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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.

FOOTNOTES: 

[167] George W. Julian, Polit.  Recoll. 204.

CHAPTER XII

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

To the people who had been engaged in changing Illinois from a wilderness into a civilized State, Europe had been an abstraction, a mere colored spot upon a map, which in their lives meant nothing.  Though England had been the home of their ancestors, it was really less interesting than the west coast of Africa, which was the home of the negroes; for the negroes were just now of vastly more consequence than the ancestors.  So even Dahomey had some claim to be regarded as a more important place than Great Britain, and the early settlers wasted little thought on the affairs of Queen Victoria.  Amid these conditions, absorbed even more than his neighbors in the exciting questions of domestic politics, and having no tastes or pursuits which guided his thoughts abroad, Mr. Lincoln had never had occasion to consider the foreign relations of the United States, up to the time when he was suddenly obliged to take an active part in managing them.

At an early stage of the civil dissensions each side hoped for the good-will of England.  For obvious reasons, that island counted to the United States for more than the whole continent of Europe; indeed, the continental nations were likely to await and to follow her lead.  Southern orators, advocating secession, assured their hearers that “King Cotton” would be the supreme power, and would compel that realm of spinners and weavers to friendship if not to alliance with the Confederacy.  Northern men, on the other hand, expressed confidence that a people with the record of Englishmen against slavery would not countenance a war conducted in behalf of that institution; nor did they allow their hopes to be at all impaired by the consideration that, in order to found them upon this support, they had to overlook the fact that they were at the same time distinctly declaring that slavery really had nothing to do with the war, in which only and strictly the question of the Union, the integrity of the nation, was at stake.  When the issue was pressing for actual decision, each side was disappointed; and each found that it had counted upon a motive which fell far short of exerting the anticipated influence.  It was, of course, the case that England suffered much from the short supply of cotton; but she made shift to procure it elsewhere, while the working people, sympathizing with the North, were surprisingly patient.  Thus the political pressure arising from commercial distress was much less than had been expected, and the South learned that cotton was only a spurious monarch.  Not less did the North find itself deceived; for the upper and middle classes of Great Britain appeared absolutely indifferent to the humanitarian element which, as they were assured, underlay the struggle.  Perhaps they were not to be blamed for setting aside these assurances, and accepting in place thereof the belief that the American leaders spoke the truth when they solemnly told the North that the question at issue was purely and simply of “the Union.”  The unfortunate fact was that it was necessary to say one thing to Englishmen and a different thing to Americans.

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