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A Newspaperman Reports on Election Day in the "Bloody Sixth"

This 1855 newspaper account of election day in lower Manhattan is filled with the reporter's assumptions about the Five Points immigrant neighborhood and its residents. Irish immigrants had by this time garnered a reputation for disorderliness and brawling; such violence was especially prevalent on Election Day, when newly-naturalized citizens found themselves struggling to gain representation in the city's shifting political landscape. By the mid-1850s, emerging urban political "machines" such as Tammany Hall sought immigrant votes, while anti-immigrant parties like the so-called "Know-Nothings" strove to preserve what they saw as the birthright of native-born citizens. Both sides frequently engaged the services of armed gangs, and polling places in the mid-nineteenth century were often sites of electoral fraud, repeat voting, and violent clashes between pro-and anti-immigrant factions.

ELECTION DAY IN THE CITY

No Rows, No Riots, No Rumpus

SIGHTS & SCENES ABOUT TOWN

…The Sixth Ward

The Sanguinary Sixth belied its pristine fame. There were no contests worth recording, and the swearing outside the polls, though somewhat energetic, was comparatively unimpressive. The Hibernian element was indeed predominant, but it showed itself less in the offensive than in that good-humored phase, which we laugh at in farces. And appreciate in melodrama….

It was indeed so novel to find the Golden Age restored to that renowned region…that we had to linger there. It was beautiful to behold the fraternity of our citizens. Hard-shell and Soft-Shell. Half-Shell and Quarter-Shell [Democrats], Whigs, (there were actually Whigs thereat least, there were Whig tickets offered to voters, but we didn’t see that any of them were accepted,) Know-Nothings, but didn’t a Know-Nothing feel small in the “bloody Sixth,” and if he voted, he was mindful to hold his tongue. And look as if he had gone the Irish ticket, out and out, Reformers. And last, but not least Republicans….

In the Third District, (No. 147 Leonard-street, on the east side of centre and actually in the Five Points,) the Hibernian accent, gesture, enthusiasm, and peculiar bent of mind, displayed themselves to their utmost advantage. We were delighted. For a long time we hovered around this spot, (it was not very rich in odors,) and mingled with the choice knots of patriots (none the less so, that many of them were just naturalized,) which blocked up the doorway and impeded the access to the ballot boxes….But there was positively no fight; 395 votes were polled here, being 80 more than last year.

At the corner of Bayard-street and the Bowery we found the polling place of the Fourth District. The same element was here also, in a majority, and the Democratic ticket was the rage, Irish candidates, of course, being the favorites. But we chronicle the fact that there was no fight here, and that 278 votes were polled.

We are sorry to say that Mott-street is not the best-behaved street in the Sixth Ward. At the polling place there, for the Fifth District, the Kerrigan Party had some little differences, in which some blows, productive of bruised eyes and crimsoned noses, were playfully exchanged. The Inspectors here, as also the policemen, and, in fact, all officially connected with the proceedings, were not disposed to be civil or communicative. Consequently, we cannot give the vote polled. The Irish element was larger here than in any place in the Ward.

Source | "Election Day in the City," The New York Daily Times, 7 November 1855.
Creator | The New York Daily Times
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | The New York Daily Times, “A Newspaperman Reports on Election Day in the "Bloody Sixth",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 14, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/883.

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