Know Nothings

"The Third-Term Panic", by Thomas Na...

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Those who don’t know their history are likely to repeat it, again and again.

Between 1845 and 1860, there was a political movement in the United States called the Know Nothings that has reappeared recently under another name. The original Know Nothings had the following platform and ran with moderate success until the Civil War. They opposed the immigration of Catholics from Germany and Ireland. Immigrants must wait 21 years for citizenship. They preferred that immigrants originate from the British Isles, excluding Catholic Ireland. Teachers in public schools and all elected officials were to be white Protestant Anglo-Saxons. English was to be the official language.

At first, the Know Nothings called themselves the American Republican Party, then the Native American Party, and finally the American Party. After the Dred Scott decision in 1857, the Know Nothings split in factions and the anti-slavery faction joined the Republican Party.

If all this sounds a bit familiar, it should. Much of the Know Nothing platform and goals are repeated nightly on the evening news.