The Corner

Divided Loyalties

A reader makes yet another point about Know Nothings, Populists, etc. objecting to the immigration of Catholics, Jews, etc.:  

Mr. Derbyshire–The principal aspersion cast by the Know-Nothings of the 1840s against Catholic immigrants, or by the Populists of the 1890s against Jewish immigrants, was NOT that they were somehow ‘sub-human.’ Rather, these movements attacked Catholics and Jews on the ground that their religious beliefs implied ongoing loyalties outside the United States and that such people could therefore not possibly be good American citizens.

My late father once told me a joke that he remembered from the time of Al Smith’s defeat in 1928 by Herbert Hoover. Smith had, of course, been subjected to many anti-Catholic smears during the campaign. The story went that on learning that he had been defeated, Smith went to the telegraph office and told the clerk that he wanted to send an international wire. The clerk said that because wire traffic was so heavy with the news of Hoover’s victory, he could only send one word. Smith agreed to this condition. His telegram was addressed to the Pope, and the one word was… UNPACK.”

Sad to say, the time-worn argument of divided or imperfect loyalty is still being waged against the same targets that bore its brunt in the nineteenth century.

[Derb]  Forgive me if I’ve told this one before.  Scene:  Top deck of a Liverpool bus, on the way home after a “Derby” soccer game, in which the city’s Protestant team, Liverpool, defeated the Catholic team, Everton.  Two Everton supporters are sitting there glumly.  Eventually one of them says: “Sure, Mike, there’ll be some sad faces in the Vatican tonight.”

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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