Providing insight into pre-Civil War third-party politics, Voss-Hubbard (history, Eastern Illinois University) analyzes the antigovernment, antipartisan culture of the Know Nothings movement, which began in 1850 and spread throughout the industrial North. Drawing on local sources, Voss-Hubbard applies social movement theory and historical insight to place the rhetoric and activism of the Know Nothings in the wider context of America's suspicion of "politics as usual." Annotation (c) Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)Johns Hopkins University Press
"Voss-Hubbard offers not only a persuasive explanation for the rise and fall of the Know-Nothings but also provides valuable insights into the political culture of the pre-Civil War North." -- History: Reviews of New Books
Captivating disgruntled voters, third parties have often complicated the American political scene. In the years before the Civil War, third-party politics took the form of the Know Nothings, who mistrusted established parties and gave voice to anti-government sentiment.
Originating about 1850 as a nativist fraternal order, the Know Nothing movement soon spread throughout the industrial North. InBeyond Party, Mark Voss-Hubbard draws on local sources in three different states where the movement was especially strong to uncover its social roots and establish its relationship to actual public policy issues. Focusing on the 1852 ten hour movement in Essex County, Massachusetts, the pro-temperance and anti-Catholic agitation in and around Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and the movement to restrict immigrants' voting rights and overthrow "corrupt parties and politicians" in New London County, Connecticut, he shows that these places shared many of the social problems that occurred throughout the North—the consolidation of capitalist agriculture and industry, the arrival of Irish and German Catholic immigrants, and the changing fortunes of many established political leaders.
Voss-Hubbard applies the insights of social history and social movement theory to politics in arguing that we need to understand Know Nothing rhetoric and activism as part of a wider tradition of American suspicion of "politics as usual"—even though, of course, this antipartyism served agendas that included those of self-interested figures seeking to accumulate power.