Society for Historians of the Early American Republic 7KH*UHDW5LRW<HDU-DFNVRQLDQ'HPRFUDF\DQG3DWWHUQVRI9LROHQFHLQ $XWKRUV&DUO(3ULQFH 6RXUFH-RXUQDORIWKH(DUO\5HSXEOLF9RO1R6SULQJSS 3XEOLVKHGE\University of Pennsylvania PressRQEHKDOIRIWKHSociety for Historians of the Early American Republic 6WDEOH85/http://www.jstor.org/stable/3122502 . $FFHVVHG Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] University of Pennsylvania Press and Society for Historians of the Early American Republic are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the Early Republic. http://www.jstor.org THE YEAR": "RIOT GREAT JACKSONIAN DEMOCRACYAND OF PATTERNS VIOLENCE IN 1834 Carl E. Prince New Yorkers characterized the tumultuous months of 1834 as the great "riot year."' Philip Hone, the New York City patrician and diarist, had reason to apply his barbed pen to the events of that year as disturbances swept the city. New York was not unique. Rioting that reached an intense climax in 1835 and 1836, broke out across America after a generation of relative civil peace. Race riots in 1834 marred the landscape from New Orleans to Philadelphia. Irish labor violence erupted on the construction sites of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in rural Maryland, the Chenango Canal in New York State, and the Baltimore and Washington Railroad outside the nation's capital. While severe rioting continued through the next two years, it was the 1834 uprisings that first broke the peace and alarmed a nation. Anti-Catholic, anti-Irish tensions were manifest both at the Charlestown Convent Riot in Boston and the "anti-foreign" crowd actions in New York City. Small upheavals of an individually minor character, but in fact part of a larger pattern, occurred across America, alongside great economic confrontaMr. Prince is a member of the Department of History at New York University. This paper was delivered on July 20, 1984, as the presidential address of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic during its sixth annual conference at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. I Allan Nevins, ed., The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851 (2 vols., New York 1927), I, 134. JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC, 5 (Spring 1985) @ Society for Historians of the Early American Republic 2 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC tions like the riot that broke out in Baltimore in the wake of the failure of the Bank of Maryland. Election riots in New York and Philadelphia marked America's return to an older tradition of "politics-out-of-doors." Finally, newly organized abolitionist militancy was met by anti-black, anti-reform mobs in Newark, New Jersey, Norwich, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Ohio, and elsewhere across America. These were only some examples of renewed community violence that washed over the nation after a generation of comparative internal peace in a superficially placid republic. The year 1834 marked the end of that surface tranquility. Hints of what was to come may, in retrospect, be evident in the sporadic civil disorders of the years 1829-1833. But 1834 marked the year when a pattern akin to social chain reaction came to light. At the same time, the events of 1835 must be taken into account. While the violence of 1834 must be taken as of a piece with those events both before and after, it is useful to concentrate on immediate origins as the full pattern emerges; 1834 marked the opening salvos, in this sense, of a new period of civil disorder in Jacksonian America. For these reasons I propose to turn to those twelve months to see what can be found about why and how it happened. Waves of violence have always characterized the history of this open society. The year 1834 opened only one such epoch, this one associated with what historians still call the era of "Jacksonian Democracy." Other violent epochs included the American revolutionary years from 1763 to 1787; the generations of upheaval following the Civil War; industrial strife that characterized the period from 1894 to 1914; the years after World War I, touched by the "Red Scare"; post-depression violence in the early 1930s; and the black and youth revolutions of the 1960s. On the face of it, the violence and destruction inflicted by ugly mobs may not be appetizing fare to a nation that prides itself on its tolerance, opportunity, openness to change, and civility. The events of 1834, however, demonstrate not only a society in stress, but underscore as well the workings of a dynamic political and social process reasserting itself after a relatively calm period of perhaps a generation's duration. I noted at the outset that Philip Hone commented on 1834 riots. Like many contemporaries, he saw causation in simple VIOLENCE IN 1834 3 terms. Hone wrote gratuitously of Irish rioters as "a band . of the lowest class," of abolitionists who held mass meetings protesting legalized human bondage as "a set of fanatics," and, indeed, he characterized 1834 in general as a year of widespread "insubordination to the laws.'"2 Hone was not alone among contemporaries in his perception that 1834 was a singular year. Armageddon, notable Americans perceived, was at hand. Theologian and social critic William Ellery Channing remembered that in 1834 "society was shaken to its foundations, all its joints loosened, all its fixtures about to be swept away."' Ralph Waldo Emerson observed after the 1834 Charlestown Convent Riot in Boston: "If the wishes of the lowest class that suffer in these long [Boston] streets should execute themselves, who can doubt that the city would topple in ruins."4 And that venerable curmudgeon John Quincy Adams, at the height of his effective post-presidential stint in Congress, balefully noted the societal earthquakes of 1834 in his diary for that year: "My hopes of the long continuance of this Union are extinct. The people must go the way of all the world, and split up into an uncertain number of rival communities. . . ." The "universal cry of distress," he testified, stretched "from Portsmouth to Charleston, and from Baltimore to Frankfort, Kentucky," with "no appearance of a disposition to afford relief."'5 Hezekiah Niles, publisher of one of the most influential newspapers in America in the Age of Jackson, wrote on August 23, 1834: "Does it not appear that the character of our people has suffered a considerable change for the worse? If so-what is the cause? We fear that the moral sense of right and wrong has been rendered less sensitive than it was-that a spirit of force, in certain cases, has begotten it in others. The saying of the sage, that 'truth is a victor without violence,' is passing Ibid., 122-124, 134-135, 136-137. William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, With Extracts From His Correspondenceand Manuscripts (3 vols., Boston 1848), III, 245. 4 Lewis Mumford, ed., Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals (New York 1968), 634. SJohn Quincy Adams, "Diary," in Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (12 vols., Philadelphia 1876), IX, 97, 162. JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC 4 into disrepute and sober and peaceable individuals are called upon to defend their own personal rights, or those of their neighbors by . . . force-instead of relying upon . . the law. ''6 Political myopia knew no ideology. Jacksonian pols were no more astute than their Whig counterparts. Amos Kendall, of Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet blamed "the agitation a member S in congress and country" on the failure to recharter both . . the Bank of the United States. The Great Chieftain himself, Andrew Jackson, confronted a delegation at the White House who dared to tell him to his face that the many manifestations of "politics-out-of-doors" evident in 1834 would increase in intensity so long as Old Hickory continued his assault on the Bank. "The people," his visitors continued, "might seek redress by force." Jackson responded, "if violence be your game, come on with your armed Bank mercenaries, and by the Eternal! I will hang you around the Capitol on gallows higher than Haman's." The game of the elephant and the wise men, wherein every blindfolded sage felt a different portion of the mammal's anatomy, and pontificated learnedly and ridiculously on what he was feeling, may have reached a high point with the observations of William Dunlap, founder of the National Academy of Design. With the 1834 New York City Election Riot fresh in mind, he visited an inmate friend in the New York City Asylum. Dunlap observed that his compatriot "became insane )" in electioneering," with an assist from "attendant drinking ... But then again, maybe simple answers are the best. Dunlap believed that if his disoriented friend stayed away from elections and spirits in that order, he "would soon be well.7"7 Easier said than done in 1834. What in fact did make 1834 so traumatic? Historians have sketched in some answers, and these generalizations are worth laying on the table. Briefly, 1834 was a year that may be seen as pivotal in an era of dynamic transformations. The rapid 6 Niles' Weekly Register, Aug. 23, 1834, 426. William Stickney, ed., Autobiographyof Amos Kendall (Boston 1872), 409, 411-412, 419, 420-421; Diary of William Dunlap, New-York Historical Society Collections (5 vols., New York 1930), III, 798. 7 VIOLENCE IN 1834 5 urbanization of parts of America was well underway. That urbanization expanded and changed economic and social relationships and impacted on the nature of community on the one hand, and enhanced the potential for menacing confrontations between and among hostile city dwellers on the other.8 Progress, if that is what it was, was rendered infinitely more complex by the rising tide of immigration into the United States, particularly but not exclusively into the cities, by Irish and Germans. Complexity was compounded by the growing numbers of urban free blacks populating northern cities, where large indigenous black populations were augmented by escaping slaves and southern "free persons of colour."9 The year 1834 was also notable for the first break in the revival of industry, a revival that dates to about 1825. In particular, the spread of the factory system and deep changes in the nature of work were already in the process of transforming the demographic landscape and threatening social class relationships. The brief panic of 1834 was unsettling to many 1 This theme has been dealt with in great depth by urban historians writing about the Age of Jackson in the last twenty years. The best historiographical explication of this monumental transformation is Edward Pessen's "We Are All Jeffersonians, We Are All Jacksonians: or A Pox on Stultifying Periodizations," Journal of the Early Republic, 1 (Spring 1981), 1-26. Three pioneering studies of the 1960s of this process of social change are Sam Bass Warner, Jr., The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of Its Growth (Philadelphia 1968); Seymour J. Mandlebaum, Boss Tweed's New York(New York 1965); and Stephan Thernstrom, Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth Century City [Newburyport] (Cambridge 1964). A seminal collection of essays summarizing the early important work in the area of community and social change is Stephan Thernstrom and Richard Sennett, eds., Nineteenth-CenturyCities: Essays in the New Urban History (New Haven 1969). The best recent book, one on which I depended heavily for my insights into the communities of 1834, is Thomas Bender, Community and Social Change in America (New Brunswick, N.J. 1978; paperback ed. Baltimore 1982). " With regard to immigrants, two standard works that make this point well are Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, 1790-1865.: A Study in Acculturation (Cambridge 1941), and Robert Ernst, Immigrant Life in New York City, 18251853 (New York 1949). The best study of antebellum free blacks in the North is Leon Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (Chicago 1961). A good recent interpretive summary of the impact of both free blacks and immigrants on antebellum American life can be found in Leonard Dinnerstein, Roger L. Nichols, and David M. Reimers, Natives and Strangers (New York 1979). 6 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC parts of the country.10 These changes occurred at a time of perceived progress, political emancipation, and westward expansion. Clearly, however, the egalitarianism touted by politicians of both major parties in the Age of Jackson can only be labeled cosmetic, evident more in the breach than the observance, as Edward Pessen has demonstrated." That egalitarianism, such as it was, functioned in a society close to the boiling point. If one accepts that a huge gap existed by 1834 between perception of the American dream and its untenable reality, then in perspective the events of 1834 fall into place. The tranquility of a passing agrarian society was shattered by inner tensions with which historians are only just beginning to come to grips. As is so often the case, Richard Hofstadter found the words to best summarize these changes. "The pathology of a nation growing at a speed that defied control, governed by an ineffective leadership, impatient with authority, bedeviled by its internal heterogeneity," he wrote, "and above all cursed by an ancient and gloomy wrong [slavery] that many of its people had even come to cherish as a right," was a menacing pathology indeed.12 Others who have looked at 1834 saw some of the same things from a different perspective. David Grimsted, examining the rioting, noted that "between 1834 and 1837 there was in some men's minds a sense of a real possibility of social disintegration ... ." Grimsted saw, as Hofstadter had, a nation tormented beneath the surface of outward progress. His pantheon of problems included "ethnic hatreds; religious animosities; class tensions; racial prejudice; economic grievances; moral fears over drinking, gaming, and prostitution; political struggles; the albatross of slavery." As a result, Grimsted 0o Niles' Weekly Register commented frequently on the growing evidence of economic dislocation in the spring and summer of 1834. That comment from a Whig paper, of course, heaped much of the blame on Jackson administration policies. 1 Edward Pessen, Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics (Homewood, Ill. 1969). 12 Richard Hofstadter and Michael Wallace, eds., American Violence: A DocumentaryHistory (New York 1971), 477-478. VIOLENCE IN 1834 7 concluded, "riot had regained its eighteenth-century status as a frequent and tacitly accepted if not approved mode of behavior. "13 These historians, and some others who have looked at the rioting and disorder of 1834, have commented only on fragments of the evidence of upheaval in that year. None has looked at the total package. What did it all mean? Maybe Thomas Bender offers the best insight in a general way into what it was all about. In Community and Social Change in America Bender concluded that "the most common sociological definitions" of community used today "tend to focus on community as an aggregate of people who share a common interest in a particular locality." What happens when inhabitants of the same turf no longer perceived that significant areas of interest were held in common?14 That is the question I posit for 1834, the first year, in my opinion, when the question applies forcibly in the nineteenth century. Bender goes on to raise other questions for social scientists and humanists to examine. "What form or forms does community take when the town no longer provides the primary context for community? What is the relationship of community to political and economic institutions? How do those relationships change with large-scale transformations in the structure of society?""15I hope to address these questions by applying them to several locales in a single time period at an eruptive moment in early nineteenth century America-a kind of Mt. Saint Helens moment, if you will. By focusing on the catastrophes of that instant, one can glimpse the causation of great change at its origins. The book Communityand Social Change in America goes on to assess more specifically changes in the nature of community beginning in the 1820s. Bender observed that "the initial consequence of nationalism and metropolitanism was . . . an enhancement of local identifications. However paradoxical it may appear, nationalism and localism as basic orientations to life were simultaneously enhanced, and in some respects they I1 David Grimsted, "Rioting in Its Jacksonian Setting," torical Review, 77 (Apr. 1972), 364. 14 Bender, Community and Social Change in America, 5. " Ibid., 11. American His- 8 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC even reenforced each other during the first half of the nineteenth century."''6 It is a paradox I find intriguing. That paradox descended upon the world of 1834. It may be seen as starting with an inevitable localization of life in an increasingly confusing society: the complex views of the native laboring middle class family witnessing the loss of control over the tools of its production; the rural eastern farmer facing an exurban transportation revolution and geographic shifts in the agricultural balance of power; the immigrant, alienated from American society by differences of language, culture, religion, and values; the free black, aroused to hope by the newly organized abolitionists; and women growing restive in the wake of a revolution of rising expectations in part borne of a mouthed egalitarianism common to the Jacksonian era. This displaced view of the world of the majority in 1834 must be balanced against a political doctrine that bespoke equality, when there was none; opportunity, while the old system disintegrated and the chance to succeed, such as it was, passed gradually into the hands of a new entrepreneurial class; and democracy, not much of a reality in light of developing urban anonymity and changing small town perceptions of once stable social and political relationships, both of which rendered the word hollow in the ears of the economically and socially marginal. The year 1834, then, saw a significant number of Americans placed under imminent stress as they were caught up in the impact of disorder and violence, almost as if in the backwash of other, deeper changes in their lives over which they exercised no control. There were at least twenty-four events of a scope extensive enough and of a character so significant as to give them national importance. At least the same number would follow in 1835.17 Time and space constraints require that I sketch here only four major examples. The important thing is what these episodes, Ibid., 43, 87, and passim. was culled from the entire year's publication of Niles' WeeklyRegister. The episodes listed in Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Violence(New York 1975), while helpful, is incomplete. It has nevertheless been widely relied upon by historians in their characterizations of mob actions and the crowd in the 1830s. The common denominators characteristic of all of these crowd actions were people out of control and engaging in destructive 16 1" The list of twenty-four VIOLENCE IN 1834 9 taken together, say about a quickly changing American society in the wake of perceived and real changes in the ways Americans related to each other, their peers, their betters, and above all their communities. The four include an Irish labor riot on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal site in January 1834; the New York City Election Riot in April; and the Philadelphia Race Riot in August. The circle of violence closes in November, returning to the Irish in Maryland, in this instance the Baltimore and Washington Railroad Riot outside the nation's capital. The year began with Irish fighting Irish at first, and then confronting native Americans. The scene between January 17 and 27, was the construction site of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal between Hagerstown and Williamsport, in the northwest corner of Maryland. "The contest is between two parties of canalers," one newspaper reported. What was not reported was that the Irish laborers were afflicted by epidemic disease, poor diet, atrocious living conditions, and a long-standing failure to be paid on time. "Corkonians," laborers from County Cork, fought Irishmen from County Longford in a pitched battle near Williamsport, on the Potomac River. Local residents in Williamsport and Hagerstown, meanwhile, organized themselves against any spillover in the fighting. Only some initial reports indicated deep economic causation. Niles' WeeklyRegister only once mentioned "dissatisfaction about their pay" as a cause of conflict. The Hagerstown Torchlightnoted at the outset that "the cause of the difficulty" was either the suspension of work, or of payment, on "one or more sections of the canal." But, within days, reports of the miserable working conditions and the failure to be paid dropped from the pages of the press. Newspapers concentrated instead on the internal nature of the fighting between two groups of "wild Irishmen." Numbers were not consistently reported, but apparently as many as 1,500 laborers and their families were involved, and dozens of deaths occurred. Andrew Jackson eventually ordered out two companies of United States troops public activity visible enough to draw public intervention and press reports. See the Appendix for a list of 1834 and 1835 upheavals that meet this definition. 10 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC from Fort McHenry, evidence of the seriousness of the situation, and evidence too of the danger of native violence by Baltimore "volunteers," perhaps vigilantes, who went into the countryside to "keep the peace."'" In retrospect, Niles' Register, published in Baltimore, reported that "laying on the lumber," an Irish colloquialism for a melee, was a commonplace on the canal site. "The frequent occurrence," one paper reported, "renders many indifferent of any result provided only these foreign factions do not meddle with the persons and property of peaceable people."19 "Peaceable people" was a common euphemism in 1834 for native residents. The next major upheaval I want to examine is the New York City Election Riot of April 8-10. Before that action occurred, a random pattern characteristic of the year was already in the making. Weeks earlier, in March, a prolonged, bitter, and widespread riot broke out in Baltimore, when the Bank of Maryland failed under what were perceived by townspeople as corrupt circumstances.20 Thus the April election riot in Gotham was an episode that astute watchers were beginning to see as part of a greater malaise. The April political riots should be seen against the backdrop of the subsequent anti-abolitionist riots in the city during the ensuing summer. Equal billing in terms of perceived causation, however, must also be given to the growing hostility to Irish Catholicism. Both blacks and Irish were targets of Protestant antipathy.21 The anti-abolitionist crowd action of October 1833 "8Rioting erupted sporadically on the site into the summer. Niles' Weekly Register, Jan. 25, Feb. 1, 8, 1834, 366, 382, 399; Hagerstown Torchlight,Jan. 23, 1834; Richard B. Morris, "Andrew Jackson, Strikebreaker," American Historical Review, 55 (Oct. 1949), 54-56. 19 Niles' Weekly Register, June 21, 28, 1834, 291, 300. 20 Several historians have touched on the Baltimore bank riots of 1834 and 1835. The best description can be found in Grimsted, "Rioting in Its Jacksonian Setting," 379-383. A full primary account can be tracked through Niles' Weekly Register from March 29, 1834 through the remainder of that year and into 1835. 21 Leonard L. Richards, "Gentlemenof Propertyand Standing": Anti-Abolition Mobs in Jacksonian America (New York 1970), 113; Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in the Politics of New York, 1801-1840 (New York 1965; original ed. pub. 1919), 373-374; Litwack, North of Slavery, 100, 102, and VIOLENCE IN 1834 11 and the street conflict of two politically hostile New York City volunteer fire companies in February 1834 were more immediate precursors of this turn to "politics-out-of-doors" that was so characteristic of the age of the American Revolution.22 The April election riot occurred, improbably, in a New York City mayoral campaign, not a great national or state contest. Yet on reflection, it was not so improbable; if these riots were symptomatic of a deeply troubled community, what better vehicle for expression than a local contest? National issues made manifest in ways peculiarly local in character has always been a hallmark of American political behavior. The two parties opposed each other visually and colorfully in the streets. Andrew Jackson's populist, anti-Bank of the United States stance was twisted by the Whigs to read "Perish Credit, Perish Commerce." A banner carrying the message was "paraded everywhere" in the narrow lanes of New York City, on April 8, the first of three election days. Merchant seamen, usually Whig sympathizers, and volatile political actors in the port cities since before the revolution, built a replica of the ship U.S.S. Constitution. They mounted it on wheels and "paraded it through the streets and past the polls" as another Whig party symbol.23 Sailors, carters, and other skilled and unskilled native American laborers who lived off port-related commerce, were Whig to the core.24 passim; Linda K. Kerber, "Abolitionists and Amalgamators: The New York City Race Riots of 1834," New YorkHistory, 48 (Jan. 1967), 28-29. Richards specifically links the April election riots in New York City to both antiabolitionist actions that summer and the August Stonecutters' Riot. For the latter see Daniel J. Walkowitz, "The Artisans and Builders of Nineteenth Century New York: The Case of the 1834 Stonecutters' Riot," in Around the Square, 1830-1890 [Greenwich Village] (New York 1982), 84-94. York American, Feb. 10, Mar. 3, Apr. 29, 1834; Richards, •2 New "Gentlemen of Propertyand Standing," 113. 21 Joel Tyler Headley, The Great Riots of New York: 1712-1873 (Indianapolis 1970; first pub. 1873), 69. 24 See, for example, Jesse Lemisch, "The Radicalism of the Inarticulate: Merchant Seamen in the Politics of Revolutionary America," in Alfred F. Young, ed., Dissent: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (DeKalb, Ill. 1968), 37-82; Graham Hodges, "The Cartmen of New York City, 16671801" (Ph.D. diss., New York University 1982); Lee Benson, The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Test Case (Princeton 1961), esp. chapter 14. 12 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC Some 4,000 Whigs met in mass meeting that night, capping the first day's campaigning. In New York City the Whigs drew heavily on Protestant, native American support; patrician led, the mass of followers were trade-oriented working class Protestants. The Democratic party drew no less heavily on the New York gentry for leadership, but depended in part on newly minted Irish Catholic voters as well as elements of the native working class for popular support. The second day of the election was marked by an accelerating violence. The replica of the Constitutionwas paraded anew, and the Jacksonian Democrats attacked the ship at City Hall. The mayor and perhaps fifteen watchmen were clubbed and the municipal building sacked. On the third day, a Whig mob took over the city arsenal, many arming themselves with guns against a club-wielding Jacksonian crowd. Only the arrival of federal troops saved a blood bath of perhaps heroic proportions.25 The "Bloody Sixth," the immigrant Sixth Ward, was the scene of the greatest violence. In this community, as Philip Hone put it, "the Irish and the Americans" were pitted against each other. Yet the Democrats were led by New York City patricians fully as pedigreed as the most powerful Whigs, so perceptions of class depend on which political stratum one chooses to put under the microscope, and which opposing group one chooses to define as a "mob." Even so partial a Whig as Hone unwittingly credited essentially republican virtues to the Democratic party "mob," noting on the day after the polls closed that a partial Whig victory was a "signal triumph of good principles over [Democratic] violence, illegal voting, party discipline and the influence of officeholders [italics added].'"26 The last two can be seen more as manifestations of normal involvement in the political process than as the pejoratives Hone intended. The foreman of a grand jury investigating the riot a month later also sent a mixed signal. He deplored the violence and the breakdown of "the good order of the community" on the one hand, but noted 25 26 Headley, Great Riots of New York, 67-78. Nevins, ed., Diary of Philip Hone, I, 122-125. VIOLENCE IN 1834 13 also that "a proper zeal in conducting an election is commendable. .."27 Whig sources essentially anti-Irish in character spoke of "mob" and Irishmen as synonymous. Occasionally, however, an unintended hint of the truth seeped through even Whig reporting. The crowd was not uniformly Irish by any means. When several Irish rioters were arrested, for example, a local paper disclosed that "violent attempts to rescue them were made, in which persons, who ought to be regarded as gentlemen, were concerned." And again, "Several persons of good standing in Society have been . . . directing or abetting the rioters." When a Whig middle class mob took over the city arsenal, the Whig paper reported straight-faced that "the officers at the arsenal werepassing out arms to the [Whig] citizens, to suppress the rioters." A strange anomaly in peacekeeping this, and with a real similarity to native American "volunteers" from Baltimore heading to Williamsport, Maryland, to "help keep the peace" by attacking Irish canal insurgents.28 The Whigs armed at the arsenal, of course, were not described as part of any mob. In the months following the New York City Election Riot, crowd actions dotted the American landscape with growing frequency. In late April, a Democratic party mob sacked the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, branch of the Bank of the United States. In New Orleans, at about the same time, a white mob virtually destroyed the premises of a patrician white woman for maltreating her black slaves. In June, Irish laborers rioted again at the construction site of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, as well as the Chenango, New York, canal excavations. A wave of anti-abolitionist riots in July were the immediate precursors of the Philadelphia Race Riot in August. Abolitionist meetings were broken up by mobs in New York City, Norwich, Connecticut, and Newark, New Jersey, that month.29 " Niles' Weekly Register, May 24, 1834, 210. Ibid., Apr. 12, 19, May 24, 1834, June 27, 1835, 101, 115, 210, 300. Another major election riot occurred in Philadelphia in October; in many ways it paralleled the New York City upheaval. See ibid., Oct. 18, 1834, 104-105. 29 See ibid., Apr.-Aug. 1834, passim, in particular Apr. 26, May 3, July 5, 12, 19, 26. 28 14 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC The Philadelphia Race Riot of 1834, known among contemporaries as the Moyamensing "Flying Horses" Riot, began on August 12. The "Flying Horses" was a carousel, frequented by both races, in the Moyamensing district of Philadelphia. Whites attacked black patrons on the night of the 12th, after a week-long heat wave and attendant social tensions on the merrygo-round.30 The carousel was destroyed, the blacks scattered, and three nights of uncontrolled white rioting followed. Directed primarily at black property, at least thirty-seven houses were looted and destroyed and several hundred people made homeless. The houses destroyed were owned by middle class blacks, and not located in a ghetto, but on streets where blacks and whites both lived. Whites extended lamps from their windows to distinguish their homes from those of the blacks.31 Black homes, on the other hand, were often quietly abandoned to the mob. In assessing the cause of the "Flying Horses" Riot, an 1834 citizens committee "cited the frequent hiring of Negroes during periods of depression and white unemployment and the tendency of Negroes to protect, and even forcibly rescue, their brethren when the latter were arrested as fugitive slaves.""32 Another meeting shortly after the riot "insisted that no blacks shall be employed in certain departments of labor."33 The rioting ended coincident with the rumor, probably true, that a vigilante group of some sixty armed blacks had organized by the fourth night to defend black homes.34 The citizens committee, meanwhile, enjoined influential Negroes to impress upon their people "the necessity as well as the propriety, of behaving themselves inoffensively and with civility at all times and upon all occasions; taking care, as they pass along the streets, or assemble together, not to be obtru- 30 Both Richards, "Gentlemen of Propertyand Standing," 9-19, and Michael Feldberg, The TurbulentEra: Riot and Disorder in Jacksonian America (New York 1980), 37-43, offer good overviews of sources of racial tension in the Age of Jackson. " Niles' Weekly Register, Aug. 23, 1834, 426. " Litwack, North of Slavery, 101. :3 Niles' Weekly Register, Aug. 30, 1834, 441. The 34 Leonard P. Curry, The Free Black in Urban America, 1800-1850: Shadow of the Dream (Chicago 1981), 105-106. VIOLENCE IN 1834 15 sive.""5 The report of the committee speaks volumes about large issues applied locally. As in New York and Williamsport, white vigilantes, again referred to as "volunteers," "from all parts of the city . . . came under arms." They were described even by sympathizers as "an immense concourse of persons" gathered to protect their community.36 On August 11, just before the Philadelphia Race Riot, the most incendiary of the 1834 crowd actions began. A white Protestant mob, inflamed by increasingly available anti-Catholic pornographic literature and a growing perception that the rapid influx of Irish in Boston was changing the community, sacked and destroyed the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, a Protestant working class district of Boston. This episode alone among the upheavals of 1834 has been adequately dealt with by historians.3• Other episodes, meanwhile, testified to an accelerating wave of crowd actions through the late summer and fall, stayed only temporarily by the onset of a cold winter. Another anti-Irish riot hit New York City. A Philadelphia helium balloonist and his woman friend were attacked by a restive crowd when the balloon failed to launch. The airship was destroyed, the couple roughed up."• Race riots broke out in Washington, D.C., in September, and in Columbia, Pennsylvania, near Lancaster, in early October. The latter was triggered by the marriage of a well-to-do black businessman to a white woman, but causation really involved "white resentment at the success and aggressiveness of black artisans and workingmen in a town economy that was dominated by transportation, lumbering and business." In brief, all sense of community in Columbia disintegrated in the wake of rising economic and racial tensions.39 '" Litwack, North of Slavery, 101. 3" Philadelphia Intelligencer, Aug. 5, 1834. 37 The best recent study of the Charlestown Convent Riot is Theodore M. Hammett, "Two Mobs of Jacksonian Boston: Ideology and Interest," Journal of American History, 62 (March 1976), 845-868. An older but still useful essay is Ray Allen Billington, "The Burning of the Charlestown Convent," New England Quarterly, 10 (March 1937), 4-24. See also the account of the riot in Handlin, Boston's Immigrants. "" Niles' Weekly Register, Aug. 30, 1834, 441. :'9 Ibid., Sept. 19, Oct. 11, 1834, 83; Brown, Strain of Violence, 207, 373; Litwack, North of Slavery, 101. 16 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC Another election riot, meanwhile, disrupted Philadelphia in October.40 The November rioting between Baltimore and Washington was the last episode of this tempestuous year. I have singled it out for scrutiny because of that, and also because it closes a cycle of violence that began with an uprising of Irish workers on the nearby canal site some ten months earlier. Most importantly, however, the Baltimore and Washington Railroad Riot, after a year of ferment, aroused the neighboring countryside in telling ways, ways that signaled by example the growing distress in which the nation found itself after a year of buffeting. The trouble began in the middle of November when one of the railroad contractors accused several workers of stealing $1,200. The same individual had already fired a number of laborers, and he discharged several Irish cartmen over this incident. On the night of November 17, he and another supervisor were attacked and killed by a mob of about forty workers, who injured several other supervisors as well. The rioters took over a nearby store and tavern. Local militia units were activated and they rounded up some 300 workers, amid no sign of further Irish insurgency. The 300 were taken to Baltimore, arrested, and jailed for some three weeks. Only on December 6 was it reported that all but a dozen had been released. The incident in itself was minor in comparison to other risings elsewhere in the course of the year. Its significance lay in the fact that the local population in rural Anne Arundel County reacted with a severity absent elsewhere earlier in the year. On November 26, a public meeting attended by hundreds in this "sparsely settled" area was convened, amid newspaper barbs asserting that "the public peace must not longer be violated with impunity." The "law of nature must be resorted to," proclaimed a Baltimore gazette.41 This last was a thinly veiled encouragement of vigilante and mob counterviolence. The public meeting resolved that Irish laborers "have formed secret associations" that enable them to "accomplish their 4I Feldberg, The Turbulent Era, 58; Niles' Weekly Register, Oct. 18, 1834, 104-105. Baltimore American, Nov. 21, 1834; Baltimore Chronicle, Dec. 10, 1834; 4' Niles' Weekly Register, Dec. 6, 20, 1834, 218, 272. VIOLENCE IN 1834 17 hellish plots without being in danger of discovery." The postriot native local committee, also in evidence after the Philadelphia Race Riot in August, was a new and menacing addition to the chemistry of community violence from the summer on. In this instance, it reflected increasingly institutionalized antiIrish hostility, not dissimilar to charges made by a citizens committee in Boston after the Ursuline Convent Riot. Native American perceptions were clearly influenced both by the flood of anti-Catholic pornography sweeping America and, in the case of free blacks, the rising tide of anti-abolitionist newspaper commentary abroad in the land. "The Irish laborers," the Anne Arundel County meeting concluded, were "a gang of ruffians and murderers," and it called on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the parent company, to fire all Irish. A letter authorized by the meeting and sent to the president of the B & O, threatened that the small towns and villages of Anne Arundel "will muster a sufficient force and drive every Irishman off the road from the Patapsco to the big Patuxent" rivers. The point is that, in the ensuing months, county residents did just that, temporarily driving the Irish out.42 In retrospect, when one takes account of the rolling turbulence endured all over America in 1834, it becomes clear that local response grew increasingly ugly as the year wore on. Anti-abolitionist mobs, rising anti-Catholic crowd actions, and election day working class riots should not be viewed separately, as historians have thus far tended to do. They are all of a piece when placed in a confined time frame. By the summer of 1834, Protestant native reactions grew in intensity, placing the burden of mob violence as much on the "peaceable" folk of established America as on "wild Irishmen," abolitionist "fanatics," "aggressive blacks," and disenchanted artisan voters. The year started with its facade in place: a nation welded by political symmetry, democratic, progressive, and forward looking, its republican principles inviolate. The year ended with 42 Niles' Weekly Register, Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 20, 1834, 197, 218, 272. See also for comparative purposes: Billington, "The Burning of the Charlestown Convent," 4-24; and Hammett, "Two Mobs of Jacksonian Boston," 845868. 18 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC the first major cracks since the revolution in the wall of American community, as a pre-industrial society accelerated toward major change. Maybe there was no wall of American community, only facade. Tensions long building rose to the surface and almost literally exploded as eighteenth century social and political values were battered in this working republic. The republic functioned at its core at the local level, where Americans lived and worked. So cities, towns, villages, countrysideall were subject to the release of tensions by means of violence, mob action, and riot. That violence may well have been subtly encouraged by an ideology that espoused political democracy without paying much attention to its social and economic substance. The impact of the Age of Jackson on that peculiarly American sense of community that makes this republic work, in conclusion, may well have been negative and not positive. Probably like most political history, antebellum nineteenth century community needs extended re-examination within the context of new perceptions of deep and rapid social change. APPENDIX Riots of 1834 and 1835 Date 1834 1/17-27 c.3/10 3/24-26 4/5 4/8-10 c.4/15 4/22 4/28 6/7 6/15-24 c.6/15 7/7-20 c.June/July Type Irish Labor Riot, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Location Irish Canal Workers Riot First Bank of Maryland Riot Bank of the United States Riot Election Riots Mob Assault on Woman Abusing Slave Whig-Democratic Political Riot Irish Railroad Workers Riot Irish Labor Riot, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Irish Riot, Baltimore and Washington Railroad Irish Riot, Chenango Canal Several Anti-Abolitionist Riots Anti-Mormon Riots and "Civil War" New Orleans, La. Baltimore, Md. Portsmouth, N.H. New York, N.Y. New Orleans, La. Baltimore, Md. Mansfield, Mass. Hagerstown, Md. Patuxent, Md. Chenango, N.Y. New York, N.Y. Jefferson and Jackson Counties, Mo. Williamsport, Md. VIOLENCE IN 1834 c.7/7 7/9 8/11-14 8/12-14 c.8/15 c.8/20 c.8/20 c.9/28 c.10/4 c. 10/4-14 11/20-22 Anti-Abolitionist Riots Anti-Abolitionist Riot Anti-Catholic Convent Riot Anti-Black Race Riot Religious Rioting Stonecutters Labor Riot Mob Assault on Balloonists Anti-Irish Riot Race Riot Election Riots Irish Labor Riots, Baltimore and Washington Railroad 19 Newark, N.J. Norwich, Conn. Charlestown, Mass. Philadelphia, Pa. New York, N.Y. New York, N.Y. Philadelphia, Pa. New York, N.Y. Columbia, Pa. Philadelphia, Pa. Sites between Baltimore and Washington 1835 2/13 2/13 3/7 Apr.-Aug. c.6/21-23 c.7/6 c.7/12-15 c.7/13-15 c.7/20 c.7/25 c.8/7 8/6-15 8/9 8/9 c.8/10 8/21 8/22 8/31 Rioting between two fire companies Irish Riot, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal German Labor Riot, Baltimore and Washington Railroad Mob assault on woman for alleged prostitution Catholic Mob Assault on Anti-Catholic Protestant Meeting Ohio-Michigan Border War Irish Riots at Five Points Mob Lynching of Gamblers Irish Riot, Wabash and Erie Canal Race Riot Irish Labor Riot Abolitionist Riot to free fugitive slave Irish Riots Bank of Maryland Riot Irish-Native Rioting Irish Riot, Chenango Canal Anti-Abolitionist Riot Anti-Abolitionist Lynching and Riot Anti-Abolitionist Riot Anti-Abolitionist and Anti-Free Love Riot 8/29 9/13 c.10/7 10/21 against Noyes Academy Race Riot Race Riot Race Riot Anti-Abolitionist Riot c.3/7 c.3/15 Baltimore, Md. Hagerstown, Md. Between Baltimore and Washington Irville, N.Y. New York, N.Y. Ohio and Mich. New York, N.Y. Vicksburg, Miss. Indiana Philadelphia, Pa. Detroit, Mich. Albany, N.Y. Boston, Mass. Baltimore, Md. Buffalo, N.Y. Hamilton, N.Y. Lynn, Mass. Charleston, S.C. Boston, Mass. Canaan, N.H. St. Louis, Mo. Washington, D.C. Forsyth, Ga. Utica, N.Y.