Vegetables were hurled his way, followed by bricks and stones.Levin’s livid supporters responded in kind, sending the Irish streaming into the streets, guns soon blazing on both sides.
But like so many politicians, Levin was known more for what he opposed than for what he supported.
He became a passionate anti-duel advocate following his own misadventure, and also denounced the vile, immoral nature of the theater.
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.
After confiscating a cache of alcohol from a saloon in Kensington and “gathering as much of his audience as would fit into a nearby church,” Levin lit the hooch afire and “demanded that the public be allowed to vote on whether taverns should be tolerated in neighborhoods.” He would soon turn his attention from booze-burning to Irish-bashing – a pastime that attracted significantly more interest than destroying perfectly good adult beverages.
He sold , which became a vehicle for his anti-immigrant screeds, and he helped found America’s first nativist political party, quickly tapping into a pervasive sense of outrage most mainstream politicians had overlooked.
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.
Described by Forman as “a provocative and belligerent speaker” who “flung accusations, insinuations, and reproaches in all directions,” he was abhorred by elites and made few friends among Washington’s ruling class.
He was there to rail against the rising tide of Catholic immigrants taking jobs from proud Pennsylvania-born Protestants, and the resulting “consequence upon American liberty” he vowed would surely come of admitting even more foreigners.