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Religious LibertiesAnti-Catholicism and Liberal Democracy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture$
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Elizabeth Fenton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384093

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384093.001.0001

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Catholic Canadians and Protestant Pluralism in the Early Republic

Catholic Canadians and Protestant Pluralism in the Early Republic

(p.17) 1 Catholic Canadians and Protestant Pluralism in the Early Republic
Religious Liberties

Elizabeth Fenton (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Anglo-American reactions the English Parliament’s 1774 passage of the Quebec Act, which legalized the practice of Roman Catholicism in the formerly French colony. Through analysis of public responses to the act, the chapter shows that the concept of religious pluralism that would come to underpin U.S. liberal democracy developed in opposition to Protestant imaginings of Catholicism. The process of U.S. nation formation thus depended upon anti-Catholic discourse that positioned “Protestantism,” rather than secularism, as the guarantor of religious liberty. The chapter turns in its second section to the writings of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison to argue that as the discourse of national religious liberty evolved into one of personal religious liberty, representations of Catholicism allowed political theorists to shift the burden of separating church and state from the state onto the private citizen.

Keywords:   Continental Congress, Quebec Act, Catholicism, religious pluralism, privacy, liberalism

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