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Lecture 6


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War for Foreign Support

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Lecture 6

  1. 1. The War for Foreign Support
  2. 2. Quiz • According to James McPherson, why did the Confederates ultimately fail to convince Britain to grant them diplomatic recognition? • In his study of Civil War era letters, what important similarities and differences does James McPherson identify in those written by Confederates versus those written by Unionists?
  3. 3. Question of foreign involvement • Absolutely critical—could have changed the course of the war – Confederates could not manufacture the war materiel they needed (weapons, ships, etc.) • South optimistic about getting British/French support – Napoleon III was inclined to recognize the Confederacy but only if Britain did, too – Britain adopted a “wait and see” attitude – But the general feeling in Europe in 1861-62 was that the Union was dead
  4. 4. Union Blockade • One of Lincoln’s first major strategic decisions (April 1861) – Understood the South’s dependence on manufactured goods from Britain & their need to export cotton • But the coast line 3,550 miles long – And the US Navy had only around 40 usable ships at war’s outset • Immediately launched shipbuilding and purchasing efforts; ended up with close to 700 by war’s end • At first, the blockade was very ineffective – Even in 1864, US Navy captured only about 1 of every 3 Confederate vessels – Still, it prevented critical materials and equipment from getting through
  5. 5. Union blockade
  6. 6. Implications of blockade • Effect on European economy/textile mills? • Question of international law – Imposing a blockade was an act of war between two belligerent nations • This means that, in effect, Lincoln was recognizing the Confederacy as a hostile nation – European nations had to decide how to view the conflict • A war between nations, or an uprising? – Lincoln and North call it the “War of the Rebellion” – Moreover, international law says that for a blockade to be binding, it must be effective (maintained by a sufficient force) • North under great pressure to show that the blockade was effective
  7. 7. A steamer, the Advance, that ran between between Dublin and Glasgow, purchased by the State of North Carolina to carry cotton and bring in arms and supplies of clothing and medicines for the North Carolina State Troops. By William G. Muller.
  8. 8. The Advance
  9. 9. King Cotton • By 1860, Britain was importing over a billion bales of cotton – 88% coming from the American South. • The French imported 93% of their cotton from the U.S. South • Cotton formed the basis of Britain’s textile industry, which directly and indirectly sustained 1/5th of the British population • This gave the South what ultimately turns out to be misplaced confidence
  10. 10. British “neutrality” • May 1861: Britain declared its neutrality – Implication: viewing the war as one between two belligerent nations • Recognized the Confederacy as a nation with certain rights (such as the right to contract loans and purchases weapons) – Other European nations followed suit – North was furious • Saw as a first step toward recognition • Anti-British sentiment surged
  11. 11. Trent Affair • Two Confederate envoys, James Mason and John Slidell, were taken from a British ship in Nov. 1861 after being stopped Capt. Charles Wilkes – Wilkes dubiously claimed the envoys as contraband of war – He’s hailed as a hero in U.S. – Brits were appalled • Demanded immediate release of prisoners and an apology • Began gearing up for war – 3,000 troops sent to Canada – Suspended trade relations • Lincoln overruled popular sentiment and backed down – Released the British envoys – “One war at a time” • Closest the South got to winning British recognition
  12. 12. Captain Wilkes steps on the Lion (i.e. the British). William Seward is on the other side, standing next to an American eagle. Pointing to Mason and Slidell, he’s letting Wilkes know that if he takes them off the Trent, he’ll precipitate a war.
  13. 13. “John Bull’s Distinguished Reception of his New Friends”
  14. 14. Diplomats • Union had the upper hand • Confederates initially sent William Yancy – Fire-eater with no experience • Union has Charles Francis Adams – Son and grandson of two presidents, both of whom served as ministers to Britain
  15. 15. Southerners embargo cotton • Not a government policy; people did it on their own, following hotheaded newspaper writers • Did not play out as they hoped – Britain actually had significant amounts stored up – Cotton shortage did not immediately materialize – By the time it did, other nations had moved to fill vacuum • Cotton production in India, Brazil, Egypt etc. on the rise – Textiles had already begun to lose their dominant role in the British economy • North began relying more and more on British trade; relationship between the North and Britain strengthened (ships, woolen goods, etc.)
  16. 16. Cotton production in India, Egypt and Brazil Table 1: Cotton Exports from India, Egypt, and Brazil, 1860–1866, in Million Pounds. Sources: Government of India, Annual Statement of the Trade and Navigation of British India and Foreign Countries vol. 5 (Calcutta, 1872); vol. 9 (Calcutta, 1876); Roger Owen, Cotton and the Egyptian Economy, 1820–1914 (Oxford, 1969), 90; Estatisticas historica do Brasil (Rio de Jeneiro, 1990), 346. From Sven Beckert, “Emancipation and Empire” American Historical Review 109:5 (2004)
  17. 17. South’s failure to win recognition • Crop failures in Europe – 1862: Britain importing 40% of its wheat from U.S. North • British Economist declares: “without these importations, our people could not exist at all.” • Britain resented Confederates’ high-handed policy; viewed as blackmail • Realpolitick – Concerned about balance of power in Western hemisphere – In the end, Britain didn’t want to weaken the blockade as an instrument of war – Not interested in another military engagement after the Crimean War • Overstretched militarily
  18. 18. ‘Wave the stars and strips high o’er us, Let every freeman sing, In a loud and joyful chorus; Brave young Corn is King!’ Join, join, for God and Freedom, Sing Northmen, sing: Old King Cotton’s dead and buried: brave Young Corn is King.’ . . . Let the tidings swell o’er ocean To another shore, Till proud England pales and trembles Where she scoffed before! Ne’er again shall serpent friendship Rise to hiss and sting! Cotton leagues no more with Traitors: Honest Corn is King! Jubilate! God and Freedom! Sing. American, sing Tyrant Cotton’s dead forever! Honest Corn is King! “Corn is King,” Continental Monthly, Aug. 1862
  19. 19. Popular sentiment in Europe • Although not democracies, Britain and France still had to consider popular opinion – Concerned about popular rebellion • In general, European aristocrats tended to sympathize with Confederacy; British labor leaders and the working class with the North – However, many British observers were actually very skeptical about the Emancipation Proclamation • Thought it was a cynical move; feared it would lead to violence uprisings by blacks in the South