Discussion England Supported the Confederacy?

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Tom Hughes

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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.
I just know England needed and wanted the cotton. It’s all about the money fellas. The cotton wasn’t coming from the North.
 

Belle Montgomery

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Just ask poor Rose O'Neal Greenhow! After being imprisoned by the Yanks she went to Europe seeking support for the Confederacy from England and France and drowned on the shores of NC returning from her trip. While she found a great deal of sympathy there, neither nation would officially sanction the Southern government. In fact, I have read that they were actually waiting to see who was "winning" the war before deciding who they would side with. Hence...the observers.
 

Saphroneth

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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.
Fremantle? I'm pretty sure he just went on holiday.
Observers certainly saw both sides of the conflict - Hewitt IIRC examined the Washington fortifications.

I just know England needed and wanted the cotton. It’s all about the money fellas. The cotton wasn’t coming from the North.
I'm not sure how that relates to the post I quoted.

The British Government, if it had a policy, was somewhat pro-Union because the Union were the ones establishing nice shiny new precedents on what a blockading power was allowed to do.
Individual British people were sometimes pro-Union or pro-Confederate, but the extent to which they were legally allowed to aid the Union or the Confederacy was limited.
 
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Tom Hughes

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Fremantle? I'm pretty sure he just went on holiday.
Observers certainly saw both sides of the conflict - Hewitt IIRC examined the Washington fortifications.


I'm not sure how that relates to the post I quoted.

The British Government, if it had a policy, was somewhat pro-Union because the Union were the ones establishing nice shiny new precedents on what a blockading power was allowed to do.
Individual British people were sometimes pro-Union or pro-Confederate, but the extent to which they were legally allowed to aid the Union or the Confederacy was limited.
England certainly had more economic reasons to support the South than the North.
 

Tom Hughes

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Just ask poor Rose O'Neal Greenhow! After being imprisoned by the Yanks she went to Europe seeking support for the Confederacy from England and France and drowned on the shores of NC returning from her trip. While she found a great deal of sympathy there, neither nation would officially sanction the Southern government. In fact, I have read that they were actually waiting to see who was "winning" the war before deciding who they would side with. Hence...the observers.
You can certainly support the Confederacy without taking an "official" government position on it. The English wanted the cotton.
 

wbull1

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No foreign government either recognized or supported the Confederacy.
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.[/QUOTE]


Thank you for your interesting post. As a minor correction, a black man was considered 3/5 of a person. The UK was willing to reimburse slaveholders for part of the value of the slaves. Neither side in the US was. The blockade allowed foreign ships to leave peacefully. Some in the Lincoln administration wanted a war with England. At one time, Edmund Seward thought the Confederates states would rejoin the Union in that event. Lincoln was smart enough to cool off the hotheads. I have always been impressed that cotton mill workers who were thrown out of work by the lack of cotton continued to support the Union side of the conflict.

I find the argument that some British supported the Confederacy unconvincing. Arms manufacturers sold to both sides. Some individuals supported the South. Currently, some Americans have joined the Taliban, which does not mean the US supports it.
 
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Tom Hughes

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I just know England needed and wanted the cotton. It’s all about the money fellas. The cotton wasn’t coming from the North.
Also, the private firms that were providing arms, equipment and clothing to the South weren't some individualized, isolated, small companies. These were huge companies with lots of reach. They were representative of the large industries that supported the South.
 

uaskme

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The big Investment houses in England Carried State Notes on Southern Railroads, which were built with Slavery. They loaned money to Planters who used Slaves as collateral. They were 1 step outside of Slavery. Also, post emancipation, the Brits had a strenuous Indentured System to replace the Negoes on their Sugar Plantations. Most of it mimicked Slavery. They used Coolies, a poor and starving population.
 
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Also, the private firms that were providing arms, equipment and clothing to the South weren't some individualized, isolated, small companies. These were huge companies with lots of reach. They were representative of the large industries that supported the South.
Those same English firms sold weapons and munitions to the federal government.
 
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wbull1

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Also, the private firms that were providing arms, equipment and clothing to the South weren't some individualized, isolated, small companies. These were huge companies with lots of reach. They were representative of the large industries that supported the South.
Or they were large companies that supported making a profit, since they sold to the North also.
 

Saphroneth

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England certainly had more economic reasons to support the South than the North.
That's not necessarily the case, because British companies sold to the North a lot as well. Tarrif barriers didn't help, but even the pre-ACW tarrif barriers didn't stop about half of all prewar US iron consumption being imported from the British.

Also, the private firms that were providing arms, equipment and clothing to the South weren't some individualized, isolated, small companies. These were huge companies with lots of reach. They were representative of the large industries that supported the South.
They were selling to the South, not "providing arms, equipment and clothing" gratis. Given that British companies sold c. 436,000 Enfields to the Union (far more than the number that got sold to the Confederacy), one could equally make the claim that the large industries supported the North.
Similarly, the Union imported something like 5,000 tons of saltpetre per annum from the British Empire; total Confederate imports through the blockade of the same substance for the whole war come to about 2,700,000 lbs, or ca. 1,300 tons.
 

John S. Carter

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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?
Have you ever heard of the Confederate raider Alabama ? It was built in Portsmouth but in order to avoid violation of neutrality,she was armed and man by the Confederacy once she left the port into international waters.
 
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uaskme

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I just finished studying Yancey. He was 1 of the First Delegates to go to England after Secession. The Confederates got there before the Yankees. He is going to find out Cotton isn't as King as the Fire Eaters thought it to be. He objected to Neutrality. However:

Yancey began a series of meetings with pro-South Englishmen, including Thomas Baring and Joshua Bates of Baring Brothers. But his most important caller was William Shaw Lindsay, a wealthy shipowner and member of Parliament. After "a long & interesting interview" at Lindsay's office, Lindsay invited the Alabamian to attend a meeting of Parliament. pp310

Yancey met John Arthur Roebuck, who would soon join Gregory and Lindsay in the Manchester Southern Club. John Laird immediately became an important new ally, both on the floor of Parliament and through his shipbuilding company. By June 1862, Confederate agents contracted with the Laird Brothers to construct a cruiser named the CSS Alabama, which proved devastating to Union Ships. Later the Laird shipyards also produced two ironclad rams for the Confederacy. Laird and Yancey got along so well that the former had Yancey visit his country home for a few days in May. pp311


Yancey is going to explain the Yankees position on Slavery:

The question of the morality of slavery is not for the undersigned to discuss with foreign power, But then Yancey quickly reminded Russell that the American Declaration of Independence did not eradicate African slavery, and the British law had supported it at that time. Yancey correctly noted Lincoln's promise not to interfere with the institution of slavery, and cited the recent resolution by the Federal Congress to maintain the. "(pro-slavery)." constitution and to enforce the laws (many of them pro-slavery)," as well as military orders to Union forces not to interfere with southerners' ownership of their human property, pp317

Here is the answer to the original OP, why Brit Troops went to Canada:

Seward was livid. Reacting to the limited successes of Yancey and his colleagues, Seward vowed to Charles Sumner, "God **** them, I'll give them hell." Ever before receiving Russell's report of his meeting with Adams, Lord Lyons wrote to London that Seward barely remained "within the bounds of decency even in ordinary social intercourse." Lyons feared that Seward's hasty words could be "followed by violent deeds.". . . the British government decided to strengthen its armed forces in Canada with three battalions, just in case Seward truly meant war. pp312-313 William Lowndes Yancey by Walther

So, Confederates made friends and had support from some pro confederate Brits, and Brits who wanted to make money.
 
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leftyhunter

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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.
I own a copy of Fremantle's book. It's an interesting read no doubt but I definitely disagree with some of Fremantle's assertions. The
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.
I actually own a copy of Fremantle's book. I enjoyed the book but certainly don't agree with all of Fremantle's assertions.
We have an old thread that @Waterloo50 might of started in official foreign military observers to the ACW. There is a picture of a group of British officers who were observing the Peninsula Campaign as guests of General McCellen who about ten years before had been appointed by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to observe the Crimean War.
Leftyhunter
 

wausaubob

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The British foreign secretary engaged in some very close questioning of Mason and Slidell in February 1862. The right of inspection treaty was agreed to by voice vote in the Senate in April 1862. By September 1863 the foreign office overruled the courts and seized the Laird rams. By January 1865, Palmerston lied in the face of the last ditch of the Confederate emissary and said that slavery had never been a problem blocking recognition. It had been the problem since day 1.
Considering how bad the shortfall in cotton was going to pinch before Indian growers could make up the shortage, the British were very patient. Cotton became too valuable to spin, because just holding it in warehouses made it more valuable. There was certainly a lot of individual weakness in producing a few raiders. British investors in US railroads made money, arms producers made tons of money selling stuff to the US, silk textiles had a good market with cotton prices rising, and US investors selling ships to British LLC's had to take what the market could bear, and then found plenty of cargoes in New York and Montreal shipping wheat to Britain.
And the Scottish blockade running businesses had the Confederacy upside down by ankles. What's not to like, from the British standpoint?
 
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Saphroneth

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Don't forget that military observers came in two categories - official and non - and that many of the observers were not official. Fremantle didn't even report to the government, he just published a book.


By January 1865, Palmerston's lied in the face of the last ditch of the Confederate emissary and said that slavery had never been a problem blocking recognition. It had been the problem since day 1.
Of course slavery wasn't "the" problem blocking recognition of a foreign state. If it was the United States would not be recognized at that time, as it still had slavery.

However, it probably disinclined anyone to bend the rules in favour of the Confederacy - British policy of the time, such as it was, was that a nation had to win independence and then it would be recognized.
 

Saphroneth

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Per Robcraufurd, from elsewhere (mostly for the examples):

To see that the British expect a state to win its own independence, you only have to look at comparable events on the American continent. Texas declares independence in 1836; Britain recognises her in 1842, six years after the last battle, on the condition that she abolishes the slave trade. Mexico wins its independence in 1821; Argentina in 1818; Colombia in 1818; Britain recognises them all in 1824.


These four examples demonstrate by themselves that the key factor for the British recognizing a nation as independent is that they have manifestly become independent. It's not the only one, but it rather appears to be required.

It's interesting to note that the CSA appears to have been quite confused on the matter, but "recognition" means nothing more nor less than recognition. The fact that in 1777 the French recognized the independence of the Thirteen Colonies concurrently with signing treaties of alliance and overtly intervening in the American War of Independence may have distorted the perception, but if for whatever reason Britain had recognized the CSA as independent during the American Civil War then all it would have meant is a slight upgrading in the terminology used to refer to the CSA.

It might have meant they could successfully court French assistance, but that's by the by.
 

Norm53

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Thank you all for a very interesting and educational thread. Read all 14 pages, but much is over my head. Can some of you recommend some books that describe the participation of all foreign nations that were involved in the ACW? GB, of course. What about others, such as France, Caribbean Islands, and Canada? Also, didn't Mexico play a part? Also a treatment of GB pro-USA and pro-CSA parties and individuals, and the effects on various GB workers, some benefitting (armaments) and others not (cotton cloth) would be helpful. Statistics on amounts shipped by commodity both ways would be useful.

So far, I saw only these 2 books cited:

A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War
Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations

Thanks in advance for your assistance.
 
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8thFlorida

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Blockade runners were not technically permitted to run guns, powder and percussion caps to the South although they did regularly. That is the point I was making. If the British were truly neutral. Correct?
 
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