tv Book Discussion on City of Sedition CSPAN October 15, 2016 8:00am-9:01am EDT
college professor bradley bircher, former washington post reporter molly mccartney examines the u.s. military industrial complex, jack cashin takes a critical look at the crash of flight 800, and booktv visits peoria, illinois. for a complete television schedule, booktv.org. booktv on c-span2, it's 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors, it's for serious readers. and now we're kicking off this weekend with john strausbaugh, author of "city of sedition." it's about new york city during the civil war. [inaudible conversations]
>> good evening. good evening. thank you so much for coming out here to politics & prose. thank you so much for coming out here to politics & prose for yet another one of our enlightened and lively author talks. you can't hear me? okay. >> we'll be quiet. [laughter] >> and at that cue, please let me -- please silence all your cell phones at this point, and also let me just go through a few other housekeeping details. so the author will speak for about 20 minutes, 20, 25 minutes, and we will break into a question and answer period.
during this question and answer period, we kindly, kindly, kindly request for you to use the microphones over here by the pillar and then -- or just that one, okay. so this, this talk is being taped for broadcast on c-span and also, in addition to recording your questions for prosperity -- posterity -- [laughter] we want you to, we want to be able to, the audience members, other audience members as well as the author to be able to hear your questions. so, please, use the audio, the microphones over there for the question and answer period. thank you so much. and also as a reminder, copies of "city of sedition" are on sale at the register right by the door where you entered. so without further ado, "city of sedition: the history of united
states during the civil war," -- the history of new york city during the civil war," is a very appropriate book for revising and reconsidering history. history in regards to the civil war, we have often encounter ored a very narrow dialectic perspective of the civil war where the adversaries are pretty much divided along the mason dixon line between the slave holders in the south and the industrialists in the north. but thankfully for the past couple of decades, there's been a movement to basically deconstruct this very faulty lens of looking at history, and "isty of sedition" by john strausbaugh is one of those
books that continues moving us in a better, in a better direction. so it seems to have taken a new yorker to write a book about new york that reveals how complex the city was during the civil war and how, of course, different parts of the city, how new york city itself was definitely entwined with the cotton industry, and because of that not everybody sided with abraham lincoln as some history books expect us to believe. john strasbourg covered downtown manhattan history in the manhattan press be, for "the new york times" he wrote and hosts a
seriesed of articles and podcasts on new york city history. he has written for "the washington post," npr, pbs, his previous books include "reflections on the birth of elvis," "faith: rock til you drop," and, of course, "the village." a former resident of greenwich village in hell's kitchen, he now lives in brooklyn heights. please welcome john strausbaugh. [applause] >> thank you. can you hear me? is this all right? okay. i used to do theater, so i'm good at -- can you hear me? [laughter] i want to thank politics & prose for having us, thank all of you for for being here. it's very nice of you. and thanks, booktv, for being here as well. it's entirely appropriate, i think, to come to washington and talk about new york city in the civil war because the two cities
had very high level of interaction, of course, and effect on each other. while washington was the nation's capital, new york city was the capital of just about every other thing that mattered. it had a huge impact in creating the conditions for the war and also in the conduct of the war. but it was a hugely confused impact as well. new york was both a great boon and a great bane to lincoln. no city raised more men, money and is material for his war or raised more hell against it. it's easy enough to explain its huge influence just starting with its size. it was huge. new york city was huge. and at this point, we're talking about just manhattan and not even just manhattan, just the southern half of manhattan. from 42nd street up was pretty lonesome. in that space you had, in 1860, around 800,000 people.
that was 200,000 more than the nearest big city of philadelphia. if you add brooklyn which was then a separate municipality but, of course, they made a metro poll tan area, that was another quarter million people. d.c. at that point was, i think, 75,000 people. so it was tiny. so new york, it's this huge thing sitting up there. it's the center of banking and commerce. there were more banks in new york city than in the entire plantation south. it's center of merchandising. we don't think of new york as a factory town, but it was, in fact, the biggest factory town in the country. and not just then, for a long time afterwards. it had the biggest and busiest seaport, and it was the media center. the tribune and the herald were national pape beers, they went out all around the country. people all around the country read them. i say it was hugely confused because new yorkers were
fighting their on civil war amongst themselves, and it was even in some ways a north and south conflict within the city. is and from the south came cotton. after the spread of the cotton june in the late 1790s, the cotton trade, the international cotton trade exploded. the u.s. exported half a million pounds of cotton in 1800. it was exporting two billion pounds by 1860. cotton represented 60% of what the u.s. was exporting to the world, and it was 40% of what was going be out of new york's harbor. so it was a huge deal. the next biggest commodity was, i think, tobacco, and it was less than 10%. so cotton threads tied new york and the south together, i believe, in a long and codependent relationship. the cotton south, the plantation south and new york city grew up together. the explosive growth of the cotton plantations straight across the deep south was
largely funded by new york banks, because that's where all the banks were so, of course, you came to new york for your funding. the new york merchants supplied the planters with everything from the pianos in their parlors to their plowshares to the clothes they put on their slaves. new york not only shipped a significant portion of cotton, but new york harbor was where those ships came back to filled with european goods, and that made new york important to washington d.c. or washington city, as people called it back then. it had a big impact on the federal government because the government drew large, large portions of its revenues from the customs house in new york harbor. there was a period where the entire federal budget was coming from the customs house in new york city. now, it wasn't just the bankers and the shipping magnates who profited from new york city. the thousands and thousands of workers were directlyover
indirectly profiting from cotton. dock workers, obviously, but also people in the shops, people who worked in the hotels and the gambling houses and the restaurants and brothels where hot of southerners -- lots of southerners would treat new york city as their home away from home during the summer months. everybody was in various ways dependent on maintaining the cotton trade which means they saw it in their best interests to maintain the plantation system and slavery. new york workers at -- also feared that if the four million people enslaved in the south were suddenly set free, they'd all come flooding up north and take their jobs away. the big irony there is that the 12,000 free blacks in new york city, the exact opposite was going on. white workers took their jobs from them, froze them out of the unions. so wasn't really going -- there wasn't really going to be a problem with white guys fighting for their jobs against black
workers. so because of cotton and because of those tie ands that long and enormous tie to the cotton south, the majority of new yorkers -- not all new yorkers, but the majority of new yorkers were proto-south and anti-abolition. they were, in effect, what people called copper 45eds at the time, northerners who were sympathetic to the south. it's also worth mentioning that new york was a major northern hub of the transatlantic slave trade. doesn't have a direct effect on slavery in the country anymore because slaves aren't being brought into the united states by that point, but there was still a huge international, transatlantic slave trade. ships out of new york were picks people up in africa and taking them to be slaves in cuba and brazil and places like that. congress had declared this piracy, which was a hanging offense, as early as 1820, and then everybody turned a blind eye. it was an open secret that new yorkers were investing in slave ships and the profits were enormous.
many, many slave ships were fitted out in new york harbor and sailed out of new york harbor right under the eye of the harbor masters. if they were caught, the slave ship captains -- which didn't happen very often, by the way, because the u.s. navy was, like, a dozen ships, and the atlantic is pretty big -- but if a slave ship captain got caught which didn't happen very often and brought back to new york to trial, it was very, very, very rare for him to get convicted. more than half the time they never even made it to the trial, they were just allowed to slip off the jail. judges and juries were notorious toly lenient with them. if they were convicted and sentenced to anything, they would be sentenced to, like, two months or four months in jail as opposed to being hung. in fact, in the whole long history of new york's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, only one slave ship captain was ever hanged for it, and that was because he had the
bad luck to get caught after lincoln was in the white house, and the civil war had started. so the politics had shifted, and there were republicans now running things. he was hanged in the tombs which was the notorious jail in manhattan in 1862, and believe it or not, the slave trade from new york dried up right like that. [laughter] so they should have hung somebody a whole lot earlier. [laughter] that's the lesson there, i think. all right. so that's pro-slavery new york. there was also, on the other side -- as i said, they were fighting their war amongst themselves -- a small but very vocal and influential core of abolitionists. and and they tended to be from the north. they were new englanders who had come to new york city. men like horace greeley whom people knew as uncle horace in the day, the founder and editor of the tribune, and reverend
henry ward beecher, i play him at the church in brooklyn heights. it was plymouth church that invited abraham lincoln to speak in 18606789 at that point -- 1860. at that point he's not even a dark horse. he hasn't announced his candidacy yet. he's so unknown that the new york newspapers couldn't figure out his name. they were calling him abram lincoln, and several of them went with a. lincoln because they didn't know his first name. because of that, the church got cold feet. they didn't think he'd attract a crowd, so greeley and others brought him over to manhattan and switched the venue to cooper union in manhattan. and the speech he made there in february 1860 is arguably the most important speech of his career, because it made his career. at the same time, he got his picture taken by matthew braid key, that famous photo of him standing in his wrinkled coat because he'd just gotten off the
train. copies of that photo and speech went out around the country and introduced the entire country to this a. lincoln that they hadn't known before. pretty soon he's announced his candidacy, and he gets elected president. it's been said that without that speech and without that photograph, it's highly unlikely that the abraham lincoln we know as the historical figure would have happened. for all that even though new york state voted for him, new yorkers and brooklynites did not. in fact, they voted against him more than 2-1. they were very anti-lincoln. they saw him as the man who was go going to go to the white house, free the slaves, and the slaves were going to rush up to new york. and they voted against him again in 1864. now, the instant he's elected, as you all know, the southern states start to secede. new york's business leaders panic at that point.
secession would mean the end of their lucrative trade with the south as well as leaving them holding $150 million in unpaid dealts from the south. $150 million in those days would be about $4.5 billion today, so they're very upset. and they're writing petitions, they're getting their workers to sign them, they're doing -- they're writing their congressmen, doing anything they can to stop the south from seceding. when lincoln passed through the city on his way down to the white house after he was elected, he got a very cold -- walt whitman was there and writes about the very cold reception that new yorkers gave lincoln. and he got to a lecture from the mayor, ferdinand wood, who famously when all the southern business partners started seceding, suggested maybe new york city should secede along with them. you know, i -- people took it as a crazy idea then but, you know, i kind of look at some of the presidential -- at least one of the presidential candidates
now -- [laughter] i won't say his name. [laughter] you know, maybe we should revive that idea. [laughter] okay. when lincoln gets to the white house, he's inundated with office seekers which happened all the time back then. pew can man and the democrats -- buchanan and the democrats are out, the republicans are in. also we need to remember that washington was, at the time, a very southern town. it was still a slave-owning town until a year after he was elected. and there were many southerners in federal government who quit when he got elected. a lot of them stood in line for hours just for the satisfaction of refusing to shake his hand when they got up to him. but the job seekers still came. and one of the most inept, i think, of them all came from new york. it was herman melville. his years of writing popular sea adventures were well behind him by 1860, 1861.
his more recent novels like moby dick had gone unread and unloved by the few people who read them. he was now writing poetry which nobody read, so he came to washington hoping for a diplomatic posting. he didn't get it. so, all right, now we're back in new york. for all that they had feared and and tried to stave off the war, new yorkers and brooklynites of all types flocked to sign up when the war started in 1861. part of that is because at the time -- they were signing up for three months' service in the military. a lot of people were convinced that was all it was going to take. you were going to get a uniform, a musket, march down south, kick some butt, this unpleasantness was going to be over, andyou were going to come back in three months. for a lot of the workmen, it was also a job. it was a paycheck. there had been a big depression
in 1857, the panic of 1857, and tens -- i think it was like 100,000 workers in manhattan lost their jobs. and then when the car -- the war started, more lost their jobs because the trade with the south had suddenly disappeared. so they were signing up for the work, and they they'll thought it'd be three months of fun, and they'd be home. it didn't work out that way. when they saw the carnage of battle, volunteerism in new york city went -- [laughter] i bring that up because new york doesn't feature much in civil war history writing because so much of that that writing, i think because so much of that writing is battles. it's military history, battlefield writing. and the nearest battlefield to new york was getties wurg which was, like -- gettysburg which was, like, 200 miles away. and yet some new yorkers played significant roles including one of them who came within an ace of winning the battle for new
york. one of greatest scalliwags, dan was born around 1819. nobody knows for sure. as a young man, he was meant -- i love this. he was mentored by loren toe deponte who had been in italy and was a rival of casanova's then he's in vienna writing some of the mozart operas. andhis household in the 1830s, nobody was using the term bohemian, but it may have been the first. it was certainly one of the first bohemian households in new york city, and dan is a young man hanging out there. dan eats spaghetti there which was a great rarity in new york city in the 1830s. it was still rare enough in the 1910s that people wrote songs, oh, they eat spaghetti in greenwich village. [laughter] so it must have still been a
wild thing to do. but i digress. [laughter] all right. so sorry. tammany hall gets him, gets dan elected. tammany hall was the democratic machine that ran politics in new york city. gets him elected to the state legislature. he takes his whore up to albany with him and scandalizes the state legislature. then in the 1850s, he gets elected to congress. he's down here when he catches his wife dallying with bill lip barton key -- phillip barton key who was the son of francis scott key. phillip would stand down on the street -- they livedover on lafayette square -- and wave a hanky, and she would give him a signal to let him know it was okay, and i guess he would go in. one night he's waving the hanky,
it's dan looking through the curtains. dan runs down, shoots him dead as a dog on lafayette square. a lot of people say he got off because his lawyers used what was then a normal defense, the temporary insanity defense. he had a jury of 12 married men, so he was going to get a off. [laughter] when the war starts, not that much longer after that, dan raises the excelsior brigade described as, quote, the scum of new york city society -- [laughter] reeking with vice and spreading a moral malaria around them. [laughter] and still they fought bravely and well all throughout the war. and dan, who had no military training whatsoever, was a very enthusiastic and and reckless leader, and they loved dan. but then he gets in trouble at gettysburg. there's the long union line, dan marches his brigade up in front of the line, and they instantly get engulfed by confederates,
and while the union line is scrambling to reform itself behind them, a cannonball shoots dan's -- shatters dan's right leg. they, the union survived, obviously, that day and, you know, luckily for dan, general lee made his own rash moves a day or two later. so now dan's in the hospital, they amputate his right leg. in those days when they amputated on the battlefield, they just threw the limbs out on a pile outside the hospital tent. dan was not going to let that happen to his leg. he had it boxed up and sent to the army medical museum here in d.c., and you can still see his leg bones to that day at the national museum of health and medicine. and be when dan used to come to washington after the war, he would always go to visit his leg. [laughter] another bunch from new york were just as scurrilous.
elmer ellsworth, dark north african cavalrymen with the baggy pant loons and the jaunty caps. so they were wearing these outfits. by the start of the war, they were all over both the north -- the union and the confederate army. they all loved being there. elmer filled his ranks with new york's notoriously undies applicanted -- undisciplined volunteer firemen. a lot of the officers are southerners or, and they're going to go fight for the confederacy, and congress is adjourned, so lincoln can't officially declare war x be he can't raise an early, is so he appeals to all northern states o send whatever troops you can. among the troops that were among the first to arrive in d.c. were the zwavs, and they were
allegedly breaking into shops, raiding brothels, getting riotously drunk in the restaurants. a love of washingtonians were like, please, just go home. but then a fire breaks out in the willard hotel, and they put the fire out, and they totally redeem themselves in the eyes of washington. not long after that, he were among the first union -- they were among the union troops who were sent across the potomac to alexandria to rout a small rebel force that was there. ellsworth is leading them up the street, he sees a confederate flag flying from an inn, the marshall house in alexandria. he rushes in, tears the flag down, and he's coming down the store when the owner of the inn shows up with a shotgun at the bottom of the stairs and kills him. he was the first union officer to be killed in the war within sight of the white house, and lincoln, who was said to have
loved him like a little brother, openly wept when he received the news. one of my favorites was gustav gus shoreman. his family had emigrated from germany. his dad was a musician, he taught gus a bunch of instruments. gus was 12 years old and shining shoes in city hall park in manhattan when the war starts, and his father signs up with a unit called the mow -- mozart brigade and gus signs up with him. you could get away with that. by that point, you're signing up for three points. his father drops out, and gus serves on the front lines. he's also the forrest gump of the civil war. he was the bugle boy for dan sickles and the bugle boy for phillip kearney who the
confederates knew as the one-armed devil. this period is just jam packed with amazing characters. he got his arm shot off in the mexican war. a couple days later, he's riding into battle with a sword in one hand and the reins, his horse's reins in his teeth. and everybody's like, whoa. and he kept doing that to the confederates, and they were like, he's the one-armed devil. he was always leading his men from the front, and at one point he rushed out too far, and they killed him. kearney, new jersey, is named for him too which i don't -- whatever. [laughter] oh, so back to gus. so now when lincoln and his son tad come to review the troops, tad is the same age as gus. they become pals. gus spends two weeks with tad in the white house. he and tad go to see a play. they're invited backstage to meet the star. it's john wilkes booth who was
very to lite and sweet to hem -- poe lite and sweet to them. after gettysburg, general sickles leans on little bus to get around, so gus is a great character. all right. meanwhile, a whole lot is going on in new york city. and that's what the book's about, so i should -- [laughter] all right, already, i'm getting there. i'm getting there. the war finish as all the businessmen feared, the war did, indeed, create just havoc with the economy at first. the waterfront be went silent, shops closed, thousands of people lose their jobs, all the dock workers, of course, and the shipbuilders, but also people at restaurants and shops and stuff. but new yorkers being new yorkers, they turned it around almost instantly. war begins in the spring, by the end of the summer, things were turning around remarkably. it started when the new york banks gave a large loan to the federal government for its war chest.
now, these are the same banks that had been funding the south for a good 50 years before that. the cynical explanation for that -- and i think when you're talking new york banks, the cynical explanation is usually the right one -- [laughter] is that they were hoping by pumping a lot of money into the war chest right away, in fact, the unpleasantness would be ended quickly, and they could go back to business the south and collect that $150 million in uncollected debt. but for new york the great thing is that the federal government turns around and spends that money, a lot of that money in new york city. they're buying medical supplies, they bought uniforms from brooks brothers who were just starting out at the time. the waterfront gets busy fitting out warships of every shape and description. the businessmen replace the loss of cotton from the south with wool, beef, lumber and other commodities from the west. so they're looking to the west now.
there's a whole lot of investing on wall street and speculating on wall street and speculating on gold because the price of gold would go up and down during the war. it makes a whole new class of millionaires and multimillionaires in new york city who were called the shoddy aristocracy by the old money. and they were -- and like new money everywhere, they're wearing diamonds and furs and doing the things that new money always does. and newspaper guys are commenting on at -- on it at the time. as always, things were very different for the workers in the city. after that initial flurry of signing up and actually seeing war and not signing up for battle anymore, comes the signing of the emancipation proclamation. which changed the agenda of the war, in their opinion. it had been a war to preserve the union by bringing the south back into the union. now it was a war to end slavery which was something none of them had any interest in going to fight and die for.
they saw slavery as a good thing for them, as in their interests. because of that plummeting volunteerism, lincoln is forced to begin conscription in the spring of 1863. the draft allows a man to buy his way out if his name comes up. oh, and they turned a drum and pulled names out of a drum, and one of the newspapers nicknamed the drum the wheel of misfortune. [laughter] so if your name got picked, you could buy your way out of serving for $300. $300 was a working man's annual wages in 1863. so to them, it was a rich man's war and a rich man's -- and a poor man's fight. and be poor men were dying for it. meanwhile, to make things even worse, their wages had been, were steady or had even dropped some, but wartime inflation doubled the price of all the staples. a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese, whatever it was, is costing twice as much.
so they've got a lot of grievances building up among them by the time of the draft. and they see the draft as the final insult. the first names are drawn out of the wheel of misfortune on a saturday in july. monday morning they start rioting all over the city. one historian has noted that while the draft -- the draft was the immediate spark, it's really, truly better to try to understand it as a city wide workers' revolt. they had had it by that point. it's till the deadly rioting in american history. officially, there were 119 deaths. everybody in new york was convinced that was a very low number just to, you know, keep a lid on hinges. there were hundreds more people died, and nobody knows, of course, to this day. afterwards lincoln puts it is city of new york, basically, under martial law. 10,000 troops come marching in. and the great irony here is that at the same time william tweed
and tammany hall come up with a system whereby they would pay the $300 for any man whose name, any new yorker whose name is drawn in the draft who doesn't want to go. so after all that rioting and all those deaths, very, very few new yorkers were put in uniform who didn't go voluntarily anyway. so it was all for nothing. but i love it. they cranked up this entire bureaucracy in the isty of new york, the point -- in the city of new york, the point of which was to keep them out of new york's army. and several of the city's newspaper editors were vehemently against the war. benjamin wood, fernando wood's brother, was the editor of the daily news, no relation to today's daily news. he called for open relate against what he termed the hi year thats of war. -- high year thats of war. he also wrote what's believed to
be the only anti-war novel published during the war. lincoln had several of these papers shut down because he decided they were printing treason, and a few of the editors actually are arrested for it. one of them who was arrested briefly was a man named john healthcare master. he was -- mcmaster. he was the editor of freeman's journal. he went from opposing lincoln to outright treason, sedition. and here's how he did it. in october 1864, eight confederate saboteurs filter into the city. their idea was that they were going to set new york city and chicago alight, they were going to burn them down, and be that was going to be a signal to what they thought were hundreds of thousands of copperheads in the north who would rise up in open revolt and end this war that none of them wanted. when they got to new york, they go straight to mcmaster's office and meet with him and he says, oh, yes, we have 20,000 copperheads armed and ready, just set the fires and we'll rise up. on the night of friday, november
25th, they went around to hotels and other public places where there were going to be people in the city including barnums museum and tried to et them alight. they're using something called greek fire which was kind of the 19th century napalm except greek fire smoldered and made some smoke, but it didn't burn anything. so there was a momentary panic, and then everybody said, oh, nothing's really happening. they fled to canada. one of them was caught, brought back to new york, instantly tried and hanged at fort lafayette which, by no coincidence, was the title of benjamin wood's novel, fort lafayette. one of -- oh, and nothing happened to mcmaster. he, when during the trial he said i never heard of these guys, i never met them -- [laughter] of course, i mean, you would say that. so there were no repercussions for him. one of the hotels they tried to burn down was next door to the
theater or -- where the famed shakespearean edwin and john wilkes booth were on stage that night, november 25th, for the first and only time together in their lives doing a performance of julius caesar. john wilkes' original plan for lincoln was not to assassinate him, it was to kidnap him and hold him for ransom and the release of confederate p.o.w.s so the south could continue the war, because at this point the war beginning to go bad for the south. he shared that plan with a few new yorkers who didn't bother to tell anybody in power. he also apparently bought a small cache of rivals from one of them, and there was a copperhead who owned a violin shop in greenwich village, and he seems to have been involved in several conspiracies of this sort. if so, that's another new yorker, obviously, committing treason at that point. across the street, across broadway from the theater where the booths were doing their
historic performance that night, an actress named laura keane was having a big hit of her own. ah laura keane was not only a great actress, apparently everybody said she was, but she's said to be the first woman in the country to be an independent theater producer, and she built her own gigantic theater on broadway. in 1858 she had had a giant hit with a silly farce called our american cousin. in 1865 she'd do a one-night revival of it here in washington. the lincolns attended and is so did john wilkes booth, as we know. the doctor who first rush ared to lincoln's aid after wilkes shot him was a 23-year-old new yorker. he had just graduated from bellevue hospital medical center six weeks earlier and was in washington to take a posting as an army surgeon. all right. so -- and i could just keep rattling these off for, but let's end this. in the end, for all the
resisting and complaining and rioting and seditious activities, the war was on balance good for new york city. the businessmen seized the opportunities it presented to a a amass capital, to expand their markets, to diversify, to head out west. and after the war, you know, the west wasn't won by cowboys, the west was won by new york money many a lot of ways, the railroads and all that stuff. these guys laid the foundation for the booming growth of the gilded age which set new york city on its course to become the capital of the world in the 20th century which just happens to be the topic of my next book, so i'll shut up now. [laughter] thank you very much. [applause] so we can do q&a. please use the mics if you've got a question with. the if you don't have any questions, why not?
[laughter] god, did i just steamroll -- [laughter] oh, here we go. great. >> i'm not exactly sure that the armed forces medical museum has opened up in the new location in bethesda yet, but it was great fun to go out there when it was at walter reed and see lots of -- >> didn't they have grover cleveland's brain there or something? >> they have lots of them. >> i've been. it was a great place. >> i'm from upstate new york, syracuse. would you talk a little bit -- did you talk in the book about the abolitionists in upstate new york and the relationship with -- >> not very much, no. what i love about new york city history and the reason i write so much about it is that it's so rich and deep and messy and layered that even if you just pick one subject out of it, it's very hard to squeeze it into a book. so actually this book was longer when i wrote it. they made me cut it.
so, no, i do very little new york state. i almost don't do any brooklyn. i really concentrate on new york city. >> the politics are kind of reverse now. >> yeah. >> with back then being the seat of abolition practically in upstate new york and more progressive, if you want to use that term -- >> than new york city, absolutely. absolutely. it was republican. new york city was democratic, and in those days republican was liberal and democratic was conservative. yeah. thanks. >> i have two questions. >> okay. >> one, how did you go about doing the research for this. >> yeah. >> and the second question is sort of the atmosphere around lincoln and his thinking. in other words, we never get a clear picture of really how the man is thinking during these early years. there is nothing in the
constitution that states that people can't leaf -- leave if they want to, and anything that isn't said is supposed to be to states, up to the states. okay. slavery could have been handled differently. in other words, there were other strategies in which to resist it. okay. so my point is the formation of lincoln as he goes into this great commitment, the three months or whatever, where does this come from? who is he talking to? where is he -- i mean, are the bankers downtown coming down here to speak to him? is he communicating? >> they're sending messages -- well, and actually some of the merchants would come and, but they were begging him not to do it, don't -- let them secede, let them go, we'll figure it out. i'm not a lincoln scholar, and i've read a lot who, as you say, it's very hard to know what was going on in lincoln's mind.
he didn't write it down. and i've read a lot of people trying to figure it out. my approach was to go with what he said and what he did. it's pretty clear to me that he did not get engaged in the civil war to end slavery in the south. that was not the point, and he said that over and over and over again. he made that famous statement to horace greeley that if i can end this -- if i can win this war and not free one slave, i'll do it. if i can win this war and free all the slaves, i'll do that. but it's about winning the war. so people impute a lot of different motives to him. i just go with what was there. what -- and it's also, over the years it's become forgotten that the war was not about slavery in the south, it really wasn't. the war was about expanding slavery to all that new territory in the west. everything from the missouri purchase to california was new. whether those states were going to go free or slave was a huge issue.
it was a huge issue in the south because, of course, they would like to have more slave -- some of those territories become slave states. that would give them more leverage or maintain the leverage they had in congress or in washington, etc. it was a huge issue in the north because abolitionism got bigger and bigger and, more importantly, because free workers in the north were afraid if that territory went slave, they wouldn't be able to get work will because there would be slaves there doing the work. so what his motives were, his intentions were, i think if you go with what he said and what he wrote, he really believed a union in which any part of the union could just say i'm leaving, i'm out of here was not a real union, and he was going to force them all to stay. >> but there's no justification -- >> i'm just saying -- >> no, no -- >> yeah. there's nothing in the constitution. >> we don't deal with as a people for this historic disaster. and then the other part about your research. >> oh, right.
it's gotten easier and easier to do research now. you can sort of sit at home. god love the internet. [laughter] the internet has gotten amazing. i used to say it was a puddle 100 miles wide and an inch deep. but there are whole university libraries and archives digitize ed and online. you can sit home because they've head their books available to you. so i did a lot -- the period newspapers and magazines a lot of those have been digitized and are online. and, of course, i read tons and tons of books as you can see from the bibliography. i'm not a historian, i don't pretend to be a historian. i'm a writing who writes about history, so i just read tons and tons of stuff. i learn as much as i can, and then i write a book. >> thank you. >> just a very quick question on facts. i always assumed that the british squadron off the west coast of africa did a pretty good job of cutting down the slave trade.
though not perfect, it was harder to get slaves out of africa concern. >> but you know the rest of that story. >> go ahead. enlighten me. >> they weren't freeing those people and sending them home, they were taking them to british colonies. >> right. >> they were making them, in effect, indentured workers. on the one hand, the british are patting themselves on the back for ending slavery, but they're still taking them somewhere else and putting them to work in their own colonies. they were keeps slaves out of spanish colonies. >> so the new york ships got through, is what you're implying. >> the british were much better at interdicting. i don't remember the numbers. i have numbers in the book where, you know, in one year they would catch, like, 50 slavers, and the u.s. navy caught one that year or something like that. so, yeah -- >> it wasn't the americans. >> no, no, it was them. >> hi. my understanding is that the irish were the biggest ethnic group at the time, because the italians and jews hadn't really
arrived yet, and the vatican leaned pretty heavily toward the confederacy. did you pick up any church involvement? >> oh, sure. there's tons of it in the book as well. irish catholics and -- the irish and the germans all came fleeing the panel mines and the political -- famines and the political upheaval starting in the mid 1840s. there's just a tsunami of hem in new york. they completely change everything about new york city. by 1860 some -- i don't even remember, it's like three-fourths of the adults in new york city are foreign-born. which is driving the native new yorkers absolutely nuts. and also the native new yorkers, by and large, were protestant, and there's all these catholics, and they had this tremendous fear that the papists, as they called them, were going to take over and hand over -- they were going to end democracy and hand the united states to the pope to. and the pope was going to run it from vatican. so there was a tremendous amount of -- so now the church is in a very curious position because
they don't want to offend -- because catholicism is such a hot button issue, they're walking a very fine line. what the church basically said in america is that slavery itself -- owning slaves is not a sin if it's done somewhere where it's legal like all those states in the south. [laughter] mistreating them is inis sinful -- is sinful but not owning them, and that was the basic catholic line. >> i just finished a book called "underground railroad," and i wondered if you had a comment on the blending of fact and fiction in that kind of -- >> i have not read it. but i've read -- there, you know, of course there are lots of civil war books that blend, that are historical novels or history books but there's some fiction. i get a little antsy about that myself. you know, write the novel or write it as nonfiction. i get a little worried about when they're mixing the two unless it's really clear that's what's going on and you're learning something from that by their doing that.
>> you may -- you just alluded to this, but when talking about the draft riots and all of the violence and conflict between the anti-slavery and confederate defenders, etc., what role does immigration and does white ethnicity, the different factions of protestants, catholics, irish-germans, etc., play in that? because it always seemed to me that even though it's often put many overwhelmingly white-black racial terms, that the experience of the massive immigration and people then being all of a sudden drafted and sent to a war in the country they just arrived in played a huge role. >> yes, absolutely. the irish especially. well, the germans had a somewhat different experience, but both -- they're the new people, they don't speak english, you know? a lot of the irish didn't speak english either. they were still gaelic speakers. a lot of the irish were
peasants, desperately poor peasants from the countryside thrown into the biggest city in the country, the dirtiest, most dense, craziest urban center in the country. so they're at sea. and and they are set upon and preyed upon by everybody. tammany hall was actually in its way good to the irish because they wanted their votes. they wanted to naturalize them and have their votes. and there was a point where tammany hall judges would just crowd a whole lot of irish guys around the bible, and they'd all put their hands on the bible and get made citizens all at once. [laughter] and, of course, they all voted tammany hall's way. i just alluded to it here and i get it into more in the book, there were, you know, it's called the draft riots. it was much more complex than that. it was a race riot, it was an economic riot, there were ethnic involvements. it was blamed at the time, the republicans and protestants in town said it was the irish. the irish did it.
it wasn't just the irish, it was a workers' revolt. so, of course, it was very complex and confused and confusing as most new york city history is. >> were there slaves in new york city at this time? >> no. slavery was ended in new york city over a gradual period, but it ended in 1827. however, southerners could legally bring their slaves with them when they came to visit, is so there were slaves in the city but not local slaves. there were about 12,000ing blacks, and they were free blacks. beyond their being free, their situation was not measurably better than being in the south. >> was it legal to buy and sell slaves -- >> in no. >> -- in new york city. >> not after 1827. one of the reasons -- they started, it was called manumission, they started that in 1798 and let it go until 1827 partly to give the owners, the slave owners in enough time to find buyers in the south for
their slaves. actually, i should say that's my interpretation of it. i'm not sure that's true but, actually, i'm sure that's true. [laughter] sir, okay. >> i'm trying to imagine the geography of these various factions in the the city at the time. were abolitionists and republicans sort of occupying identifiable neighborhoods or -- >> that's a very good question and, yes, they were. abolitionism, as i said, it tended to be a new england -- this is the white abolitionists. they tended to be from new england, they tended to have some money. they were usually moneyed people. so they were in the, for instance, the fifth ward which is the area around washington square park in greenwich village. which was the only ward that actually voted for lincoln. that was where republicans and abolitionists lived. there were others like over in
what we would call the east village now, but that neighborhood was a relatively upscale neighborhood at the time, so they were there. there was obviously, and i didn't mention this before probably, there was definitely a class divide going on. otherwise, however, we have to remember almost everybody in new york city was below -- they were certainly below 42nd street, and a lot of them were below 23rd street. this was 813,000 people crammed into a -- >> so you could consider the incoming irish to be sort of copperhead in their political leanings where they -- >> they were definitely with the democrats against the war. they had a very complicated relationship with the blacks in the city, but partly because they were on the two lowest rungs of the economic ladder, so they were living with each other, fighting each other, making love with each other.
they really mixed it up a lot. you see that in early minstrel music. for all their what they think are songs about the plantation south are really about the urban north where they're from. and a lot of those guys are irish. early minstrel music is not really that hateful, hateful form that it became later. it kind of became that later when it became commercially successful and people were cranking out out and just coming up with the worst song titles and song ideas that they could. worst, i mean worst, you know, morally worst. but in the early days, you can see there's a love/hate relationship there between the young irish and the blacks in their neighborhood. they're all together. the riots helps to end that. blacks wisely fled manhattan during and after the riots, and the population, the black population goes down after that and goes up in brooklyn.
okay. i think we're done. thank you all very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> you're watching booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. here's a look at what's on prime time tonight. we kick off the evening at 7:30 portfolio ian with msnbc's zachary ross and his thoughts on vote aring rights and corporate involvement in elections. at 8:45, jack cashell takes a
look at the crash of flight twa 800. then at ten on booktv's "after words," temple university professor discusses her book, "paying the price." and we wrap up in prime time at 11 with bradley bear certificate discussing his award-winning biography of russell kirk. that all happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. >> at that time the british empire was huge, you know? it ruled 450 million people, a quarter of the oplation, and they were spread -- population, and they were spread all over the world. and so they were spread very thin, you know? they were constantly putting down revolts. but to them, you know, these little colonial wars that they would fight, it was all about gallantry, you know, and being dashing. they hated losing their red coats, you know? they thought the khakis made them look hike bus drivers -- like bus drivers -- [laughter]
and they were still even, you know, for the boer war when it began, they were still fight anything these precise lines. >> so it was a relieved to world war i. >> it absolutely was. it was the beginning of modern warfare. not that many americans know much about the boer war, but it was some of the first guerrilla fighting, the modernization of weapons, concentration camps, and all those things -- the british army going in was completely different from the army that came out, and it prepared them for world war i. >> you write really splendidly about the boers about whom we know very little. is the boer presence in south africa still very strong? >> well, they, unfortunately, things are changing a lot. the boers were interesting people. they were very independent, they're very religious and they
were unabashedly racist. and, you know, that's sort of -- you may have heard of the great track where in 1835 they moved from the cape hundreds of miles into the interior, and that was set up primarily by the fact that two years earlier the british empire had abolished slavery. and so even though the british empire promised people, native africans and the indian population that was living there that as soon as they won the war things would change and be better for them, as we all know, that took much longer than anyone would have hoped. and so, of course, there is still an afrikaner presence but, you know, obviously nelson mandela was a huge breaking point for that, and things have changed quite a bit. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> booktv tapes hundreds of author programs throughout the country all year long.
here's a look at some of the events we'll be covering this week. on monday at the national constitution center in philadelphia judge david barron of the u.s. court of appeals for the 1st circuit will provide a history of the debates between the legislative and executive branch on the constitutional right to declare war. and later that day at the museum of flight in seattle journalist julian with guthrie will report on the privatization of space flight. wednesday david bodanis will recall al berth einstein -- albert einstein. he'll be joined by david auburn at the rubin museum of art9 in new york city. then on thursday at the national press club in washington, d.c., "st. louis post-dispatch" chief washington correspondent chuck rouse recalls the first day of the battle at gettysburg.
and next saturday we're live from the wisconsin book festival in madison with a full day of author programs featuring national book award finefinallist -- finalist, political science professor katherine kramer and jeff chang on race in america. that's a look at some of the author programs booktv is covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on booktv on c-span2. ..