January 01, 2014

Thomas Nast - No Sect Can Rule this School

Carlos Velazquez wrote a commentary on the cartoon done by Thomas Nast, the father of the American editorial cartoonist tradition, which accompanied an article from a 1875 edition of Harper’s Weekly.  On page 385 of that publication is an articleed titled 'The Public Schools and its Foes.' Directly above the article was another political cartoon by Nast. The Thomas Nast cartoon, 'No Church need apply' depicts a Catholic bishop passing out Vatican decrees to young school children. These children are placed in a doorway of the school, besides which appeared a sign which read, 'No Sect can rule this school,' This was the theme of the companion article. Carlos explained the cartoon and the companion article here:
"The companion article written by Eugene Lawrence highlighted the greatest enemy of the common schools as being the Roman Catholic Church and its leader Pope Pius IX as well as other religious/political institutions that did not promote American common schools. The article favored the condition of the common schools and emphasized what we consider today to be the separation of church and state: 
“Their people have become conscious that the common school is the source of ease, comfort, wealth; that it doubles the value of their lands, build towns, factories, railroads; and hence all over the south there is a plain advance toward a new condition of society.” (p.386)
Furthermore, Lawrence cited the common schools as places for “repression of violence” and “cultivation of knowledge” and expresses the notion that the enemies of the common school, which included, “a foreign pope, democratic politicians and a foreign sect” as being responsible for “the decreed destruction of the common school…” (p.386)
Lawrence speaks to his readers as an advocate of reason and truth, he says that the “newspaper is the natural fruit of the common school” (p.386) which would allow readers to give credence to his published article on the evils of the Roman Catholic Church and other Religious institutions and their corruption of American schools:
“At Des Moines, when an episcopal clergyman assailed the common schools from his pulpit, members of the congregation rose and left the church, in protest of religious bigotry…” (p.386)
He goes on to say that schools under the jurisdiction of Pope Pius IX were “never needed” and questions why they were built in the first place – while alluding to the fact that they were built to contest the traditional common school system. 
Lawrence mentions that the public (common) schools offer “ample room for all the children of the city” (p.386) in reference to the many parochial schools in New York City. He goes on to say that Papal priests were in association with Boss Tweed and Peter Sweeney and had a direct involvement as conspirators in the political ring. This piece of the article was towards the very end – almost as if to tell his readers: if you still aren’t convinced…here’s more proof. 
Lawrence ends his piece with two very important quotes, which sum up his article on the separation of church from American schools, but even more importantly, the vilification of all who opposed the common schools. The first quote stood out to me because of the notion that those who did not support common schools must not support their country as loyal Americans: 
“No patriotic American of any creed of race will suffer his own honest and necessary principle of un-sectarian education to be tainted by any dangerous compromise…” (p.386)
Finally, Lawrence urges his readers to understand that: “the only sure defense we have against it, is to vote it down…” (p.386) in reference to the church’s presence in American schools and the political authority that common citizens yield through their right to vote.
Carlos Velasquez in full here.

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