The Know-Nothing Party

[May 9, 2024]  Bigotry knows no bounds, and it is found wherever we also find an absence of the freedom of speech, religion, and right to assembly.  America has been called the land of the free because there is a deep-seated commitment to those values that allow us to discuss what we disagree with openly.  America’s Know-Nothing Party, from the 1930s until the U.S. Civil War, was a party of bigotry and fiercely anti-Irish and anti-Catholic.

“Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant.  Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.” – Thomas Jefferson

And yet, we still see the effects of laws of bigotry passed more than 150 years ago in America and leaders who still support them.  Take, for example, Massachusetts, the “state of enlightened thinking.”  Within the Massachusetts state constitution, Article 18, there is a ban on using public funds to aid private schools.  The Know-Nothing Party conceived of the ban, becoming the most powerful political force in the state.

The state of Massachusetts has moved on from its bigoted past and now has a significant new statute known as Chapter 71B, requiring schoolchildren diagnosed with learning disabilities to be provided with special education funded with state and local funds, and reads explicitly “whether in a public or non-public school setting.”  But this conflicts with their constitution.

Those who send their children to private schools may receive this aid ONLY if they place them in public schools.  This means that those attending Catholic parochial or Jewish day schools cannot receive aid until they are physically brought to a public school where they live.  In an article by Jeff Jacoby, he notes that this “regulation subverts the very statute it is supposed to implement.”

The Massachusetts Constitution punishes parents for not sending their children to public schools.  On the face of it, this is religious discrimination, forbidden by the U.S. Constitution.  Jacoby writes:

“The Institute for Justice maintains that is not only irrational but unconstitutional.  It violates the right of parents under the 14th Amendment to direct the upbringing and education of their children — a core right that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed time and again over the past 100 years.  And it discriminates against special-needs kids whose parents believe a public-school education is not in their child’s best interest, even though the law explicitly covers students ‘in a public or non-public school setting.’” – Jeff Jacoby

A lawsuit by the Institute for Justice is pending.  Let’s hope that these old, bigoted laws are removed.  And let us also hope that we continue to allow free speech, a long-recognized way of stopping bigotry from spreading.


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “The Know-Nothing Party

  1. Abu'l Faḍl ابوالفضل

    Bless, General Satterfield and thank him for his history lesson in how a political party can be based upon opposing another race.

  2. Winston

    Politicians wasting time and money again. Is anyone surprised? The solution is easy and common sense, but they will make a mess of it along the way. Gen. Satterfield, thanks for a mini-history lesson today.

  3. Robin C.

    Let us hope that the state of Massachusetts gets their act together and makes a constitutional change that we all can agree with.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      That will never happen because politics means gaining some advantage even when everyone will agree. Someone in the Massachusetts’ governing body is going to use this as leverage to get something they want. Then the debate goes on and on and everyone in the state loses. In this case, the losers are those kids who go to private schools. Once again, ask yourselves what party runs this state. Oh, yeah. Move along, nothing to see here.

  4. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    The echoes of old laws that continue to haunt us with bias meant to discriminate. But that is what our govt is good at.

  5. Maximilian Krämer

    The point that Gen. Satterfield is making is not that the Massachusetts’ constitution is racist but that there are lingering legacy laws and procedures that are no longer useful, nor wanted. Whenever we run across them, it is NOT good enough to just remove them but to also let everyone know why that is the case. In the history of the Know-Nothing Party, it is good to bring it up. I looked up this lawsuit, and maybe there is a better way of dealing with changing the law than paying a bunch of lawyers to sue one another and unnecessarily spend tens of thousands of dollars when the legislature could simply put it on their schedule to begin the change process. But NO, that is not happening. Maybe Massachusetts should restart their Know-Nothing Party because they are proving themselves Know-Nothing or No-Nothing.

    1. Marx and Groucho

      Excellent point, Maximilian. Too many of our legislatures take the expensive and easy route to solving problems rather than a measured approach. Politics is expensive and often destructive.

      1. Lana Morrison

        But we are assuming that politicians have common sense. Wrong! 🤦‍♂️

  6. Good Dog

    Thanks for another informative article, Gen. S. Oh, your series on letters to your granddaughter now has gotten more of my family also reading your blog. We are HUGE fans of these letters and we are also learning about you as a little kid and how that all affected you as a senior military officer.

  7. Fred Weber

    As usual, Gen. Satterfield nails it.
    “A lawsuit by the Institute for Justice is pending. Let’s hope that these old, bigoted laws are removed. And let us also hope that we continue to allow free speech, a long-recognized way of stopping bigotry from spreading.” – Gen. Doug Satterfield

    1. Paulette Johnson

      Best line in the post. Yep, excellent content.

  8. Steve Dade

    When I read the headline about The Know-Nothing Party, I thought Gen. Satterfield was really writing about the current Democrat Party. 😊😊

    1. Kevin Cratz

      Imagine that, me too. Of course, if you read about the real history (as opposed to Democrat Party revisionist history) you will see that this Know-Nothing Party was actually split up, either pro or anti-Slavery. Guess how went to the Democrat Party? The pro-slavery folks. Imagine that.

      1. Ron C.

        We all have our No-Nothing politicians, which BTW is a better way of writing Know-Nothing.


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