Religious Liberties: Anti-Catholicism and Liberal Democracy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture

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In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, U.S. literary and cultural productions often presented Catholicism not only as a threat to Protestantism but also as an enemy of democracy. Focusing on representations of the Catholic as a political force, Elizabeth Fenton argues that U.S. understandings of religious freedom grew partly, and paradoxically, out of a virulent anti-Catholicism. Depictions of Catholicism's imagined intolerance and cruelty allowed U.S. writers time and again to depict their nation as tolerant and free. As Religious Liberties shows, anti-Catholicism particularly shaped U.S. conceptions of pluralism and its relationship to issues as diverse as religious privacy, territorial expansion, female citizenship, political representation, chattel slavery, and governmental partisanship. Religious Liberties examines a wide range of materials-from the Federalist Papers to antebellum biographies of Toussaint Louverture; from nativist treatises to Margaret Fuller's journalism; from convent exposes to novels by Charles Brockden Brown, Catharine Sedgwick, Augusta J. Evans, Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Henry Adams, and Mark Twain-to excavate anti-Catholicism's influence on both the liberal tradition and early U.S. culture. In concert, these texts reveal that Anti-Catholicism facilitated an alignment of U.S. nationalism with Protestantism. Religious Liberties shows that this alignment ultimately has ensured the mutual dependence, rather than the separation we so often take for granted, of church and state.