The American Party, or Know-Nothing Party, developed inwards the context of the increasing sectional tensions that led to the Civil War. An exclusive, native Protestant, anti-immigrant, together with anti-Catholic organization, it stemmed from the nativist displace together with from the anxiety caused past times the massive influx of immigrants, reaching its peak inwards the 1850s.
The Papal Plot
Foreign immigration led many conservatives to believe that the nation’s social together with fifty-fifty political ills could live solved past times the elimination of unusual influence. The province had experienced an unprecedented current of immigrants inwards the mid-nineteenth century, reaching dazzling numbers.
From 1841 to 1860, to a greater extent than than iv 1000000 immigrants arrived, alongside 2 notable peaks: 369,980 inwards 1850 together with 379,000 inwards 1851, the bulk of whom were Irish Gaelic (1.2 million) together with High German (more than a million). In cities such equally Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, together with St. Louis, immigrants outnumbered native-born citizens.
Many feared the touching on the rattling textile of the United States of such large groups, impoverished, ignorant, illness ridden, together with alien inwards their religion together with languages. From a political indicate of view, many traditional parties were distressed past times the growing political influence of those groups inwards large cities, peculiarly Catholics, since many of these immigrants tended to live manipulated past times urban democratic political machines.
Consequently, in that location developed a rigid belief inwards a papal plot to subvert U.S. values together with fifty-fifty destroy U.S. institutions together with cultural homogeneity. In addition, Catholics were deemed unfit to alive inwards a democracy together with unpatriotic because they owed allegiance to the pope.
The Irish Gaelic were peculiarly blamed equally tools used past times the pope to command U.S. religious together with political life. Moreover, the keen number of Catholics moving to the Midwest caused the Know-Nothings together with other nativists to intend that the powerfulness of the pope mightiness live transferred there.
By the goal of the 1840s, several nativist hush-hush societies were formed to protect together with relieve the country, supposedly threatened past times an alien menace. In 1849, Charles Allen, a New Yorker, formed a hush-hush fraternal social club made upwardly of native-born Protestant working men, artisans, together with minor businessmen, who feared economical contest from cheaper immigrant labor.
It was called the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, together with evolved into a hush-hush political displace (with a formal pledge of secrecy) known equally the American Party, formed inwards 1854 past times delegates from 13 states. If questioned, members were required to say, “I know nothing,” thence the pop appellation. They pledged never to vote for whatsoever foreign-born or Catholic candidate.
Know-Nothings made broad piece of job of newspapers together with periodicals for their propaganda, together alongside a network of activists from Boston to the Mississippi Valley. Some predicted that the pope together with his regular army would the world on U.S. shores to fix a novel Vatican inwards Cincinnati, Ohio.
One famous Know-Nothing was Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, who wrote a serial of articles denouncing a “foreign conspiracy.” Another was Lyman Beecher, a seventh-generation Puritan preacher. Intent on stopping the West from becoming Catholic country, he wrote that he came to Cincinnati “to battle the Pope for the garden spot of the world.” Mob attacks on Catholic churches inwards New England presently became frequent.
Popularity without Long-lasting Results
In practice, the Know-Nothings’ political aims were non so much to suppress immigration, nor fifty-fifty trammel it—although approximately sponsored resolutions to bar paupers together with criminals—but to command the influence of foreigners together with “purify” U.S. politics.
Their legislative programme called for the exclusion of foreigners together with Catholics from populace office, for to a greater extent than stringent naturalization laws (extension of the residency menstruum earlier naturalization from 5 to twenty-one years), for literacy tests equally a prerequisite for voting, together with for restrictions on liquor sales.
The Know-Nothings capitalized on the Compromise of 1850 together with the furor over “Bleeding Kansas,” which led to a primal political realignment inwards the mid-1850s, winning national prominence chiefly because the 2 major parties—Whigs together with Democrats—were at that fourth dimension breaking apart over the slavery issue.
By 1855 they had captured command of the legislatures inwards parts of New England together with were the dominant opposition political party to the Democrats inwards New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, together with Louisiana.
In the presidential election of 1856, the party, past times so mainly composed of southerners equally a trial of the internal debates over slavery, supported sometime Whig president Millard Fillmore alongside a simplistic platform—reputedly the shortest inwards U.S. history: “America must dominion America.”
When the vote was counted, Fillmore gathered most i 1000000 pop votes (21 percentage of the pop vote) together with 8 electoral votes. In Congress, the political party had 5 senators together with forty-three representatives.
Afterwards, Know-Nothingism declined for internal reasons: lack of efficient organization, the precipitous reject inwards immigration, the failure to force whatsoever legislation against immigration together with Catholics, disagreement over secrecy, together with the mounting violence of its supporters (rioting together with bloodshed took house during the elections).
The slavery number broke downwards the party, equally was the illustration for the Whigs together with the Democrats. In 1855, at the party’s start convention inwards Philadelphia, when southern delegates pushed a resolution to back upwardly the Kansas-Nebraska Act, northern delegates left the room.
While northern workers felt to a greater extent than threatened past times the southern Slave Power than past times the pope together with Catholic immigrants, at the same time, fewer southerners were willing to back upwardly a political party that ignored the query of the expansion of slavery. By 1860, many members together with sympathizers joined the ranks of the growing Republican Party alongside a political platform based on gratis soil.
In fact, both parties overlapped ideologically; their supporters both believed inwards conspiracy, i existence the pope’s, the other the slaveholders’. However, historians accept debated whether the inevitability of the Know-Nothings’ reject inwards favor of Republicanism was because the papal plot was less plausible than the slaveholders’ conspiracy.
The anti-immigration opinion of the political party was condemned past times many Americans, similar Abraham Lincoln, who frowned on their discriminatory together with exclusionist philosophy equally betraying such sacred U.S. values equally equality together with hospitality to immigrants; or William H. Seward, who attacked their failure to run into that U.S. economical evolution required immigrants.
In 1855, Abraham Lincoln wrote inwards a mortal letter: “I am non a KnowNothing.... As a patch nosotros began past times declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We at i time practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings larn control, it volition read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, together with foreigners, together with catholics.’”
The Know-Nothings left an indelible grade on U.S. politics. The displace eroded loyalty to the national political parties, was instrumental inwards the breakdown of the Whig Party, together with made the political scheme to a greater extent than frail earlier the divisive number of slavery.