Religious Conflict and Discrimination
Ill will toward Irish immigrants because of their poor living
conditions, and their willingness to work for low wages was often
exacerbated by religious conflict. Centuries of tension between
Protestants and Catholics found their way into United States cities
and verbal attacks often led to mob violence. For example, Protestants
burned down St. Marys Catholic Church in New York City in
1831, while in 1844, riots in Philadelphia left thirteen dead.
Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments in the 1840s produced
groups such as the nativist American Party, which fought foreign
influences and promoted "traditional American ideals."
American Party members earned the nickname, "Know-Nothings,"
because their standard reply to questions about their procedures
and activities was, "I know nothing about it."
In the Questions
for Admittance to the American Party (1854), inductees committed
elect to all offices of Honor, Profit, or Trust,
no one but native born citizens of America, of this Country to
the exclusion of all Foreigners, and to all Roman Catholics, whether
they be of native or Foreign Birth, regardless of all party predilections
whatever." This commitment helped elect American Party governors
in Massachusetts and Delaware and placed Millard Fillmore on a
presidential ticket in 1856.