“No Popery! No French Laws!”: Anti-Catholicism during the American Revolution

Nicholas Dorthe, University at Albany, State University of New York


This paper analyzes how widespread anti-Catholic sentiment unified the colonies against the British Crown during the early stages of the American Revolution. Also, this paper explores how loyalists utilized fear of Catholicism in order to undermine the Revolution, showing that anti-Catholic fearmongering played a vital role to both causes. Overtime, historians have placed varying emphasis on certain reasons behind the American Revolution. Since the Progressive Era, there has been a shift from economic reasons, like class conflict and the Crown’s restrictive trade policies, to a more ideological stance, one that emphasizes philosophical influence and constitutional interpretations. Instead, this essay asserts that religious xenophobia played a significant role in the political changes of the Era of the American Revolution. We will explore how the Protestant religion defined English society, which made Catholicism subversive in the minds of Englishmen. When Parliament passed the Quebec Act of 1774, establishing Catholicism in North America, the American colonists believed that the terror of the inquisition would be trust upon them. The colonial press railed against the Act, while many colonists rallied around the calling “No Popery! No French Laws!” However, after the rebellious colonists united with the French monarch, Loyalists began denouncing the Revolution as nothing more than a Catholic cabal. This essay looks to the tell the story of Protestants using religious xenophobia in order to advance political agendas. We will look to the American Revolution in order to explore how fear of a societal outcast can unify people behind a common cause.