Fear of the Immigrants: Repetitions in History

Decades ago, being an immigrant Irish Catholic to the United States was difficult. Even in Quaker Philadelphia, anti-Catholicism was virulent. To Protestants there and elsewhere, Catholicism was a vile; corrupt religion that was hostile to democracy.

They had a point about the democracy part. Pope Pius IX, ruling from 1846 to 1878, was hostile to democratic movements, in Europe and abroad. – Pontiffs tend to favour systems of rigid hierarchical rule. As also today with other ‘pontiffs’.

Americans come to the conclusion that if the Irish are allowed to prosper and grow, they will eventually take over the political apparatus. They will install a despotic theocratic state, ruled by the Pope that will persecute Protestants.

One Philadelphia Nativist writer describes this scenario in an 1855 pamphlet published by the Know Nothing (officially, the American) Party:

“Our opposition to political Romanism is open and avowed and is based, as we conceive, on the purest principles of national conservatism.  We do preach a crusade against the bigots who have invaded our soil…and [who] already boast that by increasing the numbers of Irish immigrants, they will soon overturn the principle of toleration in this country and by the horrors of religious persecution, reduce us to subjection to Catholic Rome.”

Today, there are other victims…


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