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Did Europe Support North During American Civil War?

There is a whole host of information at the link I have provided concerning the various governments position at various times during the conflict, however in essence Britain and France supported the South while Czarist Russia supported the North, though no physical aid was actually provided.
Britains position was complicated. It wanted Southern cotton for its mills, but also required grain from the North due to a series of poor harvests.
Britain and France were monarchies and viewed the South as similar. The South was, after all, an aristocracy, and the fact that it had a broad democratic base was easily overlooked at a distance of three thousand miles. Europe’s aristocracies had never been happy about the prodigious success of the Yankee democracy.
The Southern nation was based on the institution of chattel slavery-a completely repugnant anachronism by the middle of the nineteenth century. Neither the British nor the French people would go along with any policy that involved fighting to preserve slavery. But up to the fall of 1862 slavery was not an issue in the war. The Federal government had explicitly declared that it was fighting solely to save the Union. If a Southern emissary wanted to convince Europeans that they could aid the South without thereby aiding slavery, he could prove his case by citing the words of the Federal President and Congress. As far as Europe was concerned, no moral issue was involved; the game of power politics could be played with a clear conscience.
Outright war with England nearly took place in the fall of 1861, when a hot-headed US. naval officer, Captain Charles Wilkes, undertook to twist the lion’s tail and got more of a reaction than anyone was prepared for.
Jefferson Davis had named two distinguished Southerners, James M. Mason of Virginia and John Slidell of Louisiana, as commissioners to represent Confederate interests abroad, Mason in England and Slidell in France. They got out of Charleston, South Carolina, on a blockade-runner at the beginning of October and went via Nassau to Havana, where they took passage for England on the British mail steamer Trent.
Precisely at this time U.S.S. San Jacinto was returning to the United States from a long tour of duty along the African coast.. She put in at a Cuban port, looking for news of Confederate commerce raiders which were reported to be active in that vicinity, and there her commander, Captain Wilkes, heard about Mason and Slidell. He now worked out a novel interpretation of international law. A nation at war (it was generally agreed) had a right to stop and search a neutral merchant ship if it suspected that ship of carrying the enemy’s dispatches. Mason and Slidell, Wilkes reasoned, were in effect Confederate dispatches, and he had a right to remove them. So on November 8, 1861, he steamed out into the Bahama Channel, fired twice across Trent’s bows, sent a boat’s crew aboard, collared the Confederate commissioners, and bore them off in triumph to the United States, where they were lodged in Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor. Wilkes was hailed as a national hero. Congress voted him its thanks, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, ordinarily a most cautious mortal, warmly commended him.
But in England there was an uproar which almost brought on a war. The mere notion that Americans could halt a British ship on the high seas and remove lawful passengers was intolerable. Eleven thousand regular troops were sent to Canada, the British fleet was put on a war footing, and a sharp note was dispatched to the United States, demanding surrender of the prisoners and a prompt apology.
In the fall of 1863 two Russian fleets entered American waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific. They put into New York and San Francisco harbors and spent the winter there, and the average Northerner expressed both surprise and delight over the visit, assuming that the Russian Czar was taking this means of warning England and France that if they made war in support of the South, he would help the North. Since pure altruism is seldom or never visible in any country’s foreign relations, the business was not quite that simple. Russia at the time was in some danger of getting into a war with England and France, for reasons totally unconnected with the Civil War in America; to avoid the risk of having his fleets icebound in Russian ports, the Czar simply had them winter in American harbors. If war should come, they would be admirably placed to raid British and French commerce. For many years most Americans believed that for some inexplicable reason of his own the Czar had sent the fleets simply to show his friendship for America.

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  • Chariotm says:

    the south, for cotton, tobacco and other goods.

    September 5, 2013 at 10:34 am
  • vanka says:

    Europe pretty much stayed out of it. Some notable exceptions were that several European countries kept purchasing Southern cotton as long as it was available, and a few European ship-building concerns constructed seagoing vessels that they sold to the Confederacy – which trans-shipped said vessels to the Bahamas where they were outfitted with cannons and other accouterments that made them into warships. Washington’s great dread was that England, still pissed over the American Revolution, would formally recognize the Confederacy – which it never did. And although a great many German, Irish and other emigrants joined the Union army as soon as they arrived here, no European country formally supported the Confederacy.

    September 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm
  • anoldmic says:

    They supported South because Europe wanted American economy to be based on agirculture. This will make sure that European industries won’t get heavy competition from USA. However, some were reluctant because South support slavery, something that many Europeans opposed.

    September 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm
  • pekau says:

    No. At least, most of europe didn;t. Great Britain supported the south mainly b/c of its cash crops, but they backed out on alot of there aide later on when they figured they could get their resources from their own empire for cheaper (ie- India)

    September 6, 2013 at 1:15 am
  • Rain says:

    No, they supported the South for the resources they provided.

    September 6, 2013 at 4:11 am

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