Term Paper: How Were Catholics Treated Socially Economically and Politically in the Period Between 1865 and 1895?

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Catholics in America:

During the period in American history just before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the United States was experiencing great change in its social, political and economic arenas, due mostly to the continuing expansion westward beyond the Mississippi River. This new territory was already inhabited by thousands of Catholics, mainly of Mexican descent, but much of the territory was completely unsettled and wild and was peopled by Native American Indian tribes. With new immigrants coming into the United States "at a rate of some two million every ten years from countries such as Ireland, France, Spain, Italy and Central Europe, the Catholic population exploded and was to serve as the basis for much social and political trouble in the future" (Evanston 45).

The majority of immigrants that flocked into the Unites States before and during the Civil War (1861 to 1865) were for the most part poor and uneducated, having suffered terribly from discrimination and bigotry in their countries of origin. Circa 1865, these immigrants were mostly Irish; in fact, "Irish immigration was the main cause for the increase in the Catholic population from about half a million in 1860 to over three million after the Civil War" (Thomas 56), making Catholicism the largest denomination in the U.S. Another wave of immigrants, from about 1865 to 1890, brought German Catholics in numbers about equal to that of the Irish immigrants. The third wave, from about 1890 to 1900, came from Italy and Eastern Europe and due to their inability to speak English, most of them were forced to live in extreme poverty within the major cities like Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City.

In addition, these Catholics were faced with other problems, such as extreme prejudice, bigotry and religious discrimination which highly affected their overall social, political and economic lives. One special group, although not of the Catholic faith, was the European Jewish immigrants, "refugees who were... desperately eager to become Americans, although... they retained and nurtured much of their traditional culture" (Carnes 641) which inevitably led to this group being harassed and ridiculed for their religious differences. This is a good symbol of how Catholics were also ridiculed for their religious beliefs, especially in the eyes of the Protestants living in the Unites States, especially along the Eastern Seaboard. In essence, "the Protestant majority treated 'new' immigrants as underlings, tried to keep them out of the best jobs (even despite having superior artistic skills), and discouraged their efforts to climb the social ladder" (Carnes 643).

Anti-Catholic bigotry, although lessened by the bravery and sacrifices of certain Catholic patriots during the American Revolution, surfaced from about 1830 to the Civil War and then periodically into the late 1890's. As the number of Catholics increased in the U.S., the English-speaking Protestant majority became afraid the of Catholic immigrants. The Irish Catholics that poured into the cities in the East were the hardest hit, for they took on hard jobs and were forced economically to live in squalor and poverty. Rumors then began to spread that the Catholic immigrants were conspiring to take over the U.S., and eventually, anti-Catholic sentiments developed into a political party called the "Know Nothing Party." As Mark C. Carnes points out, "many...Americans concluded wrongly... that the new immigrants were incapable of becoming good citizens and should be kept out" (642) which only led to increased the bigotry and hatred toward the Catholics.

Immigrant men from these various ethnic groups were greatly affected by all of this discrimination in the areas of social acceptance, economic gain and political standing. As laborers, they worked hard and long with little pay. In places called "sweatshops," the immigrants worked under horrible and unhealthy conditions, and if they attempted to join a union for protection, they were often fired or even killed. By 1886, "a union known as the Knights of Labor had grown to 700,000 members, many of whom were Catholic" (Evanston 89). When some bishops attempted to get the Knights condemned by the Vatican, Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore wrote to Pope Leo XIII and then journeyed to Rome on the Knight's behalf. Not too long after… [END OF PREVIEW]

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How Were Catholics Treated Socially Economically and Politically in the Period Between 1865 and 1895?.  (2005, January 24).  Retrieved July 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/catholics-treated-socially-economically/7971997

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"How Were Catholics Treated Socially Economically and Politically in the Period Between 1865 and 1895?."  24 January 2005.  Web.  24 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/catholics-treated-socially-economically/7971997>.

Chicago Format

"How Were Catholics Treated Socially Economically and Politically in the Period Between 1865 and 1895?."  Essaytown.com.  January 24, 2005.  Accessed July 24, 2019.