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For one thing, he seemed content to juggle public prejudice with private tolerance.
Levin’s livid supporters responded in kind, sending the Irish streaming into the streets, guns soon blazing on both sides.
“Parties reeled, politicians changed and cowered before the fiery eloquence of this daring reformer,” wrote John W.
Forney, the Clerk of the House of Representatives during Levin’s era.
A tide of anti-immigrant rage among working-class voters.
Dire warnings that the America we know and love is on the verge of extinction.
One charismatic leader rides the wave of righteous anger. n a stormy Monday afternoon in the spring of 1844, a stout, well-built, 35-year-old Philadelphia newspaper editor ascended a makeshift podium assembled from a stack of packing boxes.
Surrounded by some three thousand of his fervent supporters – butchers, grocers, carpenters and craftsman, many armed for this occasion – Lewis Charles Levin had come to the main market in Philly’s heavily Irish-Catholic neighborhood of Kensington.
But even worse, to Levin, was alcohol, which he saw as a device to keep the working class down while supporting the corrupt elite. Liquor was the enemy of choice for his first major public spectacle, held in January of 1842.
Seeking to raise the profile of his local temperance club, which boasted a scant fifteen members, Levin staged “a spectacular bonfire of booze,” wrote the historian David Montgomery.
He worked as a teacher and studied law, converted to Methodism, and moved to Woodville, Mississippi, a bucolic settlement among the rolling hills of Wilkinson County, just north of the Louisiana border. After surviving an armed duel with a nemesis who claimed Levin had stole one of his speeches, a severely wounded Levin fled the state.
(It was reported in some sources that his opponent in the duel was none other than Woodville’s hometown hero, Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy.) Levin next lived briefly in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he was reportedly “embroiled in a number of serious quarrels before moving on again,” at one point spending six months in jail for an unpaid debt.
The de facto leader of an angry anti-immigrant movement, Levin decried both of the era’s major political parties, won a seat in Congress, sought a seat in the Senate and became an influential figure in presidential politics for several election cycles.