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Old November 28th, 2012, 10:01 AM   #1

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Europe and the American Civil War


Why were you guys so close to recognizing the Confederacy as a country? Why did you initially side with the south until Lincoln turned the north's goal into abolishing slavery? If Britain was proud of her anti-slavery history, then why did she allow it in her colonies to start with? Thank you!
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Old November 28th, 2012, 10:49 AM   #2

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Why were you guys so close to recognizing the Confederacy as a country? Why did you initially side with the south until Lincoln turned the north's goal into abolishing slavery? If Britain was proud of her anti-slavery history, then why did she allow it in her colonies to start with? Thank you!
Just because many European countries had stronger abolitionist movements then the US did does not mean that the two sides battled over the issue. At the time of the American Revolution, slavery was perfectly legal and those abolitionists that were there were a minority. They didn't begin to gain political strength until during the French Revolution, but there were still intense political fights over the issue, and the abolitionists only really won the issue by using trickery by disguising it as "patriotic bills" against the French.

This bought time for British abolitionists to win support to outlaw slavery in the UK and all its colonies.

By 1860-62, while Britain was proud of its opposition to slavery, they did not initially see the American Civil War as a war over slavery. While the Southern states seceded over slavery and the protection of the system, and made it clear in their declarations of secession that they believed Lincoln would dissolve the system, they also relied upon the issue of "state's rights" and made the war look as a political issue. The fact that Lincoln didn't give the Emancipation Proclamation in 1861 furthered this notion, and the British supported the Confederacy on the principles of "Self-Determination" that the North was somehow restricting the South's right to govern itself.

British abolitionists kept some pressure on the British government, and the concerns of interfering in another state's "internal" affairs kept Britain "neutral" for the first few years, but the principles of "self-determination" kept many British leaders supportive of the issue until the Emancipation Proclamation which officially stated that Union war aims were to free the slaves and turned the war into a "moral crusade" that the argument of self determination for the Confederacy couldn't justify.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 10:58 AM   #3

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Ok so are you saying that Britain didn't approve of slavery but somehow couldn't help allowing it in her colonies across the atlantic?

And your other answer is that Great Britain bought the notion that it was a political war until the Emancipation Proclamation?

FTR I don't even believe the ACW was started over slavery either and also understand that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in huge part to keep European interests out of the war
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Old November 28th, 2012, 11:00 AM   #4

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I'm actually reading a book right now that covers that very topic. One War at a Time: The International dimensions of the American Civil War by Dean Mahin explores all of the foreign players in the ACW. From what I've read so far:

1. The British aristocracy was especially prone toward siding with the south. Slavery aside, the south was closer to the British class system. The Britain of 1860 was quite different from that of today. Egalitarianism may have been discussed in parlors, but it wasn't a real hot topic issue. The lower classes were much more likely to side with the north, and as the war went on, this became more and more pronounced. The EP pretty much ended any hope the south had of intervention ala the AR.

2. The trading relationship between the south and John Bull was significant. British cloth manufacturers needed southern cotton (over 70% of the world supply in 1860). Likewise the south needed the finished products of those factories.

3. 2 small Americas was much less of a potential rival to Britain than was one large one. Britain's foreign policy has largely been one which relied on a balance of power since the early part of the 19th century. In short, if another country is perceived as being too strong, then London will typically side with whomever is against them.

Amazon.com: One War at a Time (P) (9781574883015): Dean B. Mahin: Books
Amazon.com: One War at a Time (P) (9781574883015): Dean B. Mahin: Books

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Old November 28th, 2012, 11:00 AM   #5

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Why were you guys so close to recognizing the Confederacy as a country? Why did you initially side with the south until Lincoln turned the north's goal into abolishing slavery?
Who is "you guys"? What European countries came "close to recognizing the Confederacy", or "sided with the South"?
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Old November 28th, 2012, 11:09 AM   #6
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lol so now Europe=Britain? Do the British tolerate this insult?
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Old November 28th, 2012, 11:10 AM   #7

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Ok so are you saying that Britain didn't approve of slavery but somehow couldn't help allowing it in her colonies across the atlantic?
When the USA was still a colony, slavery was still legal and supported. The move to abolish it didn't gain strength until after the US got its independence, but when the British did abolish slavery, it was abolished everywhere in their empire.

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And your other answer is that Great Britain bought the notion that it was a political war until the Emancipation Proclamation?
That is my interpretation of Britain's official stance during the American Civil War. Lincoln's intial responses, which gave the south the status of a "belligerant" and incidents such as the stopping of the Trent did not slow that interpretation down any. However, how much "self-determination" would have pushed the British govenment to side with the Confederacy is up for debate, as Jefferson Davis expected British recognition very quickly, particularly after victories such as First Bull Run and then the Seven Days battles infront of Richmond and then Second Bull Run. And while British political leaders made a lot of pro-Confederate statements, they didn't do what the Confederacy hoped, which was to rapidly side with them and end the war.

In reality, the only real thing that could have pushed Britian into the war was if Lincoln pushed the Trent incident over the brink or invaded Canada.

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FTR I don't even believe the ACW was started over slavery either and also understand that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in huge part to keep European interests out of the war
Slavery was the chief cause of the American Civil War and specifically the divisions over it. Just because Emancipation was not the first "act" Lincoln took does not mean that it wasn't an issue in 1860-1861 and isn't a reason why many Northerners joined the Union army.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 11:58 AM   #8

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diddyrick, i agree with number one but my question was why did it take the EP to change their decisions? I guess your numbers 2 and 3 are the answers. Makes sense.

So Great Britain had not yet outlawed slavery by the time of the formation of her colonies in NA?
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Old November 28th, 2012, 12:28 PM   #9

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So Great Britain had not yet outlawed slavery by the time of the formation of her colonies in NA?
Great Britain outlawed slavery in 1834, which Alabama's secession commissioner Kevin Hale called "that monument of British fanatacism and folly":
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"We can clothe the world with our staple, give wings to her commerce, and supply with bread the starving operative in other lands, and at the same time preserve an institution that has done more to civilize and Christianize the heathen than all human agencies beside --- an institution alike beneficial to both races, ameliorating the moral, physical and intellectual condition of the one, and giving wealth and happiness to the other. If we fail, the light of our civilization goes down in blood, our wives and our little ones will be driven from their homes by the light of our own dwellings. The dark pall of barbarism must soon gather over our sunny land, and the scenes of West India emancipation, with its attendant horrors and crimes (that monument of British fanaticism and folly), be re-enacted in our own land upon a more gigantic scale." - Kevin Hale, December 17, 1860

Source: Letter to Kentucky from Alabama
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Old November 28th, 2012, 12:44 PM   #10

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I see. Any other reasons why she would have been so quick to side with the Confederacy? How was the rest of Europe feeling about the ACW?
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