Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 5, 1775: Guy Fawkes or "Pope Day"

Puritan New England cherished its rituals of November 5, Guy Fawkes Day or "Pope Day," the anniversary of foiled alleged plot by English Catholics to bomb Parliament. In November 1775, however, the United Colonies had soldiers in Quebec, a predominantly Catholic province under British administration since 1763.

In his General Orders for Nov. 5, 1775, George Washington condemned the "childish custom" of burning the Pope in effigy. Washington wrote, "At such a juncture, and in such circumstances, to be insulting their religion is so monstrous as not to be suffered or excused; indeed, instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address publick thanks to these our brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy success over the common enemy in Canada."

After the Revolution, George Washington continued to fight anti-Catholic bigotry. In response to salutations from American Catholics in 1790, President Washington wrote, "And I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed."

View a transcript of President George Washington's Letter to Catholics in the United States at Beliefnet.
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