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“STAND BY THE LAW!” Working Class Arguments for Peace in New York City in Wake of Draft Riots
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Urging Democratic workingmen in New York City not to riot and to avoid violence. It argues that destruction will lead to increased taxes, paid for primarily by the workingmen: “It is cheaper and better to Stand by the Law!” This and other broadsides (ie, “Don’t Unchain the Tiger”) signed “A Democratic Workingman” were created by Republicans Sinclair Tousey and William O. Bourne. They produced nine different broadsides that explained that southern slaveholders and their rebellion endangered the interests of northern workingmen. These were influential in helping cooler heads prevail.

[CIVIL WAR]. “To the Laboring Men of New York.” Broadside, New York, NY: July 18, 1863. 1 p., 11⅝ x 18¾ in.

Inventory #27485       Price: $6,500

RARE, OCLC locates only 12 copies.

Historical Background
Heavily-immigrant New York City’s working classes were not all strong supporters of the Union war effort. Many of the South’s exports had passed through the markets and docks of the city, providing employment. The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 strengthened opposition to the war because many immigrants feared that emancipated African Americans would migrate to the city to compete for already low-paying jobs. In March 1863, local white longshoremen refused to work with black laborers and rioted, attacking 200 black men.

In the spring of 1863, Congress passed a conscription act that provided for a draft to fill quotas from areas without sufficient volunteers. The legislation also allowed wealthier men to pay a $300 commutation fee to hire a substitute and be exempt from the draft. Although the first drawing of draft numbers on July 11 passed without incident in Manhattan, when the second drawing took place two days later, a crowd attacked the provost marshal’s office.

From July 13 to July 16, 1863, draft protests quickly turned into a massive race riot, with protestors targeting African American homes, churches, and other institutions such as the Colored Orphan Asylum, which was burned to the ground. At least 120 people were killed and more than two thousand were injured. Ultimately, 4,000 Union soldiers had to be removed from the Gettysburg campaign to restore order. One result of the riots was an exodus of black residents from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

In March 1864, a committee of the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association visited President Abraham Lincoln to inform him that he had been elected an honorary member. Lincoln responded, “None are so deeply interested to resist the present rebellion as the working people. Let them beware of prejudice, working division and hostility among themselves. The most notable feature of a disturbance in your city last summer, was the hanging of some working people by other working people. It should never be so. The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds.”[1]

Sinclair Tousey (1815-1887) was born in New Haven, Connecticut. After his parents died during his childhood, he worked at a cotton factory and as a farm hand. He worked for several newspapers and then a patent medicine company before returning to farming. In 1853, he joined a wholesale news agent and bookseller, becoming sole proprietor by 1860. As “an enthusiastic anti-slavery man,” he joined the Republican Party at its organization. In early 1864, Tousey became the founder and president of the American News Company. He also was agent of The Iron Platform, the paper of the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association.

William Oland Bourne (1819-1901) was born in Pennsylvania to an abolitionist minister and his wife. The family settled in New York in 1829, and Bourne became a publisher’s apprentice. In 1849, he became the registrar for the New York Free Academy. During the Civil War, he founded The Soldiers’ Friend, for the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. He developed prizes for soldiers who had lost their right hands and learned to write with their left hands. He also wrote songs and poems in defense of the Union. Bourne was a close friend of Horace Greeley, was editor of The Iron Platform, and the corresponding secretary of the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association.

Provenance: From the James Milgram, M.D., Collection


COMRADES:--Do you want to pay heavy taxes? Do you want to suffer loss and ruin? Do you want to be tramped under foot by ambitious demagogues? Do you want to have your homes filled with sorrow, and your eyes run over with tears? If not, then  STOP AND THINK!

The property destroyed by a riot must be paid for by the city, and in this way every act of disorder, violence and house-burning, is only laying heavier taxes on your own shoulders. Every disorderly act that is done only calls for greater expenses on the part of the city government. The United States does not pay the damages, but the City of New York alone. Of course, all the disturbances, losses and damages, only


STOP and THINK!  Stand up as Democratic Workingmen should stand up before the world, and show the traitors of the South, and the friends of tyranny all over the world, that

The Workingmen of New York are able to govern themselves!

Stand by the Union, the Constitution and the Laws! Then, freedom and prosperity will be secure to you and to your children after you.

Any man that advises you to break the law is your enemy, and the enemy of your wives and children. These troubles will make the times only the worse for us all. High prices, heavy rents, and heavier taxes. Comrades! Keep the peace and all will be well.

Saturday, July 18, 1863.                               A Democratic Workingman.[2]

[1] Roy P. Basler et al., eds., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 8 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 7:259.

[2] The same text was published in The Evening Post on July 18 and in The New York Herald on July 19. On the 20th,  it appeared in the Albany Evening Journal under the heading “A Stirring Appeal,” explaining that it was “issued in circular form and distributed in New York on Saturday.”

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