The “Nativist” movement of the 1830s in New York City could be traced back to the then-defunct Federalists of John Adams, and their old alien laws of “persecution and intolerance” used to gain political advantage. Not to be outdone in the arena of political advantage, the Tammany Machine of New York City went to work attracting immigrants to their fold to attain political advantage. In this manner, and as foreigners unfamiliar with America’s political foundation and traditions increased in the North and West, the American South became the last bastion of the Founders’ republic with an increasingly unrecognizable neighbor to the north.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Anti-Immigrant Hate, Violence and White Supremacy in New York City
“Opposition to the immigrant has often played a part in the American political and social scene. This became especially evident in New York City during the decade of the 1830s when ever-larger numbers of aliens made their first contacts with the indigenous population.
The rapid increase in immigration was met by hatred, even violence, against foreigners, then predominantly Irish, on the part of various segments of the urban population. Whether or not sharing in this antipathy, politicians were forced, especially at election time, to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to their party of pro- or anti- immigration policies.
Thus, regardless of conservative distaste for the foreigner, the newly-organized Whig Party during the municipal election of April 1834 (the first time New Yorkers were privileged to choose their mayor by direct vote since 1690) attempted to attract the immigrant voter away from his already traditional Democratic allegiance.
Failure to achieve this end together with distrust of Irish Catholicism resulted in the formation in New York City of the short-lived but influential Native American Democratic Association of 1835-1836 . . . and a forerunner of the nativist parties of the 1840s and 1850s.
Violence and rioting had marked the election proceedings. For three days of the election Whig merchants closed their shops to march through the city. During one of these parades prolonged fighting broke out between Whigs and Irish Democrats. Frightened and angry, Whigs scored “Irishmen of the lowest class” for creating the disturbances. The Whigs . . . charged that the Irish made a mockery of peace and order and demanded a registration law that would keep foreigners governed by “Lords and Priests” from voting at all.
Late in June, 1835, meeting in their wards, “Native Americans” denounced popery, foreigners in office, and a dangerous outpouring of European felons onto American shores. Foreigners, they shouted, like “Goths and Vandals, pillage the United States.”
On Sunday, June 21, 1835, fighting between native Americans and Irish began within the squalid Five Points section and quickly spread to other areas of the city.
“White men conquered the land, [editor Mordecai Noah of the Star newspaper] wrote, and “the Native Americans must control the country.”
(The Native American Democratic Association in New York City, 1835-1836, Leo Hershkowitz, New York Historical Society Quarterly, Volume XLVI, Number 1, January 1962, excerpts pp. 41-42; 44-45; 48-49;52)