How did the massive wave of immigration in the 1840s influence the balance of power between the Whig and Democratic parties?

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Generally, the influx of immigrants in the 1830s and 1840s was a boon for the Democratic Party. While a minority of German immigrants eventually favored the Whigs, "Jacksonian" Democrats had far more success in appealing to Irish immigrants who poured in to the country in the 1830s and 1840s. The...

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Generally, the influx of immigrants in the 1830s and 1840s was a boon for the Democratic Party. While a minority of German immigrants eventually favored the Whigs, "Jacksonian" Democrats had far more success in appealing to Irish immigrants who poured in to the country in the 1830s and 1840s. The reasons for this were complex, but essentially Democratic politicians were the first to master the new urban party politics of the era. For the first time, local party representatives mobilized voters at what we would today call the "grassroots" level. Martin Van Buren, for example, was instrumental in organizing urban support for Jackson in the elections of 1828 and 1832, and this trend only accelerated with surging waves of immigrants. Many Whigs, on the other hand, harbored openly anti-immigrant, nativist sentiments—the nativist "Know-Nothing" Party had its origins within the ranks of the Whigs. Like the Jeffersonians that preceded them, Democrats of the era were generally more accepting of Catholics and other religious minorities than their opponents, and this appealed to the overwhelmingly Catholic Irish immigrants. Democrats also had little enthusiasm for temperance and other reform movements that were deeply unpopular among the urban poor, especially immigrants. Finally, the so-called "common man" appeal of the Democrats resonated with some newly-arrived immigrants. But by far the biggest reason that immigrants voted Democrat in the antebellum era was that the Democrats were more successful in mobilizing the mass politics of the city. In any case, immigrant voters gave the Democratic party a considerable advantage. Throughout the 1840s, they proved a reliable voting bloc for the Democrats.

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