That England did not officially recognize the American Confederacy had less to do with cotton but more to do with fears of a Northern invasion of Canada, and the two Russian fleets in San Francisco’s and New York’s harbors in 1863-64. France feared the latter as well. While both Lincoln and Alexander I of Russia allegedly emancipated slaves and serfs respectively, both at the same time were ruthlessly crushing independence movements in the South and Poland. Lincoln and Seward always had their eyes on the tariffs coming from Southern ports, and re-establishing Northern control over them; Stowe’s book was a novel from a person who had not visited the South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Lincoln-Stowe Propaganda
“In 1859 the South provided nearly 90 percent of the cotton reaching the European market. England alone took over a billion pounds a year; one-fifth of her population was said to be dependent upon cotton manufacture. By January 1861 Southern exports had all but stopped. Production that year reached an all-time high of 4.5 million bales, but only ten thousand bales were exported – down from 3.5 million in 1859 and 0.6 million in 1860.
Realistic Southern diplomats made petitions to Napoleon III in Paris. In return for French help in breaking the blockade, the Confederacy was prepared to give France not less than one hundred thousand bales of American cotton . . . the Emperor [suggested enlisting] the cooperation of the British in the undertaking.
There are Southerners who insist to this day that Anglo-French aid would have materialized except for a personal appeal by Mr. Lincoln “To the Workingmen of Manchester” on the issue of slavery, coupled with the great emotional appeal of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, [a novel] which seems to have become required reading for every spinner and weaver in England after 1860.
So effective was the Lincoln-Stowe propaganda that the London Index was moved to say: “The emancipation of the Negro from the slavery of Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s heroes – has become the one idea of millions of British who know no better and do not care to know.”
Nonetheless, British shipyards were constructing two ironclad men-of-war for the Confederacy. To counteract their potential, [Lincoln’s government] sent strong military and naval expeditions to occupy Southern ports and seize cotton which then be doled out to the British in sufficient quantity to “hold them out of the war.”
So when Port Royal [South Carolina] was taken by the Federals [early in the war], the planters burned their entire harvest rather than let it fall into enemy hands. How much cotton was actually destroyed in this way will probably never be known. However, about this time (July, 1862) US Secretary Seward reported to his Minister [Charles Francis Adams] in London that as many as 3.5 million bales remained in the South, though large quantities of it are yet unginned.”
(King Cotton, George Herbert Aul; This is the South, Hodding Carter, Rand McNally, 1959, pp. 143-144)