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[400] into rival and hostile factions those whose duty it was to work together for a great cause. For once Massachusetts failed to hold her place in the leadership of a great movement. The result was that the mass convention held at Worcester July 20, and the nominating convention held there September 7, which Sumner addressed, were, though adopting the name Republican, composed chiefly of Free Soilers.1 The spell of party which controlled the Whig journals and politicians no longer held the masses of the people. the popular yearning was for a new movement; and foiled in one direction by political animosities, it sought temporary expression in one of the most singular episodes of American politics.

A secret order of obscure origin, starting in the city of New York, and calling itself ‘American,’ though afterwards best known in political nomenclature as ‘Know-Nothing,’ aspired through its branches to control national as well as local politics. Its purpose was to resist the influence of foreign-born voters, especially the Catholic. It attracted in great numbers native-born laborers who were jealous of the competition of emigrants. Its leaders and masses had taken hitherto little interest in political controversies, and they were untaught in political methods and expedients.2 Thus composed and led, the order offered an opportunity to others who, having no special sympathy with its original purpose, saw fit to turn it to account for personal or political ends of their own. What is also most important to observe, it offered an escape for great numbers who had lost interest in existing parties; and to this fact is due its remarkable success at the time. From New York it came to Boston, where it decided the city election in December, 1853. Many Free Soilers in that city, who resented the interposition of the Catholic Church against the new Constitution, entered it at once after their defeat in 1853, and made their influence felt in its early proceedings in Massachusetts. Others of them, after the failure of the attempted fusion in July, 1854, joined it,3 and

1 John A. Andrew was made chairman of the executive committee. The Free Soilers formally dissolved their party organization at a meeting held in Springfield, October 17. The ‘Republican’ described the scene the next day with amiable satire.

2 The Boston Journal, Nov. 15, 1854, described the new type of voters who were for the first time becoming a political force.

3 Many Whigs who had been disappointed by the failure of the proposed fusion joined it. The Springfield Republican (November 10) attributed the growth of the order to the failure of the effort to unite the opponents of the extension of slavery. ‘Life and Times of Samuel Bowles,’ vol. i. pp. 125-127.

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