The significant influx of immigrants in the early 1850s created tensions in the United States. Considering many of the newly arrived immigrants were of Catholic Irish or German stock and some had fought in the recent revolutionary upheavals in Europe, there were the concerns over the dilution of the Protestant nature of the country, loyalty of Catholic to the Pope, unacceptable drinking and Sabbath habits, and finally the fear of rubble rousing red revolutionaries. New demands to protect the native population, here native born white population, grew louder. Part of the general spirit of reform, which desired temperance and moral character, foreign born residents seemed to undermine the country and need reforming. The nativists focused especially on Catholic immigrants and had their strongest showing where Irish Catholic residents were visible, such as Boston and New York. Already in 1836, Samuel Morse had claimed the New York City mayor job with a nativist agenda. In December 1844, Philadelphia was hit by nativist riots. Giving order to these organizations, Charles B. Allen created the secret Order of the Star-Spangled Banner in New York in 1850, which became popularly known as the Know Nothings (members would claim they “know nothing about” the organization). With political realignment in the early 1850s, the nativists created in 1854 the American Party, which wanted to pass laws making immigration more difficult and naturalization a longer process. The party assumed to have a national issue, but the Kansas conflict undermined their appeal.

Image: "The Propagation Society. More Free than Welcome." Graphic. New York: Nathaniel Currier at no. 2 Spruce St., c1855. From the Library of Congress: Popular Graphic Arts Collection.