"Know-Nothingism, Abolitionism, and Fanaticism:" An Analysis of the Collapse of the Second Party System in Maine
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The 1850s were a tumultuous period in American politics, with a complete partisan realignment fundamentally shifting the balance of power away from the status quo and toward possibilities for change. This paper focuses on the collapse of the Second Party System in Maine, and understanding how we can explain this stunning and rapid shift. The varying factors can be placed into two broad categories First, ethnocultural issues were primarily responsible for much of the growing turmoil within and between the major parties throughout the 1840s, and accelerating greatly in the early 1850s with rising levels of immigration and the increasing draw of the temperance movement, which was then followed by the passage of highly controversial legislation concerning these issues. Second, national-level issues such as the Fugitive Slave Act and detailed reports of the violence out West in local newspapers brought the consequences of the unfettered expansion of slavery closer to home for many Mainers. Scholars of this period have expressed varying opinions as to the relative importance of local and national level issues in generating a change to the political system. Using Maine as a case study due to its position as a leader in the temperance movement and its geographical distance from the battlegrounds of national politics at the time, I conduct an in-depth examination of the political history of the state and conclude that rising tensions on both local and national levels were necessary to cause such transformational change.