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Nativism (politics) : United States 1830-1860


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The term "nativism" was first used by 1844: "Thousands were Naturalized expressly to oppose Nativism, and voted the Polk ticket mainly to that end."

Nativism gained its name from the "Native American" parties of the 1840s and 1850s. In this context "Native" does not mean indigenous Americans or American Indians but rather those descended from the inhabitants of the original Thirteen Colonies. It impacted politics in the mid-19th century because of the large inflows of immigrants after 1845 from cultures that were different from the existing American culture. Nativists objected primarily to Irish Roman Catholics because of their loyalty to the Pope and also because of their supposed rejection of republicanism as an American ideal.

Nativist movements included the Know Nothing or American Party of the 1850s, the Immigration Restriction League of the 1890s, the anti-Asian movements in the West, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the "Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907" by which Japan's government stopped emigration to the United States. Labor unions were strong supporters of Chinese exclusion and limits on immigration, because of fears that they would lower wages and make it harder for workers to organize unions.

Historian Eric Kaufmann has suggested that American nativism has been explained primarily in psychological and economic terms due to the neglect of a crucial cultural and ethnic dimension. Furthermore, Kauffman claims that American nativism cannot be understood without reference to an American ethnic group which took shape prior to the large-scale immigration of the mid-eighteenth century.

Nativist outbursts occurred in the Northeast from the 1830s to the 1850s, primarily in response to a surge of Irish Catholic immigration. In 1836, Samuel Morse ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York City on a Nativist ticket, receiving 1,496 votes. In New York City, an Order of United Americans was founded as a nativist fraternity, following the Philadelphia Nativist Riots of the preceding spring and summer, in December, 1844.

The Nativists went public in 1854 when they formed the 'American Party', which was especially hostile to the immigration of Irish Catholics and campaigned for laws to require longer wait time between immigration and naturalization. (The laws never passed.) It was at this time that the term "nativist" first appears, opponents denounced them as "bigoted nativists." Former President Millard Fillmore ran on the American Party ticket for the Presidency in 1856. The American Party also included many ex-Whigs who ignored nativism, and included (in the South) a few Catholics whose families had long lived in America. Conversely, much of the opposition to Catholics came from Protestant Irish immigrants and German Lutheran immigrants who were not native at all and can hardly be called "nativists."

This form of nationalism is often identified with xenophobia and anti-Catholic sentiment (anti-Papism). In Charlestown, Massachusetts, a nativist mob attacked and burned down a Catholic convent in 1834 (no one was injured). In the 1840s, small scale riots between Catholics and nativists took place in several American cities. In Philadelphia in 1844, for example, a series of nativist assaults on Catholic churches and community centers resulted in the loss of lives and the professionalization of the police force. In Louisville, Kentucky, election-day rioters killed at least 22 people in attacks on German and Irish Catholics on Aug. 6, 1855, in what became known as "Bloody Monday."

The new Republican Party kept its nativist element quiet during the 1860s, since immigrants were urgently needed for the Union Army. Immigrants from England, Scotland and Scandinavia favored the Republicans during the Third Party System, 1854-1896, while others were usually Democratic. Hostility toward Asians was very strong from the 1860s to the 1940s. Nativism experienced a revival in the 1890s, led by Protestant Irish immigrants hostile to Catholic immigration, especially the American Protective Association.

wikipedia.org

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