Other political stirrings were also going on that eventually led to the formation of the Republican Party. People's political allegiances were not very fixed. In this context, Illinois politician Abraham Lincoln thought to write a letter to his friend Joshua F. Speed denying that he could be a Know-Nothing.
The spelling is Lincoln's. For Lincoln, "liberty" (an archaic word it seems these days) was indivisible. The nation went on the fight a war over that. Our proudest moments have been those when we extended liberty -- to newcomers, to women, to all races and all belief systems.
Unfortunately, the party Lincoln later helped found seems to have given itself over to today's Know-Nothings -- a motley assortment of racial exclusionists, Muslim bashers, cultural warriors and economic hucksters.
I owe the Lincoln quote to Peter Schrag's excellent history, Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America.
The Lincoln statue pictured looms over Interstate Hwy. 80 in Wyoming.