Know-Nothing Party

Know-Nothing Party

U.S. political party of the 1850s. The party's precursor organization, the secret Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, was formed in New York City in 1849 from the anti-immigrant and anti-Roman Catholic movement, and lodges were soon established in other major cities. Members were instructed to reply to queries about their group with “I know nothing.” As its membership and importance grew in the 1850s, the group slowly shed its clandestine character and took the official name American Party. The party called for restrictions on immigration and on naturalized citizenship. Many local and state candidates won offices in the 1852 election, and by 1855 there were 43 Know-Nothing members of Congress. At its 1856 convention the party split over the slavery issue; proslavery advocates left to join the Democrats and antislavery adherents joined the Republicans. By 1859 the party's influence was limited to the border states.


Know-Nothing Party or American Party

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