The Church and the New York Draft Riots of 1863
By ALBON P. MAN, JR.
JULY 1863 was a momentous month in the War between the States. At Gettysburg Union forces repulsed Lee's thrust into Pennsylvania, while Vicksburg, Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, finally fell to Grant's long siege. Immediately after these major Northern victories, during the week of July 12, 1863, the bloodiest race riots of American history took place in the streets of New York. (1)
Touched off by enforcement of the conscription law of March 3, 1863, with its inequitable $300 commutation clause and provision for hiring substitutes,(2) the New York upheaval at once became an orgy of violence against the city's Negro population.(3) And if newspapers, eye-witness accounts, official records, and other sources agree on any point connected with the disturbances, it is that practically all the rioters were Irish. ". . . The immediate actors in the late Riots in this city, got up to resist the Draft and to create a diversion in favor of the Southern Rebellion were almost exclusively Irishmen and Catholics. . . .," wrote Orestes Brownson,(4) and his testimony has ample confirmation. (5)
Fear of Negro labor competition was chiefly responsible for the eruption. Lincoln's emancipation program, it was widely believed, would result in
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an inundation of the North by large numbers of former slaves who would promptly deprive Irish workingmen of their jobs.(6) Indeed, Negroes had been brought in by the shipping companies of New York to break the strikes of longshoremen for higher wages in the spring of 1863.(7) With memories of those bitter labor disputes fresh in their minds, the Irish could not fail to regard the draft as a measure to effect their economic suicide: They were to be forced to fight for the freedom of potential rivals in the struggle to earn a living.
But in addition to the fear of black labor competition, an important influence upon the draft rioters was the position of the Catholic clergy and press regarding slavery, the war, and conscription. This article will attempt to state generally the opinions of leading prelates on those issues, particularly examining relevant pronouncements of Archbishop John Hughes, of New York. It will also survey the dominant attitudes of Catholic newspapers and describe the activities of the clergy in New York during the draft riots. The reader should bear in mind the significance of the Church in America to the Irish as the one institution of preeminence that they had known in the old country, whose priests, for the most part, shared their national origin - much to Brownson's disapproval.(8) To them it represented, also, a defense against the nativist prejudice that they encountered as foreigners and Catholics.
With his usual bluntness, Brownson charged that the draft rioters "only acted out the opinions they had received from men of higher religious and social position than themselves," and maintained that had they received different opinions, the riots would never have taken place, or at least the main participants in them would not have been Irish Catholics.(9) In his view, no religious body in the land was so strongly committed to slavery and so cool to the Union cause as the Catholic Church.(10) Although he exaggerated the influence of the Catholic clergy and press, there was some merit to his contentions. Three leading Catholic spokesmen in the United
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States in the three decades preceding the Civil War and in the early sixties tolerated slavery.(11)
Once established in a country, they held, slavery was not incompatible with Christianity under the physical, moral and social conditions stipulated by moral theologians. Otherwise the Church would not have recognized and tolerated it for many centuries. The master had the duty of caring for his slaves spiritually and physically, respecting especially the ties of matrimony among them, and they in turn owed him obedience. Negroes in servitude in the United States were far more fortunate than their brethren in Africa, whom the Christian religion had not reached. Abolitionists desirous of wiping out the relationship of master and slave were regarded as revolutionists, subverters of the existing peaceful and legal order of society, possible fomenters of chaos.
Very few high dignitaries of the Church or prominent laymen publicly denounced slavery in this country.(12) One apparently was Archbishop John B. Purcell, of Cincinnati, brother of the Very Rev. Edward Purcell, editor of the anti-slavery Cincinnati Telegraph, which declared categorically that slavery, in every form, was condemned by the Church.(13) But the paucity of such advocates moved Horace Greeley, editor of the abolitionist Tribune, occasionally to presume to lecture the Church on Catholic principles, maintaining that if it were true to its own doctrines, it would be the most antislavery communion in America.(14) Greeley overlooked the fact that many abolitionists were also anti-Catholic.
In New York, Brownson alleged, a Catholic found to be anti-slavery was suspected of being shaky in his faith, stigmatized as a Yankee or Puritan - "two of the most opprobrious epithets that can, in the estimate of our New York Catholics, be applied to any man" -, and read out of Catholic
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circles.(15) Although much of the strong feeling of Catholics on the subject of slavery was due to their association with the Democratic party,(16) this suggests another common element in their rejection of abolition: a tendency to connect it with Protestantism.
Protestant ministers were considered obsessed with the slavery problem. While still the official organ of Archbishop Hughes, the Metropolitan Record ridiculed them for supporting the Administration's emancipation policy.(17) Characteristically, the Irish American hailed the Catholic clergy of New York for steadily declining "to preach the nigger from their pulpits, and denounce their fellow citizens after the manner which for so many years has prevailed in the churches of the New England persuasion".(18) In one of his letters Archbishop Hughes himself is said to have referred to John Brown's financial backers as "infidels and heretics".(19)
Some anti-slavery leaders replied in kind. When, for example, an Irish abolitionist from New York ventured, at the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in May 1863, to remind those present of "the propriety of refraining from unjust reflection on the Irish race," Garrison rose to criticize Irish Catholics
who have been as a mass, priests and people, political leaders and followers, the very bitterest enemies of the anti-slavery cause. Almost universally, they have exhibited an infernal spirit in regard to the colored population. We know the causes which have made them such; we know that they are the tools of priests and politicians . . . (20)
Likewise, several years before, Hinton Rowan Helper had spoken harshly of Irish Catholics in a passage of his anti-slavery Impending Crisis of the South which the Herald printed during the campaign of 1860 for the benefit of Irish Catholic voters.(21)
Counteracting the prevailing pro-slavery sympathy in the Church, nevertheless, was the fact that Catholic morality imposed the duty of loyalty to the legitimate government of the country.(22) As the Catholic chaplain
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of the Sixty-Ninth Regiment said of the dead members of the Irish Brigade at a requiem mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral: "They were actuated by a higher feeling than mere interest or political fidelity; for, as Catholics, they recognized that in bowing down before legitimate authority they bowed down before God, as the giver of all authority; and thus, in defending their country, they discharged their duty to God".(23) The obligation of Catholics to defend the legitimate government was also given emphatic expression by Archbishop Hughes.(24) Archbishop Purcell struck a similar note when he compared the Federal government to the Church and asked: "What is secession but carrying out the principle of private judgment." (25)
His tremendous prestige among the Irish in New York City and his stature nationally and internationally require special attention to the opinions and activities of Archbishop Hughes. Born in the North of Ireland in 1797, John Hughes was the third of seven children, and his parents were poor peasants.(26) At the age of twenty, he came to the United States, landing in Baltimore, and worked as a manual laborer until admitted to a seminary in Maryland in 1820 to prepare for the priesthood. He was ordained and stationed at Philadelphia until 1838 when he was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of New York. In 1850 he became the first Archbishop of New York. Certainly his humble birth and the fact that as an immigrant youth, he, too, had worked with his hands, helped to endear Archbishop Hughes to his flock.
From the time of his arrival in New York, he was embroiled in controversies. He led the effort, beginning in 1840, to secure a portion of the common school fund for parochial schools, because the Public School Society, which had charge of public education in New York City, was a prosetizing Protestant organization.(27) This effort was unsuccessful. An important byproduct, however, was the formation by the vigorous Bishop of a separate Catholic party to aid candidates for the Legislature in the fall elections of 1841 who were favorable to the Catholic school demands. It proved to the Democrats that they could not win without the votes of Catholics. From this period dated Archbishop Hughes' friendship with Governor William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed. In the 1850's he again came to the fore in the dispute over the issue of whether church property was to be controlled by lay trustees or by the clergy, clashing with the
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Know-Nothing State Senator Erastus Brooks.(28) His energy and eloquence daring these controversies won for him unbounded popularity with the Irish of New York.(29)
Hence the weight attached to Archbishop Hughes' views on slavery, the war, and conscription. Two comprehensive expositions of his thoughts are a widely-publicized letter he wrote in August 1861,(30) replying to a communication from Bishop P. N. Lynch, of Charleston, S. C., and an article in the Metropolitan Record in October 1861, evoked by Brownson's call for emancipation in his Quarterly Review.(31) Some of their ideas are also to be found in a letter which he wrote the journal des debats of Paris during his mission to Europe for the United States government in 1861 and 1862.(32)
Archbishop Hughes denied he was a defender of slavery but declared himself decidedly hostile to the abolition movement, an important distinction. As an integral feature of Southern society, slavery could best be dealt with by Southerners without the assistance of meddling Northern fanatics, whose interference in the past had given the South much reason to complain. Since the American Revolution the Northern states, exercising an acknowledged right, had eliminated slavery within their borders. The Southern states had pursued an opposite course, in equal harmony with the Constitution. Northerners sanctimoniously considered this course of their neighbors a great sin, ignoring evils in their own midst.
Commenting on a statement of Brownson's that doctrinally the Catholic Church was opposed to slavery, he conceded: "This is true, but only in the sense that she is opposed to the calamities of human life, which she has no power to reverse." While, to be sure, she holds it a crime to reduce naturally free men to bondage, excommunicating those who engage in that cruel business, slavery constitutes no crime once it is an established institution and where the living owners of slaves had no hand in forcing their servants into bondage. Then she merely insists that "the master shall be kind and paternal towards his servants until such time as it may please Divine Providence to bring about a change in regard to this feaure of social life. . ." Neither master nor slave is excluded from the sacraments.
It is incorrect to conclude that "slavery having been wrong in its inception can never become lawful by prescription." Many institutions or practices
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which were unjust at the outset are not now to be disturbed by any decision or law of the Church - Henry VIII's appropriation of ecclesiastical property, for instance, or the seizure of the territory of North America from the Indians. If slavery were still to be introduced in the United States, "we would resist the attempt with all our might." Indeed, the Holy See did frown upon the transportation of the first Negro slaves from Africa to America, although it had only a voice and no powerful armies to compel justice. But slavery having existed almost from the beginning, the Church may employ only religious and moral suasion to remove the dangers surrounding masters and slaves in their relations with each other. On the score of morality, the masters' frequent lack of respect for marital and family ties among their slaves was deplorable.
Archbishop Hughes went perilously far in extenuating the slave trade. After all, he reasoneed, Negroes in Africa were savages and when captured by their enemies in warfare, also Negroes, were either slaughtered or sold into slavery. Can slave traders be said to have sinned in buying Negroes who otherwise would have been slain? Can Southern planters be condemned for purchasing Negroes from the traders if they treated them humanely? Provided the slave traffic were authorized, Archbishop Hughes found it hard to discover in the purchasers any transgression of the laws of God.
In his estimation, the worst feature of slavery was the fact that not only did the unhappy Negroes brought from Africa remain in servitude for the rest of their lives, but their posterity, as well, was forever consigned to the yoke. Still, even for that he found a consoling analogy in the Church's own doctrine, of original sin. The inheritance of slave status was "not alien from the condition of mankind in general. Original sin has entailed upon the human race its consequences for time and eternity. And yet the men who are living now had no part in the commission of original sin."
With reference to the war, Archbishop Hughes asserted most emphatically that its purpose was not to free the slaves. ". . . We Catholics, and a vast majority of our brave troops in the field, have not the slightest idea of carrying on a war that costs so much blood and treasure just to gratify a clique of abolitionists in the North." If abolition of slavery were known as an aim of the war, volunteering would cease and conscription become necessary. Furthermore, what would happen to the four millions of slaves in the event of emancipation? Where would they live in the South? How would they procure food, clothing, and medical care without their masters to look after them? As dismal a fate would await them if they migrated to the North, where abuse and discrimination were constantly meted out to free Negroes.
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No, the purpose of the North was the defense of the legitimate govemment of the United States and the maintenance of the Constitution.(33) These the Confederates were endeavoring to overthrow, though to their credit they were proceeding openly, as distinguished from the treacherous abolitionists. No state had a right to secede. The constitutional election of a Republican president after a lengthy period of Southern ascendancy in the Federal government did not warrant the South's withdrawal from the Union, especially when the Democratic party had itself insured this by splitting and offering three rival candidates in 1860 to the Republicans' one.
The North did not wish to conquer the South-that was both impossible and undesirable - but simply to bring it back into its ante bellum position in the Union. "If any portion of the people should array themselves against the government," Archbishop Hughes believed, "then that portion should be brought to order either by civil law, if that will be submitted to, or at the cannon's mouth." Secession had created a situation in which the word peace was no longer relevant. It was the duty of naturalized citizens and Catholics to bear their proper burden in the armies of the United States.
Archbishop Hughes' nationalism, despite his attitude on slavery, prompted Lincoln, in the autumn of 1861, to ask him to go abroad and seek to win Pius IX to the Union side, Jefferson Davis having already dispatched Bishop Lynch to urge recognition of the Confederacy upon the Pope.(34) He undertook the mission in a semi-official capacity and interceded for the United States government at Rome and Paris. Napoleon III received him with marked courtesy. At the Vatican he enjoyed the favor of the Pope and stimulated sentiment for the Union among pilgrims and visiting churchmen from other countries.
Returning to the United States in August 1862, after an absence of more than eight months, he preached a sermon at St. Patrick's which brought down upon his head a storm of criticism and made the last months of his life very difficult to bear. The sermon began as an account of his efforts abroad to forestall intervention by European powers in American affairs. Then, however, Archbishop Hughes came out in favor of conscription:
Volunteers have been appealed to, and they have answered the appeal; but for my part, if I had a voice in the councils of the nation, I would say, let volunteers continue and let the draft be made. If
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three hundred thousand men be not sufficient, let three hundred thousand more be called upon, so that the army, in its fullness of strength, shall be always on hand for any emergency. This is not cruelty; this is mercy; this is humanity - anything that will put an end to this draggling of human blood across the whole surface of the country. Then every man, rich and poor, will have to take his share; and it ought not to be left to the government to plead with the people, to call upon them to come forward, and to ask if they will permit themselves to be drafted. No, but the people themselves should insist upon being drafted, and be allowed to bring this unnatural strife to a close. (31)
The idea of a draft was not new. Before Archbishop Hughes put it forth, another prominent Irish American of New York City, judge Charles P. Daly, in a speech in Union Square on July 15, 1862, had pressed for conscription, if the governments call for 300,000 volunteers was not met.(36) Conscription was the Rebels' chief source of new soldiers, he argued, and it was "fair, just, and equal in its operation, as it casts the duty of defending the government upon all classes . . ." The Irish-American felt, however, that the call for 300,000 volunteers could easily be met and a draft avoided if prospective recruits were assured that their dependents would be cared for.(37) The Militia Act of July 17, 1862 had left the matter of drafting to the discretion of the states, though where states made inadequate provisions for supplying the quotas of men requested by the President, he could himself promulgate regulations for obtaining the desired militia.(38)
But the Archbishop's utterance a month later drew much comment and not all of it laudatory. Brownson, whom he had castigated, of course hailed him as a fellow martyr:
. . . When on his return from Europe, he took a decidedly national ground, and defended the draft, as a just, wise, and patriotic measure, he was everywhere murmured against . . . No act of the Venerable Archbishop's life ever cost him so much popularity with his own people as that one act of decided loyalty. Of all the Catholic publicists in the country, the editor of this Review has been the only one to applaud or even to approve his truly patriotic and loyal act. That sermon more than atoned to us for all that we had personally suffered from him . . . Had he been backed up by the Bishops and
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clergy of the loyal States, the Northern people would have been united in prosecuting the war, and the peace party would never have been organized . . . (39)
Nor were the bishops and clergy of the North alone in their frigid response. Thanks to Southern envoys, Archbishop Hughes lost favor in Rome as a result of the conscription sermon, and the prized red hat was not forth-coming.(40) He continued to advocate a draft to supplement volunteering, declaring in a letter to his friend Seward, dated November 1, 1862, that it would furnish the government with a large enough army to bring the war to a speedy and victorious close.(41)
The following April, his proposal having been enacted into law on March 3. 1863, he wrote the Herald that if it had been adopted long before, "the results would be of more humane consequences to both sections than they are today." (42) Meanwhile, though, the editor of the Metropolitan Record, John Mullaly, had gone to the extreme of encouraging armed resistance to the draft in the March 14, 1863 issue of the newspaper. Illness prevented Archbishop Hughes from effecting a change in this policy, so divergent from his own, but he promptly removed his name from the masthead, and the Record ceased to be his mouthpiece.(43)
The pro-South slant of the Metropolitan Record and Freeman's journal and Catholic Register of New York City was typical of the Catholic press in the North. Of the twelve avowedly Catholic newspapers in the English language early in the Civil War, only two were said to be consistently loyal, two others sometimes so, and the Metropolitan Record striving to be on both sides.(44) The rest were pro-South and clamored for peace. Politically they were Democratic.(45) A year after the beginning of the war the Metropolitan Record was slipping into the class of peace journals (46) and by 1863 had definitely arrayed itself against emancipation, conscription, and continuance of the war. At the time of the draft riots only one Catholic paper, the Cincinnati Telegraph, supported emancipation.(47)
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Founded in 1859, the Metropolitan Record derived much of its influence from the fact that it was identified as the "Official Organ of the Most Rev. Archbishop of New York." (48) Non-religious papers frequently re-printed articles and editorials from it and attributed the contents of those pieces to Archbishop Hughes. After he severed his connection with it, it was advertised merely as a "Catholic Family Paper." (49) So strong did its opposition to the Administration become in the course of the war that a petition was sent to the Postmaster General asking that the Record be denied the use of the mails, but nothing came of it.(50) At one time General William Rosecrans, a convert to the Catholic Church, banned the paper in the Department of the Ohio because of its disloyalty.
With the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day, 1863, the Metropolitan Record launched into a period of exceptionally virulent attacks upon the Administration.(51) It raged against the perversion of the war from an attempt to restore the Union into an "emancipation crusade." (52) The most sanguinary carnage was now in store for the country. The "vile and infamous" Proclamation would bring "massacre and rapine and outrage into the homes on Southern plantations, sprinkling their hearths with the blood of gentle women, helpless age, and innocent childhood . . . Never was a blacker crime sought to be committed against nature, against humanity, against the holy precepts of Christianity . . . " (53) In effect, Lincoln's action on January 1 made the task of restoring the Union impossible.(54) The Irish had been hoodwinkd into supporting the war, for had they known it was going to be waged in the interests of abolitionism, not one in ten Irishmen in the United States forces would have taken up arms. (55) Besides having to pay more for various commodities with the disappearance of slave labor, the populace would henceforth be taxed for the care of the millions of freed Negroes, as the devastated plantations of their former masters could not employ them.(56)
While the war was being fought in the name of the Constitution, the Lincoln Administration, in abridging civil liberties, trampled the Constitution
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under foot,(57) and its culminating act in the destruction of civil liberties was the passage of the draft law. Mullaly did not confine his opinions about conscription to the pages of the Metropolitan Record, though there he described it as "the most deadly blow that has yet been aimed at the liberties of the people." (58) On May 18, 1863 he spoke at a mass meeting in Union Square, staged by henchmen of ex-Mayor Fernando Wood, to protest the Administration's treatment of Clement L. Vallandigham. Here he again depicted the war as an abolition crusade, asked the crowd whether it would fight for abolition, and, stressing the injustice of the conscription act's $300 commutation clause, predicted that the draft would never be carried out in New York.(59) The other speakers on this occasion, among them James A. McMaster, editor of the Freeman's journal and Catholic Register, went further than Mullaly in suggesting violent resistance to conscription.(60)
With Mullaly's arguments having especially great influence because many Irish were still under the impression that they emanated from Archbishop Hughes, (61) the Metropolitan Record persisted in inciting the laborers of New York even during the riots. An editorial on July 14, the second day of the disturbances, stated:
... We have a few words to say to the working classes of New York, and particularly to those among you who have been or who may be conscripted. You are about to be from from your families to carry out at the sacrifice of your lives the most iniquitous measures ever devised by any Government. Your wives and your little ones are to be deprived of their only protectors, and left dependent upon the cold charity of the world. What will you do under the circumstances? . . . Call upon the Governor to defend you and your State . . . Then offer your services to him as a State militia for defensive purposes . . . There are, we should think, arms enough in this city to supply at least twenty thousand men. . . . (62)
After the disturbances Mullaly, while regretting their anti-Negro excesses, did not conceal his approval of the resistance which had been offered to conscription. He merely cautioned participants in any future riots against the draft, as members of a "superior" race, to disdain to vent their passions on an "inferior" race.63
The Freeman's journal and Catholic Register viewed the war with disfavor
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from the Start.(64) In September, 1861, its editor, James A. McMaster, was arrested and imprisoned in Fort Lafayette for printing "seditious matter" in a recent issue of his paper.(65) He was released the following month, however, upon taking, under protest, an oath to uphold the Constitution and the governments.(65) Like the Metropolitan Record, the Freeman's journal fulminated against emancipation in the months prior to the draft riots, defying the reader to cite "one precept of Pope, of Council, or of Catholic Doctor, who exhorted masters to manumit their slaves." (67) Differing from Protestant abolitionist agitators, McMaster pointed out, "the Catholic Church has her own methods. She interferes not with any human arrangement not in itself a sin. Human slavery is not such a sin-least of all is it sinful where it exists in the persons of a semi-savage race . . ."
According to the Freeman's journal, the conscription act of March 3, 1863 was a measure to throw the burden of fighting the war upon the poor, offering the rich a cheap escape for three hundred of Salmon P. Chase's greenbacks.(68) At the Vallandigham rally in New York City on May 18, McMaster was much more outspoken than Mullaly in urging his hearers to defy the draft. The cries of "Never!" which greeted his question as to whether they would submit to the measure did not satisfy him:
I tell you it is not by shouting "never"; it is not by cheering and groaning; it is by the brawny muscle, and above all, it is the determined will of freemen born, who are ready to say that they will die now if necessary ... But freemen, how are you to save your liberties? (A Voice-"By fighting.") Yes, if necessary, by fighting, but not by disorderly fighting, not by street mobs, not by riots, not by incendiarism .... (69)
They should organize into military units in a systematic fashion, and then, after obtaining guns, they should offer their services to Governor Seymour. During the riots McMaster called for testing the constitutionality of the conscription act in the Courts, lashed out against military coercion of the mobs, and warned that Negroes could not live in the same community with whites.(70) Those that migrated to New York from the South were to be driven away, imprisoned, or exterminated.(71)
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But the tolerant attitude toward slavery that Archbishop Hughes and the clergy of New York had displayed in common with the Irish laborers who roamed the city's streets during the week of July 12, did not deter them from acting swiftly to halt the rioters' destruction of life and property. It was a most trying circumstance for the fast-aging prelate-and one for which, the relentless Brownson insisted, he had to bear some responsibility.(72) Only on July 9 Greeley had addressed a public letter to him, questioning whether he had used his immense influence -over the Catholics of New York to secure better treatment for the city's Negro residents.(73) "Your people.," the editor had written, "for years have been and today are foremost in the degradation and abuse of this persecuted race," in restricting their employment, in denying them opportunities for education, in seeking their exclusion from conveyances and places of recreation, in physical attacks upon them. "Have you done YOUR duty in the premises?" Greeley asked. "Or, have you imitated too generally the priest and Levite, so signally rebuked by our Divine Master, and 'passed by on the other side?' "
Four days after Greeley's letter was published, the storm broke. The second day of the riots Greeley printed an editorial stating that the Archbishop had, months before, advocated the conscription against which "his people" were now so incensed.(74) Of this there could be no contradiction, but Archbishop Hughes undertook to explain away his conscription sermon in a rather unconvincing manner: "I did not recommend a coercive conscription, but that the people of the North, who stand by the Federal government, should demand conscription by their own voluntary choice and act. This would be their own system of volunteering." (75) Patently, though, conscription is not conscription unless it is coercive. By definition it is not a "system of volunteering." (76)
In a postscript to his reply to Greeley, Archbishop Hughes begged all Catholic rioters, in the name of God, their religion, and his episcopal authority, to respect the law and maintain peace.(77) Feeble and broken in
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health, he followed this plea with the final public appearance of his life.(78) It was at a meeting on Friday, July 17, in front of his residence, to which, rough newspaper announcements, he invited "the men of New York, who are now called in many of the papers, rioters," promising that the police and soldiers would not bother them on that occasion.(79) More than five thousand men responded to this summons.
They were not berated or threatened.(80) Instead he spoke to them as a minister of peace and father who had stood by them in their trials in years past and not deserted them in times of danger. He identified himself with them: If they were Catholics, as had been said, probably to wound his feelings, he was a Catholic, too. If they were Irish, he was Irish, too. He told them that their grievances were temporary, that it was best to bear them with patience until they passed away. A revolutionary mode of settling them war, never desirable anywhere and in the United States was unnecessary because a legal revolution took place every four years when a new president could be chosen. While denying that he saw a single face among the thousands in the audience which could be called that of a rioter, Archbishop, Hughes urged that the disturbances be stopped, for the sake of religion and the honor of Ireland. And they did stop, though perhaps more from the fact that their fury had already been spent.
One cannot ignore a brief interruption in this speech, when a rough voice from the crowd broke in with the shout: "Let the nigger stay in the South!" That voice expressed the haunting fear of Negro labor competition which possessed the anti-draft demonstrators. Certainly the Archbishop himself showed a keener perception of this cause of the riots than other observers when he wrote Seward the very next day: The plea of the discontents is, on the surface, the draft. At the bottom, however, in my opinion, the discontent will be found in what the misguided people imagine to be a disposition on the part of a few here and elsewhere to make black labor equal to white labor . . ., with the difference that black labor shall have local patronage over the toil of the white man. (81)
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Before passing on to the activities of priests in parishes throughout the city during the disorders, it should be observed that, as might have been expected from the coupling of Protestantism with abolition noted above, some anti-Protestant sentiment was exhibited by the demonstrators. Doubtless attempts were made to demolish some churches because Negroes frequented them, rather than because they were Protestant.(82) But the Catholic rioters did sack the Protestant Five Points Mission,(83) and reports appeared in the Tribune that mobs ceased manhandling white persons who swore that they were "True Catholice' or "Democratic Catholics." (84)
Echoes of Irish political strife were sounded as a -gang of Irish laborers fired a home on 53rd Street, near Lexington Avenue, calling its owner a "damned black republican Irish Orangeman." (85)
The Catholic clergy's power over the rioters was shown by the success of priests in dispersing them.(86) For example, the pastor of a church on 36th Street, near Second Avenue, in an area in which much of the turbulence was centered, kept down the crowds in his parish as best he could and managed to dissuade them from applying the torch to an entire block of houses.(87) Another priest induced his parishioners to disgorge a large amount of goods they had stolen during the uproar.(88) Still another prevented the destruction of some buildings belonging to Columbia College, on the ground that the adjoining Catholic church might be damaged.(89)
The Sunday after the riots, the Catholic clergy united in denouncing the outbreak from their pulpits.(90) Its participants, they stated, had been untrue to their religion and native land, which would now be blamed for their conduct, although they could not have been practicing Catholics and yet have committed such atrocious crimes. The anti-Negro outrages flagrantly violated the Church's teachings. Above all, it was emphasized that if they wished to find the gates of heaven open to them, those who had stolen property during the riots must make full restitution and confess their misdeed. The riots had approached revolution, which was abhorrent to the Church. "The Catholic Church never authorized, always
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condemned and always deprecated anything like revolution," said one priest, and another affirmed that "the Church taught most unmistakably that obedience to the constituted authorities is a Christian duty . . ." Perhaps there were instances which might justify rebellion, "but the good Catholic need not think he will not know when this time occurs: for whenever it is right and proper the church itself will notify him. . . ."
Similarly, in other cities where insurrections against the draft threatened or actually broke out, the Catholic clergy used their influence to check the mobs. In Jersey City, Hudson City, and Hoboken, New Jersey, local priests prevented serious risings.(91) In Troy, New York, a priest prevailed upon the rioters not to destroy a church for the colored(92), while the Bishop of Buffalo issued a pastoral letter which was read in the churches of his diocese, entreating all Catholics to abstain from violence.
". . . Listen to the advice of a father who dearly loves you," he wrote, "submit to law and God will protect you." (93) The clergy in Boston implored rioters there to retire to their homes and keep the peace.(94) The Bishop of Cleveland exhorted Catholics to obey the conscription law and not to molest Negroes, who had as much right to live and work as whites.(95)
As these pages have indicated, the Catholic clergy and press buttressed the pro-slavery attitude of New York's Irish population. Before the Civil War and in the months of the struggle leading up to the draft riots, the clergy maintained, with few exceptions, that however wrong slavery may have been in its inception, the passage of time had sanctioned it. To tamper with this institution smacked of both revolution and a violation of Property rights. With the war, nevertheless, the clergy subordinated their beliefs about slavery to considerations of the duty of Catholics to the legitimate civil authority, the United States government. Exceedingly popular with the Irish, Archbishop Hughes of New York was also an apologist of slavery, but his nationalism led him to go to Europe as an emissary of the Lincoln Administration and on his return to advocate conscription. This latter stand caused him some embarrassment when the draft riots broke out.
Far more vehement than the clergy on the slavery question, especially after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, were the newspapers conducted by Catholics. Most of them opposed the war. In fact, the editors
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of the Catholic Metropolitan Record and the Freeman's journal and Catholic Register played leading parts in the movement to encourage violent resistance to the draft. When such agitation bore fruit in the draft riots, however, the clergy of New York, headed by Archbishop Hughes, worked to restrain the mobs. Priests in other cities where the draft was defied did so, too.
References and Citations
1. According to one reliable chronicler, police figures on deaths among the rioters ranged from, 1,200 to 1,500, the military placing such fatalities at 1,300. Stoddard, William ). The Volcano Under the City (New York, 1887), p. 203. It is impossible to know how many bodies of Negroes were borne away by the waters on either side of Manhattan Island. If the tabulation of deaths ascribed to the riots in the City Inspector's Report for 1863 may be taken as a fair sample, 85% of those killed in the disorders came from Ireland. New York city inspector. Annual Report for the Year Ending December, 31, 1863 (New York, 1864), p. 255.
2. Shannon, Fred A. The Organization and Administration of the Union Army, 1861-1865 (Cleveland, 1928), II, p. 14-24, 206, and 207.
3. On the anti-Negro aspects of the riots see, for example, New York Herald, July 14, 16, and 17, and August 1, 1863. New York Tribune, July 14, 16, 17, 20, and 25, and August 1, 1863. New York Daily News, July 15, 1863. Irish American, July 18, 1863. New York committee of merchants for the relief of colored people suffering from the late riots. Report (New York, 1863), pp. 14-27.
4. Brownson, Orestes A. "Catholics and the anti-draft riots." Brownson's Quarterly Review, third New York series, vol. IV, (October 1863), p. 385.
5. References to the Irish composition of the riot mobs are too many to list in full, but typical statements are contained in Headley, Joel T., The Great Riots of New York, 1712 to 1873 . . . New York, 1873. pp. 149, 165, 207, 208, 253, and 254. The weekly Irish American angrily denounced "abolition papers" for attributing the excesses of the riots to the Irish but conceded that ". . . for a war with England, if declared tomorrow, there would be more volunteers than the Govermnent could provide for. The men who now most strenuously oppose the draft would be the first to go." Irish American, July 25, 1863.
6. This theme was constantly harped upon by pro-slavery politicians in New York. New York Herald, October 1, 9, 25, and 28, November 5 and 6. 1860; April 20. October 20 and 31, November 27, 28, and 30, 1861; May 22, September 24, October 13, 20, 21, 29, and 30, November 1, 1862 . New York Tribune, November 28. 1861; July 8, October 2 and 30, 1862. Irish American, May 24, 1861; October 11 and November 8, 1862. New York Weekly Caucasian, March 28, 1863. Harper's Weekly, December 21, 1861, pp. 802 and 803.
7. New York Times, March 24, 1863. New York Herald, March 24 and 25, April 14-16, 1863. New York Tribune, March 24 and 25, April 13-16, 1863. National Anti-Slavery Standard, April 18, 1863.
8. Irish American, April 28, October 27, and December 15, 1860.
9. Brownson, "Catholics and the Anti-Draft Riots," pp. 385-387.
10. Brownson, "Are Catholics Pro-Slavery and Disloyal?" Brownson's Quarterly Review, third New York series, vol. IV, pp. 372 and 373, July 1863.
11. Murphy, John C. An Analysis of the Attitudes of American Catholics Toward the Immigrant and the Negro, 1825-1925. Washington, D. C., 1940. pp. 38-56. This portion of Murphy's volume is based largely on writings of Bishop John England, of Charleston, S. C., Bishop A. Verot, of Florida, and Archbishop Hughes.
12. New York Tribune, February 13, 1863. Brownson himself had not favored abolition before the war. Though later urging emancipation as a war measure, he did not believe in equality of Negroes with whites. Brownson, "Are Catholics Proslavery and Disloyal?", pp. 367, 377, and 378. Murphy, op cit., pp. 60-76. As for the stand of three of the most distinguished laymen in New York, Charles O'Connor, Richard O'Gorman, and General Thomas F. Meagher, O'Connor's position was comprehensively set forth in his speech, "Negro slavery not unjust." (New York, 1859. passim.) O'Gorman branded Lincoln's preliminary emancipation proclamation in September 1862 as "a barbarous, disgraceful, hideous violation of the morality of Christendom." (New York Herald, October 9, 1862. New York Tribune, October 10, 1862. Irish American, October 18, 1862.) Albeit ardent in aiding the war effort, Meagher believed that the South had cause for exasperation in the writings and activities of abolitionists. (New York Herald, October 7, 1861. Irish American, October 12, 1861.)
13. National Anti-Slavery Standard, May 23, 1863.
14. New York Tribune, July 23, 1863.
15. Brownson, "Are Catholics Pro-slavery and Disloyal?" p. 369.
16 Ibid., pp. 372 and 373.
17. Metropolitan Record, January 17, 1863.
18. Irish American, July 18, 1863. See also Ibid., January 5, 1861.
19. Andrews, Rena Mazyck. Archbishop Hughes and the Civil War. Chicago, 1935. p. 5.
20. National Anti-Slavery Standard, June 13, 1863.
21. New York Herald, October 28, 1860.
22. Brownson, Orestes A. Brownson on the Rebellion. Slavery and the War. St. Louis, Mo., 1862 (?). pp. 11-13. To their respect for constituted authority Greeley traced the pro-slavery sentiments of ministers of the Protestant Episcopal Church as well as Catholic priests. "It is mainly because they are so enslaved to authority as to venerate it wherever they meet it. They bow to the slaveholder because1 he is invested with authority.", Quoted in New York Herald, October 8, 1861.
23 New York Tribune, January 17, 1863.
24 New York Herald, September 4, 1861. Metropolitan Record, October 6, 1861.
25 Irish American, February 2, 186 1.
26 Brann, Henry A. Most Reverend John Hughes. New York, 1892. pp. 13 ff.
27 Ibid., pp. 75 ff. Flick, Alexander C. History of the State of New York. New York, 1937. vol. VII, pp. 49-52. Billington, Ray Allen. The Protestant Crusade, 1800-1860; A Study of the Origins of American Nativism. New York, 1938. pp. 143-156.
28. Ibid., pp. 295-300.
29. Andrews, op cit., pp. 2 and 3. Maguire, J. F. The Irish in America. New York, 1887. pp. 431-437.
30. New York Herald, September 4, 1861. Irish American, September 14, 1861. New York Daily News, September 5, 1861.
31. New York Herald, October 8 and 13, 1861. Irish American, October 19, 1861.
32. ibid., March 1, 1862.
33. He admitted, though, that military exigencies might at a later date dictate some interference with slavery.
34. New York Herald, September 26, 1862. Irish American, November 16, 1861. Andrews, op. cit., pp. 7-10. Flick, op cit., vol. VII, p. 109.
35. Irish American, August 23, 1862. Harper's Weekly, August 30, 1862, p. 547.
36. Irish American, July 26, 1862. Stevens, John Austin, compiler. Proceedings at the Mass Meeting of Loyal Citizens on Union Square, New York, July, 1862. New York, 1862. pp. 48 and 49.
37. Irish American, July 19, 1862. In November, however, it urged a speedy draft in New York state, evidently hoping that the war could be ended before becoming an emancipation crusade on January 1, 1863. Ibid., November 15, 1862.
38. Shannon, op. cit., vol. I, p. 276.
39. Brownson, "Are Catholics Pro-slavery and Disloyal?" pp. 370 and 371.
40. Andrews, op cit., p. 11.
41. Irish American, November 22, 1862.
42. New York Herald, April 7, 1863.
43. MetroPolitan Record, March 14 and 21, 1863. New York Tribune, March 18, 1863. Lee, op cit., pp. 105-107. For patriotic remarks of Archbishop Hughes on St. Patrick's Day, 1863, see New York Herald, March 18, 1863.
44. Brownson, Slavery and the war, pp. 11-13. See fence-sitting editorial of Metropolitan Record quoted in Irish American for May 25, 1861.
45. Murphy, op. cit., p. 7 7.
46. New York Tribune, April 3, 1862.
47. National Anti-Slavery Standard., May 23 and 30, 1863. Brownson, "Are Catholics Pro-slavery and Disloyal?" pp. 369, 370, 376, and 377. Whether or not they can be said to have expounded the position of the Catholic Church on issues of the day, all of these papers were read by Catholics and influenced their thinking. Murphy, op. cit., p. 78.
48. New York Tribune, April 3, 1862.
49. Metropolitan Record, -March 21, 1863. 50 Lee, op. cit., pp. 250 and 25 1.
51. New York Tribune, March 18, 1863. Murphy, op. cit., p. 53. The Record's bitterly anti-Negro contemporary, the New York Weekly Caucasian, praised it as an "able journal" taking a strong stand against the prosecution of the war since the Emancipation Proclamation and meeting with the approval of Irish Americans. New York Weekly Caucasian, March 28, 1863.
52. Metropolitan Record, January 3, 10, 17, February 14, and May 2, 1863.
53. Ibid., March 28, 1863.
54. Ibid., January 10 and March 28, 1863.
55. Ibid., February 14, 1863.
56. Ibid., January 17, 1863.
57. Ibid., January 10 and May 2. 1863.
58. Ibid., March- 14, 1863.
59. New York Herald., May 22, 1863. Brummer, Sidney 0. Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War. New York, 191 1. pp. 311-315.
60. New York Tribune, May 19 and 20, 1863.
61. Ibid., July 23, 1863.
62. Mertropolitan Record, July 14, 1863.
63. Ibid., July 25, 1863. In 1864 Mullaly was arrested for obstructing the draft.
64. Now York Herald., September 14, 1861.
65. Ibid., September 17 and 18, 186 1. See Richard J. Purcell's biographical sketch of McMaster in Dictionary of American Biography. New York, 1933. vol. XII, p. 140.
66. New York Herald, October 24, 1861.
67. Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register, April 4, June 27, and July 14, 1863. Murphy, op. cit., pp. 49, 51, and 52.
68. Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register, March 21, 1863.
69. New York Tribune, May 19 and 20, 1863. New York
70. Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register, July 18, 1863 Herald, May 20, 1863.
71. This is significant as evidence that some migration of Negroes to New York did take place during the war.
72. Brownson, "Catholics and the Anti-Draft Riots," p. 386. Archbishop Hughes had long been apprehensive about the possibility of such an outbreak. In December 1862 he wrote Seward that he feared riots in New York City due to opposition to the war: "There arc men of whom better might be expected who say that their fighting is to be done in the streets of this city." Quoted in Lee, op. cit., p. 102.
73. New York Tribune, July 9, 1863.
74. Ibid., July 14, 1863.
75. Ibid., July 16, 1863. New York Daily News, July 16 and 18, 1863. Irish American, July 25, 1863.
76. See comment in Shannon, op. cit., vol. I, p. 299. Perhaps Archbishop Hughes' weak statement can be ascribed to gradual failure of mental powers. Brann, op. cit., p. 170.
77. New York Herald, July 16, 1863.
78. Brann, op. cit., pp. 168 and 169. Andrews, op. cit., p. 12. He died on January 3, 1864. Brann, op. cit., pp. 170 and 171.
79. Now York Herald, July 17, 1863. Headley considered this meeting too late to be of much use in halting the riots and also felt that Archbishop Hughes' plea to the rioters in the postscript of his reply to Greeley was negated by his retreat on of the letter. He believed, further, that Archthrough the streets mingling with rioters to quell Headley, op. cit., pp. 223, 254-258, and 262.
80. New York Herlad, July 18, 1863. Now York Daily News, July 18, 1863. Irish American, July 25, 1863
81. United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Offiicial Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, vol. XXVII, part 2, pp. 938 and 939. Washington, D. C., 1889.
82. Stoddard, op cit., pp. 120 and 210.
83. Ibid., p. 67. somewhat in view of the Tribune's bias against the Irish.
84. New York Tribune, July 17 and 21, 1863. These reports must be discounted.
85. Ibid., July 25, 1863. New York Herald, July 25, 1863.
86. Brownson, "Catholics and the Anti-draft Riots," p. 386.
87. New York Herald, July 16, 17, and 20, 1863.
88. Ibid., July 21, 1863.
89. Novack, George. Civil War in New York; the Anti-draft Demonstrations of 1863. Unpublished manuscript in Mr. Novack's possession. pp. 260-262.
90. New York Herald, July 20, 1863. New York Tribune, July 20, 1863. National Anti-Slavery Standard, July 25, 1863. See also reports of sermons on Sunday, July 26, in New York Tribune, July 27, 1863.
91. New York Herald, July 21, 1863. New York Tribune, July 16, 1863.
92. New York Herald, July 17, 1863. New York Tribune, July 18, 1863.
93. New York Herald, July 23, 1863. Irish American, July 25, 1863.
94. New York Daily News, July 17, 1863.
95. New York Tribune, July 23, 1863.