Discussion England Supported the Confederacy?

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leftyhunter

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If it's a warship and a known one, there absolutely is; if it's not a warship, there is not.
"Friendly nation" doesn't have any legal force. What has force is alliance and neutrality, and in this case the USA was a neutral - if the US was constructing a known warship for the Russians while neutral in a war, that would be a breach of neutrality.
If on the other hand the ship was not armed at the time it left port, it would not be a breach of neutrality. If the US were honestly unaware that the ship was intended to be a Russian warship, then it would also not be a breach of neutrality.

This is how international law and neutrality worked at the time. Armed warships could not be constructed for a belligerent by a neutral power for which a relevant declaration of neutrality had been made; other weapons of war could be purchased by a belligerent, but there was no guarantee of safe delivery. In this sense it's like Cash And Carry from WW2 (but Destroyers for Bases is right out).


It's quite possible that that was the case; for the rams the identity of the people who ordered the ships wasn't exactly announced in the papers. (They were claimed to be for another power not currently involved in a war.)


In the first case, it's quite possible to critique the hypocrisy of another while holding a consistent stance of one's own; in the second case, unless the newspapers are also the ones selling arms to the Confederacy specifically then it's not a hypocritical stance even if the connection is being consciously made that Confederate == slavery. (See below.)
The thing the newspapers highlighted is that the Lincoln administration was claiming an antislavery stance while also enacting the Fugutive Slave Law inside the District of Columbia; that's the same group doing it in both cases.
Hypocrisy is something done by an individual or an organization, with a single coherent membership; the government holding both positions is hypocritical, but an individual holding one position while another individual from the same country holds a different position is not.



It wouldn't; this however was the view of the British at the time. They felt that an end to the war without Confederate independence would see a protection clause applied to slavery, largely because they misunderstood the Southern mindset.


During the time period of a lot of these newspaper articles, the following were true.
1) The Union and the Confederacy were both slave owning nations.
2) The Union's antislavery actions were limited to the slaves of supporters of their enemy, and not their own supporters.
3) The British felt that the actions of the Confederacy demonstrated that the Confederacy as a whole wanted to be independent more than they wanted the more effective preservation of slavery.

This is the fundamental misunderstanding of the British at the time. They felt that there was an easy route for the Confederates to gain the preservation of slavery for decades into the future (a negotiated reunification peace), and in that they were correct (because Lincoln wrote as such). What they thought (incorrectly) was that the reason the Confederates had not chosen this route was because they wanted independence for its own sake; what they did not realize is that the Confederates as a whole felt that independence was the surest route to secure the continuation of slavery.
You raise some good points. On the other hand far more Union casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles vs the Confederate Navy.
The UK's role in the ACW is complex. The UK supplied weapons to both side's. The UK traded with both side's. The UK allowed the Union Army to recruit men on it's soil. The UK briefly threatened the Union with war. The UK allowed naval ships on both side's to use it's ports to replenish food and fuel.
The UK only diplomatically recognized one side.
The UK allowed American shipowners to reregister their ships as British to protect them against Confederate raider's.
The UK built Confederate raider's and blockade runner's.
I know you know the above but some of our newer members may not.
Just pointing out the complexity of the British role in the ACW.
Leftyhunter
 

damYankee

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You raise some good points. On the other hand far more Union casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles vs the Confederate Navy.
The UK's role in the ACW is complex. The UK supplied weapons to both side's. The UK traded with both side's. The UK allowed the Union Army to recruit men on it's soil. The UK briefly threatened the Union with war. The UK allowed naval ships on both side's to use it's ports to replenish food and fuel.
The UK only diplomatically recognized one side.
The UK allowed American shipowners to reregister their ships as British to protect them against Confederate raider's.
The UK built Confederate raider's and blockade runner's.
I know you know the above but some of our newer members may not.
Just pointing out the complexity of the British role in the ACW.
Leftyhunter
Britain’s role in most of the planet is the definition of complexity.
 

Saphroneth

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You raise some good points. On the other hand far more Union casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles vs the Confederate Navy.
That's the nature of ground warfare. I'd imagine more Confederate casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles than by the Union navy, too.

It is an interesting what-if to contemplate the Great Rapprochement having taken place in the 1850s instead of much later i the century, and the British being willing to be not neutral but US-allied. Sending troops would probably be unwanted by the Union (though advisors to train the rapidly expanding US army might have gone down better so long as they hadn't actually fought) but the difference in terms of supply is enormous.

After several tense weeks, the crisis was resolved when the Lincoln administration released the envoys and disavowed Captain Wilkes's actions, though without a formal apology.
Okay - and why did he do this? It's not because he considered the actions to be obviously illegal, because the first reaction on hearing of them wasn't to disavow them!

One of the reasons why alternatives are a necessary consideration when studying history is that those alternatives are in the mind of the decision makers (at which point they're alternate futures) - it's a fundamental part of our psychological makeup. When we consider a course of action we do so by thinking about the possible consequences.
 
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Saphroneth

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The UK allowed American shipowners to reregister their ships as British to protect them against Confederate raider's.
I wanted to point this one out as I think it's a misstatement. What was actually happening was not a reregistry of shipping - it was a sale of the ships from American owners to British. This meant the registry did transfer, but so did the ownership - it's only a valid ownership transfer which protected the ships from raiders.
 

GS

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Their 19th Century cotton exchange buildings, which are still standing in former industrial Manchester, England, would lead one to suspect their loyalty for the C.S.A., but their giant statue of President Abraham Lincoln indicates otherwise. Maybe they' were a little schizophrenic in loyalties?
 

damYankee

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That's the nature of ground warfare. I'd imagine more Confederate casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles than by the Union navy, too.

It is an interesting what-if to contemplate the Great Rapprochement having taken place in the 1850s instead of much later i the century, and the British being willing to be not neutral but US-allied. Sending troops would probably be unwanted by the Union (though advisors to train the rapidly expanding US army might have gone down better so long as they hadn't actually fought) but the difference in terms of supply is enormous.


Okay - and why did he do this? It's not because he considered the actions to be obviously illegal, because the first reaction on hearing of them wasn't to disavow them!

One of the reasons why alternatives are a necessary consideration when studying history is that those alternatives are in the mind of the decision makers (at which point they're alternate futures) - it's a fundamental part of our psychological makeup. When we consider a course of action we do so by thinking about the possible consequences.
“Although without a formal apology”
That is not speculation. No debate.
 
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wausaubob

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That's the nature of ground warfare. I'd imagine more Confederate casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles than by the Union navy, too.

It is an interesting what-if to contemplate the Great Rapprochement having taken place in the 1850s instead of much later i the century, and the British being willing to be not neutral but US-allied. Sending troops would probably be unwanted by the Union (though advisors to train the rapidly expanding US army might have gone down better so long as they hadn't actually fought) but the difference in terms of supply is enormous.


Okay - and why did he do this? It's not because he considered the actions to be obviously illegal, because the first reaction on hearing of them wasn't to disavow them!

One of the reasons why alternatives are a necessary consideration when studying history is that those alternatives are in the mind of the decision makers (at which point they're alternate futures) - it's a fundamental part of our psychological makeup. When we consider a course of action we do so by thinking about the possible consequences.
It would not have made any difference. The American administrations of Pierce and Buchanan were so corrupt that even a few British built naval vessels would have been dispersed or disabled during the secession crisis. British advice about preparedness would have been disregarded.
 

wausaubob

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When the Lincoln administration began to organize I believe the British representative in Washington, D.C. began to offer substantial guidance as what the British could accept as United States policy with respect to the blockade.
There is plenty of material to support conflicting narratives. However if the British did not break the blockade, and continued to trade with the United States, the eventual result could never have been far off.
 

wausaubob

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British policy contemplated that if the Confederacy and the United States separated, British financial imperialism could help the United States and penalize the Confederacy. The British were studying ways in which cotton could be grown in other parts of the world.
These plans became significantly less urgent in two steps when the United States captured New Orleans and then later cleared the entire Mississippi River.
 
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leftyhunter

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That's the nature of ground warfare. I'd imagine more Confederate casualties were inflicted by Enfield rifles than by the Union navy, too.

It is an interesting what-if to contemplate the Great Rapprochement having taken place in the 1850s instead of much later i the century, and the British being willing to be not neutral but US-allied. Sending troops would probably be unwanted by the Union (though advisors to train the rapidly expanding US army might have gone down better so long as they hadn't actually fought) but the difference in terms of supply is enormous.


Okay - and why did he do this? It's not because he considered the actions to be obviously illegal, because the first reaction on hearing of them wasn't to disavow them!

One of the reasons why alternatives are a necessary consideration when studying history is that those alternatives are in the mind of the decision makers (at which point they're alternate futures) - it's a fundamental part of our psychological makeup. When we consider a course of action we do so by thinking about the possible consequences.
I certainly agree that had the British at a minimum embargoed the Confederacy and denied the Confederate blockade runners the use of it's Caribbean ports the Civil War would if not lasted as long.
Of course as the old saying goes (David Ben Gurion attributed it to Charles De Gaulle)" Nations don't have permanent friends only permanent interests".
During the 19th Century the US was more or less still following the sage advice of George Washington" do not go abroad in search of monsters" and " avoid foreign entanglements".
Somehow the US stopped following old George's advice much to it's detriment.
Double extra trivia points redeemable for a beer at the world's best British Brewery which of course is McLeod's Brewery in Van Nuys,California the jewel of the San Fernando Valley if you PM me with the answer for " when did the UK sell weapons to both sides not so long ago".
Leftyhunter
 

Saphroneth

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“Although without a formal apology”
Yes, because the British understood that domestic politics tied Lincoln's hands. The release of Mason and Slidell and the disavowal of Wilkes' actions, being the substantive issues under discussion, were regarded as an apology.

Since you seem to be focusing on the wrong part of my point, as far as I'm concerned, I'll state it simpler.

The consideration of what-if is necessary to understand the actions of a historical actor, because those people were humans and not automata. They made decisions based on a consideration of the alternatives (rational or not) and thus we determine (among other things) whether decisions can be viewed as correct by whether their conjectured outcome would in fact have been as they assessed.

So for example the reason why Lincoln argued for days against releasing Mason and Slidell before ultimately deciding to do so was because he had the erroneous understanding that the British would be willing to submit the matter to neutral arbitration; the reason why Seward argued in favour of releasing them was because (like Lincoln) he determined that a war with Britain would have major negative consequences.
Conversely the British did not intervene because at no point did the benefits outweigh the costs for them; in Trent the calculation was made that fighting a war with the Union would be worth it if the cost of not fighting a war was to let a major insult to the British flag go unchallenged (the conditional was not met and so war was avoided).


It would not have made any difference. The American administrations of Pierce and Buchanan were so corrupt that even a few British built naval vessels would have been dispersed or disabled during the secession crisis.
In the first case, it's fairly clear that most of the USN was retained for use by the US Navy; in the second case I'm speaking more of aid (materiel and training) during the Civil War for the Union only. A few hundred Hythe-trained NCOs would, say, allow Mr. Lincoln's 75,000 volunteers to at least shoot straight (armed as they would be fully with Springfield and Enfield rifles), while providing modern Armstrong guns in quantity to the Regular artillery would make a significant impact.
 

BlueandGrayl

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Well if you've read A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War or other books such as Blue and Gray Diplomacy you would know that Britain held the key to Confederate victory given the economic ties it shared with the South through cotton of which most British textile factories and mills still used.

British reason for recognition were aside from economic was the belief that the North could not defeat the South (which was possible under certain circumstances in certain periods between 1861 until early 1863) it was specifically based off Britain's hardheaded evalution of the military prospects of the Confederacy they believed that Confederate independence must be established properly as truth and fact and to quote Lord Palmerston "but we ought to know that their separate independence is Truth and Fact before we can declare it so" he repeated similar sentiments in a letter to the British Foreign Ministry in October 1861 stating "It is in the highest degree likely that the North will not be able to subdue the South, and... if the Southern Union (the name Palmerston refers to the Confederacy) is established as an independent state, it would afford a valuable and extensive market for British manufactures. But the operations of the war have as yet been too inconclusive to warrant a formal acknowledgement of the Southern Union".

As for slavery admittedly it was quite antislavery and while the Emancipation Proclaimation made it more difficult for recognition to occur as mentioned before it was based off an evalaution of Confederate military prospects to quote Palmerston (again) "We do not like slavery, but we want cotton, and we dislike very much your Morrill Tariff" in 1861 eventually their failures at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in 1863 meant they would not help rejecting a proposal by John Roebuck for meditation/recognition which one thread by a certain person I disagree with quite a bit posted.

The closest about the whole "England Supported the Confederacy" thing would have to be the Trent Affair between November-December 1861 when Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto captured John Slidell of Louisiana and James Mason of Virginia aboard the RMS Trent this caused quite a bit of outrage in Britain to see their flag disrespected and many in the United States openly wanted to have war with the Redcoats just like in 1776 and 1812 it was when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's Consort) who was nearing death and had been in a carriage incident did he make an alteration to the British response to America by acknowledging that the Wilkes did not act under orders by the United States government did tensions cool a bit. I might also discuss the planned joint British/Anglo-French meditation and recognition plan while Confederate counteroffensives were happening on in the summer and fall of 1862 though I've already mentioned the whole Trent Affair for you.
 
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Urbancohort

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No foreign government either recognized or supported the Confederacy.[/QUOTE]
I am not an expert but I am interested in this discussion.
The UK was neutral but relations were initially soured when Lincoln declared the Southern Ports blockaded.
As I understand it, this was a mistaken act by the new and inexperienced administration dealing with a crisis. Britain (and France I believe) then conferred upon the Confederacy a recognition of them as belligerants. This wasn't diplomatic recognition of the South as a State by any state of affairs but a diplomatic nicety. Had Lincoln instead declared the South in rebellion and as the "owning power" the US declared the ports "closed" because of the rebellion, then that would have been a policing action and not led to the limited recognition.

Some UK industrial concerns supported the South for economic reasons, realistically to keep the supply of cotton rolling in. Some Aristocratic individuals saw the planter aristocracy as more congenial than the Yankee factory owners. William Gladstone, as big a humbug as has ever played politics in the Houses of Parliament, DESPITE his Liberal credentials made supportive noises. No doubt some politicians entertained fantasies of revenge for Yorktown, but generally people in the UK who took a position were anti slavery and supported the Union.

The UK was, and is, itself a union of states so would not politically be supportive of declarations of independence, although a number of observers commented ironically on the successors of the Signatories to the Declaration of Independence from the British Crown refusing to recognise states seeking to go down the same path.

British politicians (and Prince Albert) generally reacted rather more cautiously when the Trent Incident occurred than did Palmerston, the PM. He was the product of much earlier times and had made "gunboat diplomacy" his keynote in the 1840s and 50s. The UK had expended much treasure and effort in suppressing the slave trade and actually assigned RN units to enforce international law. We can be cynical about that now, but don't forget the framers of the Constitution agreed a black man in the Southern states was for tax and representation 2/3rds of a human being. The UK had actually harmed her own interests somewhat in ending slavery in 1839, (incidentally, an act that might not have occurred had the US not won her freedom 50 years before!) Thus there was not a lot of sympathy for slave holding in Britain at the time.

Generally, she sought to promote peaceful trade at this time, and war was always a nuisance and interruption.

However, it is worth remembering that the UK was THE Superpower of the day. How would a current US administration approach dealing with an incident whereby an official US flagged ship was detained by a foreign power and persons under its protection dragged off? I suspect not much differently.

Also, how would the US approach a major civil war in part of the world where she felt her commercial interests were threatened? Possibly by looking to cauterise the wou d and limit damage to her influence, citizens, prestige and economy, as the UK did in the 1860s.
 

Saphroneth

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Some UK industrial concerns supported the South for economic reasons, realistically to keep the supply of cotton rolling in. Some Aristocratic individuals saw the planter aristocracy as more congenial than the Yankee factory owners. William Gladstone, as big a humbug as has ever played politics in the Houses of Parliament, DESPITE his Liberal credentials made supportive noises. No doubt some politicians entertained fantasies of revenge for Yorktown, but generally people in the UK who took a position were anti slavery and supported the Union.
I think it would be fair to say that the people in the UK were so anti slavery that they didn't like the Union much either, at least early on.

British politicians (and Prince Albert) generally reacted rather more cautiously when the Trent Incident occurred than did Palmerston, the PM. He was the product of much earlier times and had made "gunboat diplomacy" his keynote in the 1840s and 50s. The UK had expended much treasure and effort in suppressing the slave trade and actually assigned RN units to enforce international law.
Don't forget that Palmerston himself moderated the dispatch.
It's also worth knowing that there was huge support for war in the event of reparation not being made - the great majority of extraparliamentary speeches in the Trent period are for supporting a war not opposing one.

And it's useful to know that in this period the only power on the planet which the RN could not stop the ships of to search was the US. US flagged shipping was conducting slave trading and the RN wasn't able to stop them; the fact the Union had repeatedly refused the mutual right of search was a big irritant.

Also, how would the US approach a major civil war in part of the world where she felt her commercial interests were threatened? Possibly by looking to cauterise the wou d and limit damage to her influence, citizens, prestige and economy, as the UK did in the 1860s.
The way the British handled a civil war or a war of rebellion is pretty simple: don't support the rebelling power. The British were not in the habit of helping nations win their independence; look at the Second Opium War. That was contiguous with the Taiping Rebellion.

The UK had actually harmed her own interests somewhat in ending slavery in 1839, (incidentally, an act that might not have occurred had the US not won her freedom 50 years before!)
I'm not so sure about that. The momentum against slavery was already rolling by the 1770s, and if the US stayed part of the British Empire that adds anti-slavery types to the British Empire as well as pro-slavery types.
 

Urbancohort

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I think it would be fair to say that the people in the UK were so anti slavery that they didn't like the Union much either, at least early on.


Don't forget that Palmerston himself moderated the dispatch.
It's also worth knowing that there was huge support for war in the event of reparation not being made - the great majority of extraparliamentary speeches in the Trent period are for supporting a war not opposing one.

And it's useful to know that in this period the only power on the planet which the RN could not stop the ships of to search was the US. US flagged shipping was conducting slave trading and the RN wasn't able to stop them; the fact the Union had repeatedly refused the mutual right of search was a big irritant.


The way the British handled a civil war or a war of rebellion is pretty simple: don't support the rebelling power. The British were not in the habit of helping nations win their independence; look at the Second Opium War. That was contiguous with the Taiping Rebellion.


I'm not so sure about that. The momentum against slavery was already rolling by the 1770s, and if the US stayed part of the British Empire that adds anti-slavery types to the British Empire as well as pro-slavery types.
Thank you, great replies.

The last is simply this. Had the UK retained the 13 colonies, the slave interests would have been much greater than they were. Ultimately, to then have abolished slavery (at that point in time) would perhaps have led to a rebellion against the Crown in those same colonies.

However, your points are very well made and counter-factial history is a dangerous indulgence!

Thank you
 
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Saphroneth

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The last is simply this. Had the UK retained the 13 colonies, the slave interests would have been much greater than they were. Ultimately, to then have abolished slavery (at that point in time) would perhaps have led to a rebellion against the Crown in those same colonies.
Perhaps the abolition of slavery would indeed have led to a rebellion against the crown; however, the colonies which at that time were retaining slavery would have been fought and they probably would have been defeated.

However, the way the British handled Emancipation was specifically intended to defuse possible dissent. My understanding is that the amount of money assigned to pay off the slave owners was less than the total cost of all the slaves in question, thus incentivizing people to get in quick so they could get a bigger payoff; this naturally resulted in the fragmentation of the pro-slavery bloc.

However, your points are very well made and counter-factial history is a dangerous indulgence!
I think it's practically necessary to understand why historical actors made the decisions they did. As I stated upthread, humans make difficult decisions by constructing mental models of what will happen if we make choice X or choice Y.
 

Tom Hughes

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My tour guide in Halifax, Canada insisted that the British stationed soldiers in Halifax after the Civil War because England feared the United States would invade in retaliation for the British support of the Confederacy. I said I thought England might fear that, but that essentially the British did NOT support the Confederacy. Was I right or was he?
England’s cotton mills were a huge part of their industrial economy and depended on cotton from the South. Plus they supplied the Confederacy with small arms, uniforms, etc. A case could certainly be made that they supported the South
 

Saphroneth

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England’s cotton mills were a huge part of their industrial economy and depended on cotton from the South. Plus they supplied the Confederacy with small arms, uniforms, etc. A case could certainly be made that they supported the South
If private British merchants offering small arms and uniforms for sale on the open market which are purchased by the Confederacy counts as supporting the South, then the British supported the South and they also supported the North.
 
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leftyhunter

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England’s cotton mills were a huge part of their industrial economy and depended on cotton from the South. Plus they supplied the Confederacy with small arms, uniforms, etc. A case could certainly be made that they supported the South
Yet the UK allowed the Union Army to recruit on British soil of which I have a thread " did the Union Army recruit overseas". The UK prevented a British shipping firm from selling the Laird Rams to the Confederacy.
As mentioned the UK was a critical supplier of small arms and parts to the Union.
In essence the UK supported themselves not any side of the Civil War.
Leftyhunter
 

Tom Hughes

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Yet the UK allowed the Union Army to recruit on British soil of which I have a thread " did the Union Army recruit overseas". The UK prevented a British shipping firm from selling the Laird Rams to the Confederacy.
As mentioned the UK was a critical supplier of small arms and parts to the Union.
In essence the UK supported themselves not any side of the Civil War.
Leftyhunter
Great Britain sent Fremantle as a war observer to the South and he had some very good observations in his diary. Fremantle went to the South not the North because of the interest in the South.
 
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