19th Century Nativism
Eric W. Treene
treene at BECKETFUND.ORG
Thu Nov 5 10:04:45 PST 1998
I agree with Rick Garnett that the sectarian strife of the 19th century was not
as balanced as some posts have suggested. For example, in Massachusetts in the
early 1850's, when its Anti-Aid Amendment was passed, all members of the
Massachusetts Senate and all but four members of the Massachusetts House of
Representatives were members of the Know-Nothing Party. The governor, Henry J.
Gardner, was also a member.
It was the Catholics in Boston who were subjected to intimidating torchlight
marches through their neighborhoods, who had their churches burned and raided,
and who saw their children beaten by teachers for refusing to read from the King
James Bible. Your average Boston Catholic probably didn't keep track of the
Vatican's views on the enlightenment too closely, but he knew hate when it looked
him in the eye.
Organized nativist groups operated throughout the country in the 19th
century. While certainly there was unrest by Catholics as well (the Philadelphia
Bible riots come to mind), in an era where joining anti-Catholic groups was not
only socially acceptable but often a prerequisite for political office, and where
the power of the state was used to carry out anti-Catholic agendas, it is hard to
see the issue as one where all sides are equally to blame.
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