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American Protective Association

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The American Protective Association, or APA was an American anti-Catholic society (similar to the Know Nothings) that was founded in 1887 by Attorney Henry F. Bowers in Clinton, Iowa. It was most active between 1891 and 1897. Many members were Irish Protestants who belonged to the anti-Catholic Orange Order or German and Scandinavian Lutherans. The APA's goals included restricting Catholic immigration, making ability to speak English a prerequisite to American citizenship, removing Catholic teachers from public schools and banning Catholics from public offices. It sponsored countrywide tours of purported ex-priests and "escaped" nuns, who related horrific tales of mistreatment and abuse.

At its height in 1896, the APA claimed 3,500,000 members and 20 sympathizers in Congress, but both the APA and its enemies consistently inflated the membership totals. For example, only one member of Congress acknowledged membership. At a time when it claimed hundreds of thousands of members in Michigan, the association had an empty treasury and was unable to reimburse the train fare for its state leader. In actuality the APA never managed to get any of its proposed legislation enacted, and there is little evidence it achieved any political influence. In 1894, the APA was a major target of Democratic campaigners and in 1896, the APA attacked Republican leader William McKinley, who was elected President that year. By 1900 the APA had almost wasted away.

Further reading

  • Bennett, David H. The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History (1988), ISBN 0807817724.
  • Desmond, Humphrey J., "The American Protective Association", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911.
  • Kinzer, Donald L. Episode in Anti-Catholicism: The American Protective Association (1964), 364pp. the standard scholarly history
  • Lipset, Seymour Martin and Earl Raab. The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970 (1970), ISBN 0060126477.

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