Great Britain and the American Civil War eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 825 pages of information about Great Britain and the American Civil War.

The preceding chapters of this work will have shown how unfounded was such prophecy.  Stoeckl was behind the times, knowing nothing, apparently, of that positive change in British policy in the late ’fifties which resulted in a determination to cease opposition to the expansion of American power.  Such opposition was then acknowledged to have been an error and in its place there sprang into being a conviction that the might of America would tend toward the greatness of England itself[1322].  In the months preceding the outbreak of the Civil War all British governmental effort was directed toward keeping clear of the quarrel and toward conciliation of the two sections.  No doubt there were those in Great Britain who rejoiced at the rupture between North and South, but they were not in office and had no control of British policy.

The war once begun, the Government, anxious to keep clear of it, was prompt in proclaiming neutrality and hastened this step for fear of maritime complications with that one of the belligerents, the North, which alone possessed a naval force.  But the British Ministry, like that of every other European state, believed that a revolution for independence when undertaken by a people so numerous and powerful as that of the South, must ultimately succeed.  Hence as the war dragged on, the Ministry, pressed from various angles at home, ventured, with much uncertainty, upon a movement looking toward mediation.  Its desire was first of all for the restoration of world peace, nor can any other motive be discovered in Russell’s manoeuvres.  This attempt, fortunately for America and, it may be believed, for the world, was blocked by cool heads within the Ministry itself.  There was quick and, as it proved, permanent readjustment of policy to the earlier decision not to meddle in the American crisis.

This very failure to meddle was cause of great complaint by both North and South, each expectant, from divergent reasons, of British sympathy and aid.  The very anger of the North at British “cold neutrality” is evidence of how little America, feeling the ties of race and sentiment, could have understood the mistaken view-point of diplomats like Stoeckl, who dwelt in realms of “reasons of state,” unaffected by popular emotions.  Aside from race, which could be claimed also by the South, the one great argument of the North in appeal to England lay in the cry of anti-slavery.  But the leaders of the North denied its pertinence.  Itself unsympathetic with the emotions of emancipation societies at home, the British Government settled down by the end of 1862 to a fixed policy of strict neutrality.

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Great Britain and the American Civil War from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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