Reply to Bishop Kenrick

Publication Year: 1844

Colton, Walter. The Bible in Public Schools: a Reply to the Allegations and Complaints Contained in the Letter of Bishop Kenrick to the Board of Controllers of Public Schools. Philadelphia: T.K. & P.G. Collins, 1844. 
PHS call number: PAM LC 111 .C648 1844

Source note

Walter Colton (1797-1851) was a navy chaplain and Congregational minister originally from Vermont. Colton gave this lecture in response to Bishop Kenrick’s 1842 letter to the Board of Controllers of Public Schools. Later printed in pamphlet form, the lecture was widely distributed with the help of the American Protestant Association. Though many of its arguments against Kenrick had been made before, the pamphlet became influential among anti-Catholic nativists in the controversy over religion in schools. After finishing his navy chaplaincy, Colton became alcalde of California, acting as governor with judicial and policing powers over the territory.

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Reading questions
  1. Who is the author of this document? Is it a reliable source of information on our topic? Why or why not?
  2. On page 4, the author of the pamphlet claims that “the Bishop asks the cast the Bible out of the public schools, and to suppress all religious exercises.” Based on your reading of the Kenrick letter (Document 1), is this claim true?
  3. What point is Colton trying to illustrate when he uses the example of the Jewish treatment of the Old Testament and other sacred texts (page 5)?
  4. What critiques does Colton offer about the Catholic version of the Bible (page 7)? How do these critiques compare to the praise he gives for the King James version earlier in his lecture?
  5. What argument does Colton support by using the example of Galileo and the forced recanting of his scientific observations (page 8)? What greater point does this example make about the Catholic Church?
  6. What is Kenrick’s ultimate goal regarding religion in schools, according to Colton (pages 12 and 13)?
  7. Why might Colton’s claim that Kenrick’s message comes down directly from the Pope resonate with nativists (page 14)?
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Source type
History Topics
American Nativism
American Religious History
Time Period
Slavery, Sectionalism, and Social Reform (1815-1861)