Inventing America's First Immigration Crisis: Political Nativism in the Antebellum West (Catholic Practice in North America)

Fordham University Press
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9780823289851
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Why have Americans expressed concern about immigration at some times but not at others? In pursuit of an answer, this book examines America's first nativist movement, which responded to the rapid influx of 4.2 million immigrants between 1840 and 1860. As most studies on nativism have focused on the coasts, historians have not yet produced a complete explanation for why Midwesterners joined the ranks of the National American, or "Know Nothing," Party in such great numbers and why the nation's bloodiest anti-immigrant riots erupted in Midwestern cities, namely Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis. Ritter's detailed examination of the outbreak of political nativism in western cities provides a representative example of the relationship between immigrants' conditions, the election riots of the mid-1850s, and the dramatic rise of the National American Party, which garnered 25 percent of the popular vote in the election of 1856. Unprecedented levels of immigration from Europe and rapid westward expansion reignited fears of Catholicism as a corrosive force. An ensuing culture war over proper school curricula and Sunday observance pitted native-born Americans against immigrants. Ritter presents new research on the inner sanctums of the elusive and secretive Order of Know-Nothings in the West. Original data derived from local criminal court records provide a fresh perspective on the relationship between immigration, crime, and poverty in the urban West. Ultimately, Ritter argues that the country's first bout of political nativism culminated in a renewal of Americans' commitment to the separation of church and state, a process most clearly observed in the antebellum West. Native-born Americans compelled Catholic immigrants who might have otherwise shared an affinity for monarchism to accept American-style democracy, and Catholic Americans forced Americans to accept a more inclusive definition of religious freedom. It is no wonder, then, that Americans and immigrants of all creeds have often framed their respective causes in the language of religious liberty. This study offers valuable insight into the historic role of nativism in American politics and sheds light on present-day concerns regarding immigration in America.


  • | Author: Luke Ritter
  • | Publisher: Fordham University Press
  • | Publication Date: December 01, 2020
  • | Number of Pages: 288 pages
  • | Language: English
  • | Binding: Paperback
  • | ISBN-10: 0823289850
  • | ISBN-13: 9780823289851
Author:
Luke Ritter
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
Publication Date:
December 01, 2020
Number of pages:
288 pages
Language:
English
Binding:
Paperback
ISBN-10:
0823289850
ISBN-13:
9780823289851