Local History: New York

I like to make my customers happy. In keeping with this we shall take a left turn from Gettysburg into New York.  Incidentally, several Union troops who were on their way to fight at Gettysburg took a detour into New York City to put down the draft riots that occurred in New York that July.

Start out by reviewing this Prezi by Mr. Cordeiro.

There are several things to consider during our snapshots of New York at this time in history:

  • Nativism.  Early generations of Irish immigrants came early in the history of the nation. These tended to be Protestants, or Scotch-Irish. The English Civil War caused a lot of upheval in Britain, and part of the controversy surrounded the issue of religion. As Protestant sects split from the Roman Catholic Church, religion became a political issue rather than a spiritual one. For hundreds of years, the Catholic church represented empires and kings in Europe.  The “Divine Right of Kings, ” was part of this philosphy.  You might dare to rebel against a person, but if GOD HIMSELF made him king, you won’t mess with that.  What? You say… How do we KNOW God made you king? Well, because I’m king–if he made YOU king, YOU’d be king. Seems like flawed logic today, but in those days… well, enough said.   If the king switched religions, everyone did. This was at the heart of the English Civil War, where Catholics were stripped of their land and in some cases sent to colonies.  They were not allowed education, and were relegated to the bottom social classes.
  • Irish history:  Because of the Protestant Reformation, the divide in Europe between Catholics and Protestants became catastrophic.  It, in some neighborhoods, has lasted to this day.  Irish Protestants had land rights and priviledges. Catholics did not.  However, when the Great Famine in 1947–48 starved most of Catholic Ireland, many of the Irish Catholics emigrated to the United States.  This put two social classes of Irish in the United States.
  • Civil war looming in the background: One of the issues that the Constitutional Convention never addressed was the issue of slavery.  This film takes place against the backdrop of the Civil War.
  • Poverty: You’ll notice the clear separation between the haves and the have-nots in this film. Look for the living situations, the close-quarters, the way the fire brigades operated, and the activities of the poor.  Note that many of the poor became well-to-do by buying into the political machine.
  • Tammany Hall: This was the political machine in New York City.  Influential people like Boss Tweed organized the vote, recruiting voters and loyalists to support candidates that under the influence of Tammany Hall. Graft and corruption were the norm. In many cases, Tammany Hall took care of its own in return for patronage (loyalty, voting for the right candidate).

Critical questions:   

1. How have neighborhood, ethnic and religious divisions and rivalries continued locally and throughout the world until today? Examine gang violence, religious strife, or neighborhood divisions.

2. Has our political system improved in terms of graft and corruption? Examine this past election and/or the local headlines.

3. How has the infrastructure of major metropolitan areas changed? You can use a city like New York and examine the building of subways, zoning, commercial areas, sanitation systems, and other things that made the city modern, or you can consider the building and decline of your local mill villages, built to support the industrial machine in the region.  Look for hints:  factory houses near the river, larger houses up the hill, and the Victorian mansions located up the hill far from the factories. What does all this mean?

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