeches, in favour of immediate and vigorous war. There were several stands for speakers erected in different parts of the square (which is half the size of Eaton-square), and there was speaking from all of them, as well as from several extemporised tribunes in the adjacent streets; and Major Anderson was there-a more exciting speech than anything any orator could say."

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