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KNOW-NOTHINGISM

A lawless anti-Catholic movement in American politics, 1852-58. All men were admittedly created equal except Catholics, foreigners, and blacks. When questioned about their philosophy, the answered, "I don't know." Their main target was Irish Catholics, whom they wished to deprive of civil and private rights. Their victims suffered from repeated acts of mob violence. In 1852 the bigots organized the "National Council of the United States of North America." They swore an oath of secrecy about their aims and promised to elect to public office only native born Americans who were not Catholic or married to Catholics. In 1855 they carried elections in nine states and had seventy-five adherents in Congress, but their defeat by the Democratic Party in 1856 and the growing feeling of anti-slavery saw their decline as a united power.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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