British public opinion of the North’s war upon the South was informed by their newspapers. The conservative London Dispatch viewed the true motives of the war as “the continuance in power of the North to tax the industry of the South and the consolidation of a huge confederation to sweep every other power from the American continent, to enter into the politics of Europe with a Republican propaganda, and to bully the world.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Lincoln a Talented Farmer and Stump Speaker
“The British aristocrats’ negative view of the U.S. system of government was enhanced by their negative reaction to Abraham Lincoln as president. His immediate predecessors – [Franklin] Pierce and [James] Buchanan – had had backgrounds that seemed familiar to those of British cabinet ministers. Pierce had been a congressman, a major-general in the Mexican War, and a senator while Buchanan had been a senator, secretary of state, and minister to Britain.
But in 1860 the nation had elected a man from the frontier whose only experience in the national government was a single two-year term in Congress.
The British minister in Washington, Lord Lyons, reported in May 1860 that the Republican nominee for president was “a rough Westerner, of the lowest origins and little education.” Two months later he still referred to Lincoln as a “rough farmer who began life as a farm laborer and got on by a talent for stump speaking.”
British journalists who met the president in 1861 and 1862 emphasized his rustic and ungainly appearance. Edward Dicey, correspondent for the Spectator and Macmillan’s Magazine, wrote a similar description in 1862 and added that “you would never say he was a gentleman.”
[Dicey] wrote that Lincoln “works hard . . . does little, and unites a painful sense of responsibility to a still more painful sense, perhaps, that his work is too great for him to grapple with.” Alexander J. Beresford-Hope, a wealthy ultraconservative, remarked that “nobody in this county, clever as he might be at rail-slitting, at navigating a barge, or at an attorney’s desk, would, without other qualifications, ever become prime minister of England, let alone county court judge.”
Richard Cobden, an important Radical leader in Parliament and a stout friend of the North, thought . . . [after] the emancipation proclamation [that] “Lincoln had a certain moral dignity, but is intellectually inferior.” A London correspondent reported to Die Presse in Vienna that Lincoln was “a plebian, who made his way from rail splitter to representative in Illinois, a man without intellectual brilliance, without special strength of character, not exceptionally impressive – an ordinary man of goodwill.” The correspondent’s name was Karl Marx.
A British scholar, Martin Crawford, described the [London Times] persistent belief that the North could not win the war and that continued separation of North and South was inevitable:
“The longer the [war] lasted, the more convinced The Times became that Lincoln’s government should accept disunion for what it was, a sad and irrevocable fact . . . Britain’s leading newspaper had established itself as a committed opponent of the [Northern] cause . . . “
(One War at a Time, The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, pp. 28-29)