An influx of around five million primarily Irish and German immigrants to the United States in the forty year period between 1820 and 1860 led to the rise of extreme anti-immigrant and xenophobic political ideas (Navarro).
Most of these immigrants were Catholics, which resulted in an increase in Catholic Numbers to over three million people attending more than two thousand Catholic Churches.
This rise in Catholic numbers came at a time when the various Protestant Churches in the United States were engaged in bitter disputes over theological issues and such matters as temperance, the abolition of slavery and the rights of women (Navarro).
Catholic people were portrayed as unpatriotic having their primary allegiance a foreign power i.e. the Vatican. Nativist pamphleteers wrote of a vast Catholic conspiracy to take over the United States, which was headed by the Pope and was being carried out by increasing Catholic migration to the United States and by placing Catholics in high positions in the government and the armed forces (Navarro).
Nativist’s published fantastic stories of monetary and sexual impropriety on the part of Priests and Nuns. Books like ‘The Awful Disclosures’ by Maria Monk, purportedly the work of a former nun, alleged that it was considered a part of the Nun’s duty to sexually satisfy the higher ups in the priestly hierarchy, that young nuns were kept in sexual bondage by the priests and the products of their illegitimate and sacrilegious unions were killed and disposed off soon after birth (Navarro).
The ‘Native American Association’ formed in 1837, lobbied the lawmakers to introduce increased restrictions to immigration such as lengthening the naturalization period and placing immigration taxes upon each immigrant (Navarro).
The fight against immigration was often led by protestant clergymen, one such clergyman was the Reverend William C. Brownlee, the head of the New York Protestant association, who 1941 started putting out an anti-immigration and anti-catholic newspaper named ‘The American Protestant Vindicator’ in collaboration with the Reverend George Bourne (Navarro).
The Maclay Education Bill, which enabled local schools to select their own text books, resulted in greater anti-immigrant and anti-catholic reaction as school administrations reacted to what they saw as increasing Catholic influence with more and more stringent anti catholic measures (Navarro).
In 1842 a group of a hundred Protestant clergymen marched in Philadelphia near Catholic Churches. In 1843, the American Republican Party won the New York City elections on a Nativistic platform. The part proposed that congress extend the naturalization period from five to twenty one years. In 1844 widespread anti-Catholic riots broke out in Philadelphia. Irish immigrants defending themselves against mob violence were portrayed as looters in newspapers (Navarro).
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