The massive strikes for an eight-hour workday in spring 1872 were the sober denouement to the draft riots. The "winners" and "losers" of the crisis of 1863 now became clear and the unresolved conflicts of that summer were decided.
By early 1872 most of the groups that had seen Tweed's Tammany Hall as a respite from the corrupt party machinery of the past began to search elsewhere for solutions. In many ways, the contours of social and political conflict had much changed since the draft riots nine years earlier. The crisis of 1872 occurred not during a civil war but at a time when New Yorkers of the "better classes" were preoccupied with restoring civil peace. Merchant capitalists who had only a few years earlier battled each other over the issues of the sectional crisis now agreed that Reconstruction had ended and commercial and social stability had to be preserved both in the North and South. Reform-minded industrialists and manufacturers were now hardened by a decade of conflict with a powerful organized trade union movement. The middle- and upper-class New Yorkers who stood over the corpse of the Tweed Ring were both more unified and perhaps a little more frightened than they had been nine years before.
For all of these changes since 1863, certain features of metropolitan social life remained the same. Class relations were volatile during summer 1863 in part because of sharp ideological divisions between elite groups in the city. In spring 1872 one of those explosive conflicts still remained--that between employers who sympathized with the workers' movement toward organization and employers who did not. The eight-hour movement of May and June reopened a deep rift between those employers who rejected workers' social and political initiatives as coercive and destructive of class harmony and those who accepted them for their emphasis on discipline, sobriety, and moral and intellectual development. In a way, the conflict of 1872 was a redefined version of the divisions of 1863. In the earlier year industrialists, who cultivated loyal non-rioting workers and repudiated the riot in all its forms, opposed manufacturers--mostly small master artisans in building and