Entering by the Narrow Gate: Catholicism and American Identity in the Early Republic

AHA Session 184
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Tremont Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Lisa MacFarlane, University of New Hampshire
The Audience

Session Abstract

This session draws on several strands of the conference theme, "History, Society, and the Sacred," and, consequently, will appeal to a broad audience. Its title is taken from Matthew 7:13, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it," points to the contested nature of Catholicism in the early republic, both within Catholicism at home and between Catholics and Protestants abroad. Kimberly Alexander offers the uncommon perspective of a young American woman who spent over three years in Macao; Harriett Low's unvarnished representations of Portuguese Catholicism in China suggest how conflicts within her Unitarian community at home influenced her represntations of Catholics overseas. Using Phillip Morgan's American paradox as a jumping off point, Maura Jane Farrelly explores the complicated interstices of religion and nationality in her study of slavery. Farrelly demonstrates how slavery played a role in the formation of a distinctly “American” form of Catholic identity. Examining the influence of the China Trade in the formation of national character , Dane Morrison analyzes the literature of Eastern travel that filled the public sphere of the early republic. He demonstrates that a strain of Manifest Destiny appeared in this genre a generation before the conventional periodization, revealing two complementary currents of thought hat contested Protestant republicanism the Catholicism of the Iberian Pacific.

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