Friday, July 23, 2010

Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Nativism Old and New


Earlier I wrote about my disgust with both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich's demagoguery concerning Muslims in America.  Actually, Palin's rant wasn't as dangerous as Gingrich's.  But both are what some call "Christianists," and in their understanding of "real American" is quite narrow.  The Nativism that is driving the debate in Arizona and in New York is not new.  It has a fairly strong pedigree, that goes back to the early days of the Republic.  It fueled the dispossession of Native Americans from their lands, kept blacks in servitude, excluded Asians, and targeted Catholics, especially Irish Catholics.

Back in the 1850s a political movement emerged that came to be known as the "Know Nothing Party" -- a party that targeted Catholics.  It had some political success and even recruited a former President to run on its behalf in 1856 -- Millard Fillmore.  The response that Abraham Lincoln gave in a letter to friend Joshua Speed dated 1856 speaks clearly to what is happening today.  Although the majority of the letter speaks to the question of slavery and the impending admission of Kansas to the union, the letter also speaks volumes not only to the situation then regarding immigration and the other, but to that which exists today. 

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 or degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began 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 [sic].
So, in response to Gingrich's demand that no mosque be built whilst churches can't be built in Saudi Arabia, perhaps we who love liberty should move not to Russia but to Saudi Arabia, for if the "Know Nothings" of today take over, then at least we'll not live with they hypocrisy of our pretensions of liberty for all.  

9 comments:

Gary said...

I think that's a great idea Cornwall, move to Saudi Arabia. You realize though that you'll have to convert to Islam. But I'm sure a tolerant, open-minded individual like yourself wouldn't mind that at all. You'd probably think you could be a moderating influence on the muslims.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Gary, I'm not interested in moving to Saudi Arabia. But, like Lincoln, I'd like for the people of the United States to live up to the founding dreams!

Gary said...

The founding dreams will never be realized unless islam is controlled. If Islamists are allowed to freely practice their religion, everyone else will see their freedoms taken away. Wake up and face reality.

David Mc said...

I'm sure China is loving these developments. Cool quote (Lincoln's that is). Sounded familiar, but didn't know the source. As an Irish ex-Catholic, I appreciate those who helped liberate my neck of the human race.

John said...

Gary,

What exactly are the founding dreams? And, whatever they are, are we as a nation, compelled to accomplish them precisely as the founders imagined? Are we allowed, as a nation, to go beyond those early dreams and seek to accomplish our own dreams, dreams which the founders never could have imagined? Is this our country or their's? Is our countyr or our children's?

John

Gary said...

John,

Cornwall brought up the subject of the "founder's dreams".

Personally, I would stop all immigration immediately, both legal and illegal, if I had the power to do that.

John said...

Gary,

Fair enough, but don' t you think that as a nation we have benefited from the steady inflow of new blood, cultures, ideas, and enthusiasm for the "American Dream?"

My personal guess is that most enthusiastic Americans are the newest ones. The rest of us just seem to take what we have for granted and/or spend much time hand wringing over how to hang on to whatever it is we have.

John

Gary said...

John,

Some who have come here have been assets, and some have been liabilities. I'd be willing to trade some of the people we now have for some better ones, if that could be arranged.

John said...

Gary,

I knew you had a practical side.

John