Manypeople tend to overlook foreign nations involvement in the American civil war.
Though many European nations were involved, they tried to be as neutral aspossible when dealing with the United States during the war. This though didnot apply to all nations, the United Kingdom of Great Britain were very much tangledin the war much until the president, Abraham Lincoln, issued the EmancipationProclamation forcing Great Britain to reconsider the relationship they had withthe Southern states1.However, the British Empire legally acknowledged the status of ConfederateStates of America but never acknowledged the United States as a nation. Theyalso decided never to sign treaties with the United States or exchangeambassadors, so the elites supported the Confederacy while the ordinary peoplebacked the United States of America.Tradebetween the nations continued as usual with the Union exporting grains toBritain while the British manufactured munitions and shipped them to the Union.The trade between the Confederacy and the British fell over 85%2from the period of prewar with some munitions being slipped in by plenty ofblockade runners and a small amount of cotton being sent to Britain3.
The British private interests funded and operated the trade under theInternational law hence avoiding any sort of disputes between them. There was adiplomatic dispute that arose in 1861 over the ‘Trent Affair’4but was resolved peacefully months later however Blackett believed it “doneincalculable damage to the British public’s view of the United States.”5 Itwas in 1861 when the Southern States decided to secede themselves from theUnion and form their own confederation.
The reason behind the secession was thecentral government claims to exercise a larger control over the separate statesthan it was supposed to. The Northern States did not support the secessionarguing that the Union was federal and the Southern States trying to secede wasan act of rebellion6.The Southern claimed that the Union was just a confederation and anyone had theright to separate from it at their own will. The British Government chose notto judge them so as to maintain their relationship7.The sporting instincts of the Britain citizens were very influential in favorof the Southern States because it was battling against the heavy odds.TheAmerican people viewed the British neutrality with extreme resentment. Theresentment was unjustified because the Northern and southern people felt it inequal degree, both feeling convinced that they were the correct side and thatit was evil for the British not to act on that assumption.
The people fromNorth felt that the American nationality was at stake while others felt theimportance of giving their whole sympathies to the eradication of slave trade.The Southern people thought they were fighting for political freedom which wasappealed by many Britons. The Southerners believed that slavery was sanctionedby the scriptures and majority of the preferred the perfect contentment ofslaves rather than the horrific abuses by the whole system. At the end, both sideswere so angry with the British for not giving it a passionate and rigidsupport.Itis undeniable to point out that the main intention behind the involvement ofGreat Britain in the American Civil War was economic concerns8.Majority of cotton in the world during the mid-nineteenth century was producedin the Southern States in America.
After the Southerner’s successful secessionfrom the Union, Great Britain had no option but to tread carefully so as notget involved in another war with the USA9.The United States issued a global verdict cautioning against any foreigninvolvement and maintained that any country that funded the Southern States tosecede would be pledging an act of war towards the United States. Great Britaindecided to ignore the verdict and continued to be more and more involved intrade with the Confederate States as the war progressed.QueenVictoria delivered the proclamation of neutrality in 186110which stated that Great Britain’s government had to remain formally neutral inthe domestic affairs of the United States for the rest of the war, and gave theBritish citizens the authority to ensure this neutrality11.However, a majority of British businesses and the citizens chose to fund theConfederate cause.
Most of Confederate Navy was organized in Liverpool, Englandused the private dollar in the course of the war, and the port was made a placefor the Confederate embassy in Britain. The Liverpool Southern Club existed tooutsource money (over £3000) from patriotic European southerners to help thesouth12. Notonly were ships designed to outpace Union blockade marines as they smuggledgood inside the Confederate land but were also commissioned by Great Britain.Liverpool was a source of boundless enmity between Great Britain and the Union asthe Confederacy used it to calculate its operations and could have made Britainto join the war in favor of the south if not of the Emancipation Proclamationby Abraham Lincoln. Although, Historians have debated that support wasn’t asextensive as once thought because Liverpool was the most pro-confederacy cityand it still had difficulty acquiring support from the British public13. TheEmancipation Proclamation made the war to become all about an issue of ethicsand slavery14.Great Britain withdrew its support of neutrality and accused the ConfederateStates of their support and expansion of slave trade15.It also caused the British government to divert its assured neutrality to theabsolute disapproval of the Confederate States to conciliate their own citizens.
At this point, the war had gone on longer and became more complex thanexpected. Although relations between the Confederate state and Britaincontinued throughout the war, Britain began to trend heavily for the sake ofpolicy of neutrality.Thebattle of Sharpsburg as known by the Confederacy had a lot to do with theBritish crystallization on opinion against its participation in the Americancivil war.
The Union won this battle which led to the greatest number ofcasualties. The silence that followed gave Abraham Lincoln a chance to releaseemancipation declaration freeing all slaves in the rebelling states. The highnumber of casualties and the policy rendering freedom to slaves causedrestlessness in Britain. A wealthy man who owned a slave business in the UnitedStates criticized the Confederate independence and warned about Britishintervention on humanitarian grounds16.British policiesTheBritish Prime Minister Viscount commended a policy of neutrality even beforethe war began. In the course of the war, British reactions to American dealingswere based on past policies in Britain and their national interests, bothtactically and economically.
As relations between the United States and theWestern Hemisphere improved, Britain was very careful about challenging the USAover matters concerning Central America. The United States specifically thediplomatic observers grew suspicious of British intentions. Eduard de Stoeckiwho was then the Russian Minister based in Washington pointed out that”The Cabinet of London is watching attentively the internal dissensions ofthe Union and awaits the result with an impatience which it has difficulty indisguising,”17.He advised the government that Great Britain will recognize the Confederatestates and its earliest opportunity.
Cassius Clay on the other hand who was aUSA minister in Russia said that “I saw at a glance where the feeling ofEngland was. They hoped for our ruin! They are jealous of our power. They careneither for the South nor the North. They hate both.”18AbrahamLincoln appointed Charles Adams as a minister in the Great Britain whose mainmission was to make it clear to British that the civil war in America was aninternal affair and afforded the Confederacy no right as stated in theinternational law19.Any action by Britain of supporting the Confederacy was to be reflected as anact of unfriendliness towards the United States. Seward instructed Adams totell the British that a country with widely- scattered belongings and thehomeland of Scotland and Ireland, should be cautious of setting a dangerousexample.
Just like the majority of leaders in Britain, Lord Lyons who was aBritish minister in the USA had many doubts about Seward and talked about it inhis correspondence which circulated widely within the British government. Hewrote that Seward was a precarious foreign minister who would contemplate goingto war with Britain and his view about the relationship between the UnitedStates and Great Britain was that there were good resources to make politicalcapital.Recognizing theConfederacyInthe August of 1862, the chances of Britain recognizing the Confederacy began toshow. At this point as many Europeans could point out, the civil war seemed tobe a standoff20.United States efforts to capture the capital of Confederate had failed and theConfederates both in the east and west were on the offensive. Charles Adams hadwarned the United States that the British would one day choose to mediatebetween the South and North, which would be a gentle but effective procedure ofinsinuating that according to British opinion. The British thought that the warhad gone for so long and the best way to settle the matter was to give theSoutherners what they demanded21.According to Adams, recognition endangered all-out war with the USA.
The warwould involve full-scale invasion on British shipping interest globally, lay anattack in Canada, stop shipping grains to Britain which was a major part of thefood supply in Britain and end selling of machinery in the United States byBritain.The Lancashire cottonindustryTheblockades in the Southern port restricted raw cotton supplies which were keyarea of dependency by the Lancashire cotton industry forcing the Britishgovernment to offer funds to the South. The cotton scarcity that followed ledto people suffering in Britain as it deprived Lancashire workers their means oflivelihood22.Massive credit was due to the British government as well as to the lavishgenerosity of the citizens for commendably organized action to get rid of theawful distress which came as a result. The workers are highly recommended fortheir impressive control they demonstrated. This incident is also known as theking cotton argument were the Southerners cut off the shipment trying to exertcotton diplomacy. Though the trick did not work for the time because Britainhad plenty of raw cotton stored in their warehouses, shortages became criticallater in 1862. The south used the cotton famine in attempt to win approval fortheir cause, but the Union sent barrels of food to please the UK to avoid war”by all means.
“23The Trent affairThiswas an incident that almost caused a war between the United States and GreatBritain after a Britain civilian vessel called the RMS Trent was stopped byU.S. warship and detained two Confederate diplomats24.Jefferson Davis who was the Confederate president appointed Mason and JohnSlidell to represent confederate in foreign countries. USS San Jacinto hadlocated a port in Cuba searching for Confederate agents who were said to beroaming in that locality.
The presence of Mason and Slidell was discovered byWilkes. It was agreed that if a nation was still at war had the right to searcha merchant ship in case they suspected it to be carrying supplies for theenemy. Mason alongside Slidell journeyed to the Bahama Channel were they firedat the Trent and then sent a boat full of crew members who arrested the Confederatecommissioners who were taken to Boston and held as prisoners.TheBritish referred to this act as a violation of the neutral rights and initiateduproar in Great Britain. It sent 1100 troops to Canada and put them on a warfooting, with a strategic plan to seizure the New York City in case the warkicked off, and they sent a note to Abraham Lincoln in Washington demanding foran immediate release of their men and an apology25.
Lincoln was very concerned with British joining the war so he unheededanti-British sentimentalities. He issued something which was not exactly anapology but the British interpreted it as one and then sent a command theprisoners to be freed.Alabama claimsThesewere claims by the United States against Great Britain as a result ofdestruction that was caused by a number of Confederate warships which were madein Liverpool26.The Northerners were very annoyed of the non-tolerance act by the Britishparticularly in the making of the warships. USA demanded huge compensation forreparations caused by commerce raiders specifically CSS Alabama but Palmerstonrefused to pay. Though the British act of foreign enlistment bannedconstruction of foreign warships, the Confederates managed to evade the letterof this law and purchased several cruisers.
After the completion, the vesselsdestroyed more 250 merchant ships from America and converted 700 of them toforeign flags27.TheU.S. merchant marine had lost almost half of their ships by the end of the war.
The following demands for payment took the name of the most destructive shipwhich was known as Alabama. During the Johnson-Clarendon Convention in 1869,the U.S. and British diplomats worked out urging the commission to go over theAlabama claims. Unfortunately, their proposal was defeated in Senate where thehead of foreign relations committee Charles Sumner spoke passionately about theissue.
He pointed out that the British were responsible for all losses incurredeven by the citizens and the war costs after Gettysburg. He proposed that GreatBritain compensate 2.1 billion dollars28for all loses and suggested the cession of Canada also. The matter continuedfor some years until the death of Palmerston when Gladstone, the British PrimeMinister accepted to the United States war claims in treaty discussion on otherunfinished matters like border disputes and fishing rights. The proposal wasaccepted in early 1872 and Britain paid the full amount of compensation asrequested by the USA of 15.5 million dollars29.Late 19th centuryRelationsin the 1860s were chilly as American citizen resented the role of British inthe course of the Civil War. The authorities in America did not even botherwhen the Irish ‘Fenians’ planned to attack Canada which had close ties withBritain back then.
The British continued its policy of free trade even when themain rival, the U.S turned to high costs. The American industry was heavy andgrew bigger and faster compared to that of Britain. By 1980s, the United Stateswas had taken control over the world market and was crowding British productsand machinery out of it. However, London continued to be the financial centerin the world through numerous investments were focused towards the Americanrailways. The British remained far ahead of America in insurance andinternational shipping.Theinvasion of the British home market by America required a response. The tariffswere not imposed until in late 1930 although increasingly under consideration.
As a result, British businessmen were forced to lose their market or decide tocome up with plans to modernize their operations30.The market for shoe machinery was then taken by America because the shoeindustry in British experienced a lot of imports from the American footwear.British industries realized that their rival was rising far above them, so theywent back to their traditional work methods, relations in the industry as wellas labor utilization.Inconclusion, the relations between Britain and the US was unstable during theperiod of the civil war. Issues over cotton and the Trent affair createdeconomic and political divisions that crippled relations between the UK and theUS. The north, realized the need to keep Britain neutral if they wished to winthe war sending political and economic appeasement.
When the issue became aboutethics and slavery, Britain had to dis-associate with the south. The UK neverrecovered its industry’s supremacy, allowing the US to surpass them, ‘badblood’ existed much after the civil war but was repaired in the early 20thcentury.1 Faust,Drew Gilpin. Mothers of invention:Women of the slaveholding south in the American civil war. Univ of NorthCarolina Press, 1996.
2Fellman, Michael. Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During theAmerican Civil War. Oxford University Press, 1990.3 Ibid4 Blackett R.J.M. Divided Hearts: Britain and the AmericanCivil War.
Louisiana State University Press,2001 Pg. 615 ibid6Washington, George. “Proclamation of Neutrality.” April 22,no. 1793 (1793): 585.7 Moore,Albert Burton.
Conscription andConflict in the Confederacy. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2017Steele,Brent J. “Ontological security and the power of self-identity: Britishneutrality and the American Civil War.” Review of International Studies 31, no.
3 (2005): 519-540.9 Barth,Frederik. Nomads of south Persia-TheBasseri tribe of the Khamseh confederacy. Read Books Ltd, 201310 The Queen’s Neutrality Proclamation. DowningStreet, London, February 1, 1862.
Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,https://www.loc.gov/item/scsm000229/. (last accessed 27/12/17)11 Ibid12 Op Cit. Divided Hearts pg.6413 Ibid pg 6414 Thomas,Emory M.
The Confederacy as arevolutionary experience. Reaktion Books, 1971.15 Foster,Gaines M. Ghosts of the Confederacy:Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913.Oxford University Press, 1988.16 Steele,Brent J.
“Ontological security and the power of self-identity: Britishneutrality and the American Civil War.” Review of International Studies31, no. 3 (2005): 519-540.17 Charles P.
Roland. “An American Iliad: The Story of theCivil War.” University Press of Kentucky, 1 Jan 2004.
Chapter 10, pg. 15718 Ibid pg. 157^ Thomas, Emory M.
The Confederacy as a revolutionaryexperience. Reaktion Books, 1971.19 Hanlon,W. Walker. “Temporary shocks and persistent effects in urban economies:Evidence from British cities after the US Civil War.” Review ofEconomics and Statistics 99, no.
1 (2017): 67-79. 20 Holden,Roger. “Fustian and Velvet Cutting—A Subdivision of the Lancashire CottonIndustry.” Industrial ArchaeologyReview 38, no. 2 (2016): 131-145.21 ibid22Smelser, Neil J.
Social change in theindustrial revolution: an application of theory to the Lancashire cottonindustry, 1770-1840. Routledge & Paul, 1959.23 Op Cit. Divided Hearts Pg.
17124 Muller,Daniel. “Public Opinion and the Trent Affair.” HISTORY MATTERS(2016): Pg. 31.25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.pg. 6927Dickinson, Jack L. “Part 3: Cruise of the Alabama.” (2017).28 US Department of State Archive, Bureauof Public Affairs, https://2001-2009.
state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/cw/17610.htm last accessed 28/12/1729 Ibid.30 Gordon,Robert J. The rise and fall ofAmerican growth: The US standard of living since the civil war.
Princeton University Press, 2017.