The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War

By Iver Bernstein | Go to book overview

Epilogue: The Draft Riots'
Lost Significance

The draft riots left New York and America a complex and ambiguous legacy. The Republican wartime government successfully marshaled enough regiments from the fields of Pennsylvania to suppress the riots on July 16-17, 1863. Lincoln and his advisors believed, with good reason, that an extended federal military supervision of New York would fail to restore order to the metropolis and might lead to recurring outbreaks. By not declaring martial law, the Republicans ended the violence, sustained conscription and the legitimacy of Republican rule, obtained enough men to preserve the momentum of the Union Army, and went on to win the war and receive the credit. But to accomplish this, Lincoln had to defer to conservative elites in New York by appointing Democratic financier John A. Dix as Commander of the Department of the East and sacrifice the ambitions of radical Republicans who saw martial law as an opportunity to reconstruct New York City. Dix's appointment not only confirmed New York as a Democratic city but suggested that there were strict limits to Republicans' national authority even at this early juncture, little more than two years after they took power. This early rebuke to Republican authority helps to explain why a radical, or "pure" Republican government did not come to power in the nation until 1866, and then, only for about two years, with license to proceed with military reconstruction not in New York, but only in the South. The national Republican government's "victory" during the draft riots also revealed the limited future prospects of radical rule.

Similarly, the conservatives who used the post-riot situation to secure their political power in New York City might have wondered, on deeper reflection, whether the draft riots did not augur their decline. For the conservatives, as for the radicals, the draft riot was a tale of two capitals: New York, the national economic capital with vaulting political aspirations, and Washington, the national political capital. Before the Civil War, the Democratic Party, led by metropolitan businessmen such as Dix and Belmont,

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The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I - Draft Riots and the Social Order 15
  • Chapter 1 - A Multiplicity of Grievances 17
  • Chapter 2 - The Two Tempers of Draco 43
  • Part II - Origins of the Crisis, 1850s and 1860s 73
  • Chapter 3 - Workers and Consolidation 75
  • Chapter 4 - Merchants Divided 125
  • Chapter 5 - Industrialists 162
  • Part III - Resolutions of the Crisis, 1860s and 1870s 193
  • Chapter 6 - The Rise and Decline of Tweed's Tammany Hall 195
  • Chapter 7 - 1872 237
  • Epilogue: The Draft Riots' Lost Significance 259
  • Appendix A - Uptown Social Geography, 1863 265
  • Notes 287
  • Bibliographical Essay 341
  • Index 349
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