Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blogging about Blogging: The Quebec Act @ NCReg

So this is a meta blog post, posting about another blog post at the National Catholic Register: a follow-up with background to explain why Fanny Allen's mother and stepfather were so worried about her going to Catholic Canada:

This fear of Catholics and of Canadian Catholics in particular had deep colonial roots in the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years’ War fought between France and England in several colonial territories) and the 1774 Quebec Act. Great Britain, with help from their British colonists in North America, won the war in 1763 and had obtained the French territory of Quebec in Canada. The colonists were pleased with the defeat of Catholic France.

Eleven years later, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, integrating the former French colony into British Canada. American colonists were not pleased with many of the decisions reached by Parliament. Although the issue of religious liberty among Protestants was tremendously important in the revolutionary period, as Thomas S. Kidd recounts in
God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2012), American Protestants did not think that Catholics should be free to practice their faith.

The Quebec Act allowed Catholics in Canada, unlike Catholics in England or other British colonies, not only to practice their faith freely, but to serve in government offices without taking an oath that denied their faith. Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland could not serve in political office because they would have had to deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist (which the government called Transubstantiation), the invocation of saints, and the authority of the pope. Catholics in Canada could simply swear loyalty to King George III.

In the background for all the British American colonists, even those in Pennsylvania, like Benjamin Franklin (picture in the fur hat that he procured in Canada and that became such a fashion statement in Paris), the specter of James II--and the more remote horrors of the Gunpowder Plot, the Spanish Armada and even the fires of Smithfield--dominated their view of Catholics and the Papacy. Franklin, with his career in Pennsylvania, should have known a little about William Penn's support of James II's efforts to bring religious toleration to England. His speaking and campaigning for the Act of Toleration got Penn in trouble: he was imprisoned and accused of being a Papist!

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