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Article
Competing Loyalties: Nationality, Church Governance, and the Development of an American Catholic Identity
Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (2013)
  • Margaret Wilson Gillikin, Heidelberg College
Abstract

The Catholic community in Charleston, South Carolina, found itself torn by competing identities and conflicting ideas about how to be Catholic in the new American democracy. During the late eighteenth century hundreds of refugees arrived in Charleston from France and Saint Domingue as a result of the French and Haitian Revolutions, and numerous immigrants from Ireland found their way to Charleston as well. A complicated struggle over who should be their priest, the one chosen by the local trustees or the one appointed by their bishop in Baltimore, developed and tore the worshiping community apart. Debates like the one that occurred in Charleston were common during the early republican era; and, traditionally, historians have viewed them as evidence that local congregations wanted to impose republican governmental structures on their church. What is often missing from these interpretations is an examination of the immigrant content of the individual congregations. Using ecclesiastical correspondence, published treatises, and personal papers, this article argues that finding acceptance among Charleston’s residents was the primary goal of the city’s Catholics, and this common goal allowed them to unite across cultural barriers and ultimately bring about change in the Catholic Church.

Keywords
  • Catholic History,
  • South Carolina,
  • Early American Republic,
  • Immigration,
  • Trusteeism,
  • Republicanism
Publication Date
Winter 2013
Citation Information
Margaret Wilson Gillikin. "Competing Loyalties: Nationality, Church Governance, and the Development of an American Catholic Identity" Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal Vol. 11 (2013)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/margaret_gillikin/2/