1878 N.H. voters concerned that 'Papism' would be taught in schools

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,
In a previous letter concerning the Superior Court case that has bared scholarship funds from N.H.'s education tax credit program to be used to send children to religious schools, I related how the Blaine Amendment to our state Constitution, the amendment to our Constitution that was passed in 1878 that forbids money that has been raised by taxes to be used to support schools "of any religious sect or denomination", was passed out of concern that with the growing catholic population resultant from the influx of emigrants coming to work in the mills of N.H. during this, the Industrial Revolution, that there was a fear that as the Catholic population was requesting aid from the state for their schools, that our public education would eventually become Catholic. Public education was as it was considered at the time, nonsectarian protestant. (A little aside here: a society in order to be cohesive needs to determine what it holds to be true. It can be done openly by consensus of the people or in secret by an elite few and trickled down to the people over a long period of time indiscernibly so that they don't even know that they've been manipulated. As much as what a society accepts to be true is congruent with what is actually true a society prospers. As much as society holds as true that which is in fact false a society flounders. In 1878 the time of the passing of the Blaine Amendment, the Bible was held to be true in our state and our nation, as it had been from our nation's founding well into the 20th century.)

Now I would like to explain the reasoning for this concern about the Catholic Church. Though I'm sure some must have been ignorantly prejudiced against Catholics, the actual concern that propelled this amendment into law was that our public schools were as they called them nonsectarian protestant in orientation, which meant that they held to what was commonly agreed to be Christian in values and orientation, denominational differences were put aside in favor of what they could agree on. One very important protestant ethic was the importance of each man and woman being able to read the Bible himself and to understand for himself the word of God. This was in reality the foundation stone of American liberty. No one could tell you what you needed to believe. This was felt to be the very foundation of our liberty. (You were free not to believe that the Bible was true, but as a consensus it was held to be so, therefore our laws and customs were based on it.) And as you can imagine it was considered of utmost importance that we train up our children in that discipline.

Catholicism, or as it was sometimes referred to then, Papism, because Catholics looked to the Pope for spiritual authority, gave cause for concern. This looking to a man for authority was seen as a threat to the very essence of our liberty. The possibility that with the growth of Catholicism in America that a future generation of Americans might be taught to follow a man for their most important spiritual foundation instead of reading and understanding for themselves was the issue that mobilized voters to support the Blaine Amendment. In this manner they reasoned that religious liberty and consequently all of our other liberties would be preserved. The essence of this reasoning was in line with Articles 3 - 6 and Article 10 of our state Constitution (http://www.nh.gov/constitution/billofrights.html). Article 3-6 deal with natural rights the trade off in surrendering some natural rights to protect others, unalienable Rights of Conscience, and religious liberty. Article 10 is a very, very strong admonition against arbitrary power.

So how did we get to where we are today? And what bearing do these things have on the mentioned case before our Supreme Court? If God and the editors are willing I will discuss these things in future submissions.

John Demakowski