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Great Britain?S Involvement In The Civil War

1198 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 be set back many years. Others, however, found themselves in a quandary. Under the doctrine of natural rights, which English liberals strongly supported, all men have the right to set up ?autonomous and free governments.? Many were forced to concede that the Confederates had the right to secede from the union, even if they did not agree with their aims. Another faction of Britain?s political stance, the Tories, saw the Civil War as a natural outgrowth of a democracy without the stabilizing force of patrician classes. They tended to support the rebellious South to show the rest of Britain just how unbeneficial a democracy like America?s could be. There were other factors that motivated British interest in the American Civil War besides politics. More than any other consideration, economic concerns influenced British policy towards the war. This helped influence the English opinion against the Union. One of these acts was the Unions use of the blockade. On April 27, 1861, President Lincoln formally notified Great Britain and the rest of the world that all ports were under a naval blockade. This announcement outraged the British textile industry, being that manufacturers bought the majority of their cotton from the South. 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...

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