Re: First German Immigrants in America/Philadelphia

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Posted by Elaine on April 17, 2000 at 00:41:03:

In Reply to: Re: First German Immigrants in America/Philadelphia posted by Goody Sandy on April 16, 2000 at 16:05:47:

: : : : In the American colonies from 1704 until the
: : : : Revolution, public Catholic churches were forbidden. In fact, for about one year services even in homes
: : : : were prohibited by the penal laws legislated against Catholics. The accession of Queen Anne did see
: : : : domestic worship permitted for Catholic colonists. The few priests in English America at that time would
: : : : then either say Mass in their own house chapel or ride about on circuit to various "Mass- houses."

: : : : There was, however, a unique exception to the penal laws--old Saint Joseph's Church in Philadelphia.
: : : : About 1733, Father Joseph Greatin opened a tiny permanent chapel near Fourth and Walnut Streets, the
: : : : only open Catholic church in Great Britain or its American colonies. This was possible due to the
: : : : tolerance of the Philadelphia Quakers who rebuffed persistent complaints. Saint Joseph's Church started
: : : : with a few Irish, English, and German parishioners and grew to a congregation of 1,200 by the time of the
: : : : American Revolution. In writing about the Acadians from Canada, Longfellow depicted Saint Joseph's:
: : : : "Under the humble walls of the little Catholic churchyard,/In the heart of the city they lie, unknown and
: : : : unnoticed."

: : : : During the French and Indian War, strong pressure was put upon the city fathers to close the church.
: : : : This intensified when news was heard of General Braddock's defeat in 1755. The Catholics were said to
: : : : be conspiring with their French coreligionists. Still, the Quakers refused to deny public worship to their
: : : : Catholic fellow citizens. In fact, the structure of Saint Joseph's was enlarged in 1757. And to this day the
: : : : church remains open.

: : : : Maryland had its counterpart to Philadelphia in an illegal church built in 1731 at Newtown in Saint
: : : : Mary's County. Saint Francis Xavier Church was built of wood to somewhat resemble a tobacco barn. It
: : : : is safe to speculate that neighbors were not unaware of its true purpose. As the Revolution neared and
: : : : the French were now allies, a brick front providing a vestibule and choir loft was added. Later a brick
: : : : sacristy and small belfry announced that it was indeed a church. Saint Francis Xavier is presently the
: : : : oldest Catholic church structure still standing in what were the British colonies.

: : : : --Reverend Paul Liston

: : : Hi Elaine:

: : : Thanks for the interesting post about the Catholic Church.

: : : Resistance to the Catholic Church in the colonies during the 18th century is understandable considering the influx of immigrants fleeing the religious genocide in Europe during this time period, and that the Catholic Church was one of the organizations that persecuted those in Europe with non-main stream religious beliefs.

: : : Best wishes,
: : : Goody Sandy

: :
: : Goody S,

: : There was that which you said, but also maybe just as importantly the early colonies were chartered and settled mostly by immigrants from the several countries which had no love for the most Catholic countries of France and Spain or of the Pope for that matter......England, Holland and Scotland.

: : There were, as Elaine has written, some tolerances of religious diversity or even encouragment of catholicism such as in Pennsylvania and Maryland. However, I suspect that the more distant the settlement from the seat of these tolerances, the less acceptance would have been experienced.

: : Bill R

: Hi Bill R:

: My post wasn't meant to imply that this was the one and only reason or even the most important reason for the intolerance of Catholicism in the colonies. There were undoubtedly a number of factors including the one you mentioned. Thanks for your post.

: Best wishes,
: Goody Sandy

Hi Bill & Sandy,

Guess I have to continue this discussion (or I shan't sleep tonight!).

Thanks for your posts & thoughts on the subject of religious tolerance/intolerance in America. Certainly, the ethnic make-up of the majority of 18th century immigrants tells quite a story.
Before one too quickly presumes this or that, however, it is helpful to put aside oft repeated misinformation & examine the historical events that preceded the settlements in America.

While it is true there was an influx of immigrants during the 18th century to the English colonies, as Bill pointed out, they were not departing from Catholic countries, but Protestant countries which completely forbade Catholicism in practice & belief.
The religious genocide had been going on for centuries prior & Europe was thrown into upheaval as far back as the 15th century.
18th century immigration was primarily disempowered protestants fleeing empowered protestants. The Catholic Church was certainly not the catalyst for 18th century emigration.

A century earlier, however, there were French Huegunots fleeing Catholic France (THAT DeMedici woman!) who settled primarily in Dutch New Amsterdam & the Carolinas. These people were Calvinists who fled to Flanders & the New Netherlands prior to settling in N America. New York's Staten Island & western Hudson River region owe much to their presence. (Washington & P Revere were Huegunot descendants.)

In Massachusetts, of course, the original English settlements were made by Puritan separatists & much has been made of their seeking new homes for religious freedom. Unfortunately, this is not an accurate summation. Elizabethan England was wrought with religious persecution & Cromwell's government was a stain upon English law. The Puritans held absolute power in England prior to falling in disfavor. Under Puritan rule (state religion at its ABSOLUTISM finest), England became a nightmare for ALL non-Puritans, especially so for Catholics. (Check out the Penal Codes.)
Once the Anglicans regained power, the party was over. In New England, one would be hard pressed to truly find elements of religious freedom. They didn't exist prior to the founding of Rhode Island.

"In Massachusetts, for successive convictions, a Quaker would suffer the loss of one ear and then the other, the
boring of the tongue with a hot iron, and sometimes eventually death. In Boston three Quaker men and one
woman were hanged. Baptist Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts in 1635 and founded tolerant
Rhode Island. To his credit, he remained tolerant, an exception to the rule, as was William Penn, who was
persecuted by Protestants in England and founded the tolerant colony of Pennsylvania. Quakerism (Penn's faith) has an honorable record of tolerance since, like its predecessor Anabaptism, it is one of the most subjective and individualistic of Protestant sects, and eschews association with the world, whence lies the power necessary to persecute. Thus, Quakers were in the forefront of the abolition movement in
America in the first half of the 19th century."

Maryland was actually the first chartered English colony to offer religious freedom ...

A. Patrick O'Hare (Catholic)

"Catholics . . . were the first in America to proclaim and to practice civil and religious liberty . . . The colony
established by Lord Baltimore in Maryland granted civil and religious liberty to all who professed different beliefs . . . At that very time the Puritans of New England and the Episcopalians of Virginia were busily engaged in persecuting their brother Protestants for consciences' sakes and the former were . . . hanging `witches'."

B. Martin Marty (Protestant)

"Baltimore . . . welcomed, among other English people, even the Catholic-hating Puritans . . . In January of 1691 . . . the new regime brought hard times for Catholics as the Protestants closed their church, forbade them to teach in public . . . but . . . the little outpost of practical Catholic tolerance had
left its mark of promise on the land."

C. John Tracy Ellis (Catholic)

"For the first time in history . . . all churches would be tolerated, and . . . none would be the agent of the government . . . Catholics and Protestants side by side on terms of equality and toleration unknown in the mother country . . . The effort proved vain; for . . . the Puritan element . . . October, 1654, repealed the Act of Toleration and outlawed the Catholics . . . condemning ten of them to death, four of whom were executed . . . From . . . 1718 down to the outbreak of the Revolution, the Catholics of Maryland were cut off from all participation in public life, to say nothing of the enactments against their religious services and . . . schools for Catholic instruction . . . During the half-century the Catholics had governed Maryland they had not been guilty of a single act of religious oppression."

D. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Protestant)

"In the 17th century the most notable instances of practical toleration were the colonies of Maryland,founded by Lord Baltimore in 1632 for persecuted Catholics, which offered asylum
also to Protestants, and of Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams."

"Stories of Protestant intolerance in America prior to 1789 could be multiplied indefinitely. Jefferson and Madison,
in pushing for complete religious freedom, were reacting primarily to these inter-Protestant wars for dominance, not the squabbles of post-Reformation Europe."

The English colonies went far beyond resistance to Catholicism & it was not persecution, but hatred, that motivated the laws of colonial America. It was not the Catholic Church persecuting 18th century Englishmen, nor was New World settlement a fall out of Catholic aggression.

Another consideration; we do tend to judge yesterday by the standards of our own time & place. It doesn't work. To expect the European nations of centuries past to reflect a democratic/pluralistic modern America is unrealistic. None of these nations could even conceive of such a notion as religious tolerance as we understand (or misunderstand) the term today. They were basically either confessional states or nations of state religion. Also, to understand European & subsequent colonial history, one must remember the entire continent was once Catholic.
Defense & revolution are two different things.

The reason I posted about the Quakers in Philadelphia was to praise the admirable actions taken as they were an abnomaly to their time & place. To understand America's colonial period, you have to look first at Europe's rather complex conflicts.

Doncha just LOVE history!

Please don't interpret this post as a dissertation on religion! It is intended only to be viewed within an historical framework as it pertains to the colonization of America.

For a look at the background of earlier European religious climates use the link below.


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