Religious Liberties and Anti-Catholicism



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Paul Harvey

A few days ago, I posted some bibliographic suggestions, from H-AMREL, for studies of early and more contemporary anti-Catholicism. Tracy Fessenden subsequently sent me a note about a forthcoming book from Oxford by Elizabeth Fenton (coming out in 2010 or thereabouts, I believe), which appears among other things to be a synthesis of much of this work, and something that many of you will look forward to. It reminds me of a more literary, American Studies take on some of the arguments Philip Hamburger proposed in Separation of Church and State. Anyway, for your interest, here's a precis and an appetizer:

Religious Liberties examines the anti-Catholicism’s seminal importance to the liberal democratic tradition in the United States. Charting the echoes of the Continental Congress’s early characterization of Catholicism as “dangerous in an extreme degree… to the civil rights and liberties of all America” through literary and political texts of the nineteenth century, this book argues that the rhetoric of pluralism so central to U.S. liberal democracy emerged in tandem with a discourse that characterized the U.S. as “free” by placing it at odds with the Catholic. The book begins by arguing that late-colonial responses to the toleration of Catholicism in Quebec laid the groundwork for an anti-Catholic liberalism and then goes on in its chapters to show how such anti-Catholicism structured early national novels concerned with territorial expansion, literary and political responses to the Mexican War, debates over women’s suffrage, antebellum colonization schemes, and late-nineteenth-century critiques of political corruption. Religious Liberties aims to illuminate the ways in which a variety of texts from the early and nineteenth-century U.S. aligned the nation with Protestantism and thereby ensured the mutual dependence, rather than the “separation” we so often take for granted, of church and state.

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