Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

In our second On the Square article today, Melissa Musick Nussbaum and L. Martin Nussbaum recall the publication of Thomas Nast’s anti-Catholic cartoon “The American River Ganges” and see a likeness between the nativist anti-Catholic sentiments expressed in editorial cartoons, articles, and novels of the 19th century and the political cartoons reemerging today:

Nast needs few words; his sketch is a nightmare in pen and ink. There is only this caption, “The American River Ganges,” suggesting not only the foreign, but a land so distant from most Americans as to be wholly other, completely alien. In his book, American Catholic: the Saints and Sinners Who Built America’s Most Powerful Church, historian Charles R. Morris calls “The American River Ganges,” “Perhaps the most brilliantly poisonous of Thomas Nast’s popular anti-Catholic cartoons.”

. . .

One hundred and twenty years later, the cartoons of reptile-human hybrids, bishops on the hunt for America’s children, have reappeared. Nast’s trope of the alien, not quite human, Catholic has come out of hibernation to be printed in newspapers and magazines all over the United States and the world.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles