The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History
Why, for two hundred years, have some American citizens seen this country as an endangered Eden, to be purged of corrupting peoples or ideas by any means necessary?
To the Know-Nothings of the 1850s, the enemy was Irish immigrants. To the Ku Klux Klan, it was Jews, blacks, and socialists. To groups like the Michigan Militia, the enemy is the government itself — and some of them are willing to take arms against it. The Party of Fear — which has now been updated to examine the right-wing resurgence of the 1990s — is the first book to reveal the common values and anxieties that lie beneath the seeming diversity of the far right. From the anti-Catholic riots that convulsed Philadelphia in 1845 to the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, it casts a brilliant, cautionary light not only on our political fringes but on the ways in which ordinary Americans define themselves and demonize outsiders.
Lincoln on the Know Nothing Party
August 24, 1855: Letter to Joshua F. Speed
The American or “Know Nothing Party” was an anti-immigrant political party of the 1850’s.
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.
(from the blog: Reformed Broker)
Laws were passed to keep Chinese women out of the country, so that the Chinese males who were brought over for menial labor couldn’t produce offspring.
Jews were spat upon in the streets and routinely excluded from polite society.
Unhire-able. Undesirable. Laws were passed to allow for the mass discrimination and segregation of your great grandparents, not much more than a century ago.
It’s nice that you now view yourselves as “Real Americans.” Just yesterday, your kind were anything but. And I don’t mean in the deep south or in obscure corners of the country. Your forebears were considered human garbage on the streets of New York, Philadelphia and Boston. It wasn’t all that long ago when mainstream politicians were actively seeking ways to get rid of you too.
Here’s Uncle Sam being swallowed by Chinese and Irish immigrants, many of whom came over in the mid-1800’s to work on the railroads:
In “The Evolution of the Murphy”, an Irish child begins life as a potato, then becomes a vagrant, a cop and finally a corrupt political official:
Here’s an Irish ape, swinging a bottle of rum, rocking back and forth on a barrel of gunpowder:
A ship filled with big-nosed Jews, being ridiculed for fleeing the pogroms and sporadic outbursts of homicidal rioting against them across Russia and Eastern Europe. You’ll notice the ship itself is given a giant Jew nose for a prow, nice touch:
Here are Chinese locusts infesting America. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed by President Chester A. Arthur. It mandated a 10-year moratorium on all Chinese immigration into the United States. Amazingly, the US didn’t fully repeal the restrictions on Chinese immigration until 1943, as a check on Japanese attempts to weaken American-Chinese relations during the war:
Here’s an Oregonian settler offering a choice to the Chinamen who were inhabiting the west when he arrived – you can go or stay:
The irony of a country built by immigrants building walls to keep out specific types of immigrants should be lost on no one. Here you see a former African slave, a Civil War vet, another Irish ape, a Frenchman and a Jew building a wall to keep out whatever might come in behind them:
In 1915, Congress passed a law stating that immigrants had to pass a literacy test to come into the country. President Wilson vetoed it, but a much harsher measure passed two years later. Here was the list of undesirables banned from entering the country – word for word: “alcoholics”, “anarchists”, “contract laborers”, “criminals and convicts”, “epileptics”, “feebleminded persons”, “idiots”, “illiterates”, “imbeciles”, “insane persons”, “paupers”, “persons afflicted with contagious disease”, “persons being mentally or physically defective”, “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority”, “political radicals”, “polygamists”, “prostitutes” and “vagrants”. Here’s the “Americanese Wall”:
The first mass migration of Italians were the Sicilians – many of whom first arrived in New Orleans. It was said that Roman Catholics could never be real Americans because their loyalty would always be first and foremost to the church. There were conspiracy theories that they were planning to set up a Papal State within the US. Below is a casual instruction manual to deal with their kind and drown them like rats:
An Italian with the features of a monkey shines the shoes of a dandy. Southern Italians in particular were looked down upon for being “not quite white”:
President McKinley (top left) believed in open immigration. Here’s Uncle Sam, at his direction, looking on as Italian rats “directly from the slums of Europe” pour into the country. Sound / look familiar?:
The American “fool pied piper” leads more Italian rats toward Ellis Island as the cheering European aristocracy rejoices in the background. You can imagine some demagogue back then saying “they’re sending us their worst people”, can’t you?:
“Close the Gate” from 1919 – immigrants were routinely depicted as “Reds”, communists, Marxists and anarchists by this time – the irony being that these were some of the very things they were fleeing from. Not unlike the Middle Easterners currently fleeing from the very terrorism and religious genocide that many are accusing them of supporting:
I work on Wall Street and live on Long Island. I am surrounded by people who can’t recognize how recently their own ancestry and ethnicity would have been a problem for them. Are you one of them?
If so, I hope this hits close enough to home so as to awaken you from your contented slumber.