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British and French Mediation Considered

Rarely mentioned as a decisive deterrent to Anglo-French recognition of Southern independence was the presence of Russian fleets in San Francisco and New York from September 1863 through March 1864. The British and French were both stood puzzled as the Czar and Lincoln emancipated serfs and slaves while at the same time crushing independence movements in Poland and the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

British and French Mediation Considered

“Ultimately the South’s hopes for independence marched with its armies, and indeed when the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland in the fall of 1862, [British Lords] Palmerston and [John] Russell became convinced of the depth and potential of Southern separation.

On September 14, Palmerston wrote to Russell about Anglo-French mediation and “an arrangement upon the basis of separation.” Russell responded, “I agree with you that the time has come for offering mediation to the United States Government, with a view of the recognition of the Independence of the Confederates – I agree further that in case of failure, we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern States, as an independent State.”

In accord with these convictions, Russell informally approached his counterpart in Paris, Antoine Edouard Trouvenel, and discussed with Palmerston a date for a meeting of the cabinet to approve the mediation scheme. Russell was still firm in this policy on October 4, when he wrote Palmerston, “I think unless some miracle takes place this will be the very time for offering Mediation.”

And on October 7, Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone let the cat out of the bag. Speaking at Newcastle, Gladstone affirmed, that, “Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more than either, they have made a nation.”

Then, just a quickly as the mediation enthusiasm had developed in England, it evaporated. [Though as important as the Sharpsburg battle and Lincoln’s abolition proclamation] were, other considerations contributed to England’s return to nonintervention. Mediation was attractive to free-traders who resented the Federal blockade, to liberals who supported self-determination, to conservatives who felt a kinship with landed aristocrats in the South, and to some varieties of nationalists who looked with favor upon the dissolution of the United States.

But these attractions were essentially abstract. In the end British statesmen had to face the hard reality of what might follow an unsuccessful offer of mediation and subsequent recognition of the confederacy: they had to ponder the consequences of a North American war. And if the British should be drawn into an American war, they wanted to support the winning side. In this regard, [Sharpsburg] and abolition] were indecisive; neither event broke the American impasse to reveal a victor.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris, editors, Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 179-180)

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

As the Southern States departed the old union to form a more perfect one, they took with them the old Constitution of the Founders—leaving the North to its own peculiar political revolution. As Prince Napoleon observed in 1861, the North behaved as a European monarchy would, calling its unhappy subjects “rebels,” and brutally suppressing Americans seeking liberty.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

“In Washington, the field was left free to the partisans of the Union and also to the men of the Republican party—the party that led Lincoln to the presidency—because of the departure of most of the Senators and Representatives of the seceded States. Therefore, Congress and the Cabinet are in almost complete agreement as to the necessity of waging war to its bitter end. The Confederates are to be treated as rebels—as if they were the subjects of a monarchy instead of the citizens of a republican confederation. In a word, they have to be vanquished by arms, in the style familiar to old Europe.

This great determination, coinciding with the ascension of the Republican party to power, marks the beginning of a new era for American society. It launches her on a road — from which her founders and older statesmen would certainly have withdrawn –filled with dangers, but which might also lead her to supreme greatness. Mr. Lincoln and his friends seem to have decided to go ahead without worrying too much about the somber predictions of the Democratic party, which lost the last election, and which evokes, at every turn, the memories of the past — Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson.

“What are you doing?” the Democrats inquire. “You trampled down the fundamental principle, basis of our success and power — the principle which recognizes the freedom of each State within the confederation, just as each citizen is free within each State. By riveting the State to the confederation, with an indestructible chain, by denying the State a right to secede, you prepare the way for the enslavement of citizens by society and for the destruction of individualism. No liberty is sacred to you any longer.

In the name of the public good you are changing the American republic into something similar to what the Convention made of the French Republic (the ideal of political and administrative unity). We will become a pale copy of our elders rather than the precursors of a new humanity. The military element responsible for your triumph will be needed to keep you in power. You are going to travel the same road as the French Revolution, and you will be lucky if you can also find, under the scepter of a soldier of genius, order and glory in obedience instead of the degrading catastrophes illustrated before your eyes by the military regimes in Mexico and the South American Republics.”

All these historical prosopopoeias leave Mr. Lincoln’s friends rather cold. I suspect them of being rather ignorant of what is called philosophy of history. Without worrying too much about general principles, they run to where the house is burning and throw onto the fire all that they can lay their hands to in order to put it out. Their financial inventions to raise money would cause laughter even among the most ignorant in economics.”

(Prince Napoleon in America, 1861, Camille Ferri Pisani, Indiana University Press, 1959, pp. 44-46)

The Confederacy's Open Sea Blockade of the North

The destructive effect of Southern raiders over Northern commerce during the war is seldom recognized as Confederate cruisers drove the Northern merchant marine shipping from the seas, a defeat from which it never recovered in postwar years.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Confederacy’s Open Sea Blockade of the North

“The mediation enthusiasm in Great Britain during the autumn of 1862 was the nearest thing to intervention undertaken by the European powers during the Confederate war, although in reality diplomatic circumstances were a bit more volatile afterwards than historians have often assumed. The Powers had not declared irrevocable neutrality; they were determined to watch and wait.

If there should be a significant alteration in the American situation, both Britain and France were prepared to reassess. During the first half of 1863 the Confederates had reason to believe that there were significant alterations in the South’s position, especially vis a vis the British.

By turns that spring the Confederates and then their Northern enemies injected new elements into the international situation on the seas. At long last it seemed that the success of Southern cruisers in what Secretary [Stephen] Mallory termed “commercial warfare” would make the Confederate navy a factor in Atlantic diplomacy. In effect the Confederates established an open-sea blockade; using foreign ships, they roamed the seas in search of Union commercial vessels, whose cargoes they captured or destroyed.

The architect of the Confederate commercial war was James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Georgian who had served in the “old navy.” Bulloch spent the war period, and the rest of his life, in England as a purchasing agent for the Navy Department.

Not only did he contract for ships and oversee their construction, he undertook the more difficult task of running the diplomatic blockade of European neutrality. Bulloch managed to launch the most important of the South’s nineteen commerce raiders. His greatest success was the Alabama. Built at the Laird shipyards, the ship was disguised as the merchant vessel Enrica until its maiden voyage in July 1862.

[Under] the command of Captain Raphael Semmes . . . the Alabama began preying upon United States commerce. Although the Alabama never entered a Confederate port during its extended cruise of twenty-two months, it destroyed or captured more than sixty Northern ships. It and the other Confederate raiders were responsible for the doubling of marine shipping rates in the North.

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 182-183)

Oct 27, 2014 - Foreign Viewpoints    No Comments

Southern Hopes of Foreign Recognition

Historian Emory Thomas wrote that Confederates believed themselves “heirs of the American Revolutionary tradition of 1776,” underscored by their President being inaugurated on Washington’s birthday and stating that “We hope to perpetuate the principles of our revolutionary fathers.” President Jefferson Davis told his countrymen, “you assumed to yourselves the right, as your fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

Southern Nationhood and Foreign Recognition

“[General Robert E. Lee] and Davis had decided to take the offensive in the east. As he had done the previous fall, Lee drove his army west of his enemy, crossed the Potomac upstream, and sent widely dispersed columns into Maryland. This time the Confederates continued up into Pennsylvania and posed a distinct threat to Washington and Baltimore.

The invasion would not draw off troops from Vicksburg, but should Vicksburg fall, its loss would be small indeed compared to a major victory before Washington. Lee had no illusions about besieging the enemy capital immediately. He and Davis hoped to draw Hooker into another Chancellorsville; this time the ultimate prize would be Washington instead of Richmond, and this time perhaps the Southerners could achieve a battle of annihilation and at the same time a diplomatic coup.

Once in Pennsylvania, Lee expanded his thinking about the campaign and urged that Davis collect all available troops from the Carolinas, place Beauregard in command, and order an assault on Washington from the South. The idea might have had a decisive effect upon what began as a limited offensive, but Davis believed it too complicated and too risky.

Emperor Napoleon III . . . [in the late spring of 1863] came as close as he ever would [to recognizing the Confederacy]. While Napoleon was fretting anew about his nation’s need for cotton, . . . and digesting reports of the Southern victory at Chancellorsville, in England John A. Roebuck announced his intention to place before Parliament a resolution supporting immediate Anglo-French recognition of the Confederacy.

The Palmerston government let it be known that it opposed the project and justified the opposition on the ground that Napoleon had lost all enthusiasm for recognition. Such was not the case, though, though, and on June 18 the Emperor told Confederate diplomat John Slidell that he would “make a direct proposition to England for joint recognition.” Thus Roebuck confidently prepared to introduce his resolution on June 30, and Europe became an active front, along with Pennsylvania and Vicksburg in the Confederate war.

During June of 1863 the tide of Confederate independence and nationhood probably reached its flood. [At] the time Southerners had a right to be optimistic, or at least hopeful, that their revolution would prevail, or at least endure. In the minds of its citizens the Confederacy was more a nation in June of 1863 than ever before or after.

Two years of war had transformed Southern political and economic institutions and the Southern people. War and Confederate nationalism also conditioned Southerners creative energies in music, art, literature and learning. The black experience during wartime underwent subtle but profound metamorphosis, and slavery in the Confederate South was an unsettled institution. The end product of these Confederate alterations of antebellum norms was a distinctive national life behind the battle lines.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 219-221)

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