What Was the Goal of the Nativists?


Quick Answer

Nativists seek to prevent immigration and retain a favored status for inhabitants born in or long-established in the country of interest. Nativist movements in the United States focus their ire on a variety of groups seen as a threat to the established American culture and economy.

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Full Answer

During the 19th century, Protestant Americans in the Northeast grew increasingly hostile to Catholic immigrants moving into urban areas from Europe. These predominately Catholic immigrants were seen as ignorant, immoral, and easily manipulated by the Roman Catholic church. Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was one among many Americans who spoke out against Catholic immigrants. The Know Nothing party was established in the 1840s with the goals of preventing immigration, curtailing immigrant voting, barring them from holding public office,and stopping any public support for Catholic-backed institutions, such as parochial schools.

The efforts of nativist groups in the late 19th and early 20th century were successful in preventing immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as China and Japan. After World War I, nativists were particularly influenced by conceptions of racial inferiority in the eugenics movement and by a desire to prevent an influx of immigrants with radical political beliefs. In 1921, these groups succeeded in passing the first bill that included specific quotas for immigration.

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