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Unequal FreedomsEthnicity, Race, and White Supremacy in Civil War-Era Charleston$
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Jeff Strickland

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060798

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060798.001.0001

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Antebellum Municipal Politics and Social Control

Antebellum Municipal Politics and Social Control

(p.83) 3 Antebellum Municipal Politics and Social Control
Unequal Freedoms

Jeff Strickland

University Press of Florida

The political crisis over the extension of slavery into the western territories and the subsequent Civil War affected municipal politics. German grocers disagreed with license laws that appeared oppressive and undemocratic. The dissenting behavior of German immigrants, especially their slave concubines and willingness to sell liquor to slaves and otherwise violate the slave code, stimulated the nativist tendencies of white South Carolinians. Many white Charlestonians supported the Know Nothing Party, although the Democratic Party continued to poll a majority in all but one local election. Although German and Irish immigrants tended to become naturalized citizens soon after their arrival in Charleston, citizenship did not necessarily mean political power, as property qualifications for voting restricted ballot access. Instead, white Charlestonians dominated municipal policy-making, and they enacted policies that aimed to control not only the slave and free black populations but also immigrants and especially grocers who violated the slave code. Some German and Irish immigrants assisted slaves in their bids to escape. When the Civil War began, many German and Irish immigrants volunteered for service in the Confederate military, while others remained in the city to maintain business operations, and some left the city altogether.

Keywords:   Know Nothing Party, Nativism, Naturalized Citizen, Municipal Politics, Political Crisis, Secession, License Laws

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