As we all know, we are scrupulously apolitical here in The Jungle. Let us begin with four seconds of classic Sgt Schultz:
Silverbelle Kate (Hinesburg SBs) writes:
“I am forwarding this exploration of the Know Nothing movement, which had come up in conversation with SB Bill this morning…not for the first time, as you can imagine. It’s a reminder of the heady complexities of history and the ease with which something catchy, like the Know Nothing name, can be oversimplified to the point that it betrays history. Not that, on balance, the party didn’t display stupidity. Below is an excerpt I found particularly riveting, with a lead in to a quotation from a letter Abraham Lincoln wrote. It feels to me as fresh now as ever, sadly. What a voice. And how salutary to be reminded, with all that has gone wrong in this country over the centuries, that, in fact, we have elected people of the caliber of Abrahm Lincoln. I note, though, that he is apparently completely blind to the idea that women should have the vote, though I can but imagine that had he lived longer he would have become ‘woke’ on that issue. I do very much enjoy the Silverback column, as you might imagine.
Regards, SB Kate”
[Of course, in my editorial wisdom, contextualize SB Kate’s observation with four more seconds of Sgt Schultz:]
From Wikipedia: The Know Nothings were a nativist political party and movement in the United States in the mid-1850s. The party was formally known as the “Native American Party” prior to 1855 and simply the “American Party” after that.[a]
The Know Nothings were originally a secret society. It was primarily an anti-Catholic, Anti-Irish, anti-immigration, populist and xenophobic movement. It aligned with American progressivism in its stances on “issues of labor rights and the need for more government spending” as well as for its “support for an expansion of the rights of women, regulation of industry, and support of measures designed to improve the status of working people.” It was a forerunner to the temperance movement in the United States. The Know Nothing movement briefly emerged as a major political party in the form of the American Party. Adherents to the movement were to simply reply “I know nothing” when asked about its specifics by outsiders, providing the group with its common name.
Kate continues, “Many were appalled by the Know Nothings. Abraham Lincoln expressed his own disgust with the political party in a private letter to Joshua Speed, written 24 August 1855. Lincoln never publicly attacked the Know Nothings, whose votes he needed:
“I am not a Know-Nothing—that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”
As the French say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”