Racial and Ethnic Tensions as Sources of Civil Unrest in Early to Mid-Nineteenth Century America
Brown, Drew W.
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While a comparison and contrast between the history of civil unrest in the United States and those of other nations would undoubtedly yield enormous fruit, major American civil unrest events can also be analyzed, to great value, in a manner that emphasizes the extent to which such events, during particular time periods, were a reflection of the most influential historical forces that were more generally shaping American society as a whole. The "stages" mode of American civil unrest history, correspondingly, is the best, most flexible, and most thematically appropriate model with which to pursue this analytical objective; seeing the history of American civil unrest as a progressive series of "stages", each distinguished in some way in regards to the motivations of the primary actors in the incidents of unrest that took place during that stage. As examined at length here, the early to mid nineteenth century constituted a stage in American civil unrest history that was primarily influenced, and even controlled, by the competing influences of inter-white ethnicity and race to an extent that sharply distinguished this stage, in terms of both the exceptional presence of these two factors and particular differences in how the stage reflects commonalities in the larger model, from the majority of stages in the same, broader history of which that stage is a part. By studying the particularities of this stage as they culminated in the 1863 New York Draft Riots, which effectively represented both the highpoint and end of the controlling influence of the particular fusion of race and ethnicity that was so unique of this stage but also the phasing out of the stage as a whole, the characteristic advantages of the "stages" model of the history of American civil unrest, more generally, are illuminated, along with 42 the exceptionally dramatic manifestation of major sociohistorical forces in civil unrest events during the time period and what it tells us about that period as a whole.