American Protective Association

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Not to be confused with the American Protective League

The American Protective Association (APA) was an American anti-Catholic secret society established in 1887.


The American Protective Association was founded March 13, 1887 by Attorney Henry F. Bowers in Clinton, Iowa, ostensibly in response to a perceived attack of the Roman Catholic Church upon the American public schools system and other American institutions.[1]

The APA's chief doctrine was that “subjection to and support of any ecclesiastical power not created and controlled by American citizens, and which claims equal, if not greater, sovereignty than the Government of the United States of America, is irreconcilable with American citizenship.” Accordingly, it opposed “the holding of offices in National, State, or Municipal Government by any subject or supporter of such ecclesiastical power.”[2] Another of its purposes was to prevent all public encouragement and support of sectarian schools. It did not constitute a separate political party, but sought to control existing parties.[2]

The APA began to gain organizational momentum in 1890[1] and showed its greatest strength during the decade of the 1890s.[2]

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.

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, except in rural Ohio where it lingered on for several more years.

In 1895 the APA claimed a membership of 2 million,[1] but both the APA and its enemies consistently inflated the membership totals. In actuality the APA never managed to get any of its proposed legislation enacted, and there is little evidence it achieved any political influence.

The Ohio APA still had enough strength in 1914 to contribute to the defeats of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Timothy S. Hogan and incumbent Democratic Governor James M. Cox. Its newspaper, "The Menace", depicted Hogan and Cox as puppets of the pope. The Ohio APA would disappear soon after the 1914 election.[3]

The American Protective Association seems to have essentially withered away by the end of the decade of the 1910s.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 William D.P. Bliss (ed.), "American Protective Association," in The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform, Including All Social-Reform Movements and Activities, and the Economic, Industrial, and Sociological Facts and Statistics of All Countries and All Social Subjects. New Edition. New York: Funk and Wagnalls Co., 1908; pg. 38.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "American Protective Association," Collier's New Encyclopedia: Vol. 1. New York: P.F. Collier and Son, 1921; pg. 144.
  3. David Sarasohn, The Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1989; pg. 177.

Further reading

  • David H. Bennett, The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History. Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
  • Humphrey J. Desmond, "The American Protective Association," Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Co., 1911
  • Donald L. Kinzer, An Episode in Anti-Catholicism: The American Protective Association. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1964.
  • Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

External links

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