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The City of New York seems to adopt a different character from that of other states when it comes to matters of crime and the 1863 New York draft riots seem to affirm this. Many scholarly books and articles normally make a general coverage of the Southern racial attitudes in the Civil War period, but hardly ever do they highlight the multifaceted racial relations in the North during the same period of time. History highlights that abolitionists formed just a tiny minority of the population in the North, and in essence there were white men who owned slaves in the states of the northern region at the time of the Civil War. The 1863 New York City Draft Riots presents the views of the north and the fears that existed during that time. Many workers in New York did not wish to take part in the war that would give freedom to blacks. After gaining their freedom, the former slaves would compete for jobs with them for small pay. Therefore, a mob, in July of 1863 angered through the conscription provisions descended on the draft offices that had been newly opened and destroyed property worth millions of dollars, and murdered eleven blacks. Evidently, the union was not united through the wartime policies of Lincoln. Thus, this research paper asserts that the 1863 New York Draft riots reveal a harsh character of New York City that is evident even up to this day.  

Crime in New York

“The 1863 New York City draft riots may be were the most significant and influential events in the history of New York City”. It reflected the character of the city directly. It is largely believed that the riots began because of the laws that were established and allowed people to be drafted into the effort of the war. All the same, this was just the spark that lit the long built-up crisis of classes and racial issues and that amounted to an upward directed invasion against the elites of the city and the downward attach that was realized against the blacks. In an effort of fully understand what these riots showed concerning the character of the New York City, it is imperative to look at the start of the riots, also to take into account the riots from a number of perspectives including that of the blacks, the Natives and the Immigrants. All the same, the riots represented a very important step forward for the City of New York. The social and economic elites together with government became, to some degree, sympathetic to the poor and vulnerable of New York. Immigrants attained strength politically and the blacks also got a lot of benefits socially and economically.

The 1863 New York Draft riots could actually be affirm the reason as to why crime seems to take a different path altogether than in all other states. Apparently, crime in all states is similar and punishment is given for any illegal act. Due to the fact that initial mob families manage and control their businesses mainly from New York, crime appears to be much more dangerous and prevalent. Crime is defined as any kind of behavior as unlawful through legislation. From 1992, the United States of America rates of crime have gone down and began to maintain a steady rate from 2000. The various kinds of crime mainly taking place in New York are very violent and property related. The trend seems to have its link from the 1863 draft riots.  Over the years, people view New York as a dangerous destination based on the crimes that have been taking place. 

The draft riots in New York were a wrapping up of the mounting political, social and economic tensions that were present among the melting point of cultures of New York. The laws which were established through congress to draft men to fight the American Civil War that was ongoing only ignited the New York City draft riots. This resort was reached as a result of high casualties, growing rates of desertion and decline in recruitment. Besides the mandatory service issue, there were a lot of flaws in the National Conscription Act, which directly showed the character of the City of New York during that time. A provision made in the Act accused any man that was drafted in the event that they were in a position to pay about three hundred dollars or a substitute for the same. To the social and economic elites it made a lot of sense in that the draft would not include men significant to the society and the effort of the war, for instance, crucial leaders of industry.

The fact that the conscription practically exempted the rich and fastened its iron to the vulnerable and the poor of the society was a sufficient evidence to demonstrate injustice. For the large number of New York immigrants and mainly the Irish, the riots were an aggressive protest that was made against the elites and the rich exploitation of the poor. The United States was regarded as the land of opportunity and New York was apparently the main gateway to the United States. “These were the conditions to which the Immigrants … to find a better life....”. All the same, many people found the American promise to be a false tale. They instead found overcrowded slums and desolation. Moreover, in a city developed on principals of capitalism, the draft riots demonstrated the ambivalence of a city towards war and a strong desire to go back to the status quo. The draft riots actually reflected the very serious issues that divided the nation during the civil war in America. There was a specific attention brought to the matters of sectionalism and the ever increasing unsubstantiated support from the north for the continuance of the war after the Emancipation Proclamation.      

The Character of New York

The complex New York character is directly demonstrated through the encounter that many blacks had during the time of the riots. The targets of the people who rioted initially were only against the government buildings and the military, symbols of injustice of the draft. All the same, towards the end of the first day, riots changed their target on the blacks and symbols that stood for the political, social and economic power of the blacks. The harsh character of the riots and that of the City of New York is evident in their actions on the orphanage of the blacks. The four-storey orphanage and its location on the 5th Avenue and 42nd Street was a symbol that imposed the charity of the whites towards the blacks and the upward mobility of the blacks. While many angry rioters walked towards the orphanage, about 233 innocent children lay in wait helplessly. The orphanage was stripped of bedding, food and clothing, and then burnt completely to the ground, all of which was accomplished within twenty minutes. The children could have been rescued but any attempts to do so were greeted with a lot of jeers and opposition.

The unforgiving character of the City of New York also heightened clearly in the economic industry as the blacks were forced out of the jobs they did. Along the docks, there was a lot of racial tension that had been mounting for quite a number of years. It took the draft to ignite such an anticipated conflict. Initially from March 1863, the employers of the white race had employed African Americans as longshoremen, with whom the men from Ireland declined to work. In the time of the draft riots, white longshoremen used the chaos and the already prevailing confusion occasioned by riot and endeavored to remove the presence of the blacks in the docks region. The association of Longshoremen which was entirely a labor union of the white demonstrated the New York Character towards the blacks through patrolling the piers at the time of the riots, demanding all the African Americans be driven to other areas of industry. Another troubling effect that produced a lasting character of the New York City was the number of the blacks that were displaced from New York. There was a significant drop in the population of the blacks in the succeeding years.  

A potato famine, revolutions and land closures had caused many immigrants to flock to the United States, the land alleged to be full of opportunities. All the same, immediately after arrival, most immigrants realized the harsh fact concerning New York and its intolerant character. The massive number of the New York immigrants played a very important role in causing the draft riots. Looking back to 1855, more than 50% of the population in New York City came from the countries outside the United States, and barely about two thirds of adult Manhattanites had been born abroad. The promising New York expectations for most were inflicted, when they realized that they were living in the Five Points, a region that was a dangerous squalor, poor with little space and ventilation. For example, the Old Brewery, which was sufficiently the Five Points hostel realized a murder each night for almost fifty years. The Five Points were described as hideous tenements that took up their name from murder and robbery: all that is drooping, decaying and loathsome was present there.      

The inference concerning the true character of the City of New York can be drawn from the riots that took place in July of 1863. In an effort of preventing another riot from taking place, social and economic elites together with the city officials worked in harmony to deal with the concerns about the poor in the City. For example, with the assistance from Tammy Hall, the city Democrats were in a position to raise a sum of two million dollars to purchase draft exemptions for the poor in the city of New York who did not like to serve. The character of New York City was again affected greatly from the nation’s perspective. “The draft riots were the bloodiest moment of the country of the civil war… through the union, people were angry with the citizens of New York.”

Instead of continuing with the riots, people in New York realized that they could solve their issues through a reform process. Following the riots, the poor and vulnerable of New York were now recognized by the rich and the elites who realized they could not ignore them anymore. They finally became actively engrossed in establishing reforms. In the same way, the immigrants of New York City and the working class realized that they would have a source for a more peaceful approach to exert their majority voice. This came to being in the form of political power Tammy Hall, which emerged largely in strength from the support of the immigrants. Tammy assisted the immigrants in securing jobs and adjusting to the way of life of the Americans in exchange for their vote.

Tammy Hall took the friendless, untrained man and changed him into a citizen. Many committees were established to evaluate the way and the reason why the riots began in order to deter future happenings. A committee named Citizens Association comprising merchants and industrialists for the political parties was among the leading committees that were put in place. While the Citizen Association had started lobbying for changes before the draft riots, the riots contributed to a very important aspect in gathering support for the involvement of the government in reforms. One of the reforms required to change the character of New York City and more specifically in matters like those of the Five Points. This was the tenement House Law which was passed in 1867. The act restricted the number of people who could be allowed to live in a specific area and every room was supposed to have good ventilation and access to an escape in case of fire emergency. Sadly, the act was worded carelessly and was characterized with flaws that the landlords exploited. Despite the nature of the exploitative acts, it was a representative of a huge step made by the government for the poor and vulnerable in the city of New York.

New York City was the largest city in the country in the 1860s. The character that went within the circles of the city expressed ruthlessness that culminated into the 1863 draft riots. “The New York Draft Riots … the mounting economic, political and social tensions that existed among New York’s so-called melting pot of cultures.”With the approach and development of the civil war, the city appeared to take a center stage. The riots were ideally occasioned by the injustice that was widely experienced touching on poverty and wealth. The wartime New York economy soared to great heights. This was the true nature and character of the city of New York. “It took place amidst what seemed to be indecisiveness on the issue about slavery.”The true capitalist character of New York City mainly contributed to these draft riots. The business elites of New York profited on the cotton industry as the City turned out to be the center for anti-slavery planning.       

Following the 1863 New York City riots, the culture of rioting has all along been so much evident. Essentially, rioting has played an imperative and yet a recurrent role in the entire history of New York City. “The people of New York have in many occasions taken to the streets since the American Civil war and American Revolution in the process of airing their grievances while confronting authorities and conducting demonstrations in the public.” Many of these demonstrations turned out to be violent and have in reality been the harsh and unforgiving character of the city of New York. “The 1863 draft riots occasioned by the northern racism and injustice have stood out in history and are among the riots that clearly defines New York City.”

The understanding of the consequences and causes of the public actions in New York looking back at the draft riots in 1863 have changed with time. The political journalists and chroniclers in the nineteenth century, for instance, construed violent commotions such as the 1863 draft riots, as senseless actions of faceless mass of New Yorkers, savage outbreaks, often haphazard violence, with little purpose or meaning. Much of this initial understanding in the 1863 draft riots, for instance, concerning mob violence emanated from the sources that researchers used to describe civil disturbances. Government documents, personal reminiscences and newspaper accounts reported on or made an effort to describe the causes of such riots all had specific political and cultural motivations of the average people of New York City taking “… part in the rioting, as were the deeper social and structural causes of the riots.”

Looking into the past, cultural and social historians in their pursuit of better understanding of civil uproars, have gone past modern reportage and eyed closely at the consequences and causes of such riots as experienced in the 1863 New York draft riots. In the process, there have always been efforts to establish who the rioters are, the precipitating event of the riot or cause. Other issues highlighted the way the riot developed and unfolded taking into account the cause and the timing of the riots. The 1863 draft riots took place in one of the defining historical moments of the United States. Such riots in 1863 had both victims and target of crowd violence. The large economic, political and social context of New York was a unique region exposing a distinct character of the New York City. Making attempts to ask and endeavoring to give a solution to these kinds of questions has enriched the historical understanding of the city of New York. Modern historians dismiss riots merely as the actions done by irrational mobs. For New Yorkers it is a serious process that defines the character and way of doing things. The 1863 draft riots was seen as an action of irrational groups but it provided opportunity for the New Yorkers to advance in various aspects: socially, culturally, politically and economically. “New York City was no novice at handling large-scale Immigration, but never before had it confronted anything like this inundation.”

Even though many documents have been reproduced concerning the 1863 New York draft riots, initial chroniclers made use of such value-laden interpretations to expound on the character of New York. Documents and images about the draft riots in New York use stereotypical phrasing in defining the character of the city. What many would see as caricature is indeed the best way to define the city of New York. By looking fully at the economic, cultural and social nature of New York where the draft riots took place, it becomes easier to understand the immediate goals of the rioters and their deeper ideological and political motivations that have for years been the defining characteristics of the region.

Well, the draft riots of 1863 in New York were significant events for the rioters because of the degree of disruption and destruction that came upon the city of New York. All the same, the riots offered a window into larger political and social relations of power in play during this particular time in the history of New York. According to  Bernstein, “The revolt was primarily the doing of wage earners accustomed to considerable control over the conduct of their jobs…these workers also had a sense of their own political importance.” By navigating through such windows, it is easy to develop a thorough understanding of the rapid, massive and destabilizing transformations that have shaped and continued to shape the city of New York throughout history. “The draft riot was the most important and destructive riot in the history of New York.”

The 1863 New York Draft riots were may be the most significant and critical moments in the history of New York City and exhibit much concerning its character. The riots were as a result of crisis of race and class that amounted to upward attack directed to the elites of New York and a downward directed attack against the blacks. The end of the draft riots in New York City was a sweeping reform to enhance situations in the city which were substituted for the city violence. The mob actually arose finally in New York. It appeared as though the passions of the citizens were only sleeping and came out forth with terrible fury. The city was in a midst of terrible and strange times. May be the most significant thing in the draft riots was the illustration it gave on what is so uniquely in the New York city’s character by taking disaster and turning it into an opportunity.

All along, New York City has been stereotyped by historians based on such riots as experienced during the 1863 New York draft riots. It was indeed a defining moment for New York and its people and great history was made during this time. The unfolding of events during this period in history defined the unforgiving and harsh character of New York and its inhabitants. The riots were turned into a time for great opportunity that accrued a lot of benefits in realms of society, economics and politics. The draft riots have gone in historical books as written by many authors both in the ancient times and in modern history as one of the striking developments that the current New York City can be traced from. It was such an important time for the city and the country at large.    

 

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