New York City Draft Riots Essay

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HSTY 2670: First essay What do the New York City draft riots (1863) reveal about the character of New York City? The New York City draft riots of 1863 were perhaps the most important and influential event in New York City’s history, and directly reflected the city’s character. It is widely believed that the riots were started because of the laws passed which allowed men to be drafted into the war effort. However, this was only the spark which ignited the long built-up class crisis and racial crisis, which resulted in an upward directed attack against city elites and a downward attack against African Americans. In order to completely understand what the New York City draft riots reveal about the character of New York City, it is necessary to explore what started the riots, also to look at the riots from differing perspectives, including that of the African Americans, the Immigrants and the Natives. However, the draft riots also represented a significant step forward for New York. The economic and social elites as well as government became, to some extent, sympathetic to the poor of New York. Immigrants gained political strength and African Americans also benefited economically and socially. The New York draft riots were a culmination of the mounting economic, political, and social tensions that existed among New York’s melting pot of cultures. The laws passed by congress to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War only sparked the New York City draft riots. This decision was passed due to high casualties, growing desertion rates and declining recruitment. Besides the issue of mandatory service, there was a colossal flaw in the National Conscription Act, which definitely reflected the character of New York at the time. A provision in the Act excused any drafted man if he were able to pay three hundred dollars or find a substitute. To the economic

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