Today in Texas History – January 21

From the Annals of Stupidity –  In 1856, the American or Know-Nothing party of Texas came out of the closet and met for the first time in open convention in Austin. The party was formed by the members of the xenophobic, racist and anti-Catholic secret society known as the American Order. The origin of the “Know Nothing” term was in the semi-secret organization of the party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, “I know nothing.” Outsiders called them “Know-Nothings”, and the name stuck. In 1855, the Know-Nothings first entered politics as the American Party.  The Texas Know-Nothings, led by Lieutenant Governor David C. Dickson – a former Democrat, attempted to gain control of the State.   Dickson was the candidate for governor.  Most members and Know-Nothing candidates continued to deny that they were members of the American Order.  The campaign was helped by Sam Houston who drafted a public letter endorsing the principles of the American Order. In the August election, incumbent Democratic governor Elisha M. Pease defeated Dickson.  However, the Know-Nothings had other successes.  The voters elected Lemuel D. Evans to Congress and won several seats in the state house.  The party was short-lived coming apart over the issue of slavery.  By 1857, the Know-Nothings had virtually ceased to exist in Texas.

Image of David Catchings Dickson.

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