History, what a b*tch, huh? Well, it is
if people would just read it and heed it for change. In this particular regard, The Tea Party -- it's
nothing new at all. It's just the old American Party of 1852 wearing polyester.
Let's not make this complicated, because it isn't. Here are blurbs from Wikipedia's description of the American Party... the Tea Party of pre-Civil War America followed by descriptions of today's Tea Partiers:
(NOTE: Wikipeida quotes in bold)
The Know-Nothing movement was a nativist American political movement of the 1840s and 1850s. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants. (In California the group opposed Chinese and Irish immigration.)
The movement originated in 1843 as the American Republican Party. It spread to other states as the Native American Party and became a national party in 1845. In 1855 it renamed itself the American Party.
Few Know-Nothings were wealthy: most were workers or small farmers whose jobs or ways of life were threatened by the cheap labor and unfamiliar culture of immigrants..
The immigration of large numbers of Irish and German Catholics to the U.S. in the period between 1830 and 1860 made religious differences between Catholics and Protestants a political issue. The tensions echoed European conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. Violence occasionally erupted over elections.
Although Catholics asserted that they were politically independent of priests, Protestants alleged that Pope Pius IX was an opponent of liberty and democracy. These concerns encouraged conspiracy theories regarding the Pope's purported plans to subjugate the United States.
In 1854, members of the American Party allegedly stole and destroyed the block of granite contributed by Pius IX for the Washington Monument. They also took over the monument's building society and controlled it for four years. What little progress occurred in their tenure had to be undone and remade.
Fear of Catholic immigration led to a dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, whose leadership in many areas included Irish American Catholics. Activists formed secret groups, coordinating their votes and throwing their weight behind candidates sympathetic to their cause.
In spring 1854, the Know Nothings carried Boston, Salem, and other New England cities. They swept the state of Massachusetts in the fall 1854 elections, their biggest victory.
The Know-Nothing candidate for mayor of Philadelphia was editor Robert T. Conrad, promised to crack down on crime, close saloons on Sundays, and to appoint only native-born Americans to office. He won by a landslide.
In 1854 The Know Nothings were still an unofficial movement with no centralized organization. But the results of the 1854 elections were so favorable to the Know Nothings that they formed officially as a political party called the American Party, and attracted many members of the now nearly-defunct Whig party, as well as a significant number of disaffected Democrats and prohibitionists. Membership in the American Party increased dramatically, from 50,000 to an estimated one million plus in a matter of months during that year.
The party name gained wide but brief popularity. Nativism became a new American rage: Know-Nothing candy, Know-nothing tea, and Know-Nothing toothpicks appeared. Stagecoaches were dubbed "The Know-Nothing." In Maine, a shipowner dubbed his new 700-ton freighter, "Know-Nothing."
There were few prominent leaders, and the largely middle-class and entirely Protestant membership fragmented over the issue of slavery. Most ended up joining the Republican Party by the time of the 1860 presidential election.
The party declined rapidly in the North in 1855 and 1856. In the Election of 1856, it was bitterly divided over slavery.After the Supreme Court's controversial Dred Scott ruling, most of the anti-slavery members of the American Party joined the Republican Party. The pro-slavery wing of the American Party remained strong on the local and state levels in a few southern states, but by the Election of 1860, they were no longer a serious national political movement.
The Know-Nothings scored startling victories in northern state elections in 1854... Although most of the new immigrants lived in the North...the American Party initially polled well in the South.
In 1855, after the north/south split, many people who had voted for the Know-Nothings shifted their support to another new party, one that combined many characteristics of the Whigs with a westward-looking, expansionist, free-soil policy.
This new party, founded in 1854, was the Republican Party.
And THAT'S the rest of the story.