The Know-Nothings had a cause: to keep America white, Protestant and Anglo-Saxon.
Some Know-Nothings made it to Congress, where they railed against immigration and sought to ban Catholics from public office.
By 1855, by one estimate, the Know-Nothings had 960 of their secret lodges in New York alone.
In 1854 the Know-Nothings swept the scene, electing the mayor, four of eight aldermen, 13 members of the city council and several members of the school committee.
It quickly enlisted thousands of disaffected Whigs, Democrats and Know-Nothings and set the stage for Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
But even that is small potatoes when compared with what happened in 1854, when the Know-Nothing movement came out of nowhere to sweep the nation, driving the Whig Party to extinction and badly crippling the Democratic Party.
The American Party, or Know-Nothings, code-named "Sam," plotted its anti-immigrant rise in fraternal lodges one historian called "cocoon(s) of secrecy.
In 1854, the Know-Nothings rode a cunning platform of anti-Catholic nativism and progressive reforms to the largest electoral landslide in Bay State history.
The Know-Nothings amendments prevent more than 100,000 urban families in Massachusetts with children in chronically underperforming districts from receiving scholarship vouchers that would grant them greater school choice.
The Know-nothings," Brimelow concedes "were, however, deeply suspicious of Roman Catholicism -- at a time when enormous Irish Catholic immigration had begun, after the potato famine of 1845.
Then he tells us the Know-nothings were `above all' against slavery.
Since Brimelow is not a historian, he may not be familiar with Section 1, Article Ill, of the Know-Nothing constitution: "The object of this organization shall be to resist the insidious policy of the church of Rome, and other foreign influence against the institutions of our country by placing in all offices in the gift of the people, or by appointment, none but native-born Protestant citizens.
The Know-nothing American Party, he says later, "turned out to be an acceptable halfway house for voters moving from the Whigs to the Republicans.