Britain's Response to the Emancipation Proclamation

jgoodguy

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Britain's Response to the Emancipation Proclamation
Amanda Foreman talked about the international response to the Civil War, particularly by Great Britain. She is the author of A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided. Ms. Foreman responded to questions from members of the audience.

“Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in England: A Propaganda Tool for the Enemy?” was a program of the 14th Annual Abraham Lincoln Institute Symposium, “The Latest in Lincoln Scholarship,” sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Institute and the Foundation for the National Archives at the National Archives at College Park​

I will provide clips to avoid extraneous material. The complete video is above.

First Clip.
EP in GB 1

In the beginning, Southern diplomacy seems to be working at least to the extent of keeping Britain from becoming pro-Union. There were Southern fumbles, but the political problems of Lincoln suggested hypocrisy to a British public with no understanding of the particular US politics.

Transcript:

BUT Less well known or understood is the controversy that the proclamation attracted abroad. Both Union and Confederate supporters in Britain tried to use it as a propaganda tool. And in the beginning, at least, it was the Confederates who benefited the most. The reasons for this were laid down at the start of the war when England was still pondering its response to the conflict. A poem in "punch" magazine on the 30th of March, 1861, neatly expressed Britain's cotton dilemma. QUOTE, though with the north we sympathize it must not be forgotten that with the South, we've stronger ties, which are composed of cotton.

The revelation of the London times journalist William Howard Russell that the South hoped to exploit these ties, along with his poignant descriptions of slave life, provoked outrage in England when his reports started to appear in April. But the North gained less support than Southerners feared, once Britons also learned that President Lincoln had promised not to interfere with slavery in his inaugural address. The British attitude, in general, dismayed US Ambassador Charles Francis Adams. Quote, people did not quite understand Americans or their politics, he wrote to his son, Charles Francis Adams they think this is a hasty quarrel. They do not comprehend the connection which slavery has with it. BECAUSE We do not at once preach emancipation. hence, they go to the other extreme and argument it's not an element in the struggle, unquote.



But adams himself was guilty of mischaracterization. THE English reaction was far more complicated than he allowed. EVEN The north's two biggest supporters, the radical mp and his colleague john bright believed that lincoln had made a mistake. The leading abolitionist richard webb complained, neither lincoln nor steward has yet spoken an anti-slavery syllable since they took office. This was true for steward who specifically instructed all u.s. Ambassadors and cons uls to avoid mentioning the word in connection with the union. The deliberate omission was a grievous miscalculation in regards to britain. Seward had used the trump card hoping it would appease the South. INSTEAD He had provided ammunition to his critics who accused the north of hypocrisy.



The economist magazine declared, quote, the great majority of the people in the northern states detest the colored population even more than do the Southern whites, unquote. Yet, for all the finger-pointing and public criticism of the north, the first Southern envoys in britain, william yancy and ambrose dudley mann failed to make the slightest changes. QUOTE, we are satisfied that the government is sincere in its desire to be strictly neutral. And will not countenance any violation of its neutrality, unquote. AND Writing to a friend in the South, yancy admitted that the mission was not turning out the way he had envisioned. QUOTE In the first place, impoornt as cotton is, it is not king in europe. Furthermore, he added, the anti-slavery sentiment is universal. Uncle tom's cabin has been read and believed.



However, not long afterwards, the british learned that lincoln had rejected general fremont's emancipation proclamation in missouri. Regardless of the problems at home, abroad, lincoln's rebuke played into the confederates' hands. Without the slavery issue, the north was simply a country fighting a rebellion in its nether regions. Quote, look at the Southerners here, henry adams, the youngest sochb adams, wrote indignantly on the 25th of october 1861. Every man is inspired by the idea of independence and liberty while we are in a false position, unquote. A speech by the liberal chancellor william gladstone in april 1862 restleeld extent to which ambiguity of the slavery question benefitted the South and damaged the north. Quote, there was no doubt, he declared. If we could say that this was a contest of slavery and freedom, there is not a man within the length and breadth of this room. There is perhaps hardly a man in all england howould for a moment hesitate on the side he should take, unquote. Gladstone felt vindicated after he received a letter from a liberian diplomat who declared he was, quote, very glad of the position which england maintains with reference to the war. Both sections of the u.s. ARE Negro hating and negro crushing, unquote. The South's chief propagandist in england, a journalist from mobile named henry hotts used every opportunity to blast the message that the war was about independence, not about slavery. HOTTS Was able to convince britons the new anglo-american slave trade treaty, which allowed the british navy to search suspected american slave ships and the bill abolishing slavery in washington itself were just window dressing. As proof, he pointed to the fact that lincoln had failed to win support from the border states for a gradual emancipation bill.
 

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#2
All of this ignores the history compiled by James Oakes. British opinion was important, but Kentucky opinion was critical. The US had to gain the West Virginia counties, Kentucky and as much of Tennessee as possible.
 
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Lincoln did not reject Fremont's proclamation. He ordered Fremont to conform to the act of Congress, or requested, I should state.
Grant made no proclamations, he just made sure an escaping slave got a meal and a head start to Illinois. In other words freeing slaves was not the issue, it was what he proclaimed.
Freeing slaves by policy was not so good, freeing slaves by friction was Okey, dokey.
 

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Sometimes, I think too little attention is paid, to change in character of the War evidenced by the Emancipation Proclamation.

The political question of the unity of a far off land, is local in nature;. But the question the rights of man, is universal and can apply anywhere, i.e., the interests that might induce Britain's involvement in a far off war of local politics, would not be the same, as the threat of involving oneself in a revolutionary struggle,in your own back yard.

In this regard, I think Sec'y Seward's two official reply(closely vetted by Lincoln, I am sure) over British policies concerning the Union's war for survival, namely the United States reply to British demands concerning the Trent Affair and British actions concerning the Laird Rams. Both should, of course, be read carefully with as much attention to what is implied as to what is actually said, like most diplomatic communications.
 

jgoodguy

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Second Clip.
EP in GB 2

The Emancipation Proclamation was not received well in Britain and appeared for a while to encourage Confederate Support. Many English wanted emancipation now and were impatient with the details of US constitutional law.

Transcript

Then came the reports of the terrific slaughter that Antietam which horrified the British. But just as shocking to them was Lincoln's emancipation proclamation. As to who had fitted from the outset, the proclamation was widely denounced as a cynical and desperate ploy. Charles Francis Adams understood its symbolic importance, but even pro-northern supporters could not understand why Lincoln. allowed the border states to keep their slaves. Unless the emancipation order was directed against the South rather than slavery itself. Quote, our people are very imperfectly acquainted with the powers of your federal government, explained the anti-slavery crusader George Thompson to his American counterpart William Lloyd Garrison.

Quote, they know little or nothing of your constitution. Its compromises, guarantees, limitations, obligations, et cetera. They are consequently unable to appreciate the difficulties of your president, unquote. The spectator declared itself to be disappointed with the proclamation. Quote, the principal that a human being cannot justly own another, it insists, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the united states. FOR THE Radical mp Compton it proved that the leaders in the federal government are not equal to the occasion, unquote.

HENRY HOTTS Successfully planted propaganda stories in articles in the press which portrayed the proclamation as a ploy to encourage race riots or at the very least, force southern soldiers to return to their homes to protect their families. PUNCH Magazine depicted Lincoln. as a desperate gambler who was using the proclamation as his last card. The times, even accuse Lincoln. of inciting the slaves in the south to kill their owners, imagining in graphic terms how the president, quote, will appeal to the black blood of the African. He will whisper of the pleasures of spoil and of the gratification of yet fiercer instincts. And when the blood begins to flow and shrieks come piercing through the darkness, Mr. Lincoln. will wait until the rising flames tell that all is consummated, and he will rub his hands and think that revenge is sweet, unquote.

The effect of the proclamation on the British cabinet which was already debating whether it had a moral duty to stop the bloodshed was almost -- almost -- catastrophic. Two of its leading members, the foreign secretary Lord Russell and William Gladstone, became convinced that a humanitarian crisis was at hand. For Gladstone, the combination of his worries about the suffering of the Lancashire cottonists and the emancipation proclamation pushed him over the edge. On the 7th of October, the day after the proclamation appeared in "the times" he made a speech in Newcastle in which he proclaimed, quote, we may have our own opinions about slavery. We may be for or against the south. But there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the south have made an army. They are making it appear as a navy. They have made what is more difficult than either. THEY Have made a nation.

THAT Speech was telegraphed all over Europe, almost before Gladstone had sat down. The Confederate envoy Dudley Mann in Brussels wrote to Richmond that same night. THIS Clearly foreshadows our early recognition. Two years after the conclusion of the war in 1861, Gladstone admitted his mistake. Quote, i had imbibed conscientiously an opinion that 20 or 24 millions of the north would be happier and would be stronger without the south than with it. And also that the negroes would be much nearer to emancipation under a southern government than under the old system of the union, he wrote. AT The time however, Gladstone had not been alone in his confusion of the slavery question. A Few weeks after his speech in Newcastle, the Confederate commissioner in England, James Murray mason, attended a banquet given by the lord mayor in the city of London. Quote, when my name was announced by the mayor it was received with a storm of applause, Mason wrote in his diary. He was invited to address the hall and elicited loud cheers each time he referred to the commercial ties between the city and the south. A Southern supporter who had been among the guests and heard the speeches was convinced that he had witnessed a momentous event. QUOTE, I was at the mansion house last night, the supporter wrote afterward, and heard the lord mayor virtually recognize the south in the quietest and most inoffensive way that could be imagined. As i came out, i rubbed shoulders with captain tinkle and i said jocularly, well, you see, the lord mayor's been and gone and done it. And he laughingly replied, oh, yes, it's all over now. Depend on it. THIS Expression of opinion from the heart of England's middle classes must tell it will reverberate through the land and find an echo, unquote.

 

jgoodguy

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Third clip,

EP in GB 3

Things fell apart quickly as the Text of the EP was distributed. The South was expected to issue their on EP, but did not. The same politics that worked against Lincoln also worked against the South. Accounts of the true nature of slavery were published, the clergy started supporting the Union and the South was for now unable to propaganda effectively.

Transcript


Well, of course, Captain Tinker and Gladstone were wrong. There was no echo either in the cabinet or through the land. Amphy and the emancipation proclamation notwithstanding agreed England should remain neutral. Once the proclamation became law, without spawning any massacres of southern whites, british public opinion also began to alter in its favor.

An increase in the number of potential army volunteers calling at the american embassy reflected this changing perception of the war. quote, applications for service in our army strangely fluctuate, wrote the assistant secretary to the embassy benjamin moran on the 14th of january 1863. For some time passed, they have been but few since the announcement of the president's determination to adhere to his emancipation policy. They have again become numerous and today we've had a French and a British officer seeking employment, unquote. Another surprise was waiting for moran when he went to church. The vickor had never mentioned the war before but, quote, on this sunday, he announced during prayers our hearts in this great contest are with the north. And this was answered by a deep amen from the congregation, unquote.

The U.S. Consulate In london, Freeman Morris, also noticed the change since lincoln's proclamation. KWOERKTS Emancipation meetings continue to be held in london every week. Sometimes four or five a week. AT Sometimes 2,000 or 3,000 people have been present. And in a majority of case, unanimously with the north. Other portions of the country are following the example of this city and holding meetings with about the same result, he reported to seward. The largest emancipation meeting of all took place at exitor hall on the 29th of january, 1863. HENRY Adams managed to secure a seat at the meeting and was thoroughly uplifted by the experience. The politicians, henry told his brother afterwards, were going to have to listen to their constituents or risk being thrown over.

Pro-Southern supporters, such as the liverpool businessman james spence, now began to find it much harder to convince audiences that the south would also abolish slavery as soon as it won independence. Lincoln scored a further propaganda coup by sending a personal letter to the working men of manchester thanking the cotton workers for their patience and sacrifice. Whatever misfortune made before your country or my own, he declared, the peace and friendship which now exist between the two nations will be perpetual.

Jefferson Davis' silence on the same matter of slavery now spoke volumes. Even though some veteran abolition campaigners like bishop samuel wolverforce and lord brim remained unconvinced. THE Proclamation had finally succeeded in linking the cause emancipation with a united america. THE Hitherto pacifist, british and foreign anti-slavery society, changed its stance and become actively involved in the counterpropaganda war secretly supplying the u.s. Embassy with information about confederate activities in the financial markets. There was also a rise in pamphlets and books putting forward the case for the north. The economist, for example, john lliott kearns published his attack on the south called "the slave power" right fter the emancipation proclamation. KEARNS Was followed by fannie campbell who published her diary, journal of a residence on a georgian plantation in 1838 to '39. Written during her exile on her former husband's slave plantation in georgia. WILLIAM Howard russell went next with an about his stay in america entitled by meyerry, north and south have verified many of her observations. The spectator journalist edward dicey followed with a travel log six months in the federal sdhats tried to correct many of the distortions and ka rirk tours about northern culture that pro-southern journalists had propagated.

THE Growing sense that the north was committed to abolition had just as big an effect on southern supporters in england as it did on northern supporters. THE Confederates were horrified by the efforts of james spence to propose an emancipation proclamation to jefferson davis. Quote, i almost dread the direction his friendship and devotion seem to take, henry hotts confessed to the confederate secretary of state judah benjamin. Spence had been so inspired by the proclamation that he was convinced the south should issue one of her own. Hotts was outraged by the idea but unsure how to divert him without exposing the truth. IN The end, benjamin was forced to fire spence as the south's official financial agent in england. DETERMINED To regain the moral high ground on the slavery question, hotts managed to pull off the extraordinary feat of persuading a religious publishing house to include in every publication religious and nonreligious, a southern pamphlet entitled mason with his tory party allies. Camouflaging the total dependence on slavery was the only way mason and john slidell were able to give them his support. EVEN Then, the relationship almost founded when sharpsbury asked in all innocence, quote if the confederate president could not in some way present the prospect of gradual emancipation, such a declaration coming from him unsolicited would have the happiest effect in europe, unquote. The confederate commissioners insisted that abolition was an issue for the individual states to decide, not richmond. Which provided an answer but not the answer to lincoln's proclamation. HOWEVER, fortunately for henry hotts, the confederates finessing of the slavery question was enough to convince james spence. SO Much so that he continued to propagandize on their behalf, despite being reveefd of his official position for being anti-slavery.
 



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