Dr. Patrick Conley has edited a new book to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, entitled The Rhode Island Homefront During the Civil War Era (Rhode Island Publications Society, September 2013). The book contains essays by former chief justice Frank Williams, a nationally acclaimed Lincoln scholar, Prof. Maury Klein, one of America’s leading economic historians, James Tackach, a professor of literature at Roger Williams University, and Conley himself.
In his talk, Dr. Conley will focus on his essay that examines the ordeal of Rhode Island’s Catholic Irish immigrants and the nativist reaction to their arrival. He focuses on the period from the Dorr Rebellion of 1841-43 through the era of Civil War and Reconstruction. Dr. Conley places special emphasis on the Irish Catholic response to slavery, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction amendments (13, 14, and 15) to the United States Constitution and demonstrates how local anti-Irish sentiment shaped the Fifteenth Amendment. He also examines the nativistic provision in the Rhode Island Constitution of 1843 that was designed to make immigrant Irish Catholics second class citizens and lessen their influence on the politics of their adopted state. Copies of The Rhode Island Homefront During the Civil War Era will be available for signature and sale after the lecture.
PATRICK T. CONLEY holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, and a J.D. from Suffolk U. Law School. He has published twenty-five books, including Catholicism in Rhode Island: The Formative Era, with Matthew J. Smith; An Album of Rhode Island History, 1636-1986; Rhode Island’s Founders, 1636-1790, and more than a score of scholarly articles on history, law, ethnic studies, religion, real estate development, and political science. He was the youngest person ever to attain the rank of full professor at Providence College. Dr. Conley has served as chairman of the Rhode Island Bicentennial Commission, chairman and founder of the Providence Heritage Commission, chairman and founder of the Rhode Island Publications Society, and general editor of the Rhode Island Ethnic Heritage Pamphlet Series. In 1977 he founded the Rhode Island Heritage Commission. Dr. Conley was also chairman of the Rhode Island Bicentennial of the Constitution Foundation and chairman of the U.S. Constitutional Council. In May 1995 he was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame–one of a handful of living Rhode Islanders who have been accorded that honor– and he has served as Hall of Fame president since 2003. Dr. Conley was named Rhode Island’s first Historian Laureate in July 2012.