The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History

The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History

The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History

The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History

Synopsis

David Bennett presents a ground-breaking historical analysis of the forces shaping nativist and counter-subversive activity in America from colonial times to the present. He demonstrates that in this nation of immigrants the American Right did not emerge form postfeudal parties of privilege or from the social chaos that bred a Hitler of Mussolini in Europe.

Excerpt

Bits of white paper strewn across a prearranged site announced the meeting of the brotherhood. Held at night, in keeping with the secrecy that shrouded its early years, the sessions of the local chapters of the Order of the Star Spangled Banner were open only to initiates and those about to join them in the ranks. The ritual for admission to the lodge seemed endless. But instead of irritating men tired after a long day's work, the elaborate raps and special handclasps, the passwords between brothers, and the sentinels sent to escort candidates long known to the membership seemed to heighten the feeling of camaraderie, the sense of special excitement at the dangerous but essential mission they were privileged to share. For they were there to save and cleanse the nation, to preserve for themselves that abstraction which some would later call the American dream.

The ceremony for administering the oath of membership was found, seven decades later, at the ritualized heart of another powerful American secret society. But in the I850s, for the movement emerging under its informal name of Know Nothings, it seemed fresh enough. "A sense of danger," the lodge leader or sachem read, "has struck the heart of the nation. The danger has been seen and the alarm sounded. True men have devised this order as a means of disseminating patriotic principles, of keeping alive the fire of national virtue, of furthering America and American interests."

In dozens of books, pamphlets, and broadsides the theme was repeated and refined: "Our mission is to restore America to the Americans, to purify and strengthen this nation ... to keep it clean from corruption." For Americans were specially blessed. Europeans were "ignorant and servile, passionate children governed by fear . . .

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