Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Crothers, A. Glenn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Vivian, Daniel

Committee Member

Vivian, Daniel

Committee Member

Farrier, Jasmine


This thesis analyzes the rise and fall of the Know Nothing Party in Kentucky. Beginning with the presidential election of 1844, this thesis traces the decline of the Whig Party and the growth of nativism in the mid-nineteenth century. In addition to the political shift, the thesis explores the growing immigration numbers of the 1840s and 1850s and the anti-Catholicism that propelled nativist attitudes. While the issue of slavery sank the national Whig Party, this thesis argues that the failure to address concerns over immigration and naturalization largely led to the party’s downfall in Kentucky. Destroying the second party system, a myriad of political concerns gravitated under the Know Nothing banner, including Unionism, temperance, public schooling, and anti-party sentiment. This thesis argues that fervent nativists and anti-party voters felt particularly betrayed as old-line Kentucky Whigs pushed aside longtime nativists for nominations on the Know Nothing ticket.