Skip to comments.In 150 year old case, Rhode Island confronts its anti-Catholic past
Posted on 05/12/2011 2:26:21 PM PDT by NYer
.- Rhode Island lawmakers voted last week to pardon an Irish Catholic man they say was wrongfully executed in 1845. The decision closes an ugly chapter in the long history of discrimination against Catholics in the U.S.
Anti-Catholicism was certainly one of the first religious prejudices brought to the new world, and it became widespread in the 19th century, according to Nancy Schultz, Ph.D of Salem State University in Massachusetts.
Schultz was commenting on the May 4 decision by the Rhode Island legislature to pardon John Gordon a 29 year-old Irish immigrant who was hanged for a murder many say he didn't commit.
Gordon was convicted in 1843 and executed two years later for allegedly killing a wealthy Rhode Island mill owner who had political connections.
Historians now believe that the evidence against Gordon was tainted and indicative of widespread discrimination against Irish Catholics. During trial, witnesses failed to positively identify Gordon and a judge instructed jurors to take Yankee witnesses more seriously than Irish ones.
Catholics had difficulty getting a fair trial in New England during the nineteenth century, said Schultz in a May 10 interview.
Schultz is an authority in English and American Literature and is author of several books on historical religious discrimination in America.
Her new book, Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle, (Yale, $30) traces how the more tolerant Maryland tradition in the nations capital of accepting Catholicism during the 1820s began to decline into full-fledged, New England-style anti-Catholicism.
She told CNA that from 1830 to 1860 in particular, movements such as the Protestant Crusade attempted to stop the spread of Catholicism in the United States.
Schultz pointed to examples of public discrimination against Catholics such as the case involving arsonists who burned down a Massachusetts convent in 1834. The trials, she said, were an occasion for anti-Catholic mockery.
When the mob leaders who destroyed the Charlestown convent were acquitted, there was great rejoicing in the streets of Boston.
Schultz also noted that Gordons hanging in 1845 came just nine years before a gift of a block of marble from Pope Pius IX for the construction of the Washington Monument was thrown into the Potomac River by members of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing party.
She explained that large numbers of Irish fleeing economic turmoil in nineteenth-century Ireland and immigrating to America helped give rise to the nativist, or Know-Nothing party, which rose to national prominence in the mid 19th century.
The name came from the response of members of this anti-Catholic secret society. When asked about their activities, they would say, 'I know nothing.'
Schultz said that the Ku Klux Klan and the American Protective Association were 20th century remnants of the Know Nothing Party.
Today, fear of immigrants and the attempts to legislate restriction of languages other than English have their origins in this history, she said.
Schultz explained that the roots of anti-Catholicism in the U.S. can be traced back to the Puritans, who came to New England several centuries ago.
The Puritans would burn effigies of the Pope in the streets on Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, when the Catholic Fawkes was arrested for placing explosives under the House of Lords in England, she said.
In 1775, George Washington ordered the practice to be stopped.
When do we get our reparations?
Did somebody grant that woman a degree from a university?
I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Well, you’l have to admit that ol’gal uses English badly doesn’t she?
Actually, Mr. Columbus was sailing under Catholic colors. Anti-Catholicism, according to this article, would be more appropriately said to have begun with the Puritans.
In the 19th century you find America receiving huge numbers of immigrants from the European famines. To the degree Nativist sentiments suggested a higher level of risk than ordinarily believed from allowing Catholics into the country, I suppose there was some degree of anti-Catholicism already present.
The history books were clear, though, NO FORCED CONVERSIONS were required of the immigrants. Kind of a new sort of approach to penniless refugees. Latin countries were far less receptive to these folks ~ even the Catholics.
There's a strong tendency on the part of academics with less than sterling credentials to impute anti-Catholicism to nationalist impulses ~ ain't nothin' new in that.
Sometimes they impute racism to the situation.
Finally, the Puritans were a small minority in a great sea of all sorts of folks from all over the place ~ many of them still pagan!
Their early and frequent use of the printing press gives them an apparent strength the reality would not support.
We knew that was coming, in fact it is probably the reason the book was written in the first place.
After Menéndez had signed a contract with the Crown for his colonization effort, the Spanish discovered that Huguenots Protestant settlers from France had already set up a settlement on the Florida coast. In 1565 Menéndez, arriving with colonists and soldiers from Spain, oversaw an attack on the French settlement and coolly ordered the slaying of most of the male colonists, in part out of anti-Protestant zealotry.
Philip II, the Spanish monarch who also ruled the powerful Hapsburg empire, later voiced approval of the executions less because the Huguenots were colonial rivals than because they were, in Philips eyes, religious heretics.
Hahahaha!! let’s start talking about the catholic church persecutions
Hahahaha!! let’s start talking about the catholic church and it’s involvements with forced conversions!!
Then there was the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, when as many as 30,000 Huguenots (Protestants) were slaughtered in France. Many of the surviving Protestants fled with only the clothes on their backs, and they or their descendants settled in England, Prussia, South Africa, and the American colonies. In each of those places, they contributed powerfully to the economy and culture. For instance, the founder of Du Pond was a Huguenot.
Oops. Make that Du Pont, the chemical manufacturer.
Thank God for the people that founded the United States of America, the greatest nation ever created.
Amen, and Amen!
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Bible Battles: King James vs. the Puritans
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Bounty of Freedom [Puritans, Yankees, the Constitution, and Libertarianism]
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I have always heard the protestants were crusading against slavery in that time frame. Maybe hindsight isn't always that good...revisionism anyone?
The Spanish printed and distributed catechisms much earlier, and were also more “inculturated” - that is, they accepted some harmless customs but not others (such as polygamy, or a particularly violent game that Florida natives played and which resulted in numerous deaths every time they played it). They were doing quite well among the Indians until the British from SC and Georgia attacked them (for harboring escaped African slaves) and destroyed St Augustine and the entire mission chain, killing the Indians and mission priests in the course of this. The British also enslaved between 10,000 and 13,000 Indians, sending most of them off to work in British Caribbean sugar plantations and mills.
When it was clear that Florida was going to become part of the US, and then when it became a territory, one of the first stated objectives of Andrew Jackson (who had already attacked it several times) was to de-Hispanicize and de-Catholicize it.
The Indians left for Cuba with the Spanish when the Florida was handed over to the US, because they would have been enslaved otherwise. Blacks also left, although Thomas Jefferson around 1811-1812 had forced the Spanish to stop accepting and freeing runaway slaves. Spanish Florida had a large black Catholic population which, like its Catholic Indian population, was a target for British-descended Southerners.
The Irish, of course, married anybody who was Catholic, so they could be Irish-Spanish, Irish-Indian, or Irish-African. But whatever they were, the British-descended Protestants hated them and tried to wipe them out.
This happened in both Florida and California. There was definitely racism involved, and there is no way of denying the anti-Catholicism.
As for the Puritans, they came here to set up a Utopian community that for most of us would have been like living with Jim Jones or some flake waiting on a hilltop for the Rapture. But in virtually no time at all, they had their first rebellions (by people in the group, such as Roger Williams) and were forced to abandon some of their exclusivity and cultishness. It’s a pity that the descendants of the Puritans ended up being....ta da...UU’s (Unitarian-Universalists), and that’s only on a good day. The rest of the time they are flat out Marxist secularists.
I know many UU’s and they’re very sweet and clueless. But it’s odd that such a rigorist cult should have ended up with such descendants, ranging from the spineless to people who would gladly clap you into a “reschooling” program at the local concentration camp.
I was not trying to be arch or smarmy. I can, however, say that I understand what you’re saying. History does record, elsewhere, the comings and goings of various anti-this and anti-that groups. My family, on one side, is Melungeon and Cherokee. To further confuse things, on the other side, Scottish and Swedish. Racism and religious persecution happened, even here. The more important fact, is that we, as a country, largely got over all of that garbage. And really, without any desire to sound snide or silly, all of us, you, me, and others, could stand to get over it. You are here. As am I. We live in the greatest country the world has ever known. The fact that the past has blemishes does not remove the beauty of the land we live in.