Many Americans believed Italians to be racially inferior, their difference made visible by their "swarthy" or "brown" skins. They were often portrayed as primitive, violent, and unassimilable, and their Catholicism brought them in for further abuse. After an lynching of Italians in New Orleans, a New York Times editorial proclaimed Sicilians "a pest without mitigation," adding, for good measure, that "our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they.
Italians quickly adopted Columbus as a shield against the ethnic, racial, and religious discrimination they faced in their adoptive country. They promoted a narrative of national origins that traced back beyond Plymouth or Jamestown, all the way to San Salvador. How could a nation, they asked, reject the compatriots of its own discoverer? Instead of accepting Italians, many nativists chose to reject Columbus. They cast about for a racially acceptable discoverer of the New World, and found him in Leif Erikson. The exploits of the great Viking explorer, recorded in Icelandic sagas, were already being promoted by Norwegian immigrants, eager to find acceptance of their own.
If America did not, after all, owe its existence to an Italian Catholic, then there would be no need to accept his modern compatriots. Viking motifs began to pop up in architecture , purported Viking artifacts were duly unearthed, and a general craze ensued. The noted Harvard chemist Eben Norton Horsford claimed for the Norsemen "the honor of having discovered America, five hundred years before Columbus.
The celebration of Erikson often crossed over into explicit denigration of Catholics in general, and of Columbus in particular. It was "necessary for the truth, as to the discovery of America, to be established immediately," an advocate of Norse priority explained , lest acceptance of the claims of Columbus lead Americans to "yield to the foulest tyrant the world has ever had, the Roman Catholic power!
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Such attacks certainly enjoyed support, but by the end of the nineteenth century the enthusiasm for the coming quadricentennial celebrations overwhelmed anti-Catholic bigotry. Leading figures of the establishment advanced, instead, a Columbus stripped of his ethnic or religious particularity, an idol for straightforward patriotic veneration. Francis Bellamy, who wanted an American flag in every public school classroom, hit upon the idea of a national celebration of Columbus Day in the schools to mark the anniversary. In his magazine, Youth's Companion , he printed a new Pledge of Allegiance for schoolchildren across the country to recite in unison as they faced one of his flags.
It addressed the pressing need, his magazine explained, "to assimilate these children to an American standard of life and ideas. The public celebrations of the Columbian Centennial likewise advanced the goal of assimilating immigrants into a single American identity. The Columbus Day parade in New York City displayed "the flower and the fruitage of the civil and religious liberty of the American republic," wrote Martha J. She was particularly pleased to see that "children who were the descendants of the peoples of every nation, marched under one flag, the Flag of the United States But neither Italians nor other Catholics were prepared to cede such a powerful symbol of their own identity, any more than they were willing to abandon their own particular heritage and beliefs.
Ogbu, J. Perlmann, J. Petmezas, S. Zilli ed. Portes, A. Rumbaut, , Immigrant America. A Portrait , 2nd ed. Putnam, R. Rosen, B. Saloutos, T. Schneider, J.
Schneider ed. Silverman, S. Sowell, T. Steinberg, S. Thernstrom, S. Thernstrom, , Americans in Black and White. Tsoukalas, K. Dimen and E. Vermeulen, H.
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Waters, M. Yans-McLaughlin, V. Personalised recommendations. Free exercise of religion; no establishment of religion. That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance… And the General Assembly shall not prescribe any religious test whatsoever, or confer any peculiar privileges or advantages on any sect or denomination, or pass any law requiring or authorizing any religious society, or the people of any district within this Commonwealth, to levy taxes on themselves or others….
As we have seen, in the minds of the Founding Fathers, it was quite the opposite. Furthermore, it is also necessary to point out that John Locke also believed that the duty of a Christian required him to accept those of other faiths:. Those whose manners are pure and blameless, ought to be upon equal terms with their fellow-subjects. Thus if solemn assemblies, observation of festivals, public worship, be permitted to any one sort of professors; all these things ought to be permitted to the presbyterians, independents, anabaptists, Armenians, quakers, and others, with the same liberty.
Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither pagan, nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing. Horton and Mendus Put another way, the people of the commonwealth should tolerate non-Christian religions but it must not be forgotten that the commonwealth is, first and foremost, a Christian entity.
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It is to the latter point that we shall move now. Fishman 4 describes ethnicity in the following terms:. Language is often at the very center of the question of ethnicity and plays a profoundly symbolic role.
In this context, religion can also be considered a powerful cultural corollary having a significant binding role by reinforcing a sense of origins, divine justification for the actions of the group and adding a sacred dimension to the concept of ethnicity. We shall see below that this was precisely the vision adopted by the New England Puritans. Although Anglo-Saxonism, as it is sometimes called, is often assumed to have emerged as a consequence of late 18 th and 19 th century Romanticism, it is in fact much older than this and is intimately connected with the spread of Protestantism during the late 15 th century and, especially the 16 th century.
Indeed, the conjunction of fervent religious feeling transmitted by Martin Luther, combined with the developing consciousness of the perceived ethnic and linguistic bonds uniting the Germanic-speaking peoples, bred feelings of hostility for their southern European neighbors, particularly the Italians, Spanish and French.
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In fact, the entire question is perhaps better understood in the context of emerging western European nation-states as they struggled for religious, political and socioeconomic hegemony. According to MacDougall 42 :. German humanists believed that their glorious past had been ignored and slighted by the ancient writers as well as by contemporary Italian scholars. It was their self-appointed task to resurrect their history and demonstrate that it was as venerable and worthy of esteem as that of the Greeks or Romans. Furthermore, they would show that the Germany of antiquity lived on to flower in their own day.
In his classic book, Germania, he extols the moral 6 and martial virtues of the Germans and goes on at length describing their egalitarian institutions. He stresses one point in particular which was to have dire consequences centuries later — the racial purity of the Germanic peoples. The result was the development of a feeling of hostility but also superiority towards their southern Catholic neighbors 7.
Furthermore, it was increasingly felt that, just as the Germanic tribes had swept away a decadent Roman Empire, so the Protestant Reformers would sweep away an equally decadent Roman Catholic Church.
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Writing in the mid 16 th century, John Bale, clergyman and ardent Anglo-Saxonist, was in the forefront of such efforts and endeavored to demonstrate that evangelical Christianity had first been introduced to England, not by St. According to this view, the original faith of the early English Christians had thus been corrupted by Rome 9. It was therefore the duty of Englishmen to reclaim their religious and cultural heritage that had been contorted by the ungodly papists. During the 17 th century, for instance, as the conflict between the Parliament and King Charles I gradually reached the crisis stage, the Puritan supporters of Parliament came to view this political body despite its French linguistic origins!
This primitive Anglo-Saxon council, in which all freemen participated, was held to be thoroughly democratic, kings being elected officials who governed only during times of war, another echo from Tacitus Mattingly op. English writers sought new ways to highlight the racial purity of the English people. He was also among the first to write that the Anglo-Saxons had killed off or hounded the Brittonic Celts out of England ibid.
Such is the transcendent quality of our Mother Nation Germany …we being flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone, yea, of the most ancient and noble of her tribes according to the Germanes opinion … our Progenitors that transplanted themselves from Germany hither, did not commix themselves with the ancient inhabitants of the Countrey the Britaines as other Colonies did with the Natives in those places where they came but totally expelling them, took the sole possession of the Land to themselves, thereby preserving their blood, lawes and language incorrupted.
The main tenets of Anglo-Saxonism as applied to England, were summarized by H. MacDougall in his Racial Myth in English History 2 and provided a convenient justification for later British colonialism around the world and, eventually, served as the foundation for the American notion of Manifest Destiny:. Germanic peoples on account of their unmixed origins and civilizing mission, are inherently superior to all others, both in individual character and in their institutions.
The English are, in the main, of Germanic origin, and their history begins with the landing of Hengist and Horsa at Ebbsfleet, Kent, in The qualities which render English political and religious institutions the freest in the world are an inheritance from Germanic forefathers. The English, better than any other Germanic people, represent the traditional genius of their ancestors and thereby carry a special burden of leadership in the world community. The myth of the WASP had been born. September 17 th , Hugh Davis to be soundly whipped before an assembly of Negroes and others for abusing himself to the dishonour of God and shame of Christians, by defiling his body in lying with a negro; which fault he is to acknowledge next Sabbath day.
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It was their arguments which were to be adopted decades afterwards by the southern plantation owners. Just as the latter had been defined by the Old Testament as the chosen people of God, so the Puritans believed that they, as the followers of Christ, were the new chosen people of New Testament. The slave-based economic system which had been established in Virginia, and which progressively spread to other southern colonies as they were founded, was to remain a scourge which has plagued the social development of the country until the present day.
The perceived racial inferiority of non-WASPs - particularly non-Europeans - was accepted as a concrete fact. Ricard 40 describes its American manifestation in the following terms:. Writers or scholars like Emerson, Herman Melville, Theodore Parker, George Bancroft, Francis Parkman, and William Hickling Prescott celebrated all the more confidently national achievements by races whose superior characteristics were attested by scientific research.
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Nation, language and race were quite happily confused and rolled into one…. It was clear to many Americans that the Germanic torch had changed hands. VanHoosier-Carey writes:. For Jefferson, the Anglo-Saxon form of the English language contained all of the Anglo-Saxon characteristics that had given birth to democracy and common law centuries before. He believed that these original democratic elements could be transferred to the modern student through the study of the Anglo-Saxon language. After absorbing these elements, the student could then trace the changes in English from that period to the present day and thereby, gain a corresponding understanding of the developments of English social, political, and legal customs up to the American Revolution.
Studying this early English grammar and vocabulary as well as its subsequent changes would provide insight into the relationship between Anglo-Saxon cultural institutions and their descendants. Jefferson felt that this was the perfect training for an American citizen. The symbolism behind this was patent. Just as it was believed that the Anglo-Saxons had exterminated and driven the Celtic Britons out of England, so the descendants of these Germanic warriors would drive the Indians out their way in their conquest of North America.
Hall provides further evidence of this belief in the following extract from an lecture by Princeton-educated John Seely Hart, an ardent American proponent of Anglo-Saxonism:. We, Englishmen and Americans, are lineal descendants from the Saxons, and our language, it can not be too often repeated, is the Saxon language.
The English language, whose history we are now sketching, though it has received large admixtures from various sources, is in the main the same that was spoken by Hengist and Horsa, and by their countrymen along the southern shores of the Baltic, before their arrival in England in the fifth century.
Brothers in blood! They who this wrong began To wreck our commonwealth, will rue the day When first they challenged freemen to the fray, And with the Briton dared the American. During the earliest stages of the colonization period, to the early 20 th century, the English, Welsh, Scottish and Ulster Scots-Irish Protestants 13 were by far the dominant ethno-cultural and political forces in the British colonies. It was these British settlers who created the new American cultural model s to which later immigrants were forced to adapt.
This continued until demographics finally began to tip the scale in favor of the non-WASP incomers during the second half of the 20 th century. Bailyn ; Bonnet, Reiman and Serandour 9 Catholics were also present, mainly in Maryland and the Carolinas but even here they were swallowed by a waves of later Protestant arrivals Bailyn op.
Nevertheless, it must also be recalled that their desperate social conditions allowed them little or no say in the development of the mainstream cultural model and political institutions which came to dominate the colonies. The Native American Indians, who were kept out of the system altogether, fared no better. Regarded with utter disdain by the WASP majority 16 , the Irish Catholics arrived at a time when the United States was in one of its most active phases of geographic expansion.
Hurmence , the Reconstruction period which followed the war created a situation which may actually have worsened racial relations between whites and blacks. Furthermore, for 11 years, the Military Reconstruction Act effectively denied the Southern states a voice in the Union by dividing the entire region in 5 military districts. The practical effect of these decisions meant that, while the occupying Union army permitted Blacks to hold a certain number of political positions in the South 18 and while they placed their own people i.
The effect of this disastrous policy was immediate and resulted in the founding of the KKK in by former Confederate General N. The enthusiastic mood of the period is captured in the speech of a former Union officer at a Banquet of the Army of the Potomac Chicago, :.
We want this Nation to be independent of the whole world. A Nation, to be ready to settle questions of dispute by war our italics should be in a condition of absolute independence. For that reason, I want all the wheels turning in this country, all the chimneys full of fire, all the looms running, the iron red hot everywhere. I want to see all mechanics having plenty of work with good wages and good homes for their families, good food, schools for their children, plenty of clothes, and enough to take care of a child if it happens to take sick.
I am for the independence of America, the growth of America, physically, mentally, and every other way. With hundreds of thousands of British subjects immigrating to the South Welsh coal fields at home or to other commonwealth nations such as Australia and Canada, millions of destitute southern and eastern Europeans immigrants - mainly Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews — flowed into the United States where they settled in the burgeoning northern cities. Negative attitudes about the rising number of non-WASPs in the United States were widespread by this time and are reflected in the remarks of the noted English historian and champion of Anglo-Saxonism, Anthony Freeman.
In the meantime, the foreign-born population grew steadily, gradually concentrating in the cities. The census shows that the US population stood at 75 million of whom 10 million were recent immigrants. Ten years later, the figure stood at 13 million foreign born US Bureau of the Census Generally, they readily accepted the unwritten rule of the time: acculturation could only come through the mastery of the English language. Thousands of new-comers even anglicized their family names in a bid to better fit the WASP model and most made the conscious decision to abandon their former national identities.
This was, of course, encouraged by the fervent nationalism which characterized all major Western nations at the time. By the end of the 19 th century 31 out of the 45 states had public schools. By every state in the Union had a public school system.
Many states, however, had inherited public school systems that had roots in colonial times. This explains why Protestantism was such a prevalent part of the education system of all the states until recently. This situation must thus be considered to be an inheritance rather than a modern deviation. Given the fact that the WASPs still held the reigns of power, the public school was perhaps the most powerful tool at their disposal for integrating the children of new immigrants into American society.
A very important part of the indoctrination of new immigrants was determined by the thoroughly Euro-centric content of the curriculum, another cultural inheritance. History courses, for instance, were designed to highlight the achievement of European, British and, later, American heroes. Literature classes began with the ancient classics and moved on to cover traditionally revered French, German, British and American writers. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance which is still recited every morning:.
Blessed with victory and peace May the heaven-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made And preserved us a nation. By , the statistics for registered black voters ranged from 6. American Indians did not obtain the right to vote before - the state of Arizona maintained the barriers until The list of such injustices is long and the ethnic pecking order well known. One of the most dramatic and conclusive was the rise of Nazi Germany and its virulent brand of Teutonism. Unlike the Anglo-Saxonists, however, it is important to point out that the Nazi Teutonists rejected Christianity altogether Jesus, after all, was a Jew and had planned to eliminate it over the long-term.
Their murderous methods, which had led to the physical extermination of entire peoples whom they had judged to be racially impure, shocked even the most hardened Anglo-Saxonists in Britain and America.