Parties and Platforms


Who were the Know-Nothings?

More formally known as the American Party, the Know-Nothing Party was founded in New York City in 1849. It was organized to oppose the large influx of immigrants who entered the United States after 1846. Because Know-Nothings believed that these primarily Irish and Roman Catholic immigrants threatened to destroy America, the party strove to use government power to uphold its vision of an Anglo-Saxon Protestant society. Their platform outlined a limited immigration policy, proposed that only native-born Americans could hold public office, and advocated a twenty-one-year mandatory waiting period for immigrants before they were granted citizenship and voting rights. Despite their strength during the election of 1856, in which they supported former president Millard Fillmore, the Know-Nothings declined as a national party when many members defected to the Republican Party. Although their numbers remained strong in several northern states in the late 1850s, the party had eroded as a national presence before the presidential election of 1860.


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