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Old 06-20-2019, 05:41 AM   #1
reynolds
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Default In 1855, "The Know Nothing" (Anti-Immigrant) Party" Opposed Immigration To America

The Know-Nothing Party Opposed Immigration to America


Secret Societies Emerged as Serious Political Players in the 1840s



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In 1855, commonly known as the Know Nothing movement, was an American nativist political party that operated nationally in the mid-1850s. It's members were native born Protestants hostile to immigration, starting originally as a secret society, and strongest in Massachusetts.


Of all the American political parties in existence in the 19th century, perhaps none generated more controversy than the Know-Nothing Party, or the Know-Nothings. Officially known as the American Party, it originally emerged from secret societies organized to violently oppose immigration to America. Its shadowy beginnings, and popular nickname, meant it would eventually go down in history as something of a joke. Yet in their time, the Know-Nothings made their dangerous presence known—and no one was laughing. The party unsuccessfully ran candidates for president ...

While the party failed at the national level, in local races the anti-immigrant message was often very popular. Those opposed to immigrants became known as nativists. Several small political parties espousing nativist doctrine existed in the early 1800s, among them the American Republican Party and the Nativist Party. Members of established political parties were at times baffled by these organizations, as their leaders would not publicly reveal themselves. And members, when asked about the organizations, were instructed to answer, “I know nothing.”

Many Americans, of course, were appalled by the Know-Nothings. Abraham Lincoln expressed his own disgust with the political party in a letter written in 1855. Lincoln noted that if the Know-Nothings ever took power, the Declaration of Independence would have to be amended to say that all men are created equal "except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics."

In 1856 former president Millard Fillmore ran as the Know-Nothing candidate for president. Fillmore, who had originally been a Whig, refused to subscribe to the Know-Nothing’s obvious prejudice against Catholics and immigrants. His campaign ended in a crushing defeat.

In the mid-1850s, the American Party, which had been neutral on the slavery issue, came to align itself with the pro-slavery position. As the power base of Know-Nothings was in the northeast, that proved to be the wrong position to take. The stance on slavery probably hastened the decline of the Know-Nothings. The nativist movement in America did not begin with the Know-Nothings, and it certainly didn’t end with them.


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