Tuesday, January 06, 2009

American Protective Association Foxboro 1895

The American Protective Association was founded in 1887 by Attorney Henry F. Bowers in Clinton, Iowa. The A.P.A's goals included restricting Catholic immigration, making use of English a prerequisite to American citizenship, removing Catholic teachers from public schools and banning Catholics from public offices. The A.P.A. sponsored traveling lecturers, some of them ex-Catholic priests, to espouse its cause.
The secret oath taken by A.P.A members included the phrase, "...I furthermore promise and swear that I will not countenance the nomination, in any caucus or convention, of a Roman Catholic for any office in the gift of the American people, and that I will note vote for, or counsel others to vote for, any Roman Catholic, but will vote only for a Protestant, so far as may lie in my power."

In Massachusetts the A.P.A. was very active in Boston and several outlying towns, including Foxboro. In January 1895, Mr. E. H. Dunbar of the "Supreme Council" of the American Protective Association was invited to speak at the "Patriotic" rally held in the town hall. According to the Foxboro Reporter the rally was attended by a crowd that filled the hall to its utmost capacity. "The platform was decked in the national colors, and the altar in front was draped with the American flag, upon which rested the Holy Bible."
Dunbar was quoted stating, "The A.P.A. is organized to protect the flag, the school, and all our glorious institutions against the assaults of the Roman Hierarchy...that the religion of Roman Catholics is a gigantic political scheme as now conducted in this country...that if the Pope should curse the United States, every Roman Catholic is absolved from his allegiance to the United States...for as long as Catholics owe a higher allegiance to a foreigner, they are unfit for public office in America."
Joining Dunbar on the platform were the ministers from the Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and Universalist churches. The Episcopal minister refused to attend. When asked to answer why he was not on the platform with the other Protestant ministers, Rev. Horace Hall Buck answered the question in a Sunday sermon titled "Religious Toleration V.S. the Principles of the American Protective Association." Rev. Buck stated that he could not endorse the methods of the A.P.A. because, "...The principles of the Association if successful would overthrow the foundations of our government and would threaten the life of our country, especially if their members are determined not to vote for any man who is a Roman Catholic, for any office. Did you not hear the scurrilous names which were given to the whole Roman priesthood that evening or the sneers at the reverence of the Roman Catholic Pope?"

The following week an unsigned letter in response to Rev. Buck's explanation was published in the Reporter. The author wrote, "The Roman Catholic never recognized any authority above the Pope; therefore they should never hold office, nor vote, in this country, until they renounce his authority."

Several weeks later a second A.P.A. rally was held again in the town hall. Rev. Scott F. Hershey of Boston delivered a lecture titled "Jesuit Rule and Ruin in Washington." He stated the "...tendency of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and Papacy is to lead us back into the Dark Ages, and to the tyranny of that power in terrorizing the present age by its bigotry, ignorance, and superstition that always rules where the papacy has full control." Hershey told the audience he "...hoped the day would soon come when every state would have laws requiring the opening of every convent or nunnery to public official inspection...that Roman Catholics can no longer afford to be slaves of their priests."

After this meeting the Reporter published a letter signed by William E, Shannessy. "The Catholic Church claims to be the only true church, and to them is due all the advancement for the improvement of Mankind. Does not their claim seem ambiguous, when we see such specimens of manhood that come to us from foreign countries where they have had control since the Christian era, and the nearer to the Vatican the more ignorant." A second letter signed by "An American Protestant" stated, "So many young Catholic born Americans have broken away from their Church...they are to an extent, the hoodlums of our towns and cities and fill our jails and prisons, seemingly fearing neither God nor man."

In July 1895, Rev. Joseph Slattery, a former Catholic priest, who became a Baptist minister was invited to speak at another "Patriotic Rally" held at the Town Hall. Slattery and his wife, known as "Sister Mary Elizabeth in the Convent" had recently returned from delivering lectures in Waco, Texas and Savannah, Georgia. Slattery was nationally known for his flamboyant, tell-all, "For Men Only" lecture while dressed in his former Catholic vestments. His lectures were mainly accusations against the Roman Catholic Church and its "Romish conspiracy."

Slattery’s lecture was titled, "Satolli, The American Pope, or Rome's Attitude Toward Liberty, As Exemplified by the Savannah Riot." He stated that Cardinal Satolli, the Vatican Papal Delegate who was visiting the United States at the time "...had left seventy-five percent of the people of his own country (Italy) an illiterate mass of beings, and came over to America to teach you and I how to educate our children." Summarizing his theme Slattery said, "I do not object to a Roman Catholic because he is Catholic, but because he bows in allegiance to a foreign potentate, and makes the will of the Pope first, his country second, and while this is the case he is not worthy to hold public office."

Slattery was so well received by the audience that several weeks later he returned to Foxboro accompanied by his wife to present three more lectures. Rev. Slattery's "For Men Only" topics were "Why I Left The Roman Catholic Priesthood and What I Saw Therein," and "The Secret Theology of the Confessional." The lecture of his wife, Sister Mary Elizabeth in the Convent, "For Ladies Only" was titled, "Secrets of Nuns, and the Confessional Exposed."

At its height in 1896, the APA claimed 2,500,000 members. But the loss of prestige due to several notable embarrassments in national politics, coupled with local councils increasingly failing to meet and the state organizations becoming inactive, by 1900 the American Protective Association ceased to exist.


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