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