Napoleon III favored the South as he was committed to building a French empire in Mexico, and viewed Southern armies as his potential allies and the North as an adversary. Britain became convinced early that no mediation would work as the South wanted to part in a Union with the North, and that Lincoln would entertain no thoughts of political independence for the South. Rather than the popular belief that a dislike of African slavery was holding back European recognition for the South, it was Russian intrigue against France and England that sent the Czar’s Baltic and Pacific fleets to New York and San Francisco harbors in late 1863 for an eight month stay – and as a veiled threat to Europe to avoid mediation or intervention.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
European Recognition for the South
“Napoleon seized the initiative which was relinquished by Lord Russell, and late in 1862 . . . proposed joint mediation [of America’s war] to Britain and Russia. Napoleon’s proposal called for a six months’ armistice to lead to formal recognition of the Confederacy.
The proposal was politely but promptly turned down. Alexander II, Czar of All the Russians . . . still resented British-French intervention in favor of Turkey, which had led to the Crimean War. A year later – not before the fortunes of war had decisively changed in favor of the Union – Russia sent two fleets, one to New York and the other to San Francisco, as a demonstration of friendship.
The British answer . . . sent in November 1862, said in effect that mediation would have no chance of success. From St. Petersburg, on November 18, 1862, [Russian Prince Gorchakov] . . . assured the French Ambassador of his intention to instruct the Russian Minister at Washington . . . to join the intended “demarche of France and Britain in case there is a favorable reception on the part of the Union government.” Naturally, such a chance never existed.
[In January 1863, France offered] mediation to the United States government. The result was a blunt rejection by [Secretary of State William] Seward, supported by a Congressional resolution denouncing foreign interference in the strongest terms.
In June, 1863, when French troops entered Mexico City and the Confederacy was still undefeated, Napoleon received in private audience two pro-Southern Englishmen. They were John A. Roebuck, an ultraconservative MP, and his associate, William S. Lindsay, a representative of Britain’s powerful shipbuilding industry. After returning to London, Roebuck introduce a resolution in the House of Commons urging the recognition of the Confederacy and disclosing confidential details of his talk with the Emperor of the French.
[Edward T. Hardy, American-born] consular agent of the Austrian Empire in Norfolk, Virginia, [was extremely well-informed about Southern intentions and wrote] . . . “the Aspect of American Affairs,” . . . filed as an important document in the Imperial Chancery of Vienna.
Hardy’s sixteen-page handwritten report assumed that [Maximilian’s acceptance of the Mexican Crown was a foregone conclusion, and that, “an Empire having been proclaimed, a war with the United States in inevitable; and the next to importance to the pacification and reconciliation of the people of Mexico is a recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and an alliance offensive and defensive with it.” This sounds like an invitation to Maximilian from Jefferson Davis for a joint offensive against the Union.
(Lincoln and the Emperors, A.R. Tyrner-Tyrnauer, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, excerpts pp. 83-85; 90)