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

By Elizabeth Fenton | Go to book overview

1
Catholic Canadians and Protestant
Pluralism in the Early Republic

Canada acceding to this confederation, and adjoining
in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted
into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union;
but no other colony shall be admitted into the same,
unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.

—Articles of Confederation, Article XI

The Articles of Confederation—drafted in 1777 and ratified four years later—grant special status to the province of Quebec by providing for its immediate admission into the federation of American states.1 That the Continental Congress would extend this open-door offer is perhaps not surprising, given that since its inception in 1774 the Congress had made several attempts, both diplomatic and military, to incorporate the northern colony. Traditional accounts of late-eighteenth-century American relations attribute these attempts, Article XI among them, to fear that a revolution against Great Britain could not succeed in the absence of hemispheric alliance.2 Within this context, Article XI appears as a final effort at conciliation, a measure taken in the midst of war to secure intracontinental peace. Viewed in another light, however, the article serves a very different function. Conceded to the British Empire by France in 1763, Quebec, though governed by Anglo-Protestants, housed a predominantly French Catholic population. And though the Continental Congress gestured toward union with Quebec throughout the 1770s, inhabitants of the lower colonies remained suspicious of their Catholic neighbors and doubted whether Catholic subjects could in fact participate in egalitarian government. The Congress even referred to the 1763 Treaty of Paris as

-17-

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