Back in the 1800’s, when people used the term “Native American,” they weren’t referring to the indigenous peoples of North America. They meant native-born white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Hence the anti-immigrant movement became known as Nativism. In 1849, a group of Nativists met in New York to form an organization they titled the “Order of the Star Spangled Banner.” Its main purpose was to oppose immigrants who were coming to America in large numbers, particularly Irish Catholic ones. They resolved to oppose any expansion of Catholic influence in America, especially political. Members took a secret oath. When they were asked about it, they replied, “I know nothing,” and so they were called the “Know-Nothings.” While it’s impossible to give an exact number, fair estimates place their national membership in the mid-1850’s at approximately one million. In 1854, they elected eight governors, and over a hundred congressmen. They also elected mayors of Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, plus thousands of local officials all over the country, but eventually their platform was overshadowed by the approach of the Civil War. I knew they were pretty popular for a while, but only recently did I discover that they had their own brand of soap!
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