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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 149108 Find in a Library
Title: Goodbye Boys, I Die a True American: Homicide, Nativism, and Working-Class Culture in Antebellum New York City
Journal: Journal of American History  Volume:74  Issue:2  Dated:(September 1987)  Pages:388-410
Author(s): E J Gorn
Date Published: 1987
Page Count: 23
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examines the ethnic, class, and social conditions associated with William Poole's murder in New York City in 1855 and society's reaction to it.
Abstract: Poole, a native-born American, was killed in a barroom conflict with some friends of an Irish immigrant with whom Poole had a conflict in the bar earlier in the evening. Poole died from a gunshot wound 11 days after he was shot. He was reported to have said from his death bed, "Good-bye boys, I die a true American." This statement reported in the papers fueled the conflict between native-born Americans and Irish immigrants in the Northeast and turned Poole into a victim of brutish, unpatriotic Irishmen and a martyr for the allegiances of native-born Americans. This article analyzes the actual factors in Poole's death and the factors in society's reaction to it. The author concludes that although nativist interpretation of Poole's death offered antebellum New Yorkers a rich mythology, it also hid from view the deeper causes of the incident. These were rooted in the clash of class-based and ethnic cultures that were often expressed in competing ideals of masculinity. Poole lived in a world antithetical to Victorian proprieties, a world where political factionalism, gang hatreds, neighborhood rivalries, and blustering machismo often led to conflict and violence. A shared love of prowess, adventure, and bravado united countless working-class young men, but those values also fed deep personal and social tensions and sanctioned violence. Poole's murder was an extreme, but not an illogical, expression of the world in which he lived. 45 footnotes
Main Term(s): Gangs
Index Term(s): Ethnic groups; Homicide causes; Juvenile delinquency factors; Social conditions
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