The Whig Party in the South

By Arthur Charles Cole | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER X.
ATTEMPTS AT REORGANIZATION, 1854-1861.

The Know Nothing party was a revived form of Native Americanism, a movement which had made considerable headway in the middle forties but which had gradually lost its force as the sectional issue came to occupy the center of the political arena. It was in its political aspect a protest against the part which the foreign-born citizen was allowed to play, whether legally or fraudulently, in the practical workings of the American political system.

Various considerations attracted the southern Whigs to the new organization, which for a time actually took the place of the old Whig party in the South. For one thing, there was in certain regions of the South an immigration problem of a character not unlike that of the north Atlantic seaboard. The states of the lower Mississippi valley and the southern border states in the valleys of the Potomac and Ohio rivers contained nearly ninety per cent of the foreign-born population of the South, and a large portion of the foreign immigrants were massed in the large cities, where they nearly equaled in numbers the native-born.1 Inasmuch as many of the immigrants were persons of questionable physical, mental, or moral capacity, the expense of public charity was materially increased and the whole moral tone of those cities was lowered. The inevitable

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1
DeBow, Compendium of the Seventh Census, 118, 123, 399.

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