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New York Draft Riots: “A Great Fraud”
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Rare broadside printed four months after the New York Draft Riots, reflecting working class reaction against the politicians who misled the people into taking part in the riots. Signed in print by “A Democratic Workingman.”

[NEW YORK DRAFT RIOTS]. Broadside. New York: Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association, [November, 1863]. 1 p.

Inventory #21788       Price: $2,800

Partial Transcript

The true object of Democratic institutions is to promote the security, happiness, freedom, and prosperity of the people, under a government of their own framing… the government of the United Sta[t]es is of this kind. Politicians, ambitious of place and power, and who have for more than thirty years plotted the overthrow of Democracy, have during all that time been guilty of a great fraud on the Workingmen of the country … In the name of Democracy they advocate the interest of traitors who hate freedom, and who believe that Slavery is the true condition of all Labor … In the name of Democracy they have stirred up the laboring men and have filled the streets of New York with bloodshed, arson, and riots, and have disgraced us in the eyes of the world … they denounce the heroic soldiers of the Union as ‘Bull Dogs and Hell Hounds’ who are engaged in murder and arson, and not in a noble effort to save our democratic institutions from destruction… stand firmly by your own interests --- the interests of Free Labor everywhere! Stand firmly by your government, and vote only for men who will be true to you and to your children.

Historical Background

The Enrollment Act of 1863 was intended to fill the Union Army’s depleted muster rolls, but created an immediate backlash in Northern cities. Resistance was particularly virulent in New York City, where a strong Copperhead contingent attacked the conscription system by disseminating leaflets and “pro-labor” rhetoric in the press, helping to incite violence. When the drawing of draft lots began on July 13, 1863, a mob sacked the District building and attacked firemen and police, setting fires and lynching free blacks. The conflict raged for a full four days, causing roughly 1,000 casualties, before Union regiments called from the frontlines restored order at the point of the bayonet.

This is one of several broadsides issued by the Democratic-Republican Workingman’s Association of New York in the aftermath of the destructive Draft Riots, arguing that Copperhead politicians had duped the common laborer. The broadside is known in two states, but without the date. OCLC locates copies at New York Historical Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

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