Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's

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Oxford University Press, 1992 - History - 330 pages
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Although the United States has always portrayed itself as a sanctuary for the world's victim's of poverty and oppression, anti-immigrant movements have enjoyed remarkable success throughout American history. None attained greater prominence than the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, a fraternal order referred to most commonly as the Know Nothing party. Vowing to reduce the political influence of immigrants and Catholics, the Know Nothings burst onto the American political scene in 1854, and by the end of the following year they had elected eight governors, more than one hundred congressmen, and thousands of other local officials including the mayors of Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Chicago. After their initial successes, the Know Nothings attempted to increase their appeal by converting their network of lodges into a conventional political organization, which they christened the "American Party." Recently, historians have pointed to the Know Nothings' success as evidence that ethnic and religious issues mattered more to nineteenth-century voters than better-known national issues such as slavery. In this important book, however, Anbinder argues that the Know Nothings' phenomenal success was inextricably linked to the firm stance their northern members took against the extension of slavery. Most Know Nothings, he asserts, saw slavery and Catholicism as interconnected evils that should be fought in tandem. Although the Know Nothings certainly were bigots, their party provided an early outlet for the anti-slavery sentiment that eventually led to the Civil War. Anbinder's study presents the first comprehensive history of America's most successful anti-immigrant movement, as wellas a major reinterpretation of the political crisis that led to the Civil War.

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User Review  - TLCrawford - LibraryThing

In 2010 I started hearing the modern “Tea Party” compared to the “Know Nothing” party of history and it occurred to me that for someone with a BA in history I knew very little about the Know Nothings ... Read full review


Immigration Nativism and Party Crisis
The Rise of the Know Nothings
The Know Nothings Enter Politics
The Know Nothings and the Collapse of the Second Party System
The Know Nothings in Office
The Know Nothings and the Presidential Election of 1856
The Know Nothings and Republican Ascendancy 18571860

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About the author (1992)

Tyler G. Anbinder is at University of Wyoming.

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