American History Series: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863

Does the American North have a racial tradition? Of course it does.

Northern racialists were concentrated in the Democratic Party which was dominated by White Southerners. “The Democracy” was known at the time as the “White Man’s Party.” It existed in both the North and the South and dominated the White Republic until Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, had been defeated by Stephen Douglas in the Illinois Senate race for being unsound on the racial question. The Republicans were always on the defensive on the race issue because of the strong appeal of white supremacy to Democratic voters.

In the antebellum era, Northern racialists had enjoyed a lot of success in the Lower North. In 1821, New York effectively abolished black suffrage. In 1838, Pennsylvania abolished black suffrage. Free negroes were banned from settling in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon.

In 1860, African-Americans could only vote in five New England states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Elsewhere, Yankees had to coexist with other European ethnic groups like the Scots-Irish, Irish Catholics, the Germans and Scandinavians, who sometimes did not share the Yankee enthusiasm for utopian social reform movements like abolitionism and temperance. Generally speaking, the Germans and Scandivanians tended to be more aligned with them on racial equality issues than the Scots-Irish and the Irish Catholics.

What happened? The Yankee dominated Republican Party triumphed in the North and fomented a war against the South that resulted in the destruction of the Northern black codes.

From Eric Foner’s Reconstruction:

“Nonetheless, the national convention galvanized a black assault upon the Northern color line that, in the war’s final months, won some modest but impressive victories. In February 1865, John S. Rock of Boston became the first black lawyer admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. (Only eight years earlier, in the Dred Scott case, the Court had denied that any black person could be a citizen of the United States.)

Slowly, the North’s racial barriers began to fall. In 1863, California for the first time permitted blacks to testify in criminal cases; early in 1865 Illinois repealed its law barring blacks from entering the state, serving on juries, or testifying in court, while Ohio eliminated the last of its discriminatory “black laws.” And in May 1865, Massachusetts passed the first comprehensive public accommodations law in American history.

In January, 1865, the issue of segregated transport became a national cause celebre when Robert Smalls, a black war hero, was ejected from a Philadelphia streetcar and forced to walk several miles to the navy yard where the Planter, the ship he had spirited from Charleston harbor nearly three years earlier, was undergoing repairs. Despite concerted pressure by the city’s black and white allies, including banker Jay Cooke, integration did not come to Philadelphia transport until 1867, but New York City, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Cleveland all desegregated their streetcars during the war.”

Who were the Northern Democrats? They tended to be Scots-Irish and Irish Catholics:

“Its greatest strength lay in areas like the “butternut” farming regions of the Ohio Valley, closely tied to the South and bypassed by wartime economic expansion, and among urban Catholic immigrants and other voters hostile to the perfectionist reform tradition, with its impulse toward cultural homogeneity.” …

The Emancipation Proclamation provoked lurid Democratic descriptions of an impending black inudation of the Midwest. In Indiana, one group of Democratic women paraded before an election with banners emblazoned: ” Fathers, save us from nigger husbands.”

Aside from the War Between the States, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 was the largest civil insurrection in American history. The Irish rose up against the Yankee Republicans and their black allies and were only put down by Union troops who had just arrived from Gettysburg:

“Exposing the class and racial tensions lying just beneath the surface of the city’s life and exacerbated by the war experience, the draft riot haunted New York’s elite long after its suppression, serving as a reminder of the threat posed by a “dangerous class” whose existence could no longer be denied. It spurred efforts by the Union League and other elite organizations to reform city government and strengthen the forces of order, and to improve the conditions of New York’s black population. A number of firms publicly announced their intention to replace Irish workers with blacks, the Union League succeeded in integrating the city’s streetcars, and in March 1864 a massive reception was organized for New York’s black soldiers, an “astonishing” change, observed the New York Times, from the time eight months earlier when “the African race in this city were literally hunted like wild beasts.”

New York City was integrated by the Union League.

The Irish draft riots against African-Americans in New York City would later be repeated in New Orleans and Memphis during Reconstruction. In the movie Gangs of New York, you can see the scene below where the Irish are shot down by the Union Army.

Note: According to Eric Foner, 1/5th of the adult black male population of the United States was armed by Yankees and mobilized to serve in the Union Army. This was America before the Jews started arriving en masse in the 1890s.

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  1. After the War between the States, the North became more conservative on the question of race. Even some abolitionists like James Russell Lowell turned race realists. Many influential racial scientists and theorists were from the North, like Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, Carleton Coon etc.

    It was after the WWII race question and racial science became taboo subjects.

    • I still think that the introduction of television and its unprecedented capacity for mass, simultaneous brainwashing right in the home had a crucial role to play in the (quite possibly temporary) suppression of race realism as a basic cultural feature, too.

      • Yes, and Carleton Putnam explained how the (((television))) anchors in the 50s and 60s used dishonest tactics to discredit racial anthropologists, to smear segregationists and to promote “civil rights” agitation etc.

  2. Northern identity was often not racial, but ethnic in nature due to the low black population of the North. Yankee nationalism often took the form of anti-Catholic Know Nothing-style nativism.

    I wouldn’t say Northern Democrats were necessarily the Northern racial party – they were more like Democrats today in that they were the party of immigrants and city machine politics (sound familiar?). Northern Know Nothings/nativists on the whole tended to trend towards abolitionism, due to many of them being supportive of other Calvinist reforms, such as temperance and public schools.

    While not condoning of the liberal attitudes of Yankees regarding race at the time, their nativist movement is something that I wish continued.

  3. I agree that the white liberal is/was a problem long before Jewish influence in the United States. In Europe however, the Jews were a problem long before there was such a thing as liberals or modern democracy. The Italian Republics were aristocratic and not radically equalitarian like the American/French Revolutions.

  4. What I am seeing is the liberal ideology is geographical in nature. If a group of Whites who originate from certain parts of Europe moves into an area, that area becomes very liberal over time.

    Solution: Develop a DNA test to identify these people, and then remove them from your locality. If they want to be liberal, they must do it in their own areas, and take the consequences.

  5. I have often stated on this site it is not just the Jews. We have a big problem and it is not a uniquely Jewish one. Our own kind, especially members of secret societies and religious institutions, are often the culprits. These societies have members in HIGH places – from police precincts to judges chambers to boardrooms to elected officials and every other institution that is part of their control mechanism. The system itself IS the control mechanism. You only think you’re free because they’ve defined the meaning for you.

  6. Hunter, if you’re going to talk about Yankee racial politics, I think you would be remiss to ignore the expressions of ethnic nationalism that Yankees showed in the 1840s and 1850s. The nativist movement was very strong in the North, with Know Nothings taking control of many city and state governments, most prominently Boston and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, the nativist mayor pushed to remove all foreigners from government and wanted to deport Catholic priests and bishops.

    There were several massive nativist riots in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Boston, and Chicago. In 1855, the Chicago mayor (who was actually a descent of Daniel Boone) ordered the police to crack down on the alcoholism and licentiousness of German and Irish immigrants and break up taverns and breweries.

    The Know Nothing party was on track to be *the* dominant force in Northern politics, but collapsed due to a split over slavery and being repressed by the political machines run by big business and immigrants.

  7. Just noticed that note “D” in the image above states that the Brooks Brothers clothing store was ransacked.

    They’ve taken it too far!

  8. I don’t believe a word of the (((narrative))) of the draft riots other than the plan was to draft white factory workers as cannon fodder and replace them with blacks. The same was done in a Detroit in WWI if you ever wondered how blacks ended up in a sub artic northern city.

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