"The American Civil War Through the Eyes of A Russian Diplomat"

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TracyM61

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http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1836068.pdf

Found this article quite by chance on JSTOR, “The American Civil War Through The Eyes Of A Russian Diplomat.”

The Journal Article was written by Frank A. Golder in the April 1921 issue of The American Historical Review Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 454-463, and examines the many letters written by a Edouard de Stoeckl to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Gorchakov, from 1854 to 1870, on his concerns of the American Civil War.

What piqued my curiosity was that Russia or any other foreign entity, for that matter, at that time would have even the slightest interest in the welfare of the United States and its citizens. Perhaps, my naiveté of the ACW gives way to that notion.

In the article Stoeckl expresses what I found to be some colorful opinions about President Lincoln, Congress, and the American people. Notably, that he liked Lincoln, the man, but thought him a weak President and a bit of a patsy; thought Seward was fickle and untrustworthy (detailed examples to prove his case); and that the entire country was under the spell of radicals determined to destroy the Union.

The only saving grace, Stoeckl reflects, were the American people, whom he regarded as “exceptional.” Even goes on to say, “…that credit for putting down the insurrection was due to the American people, its sacrifices, to its material resources, and not to the men in power.”

However, at the end the author considers that Stoeckl missed the deeper “spiritual side” among those whom he had been living all those years and blames diplomats of his ilk for spreading the idea that Americans are nothing but a bunch of capitalistic money grubbers lacking any substantial character that would otherwise have compelled them to risk everything for the sake of their cherished principles.

I completely agree with Mr. Golder in his assessment, at least looking back from now to then, that Americans are misunderstood in so many ways.


Hope you enjoy this short read.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve eve to everyone! (One of my friends extended that wish to me in a recent text, thought I would pass it along)


(First page of article)
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR THROUGH THE EYES OF
A RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT'


IT is unfortunately true that the average European diplomat
does not fully understand the American people and their institutions
and consequently misrepresents them in the reports to his govern-
ment. The extent and seriousness of the misrepresentations depend
largely on the differences between the political and social institutions
of the country that sends the diplomat and the country to which he
is sent. In the middle of the nineteenth century no other two civ-
ilized countries were more unlike than Russia and the United States
and there were many misstatements made about each other by their
representatives. This was not done with any evil intent. It was
but natural that a man trained in the philosophy of Nicholas I.
should judge American society by a different standard than one who
had been brought up on the ideals of Lincoln. The Russian and
the American had different backgrounds, different prejudices, dif-
ferent angles of vision, and therefore the objects they sighted
seemed different to them. Neither was wholly wrong or wholly
right, and the views of each had much in them that was of value
to the other. It so happened that Russia had during the Civil War
a very able representative in the person of Rdouard de Stoeckl,
Stoeckl spent about twenty years in Washington in various diplo-
matic capacities and during that time he married an American wife,
formed a large circle of friends among the prominent men of the
capital, and learned to admire the American people.2 His opinions

1 This paper is based on the correspondence of Stoeckl with the Russian for-
eign office, examined by the writer when preparing for the Carnegie Institution
of Washington a report supplementary to that section of his Guide to the Mate-
rials for American History in Russian Archives (Washington, I917) which related
to the tLrchives of the ministry of foreign affairs. When making notes for that
section in I9T4 he was allowed to carry his search down to 1854 only; in I917 he
was permitted to go on to I870. All the letters here cited are dated from
Washington.

2 When ]douard de Stoeckl first came to the United States is not quite clear,
but the records show that he was a member of the Russian legation in Washing-
ton in 1849-I850. In the winter of I853 he left Petrograd to go as consul-general
to the Hawaiian Islands. When he landed in New York he learned that the
Russian minister, Alexander Bodisco, was dead, and that he was expected to take
charge of the legation until another man was sent. The outbreak of the Crimean
war obliged him to remain at this post and he did such good work that his gov-

(454)

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Last edited:

unionblue

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TracyM61,

Enjoyed reading your article that looked from "the outside in" of the American Civil War.

Very much appreciated you taking the time and trouble to post it.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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GS

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With my vision dimmed by the passing of 150+ years since the War, I tend to agree with the Russian's assessment of America's leaders, who orchestrated this horror.
 

TracyM61

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Messages
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Location
Las Vegas, Nevada
With my vision dimmed by the passing of 150+ years since the War, I tend to agree with the Russian's assessment of America's leaders, who orchestrated this horror.
He certainly had a front-row seat the goings on in Washington at that time. I'm inclined to agree with his evaluation of the situation as well, that it was the radicals who were the major problem. At one point, President Lincoln even confessed to Stoeckl, "...that he suffered more from his friends than from his enemies."

Perhaps, the author, in his assessment of foreign diplomats, in 1921, when the article was written, is who he's alluding to. Not quite sure the audience he would be speaking to in this journal article at that time, but could possibly tried to make a point of some sort.

"They are in part responsible for the idea that has gone abroad that the Americans are chiefly interested in money-getting; and this idea has taken such hold that it is doubtful whether even this World War has done much to dispel it."

Interesting, though...
 
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