Volume XI, Number 2, Fall 2015

"The Migration Factor in the Sectional Crisis: The Impact of Population Movements in Pre-Civil War America" by Éva Eszter Szabó

Éva Eszter Szabó, PhD, Historian and Americanist, is assistant professor at the Department of American Studies, School of English and American Studies, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest. Member of LASA, SHAFR, HAAS and HUSSE. Her fields of research include the history of inter-American relations, the correlation between U.S. foreign and immigration policies, Latino communities in the U.S., and global migration in global politics. Email:

Migration – in its international and internal forms – has been one of the most important driving forces in American history and has played a crucial role in each and every phase of the nation’s life. The direct or indirect significance and impact of migration can be traced from colonial times to the present; however, the era of the Civil War is most intriguing from the viewpoint of the political, economic, and social interests working behind the flows of immigration and internal migration. The point for this essay is to explore in what ways the migration factor contributed to the sectional crisis―and to the Civil War itself. The claim made in this paper is that the issue of migration was one of the factors exacerbating the tensions between the North and the South, playing a significant role in the outbreak of the nation’s largest cataclysm ever.

In the two decades preceding the Civil War, international migration, i.e. immigration in this particular case, started to increase in an unprecedented manner. Prior to 1840, the number of immigrants arriving in the United States had never approached 100,000 per year.1 The first time that the one hundred thousand immigrant limit had been surpassed was in 1842 with some 104,565 arrivals. Then from 1845 right until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, immigration had never fallen below one hundred thousand. The record year was 1854 with 427,833 immigrants (Bureau of the Census 34). On the one hand, this growth was facilitated by the developments in American industry and infrastructure, the California gold rush, and the efforts made at organizing and peopling the western territories. On the other hand, revolutions in contemporary Europe displacing tens of thousands—as in the German states in 1848-49—, and the potato blight leading to famine in many parts of Northern and Western Europe—most severely in Ireland—, constituted the main motives behind emigration from the Old World. Despite the fact that immigration had beneficial effects on the rise of the American industry and on the expansion of agricultural production, the rapid and substantial growth in the number of immigrants, especially that of the predominantly Catholic Irish and to a lesser extent that of some Catholic Germans, kindled the flame of nativism (Blum et al. 283-284).

From colonial times to the present, nativism has always been present in American society. As immigration expert and professor Roger Daniels pointed out in his seminal work on American immigration “while nativists have always been able to point to some specific danger, real or imagined […] successful nativist movements have almost always been linked to more general fears or uneasiness in American society” (265). The nativism of the 1840s and 1850s was highly complex. Historian Maldwyn A. Jones opined that the phenomenon of nativism at the time was not the result of the growing volume of immigration. Rather it was the product of a shaken national self-confidence, of the most profound internal crisis that was increasingly characteristic of the relationship between the North and the South (148). The distrust and animosity manifested towards foreigners in general—and the Irish in particular—served as an outlet for the tensions feeding on the sectional crisis. The era was characterized by marked anti-Catholicism, the exaggeration of the number of criminal and pauper elements among the recent immigrants, the warning of the corruptive effect of foreign-born citizens on American politics, and the emphasis on the unassimilability of the newcomers (Daniels 269-270). Interestingly, however, during these decades nativists did not yet capitalize much on fears in relation to the potential threat that the cheap workforce of the immigrants could pose to native-born American workers.2

Nativism had reached considerable success in politics by the early 1850s. The most successful representative of the movement was the American Party, also known as the Know-Nothing Party,3 whose short-lived national career started in 1854 and by 1856 it had come to an abrupt end. Amidst the growing conflict of interests between the North and the South, the Know-Nothings wished to divert national attention to the unified and unifying national feeling against foreigners, especially against Catholics. This tactics brought about the success and also the failure of the party since the nativists were not able to act independently from the effects of the sectional crisis overwhelming the entire nation. Having reached success at the local and state levels, once the northern and southern Know-Nothings had tried to step up their political efforts nationally, the conflict of interests surrounding the issue of slavery devoured the party. After their unsuccessful attempt at the 1856 presidential elections with former president Millard Fillmore4 as nominee, nativism was relegated to the background and lost most of its significance until the rise of the anti-Asian, i.e. anti-Chinese, nativist movement in the 1870s and early 1880s. As a matter of fact it was not nativism, but mostly the end of the Great Famine in Ireland, the beginnings of economic recession in America hitting the North harder5, and the sectional crisis running high and engendering a climate of insecurity that led to the fall in the number of immigrant entries in 1855 (Jones 148-160; Archdeacon 80-82). By the second half of the 1850s the immigrant v. the native-born split was washed away by the tensions between the North and the South. Daniels summarized it as follows:

The truly dangerous subversive forces, it suddenly became clear, were not foreigners but Southern white Americans; those with a penchant for seeing a conspiracy in every threat no longer had to worry about the pope, the Jesuits, or the crowned heads of Europe: They had instead a homegrown slave power conspiracy to worry about (270).

As for the sectional crisis, the migration factor is one of those aspects that account for the differing levels and directions of development in the two major regions of the United States, and as such it constitutes an important addition to the antecedents and causes of the Civil War. The westward movement—the occupation, organization, and settlement of the lands beyond the Mississippi available ever since the Louisiana Purchase of 1803—got new momentum following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 with the acquisition of today’s Southwest. However, the westward movement and the internal migration it entailed intensified the conflicting interests behind the spread of free versus slave-labor into the territories. The issue of internal migration implied by the establishment of native-born and foreign-born settlers on public land owned by the federal government first attracted major opposition in both sections of the United States. Northern industrialists were exercised by the potential massive departure of their cheap labor force for the West, while Southern plantation owners feared that the rapid settlement of the territories could lead to the emergence of new states populated mostly by small farmers opposed to slavery. The addition of free states to the United States was unthinkable in the South since it could have overturned the delicate political balance between free and slave sates in the Senate (Bradhser; Potter and Schamel). The continued addition of slave states to the Union was the key to maintaining the national political power of the South.

While the massive influx of immigrants in the late 1840s dissipated factory owners’ fears in the North regarding the westward movement, Southern worries consolidated as a result of the 1846 Wilmot Proviso’s endorsement by the newly established Free Soil Party in the same year. The Wilmot principle—introduced in Congress by antislavery Democratic Representative, David Wilmot of Pennsylvania as an amendment to the appropriation bill to purchase peace with Mexico and failed twice by the Senate—centered on forestalling the potential spread of slavery into the land area won in the Mexican-American War. Southerners, however, claimed equal rights in settling the territories. As the states’ rights advocate Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina asserted, “Congress had no power to deprive the citizens of any state of their right to migrate to the territories with their property, including their slaves” (Blum et al. 265). Slavery expansion, “the latent source of trouble” ever since the controversy culminating in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was again leading the nation into a constitutional crisis over the power the Constitution had given to Congress to govern the territories (Blum et al. 264-265). That is, the migration factor constituted a crucial aspect of the growing tensions between the North and the South. The westward movement meant different things in the two sections. Unimpeded access to internal migration for plantation owners and their slaves was the token of the continued livelihood of the South, while the restriction of Southerners’ internal migration through the stoppage of the spread of slavery into the western territories was the guarantee of the continued steady development of the North.

Opponents of slavery, dissatisfied with the ambivalent treatment of the slavery issue by the Democrats and Whigs alike, together with supporters from within the abolitionist Liberty Party (1840-1848) catapulted the Free Soil Party into the arena of national politics during the presidential campaign of 1848 with former president Martin Van Buren6 as their candidate (Brinkley 339). Free-Soilers did not aim at ending slavery in the United States but at ending the expansion of slavery to the western territories. Even though the party failed to win the presidency, it received ten seats in Congress and remained an influential political force until 1854 when—following another failed attempt at the presidency—it got absorbed into the newly formed Republican Party. The new party was a direct product of the debate surrounding slavery extension into the Kansas and Nebraska territories. Republicans not only supported the Wilmot Proviso and carried on with the Free-Soilers’ motto of “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men” (Malick 720), but they also condemned slavery as a moral evil, and by 1862 they would turn the abolition of slavery into a Civil War aim next to the preservation of the Union.7

Interestingly, amidst the nativist atmosphere of the 1840s, in addition to the core idea of giving western land to the landless of the east, the Free Soil Party also advocated a program of continued immigration to the United States (Daniels 270). The westward movement brought about the convergence of the interests vested in the promotion of internal and international migration. The new emerging player on the state and national political scenes, the Republican Party embraced the principle of selling public land to settlers as a means of preventing the spread of slavery to the West and became a strong supporter of homesteading. However, Southern delegates and even Democratic President James Buchanan (1857-1861) managed to block much awaited legislative action in the field in Congress throughout the 1850s. The House passed altogether three homestead bills in 1852, 1854, and 1859, but they were all defeated in the Senate. Then in 1860, the version approved of by both houses of Congress was vetoed by President Buchanan (Potter and Schamel). It was only after secession, with Southern militants and sympathizers no longer blocking the passage of the bills that Lincoln’s Republican administration could finally launch both homesteading and major internal improvements, such as the construction of a transcontinental railroad line, in 1862. By securing the slave-free status of the western territories for free labor, and by facilitating the westward movement through homesteading and railroad constructions, the Republican Party had achieved some of the most significant aims (points 8, 13, and 16) put forward in the National Republican platform on May 17, 1860. Directly or indirectly, all these points contributed to the promotion of migration:

Freedom, the Normal Condition of Territories.
8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of Freedom: That as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that "no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution, against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States.
Free Homesteads.
13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of the Public Lands held by actual settlers, and against any view of the Free Homestead policy which regards the settlers as paupers or suppliants for public bounty; and we demand the passage by Congress of the complete and satisfactory Homestead Measure which has already passed the House.
A Pacific Railroad.
16. That a Railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland Mail should be promptly established (National Republican Platform).

Thus the issue of internal migration—as an essential part of the westward movement and the conflicting sectional interests implied in it—was one of the causes of the Civil War. As explained by Blake Bell, historian of the Homestead National Monument of America in an interview: “Every single secession declaration by the southern states mentions they were not allowed to have a voice in the westward expansion. […] [T]he Homestead Act itself was a cause of the Civil War” (Dunker).

Bell’s assessment very much resonates with the outsider historian’s dispassionate reading of the sectional crisis. Free from the moral weight, loss, heroism and glory that the Civil War left as an imprint in the collective memory of the American nation North and South, I have come to identify the westward expansion as the very hinge upon which the sectional crisis turned. It brought all the contentious issues of antebellum America to a head: slavery v. free-labor; the preservation of the Union v. liberty and independence, the constitutional crisis over states’ rights v. the power of the federal government, or the principle of secession; regional economic differences between the small farm-based, but quickly urbanizing and industrializing North and the slave-based plantation economy in the rural, predominantly agricultural South; the conflicting interests vested in trade and in the issue of protective tariffs; and the pros and cons of the migration factor. The territorial growth of the United States called for not only new solutions, for not only a new level of development, but for a new level of union that could no longer be satisfied by a compromise as that of 1820 or 1850.

The attempt to create the Compromise of 1861 failed in relation to the antagonistic sectional interests vested in the westward expansion. Even though Lincoln and his fellow Republicans would have been willing to concede a lot by agreeing to an unamendable constitutional guarantee regarding the federal toleration of slavery in the states where it had already existed, “[t]he one point on which they would not yield […] was the central point of the Republican platform: no further spread of slavery into the territories” (Woodworth 323). However, that was the very point that Southerners demanded that Republicans must surrender if there was to be a compromise. Unlike in 1820 and 1850, this time there was no Northern concession to Southern demands. It was not abolition per se but free-soil in the west and migration to that free-soil that brought the sectional crisis to a head. As Bell put it, “[t]oday, slavery is identified as one of the chief causes of the Civil War. During the mid-19th century, however, senators and representatives had their eyes on expansion and how slavery would be included into the chess match over adding states to the Union” (Dunker). These views applying contemporary historical lenses, however, go against the current professional consensus regarding Civil War causation, which got firmly established by David Potter’s The Impending Crisis, published posthumously in 1976. His book placed slavery at the center of the sectional crisis: “Slavery, in one aspect or another, pervaded all of the aspects of sectionalism” (Potter 44). The book was a major contribution to the emergence of professional consensus regarding the issue. A more recent summary of the same view can be found, for example, in the 2013, six-volume definitive encyclopedia on the Civil War:

There was only one fundamental cause of the American Civil War, and that cause was slavery. All other factors of dispute between the two sections—tariffs, states’ rights, the governance of the territories—were merely footnotes to that one overriding issue (Woodworth 321).

This view placing slavery at the center of Civil War causation applies retrospective historical lenses as determined by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s,8 which was undoubtedly the most defining moment of national history in the 20th century and the most defining experience for generations of contemporary and would-be historians. The current consensus extends from college textbooks9 to popular culture, yet the basic tenets of the current orthodoxy are also being questioned (Horwitz). In an impressive overview of twenty-first-century literature on the causes of disunion Michael E. Woods concluded that “[t]he broad consensus on slavery’s centrality has not stifled rapid growth and diversification in the field” (438).10 Even more importantly, diversification is also reinforced by the recent American experiences with the realities of ongoing war in Afghanistan and Iraq that influences today’s historians when addressing the Civil War era (Horwitz).

Slavery was a major issue,11 but it was one among many that exacerbated the conflict. In What They Fought For based on archival research into Union and Confederate soldiers’ motivations through the letters they wrote home, Civil War historian James McPherson emphasized the moral and ideological factors in war. He identified slavery as a crucial factor since it epitomized Southern culture and life style, but for Northerners abolition was the means to preserve the Union, which constituted the single most important war aim (27-46). In fact, the Lincoln administration’s decision to make emancipation a war aim surfaced only in July 1862 following a long line of Union military setbacks leading to the decline of public support for the war, and the appalling refusal to phase out slavery gradually by the five Union-loyal slave states along the border with the South. The enunciation of the new policy, however, was still delayed until a major Union victory would present itself so that the new war aim would not be taken as a sign and admission of weakness. This Union victory came with the bloodiest single day battle in American military history, the Battle of Antietam, on September 17,12 and within days it was followed by Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 (Briley 5).

Besides the issue of internal migration the other aspect of the migration factor, immigration, gave an additional dimension to the sectional strife. Some historians emphasize (Barker 40; Catton 11) that from the 1830s onward next to the differences between the levels of development of the industry, the railroads and trade, the difference in the volume of immigration targeting the northern and southern states also contributed to the deepening sectional conflict. The dynamically industrializing and agriculturally expanding North attracted 90% of the three million immigrants arriving during the decades prior to the Civil War, which in turn led to a marked population growth north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The increasingly muscular northeastern industry and construction business in addition to the ongoing canal and railroad constructions of the Old Northwest and the constant growth of arable land secured a great number and variety of work opportunities both for the skilled and for the un-skilled workforce. It was those tens of thousands, and from 1845 onwards hundreds of thousands of immigrants that made the continuous and tremendous pace of industrialization and urbanization of the North possible.

As indicated earlier, between 1841 and 1860 United States immigration had become massive in character. As for its ethnic composition it was dominated by the Irish with some 1.6 million arrivals and the Germans with some 1.3 million newcomers. The number of immigrants from Great Britain was also significant with some 600,000. Contributions by other European nationalities were considerably lower or practically negligible; among them the still voluminous groups consisted of about 39,000 Scandinavian (Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish) and 11,000 Italian immigrants (Bureau of the Census 34, 36).13 An interesting note to this list is that the first Hungarian diaspora overseas also took root during these years (1849-1860) as a result of the arrival of a few thousand political refugees called Kossuth émigrés following the failed Revolution of 1848 (Vida 13). According to the 1860 census, there were 2,710 Hungarians in the United States, 90% of whom were living in the North, predominantly in today’s Midwest, even though the largest urban communities continued to be located in the East, especially in New York City and Philadelphia, with 458 and 129 people respectively (33, 41). From within the Western Hemisphere, immigrants arrived in substantial numbers only from neighboring Canada that with some 100,000 arrivals constitutes the fourth largest immigrant source in the period, while Mexican, other Latin American and Asian immigration during these decades was trivial (Bureau of the Census 36). The growing influx of European immigrants to the Northern and Western United States provided the much needed fuel of human labor for the machinery of the increasingly robust American economic expansion that would elevate the United States into the circle of world powers by the 1890s.

This kind of dynamism and population growth did not characterize the South at all. The largely static, slaveholder agrarian society of the Cotton Kingdom was far from an attractive destination for poor white immigrants who were unwilling to compete with slave labor, and many—especially among the German immigrants—were opposed to the institution of slavery. In the Southeast there were few big cities and factories, and the region lagged far behind the Northeast in manufacturing (Barker 40, Blum et al. 284). “The entire South had less manufacturing capacity than did New York City” (Holland and Woodworth 974). Many newcomers found the hot and humid climate uninviting and to make matters worse, the frequency of outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera diminished further the intention of settling down. Soon after their arrival in the southeast the small number of immigrants usually tended to set out on the roads leading towards the Mississippi (Catton 11). Even those who arrived at the largest southern port of immigrant debarkation, New Orleans, would most typically take the steamboats up the Mississippi River to the free states of the Old Northwest (Blum et al. 284).

Only about 300,000 or 10% of the immigrants arriving in the United States in the 1840s and 1850s chose the South as their destination, with some leaving for the free states within a few years after their arrival. Though separate data for immigration in the South are not available, the historical census data on the foreign-born collected by the Census Bureau since 1850 and Ella Lonn’s Foreigners in the Confederacy, first published in 1940, offer valuable information on the recent and/or established immigrant population of the South on the eve of the Civil War. In 1860, the total population of the United States was 31.4 million out of which 4.1 million or 13.2% were the foreign-born. The total Southern population, including slaves, was at 11.1 million with some 392,000 foreign-born making up 3.5% of the population. Based on these numbers we find that only 9.4% of the combined foreign-born totals was living in the South (Gibson and Lennon Tables 1 and 3). Lonn’s research concerned the territory of the seceded South only and it did not include the slave population in the overall numbers. In the 11 states of the Confederacy the white population was 5.5 million of which 250,000 or 4.5% were foreign-born. The largest Confederate state with foreign-born population was Louisiana where the city of New Orleans, similarly to New York City in the North, constituted not only the southern gateway for immigrants but was also the most diverse and cosmopolitan city of the South (Lonn 29) with 38.3% of its population foreign-born (Gibson and Lennon Table 20). By taking a look at the census data for the foreign-born of all the states of the Old or Pre-Civil War South (i.e. not only of the seceded ones) we find that the four states hosting the largest foreign-born populations were “fringe states”15: Louisiana (13.2%), Missouri (11.2%), Maryland (8.8%), Texas (8.3%), and Delaware (5.7%). The rest of the Southern states had very small immigrant populations of 1.34% on an average (Gibson and Lennon Table 13). With few exceptions, the white population of the Southern states was ethnically the most homogeneous in the United States. Daniel Boorstin commented on this aspect of the Southern population in the following way:

The South’s illusion of [economic] homogeneity was confirmed by the stability of her population and by her freedom from mass immigration from Europe, which incidentally made her seem more European. In few other parts of the country were leading-citizens so ancestor-conscious, so interested in genealogy. Nowhere were they more concerned about quality of descent and “purity” of race (178).

David Gleeson, writer of the only comprehensive book on Irish immigrants in the 19th century South, pointed out that the majority of the newcomers were Irish concentrated in the cities. They made up as much as 20-25% of the population of Savannah, Memphis, and New Orleans (27). Interestingly, compared with the heavy discrimination the Catholic Irish had to face in the North, they were much less discriminated against in the South and enjoyed a quicker pace and greater degree of assimilation (Mallory 983, Gleeson 187). As Gleeson concluded: “With the aid of tolerant neighbors, they integrated better than any other southern minority and became the ‘forgotten’ people of the Old South” as a result of their blending in with the native population so successfully (194). Lonn specifies that in all the Confederate states the Irish (totaling 84,000) outranked all other groups, except for Texas where Germans numbering 20,000 headed the list of the foreign-born (30-31). As Lonn underscored, “[b]y 1860 Texas was one of the most German states of the entire Union” (15). Germans ranked second in the Confederacy as a whole (73,000) and the British came in third on the list (53,000). Mexicans, concentrated in Texas, made up the fourth largest group (12,000) of the foreign-born in the Confederate South (Lonn 29-31). However, most members of this particular group turned into “foreign-born” Americans as a result of the annexation of the originally Mexican state of Texas in 1845 and not as a result of immigration. The foreign-born of all other nationalities combined numbered around 27,000. For example, Daniels referred to data from 1850 according to which half of the Italian Americans (1,800) lived in the Southern states with the largest concentration to be found in New Orleans (192). Or as Vida found, about 270 or 10% of Hungarian immigrants chose to settle down in the South, more specifically in St. Louis, Missouri, and New Orleans, Louisiana, totaling 139 people. That is, half of the Hungarians in the South concentrated in these two cities according to the census of 1860. Within the territory of the Confederate South “New Orleans remained the most important center of immigrants, and basically it was the only place where Hungarians concentrated in relatively higher numbers”; they made up a community of 57 individuals in the city by 1860 (Vida 41).

Boorstin emphasized that the majority of Southerners did not regret the fact that their region failed to attract more European immigrants. “In fact, they were generally inclined to lament the trickle that did come their way. […] Many Southern spokesmen traced national political ills (and the declining influence of the South) to the European immigrant influx, among other unwelcome changes” (179). While for Southerners the key to development was the expansion of the plantation slave economy, for Northerners the key to the future was the expansion of the labor force through immigration in order to meet the demands of the growing industrial and agricultural production. While in the North real estate dealers, known as boosters, did their utmost to attract newcomers to the settlements in the western territories, Southerners were determined to keep their communities separated and relatively homogeneous. The sharp sectional difference in the attitude to immigration is closely related to the institution of slavery—the result of forced migration itself—and the rejection of seeing the migrant aspect of the slaves from Africa.

Southerners who attacked immigration in the North somehow chose not to see Negroes as “immigrants”. […] American historians, adopting this Southern point of view, have never quite become accustomed to think of the Negro as an immigrant [until the late 20th century]. […] Southerners did not count the Negro an immigrant primarily because they did not consider him a candidate for assimilation into their community. Only the free Negroes […] were looked upon somewhat as immigrants were viewed elsewhere (Boorstin 180).

Slavery, this irregular form of migration, and the economy based on it turned regular immigration much less needed and desired than in the North. Therefore in the South, the potential influx of free labor did not carry the promise of development. On the one hand, the lack of substantial immigration in the less populous South further weakened the region in the sectional competition of interests; on the other hand, the inability to attract enough cheap labor further reinforced reliance on slave labor (Schweikart 16). Thus the immigration aspect of the migration factor directly contributed to the intensification of the sectional crisis.

In conclusion, the migration factor had a major impact on both the contemporary economic and social changes. The aggregate result of all these factors was that by the 1850s there had emerged two sharply delineated regions with highly distinct economies and cultures. As Alan Barker remarks, the reconciliation between the opposing economic interests would not have been hopeless, but the reconciliation of the two cultures was (41). By leaving out of consideration the multifaceted aspects of the sectional differences, the issue of slavery as one of the causes leading to the Civil War may grow out of proportion. That is why it is essential to highlight the role of other factors—such as that of migration—that exacerbated the crisis situation. Immigrants or the lack of them were attributed major significance in the dissimilar development of the North and South just as they would be in the final outcome of the Civil War.


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  • Rogers, William B., and Terese Martyn. “A Consensus at Last: American Civil War Texts and the Topics That Dominate the College Classroom.” History Teacher, 41, August 2008, 519-530.
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  • Vida, István Kornél. Hungarian Émigrés in the American Civil War: A History and Biographical Dictionary. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012. [Világostól Appomatoxig: Magyarok az amerikai polgárháborúban. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2011.]
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1 We speak about mass migration when immigration reaches 100,000 per annum and the number of arrivals remain above this limit in the long term.

2 The second or anti-Asian phase of nativism (1870s-1882) would center on the Chinese in the West, especially California, and in addition to deep rooted racial prejudice, it fed on white laborers’ fears regarding the wage decreasing effect of the cheap Chinese labor force (Daniels 265, 271-272).

3 The byname of the party originates from the fact that at the outset of their operation in 1849 as the secret Order of the Star-Spangled Banner party members were expected to say “I know nothing” when they were asked about the activities of the nativist organization.

4 Millard Fillmore of the Whig Party was the 13th President of the United States (1850-53).

5 The economic slowdown of the mid-1850s culminated in the Financial Panic of 1857 that erupted following the March 1857 Dred Scott decision. This Supreme Court ruling “threw open the possibility that all of the western territories in the Louisiana Purchase might have to accept slavery by condemning the anti-slavery provision of the Missouri Compromise” (Schweikart 17). The instability thus created led to the collapse of the east-west railroad bonds, which in turn sent the Northern banking houses into a panic. The South concluded from the financial crisis that its “Cotton Kingdom” made it immune to panics while in fact it was insulated from the crisis by its superior branch banking system (Schweikart 17). Southerners’ belief in the superiority of their economic system based on the “Peculiar Institution” was thus reinforced by the recession of the mid-1850s that impacted the North much more profoundly.

6 Martin Van Buren of the Democratic Party was the 8th President of the United States (1837-41).

7 Slavery was finally abolished in December 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

8 Similar views are expressed in Horwitz.

9 On Civil War texts and topics dominating classrooms and recognizing slavery as the root cause of the war see Rogers and Martyn (530); as for the challenge coming to the textbook consensus see the recent controversy from November 2015 over Texas textbooks treating slavery as a side issue (Brown).

10 New directions in Civil War causation include the focus on state- and local-level analysis of antebellum politics; comparative historical analysis of contemporaneous intrastate conflicts worldwide; challenges of the interpretive emphasis on proslavery nationalism, antislavery sectionalism, and the class dimension of the sectional crisis; or the exploration of the campaign for free-state secession (Woods 438). Also consider Drew Gilpin Faust’s pioneering work of the female touch on “the work of death” in the Civil War addressing the fear and grief experienced, for example from letters of women during the war. See This Republic of Suffering (2008).

11 The debate on slavery as the most important cause of the Civil War has been going on to date. To get a taste of the current debate, see for example the following diverse sources above from professional historians (e.g. Woods; McPherson’s What They Fought For and “What Caused the Civil War?”; Woodworth’s “Causes of the Civil War” and Manifest Destinies; Bell) to government websites (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service), newspaper articles by journalists and historians (Dunker; Horwitz; Saunders; Symonds; Brown), and dedicated civil war enthusiast websites (Pierce; Trueman; Halabi).

12 Casualties at Antietam totaled over 22,700 (National Park Service).

13 The 1841-1850 and 1851-1860 data have been compiled by the author based on statistics on the immigrant and foreign-born populations in Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789-1945 (34, 36); Gibson and Lennon; and Daniels (129, 146, 165, 189).

14 Term used by Boorstin (178).