Disorder (1820 – 1854) – Philadelphia The Great Experiment

Philadelphia belongs not to the south but not to the north either Philadelphia belongs to the border we don’t want those abolitionists any more than we want those slave traders white people will be Supreme working class as well as wealthy black people are seen and not earth that’s the border just over the line between north and south philadelphia has erected its own borders twenty-nine autonomous townships and districts an urban bedlam surrounding America’s wealthiest city laborers bankers and firebrands fight for control whose Philadelphia will survive our own Ben Franklin comes here with nothing but hard work and an idea and sets to work making a life James Fortin who follows him is one of hundreds and thousands of successors a hard-working man with an idea who builds up his own business and become successful he hired black and white into his sale making shop that was unheard of in late 18th century and early 19th century America Fortin said I want to make the best sale possible and so if you can do better than this person I’m gonna hire you I don’t care if you’re Jewish I don’t care if you’re white I don’t care if you’re black I need the best people in my business she’s probably worth at least $100,000 and that’s a lot and I do mean all a lot of money in 1830s Philadelphia the 1830s marks a steep increase in slavery on Philadelphia’s doorstep in the south and with it a surge of racism on the streets the border city defines James Horton only one way as a black man his wife told the British visitor that even as a Fortin they could not walk through the streets of this city without young white men and white boys chasing after them August 1834 James fortin’s son Thomas is out on an errand when he is targeted by a mob of white tough poor whites have more in common with poor blacks than they probably realized but you know because race became the driving issue it drove a wedge between these two communities how free is free when you worry constantly about your children’s safety about whether or not they will be kidnapped and tortured for you to never see again when Thomas escapes a neighbor overhears the mob’s vow to return to the corner and finish the business once the neighbor tells James Fortin Fortin is able because of his influence because of his money he’s able to call the mayor he’s demanding justice Mayor John Swift sends Philadelphia constables out to protect Thomas Fortney the arrest of seven men enrages whites in the city and across South Street in Moyamensing along South Street there were cheap entertainments brothels and a public carousel called the flying horses which was popular with both working-class whites and working class blacks the burning of the flying versus carousel is a spark that ignites the white mob to riot and the riot doesn’t stop there using the remains of the carousel as weapons for two nights the mob attacks black churches and lutes

black businesses and homes they aren’t one the hunt for any defenseless black person that they can find if you’re a mob in 1834 at the corner of 7th and south all you have to do is cross the street into Moyamensing Township and you were then immune from the Philadelphia police white philadelphians are able to avoid violence so if they mark their homes by candles or lanterns they were protected that racial animus could not be bought away the only thing that could have happened to James Fortin which could never happen to him was for him to be able to change the color of his skin the one thing he could not by desperate black philadelphians reconsider an old idea leaving to form a colony in Africa organizers of the American Colonization Society urge Fortin to join it says you know we understand that race is the central problem in America we think we found the solution we have some land in Africa and all of you can go back but Fortin and other black leaders see through the scheme james Fortin remembers hearing the Declaration of Independence read publicly for the first time so go back where I’ve fought for this country I suffered the hell of being imprisoned for this country yet some ingenious gentlemen have recently discovered that I am still an African if I should only be set on the shore that distant land I should run it once to the old hut where my forefathers lived 100 years ago James Fortin only four blocks away from the flying horse riot was the home of Nicholas Biddle the quintessential Philadelphia blueblood the last of the great enlightenment men Biddle was descended from one of the founding generation of Pennsylvania his forebears were to say the least distinguished Biddle is president of the second bank of the United States on Chestnut Street which holds and invests the deposits of the United States Treasury the bank is key to Biddle’s grand plan to end the chaos of urban life through investment in infrastructure manufacturing and education Philadelphia had been the financial capital of the new nation Chestnut Street was the Wall Street of the early republic Biddle proves to be the model central banker if he sees credit conditions getting a little too tight he released his money into the market if they’re little too frothy he kind of reins them in the bank can literally move markets when he becomes president of a second bank of the United States he has a building constructed of Philadelphia marble but it’s on the model of the Parthenon it’s a temple of Finance and it’s philosopher-king was Nicholas Biddle Charles dick and this comes to Philadelphia he looks at this building and he says why is this Bank in the form of a temple and someone says people build temples to the things they love Biddle’s Bank produces a City of Industry Philadelphians Hall coal they build ships they make railroad cars carriages iron work wools cotton indigo dyes steam machines and glass they brew beer and invent medical cures altogether more than any other place in the nation in order to make money with money you have to not only sell product you have to keep costs down and the most logical thing to do is to depress wages philadelphia’s craftsmen blame Biddle’s bank for the suppression of wages and they idolize the new US President Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson comes into presidential politics as a man of the people as a populist just like us Jackson is an Indian killer very wild character compared to the wig elite that has established itself in Philadelphia

Andrew Jackson is radical in his hatred and contempt for shopkeepers for banks for credit which he regards as the evil machinations of money men and stock jobbers to undermine the independence of ordinary Americans like himself Andrew Jackson he’s not cowed by the Nicholas Biddle he’s not impressed with banks and Perry wigged judges Jackson will kill the Biddle’s bank he will veto the bill to recharter it Andrew Jackson being the man who never backed down from a fight of course if he does it slowly and is dogged Lee he attacks Biddle and by extension Philadelphia’s preeminence in the financial world when Biddle fights back by restricting the flow of capital into the economy he pushes the nation into a fierce depression the bank war really hurts the city Philadelphia is never going to be the banking capital of the nation again and that honor really passes to New York that creates an opening for Philadelphia’s white working-class to grab the reins again Irish born John Farrell is a handloom Weaver living in manioc his way of life threatened by mechanization and mass production the worker was very personally attached to his work he most likely lived above his workspace he most likely set his own hours if he did not want to work on Saturday or Sunday he would not but as factories grow in scope something is under siege at this point Farrell calls on exploited workers across the trades to organize John Farrell called maniac mill owners a blood sucking aristocracy for paying men only 80 cents per day and women only 40 cents per day he noticed something particularly among the coal heavers along the Schuylkill River and he had actually said to them do you not recall from Ireland the way that the aristocracy they’re often tried to drive a wedge between us based on our religious differences they’re working 16 18 hours a day he’s able to bring them all together to demand a 10-hour workday and to demand safe working conditions we are all day laborers after 20,000 strikers shut down the city’s economy in the summer of 1835 employers agree to a 10-hour workday the nation’s first major victory for organized labor it’s an enormous milestone but they still view themselves as vulnerable white workers do not look with favor on fugitives from slavery coming into town bringing skills John Farrell refuses to accept any black workers into his movement his comrades pushed them out the country’s economic well-being is now tied to capitalism and the cotton economy people are making their fortunes and losing their fortunes and that was very much wedded to slavery Philadelphia is one of the most precarious cities of the north at least for free black Philadelphia’s it butts right up against the state of Delaware which held on to slavery until the Civil War you have increasingly large migration of free blacks and fugitive slaves across the mason-dixon line into Philadelphia with mercenaries roaming the street the Fortin family shelters and assists runaway slaves Sarah what you grew up around the table listening to their father I’m talking about the movement and the work the family had done anti-slavery sentiment pushed out in the fort and women they began to direct the movement for themselves Charlotte forten and her three daughters Sarah Harriet and Margaretta helped organize the Philadelphia female anti-slavery society from its origins its interracial and it stays resolutely interracial women from across the country join the movement from Massachusetts Lucretia Mott from South Carolina Angelina Grimke demanding an immediate

end to slavery the city like Philadelphia where many merchants many leading families have a close ties to the south through business often through marriage abolitionists resent a real threat a double threat they’re not only speaking out against racism but their women so you know you’re supposed to know how to read and write let alone write you know these powerful moving speeches not only are they wrong in what they are saying they are wrong to be speaking in public and they are wrong to be making common cause with african-american activists in 1838 Jacksonian Democrats pushed through an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that strips black men of the right to vote White’s African Americans out of the political community black people and their allies couldn’t even rent a building to have a meeting the female anti-slavery society has to act they plan a national meeting in Philadelphia sarah Fortin is able to raise $40,000 a million dollars today to build this temple of Liberty Pennsylvania all on the halls opening day Mayor John Swift implores them to cancel the convention but 3,000 defiant abolitionists crowd inside people noticed 20 white men stepped into the entrance ways in the back of the hall and started peering around and looking at the gas pipes and the gas light fixtures what the anti abolitionist one is for the whole trouble to die down people to shut up and get back to doing business for the white mob outside everything about the meeting in Pennsylvania Hall was wrong and improper and it needed to be stopped one of the people just called all slave owners thieves the Hatter standing outside cannot believe what he hears so he yells out that if you sing that all slave owners are robbers then you’re saying George Washington is a robber an abolitionist says while I am calling George Washington a robber he stole people’s lives 15000 Philadelphians surround pennsylvania hole the fire chief and the mayor show up to the mob and say gee golly whiz you really shouldn’t do this this just isn’t nice and then turn their backs and walk away Angelina grim cave as she spoke she could hear things being thrown at the hall she could hear the anger start to rise in the audience and she continued to speak to say the things that had always gotten her into trouble before what is a mob what if the mob should now burst in upon us break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons would this be anything compared with what the slaves endure the abolitionists swim in both black and white and this includes the fortunes the grim Keys Lucretia Mott link arms together and leave the home this is a way of protecting the black women because if they had left the hall on their own and walked out through that mob they surely would have risked death fearing a lynch mob James Horton sneaks abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison out through the back door stevedores bust in with wooden beams they’ve carried from the port hundreds of men target the abolitionist bookstore first and build a pile of anti-slavery pamphlets in the grande saloon kyndley they rip gas pipes from the wall and they ignite a giant bonfire the destruction of Pennsylvania [ __ ] an expression of jacksonian democracy this is the majority targeting an unpopular minority attacked by the mob the firemen let the fire burn what’s really been burned and attacked

is this idea that all people are equal what must have been going through fortin’s mind if you just put a building up and it can’t last more than a week we’re not going forward you know we’re going back the burning of Pennsylvania Hall is a direct attack on the power of democracy to solve the country’s problems and the only way this is going to be solved from here on out is war the abolitionists decide to let the ruin of Pennsylvania Hall stand for years as a reminder in 1841 the second bank of the United States finally collapses Nicholas Biddle is arrested and charged with fraud James Fortin dies the next year a rich man without political rights it’s probably the most violent the city has ever been in its entire history but even up to today it’s at that point that Edgar Allan Poe comes to Philadelphia the young Poe absorbs the city’s darkness as his writing takes off a short walk would take you into the heart of South work of Moyamensing I’ve not integrated or incorporated into Philadelphia city proper they were the vice districts it is open season for gangs you’ve got the Flyers the bounce of the night Fox the Stingers the rats and in Moyamensing The Killers poke stops writing so much about supernatural things and he starts writing about everyday chaos May 1844 native-born Protestants bristle with distrust for immigrant Irish Catholics whose allegiance to the Pope they call anti-american throughout spring and summer Protestants go to war against Catholics in Kensington and South walk burning churches and orphanages and giving gangs control of the streets as dozens died and hundreds are injured John Farrell escapes to Pittsburgh his unity pact between Protestant and Catholic workers destroyed reformers say Philadelphia County with its mess of small towns and districts is uncovered in the aftermath of the riots Philadelphians begin to think about trying to create some kind of political union that would provide policing across the entire county the possibility exists in the minds of the city’s leadership of reaching out to all of those disparate communities and bringing them in under one banner building that whole community into one city and they think what happens we put the city together think about what our population will be think about what we can achieve I think consolidation is a manifesto through urban greatness in 1854 Harrisburg votes to enable Philadelphia County to consolidate its twenty nine municipalities into a single ambitious metropolis the first large city in the nation to unify consolidation now creates the fourth largest city in the western world the largest city by geographic area in the nation it’s much more than the city government they gives the city greater power to extend streets gas lighting water supply out into the countryside soon after consolidation a group of abolitionists led by James fortin’s granddaughter Charlotte meet to launch a new campaign to end slavery when the white mob started forming at the back of that hall on that day the abolitionist sent for the police with no real hopes that the police were to protect them and then to their surprise in the unified City the mayors police arrived and suppressed the mob and protected that politically those barriers those hatreds

don’t disappear in the new unified city they localized and we become for good and for ill the city of neighborhoods they work for us as long as we don’t trespass you