Economics, Politics, and the 1863 New York City Draft Riots: The Acrimonious Relationship Between Irish Americans and African Americans in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Publication Year



U.S. History, Irish American, African American, draft riots


Economics | Political Science | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | United States History


The United States faced what was arguably its most challenging crisis during the four tumultuous years of the Civil War. It was a time of unprecedented bloodshed, a time when brother was pitted against brother, and a time when frustrations that had built for years were expressed in violence, both on and off the battlefield. Issues such as western expansion, sectionalism between the North and the South, and chiefly the question of slavery had caused turmoil in the nation for decades prior to the Civil War. These issues were addressed in 1820 with the Missouri Compromise, which allowed the territory of Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state, along with Maine as a free state, in order to maintain the sectional balance of power in Congress between free and slave states. The Missouri Compromise also established a dividing line along the southern Missouri border for future territories becoming states, in which those north of the line would automatically become free states and those south of the line would automatically be slave states. Crisis was averted again in 1850 when the nation confronted the problem of incorporating territory gained from the Mexican American War. The Compromise of 1850 allowed California to enter the Union as a free state, retaining the sectional balance, since Texas had previously entered as a slave state. It also allowed slavery in the New Mexico territories, subject to popular vote, as well as the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, which was extremely controversial. Conflicts over slavery, expansion, and sectionalism sparked violently in 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act in which the idea of public sovereignty, letting the people of the territories decide whether to be free or slave, was expanded to land previously considered destined to be free under the terms of the Missouri Compromise. In Kansas, the situation became violent as competing pro and anti slavery groups flooded the territory and fought amongst each other for the direction of the territory. The struggle over these issues came to a head with the 1860 Presidential election, in which Abraham Lincoln ran on the Republican ticket and Stephen A. Douglass ran on the Democratic ticket. The campaign and election were incredibly tumultuous across the nation. The stance of Lincoln and the Republican Party regarding the elimination of slavery in the territories led to several southern states leaving Lincoln's name off of the ballot and threatening to secede if Lincoln was elected. When Lincoln won, states in the south began seceding even before he assumed office, starting with South Carolina, Christmas Eve 1860. The states that had seceded formed their own government, the Confederate States of America, and this action, along with the Confederate firing on the United States held Fort Sumter led to the start of the Civil War in April 1861.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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