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Great Britain?S Involvement In The Civil War

1184 words - 5 pages

The purpose of this paper is to prove that although England never officially intervened in the American Civil War, they were ultimately supporters of the Confederacy throughout the course of the war. The role of Great Britain in the American Civil War is often overlooked. Although, during the early 1860?s, both the North and the South pinned their hopes for the outcome of the struggle on either British intervention or non-intervention. Before the war progressed very far, Britain?s factions began to take sides. The English liberals tended to support the Union because they feared that if the South was able to successfully secede from the Union, the cause of democratic reform in England would ...view middle of the document...

Many feared that a cutoff of American cotton would severely injure the British economy. Even though this theory was to be proven wrong, the threat alone was enough to turn many textile manufacturers and workers to the Southern cause.With the cotton issue on their side, the Confederacy saw this as their trump card to absorb British involvement in the war. If the North attacked and blockaded the South, a cotton famine would strike Europe and hopefully the great powers of the land would be forced to intervene, but even this extreme measure proved to be ineffective. From 1857-1860, American cotton exports had outpaced the needs of foreign manufacturers, resulting in a surplus by the start of the war. The British textile industry had enough cotton in reserve to keep itself running for several years. Also, cotton growers in India and Egypt increased their production to fill the gap left by the South?s cotton markets. Although cotton did become scarce in Europe after 1863, the feared ?cotton famine theory? of the Confederacy was never sever enough to force Britain?s hand in the war.Major problems between the Union and Britain eventually did arise. On May 14, 1861, Britain declared neutrality in the War Between the States, partly because of retaliation against the Union blockade. This British declaration infuriated the North because it was nothing more than a recognition of the Confederacy as a separate state. Under international law, neutrality granted ?belligerent rights? to both North and South, while the Union saw the Confederacy as an internal affair of Illegal rebellion. By declaring its neutrality, Britain came very close to recognizing the South as a separate state. Also, the belligerent rights allowed the Confederacy to solicit loans, contract for arms, and enlist men abroad.The bitter feelings between Britain and the Union caused by Britain?s neutrality stance and the U.S. blockade were yet to be further embittered. On October 12, 1861, Jefferson Davis sent James Mason of Virginia and John Slidell to Louisiana to Europe as commissioners to represent Confederate interests abroad. The two envoys slipped through the Union blockade and sailed to Havana where they took passage for England on the British steamer Trent. After hearing news of the Confederate blockade-runners, Captain Charles Wilkes and his ship San Jacinto, stopped the Trent and captured the envoys while letting the Trent continue on its way.In England, the ?Trent Affair? caused an uproar, which...

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