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New York City (1863)

In 1863, citizens were drafted to serve on the Union side in the Civil War. However, a loophole existed, and anybody with $300 could pay a commutation fee and avoid conscription. In today’s dollars, that fee would be equal to over $5000, a sum of money far out of the reach of poor and working-class people.

Resentment at the situation eventually resulted in rioting, but those taking part soon targeted African-Americans, and large numbers were lynched in the streets and had their homes destroyed.

President Lincoln sent militia regiments to pacify the city, and by the fourth day the uprising was crushed decisively. But to this day, no one can agree on the number of people killed in the rioting or in the military action that suppressed it. Figures vary between 120 and 2000 people killed, and damage was estimated as between $1 million and $5 million, a huge sum of money for the time.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons