"The Native American party, a party got up here in consequence of the success of a similar movement in N. York last year, where they carried the elections. The object of this party is the exclusion of foreigners from a share in the political power of the country."
By 1853 the Native American party was powerful enough to run a viable third party candidate for President with former President Millard Fillmore running as a nativist. Although she couldn't vote, Mary Todd Lincoln of Springfield, Illinois would have cast her ballot for Fillmore and the Know Nothings. She wrote her sister in 1856:
"My weak woman's heart was too Southern in feeling, to sympathize with any but Fillmore, I have always been a great admirer of his, ... [he]feels the necessity of keeping foreigners, within bounds. If some of you Kentuckians, had to deal with the 'wild Irish" as we housekeepers are sometimes call upon to do, the south would certainly elect Mr. Fillmore next time."
Husband Abraham had other opinions. As he wrote a friend in 1855:
"I am not a Know-Nothing. How could I be?...When the Know-Nothings get control,[ the Declaration of Independence] will read that all men are created equal, except Negros, and foreigners, and Catholics."You get it. It sounds familiar. Americans had welcomed many immigrants in the 1840s fleeing famine and political repression. But people with foreign ways and different religions inspired a backlash among the mean spirited. Who were the despised foreigners?