Talk:John Edward Bouligny

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Um, the Wiki article on Know-Nothings, which is well sourced, specifically says that the strain of Know-Nothingism that emerged in the South wasn't very nativist or anti-Catholic, and in fact enlisted native-born Catholics, particularly in Maryland and Louisiana, which had substantial Catholic populations. So Know-Nothings were not some monolithic bloc, but were rather various persuasions of anti-Democrat political leanings that emerged in different regions for different reasons. Know-Nothings in the South were more concerned with the Democratic Party's pro-slavery extremism, fearing this would lead to the dissolution of the Union. So considering this is an article about a Southern Know-Nothing, I don't think it is appropriate to use the "Pro-Protestant" and "anti-immigration" description in the lead.

Does anyone know what Bouligny's religion was? Like most Creoles from New Orleans, he was almost certainly Roman Catholic, though I personally can't find a specific RS that mentions this.Jonathan f1 (talk) 23:59, 1 August 2020 (UTC)

It's complicated and unclear. The Louisiana Know-Nothings were anti-Catholic in the northern part of the state, but less so south of Baton Rouge and in New Orleans (which is were J.E. Bouligny was elected from), but the national party was definitely pro-Protestant and refused to seat Creole Catholic delegates at its national convention in 1855. The Louisiana party was definitely nativist and anti-immigrant. In addition, old Catholic families in New Orleans at the time made a distinction between themselves and new Catholic immigrants, which probably helped with their acceptance of the American Party. (Carriere, 1994; Hall, 2015)
As for Bouligny himself, I can't locate my copy of A History of the Bouligny Family and Allied Families to see if there's anything about his religion in it; however, Zvengrowski (2020) claims that he "identified with his Anglo-Protestant rather than French ancestors" without any specific evidence. Bouligny was multilingual and did correspond with at least one of his cousins in Spanish (Thomas, 2017). His 1860 wedding to Mary E. Parker in Washington, D.C., was performed in her family home by an Episcopal minister (Harper's Weekly, 1860).
* Carriere, Jr., Marius M. (1994). "Anti-Catholicism, Nativism, and Louisiana Politics in the 1850s". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 35 (4): 455–474. JSTOR 4233149. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
* Hall, Ryan M. (2015). A Glorious Assemblage: The Rise of the Know-Nothing Party in Louisiana (MA). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
* "Marriage in High Life". Harper's Weekly. May 12, 1860. p. 296. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
* Thomas, Jenelle Katherine (2017). "Vous êtes hombre de bien": A study of bilingual family letters to and from colonial Louisiana, 1748-1867 (PhD). Berkeley, California: University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
* Zvengrowski, Jeffrey (2020). Jefferson Davis, Napoleonic France, and the Nature of Confederate Ideology, 1815–1870. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0-8071-7230-8. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
That all said, while there's room to improve this article, but I think the adjectives in the lede should stand. Carter (talk) 16:03, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
@Tcr25: I mean, what 'Anglo Protestant' ancestors? Certainly, if a qualified RS states this information then we are obligated to accept it without further substantiation, although I can't say I'm not skeptical. While I can't find a good RS to support the argument (at least not at the moment), most genealogical books describe the Boulignys' ancestry as French, Italian and Spanish mixed, like many other Creoles of the period.
Of course you are correct about the distinctions made by the South's American Party regarding native-born Catholics (Creoles or otherwise) and Catholic immigrants. Creoles, like many other old-stock Catholic families, were anti-clerical in orientation: Catholics on Christmas, Easter, at weddings and funerals, but not particularly concerned with the dictums of any bishop or pope and secular in their politics (clericalism was the major contention between the American Party and Catholics).
Having said that, I glanced at some of the literature on the American Party in Louisiana (and the South more generally) and it does appear upon review that Wiki's article on the Know-Nothings may have overstated the lack of anti-Catholic nativism present among their Southern affiliates. On the other hand, it's not entirely clear if the other side of the argument is accurate either. Scholars of the subject appear to be split into three camps on the matter, one which claims anti-Catholicism wasn't particularly common among KNs of the South, one which claims it was, and another which claims it was prevalent but not a principal focus or concern in Southern-American politics and certainly not a priority over countering Democratic calls for secession. Where Bouligny's motivations had chiefly lain are equally uncertain, although it is worth noting that his bio on the US House archives website describes him as having been "strongly opposed to secession" and "the only Louisiana Member to retain his seat" after his state seceded from the Union.[1]
In addition, there appears to be no dispute that Bouligny's grandfather Francisco Bouligny was a Catholic with strong ties to France and Spain, who dedicated a significant portion of his career as lieutenant governor of 'New Iberia' to ensuring it remained predominately Catholic and culturally Latin. A significant shift indeed if it is true his grandson was rabidly pro-Protestant and enamored of Anglo culture (or Anglo ancestors even, if he had them). Creole Louisiana at that time held Anglo culture in contempt, including Protestantism, democratic ideals and concepts of individualism. To retain a dominance of the state, and especially Louisiana's most valuable real estate and natural resources, Creoles organized themselves in family enterprises that stretched across industries and formed complicated networks of "cousins" involved in related businesses and politics. The Boulignys were a prime example of this family-oriented, insular Creole culture that predominated over much of the business and politics of southern Louisiana.
Basically, if Bouligny was Catholic, he was an example of the exception in American Party politics - perhaps the most famous one - and the article should dedicate some space to that. If he was not a Catholic, but anti-Catholicism wasn't his motivation for affiliating himself with the AP, then I find the lead also misleading for a bio piece. His House bio describes him as simply anti-secesh in his politics.
I'll try to gather up some sources to clarify these points but it is indeed complicated, as you say. I honestly forgot I even posted to this talk page.Jonathan f1 (talk) 09:57, 20 October 2020 (UTC)
@Jonahan f1: "What 'Anglo Protestant' ancestors?" is a fair question, and you're right. Martin's A History of the Bouligny Family doesn't indicate any non-French (or Italian via France and Spain) ancestry. That said, J.E. Bouligny's generation is the one that started to intermarry with Anglo/American families, clearly the lines between the Creole and Anglo/American worlds (at least in New Orleans) were thinning.
Looking back to contemporaneous sources, it's clear that in Louisiana at least the Know-Nothings were pro-slavery and resisted a religious test for membership (see: "Speech of Randell Hunt". The South-Western. Shreveport, Louisiana. September 5, 1855. p. 1. Retrieved October 20, 2020 – via In the linked report, Hunt (a New Orleans lawyer, American Party candidate, and an opponent of Sen. Judah P. Benjamin) focuses on the threat of unchecked immigration and the failure of immigrants to assimilate. In particular, he criticizes German societies for their opposition to slavery: "Mr. Hunt next alluded to the foreign societies which have been formed in the different cities, both north and south, and of the danger to be apprehended from such large bodies of men, having no feeling in common with the natives of the country, neither marrying nor giving in marriage, associating with them or speaking their language, but keeping exclusively to themselves. ¶The German societies, whose manifesto has recently been published—in which they declare all men to be free and equal—denounce slavery—advocate women's rights—encourage emigration,—are determined to take the public lands, and in fact, rule the county—came in for a withering rebuke."
In a connected report, (see: "American Convention". The South-Western. Shreveport, Louisiana. September 5, 1855. p. 1. Retrieved October 20, 2020 – via, the Native American convention meeting in Mansfield, Louisiana, adopted "the Louisiana platform of the American party" noting that they "exert the utmost diligence in our power to unite our fellow-citizens in support of their constitutional rights, resistance to all encroachments upon their civil institutions, and opposition to the insidious wiles of foreign influence." They further note "That while we resist all encroachments of spiritual power upon our political rights, we disclaim the calumnious charge of our own opponents that we require a religious test to qualify native born citizens to hold office or enjoy the full rights of citizenship."
It seems Bouligny was at least nominally Catholic, but that in Louisiana immigration and slavery were more important for the Know-Nothings than anti-Catholicism (although the Hall thesis mentioned earlier does say that the motivations varied in different regions of the state), making his religion a non-issue. I have to also wonder if the American party's opposition to Benjamin, who was Jewish, indicates a degree of anti-Semitism trumping anti-Catholicism—but that's pure, uninformed speculation on my part. I also think the evidence will be found in discussions of the Louisiana branch of the American Party, not broader sources on Southern Know-Nothings. Louisiana (then and now) is southern, but different ... particularly New Orleans.
As for this article, I think the lede's description of the American party as pro-Protestant is still fine, but you're right that there should be more (if it can be found and sourced) about how Bouligny (and New Orleans Know-Nothings) navigated that divide.Carter (talk) 13:59, 20 October 2020 (UTC)
Adding on, this thesis — Tarver, Jerry L. (1964). A Rhetorical Analysis of Selected Ante-Bellum Speeches by Randell Hunt (PhD). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Retrieved October 20, 2020. — gives bit of background on the evolution of the Louisiana Know Nothings, noting that Whiggism in Louisiana had a strong nativist bent that the Know-Nothings filled while rejecting the national American Party's anti-Catholicism: "A unique feature of Know Nothingism in Louisiana was its refusal to follow the anti-Catholic line of the national party. The state organisation insisted only that loyalty to a church should not supersede loyalty to the Union, and in 1855 the national platform plank attacking Catholicism was omitted in the Louisiana platform. Many Catholics, in fact, became active members of the party in Louisiana." This lines up with the 1855 "American Convention" article cited above. I'll look at adding a line or two to the text and will look at the Know Nothing article too. Carter (talk) 15:13, 20 October 2020 (UTC)
@Jonahan f1: Take a look at it now. I did go ahead and remove "pro-Protestant" from the lede; while it's accurate for the national party, the Louisiana branch clearly wasn't. Carter (talk) 15:57, 20 October 2020 (UTC)