The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 328
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Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly
York, and Pennsylvania, and it soon spread into Texas and other south-
ern states. Echoing contemporary critics, some historians have por-
trayed Know-Nothingism as little more than militant prejudice against
foreigners and Catholics. Others have sought to explain the movement
in terms of evangelical perfectionism, Unionism, status anxiety, or im-
patience with the established Jacksonian-era parties.'
Historians of antebellum Texas politics have generally discounted
nativism as the American party's main attraction in the state, choosing
instead to emphasize its strong Unionist component and its status as
the only viable alternative to the pro-secession Southern Rights Demo-
crats. While scholars such as Frank H. Smyrl, Ralph A. Wooster, and
Walter L. Buenger have acknowledged that the movement sprang from
"complex origins" and that some of its initial support did come from
"resentment to the increasing numbers of foreigners in Texas," most
observers have ultimately agreed with James Marten's characterization
of Texas Know-Nothingism as simply a "Unionist foil to the growing
radicalism of the Democrats."2
Biographers of Sam Houston have shown a similar reticence about
taking Houston's nativism seriously. In his '929 magnum opus, The
Raven, Marquis James never acknowledged Houston's attachment to
the nativist party, instead saying only that the Texas senator halfheart-
edly supported the Millard Fillmore ticket in 1856. His reasons for
doing so, according to James, "could have been reduced to three
words: Save the Union!" The most scholarly biography of Houston,
Llerena B. Friend's Sam Houston: The Great Designer (1954), faithfully
recorded the story of the Hero's affiliation with the American party,
IFor a sampling of interpletations see Ray Allen Billington, The Piotestant Crusade, I8oo-
z86o A Study of the Otgins of Ame1uan Nativsm (New York: Macmillan Co , 1938), Jean H
Baker, Ambivalent Ameca s The Know-Nothing Party in Maryland (Baltimote Johns Ilopkins
University Press, 1977), I homas J. Curran, Xenoplhobta and Inimmgation, 1820-I193 (Boston.
iFwayne, 1975), David Brion Davis, "Some I hcnes of Countei-Subversion- An Analysis of
Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literatule," MiissSSppi Valley Ilstoral Review,
XLVII (Sept, 196o), 205-224, William E Glenapp, The Ogins of the Republuan Pantv, 1852-
1856 (New York. Oxford University Press, 1987), esp. 92-1oo, Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immn-
gaIts (1790-z88o) A Studv in Accultuation (Cambridge. Belknap Press of Harvard Umnver-
sity Press, 1979), John H lgham, "Another Look at Nativism," Cathohc IlIrtoiural Review, XLIV
(July, 1958), 147-158, Michael Holt, "I'he Politics of Impatience: The Origins of Know-
Nothmgism," Journal of Amew can Ilt toiy, L (June, 1973), 309-331; Dale 'T Knobcl, Paddy and
the Republic Ethnitty and Nationality in Antebellum Amerra (Middletown, Conn. Wesleyan Unl-
vei sity Press, 1986), esp 129-164, Stephen E Mai7hsh, "The Meaning of Nativism and the
Crisis of the Union The Know-Nothing Movement in the Antebellum Nor th," in Essays on
Anmenuan Antebellum Politcs, r840- 186o, ed Stephen E Ma7lhsh and John J. Kushma (College
Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982), 166- 198, W. D)arrell Overdyke, The Know-Nothing
Pa, in the South (Baton Rouge: Louislana State Unlve sity Press, 195o)
2Walter L Buenge , Sereoion and the Union in Texas (Austin University of fexas Press, 1984),
29 (1st quotation); Ralph A Wooster, "An Analysis of the 'lTexas Know Nothings," Southzwestein
IIstoical Quaiteily, LXX (Jan , 1967), 414 (2nd quotationn; Fiank I-I Smyrl, "Unionlsm in
"Iexas, 1856-1861," ibid., LXVIII (Oct., 1964), 192, James Marten, Texas Divided Loyalty and
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/386/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.