A. Oakey Hall Tells of Some Famous Street Fights How the Wheel of Fortune Turned for a Poor Boy
Recollections of the Abolition and Astor Place Riots—What the Police Did During the Draft Riots—They Might forHave Put Down the Disturbances if the Governor Had Not Interfered—How Seymour Won the Enmity of Citizens by Addressing the Rioters as Friends.
LONDON, Aug. 21.—To begin with, my recollection of riots is tinctured with one of the most dramatically realistic incidents within my reading or experiences. About thirty years ago a young boy, with several other boys, was arraigned in the Court of General Sessions before Recorder Barnard, charged with promoting a riot in the Eighteenth ward, East River side, not far from the gas works. I was struck with the pleasant expression on the boy’s face. He no more looked like a rioter than Oliver Twist looked like a pickpocket to old Mrs. Brownlow, or afterward to the butler like a burglar. His counsel offered a minor plea, which would involve only a few days’ imprisonment in the Tombs, but the boy shook his head. “I hain’t done nothing,” he was heard to say, and we went to trial, if it could be called a trial—For there was some evidence of a scrimmage and of the throwing of stones and of a combination of men and boys to make a street row. The Recorder, to my astonishment, charged pretty bitterly in an adverse speech, and all were convicted of riot. Both Harry Vandervoort, the “doyen” of the Court,–he was a good old soul, and served as deputy and full clerk during thirty years—and myself urged a technical sentence or a suspension of judgment pending good behavior, and in the urging the Recorder seemed to concur— there never was a kinder hearted criminal judge than George G. Barnard was—but yielding to some pressure from two or three local politicians he, to the surprise of jurors and all in court, imposed sentence of confinement in the penitentiary. I soon learned that in the Eighteenth ward there were two political factions of the same party, and that the “rioters” belonged to one faction and were to be made examples of for the ultimate benefit of the other faction under the influence ultimately of which the “rioters” were pardoned out to serve new political purposes.
About ten years later I was attending the impeachment trial, before Senate and Court of Appeals, of George G. Barnard, ex-Recorder and then Justice of the Supreme Court.
He sat as an accused in a chair beside distinguished counsel.
In another chair, not far away and as a judge, sat the riotous boy.
He was now a Senator. The whirligig of time had revolved, and the old positions were reversed. The riotous boy and the Senatorial Judge that in the person of James O’Brien, whose bookkeeping exposures had resulted in exiling the very politician of the Eighteenth ward whose influence had undeservedly sent the “boy” to prison.
Is there not a wheel of retribution in the social machinery that revolves side by side with the whirligig of time?
It has been my fortune to, become officially concerned in three series of metropolitan riots. These were known as “Dead Rabbit riots,” “draft riots” and “Orange riots;” also to personally, in a private capacity, become a spectator of the Astor place riot; also, by direct hearsay from a spectator of the “abolition riot,” to learn all about its origin and denouement.
This last mentioned affair occurred while I was an infant; but my late uncle, General William Hall, once gave me a vivid sketch of what he saw. The riot began in the Fourth ward, which he twice represented in the Common Council and once in the State Senate. At the time he was colonel of the once famous Washington Grays regiment. During the Astor place and draft riots he was a brigadier general, and each time on military duty toward rioters. I have also heard an entertaining account of abolition riot from Judge Charles P. Daly, then a Fourth ward boy, and who afterward had the fortune of presiding at the trial of Astor place rioters. Details of both riots are fully supplied by the readily accessible histories of New York city, from the pens of Mrs. Mary L. Booth and William L. Stone.
From the abolition riots to the draft riots–faired to the negro race being important pivots in each–and from the burning of the houses of anti-slavery pioneers to the emancipation proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, the jump better to accomplishment was a very long one. No one has described the incidents of the jump better than these have been narrated in the “American Conflict” of Horace Greeley—that president maker for others, but not for himself.
During the last years of President Quincy Adams’s term, and the early years of “old Hickory’s” succeeding term the “irrepressible conflict” between slavery and anti-slavery had commenced. To New York city the brothers Louis and Arthur Tappans were becoming what William L. Garrison and Theodore Parker had, on anti-slavery apostles, become to Boston. While the latter named gentlemen were serving, by oratory, the principle of abolishing slavery and aiding fugitive slaves to escape the Tappans, with their moneyed subscriptions, were promoting the principle. When an “incendiary” meeting to serve this promotion was held at the Chatham Street Chapel, near the denizens of the excitable Sixth and Fourth wards, the absurd rage; not only of groundhogs but of the well to to and educated classes, became excited at the participants in the meeting. Slavery, as an institution, was then a corner stone in both the political edifices of Whig and Democratic parties—much as tariffs are now the corner stone of existing partisan ediface. All Northern political leaders, except a few William Tells, doffed hats to the Gessler of slavery. All mobs trample logic into the mire, and so an anti-abolition mob trampled logic into partisan mud by sacking the innocent chapel and making a bonfire of the elegant furniture of Arthur and Lewis Tappan. Many of the Lord George Gordon scenes described in Barnaby Rudge were enacted in Chatham and Pearl streets. Young Isaiah Rynders was the Simon Tappertit of the abolition riots, and he lived to be dethroned as a political kin by anti-slavery men who became the successors to the Tappans. I remember my uncle saying, in one night we had been visitants to a theater near Chatham square, where the drama of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had been performed; “When I stood on this post and saw the abolition riot, I little thought that there would be a time when I should cross the street to find an anti-slavery play, hailed with enthusiasm.
The abolition riots destiny is to be one day seen as precursory to the civil war as, in relation of events, the head of John the Baptist was towards the Crucifixion.
The Astor place riot was more senseless than the abolition riot. “Doughfaced” merchants—then doing business below Fulton street—might well fear the effect of anti-slavery meetings upon Southern customers, but why the feeling toward an actor, manifested against Mr. Macready by rioters, should culminate in riot and slaughter continues to be a mystery which even the able charge of Judge Daly failed to elucidate at the riots trials. All other riots have had color of reasons and of excitant causes, but the incentive to the Astor place riot was as silly as possible. People might as well have mobbed Wilson Barrett in New York, because he had in his company an actor who was alleged to imitate, or if you please, burlesque the American favorite, Irving.
I was then a law student in the office of Charles W. Sanford, the predecessor, as commander of New York’s military division, of General Shaler, and in the afternoon he said” “As you went last evening to the Astor Place Theater to see Mr. Macready and the ‘fun,’ you might be tempted to go there again this evening, but don’t go, for there is evidently going to be a disastrous row. Chief of Police Matsell has spies in the ranks of the Macready malcontents, and he finds them organized and bound to mob the theater, capture Macready and subject him to violence and disgrace. So serious are the apprehensions that Mayor Woodhull, the Recorder to read the Riot act, half the police force and the Seventh regiment are to be on hand and orders are out to serve with ball cartridge. So don’t go.”
Of course, with the contrariety of youth, I internally resolved to go, and in the spirit of the old Parisian resident, who, never having been outside of Paris walls, was the first man found climbing over them when an order during a war had gone forth to “keep within them.”
The General continued: “My preparations would have been different. I would not have the military in sight, but in reserve. But I should have provided cavalry in St. Mark’s place, near the churchyard, and planted two cannon in Astor place square at Third avenue. If trouble arose blank cartridge fired with ominous sound, succeeded by a charge of Varian’s Washington Gray troopers, would soon scatter a mob. Meanwhile the police could surround the Opera House.”
Of course I am giving from memory the substance and not the words of his expressed ideas. The results showed the wisdom of his views. General Sanford was a thoroughly trained military man, and military affairs constituted his hobby. But the Mayor and the Chief of Police were against his views, although the Recorder—himself the son of a great Revolutionary general and “well up” in military theories—shared them. The civic authority was to be tried first and to its utmost power. But it was inherently weak. The Mayor was a timid and irresolute gentleman. The police knew more about detective than executive business. Compared with the police of to-day it was the raw recruits of Bunker Hill compared with the veterans who under Grant marched into Richmond.
When I reached Astor place I found that the bystanders were allowed to remain in and around Eighth street, Lafayette and Astor places. Indeed, if Mrs. Woodbury Langdon, whose corner house was opposite the theater, had been giving one of her large and celebrated balls, Sexton Brown of Grace Church and the ward captain of police would have cleared a larger space to ward off groups of spectators. The very presence of the military was a confession of a sense of inefficiency, and it infuriated the rioters. The worst elements of the city were around. Immigrant runners from the First ward, dock thieves from the Third and Fifth wards, rag pickers, bone boilers, sneak thieves, Harlem footpads, Staten Island boatmen, with rowdy fire ladies and roughs burning for fight and plunder and ready to accept any pretext for disorder, everywhere abounded. Most of these recognized the inefficiency and want of discipline in the police, and none of them believed that the Seventh would really fire on the “boys.” The trained police force of 1890, skilled in all street evolutions, could have kept clear all the spaces and practiced the true police dictum—“prevention is better than cure.” In therefore comprehending the disastrous events of the night knowledge must be given to the municipal condition of forty years ago.
I myself had a foolhardy position on the steps of the church that had recently been transplanted, stone for stone, from Murray street, and that has since become a theater. We saw the stalwart figure of Recorder Tallmadge reading something, and knew it must be the Riot act; we saw the fat and porpoise-like figure of Chief Matsell motioning the police, and the patrolmen making ineffectual efforts to charge the multitude, but always with irresolute clubs; we saw a heap of large pebbles, the residue of some street paving that the fatuous authorities had not removed during the day, and that the mob freely availed itself of, and finally we saw a rush at the deployed police and military. Then a sonorous voice cried: “Prepare to fire.” For a moment confusion lulled. A few voices cried, “Blank cartridges,” in sarcastic tones. Another rush and more volleys of stones followed, when immediately was heard such a feu de jole as the citizens had grown familiar with one Fourth of July in park and at the Battery.
For a moment the crowd swayed back and the most timorous scattered. Pour moi-meme, a parody of Hudibras came to my mind that “he who looks and runs away may live to look another day,” and so I made for a fourth avenue exit as rapidly as the elbows of the surging and somewhat panic stricken crowd allowed. Presently from around the corner we heard another round fired. Having previously fought and bled and died on pavements and on the grass of target grounds as a private in McArdle’s famous City Guard of bearskins and scarlet coat, I was able to detect that the round was again of blank. Almost simultaneously, however, ended a sharp report which told of cartridges. Then wild cries followed and an ominous roar of maddened voices. Many of us retreated to a public house pavilion hard by—a remnant of old Vauxhall Garden days—wherein goes of ale and eke something stronger could strengthen conversation and protests. There, in about a quarter of an hour, fresh arrivals brought news that the police and military had now done what they should have done hours previously, cleared the squares and adjacent streets and occupied them. The above sentence would be more accurate if it stated that he “mobites” themselves had cleared the squares; for a few had been killed and a large number wounded. Taking up the jargon of post bellum dispatches: “Among the missing was Mayor Woodhull,” who was still inside of the New York Hotel surrounded by satellites of gossips discussing the hearsay of the situation. Meanwhile, the innocent cause of the silly disturbance, yet fatal riot—the actor—had been collared by Falstaff Hackett and by the Ninth street stage door removed to a place of safety.
The moral of the whole affair long remained in press type, “Never allow your mob to assemble.” I remember a verse of a contemporary ballad (ballads were then sold by the two cents’ worth at park railings) that ran thus:
Oh, Macready, he was “fly.”
And many bystanders fell;
While the Mayor sought a refuge
In the New York Hotel.
The best accounts I ever read of the Astor place riot and of the subsequent trial, together with notices of Rynders (as second figurer in riots) and of Net Buntline, who were not backward in coming forward, were published in the Sunday Mercury.
The lessons and moral of the Macready riot were practically felt fourteen years later when the enforcement of the draft or conscription again brought forward illogical and senseless mobs. The police had then been bettered by the Metropolitan system. The police had found wise heads and experienced men. Mayor Woodhull and Mayor Wood, without the hull, had been replaced by the only Republican Mayor New York has ever had—George Opdyke—who, as merchant, philanthropist, banker and Assemblyman had displayed executive capabilities. Chief Matsell was then in a trance waiting to be resurrected nearly a decade later by Mayor Havemeyer. The chief was John A. Kennedy—a fighter by nature and executively mingling his fiery heart with Commissioner Tom Acton’s cool brain. All these were in sympathy with the Lincoln-Stanton administration and firm against rioting. So they were reasonably prepared to deal with riots.
In my judgment—I was then District Attorney and in constant intercourse with them—except for the interference—kindly designed and well-intentioned although it was—of Governor Seymour, the initial rioting would not have developed into serious and extensive results. And we shall presently see that it was the interference of Governor Hoffman in 1871 that gave vitality to the Orange riot of that year.
Governor Seymour arrived in town on the second day of the disturbances. The opposition to the enforcement of the conscription had so far proceeded from persons and leaders who were Democrats. With these Governor Seymour was deservedly popular and he might be expected to possess influence with them. He came down from the capital on his own notion, and after a brief interview with Mr. Opdyke in the Mayor’s office, went upon the City Hall steps, accompanied by the city’s chief magistrate and some municipal officers. A very large concourse was there assembled. To the most of those the newspaper offices hard by had proved the magnet—for extras were being issued almost every hour regarding the riotous feeling and manifestations. Not a few alarmed citizens had come down to the municipal headquarters for courage and instruction. There were also many sympathizers with the mob. The foreign element was largely represented in the concourse. Tens of thousands of the foreign born, who left their native countries because of military conscriptions and who detested it, were before City Hall. Does not almost every orator have some pet word or phrase? With the affirmative answer custom has much concern. I knew a lawyer who became a lay preacher, and on taking his place for pulpit debut he began his sermon before an audience principally composed of ladies with the phrase, “Gentlemen of the jury.” One of Governor Seymour’s accustomed phrases was “My friends,” or “Dear friends,” or “Friends.” “Fellow citizens,” as a traditional beginning of a speech, was not a formidable phrase in the mind’s eye of Horatio. He began his address with an allusion to “Friends.” His speech was temperately conceived and uttered. Nevertheless, in the excitement caused by events and occasion, he perhaps alluded to the riots semi-apologetically in connection with the unwonted American conscription or draft. Every newspaper, except the World and News, was then edited in a pronounced spirit favoring the draft. Each one immediately “mounted” the Governor for his speech and especially for the use of the word “friends.” George Jones’ paper, then edited by Mr. Raymond, and H.G. in the Tribune turned their pens into triphammers on the event and their ink stands fairly seethed. Governor Seymour was denounced as a sympathizer with the rioters, who had become his “friends.” Assuredly this view became impressed upon maddened foreigners, who had begun violence against supervisors of the draft, recruiters and provost marshals; and that view, certainly within my own observation and hearing, stimulated the rioters. “The Governor was on their side!” Even the women took up the cry and joined, like the red petticoats of Robespierre’s Parisians, the commotion. As in the Abolition riot, the turn was illogically against the negro. “Was not this a war for his benefit?” “Should husbands and fathers be forced to fight for him?” etc. “Therefore, let’s ‘pitch into’ the negro. It was nothing that the escaped negro of 1833 was blameless of abolition meetings; nothing that the Northern negro had naught to do with the war.
He must be made a scapegoat. So the mob burned the Colored Asylum on Fifth avenue wherein were housed innocent “darky” children, to who Jeff Davis or General McClellan were as an Old Man of the Mountain or a Jack the Giant Killer in fairy tales. Unoffending negroes were hunted like weasels or rats, and several were strung up to lamp posts and trees a la Judge Lynch, two being actually strangled.
Federal Marshal Bob Murray was mobbed and Recruiter Joel B. Erhardt—now Collector of the Port—was to be made a Sisera of—reversing the nomenclature of Holy Writ. In many instances among the depraved classes opportunity was to be sought to destroy ammunition and gun factories, and even private houses were to be pillaged.
Meanwhile, the police force teemed with heroes. Police Commissioner Acton, Superintendent Kennedy and their men exposed their lives, seemingly recklessly. Those popular Irishmen, Mat Brennan and Mike Connolly, unofficially strove to subdue mob spirit and violence, and like the farmhouse fight at Quatre Bras on the hillsides of Waterloo the police fought the riotous districts, mainly in the westward sections of the city, ward by ward. Clubs proved to be better trumps than bayonets, and the police mistakes of previous years were avenged. Even Rynders redeemed his old record, and did great service as a pacificator—the negro rioter of thirty years before had become the conciliator of negro rioters of 1866. Isaiah, the old prophet, had now become the “profiter.” I believe that Superintendent Kennedy never recovered from the injuries he received during many melees. After the curtain had fallen on the tragedy came the interlude of the trial of the rioters—whom in many instances Recorder Hoffman “drafted” into penal institutions. Also came the farce of the investigations into riot claims by the Board of Supervisors, through whom nearly a million of dollars were distributed in payment of losses. I fear that many “jobs” were undertaken in connection with those riot claims. One job alleged against Mayor Opdyke by Thurlow Weed in his newspaper led to the cause célèbre of a libel suit by the former against the latter, that the jury made a draw game of.
Eight years later came the Orange riots. A few years previously Orange and S. Patrick-ers’ processions had crossed each other in the streets, and a “shindy”—almost a prologue to a riotous drama—had occurred.. Bitter feeling between Belfastians and Corkonians in consequence steadily grew. Later, when the “wearers of the green” and worshipers of the “Pat”-tron Saint had a 17th day of March procession sundry “Orangers” had guyed portions of it. In time it came to pass that early in July, when the “orangers”—after some years of lull in celebrating the 12th of the month, the anniversary of the “Battle of the Boyne where Orange victory was ‘foyne’”—determined to have a gala procession and picnic.
Certain belligerent Emeralds of the opposite faction, secretly resolved to stop the Orange Procession. The bitterest of feeling was aroused in certain quarters. In other quarters dominated by members of the “Friendly Sons of St. Patrick” the feeling was frowned upon. The then Police Superintendent, John Jourdan—himself an Irishman, but not belonging even to the Mystic Order of the Shillelah, and who had had great experience as a captain of the “bloody Sixth”—together with a few peaceful chiefs of the Anti- Orange party, quietly assured me that trouble impended and that certain Anti-Orange hot heads were determined to attack the Orange procession at some secretly kept point of the procession. This intent reached the ears of the Orangemen, and, instead of intimidating them, deepened their feelings and intentions to have a “big spread.” They determined to have a fuller representation of lodges than at first had been considered. Accordingly instructions were heightened. On the other hand, the belligerents, who did not believe in reawakening slumbering religious antipathies by celebrating in an American city a foreign sectarian victory, became more anxious for the coat tail treading famous in Irish drama. As Mayor I became satisfied that, “willy, nilly,” there would ensue a riot which might be far reaching in disastrous results.
Superintendent Jourdan and several police captains became strongly of the same opinion. So did the Police Commissioners, among whom was the conservative ex-Judge Bosworth. It was therefore determined to forbid the procession. It was believed that to keep the peace was the first business of a magistrate and that no maxim was more true than the Justinian one—Salus Populi suprema lex. I once knew a distinguished divine who said that Pontius Pilate, under his limited light, was technically justified as a mere magistrate aiming to keep the peace and overthrow what, under his limited light, was sedition, in doing what he did in old Jerusalem and Calvary days.
Circumstances that some day will furnish me an opportunity of writing an interesting recollection of Charles O’Conor had made me very intimate with that distinguished lawyer, not only in his professional, but in his private and domestic capacities.
He frequently gave me opportunities and privileges of conversing with and consulting him. Nor aid his active interest in what was popularly called the municipal frauds of the same year at all interfere with our friendship or intimacy. I consulted him on the Orange subject, and he not only agreed in the wisdom of forbidding the procession, but he consented to draft the proposed order that Superintendent Jourdan was to issue. This he did, and New Yorkers now learn for the first time who was the author of the famous local order that for several days interested the entire press of America in a constitutional discussion. The draft manuscript of the order culminated with only immaterial verbal alteration, in the following document:
GENERAL ORDER NO. 67
OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE
OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, 300 MULBERRY STREET
NEW YORK, JULY 10, 1871
To Captain ———– Precinct:
The Superintendant has been applied to by the grand master of the Orange lodges in the United states to give police support to a celebration by a procession through the principal streets and avenues of the city of New York on the 12th inst. In honor of the battle of the Boyne and the surrender which was its consequence.
Those several commemorative victories on the soil of Ireland by one English King over another one two centuries ago engendered national differences which have descended from generation to generation with increasing acrimony, and large bodies of citizens participating in these feeling form parts of our community.
The Superintendent has been legally advised he should not aid any street celebrations that involve feuds and animosities belonging solely to the history of other countries than our own, and which experience has proved to endanger the public peace abroad and at home.
The proposed celebration, as is obvious to every one, belongs to the last named class. Last year, upon the same calendar day, and unexpected public celebration of the foreign event just named was accompanied in the streets with inexcusable and deplorable affrays, by which four citizens lost their lives despite the interference of the police. This violence was apparently unpremeditated, and resulted from what may be termed spontaneous excitement. This year, however, the procession has been announced much in advance and unusual arrangements have been made to swell the numbers of participants by accessions from other parts of this State and from other States.
It is given out that armed preparations for defense have been made by members of the parading lodges. Indeed, the announced procession appears to have been especially organized beyond the magnitude of any previous one, and is emphasized with announcements that apparently evince a determination to resist, if not to avenge, the events which attended last year’s celebration; and some of its leaders have stated to the Superintendent that they consider a collision inevitable. If this needless celebration should provoke a general disturbance it would furnish the opportunity always sought for by the lawless and dangerous classes of the community to participate in it, and to carry consequences so far as to endanger the safety of person and property. Recent disturbances have been announced from Great Britain by cable dispatches as incident to similar public demonstrations by the Orange institutions in that country. And upon a closer survey the Superintendent is convinced that if the proposed procession forms or moves with its banners and traditional music, amid many unthinking, rash and hot headed spectators who are not in sympathy with the foreign feuds which the procession is intended to glorify, then the whole police (and perhaps much of the military) force of the city might be required to protect the procession and large sections of the city most needing watching would be left unguarded.
If any procession (or occupation by marching order of the streets) were a matter of right, or could legally demand protection, then it should at all hazards, receive escort and guard, because the authorities never should allow that which is matter of right to the populace to be ever lawlessly overawed. But legal decisions have settled that occupation of streets by processions is a mere matter of usage or toleration, and supervision. The surrender of thoroughfares to large organized bodies of men necessarily interferes with the individual rights of other citizens, and those thus engaged are, in the language of the law, permissible trespassers. The toleration of processions by citizens and authorities is perhaps due to the fact that street meetings and parades always represent some sentiment or occasion not at all calculated to provoke hot blood.
In every subject matter for police discretionary permission the inconvenience of the few out to be surrendered to the widest security for the property and person of the greatest number of citizens. And at all times the police should prevent occasions for disorder rather than wait to regulate or suppress it. It is very clear that if any one individual should undertake by himself to produce an occasion of irritation and excitement of others in the community he would not be in such an act entitled to police protection. And surely what may not be done by one individual ought not to be attempted by the organized man, when the aggravation would be so much greater.
Therefore you are herewith ordered (in conformity to the private directions herewith promulgated, and which relate merely to details of discipline and arrangements for police action not expedient to be publicly announced) to prevent the formation or progression of the public street procession for the 12th inst. Alluded to, and of all processions under pretense of target purposes. You will also on that day impartially keep all streets cleared from groups and assemblages of every class of citizens, whether sympathizing with or against the proposed procession, or whether they are lawlessly disposed or otherwise. You will also promptly arrest all person of any description who in the thoroughfares use threatening or disorderly language inciting to breach of peace, in contempt of the State statutes upon the subject.
JAMES J. KELSO, Superintendent
It was issued two days before the eventful 12th of July. Recently the city of London has been interested in the clubs, in press, and in salon with discussions of a heated nature regarding the suppression by Scotland Yard police officials of certain processions to and from Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park when disorder and riot seemed imminent. What the Daily News, the Pall Mall Gazette, Labonucherre’s Truth and divers other Gladstonian journals have recently written in constitutional deprecation of the London police order—although couched in language stronger than is traditional in English journals—seem childish expressions of rhetoric compared to the dynamitic explosion of the American press on the day of the publication of the order.
What! deny the right of procession?
No newspaper saw fit to inform the public that the Legislature had authorized the Board of Police to consider and license processions so far as route was concerned, and to restrict the supposed “right.” Republican newspapers were especially—and doubtless tactically within their political right—severe upon the order as a Democratic outrage upon popular freedom. It became immediately known that I furnished the manuscript of the order, and telegraphic dispatches by the hundred rained upon me from Democratic leaders in all parts of the State begging to have the order withdrawn.
“Do you wish to jeopardy Hoffman’s chances for the Presidency?” “Are you striving to ruin our party?” etc., etc., were some of the purported advices.
I answered through reporters who swarmed—like the honey bees they are—around the municipal hive in the park: “The order is not issued by Democrats as Democrats, but by peace officers in the keeping of the peace.” But the drama of riot was thereby being well advertised.
On the afternoon of the day of the press chorus I received a telegram from Governor Hoffman: “Please meet me this evening with Jourdan and a few private friends, Clarendon Hotel, for conference. Order disapproved.
He came. We met. He conquered.
I had fortunately encountered Mr. O’Conor at his office and took consultation. I well remember the Mephistophhelian laugh he had when, swelling with sarcasm and cynicism, he said “So the politicians are alarmed.” Then, after a pause, he added: “But the Governor cannot revoke it. Where is his jurisdiction?” There spoke the thorough lawyer to whom jurisdiction is the alpha of the indefinable et cetera usually a sign at the end.
I told him “I feared that the Board of Police—only Judge Bosworth adverse—would advise the withdrawal of the order. Superintendent Jourdan believes in letting it stand.:
“How stand your political associates?”
“As far as I have heard they are with Hoffman, with the exception of Park Commissioner Sweeney.”
Accordingly the prohibition was withdrawn. The next morning the press exulted. Belshazzar Hoffman, who saw the handwriting on the wall, and in paraphrasing the language of the poet, “Belshazzar was king. Belshazzar was lord, and a thousand courtiers bowed at his board.”
On the following day the press knew, as the price of sustaining the freedom of procession and of maintaining constitutional right, citizens killed and many wounded by the militia who were called out by the Governor—Jim Fisk’s regiment prominent and its colonel conspicuously unhorsed and in retreat over a fence to a rear yard.
From the window of a friend’s house I happened to see the Orange procession—now much diminished in numbers. They were surrounded on the flanks by policemen in serried single file, and to the uninstructed spectator the processionists looked like convicts on their way to prison.
A few days afterward I took luncheon with Charles O’Conor. We was more cynical than ever. He always disliked politicians and they always disliked him, as was proven when he ran as Governor or Lieutenant Governor (I forget which) on a hardshell Democratic State ticket with ex-Chancellor Walworth, whose grandson his skill and eloquence saved from a parricide’s fate. He again inveighed against the politicians and also against the press.
I remember saying substantially in answer that he who undertook to arraign or dispute with a newspaper lacked the discretion which Solomon in his Proverbs praised; that if the disputant was right the newspaper, even when there was against it a knock down, would “come up smiling in the next round,” and when he was wrong would find himself “knocked out of time.”
As in the Astor place riots, so in this Orange riot the presence of the military was a mistake. As it angered the Macready rioters, so it angered the foes of the Orangemen. In 1871 the police were strong and could have been able to both protect the Orangemen and disperse the crowd with doubtless only a production of many broken heads, since a procession became possible. But the misfortune was that the Governor thought the order had demoralized the force. Nothing, however, can demoralize the police more than an unnecessary presence of the military, because then the police feel they are distrusted and to some extent discredited. This result has been vindicated in Ireland under the Balfour regime, and London, with all its swarming guards and grenadiers and footpad guys in uniform with angularly perched cook caps, never supplements with these the helmeted, broad booted and erect constables commonly called peelers and bobbies. Some weeks later, when Mr. O’Conor had been deputed to investigate the accounts and alleged misfeasances exposed by the Times, I again met him—to whom I had shown some of the aforesaid telegrams of Democratic warnings—“Ah!” he said in a sly, sardonic manner. “It is not our proclamation that has destroyed the Democratic party. Some of its greedy leaders have killed it.”