|Date(s):||November 1855 to January 1856|
|Tag(s):||Crime/Violence, Politics, Urban-Life/Boosterism|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
In 1855, John Sergeant Wise, the young son of the newly elected Governor Henry Wise, was desperately trying to adapt to his new home in Richmond, Virginia. Having previously come from a rural town, John Wise was mocked by his schoolmates for being a provincial bumpkin. However, most of the abuse from his fellow students was due to his father's political persuasion as a Democrat. In one particular passage of his writing, he recounted how his days as a schoolboy in Richmond were comprised of deflecting taunts, and fighting off bullying from the sons of Whig and Know-Nothing citizens who were instilled with a hatred of all things Democrat. At this time, the Whigs had essentially joined forces with the new American, or Know-Nothing Party, against the Democrats. Many of Henry Wise's votes had come from the rural Virginia farmers and yeoman, while Richmond itself was a stronghold of Know-Nothingism.
The American Party, also known as the Know-Nothings, began in 1855. It was founded along the lines of a secret society with elaborate initiation rituals, and a series of secret passwords and coded communications between its members. Its platform was essentially radical nationalism that included anti-immigration and anti-Catholicism stances. As the Whig party began to slowly loose strength in the United States, members often threw their allegiance to the Know-Nothing Party in an attempt to continue fighting the Democrats. The Know-Nothings took power in some Northern states, and were so strong in Richmond that Democrats were referred to as The Spartan Band there.