I love a little slice of history, every now and again. It is sort of like eating German Chocolate Cake…. with German Chocolate Icing….every so often, it really hits the spot.
But this one might be a little gooey.
It takes us back to the year 1856, right here in the good old US of A. Politics were alive and well back then. Just like today.
About this story….. Any similarities to today’s current events are simply coincidental. I don’t make these things up. Well… not most of the time.
Okay. Back then we had The American Party. Sounds Make-America-Great. But instead… it was more widely known “Know-Nothing Party.” Hmmmm.
And on this February 18th, they convened in Philadelphia to nominate their first presidential candidate.
Here’s a little “bring-you-up-to-speed” snidbit. The Know-Nothing movement began in the 1840s. This was because of the increasing rate of immigration into the U.S. The Know-Nothings didn’t like some of the “foreign” influences which were coming into the American society…. on the wings of our founding Forefathers and Foremothers.
Who did the Know-Nothings specifically target? Roman Catholic immigrants from Europe and Ireland. The Democratic Party embraced them. The Know-Nothings said “No Way” to these “Unwanted Immigrants” who were entering the country.
Ironically, that encompasses my whole crew of ancestors. Just about every one of my ancestors immigrated to the United States in the late 1830s and early 1840s. All were German Catholics. I am a bastard in the eyes of the American Party, I suppose.
But things continued with the resistance of the open door policy of our country. In the early 1850s, several secret nativist societies were formed, of which the “Order of the Star-Spangled Banner” and the “Order of United Americans” were the most significant.
Now again… I DO NOT make this up. Here is the next coincidental point of historical significance.
When members of these organizations were questioned by the Press about their political platform….. they would often reply they knew nothing, hence the popular name for the Know-Nothing movement.
In 1854, the Know-Nothings started rubbing elbows with a group of Whigs…. and all-together… they ran for office in several states. They also wanted laws enacted to prevent immigrants from holding public office.
Then… on February 18, 1856, the American Party met to nominate it first presidential candidate and to formally abolish the secret character of the organization.
They chose the former president Millard Fillmore of New York. They teamed him up with Andrew Donelson of Tennessee to serve as his running mate. But, as things would have it…. in the subsequent election… Fillmore succeeded in capturing only the state of Maryland.
Only Maryland. And from that point on…. the Know-Nothing movement effectively ceased to exist.
Here is my contention. I am thankful they picked Millard Fillmore as their representative. As President, he is rated, right near the bottom of the barrel, just slightly edging out Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan. If the American Party had found someone dynamic, a grand-manipulator, an ad-man, a pitch-artist… their party may have had much bigger success.
Had they succeeded in blocking those immigrants, my ancestors would not have been welcomed here. As a result, I’d be in Germany writing now, and this would …Für alle meine deutschen Freunde geschrieben werden. Du würdest es nicht lesen. Oh, die wissen nichts.
So. Perhaps we should consider this.
Confucius once said: “Study the past if you would define the future.”
And equally as important, Maya Angelou observed: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
And that is all I have to say about that.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” — Karl Marx
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell