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Citizens or Papists?

The Politics of Anti-Catholicism in New York, 1685-1821

Dean Duncan

Publication Year: 2005

Based on careful work with rare archival sources, this book fills a gap in the history of New York Catholicism by chronicling anti-Catholic feeling in pre-Revolutionary and early national periods. Colonial New York, despite its reputation for pluralism, tolerance, and diversity, was also marked by severe restrictions on religious and political liberty for Catholics. The logic of the American Revolution swept away the religious barriers, but Anti-Federalists in the 1780s enacted legislation preventing Catholics from holding office and nearly succeeded in denying them the franchise. The latter effort was blocked by the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, who saw such things as an impediment to a new, expansive nationalist politics. By the early years of the nineteenth century, Catholics gained the right to hold office due to their own efforts in concert with an urban-based branch of the Republicans, which included radical exiles from Europe. With the contributions of Catholics to the War of 1812 and the subsequent collapse of the Federalist Party, by 1820 Catholics had become a key part of the triumphant Republican coalition, which within a decade would become the new Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.Jason K. Duncan is Assistant Professor of History at Aquinas College.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-xii

With so much thanks to give, I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to my many outstanding teachers, beginning with those at St. Catherine of Siena School and Christian Brothers Academy in Albany. Special thanks go to Bernie Lammers and Ruth Kreuzer of St. Lawrence University and Richard Stites of Georgetown University...

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pp. xiii-xviii

The relationship between Catholicism and republicanism in the United States is long and complicated, and current historians are reconsidering it in light of their own experiences and with the questions they bring to the subject...

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Prologue: ‘‘Disorder to None But Papists’’: Leisler’s Rebellion and the Making of Anti- Catholicism in Colonial New York

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pp. 1-18

In the spring of 1691, English authorities in New York City executed Jacob Leisler and Jacob Milbourne for the crime of treason. Leisler, born in Frankfurt, had come in about 1660 to what was then New Amsterdam, the capital city of the Dutch colony in North America. He was the leader of a party that had claimed...

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Chapter 1: ‘‘The Hand of Popery in this Hellish Conspiracy’’: The Legacy of Anti-Catholicism in Colonial New York

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pp. 19-29

After the departure of Catholic officials in the wake of Leisler’s Rebellion, the small Catholic population that lived in the province was scattered and unorganized. Fear of Catholicism, in the context of England’s rivalry with France and Spain...

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Chapter 2: ‘The Encouragement Popery Had Met With’’: Catholics and Religious Liberty in Revolutionary New York

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pp. 30-53

The legacy of anti-Catholicism in New York became evident in an early republican political club that became prominent late in the colonial period. One of the leading factions in the province was comprised in part of Anglicans, and their opponents included many dissenting Protestants. The latter had historically...

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Chapter 3: ‘No Foreign Ecclesiastical Authority’’: Catholics and Republican Citizenship

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pp. 54-80

Despite their sudden gain of religious liberty, New York Catholics remained concerned about their status as citizens of the new republic. Soon after the Americans reclaimed Manhattan from the departed British forces after their long occupation in late 1783, the ‘‘Roman Catholic Inhabitants of the City of New York...

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Chapter 4: ‘‘Federalists and Tories Carrying Everything With A High Hand’’: Catholics and the Politics of the 1790s

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pp. 81-108

That Catholics in New York had determined that their political interests at the outset of the republic governed by the new Constitution lay with the federal government, and not with the state of New York, was evident at the ceremonies marking the inauguration of George Washington as the first president...

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Chapter 5: ‘‘In All Countries Such Distinctions Are Odious: In None More So Than This’’: Political Equality in the Early Republic

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pp. 109-132

The 1800 elections did not mean an end to the tensions between the triumphant Republicans and their potential Catholic allies. Dennis Driscol, a former Catholic priest from Ireland, was a United Irishman who fought against British rule in the 1790s...

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Chapter 6: ‘‘A Middle Party?’’: Catholics and Republican Nationalism

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pp. 133-160

As the only Catholic Church among the many houses of worship in New York City, St. Peter’s had enjoyed two decades of general peace since its founding in the 1780s. That period of quietude was interrupted quite suddenly at Christmas in 1806. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in the nineteenth century...

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Chapter 7: ‘‘The Great Chain of National Union’’: Catholics and the Republican Triumph

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pp. 161-188

In a brief summary of the history of Catholicism in New York, written in 1810 by an anonymous writer in a distinctly self-congratulatory tone, the ambiguous political status of Catholics in the state went unmentioned. The occasion was the printing of a second edition (the first was published in 1744) of Judge Daniel Horsmanden’s...

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Conclusion: ‘‘A Most Democratic and Republican Class’’

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pp. 189-196

A decade after the New York Constitutional Convention of 1821, the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville began his tour of the United States. His itinerary in New York State included New York City and Albany, where Catholics had established their first churches...


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pp. 197-224


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pp. 225-244


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pp. 245-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247578
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823225125
Print-ISBN-10: 0823225127

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholic Church -- New York (State) -- History.
  • New York (State) -- Church history.
  • Christianity and politics -- New York (State).
  • Anti-Catholicism -- New York (State) -- History.
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