By Ron Avery

History repeats itself with the reincarnation of the hateful Know-Nothing Party and its modern hero, Donald Trump.

You have to go back to the 1840s and '50s to find such hysteria and anger focused on unwanted immigrants washing up on our sacred shores.

Then it was the Irish Catholics who had "real Americans" bent out of shape. In fact, the bloodiest, most destructive riots in Philadelphia history were launched against the hated "Papists" by pure-blooded American Protestant "Nativists."

In the mid-19th century, it was self-evident to native-born Protestants that the Irish Catholics polluting our towns and cities could never be good Americans. Their loyalty, of course, was to the pope, not the United States of America.

In fact, many Nativists believed that the pope might eventually be driven from Europe and would then take over America. The Irish "Papists" would be the storm troopers in this bloody coup.

I bet those Philadelphia Know-Nothings would roll in their graves if they knew our city was so ecstatic about the coming visit of a pope. And they would never believe Philly could elect an Irish Catholic mayor - or help elect an Irish Catholic president.

The first stirrings of anti-Catholic political organization took the form of a secret society. Asked what they were up to, the answer was often "I know nothing."

Besides their "disloyalty," in the eyes of the Know-Nothings, Irish immigrants were pugnacious, lawless, uncouth, unwashed, uneducated, and (like today's Hispanic newcomers) could barely communicate in the English language.

Of course, the Irish worked for low wages and came in handy for digging canals, fixing roads, laying rails, and unloading ships.

In Philadelphia, many of the Irish were hand-loom weavers doing piecework for American bosses. It didn't take long before these feisty foreigners were striking for higher compensation.

By 1844, Philadelphia's Know-Nothings called themselves the American Republican Party (no connection to the later GOP). Part of its platform was that no immigrants could vote until they had lived in this nation for 21 years - because that's how many years a native-born male had to wait.

It sounds far-fetched, but the spark that ignited those bloody summer riots of 1844 was Bible reading in the schools. Catholic clergy objected to mandatory Bible study in the public schools using the King James Bible. They wanted Catholic students excused to study from their own Douay version.

This led to a parade and rally by the Know-Nothings - in the middle of an Irish area around Second and Jefferson. Soon, stones, bricks, and gunfire were coming from the Irish. The American Republicans retreated but returned and, over the next couple of days, burned down two Catholic churches, convents, and many Irish dwellings.

Things worsened about a month later with an attack on St. Philip Neri Church in South Philly. Here the Know-Nothings and the city militia fought a raging, all-night battle with muskets and cannons that left scores dead or wounded.

Today we welcome Pope Francis, and everyone celebrates St. Patrick's Day, while Trump sounds the alarm for a wall to keep out those Spanish-speaking "criminals and rapists."