Predatory and reptilian

Thomas Nast, the 19th century political cartoonist who gave us our standard image of both Santa Claus and Uncle Sam, is going to be enrolled in the New Jersey Hall of Fame. This isn’t really controversial: he was extremely influential. He was not entirely a nice guy, though, being a bit of a nativist and also responsible for promoting the stereotype of the Irish as violent drunks…so I would hope that his exhibit in the Hall of Fame would also highlight his bigotry. That’s not acceptable to Bill Donohue, though — Nast is the subject of his latest fit of apoplexy, because, unfortunately, while having a biased attitude towards the Irish people, he also portrayed Catholicism accurately.

I confess. I laughed.


  1. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    One has to wonder if there is any more of his foot left to insert into his mouth with all the holes he’s shot in it.

  2. AussieMike says

    This gets better the more I look at it. Had to take it to 200% but the US flag is flying inverted on the school (internationsl sign for ‘distress’) and is that Jesus being led away to the gallows on the top right side??? Great if it is.

    Also, what is written on the buildings on teh other side of the river? Part of it looks to say Roamn Catholic Church but I can also see the words Political as well.

  3. dianne says

    Eh, I tend to consider Catholic versus Protestant as intramural. What difference does it make which branch of Christianity someone follows? It’s not like the various Protestant sects don’t have child molesters that are protected by the church bureaucracy too, they just don’t get as much press.

  4. VegeBrain says

    Am I to gather then that Bill Donohue thinks this picture is an accurate rendition of reality? Why else would he be so upset? If it isn’t really true then why be worried about it?

  5. frog says


    Because how dare anyone mock the Holy Mother Church! That’s disrespectful! We lowly heathens should be trembling in fear, or at the very least being cap-in-hand polite.

    Yeah, makes no sense to me either. Why would they want the respect of people they hate?

  6. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Christopher, you do realize that political cartoons from 150 years ago look very different from modern political cartoons, correct?

  7. Rey Fox says

    So unfortunately, it seems to be anti-Catholic in more the xenophobic way than the rational judge-them-by-their-actions way. Still, an awesome image.

    And from the story behind it, we see that separation of church and state is indeed valued in this country, just as long as it’s a minority church being separated.

  8. Mrs Tilton says

    I’m not sure it’s altogether fair to criticize Nast as a nativist, as he was himself an immigrant.

    Nast clearly took a dim view of Roman Catholicism. However, the word “political” in the cartoon above is important. Nast didn’t believe that Catholics or people of Irish descent couldn’t be good citizens. His dislike of the political activities of the Roman Catholic church in America mostly had to do with that church’s manipulation of the minds of its members. In those days the RC hierarchy placed their flock under severe pressure to have their children educated in RC schools only, precisely so that they could be kept “safe” from what Nast saw as the central ideals of the American republic. The primary prey of those reptiles in the cartoon would themselves have been RC children, many of them descended from recent Irish immigrants.

    (Nast also disliked the Irish because they tended to support the Democratic Party, and Nast was a staunch Republican. Of course, that was back in the days when the Republicans were the good guys, more or less, and a large part of the Democratic Party was the spiritual ancestor of today’s GOP.)

    In terms of religion and politics, Nast was a strong secularist. It wasn’t only RC influence that he wanted to keep out of the schools.

    He was also a strong believer in the ideal in the American motto “E pluribus unum”. In a secular, (small-d) democratic, pluralist American Republic, he believed, people of every background could come to share the common ideals and the common identity of Americans. In his parable of how American society ought to work, Nast even portrays his sterotypical Irishmen with significantly more sympathy.

    His secularism wasn’t perfect by today’s standards. (One of the things he disliked about the RC church was its campaign to get the bible out of public schools, presumably out of fear that catholic children unable to attend a church-run school would be confused by their inability to find the Apocrypha in their school versions. Most of us today would agree with the RC bishops of Nast’s time on this point, albeit for a different reason.) Nor was his, emm, grasp of science the very best. But then he lived a long time ago, and I think we can cut a bit of slack for a man who got so much right, used his considerable influence largely for good, and died a heroic death.

    (tl;dr version: Bill Donohue can blow it out his arse. AGAIN.)

  9. Midnight Rambler says

    In those days the RC hierarchy placed their flock under severe pressure to have their children educated in RC schools only, precisely so that they could be kept “safe” from what Nast saw as the central ideals of the American republic.

    Indeed; on the big building it says “Political Roman Catholic Church” (in PZ’s pic; on the one in the link it says “Tammany Hall”), but on the right it says “Political Roman Catholic School”.