Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life

By Thomas T. McAvoy | Go to book overview

WILLARD E. WIGHT*


VIII. The Native American Catholic, the Immigrant, and Immigration

The immigration of individuals from other nations to what is the present United States has been a characteristic of our history. For purposes of convenience this movement can be divided into five periods. With the establishment of the independence of the thirteen colonies in 1783, the first period closes. From that date to 1830 there was a period of free immigration when no effort was made by the government to control the movement. The years 1830 to 1882 comprise the third period which was mostly one of agitation for some degree of restriction. The fourth period was one of federal control on the basis of individual selection which came to an end in 1924 with group selection as the basis for the fifth period. This paper will deal with the attitude of the native American Catholic in relation to the immigrant and the question of immigration in the third and fourth periods, 1830- 1924.1

The five decades from 1830 to 1880 were ones in which the subject of immigration was not looked upon as a question of national importance. Despite the agitation of such groups as the Native American Party and the Know-Nothings against the indiscriminate admission of aliens very little was accomplished in the way of legislation on the subject. Immigration was frequently and repeatedly discussed on the floors of Congress, but the absence of legislation may be ascribed

____________________
*
Professor Willard E. Wight, Ph.D., is a member of the Department of Social Sciences in the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, and a contributor to historical periodicals.
1
Any student of the relationship between the American Catholic and the immigrant must, as does this writer, record his indebtedness to the pioneer study of John C. Murphy, An Analysis of the Attitudes of American Catholics toward the Immigrant and the Negro, 1825-1925 ( Washington, 1940).

-211-

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