New York Riot


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 1, 1863

This site features our extensive collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. Browse through these newspapers, and enjoy the eye-witness illustrations, reports of the war, and commentary by people who saw the events unfold. Unique perspective is available on these priceless pages.

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Capture of Vicksburg

Capture of Vicksburg

New York Riot

New York Riot

Morgan's Raid

Morgan's Ohio Raid

Draft Riots

Draft Riots



Fall of Vicksburg

Fall of Vicksburg

Vicksburg Levee

Vicksburg Levee

Riots in New York

Riots in New York

New York Draft Riot

New York Draft Riots

Surrender of Vicksburg

Surrender of Vicksburg

Draft Cartoon

Draft Cartoon







[AUGUST 1, 1863.




IT was a rare good fortune to our arms,

That when the flushed foe through the mountains poured,

He found there by the lashing river ford

One whose calm soul was stranger to alarms.

Serene amid the conflict's fiery harms;

Master of fate; of his own spirit lord:

Like that stout knight on whose firm mail the sword Clashed, shivering, glanced, nor burst the faery charms. An IRON MAN! in happier days that name

Hailed him the peaceful champion of the North:

And now the faithful years have blazoned forth

Its splendid prophecy in the battle's flame.

Twice-fortunate brow, where, grandly darkening down,

The warrior-laurel shades the civic crown!



Again thy name the listening nation thrills!

Victory, won with war's importunate roar,

Crowns thy rough wooing by the Western shore,

As once amid Virginia's breezy hills.

The mighty thunder of thy triumph fills

The guilty South; its stealthy echoes pour

Through treason-haunted regions, evermore

Waking wild whispers, and the nameless ills

Of bondage wasting with the potent light

Of hope; for slavery death-stricken lies

Where the vague fame of thy black warriors flies.

The bloody shapes that troubled the dread night

Of woe and war fade as the dawn grows bright,

And day comes flushing up the tranquil skies.



WHEN we wrote last week the New York riots had but just commenced, and there was some doubt how far they might extend and where they might culminate. They are now, to all outward appearance, substantially over. We see no reason, however, to alter the opinions expressed in our last issue. The outbreak was the natural consequence of pernicious teachings widely scattered among the ignorant and excitable populace of a great city; and the only possible mode of dealing with it was stern and bloody repression. Had the mob been assailed with grape and canister on Monday, when the first disturbance took place, it would have been a saving of life and property. Had the resistance been more general, and the bloodshed more profuse than it was, on Thursday, the city would have enjoyed a longer term of peace and tranquillity than we can now count upon.

It is about as idle now to argue the question of the $300 clause in the Conscription Act as it is to debate the abstract right of secession. Before Monday night the riot had got far beyond the question of the draft. Within an hour after the destruction of the Provost-Marshal's office the rioters had forgotten all about the $300 question, and were engrossed with villainous projects of murder, arson, and pillage. It was not in order to avoid the draft that the colored orphan asylum was burnt; that private houses were sacked; that inoffensive colored persons were beaten, mutilated, and murdered; that Brooks's clothing establishment and a score of other smaller stores were pillaged; that private citizens were robbed in open daylight in the public streets, beaten and maimed; that the metropolis of the country was kept for nearly a week in a state of agonizing terror and suspense. For these outrages the draft was merely the pretext; the cause was the natural turbulence of a heterogeneous populace, aggravated by the base teachings of despicable politicians and their newspaper organs.

Some newspapers dwell upon the fact that the rioters were uniformly Irish, and hence argue that our trouble arises from the perversity of the Irish race. But how do these theorists explain the fact that riots precisely similar to that of last week have occurred within our time at Paris, Madrid, Naples, Rome, Berlin, and Vienna; and that the Lord George Gordon riots in London, before our time, far surpassed our New York riot in every circumstance of atrocity? Turbulence is no exclusive attribute of the Irish character: it is common to all mobs in all countries. It happens in this city that, in our working classes, the Irish element largely preponderates over all others, and if the populace acts as a populace Irishmen are naturally prominent therein. It happens, also, that, from the limited opportunities which the Irish enjoy for education in their own country, they are more easily misled by knaves, and made the tools of politicians, when they come here, than Germans or men of other races. The impulsiveness of the Celt, likewise, prompts him to be foremost in every outburst, whether for a good or for an evil purpose. But it must be remembered, in palliation of the disgrace which, as Archbishop Hughes says, the riots of last week have heaped upon the Irish name, that in many wards of the city the Irish were during the late riot stanch friends of law and order; that Irishmen helped to rescue the colored orphans in the asylum from the hands of the rioters; that a large proportion

of the police, who behaved throughout the riot with the most exemplary gallantry, are Irishmen; that the Roman Catholic priesthood to a man used their influence on the side of the law; and that perhaps the most scathing rebuke administered to the riot was written by an Irishman—JAMES T. BRADY.

It is important that this riot should teach us something more useful than a revival of Know-Nothing prejudices. We ought to learn from it —what we should have known before, but communities like individuals learn nothing except from experience—that riots are the natural and inevitable diseases of great cities, epidemics, like small-pox and cholera, which must be treated scientifically, upon logical principles, and with the light of large experience. In old cities where the authorities know how to treat riots, and resort at once to grape and canister, they never occur twice in a generation, one lesson being sufficient for the most hot-blooded rioter; in other places, where less vigorous counsels prevail, the disease is checked and covered up for a time, but breaks out afresh at intervals of a few months or years. The secret is, of course, that by the former method, the populace are thoroughly imbued with a conviction of the power of the authorities, and of their ability and determination to crush a riot at any cost—a lesson remembered through life; while in the latter case, the half-quelled rioters are allowed to go home with a sort of feeling that they may after all be the stronger party, and the Government the weaker. Hence it is that while the baton is the proper weapon of the policeman in times of peace and order, the rifle and the howitzer are the only merciful weapons in times of riot.

It is very essential, in suppressing a riot, that the rioters should have no excuse for accusing their opponents of being in any way foreigners or strangers. If it had been true, as was falsely stated during the recent riot, that the issue was between "the people" and "United States soldiers," the rioters would have fought with more ferocity than they did, knowing that their opponents were "the people" like themselves. It would have a bad effect, as every one can see, to send for troops from New England or Pennsylvania to put down a riot in New York. But if we are to put down our own riots, citizens interested in the preservation of peace and order must be willing to tender their services. It is due to truth to say that the citizens of New York showed very little alacrity in responding to the call of the Mayor and Governor for volunteers to suppress the late riot. Of 400 muskets which lay idle at the armory of the 37th regiment, only 80 found men to carry them, though urgent appeals for men were made by the authorities and the officers of the regiment. We can never expect to keep the peace unless we are prepared—one and all of us—to turn out in cases of emergency, and fight.

It is just possible that further disturbances may occur. That the draft will be enforced, at any cost, in the city of New York as in other parts of the country, is obvious enough. The Common Council may possibly pay the $300 for poor men who are drafted; though the right of the city to do so is doubted by many, and the disbursement of the money would inevitably give rise to gross frauds. But with this the Government has nothing to do. It is the business of the Government, in the first place, to carry out the laws, in New York as elsewhere; and secondly, to preserve the Union, which can not be done without a draft to fill up the depleted ranks of the army. There are many ways in which mechanics and laborers can, by combining together, insure each other against the draft without breaking the laws. If they choose to proceed thus they will have the aid of every man who has money to spare. But if there is to be any more burning and sacking of houses, and murdering of negroes—any more attempts to set up the populace of New York above the law—the consequences will be so terrible that mothers will relate the tale to their children with a shudder for years and years to come.



DURING the raging of the riot there was a constant attempt upon the part of certain newspapers to represent the rioters as "the people." The heading of one of the earliest bulletins of the proceedings of the riot which was burning and sacking the property of private citizens and buildings of public charity, was "Procession of the People!" The firing upon the furious crowd who were hunting and hanging inoffensive persons of an unfortunate race, was deliberately called "Attack upon the People by the Provost Guard!" The military were reported elsewhere to be "firing on the people." The riot was called a "popular uprising"—"a movement of the people." Who, then, are the people? In this country what class of citizens is to be especially described as "the people?"

The police were most active, heroic, and successful in their assaults upon the mob. Do the men of the police force in this country cease to be a part of "the people," because they aid in enforcing the laws which are constitutionally made? Are they any less part of "the people" than the men who resist those laws with fire, pillage, slaughter, and anarchy? The soldiers did their work well. They fired upon "the people," did they? But who are

the soldiers of the United States? Are General Wool, or General Brown, or Colonel Lefferts, or O'Brien, or Major Fearing, or Lieutenant Adams, or any private who stands ready to maintain the laws made under the Constitution, any less citizens of the United States than Andrews and Martin Moran? Are the men who beat helpless negroes to death, and ravage defenseless houses for pillage "the people," while those who defend order, law, and humanity are not? Will these papers please to say whether a body of persons establishes its claim to be called "the people" of this city, or of this country, by overthrowing every barrier of order and civil society, and abandoning itself to the most wanton and incredible cruelty? Does a citizen cease to be one of "the people" because he respects the laws?

Not a man shot dead in his riotous career during the terrible week in this city was any more one of "the people" than the soldier who righteously shot him or the policeman who justly broke his head. If such scenes as those of the riot week are the acts of "the people," then the most savage hatred of popular institutions ever expressed is the most humane and sensible view of them. If our Government is one of "the people," and the mob that ruled part of the city of New York for part of a week is indeed "the people," then any man who does not prefer the reign of one Nero to that of a thousand Neroes is insane. If the Government at Washington is, as the Copperhead orators and journals constantly declare, "a despotism," and the riots were, as the same authorities declare, the acts of "the people," no sensible man would long hesitate in deciding which despotism he preferred.

But, in truth, the term "this people," as descriptive of the rioters, was used by those who either feared the mob or who wished to pander to it. It was a convenient term to use while the issue was doubtful. For if the disturbance grew—if from a riot in the city it had become an organized insurrection through the country to compel peace, he is a poor student of human nature and of the public press who does not know that the papers which began by faintly deprecating the riot as a "popular opposition to the draft" would have ended by loudly supporting the insurrectionary resistance to the war. It is with this mob as with the rebellion. Those who half justify it are its most valuable friends, and of necessity the enemies of the Government and the laws. While to call the riotous and murderous resisters of laws constitutionally made "the people" is to borrow a phraseology from foreign countries and monarchical systems, where the government, the army, and the people are three permanently distinct classes, constantly jealous of each other. The word so used has no meaning with us. It is not the brutal, the ignorant, the reckless—it is not thieves, incendiaries, and assassins who are distinctively "the people" of this country. But the great mass of the population, generally intelligent and industrious, from the laborer of yesterday who is the rich man of to-day to the laborer of to-day who is to-morrow the rich man—these are the true "bone and sinew"—these are indeed "The People" of the United States.


THE stain of the late riots on the history of the city of New York is indelible. The utter meanness of the hunting and bloody massacre of the most unfortunate class of the population is not to be forgotten. The burning of an orphan asylum is infamous beyond parallel in the annals of mobs. And how entirely undeserved this mad hatred of the colored race is, every sober man in this country knows. No class among us are and have been so foully treated as the black, yet none furnishes, in proportion, so few offenders against the laws. Proverbially a mild, affectionate, and docile people, they have received from us, who claim to be a superior race, a treatment which of itself disproves our superiority.

How the more intelligent persons among the enemies of this race console their consciences under the awful fate which their incessant and sneering depreciation of the colored people has at last brought upon those unfortunates, it is impossible to say. Yet we observe that some of them clutch at the old subterfuge, and declare that it is the unwise attempt to elevate the blacks "above their sphere" which is responsible for their late fearful martyrdom. Look at this statement a moment. Its argument is that to insist upon personal liberty, as the natural right of every innocent human being, only tends to create jealousy among other human beings. To state the argument is to smother it in ridicule.

Put in another form, the same plea is that God has made the black race subservient to the white, and that to declare their right to personal liberty is to advocate their social equality, to erect them into rival laborers, and to disorganize society. The reply to this is, that God has made the black race subservient to the white in the same way that he has made Jews subservient to Christians, and the Irish to the English, and in no other. It used to please Christians to call the Jews "dogs," and to injure and murder them in every way—and to this day to call a man "Jew" is only less offensive than to call him "niXXer." It used to please the English to consider the Irish unclean beasts, and to treat them accordingly. Does any body seriously defend this kind of persecution as any thing more than the basest and most criminal prejudice? Coleridge professed the same instinctive hatred of a Frenchman that so many among us profess of a negro. Was it an evidence of Coleridge's wisdom or folly?

The argument we are considering amounts to this—that you must not befriend the unfortunate lest you provoke the ignorant and brutal; you must not defend the rights of the oppressed lest the oppressors should wax wroth. It is an argument for tyrants, cowards, and sneaks—not for men.


MY DEAR FRIEND,—YOU are a German and a Jew, and you have come to make your living in a

foreign land, of which Christianity is the professed religion. You have no native, no political, no religious sympathy with this country. You are here solely to make money, and your only wish is to make money as fast as possible. You neither know our history nor understand our Government; but, believing that all men are selfish and mean, nothing is absurder to your mind than the American doctrine of popular government based upon equal rights.

This being the case with you and thousands like you, you are inevitably a Secessionist, a Copperhead, and a Rebel. But why deceive yourself, since you deceive nobody else? Your opinion is of no value, because you neither know nor care any thing about the subjects upon which you pronounce. If things can be kept quiet by agreeing to dissolve the Union and to destroy the Government, you are for that course. And you are the enemy of all who will risk war to save the nation. If quiet can be preserved by massacring the negroes, amen: you want money, and money requires quiet. If things can be kept still by slaughtering Irishmen, you cheerfully agree, for you think that of the two races they are the less docile. If peace can be preserved by proclaiming Jeff Davis as President, by forming four Governments, by each State setting up for itself—in God's name, cry you, let it be done. You want money. Government, except so far as it shoots mobs and hangs the people whom the mob hates, and who are therefore called the authors of the mob—the security of personal rights—laws founded upon justice—popular intelligence and progress—these, in your estimation, are foolish fancies and idle twaddle. If you can have a fine house, and horses, and servants, and fifty thousand dollars a year, you have what you want, and all the rest is moonshine.

Do you not see, my dear friend, that in the eyes of every loyal American citizen, who is equally anxious with you to thrive and make money—who wishes equally with you that there shall be peace, because peace is essential to trade—but who knows that there is and can be no permanent peace in this country, except that which is based upon common justice, and who is firmly persuaded that if all the conservatism in the world agrees that twice two make three, they do still make four; in the eyes of such a citizen, my dear friend, do you not see what a ludicrous and contemptible spectacle you are? You are the material out of which despotisms are made. It is upon such people as you that the King of Prussia counts when he deliberately destroys the constitutional rights of his subjects. And whatever in this country is despotic, mean, and repugnant to the great and fundamental democratic doctrine of equal rights before the law, receives your hearty sympathy and support. The country you left did not regret your coming away; the country in which you trade will not mourn your departure.

Yours, with all the respect possible, THE LOUNGER.


WHEN Archbishop Hughes, in his card of invitation, spoke of those who were "called rioters," or in his speech itself mentioned the "so-called rioters," did he mean that the proceedings of the week were not riotous, and that people who burn, steal, and massacre with the fury of brutes are not rioters, but are improperly so-called? If the events of the third week of July in New York were not riotous, then there is no such thing as a riot. If the raging crowds, pillaging and devastating, were not mobs, then there is no such thing as a mob.

Why was the Prelate so anxious to avoid calling things by their right names? If it were proper for him to call the honored editor of a leading journal and one of the most illustrious of living Americans "a liar," could it have been so very improper for his Grace to call men who, without the slightest pretense of excuse, burn an orphan asylum and slaughter innocent passengers upon the street, "rioters?" It was nothing to the purpose to say that they did not look like rioters; for he invited the persons, so called by the papers, to come to his house, and those persons were they who had burned and murdered innocent people and defenseless asylums. The Archbishop, therefore, was speaking to those and to no others.

His Master, as we read, the Prince of Peace, healed the wound his follower had made, and bade him put up his sword. He also told the money-changers that they had turned his Father's house into a den of thieves, and he scourged them out of it. These were slight offenses compared with the crimes with which the "so-called rioters" in this city were reeking. But through all the long speech of the Archbishop we look in vain for the tone of indignant reproof, or the plain command of Jesus. My most sweet good masters, he says in effect, if indeed you have been naughty—and I am sure you do not look as if you were so—please be good boys, or you will make me feel very unpleasantly. I am sure you will be good, because your countrymen have always been the most innocent of babes. Go home, then, like good children—Amen!

Of the Archbishop's fair intention there need be no doubt. He does not wish his Church to bear the terrible burden of the responsibility of the riot, and as a good citizen he wished the mob put down. But if he had no other means of promoting the public peace than hesitating whether to call rioters gentlemen, and refraining from all condemnation of the infamous crimes which, according to the terms of his invitation, his audience had committed, then it is a great sorrow for every loyal citizen that the Catholic Bishop of New York is not a man who can speak with power, since it is certainly desirable that he should speak at such a time. If, instead of palliating, and parleying, and blarneying, he had depicted to the rioters the enormity of their action, and bade them, with all the conscious authority of his position, and in the name of God and the Government, to stop, the moment would have been the grandest of his life. To say that such a tone would have exasperated the mob (Next Page)




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