Draft Riots


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1863

Welcome to our online collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers. We hope you enjoy browsing through these old newspapers. We have posted them so that they look identical to the original documents, and they allow you to step back in time and see the war unfold week by week.

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Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Draft Riots

Draft Riots


New York Riots

Fort Hill Explosion, Vicksburg


Battle of Gettysburg Description

Vicksburg Explosion

Vicksburg Explosion

Peace Cartoon

Peace Cartoon


Siege of Vicksburg

Siege of Vicksburg

Port Hudson

Siege of Port Hudson


Carlisle, Pennsylvania


The Battle of Gettysburg




[JULY 25, 1863.]


Tu the Edditer ov Harper's Weekly:

DEER SIR,—Cousin Sophy and I went daown tu Concord the other day, bein ez it was the glorius Fourth, to attend the Dimmykrattic meetin. But I guess they made a mistake in namin ov it, fur there wasn't a single Jackson man tu be seen fur love nor money.

The funniest part ov the show was whare thay spoke ov the war. Why, Mr. Edditer, I deklare I begun tu think thare wasn't no rebellion at all! Awl they tawked abaout was Lincoln's despotism, and haow he woodn't let 'em speek thare minds (though I thort thay didn't seem very bashful as tu expressin ov thare sentyments). Thay passed a lot ov resolushuns abaout the war in the Nawth agin aour Suthern brethren, and ez they was rayther curus sayins fur Dimmykrats, I thort I'd jest rite orf the substance ov 'em fur yure benefit. Thay say there nevver was sich a tyrant ez Lincoln, and thet we air a daown-trodden peeple. Why don't they go and live with thare Suthern brethren?

But I will now klose with a poim:



Resolved,—This nation's goin tu reuin—

Old Abram Lincoln's baound tu strand it. Thare's sum awlfired mischief brewin,

We Dimmykrats can't no way stand it!

We make a vaow, from this time forth,

Tu stop awl warfare in the North.

Resolved,—Thet Lincoln's a userper—

An awful skeery won et that

He shall not lead us wun step further

Then we've a mind tu go—thet's flat!

We luv the Guverment ov the nation,

But go agin its administrashun.

Resolved,—This war shood be conduckted

Most viggorous, by the laws ov peece. Thet niXXer folks may be abduckted

Whereso aour Suthern brethren please, And whereso'er a tremblin' slave is,

He shood be given tu Jeff Davis.

Resolved,—The stones we've thrown in Dixie Hev brought us tu an orful pass.

We let aour dander rise too quickly;

We shood hev gone on throwin' grass.

We b'lieve Vallandigham a saint:

Woe tu the man whu sez he ain't!


Resolved,—We will rekord the story,

Thet in this war we've acted wust:

It's true, the Saouth fired on "old glory;"

But didn't we go and hoist it fust?

We might hey missed the war's mischances

Ef we hed hoisted olive branches!

Tharefore we form a resolushun,

To make all Lincoln's auders void—

Tu put his ginerals to konfushun,

So thet aour own sha'n't be annoyed;

And fortify aour strong position By firing guns on abbolition!

We'll grasp the fiery suthern cross,

And bid sich fokes ez Butler bear it! We'll kover aour defeat and loss

With treason's garb (naow Davis wears it). We skorn deceit, detest hypockracy—

Make way thare fur the Peace Dimmockrassy!



SATURDAY, JULY 25, 1863.

THE attempt to enforce the draft in the city of New York has led to rioting. Men have been killed and houses burned; worst of all, an orphan asylum—a noble monument of charity for the reception of colored orphans—has been ruthlessly destroyed, and children and nurses have lost every thing they had in the world.

The event should cause no surprise. It should have been anticipated. It was not reasonable to expect that the operatives of this large city—who have never been forced to realize the obligations of citizenship—should at once realize what is thoroughly understood by the people of almost every European town. It will take time to make them understand that every government must, for its own protection, enjoy the power of compelling its citizens to perform military service. And it will take still more time, reflection, and information to satisfy them that the Conscription Act passed at the last session of Congress is in reality fair, liberal, and humane; that it is far more generous to the operative class than the conscription laws of Europe, inasmuch as it tenderly guards orphans, widows, and aged parents from being deprived of their natural support, while it exempts very few indeed of the wealthier class. Every working-man who reflects will readily understand that the $300 clause was merely intended to regulate the price of substitutes so as to prevent speculation in conscripts by the harpies who traded so successfully in volunteers; and that men of wealth, whose business affords livelihood to scores of people, would have obtained substitutes though this clause had never been enacted. Still it was natural enough that the operative class—especially that of so turbulent a city as. this—should misconstrue the act; should imagine themselves aggrieved by the exemption of wealthy men on payment of money; and should attempt to resist the enforcement of laws both new to them and unquestionably unpleasant in their application. Even if these

ideas had not occurred to them spontaneously, the leading organs of the Opposition took care that they should be reminded of their "wrongs." For many days past the newspapers which are said to speak the views of the Democratic leaders have denounced the conscription as unequal, unjust to working-men, tyrannical, and outrageous. The writers of these articles probably knew perfectly well that, in the present circumstances of the nation, a conscription act was absolutely necessary, and that, on the whole, our present act was as fair a one as could be devised. But, in their malignant partisanship, they thought of nothing but the opportunity of making political capital against the Government. They sympathized with the working-man in the oppression under which he groaned. They denounced Mr. Lincoln as a reckless and imbecile tyrant. They denounced the war as a needless, fratricidal, and abolition war. And they wondered at the calm with which the operatives of New York submitted to the execution of a law which they declared to be utterly intolerable.

Under these circumstances who can wonder at riots breaking out? No man likes to be torn from his family and forced to serve in the ranks. If the individuals sentenced to undergo this fate can persuade themselves that the sentence is unjust, the law unconstitutional, and the authorities arbitrary, who can be surprised at their resistance?

Large cities, too, have their peculiar requirements, and one of these is periodical riots. Every large city has them. In Paris they occur once in every generation, and are called revolutions. In London they used to be more frequent than they are now; the authorities have learned how to deal with them, and now they are generally checked in the bud by an overwhelming display of military and constabulary force. Here they are a new thing. The Astor Place Riot is almost the only example on record; for the Dead Rabbit riots were suppressed almost before they had broken out. The affair of Monday last bore a closer resemblance to a European riot than any thing we have ever had here. The leaders and principal actors in the affair were boys—beardless youths of fifteen to eighteen. Behind these, and seemingly operating as a mere reserve force, was a body of men—operatives in foundries and factories, laborers, stablemen, etc. —who did the murdering of policemen, the gutting of houses, the firing of dwellings, etc., after the boys had opened the battle with volleys of stones. In all the crowds there was a fair sprinkling of women, not young, but married women, who were probably roused to fury by the fear of having their husbands taken from them by the draft. This kind of mixed crowd, though often good-humored and apt to be easily managed by a skillful leader, is likewise prone to the wildest excesses of passion and brutality. The boys and men invariably get drunk at an early stage of the proceedings; the women appear to become equally intoxicated with excitement; and all together commit crimes from which every individual in the crowd would probably shrink if he were alone. Such crowds are so cowardly that a handful of disciplined troops will scatter them like chaff; and so blood-thirsty that they will tear in pieces an individual against whom their fury happens to be directed, or burn a building in which women and children are situated without chance of escape.

There was nothing peculiar to New York, or to the Irish race in this riot of Monday. Precisely similar mobs have been seen in Paris, London, Vienna, Naples, and Canton. They are explosions of the volcanic element which lies dormant in the heart of every large city. Nor does the riot imply, as some of the papers try to have us believe, any such general disapproval of the Conscription law as should lead to its alteration or suspension. Though the draft was the original cause of the riot, it soon took the more familiar direction of an anti-negro demonstration, such as used to occur in this city at intervals of ten years or so before the Revolution of 1776, similar in kind to the no-popery riots of Lord George Gordon, in London, and the Jacobin riots in Paris during the revolution. Toward the close of the day, the rage of the mob was exclusively directed against colored people, who had no more to do with enforcing the Conscription Act than the Pope of Rome.

The question now is—have we a government capable of suppressing mobs? If we have, the demonstration of Monday will, after all, not prove without advantage, as it will teach the dangerous elements the duty of abiding the laws in future. If we have not, it is high time that we altered our present system, and established a government which could protect us.

The rioters of Monday took advantage of the absence of the bulk of our city militia to commit acts which they would not have attempted had the Seventh and Seventy-first been here. But there are still thousands of able-bodied men in the city who can and ought to bear arms in such a cause as this. Let us see how they will turn out. We have several army officers of experience, who understand the scientific rules of street warfare; we shall see the dispositions they will make.

There are just two principles which should govern the conduct of our city authorities. The first is, that the law must be carried out whatever

it may cost; for if we give way to the mob there will be an end of law and order in this community, and life and property will henceforth be held at the pleasure of the leaders of the mob. And, secondly, all experience shows that, in dealing with mobs, the most severe methods are the most humane. Mob violence, threatening life and property, and burning orphan asylums, can only be radically cured by grape and canister. All other remedies aggravate and protract the disease.



THE slaveholders in this country having waged a desperate war against the constitutional government of the people for the sole purpose of perpetuating slavery, and having come to grief, it is now proposed by some excellent jesters that the victorious people of the United States shall agree to perpetuate slavery. Having seen a social and political system plunge us by its necessary development into war—having seen the war destroy the system, and the country emerge from the field victorious, these witty persons propose that we give the enemy all that they have been fighting for, and consent to re-establish slavery.

But for what purpose? Why should we do it? That the slaveholders may make no more trouble. But did they not have slavery before, and did they not make trouble? Oh yes, but they were afraid it would be meddled with. And will they be any the less afraid hereafter? And if before they rebelled and showed their true colors, slavery was so meddled with that they tried to destroy us, now that we have seen exactly what slavery is and have repulsed their efforts, are we likely to hold our tongues?

It is not a question of wishing to marry negroes, or having negroes for Presidents and Governors, or liking negroes in the abstract. The question is simply whether the loyal people of this country, after the experience and revelations of this war, and the long, bitter disgrace of our latter subservience to the insolent dictation of slaveholders for the purpose of keeping the peace, are inclined to submit to that subservience and dictation again, after they have subjugated the Dictator. Subservience to slavery could not prevent the war, That is clear. Is subservience to it likely to keep the peace hereafter?

That is the question which offers itself for "settlement." And the jesting gentlemen ought to remember that the people have evidently made up their minds that the war is no jesting matter. They have already answered the question. The Government, which is the Constitutional expression of the popular will, has already emancipated most of the slaves. By the act of the United States those people become not our sons-in-law, nor our bosom friends, nor our rivals in labor, nor voters, but they become citizens of the United States. What State law, then, can enslave them?


THE rebels' feeling of their pinched and perilous condition is curiously revealed by the fierce and frantic exultation of their papers upon the supposed "magnificent victory" of Lee at Gettysburg. The wild scream of delight with which they hailed the news was like that of a flock of unclean and starving birds over a lion's carcass. It was the violent outcry of reaction. The fury with which they gloat over the probable desolation of the Free States is the indirect testimony of the disaster and despair which they knew must be at hand if they did not win the battle in Pennsylvania.

Inspired by the glittering delusion of a victory, they shout that Pennsylvania is now to be laid under contribution. Philadelphia is to pay millions for its ransom. Washington, "that foul den of thieves, is expecting the righteous vengeance of Heaven for the hideous crimes that have been done within its walls." Which remarks, considering that Washington has been the head-quarters of the slave-drivers, who are now rebels, for the last thirty years, are a clear case of fouling one's own nest. "Lincoln and his rascal ministers are turning pale." "Cincinnati would, we are assured, burn well.... peopled by as God-abandoned sons of Yankees as ever killed a hog." "Ohio has towns to ransom and fertile plains to sweep of flocks and herds."

And as for the prisoners which Lee took at Gettysburg, the forty thousand Yankees, they must not be suffered to eat the food which rebels require. Let the guard that attends them on the march be supplied largely with cartridges and a few light guns, "so that, on the first sign of insubordination, the prisoners may be slain without mercy." And let the Yankee captives bring their own food with them. And let them be encamped in the mountains with batteries commanding them, "and as it is summer weather they will need no shelter." In the same spirit a Southwestern rebel paper asked in the middle of June:

"Why not hang every Dutchman captured? We will hereafter hang, or shoot, or imprison for life all white men taken in command of negroes, and enslave the negroes themselves. This is not too harsh. No human being will assert the contrary. Why, then, should we not hang a Dutchman, who deserves infinitely less of our sympathy than Sambo? The live masses of beer, krout, tobacco, and rotten cheese, which, on two legs and four, on foot and mounted, go prowling through the South, should be used to manure the sandy plains and barren hill-sides of Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia....Whenever a Dutch regiment adorns the limbs of a Southern forest daring cavalry raids into the South shall cease.... President Davis need not be specially consulted; and if an accident of this sort should occur to a plundering band like that captured by Forrest, we are not inclined to believe that our President would be greatly disgruntled."

In the midst of all these frantic flourishes arrived the address of Lee to his troops, announcing

that they had failed; also the news of the retreat of Bragg; also the fall of Vicksburg; also the Union victory in Arkansas. The whole horizon flamed with disaster. By the ghastly light the rebels have already read the words of the exultant Richmond Inquirer in a new and appalling sense: "Peace will come to us only in one way—by the edge of the sword."


AT the late loyal meeting in Concord, New Hampshire, when the Postmaster-General Blair made a very foolish speech, Major-General Butler made a very wise one. It was a concise and conclusive review of the situation; and throughout remarkable for that trenchant common sense which annihilates sophistry and seizes the heart of the matter; a characteristic which made a Louisiana slaveholder and Unionist, who until a few weeks since was never upon free soil, say that if General Butler had been left in command at New Orleans, Louisiana would already have returned to the Union as a free State—a result which the gentleman considered speedy, inevitable, and desirable. Although a slaveholder and by no means of great faith in the willingness of colored men to work without the lash, it was clear, he said, that if the Union meant to restore itself, the war meant emancipation. And the views of this gentleman are quite as valuable as those of Mr. Cottman and his two friends, who recently asked the President to re-establish slavery in Louisiana.

It is refreshing to hear the earnest expression of the earnest loyalists from rebel States; and General Butler exactly represents them and their views. We extract a few passages from his Concord speech. First, as to "Democracy:"

"If there is a Democrat here—and thousands I doubt not there are—to him I say, I am a Democrat; after the strictest sect of that political religion have I lived a Pharisee. And when we point to the past for a record—I say it here, in this bright sunlight—there is no better Democratic record than mine; and he who claims better, let him show it."

Then as to Slavery:

"And now let me tell you here, as my deliberate judgment, founded on observation and experience, that the question of negro slavery to-day is as much a dead issue of the past as the United States Bank. That thing is ended. Whatever may be the future of this country that thing is ended, and no man except those who go back to pick up that which is behind need trouble himself about that issue."

Finally, as to settlement:

"First, drive out the military power that now holds the States, the five hundred thousand men there. Drive out the leaders; send them to Mexico, if you choose, to make a proportion of Louis Napoleon's army; send them any where; get rid of them. My friends, there are too many to hang; we have a right to hang them, but many things that are right are not expedient. Send them away; get rid of them; extinguish them so far as the land is concerned. It must be so; because we could not live with them in peace when they were friends, and can we live with them as enemies? And when that is done, and loyal men ask to come into the Union to become a portion of this great empire, we can admit then precisely as we have admitted Western Virginia, and as I hope we shall soon do Louisiana. Having got rid of those men who assume to be leaders, we can reconstruct the Union, and, my word for it, my friends, hear with me or against me, as the case may be in the future, in that way only is there to be any reconstruction of the Union. And when the nation is reconstructed, when its laws are extended over all that great territory again; when instead of having our attention diverted and driven now as it is to the question of war, we can bring the whole energy of the public mind and the whole talent of the public statesmen of the country to this question, then will be the time when we can deal with and settle, in the providence of God, to our satisfaction and to His, this great question of what is to be done with the African race. Before that time, in my judgment, it is of little consequence to speculate upon the negro question in any shape. Drive Lee and his myrmidons away from the gates of the capital, and then look after the African. You see I am ending as I began—end the rebellion, and get rid of the suspension of habeas corpus; end the rebellion, and get rid of military arrests; end the rebellion, and get rid of military power; end the rebellion, and become reunited; end the rebellion, and then settle the question of the African. [Applause.] Let me be understood—and I think it is best—if it is the best way to use the African for the purpose of getting rid of the rebels, use him. [Applause.] But deal with him not as the end, but as tho means; not as a result, but as an instrument in our hands, placed there by God, for the protection of this country in this hour of her peril." [Continued applause.]


A FRIEND in St. Louis writes: "Grant is a working man. Years ago he married in St. Louis, resigned his situation in the army, turned farmer, and drove his own team into St. Louis with wood. In his recent march (in May) he was three days on foot, with his rations and baggage, leading his men, not being willing to delay until his horses should come up. Such a man must succeed."


THE admirable London correspondent of Child's Publishers' Circular, in his copious summary of new books, writes of Mrs. Kemble's Journal, just published by the Harpers:

"Last, but not least, is 'Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation in 1838-39,' by Frances Anne Kemble—a book which will do more to damage the cause of the South in this country than any thing that has yet appeared. It is the narrative of a truth-loving, kind-hearted English gentle-woman; and without attempting to paint slavery blacker than it is, such a picture is drawn of misery, degradation, and cruelty, that one shudders to think that beings calling themselves Christian men and women can for a moment misquote their Bibles to uphold such a devilish institution."


DOWN to the very day of Lee's defeat the corruption, incompetency, and hopeless imbecility of the Washington authorities were incessantly decried and denounced. Presaging disaster, the Copperheads, who wear a mask of loyalty, took care (Next Page)




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