Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Millard Fillmore, Know Nothing: Part IX

The focus of Fillmore’s campaign was so clearly on Unionism – and not on nativism – that he never did dispel the concerns of many about his lack of commitment to Americanism. Ironically, a number of KNs expressed the belief that he was not even the strongest pro-native candidate in the field: despite (false) rumors that Republican candidate John C. Fremont was a Catholic, and although the Republicans had reneged on their commitment to nominate a KN as their vice presidential candidate, some KNs opined that Fremont was more likely than Fillmore to champion key portions of the American agenda. As Tyler Anbinder has explained:
North Americans [KNs from the north who had bolted the national party over slavery] also believed that once the slavery issue was settled, Fremont would be more responsive than Fillmore to the Order’s nativist agenda. Nativist newspapers throughout the North reported that Fremont had assured Know Nothing leaders of his sympathy with their movement. In a comparison they portrayed Fillmore as a “parlor Know Nothing” who had never attended a lodge meeting and who had accepted membership in the Order merely to gain the American party’s nomination. As a result, said North Americans, nativists would find Fillmore “less disposed to carry out the great principles of the American party than Col. Fremont will be.” . . . Veteran Massachusetts nativist Jonathan Peirce stated privately that if Fremont “is elected no aliens or Roman Catholics will be retained in office.” Even the Catholic Bishop of Buffalo believed that the Republicans had replaced the Americans as the most anti-Catholic political party.

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