Lesson Plan -- Student

Capitalizing on Anxiety: The Native American Party of the 1850s
A Documents Based Question by Peter Anderson


Directions
The following question is based on the accompanying documents. The question is designed to test your ability to work with historic documents. Part A requires you to analyze and interpret the documents, and answer the related questions. Part B requires you to develop an essay that incorporates the documents in Part A, as well your own knowledge. Some of these documents have been edited for the purposes of these exercises; base your answer(s) on the document as presented. As you analyze the documents, take into account the authors point of view and your prior knowledge of American History.

Historical Context
Beginning in the 1840s, a large anti-immigration and anti-Roman Catholic sentiment began to rise in the United States. A rising tide of immigrants, primarily Germans in the Midwest and Irish in the East, seemed to pose a threat to the economic and political security of native-born Protestant Americans. Nativists, those Americans who agreed with these sentiments, formed the Native American, or Know Nothing, party in order to politically change these developments. The party relied heavily on the print media to persuade other native-born Americans to their cause. As the sectional conflicts leading to the Civil War heightened, certain sections of the Native American party began advocating that slavery should not be extended into new territories. The short existence of the Native American Party reveals not only the role of a third party in the American political system, but the extent to which strong nativist feelings existing in the population could affect national politics in the United States.

Task
Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, answer the questions that follow each document in Part A. Your answers to the questions will help you write the Part B essay, in which you will be asked to:





Part A: The Documents

Document One
Examiner's questions for admittance to the American (or Know Nothing) Party, July 1854


1) What does this document reveal about the key beliefs of Nativism?


Document Two
The True American's Almanac and Politician's Manual for 1857, 1857

The genius of America shrinks aghast from the horrid embrace, and spurns with loathing and disgust the soul-enslaving spirit of popery. Free born American men will stand between the encroaching enemy of Scriptural truth and their own beloved land. They will vote down the hideous foe, for well they know that every victory which Native Americans gain, is the harbinger of greater safety and promised good and their ultimate and complete triumph over foreign rule will be the ground of universal thanksgiving, the future theme of our poets and orators, and the song of our children and of millions of unborn generations. Who but Americans should govern America? And who but Arnolds would betray it into the hands of foreign Jesuits?

2) According to this document, what was a threat to America?
3) How would Nativists counter this threat?


Document Three
Political Cartoon circulated in 1855


4) Using the document above and your prior knowledge of American history, discuss two accusations nativists made against immigrants.


Document Four
Political Cartoon circulated during 1856 Presidential Election

Native American Party candidate is at left, standing on the Union Rock, Republican candidate John Fremont is holding the exploding rifle and Democratic candidate James Buchanan is represented by the deer running towards the White House.

5) According to this document, what did nativists think their party and platform was capable of doing? 6) What developing issue within the Native American party may have made this difficult?


Document Five
The Pennsylvania Freeman July 18, 1844

The immediate cause of these frightful outbreaks is unquestionably to be attributed to the formation of the Native American Party a party which should be discountenanced by every friend of human brotherhood, which is animated by a spirit hostile to our race, which is anti-republican and tyrannical in its purposes, which makes hatred of one particular class of our fellow countrymen an act of patriotism, and which occupies a position that, sooner or later, it if it be not abandoned, will assuredly spread a civil war throughout the country, and lead to scenes of desolation and horror too awful even for the imagination to contemplate.

7.) What criticisms does this article offer about the nativists? 8.) What does this article possibly tell us about popular opinion regarding the nativists?


Document Six
Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1855

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 begin 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 equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.

9) Why was Lincoln not a supporter of the nativist political platform?


Document Seven
Composition of the U.S. House of Representatives by Political Party 1855-1859 (Others refers to the Native American/Know Nothing Party)

House of Representatives
Congress Years Total Democrats Republicans Others
34th 1855-1857 234 83 108 43
35th 1857-1859 237 131 92 14


10) What does this document show in regards to the popular opinion of the Know-Nothing/Native American political party?




Part B: Essay


Directions
Write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs, and a conclusion. Use evidence from at least four documents in the body of the essay. Support your response with relevant facts, examples, and details. Include additional outside information.

Task
Using information from at least four (4) of the documents you have just read along with your prior knowledge of United States history, write an essay in which you:




Rationale for Selected Documents


In structuring this DBQ, I actively sought to select documents that would outline causes for both the rise and subsequent fall of the Know-Nothing Party. Given its relatively short existence, the Know-Nothing party was able to make such a tremendous surge in politics by utilizing many forms of popular media. Coincidentally, as the party began to fizzle over the issue of slavery, the same types of media contributed to its downfall. Hence, the documents chosen seek to utilize those forms.

Document One
Examiner's questions for admittance to the American (or Know-Nothing) Party, July 1854
http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mcc/062/0001.jpg

This document was selected for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it portrays the level of commitment and belief Nativists had in their doctrine. As shown, a candidate for admittance into the American Party was required to pledge to elect only native-born citizens to office and solemnly swear to exclude all foreigners and Roman Catholics. I also liked how this document exposes the lengths Know-Nothings were willing to go to in order to ensure party allegiance. As would be covered in class discussion, the Know-Nothings originated as secret societies like the Order of the Star Spangled Banner that demanded strict adherence to ideological principles about foreigners and Catholics. It is hoped that the reader will connect the seriousness of admittance into the party, the oath, with their prior knowledge that Nativists were a considerable voting bloc in the mid to late 1850s.

Document Two
The True American's Almanac and Politician's Manual for 1857, 1857
http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/973.htm

Similar to the first document, this document was chosen to outline the key tenets of Nativist political ideology. I found other newspaper articles and published letters that possessed similar messages, but I especially liked the extremely strong language present in this selection. Also, this document delineates the Nativists plan of action to assume positions in government. Taken in combination with Document One, the reasons for the growth of a Native American political party become much more obvious.

Document Three
Political Cartoon circulated in 1855
http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues96/nov96/cartoon_jpg.html
http://www.accd.edu/pac/history/rhines/1301theme8.htm

Much of the Know-Nothing literature that was circulated was done in a manner that would capitalize on anxieties present within American society. This political cartoon, depicting German and Irish immigrants as running away with the ballot boxes, is a perfect example of that. Not only does it focus on the political ramifications of the possible voting power of non-native born Americans, but it also suggests that their hard drinking ways and customs are degrading to society. For the above reasons, along with it being a very strong image, I choose this document.

Document Four
Political Cartoon circulated during the 1856 Presidential Elelction
http://loc.harpweek.com/LCPoliticalCartoons/DisplayCartoonMedium.asp?MaxID=36&UniqueID=22&Year=1856&YearMark=1856

I liked this document because it describes many things happening both in national politics and within the Know-Nothing party at the same time. The depiction of the presidential race is important in showing the height of the Know-Nothings considering that their candidate, Millard Fillmore, is being portrayed as a serious contender for the presidency. It was clear at the time of this cartoon's publication that James Buchanan (the deer) was the frontrunner for the White House, primarily due to the prevalence of the Democratic party in the South and, to a certain extent, the entire nation (in comparison to the Republicans and Nativists). However, Fillmore is painted as the only candidate that can unite the country from the North and South, noted by his stance on Union Rock. Yet, provided in the historical context on the cover sheet and using students' outside knowledge of American history, the issue of slavery blurs the message of this cartoon. It is hoped that the reader will be able to identify the slavery issue and pinpoint it as a major cause for the eventual decline of the party.

Document Five
The Pennsylvania Freeman, July 18, 1844
http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1030.htm

Since I used documents from the print media to portray the rise of Nativist sentiments at the beginning of the DBQ, I wanted to use a similar source to illustrate its decline. This article clearly articulates many of the arguments made against the Know-Nothings-racist, anti-republican, and hostile to name a few. In particular, I liked how the article alluded to the concept of civil war. When combined with the previous document, it is hoped that the reader would make another connection between the frailty of the party over sectional lines and the slavery issue. This document really portrays the cracks in the Know-Nothing armor that are attacked by their opponents and lead to its downfall.

Document Six
Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1855
http://www.nps.gov/liho/writer/immigran.htm

This document was selected due to its blatant criticism of the Know-Nothing party. It highlights all of the major causes for the collapse of the Nativists - the slavery issue, swaying of public opinion against the detestation of immigrants and Catholics, and accusations of despotism. Also, I liked this document because it was written by Lincoln, an easily recognizable figure in American history that students could identify. Taken in combination with Document Five, it is hoped that the reader will recognize a rising tide of disapproval against the Know-Nothing party.

Document Seven
Composition of the U.S. House of Representatives by Political Party, 1855-1859
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0774721.html

I wanted a document that would numerically show the downfall of the Know-Nothing party. At first I considered the results of the 1856 presidential election because Fillmores defeat was a tough blow to the Nativists. However, this chart demonstrates the drastic decline of Know-Nothings in national politics effectively by displaying the 75% drop in House seats between 1857 and 1858. I felt that this was crucial to portray both the one-time clout of the Nativists and the rapidity of their demise.




Grading Rubric



Part A: The Documents
Each question is worth a total of two (2) points.
Points will be given as follows:
2 points: Fully answers question in a satisfactory manner
1 point: Answers the questions on an acceptable level, but not to its full extent
0 points: Inability to answer the question, illegible, unacceptable

Question One
Score of 2: Cites that Nativists wanted only native-born Americans to hold political office and that Catholics and immigrants should not be allowed entry into the political sphere.
Score of 1: States that Nativists disliked immigrants and Catholics without elaborating as to the role of native-born Americans in politics or what role immigrants and Catholics should play in the political sphere.
Score of 0: Blank, unreadable, or fails to identify any aspect of nativism whatsoever.

Question Two
Score of 2: Identifies the Nativist belief that immigrants and Catholics were ruining the political and/or moral fiber of America. There is significant mention of the aspects of foreign rule and/or the papacy.
Score of 1: Discussion of immigrants and Catholics but no mention of politics or the influence of foreign officials like the Pope.
Score of 0: Blank, illegible, or fails to identify any threat.

Question Three
Score of 2: Description of Nativist idea that only native-born Americans should govern the United States along with discussion about Nativists barring immigrants and Catholics from holding office.
Score of 1: Mentioning of only Americans to govern America or barring of immigrants and Catholics from office, not both.
Score of 0: Blank, indecipherable, or provides no reasons.

Question Four
Score of 2: Cites any two of the following: the Know-Nothing belief that immigrants (German and Irish in particular) are degenerating the moral fiber of America through their cultural influence (beer and whiskey), ruining the political process of the United States through immigrant political machines like Tammany Hall, are too privy to uncivilized fights and brawls that downgrade the moral character of the country, are corrupt in nature.
Score of 1: Discussion of only one accusation or incomplete description of accusations.
Score of 0: Blank, illegible, or provides no accusations.

Question Five
Score of 2: Cites Fillmore and the Know-Nothing party as believing themselves capable of defeating Democratic front-runner James Buchanan to win the White House and maintaining the Union with a reference to the Union Rock and incorporating outside knowledge regarding the Know-Nothings attempt to combat sectionalism.
Score of 1: Identifies defeat of Buchanan and maintenance of Union without incorporating outside knowledge or full explanation of listed reasons why the nativists felt they were capable. Cites only part of the answer.
Score of 0: Blank, illegible, or provides no reasons.

Question Six
Score of 2: Cites Fillmore and the Know-Nothing party as believing themselves capable of defeating Democratic front-runner James Buchanan to win the White House and maintaining the Union with a reference to the Union Rock and incorporating outside knowledge regarding the Know-Nothings attempt to combat sectionalism.
Score of 1: Identifies defeat of Buchanan and maintenance of Union without incorporating outside knowledge or full explanation of listed reasons why the nativists felt they were capable. Cites only part of the answer.
Score of 0: Blank, illegible, or provides no reasons.

Question Seven
Score of 2: Cites the Native American Party as despotic, tyrannical, or radical while also mentioning its propensity to heighten conflicts between Americans. Mention of sectional conflicts.
Score of 1: States the party is bad for America with no elaboration.
Score of 0: Illegible, blank, or claims it makes no criticisms.

Question Eight
Score of 2: Discussion of the swaying of public opinion against the nativists. There is mention of the weakening of the party over sectional conflicts like slavery and its effects on the Know-Nothings political power to overcome such criticisms.
Score of 1: Answer addresses part of but not the entire question, with some inaccuracies and vagueness.
Score of 0: Blank, unreadable, or fails to address the task.

Question Nine
Score of 2: Cites the Know-Nothing tenets of anti-immigration and anti-Catholicism, mentions the slavery issue, mentions the idea of despotism.
Score of 1: Answer addresses only some of Lincolns criticisms; inaccurate and vague.
Score of 0: Fails to identify anything, blank, illegible.

Question Ten
Score of 2: Identifies the large drop of Know-Nothings in Congress, mention of sectional conflicts and their connection to the downfall of the party, cites changing public opinion of nativism.
Score of 1: Identifies large drop of Congressmen without citing any specific factors or describes causes for downfall without mentioning drop in Congressmen; with inaccuracies and vagueness.
Score of 0: Failure to identify drop or reasons, blank, illegible.


Part B: The Essay

5: Uses four or more documents as specified, interpreting and applying them correctly. Clearly identifies key tenets of Nativism and the causes for its rise. Clearly identifies criticisms of Nativism and relationship to its downfall. Brings in outside information. Answer has a strong thesis that is supported by a well-constructed essay. Contains few or no errors.

4: Uses four or more documents as specified, interpreting and applying them correctly. Clearly identifies key tenets of Nativism and the causes for its rise. Clearly identifies criticism of Nativism and its relationship to its downfall. Brings in outside information. Answer has a good thesis that is supported in a well-constructed essay. Contains some errors.

3: Uses four documents and little or no outside information. Identifies the key tenets of Nativism, reasons for its success, its criticisms and the rise and fall of the party but without clarity. Thesis is unclear, and the essay is somewhat vague, lacking clear construction, and contains errors.

2: Does not use four documents or uses them incorrectly. Only partially identifies the key tenets of Nativism, its criticisms and the rise and fall of the party. Contains little to no outside information. Does not contain a thesis, but rather presents information without drawing conclusions. Essay is poorly constructed, and contains errors.

1: Does not use four documents, those that are used are done so incorrectly, contains no outside information. Little to no reference to the key tenets of Nativism, reasons for its success, its criticisms or its subsequent rise and fall. Essay has no thesis and is poorly constructed. Contains many errors.

0: No answer, blank, illegible, what is written has no relationship whatsoever to the task.