All for the Union
All for the Union
For all the social chaos that phenomenal economic growth and heavy immigration had produced earlier in the century, upper-class New Yorkers had generally been optimistic that hoi polloi possessed enough self-control and independence to take direction from their betters and accept their proper place in the body politic. But the New York City draft riots of 1863 – the worse urban disorder in American history – seemed to show that entire communities lacked the self-discipline and orderliness required of the citizenry of a democratic nation and instead were prone to a savagery that had ripped the city apart. Drawing on their memories of the draft riots and on Victorian cultural values, the upper class utilized the Civil War to counter the blurring of class boundaries and social credentials caused by urban growth of the first half of the century. They came to classify came to classify many workers and immigrants as dangerous classes that threatened the social order- and themselves as a community of heritage and feeling that provided leadership in government, the economy, and society. At bottom these representations involved social control, and upper-class people used them to help harden class lines and gain an understanding of themselves and the rest of urban society that was coherent and compelling.
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