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American protective Association,

An organization that, according to W. J. H. Traynor, its president, is neither a religious body nor an institution adverse to the religion, per se, of any person, sect, or faith. Of its purposes and operations President Traynor says: “It was organized neither to oppose the religious dogmas of any ecclesiastical corporation, nor to direct, dissect, maintain, or destroy theology, old or new. Opponents of the association, and those who, though not opposing, are uninformed, assert to the contrary; but the constitution of the association does not, nor does the ritual nor secret work of the organization warrant any such conception of the purposes of the order or any such construction of its principles. Whether legitimately, as its advocates claim, or illegitimately, as its enemies maintain, the A. P. A., as it is most generally known, was the child of the conditions which conceived it, and not even the most antagonistic casuist will argue, in the face of philosophy and history, that so great a political revolution as that which the organization has accomplished within its short life was the absolute offspring either of religious bigotry or ignorance, though, doubtless, like all revolutions, tinctured by the one and impeded by the other.”

The reasons advanced by the founders of the order for its institution were based practically upon the following grounds:

First. That the spirit of the national Constitution was being violated in various ways by certain persons and bodies in the United States.

Secondly. That certain members and sections of the national government were in connivance with the said violators.

Thirdly. That the conditions governing our national immigration were such as to weaken our democratic institutions and form of government, and to substitute therefor a system of government not in harmony therewith.

Fourthly. That the immigrant vote, under the direction of certain ecclesiastical institutions, had become so dominant a factor in polities as to virtually control it.

Fifthly. That this domination had resulted in political prostitution, corruption, and favoritism of the worst kind.

Sixthly. That the great majority of the American people, while painfully cognizant of the sinister and debasing results of these conditions, and desirous of amending them, were either ignorant of any efficient means of counter-organization, or fearful of the injury to their personal interests at the hands of their powerful and organized opponents.

Although, in effect, the efforts of the organization were directed against an institution nominally theological, they were intended to antagonize only those sections of the institution which were political as well as theological, or subversive of the principles of the national Constitution and the laws and statutes of the land. Nor was the association formed for the mere purpose of combating what its founders considered the unpatriotic attitude and politically demoralizing influences of any one or more theological bodies in particular, but rather to erase from our national statutes all legislation which had been enacted in opposition to the Constitution, and to erect a barrier of legislative enactments between the Church and the State that should be eternal and prevent a recurrence of those conditions which, at that period, threatened to exalt the ipse dixit of the ecclesiast above the sovereign will of the people, and render the State subservient to the interests, will, and caprice of the Church. The A. P. A., then, was founded, not as an organization specifically hostile to any existent institution, but rather as the exponent and champion of a principle to he maintained against all antagonistic influences, existent or prospective, whatsoever.

While there existed, and still exist, several religious sects whose principles materially conflict with the principles enunciated in the national Constitution, [123] and which, if permitted to obtain, would result in a union of Church and State, with the Church the dictator, it is not strange that the founders of the A. P. A. should have selected that sect as the special object of their antagonism whose past record was least reconcilable to American conditions, and which most strongly indicated, through the authoritative past and current utterances of its representatives, an intention to pursue in the future that policy which had been so subversive of liberty of conscience and person in other days, and whose strength, organization, and ability of self-assertion rendered it the most dangerous to that sovereignty of the people which the signers of the Declaration of Independence endeavored to secure and perpetuate.

It has been asserted that the American Protective Association was a mere side issue of the Loyal Orange Institution. The assertion is incorrect. The founders of the association were all non-Orangemen save one, and without exception citizens of the United States, and with only one or two exceptions native born. The immense growth of the order, from efforts that were comparatively insignificant, indicated that, while not openly expressed or practically demonstrated before, the sentiments of a large portion of the thinking public were identical with those expressed in the principles of the organization. For the first two or three years the growth of the order was practically spontaneous, indicating that the movement was neither a craze nor the conception of cranks, but the spark of consequences which fired a train of circumstances laid by corrupt legislators and self-seeking ecclesiasts and their adherents through a course of many years. It is not surprising that a sect so tenacious of its principles, the assumed rights of its head, and the antiquity of its institutions, as the Papists of the United States, were in no mood to brook any abridgment of the privileges which the perfection of their political organization had secured to them, more particularly as they (the Irish Papists especially) had been the dominant and courted element in the politics and government of the nation for many years. Their reprisals for the political opposition of the A. P. A. took the form of the deadly boycott, politically, personally. socially, and in business. Nearly every member of the A. P. A. who made himself prominent in the movement retired absolutely ruined in politics and purse, and while hundreds of thousands sympathized and accorded to the order their passive support, only a small percentage dared brave the storm of disaster that inevitably followed membership in the order. These conditions led to the enforcement of absolute secrecy both as to membership and place of meeting, but to no purpose.

Following this came the period of construction and organization, when the administration of the order applied itself to the adjustment of its political machinery, and its agents began to make the principles of the organization known through many States. In a large number of our important cities the seed thus sown produced great results, and councils numbering as high as 3,000 in membership were to be found in such cities as Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland, etc. Then followed a series of sharp, decisive political victories for tie order, which surprised the oldest of political campaigners. At this time the organization had little or no following in the South, and as the Democratic party in the North was too closely affiliated with the Papist vote. the result was that the majority of the nominees of the association were nominally Republican, Prohibition, or Populist, although numberless instances might be cited where worthy Democrats were singled out of a slate that was unworthy as a whole, and elected to offices of trust by the enormous majorities which the A. P. A. vote gave.

Although between the years 1890 and 1893 the initiated membership of the order never exceeded 70,000, and was scattered but sparsely through less than twenty States, it was a period of undoubted health and usefulness from the fact that affiliation with the order was rather a disadvantage than an advantage, as it attracted to its ranks the disinterested almost exclusively. The year 1893, however, showed such remarkable success for the order in the political field that the conditions changed and the ambitions politician suddenly awoke to the realization that baptism in A. P. A. water was attended [124] with pleasant and profitable political consequences.

In the two years that followed the order planted itself firmly in every State and Territory in the Union, and was instrumental in overturning the entire political machinery in New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Iowa, and of California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania. Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon, in part. With these victories commenced a general policy of active aggression, and the negative tactics of the organization were practically abandoned. The opening of the Fifty-fourth Congress demonstrated the power of the organization in the political field as no event had previously done. Nearly one hundred members of the House of Representatives were elected to office pledged to support the platform of the order, either as a whole or in part, while several members of the Senate were elected under similar conditions. It would be as unfair as it is untrue to assert that the great majority of these were honestly the friends of the American Protective Association or imbued with the principles of the organization. On the contrary, it is admitted, even although their subsequent conduct had not plainly revealed the fact, that many accepted A. P. A. principles as a means to the end of obtaining A. P. A. votes, and lost no time in repudiating the principles when their political interests suggested the repudiation.

The American Protective Association is the strongest political force that the Western world ever knew. It grew from the parent stem of pure motives and patriotism. It is intensely human, and therefore very imperfect; yet, imperfect as it is, there is nothing like it in the world. It holds the political balance of power in the United States, with its membership of nearly 2,500,000 persons, who influence at least 4,000,000 votes.

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