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Beyond Party

, 280 pages
September 2002
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Beyond Party

Cultures of Antipartisanship in Northern Politics before the Civil War

Captivating disgruntled voters, third parties have often complicated the American political scene. In the years before the Civil War, third-party politics took the form of the Know Nothings, who mistrusted established parties and gave voice to anti-government sentiment.

Originating about 1850 as a nativist fraternal order, the Know Nothing movement soon spread throughout the industrial North. In Beyond Party, Mark Voss-Hubbard draws on local sources in three different states where the movement was especially strong to uncover its social roots and establish its relationship to actual public policy issues. Focusing on the 1852 ten hour movement in Essex County, Massachusetts, the pro-temperance and anti-Catholic agitation in and around Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and the movement to restrict immigrants' voting rights and overthrow "corrupt parties and politicians" in New London County, Connecticut, he shows that these places shared many of the social problems that occurred throughout the North—the consolidation of capitalist agriculture and industry, the arrival of Irish and German Catholic immigrants, and the changing fortunes of many established political leaders.

Voss-Hubbard applies the insights of social history and social movement theory to politics in arguing that we need to understand Know Nothing rhetoric and activism as part of a wider tradition of American suspicion of "politics as usual"—even though, of course, this antipartyism served agendas that included those of self-interested figures seeking to accumulate power.

Mark Voss-Hubbard is an assistant professor of history and graduate program coordinator at Eastern Illinois University.

"Voss-Hubbard offers not only a persuasive explanation for the rise and fall of the Know-Nothings but also provides valuable insights into the political culture of the pre-Civil War North."

"Voss-Hubbard's contribution to understanding the Know Nothings is to explore at the local level the working of that antiparty spirit among Know Nothings... Suggestive and interesting."

"Voss-Hubbard argues that the antipartisanship of the Know Nothings made a major contribution to the emergence of the Republican party. This welcomed book ought to encourage further study of antebellum politics in Connecticut."

" Beyond Party begins a new strand of Civil War historiography, and that is a major achievement."

"A penetrating study of political culture in the mid-1850s... This book is the very rare historical monograph that is more than the sum of its parts."

"In what is the most valuable and illuminating part of his book, Voss-Hubbard follows Know-Nothing leaders into state legislatures after their political triumph to see exactly how the antiparty party dealt with governmental responsibility."

"In this most interesting and cogent book, Mark Voss-Hubbard recognizes the pragmatic functions of much antiparty rhetoric... His evidence also brings new understanding of the forces underlying major political realignment, confirms the high level of popular engagement in politics at such moments, and reemphasizes the power of the partisan imperative in the mid-nineteenth century."

"Voss-Hubbard's meticulous attention to the Know Nothings' local roots and antiparty spirit offers intriguing insights on pre–Civil War political developments."

"Voss-Hubbard provides a detailed analysis at county level of the rapid and realigning political changes that were underway. He details with skill the culture from which they came."

"A shrewd interpretation of the Know Nothings and the world they tried to win. Voss-Hubbard speaks across disciplinary lines to all students of parties and antiparties in the nineteenth century."

" Beyond Party makes an outstanding contribution to the literature of nineteenth-century American politics. Through his careful analysis of the Know Nothing party, Voss-Hubbard offers fascinating insights that extend our knowledge of political culture before the Civil War."

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