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.
with a small Whig faction which refused to desert the “principle” of aristocratic government—­the “government by the wise,” but the Tories who came into power under Derby were forced by the popular demand voiced even to the point of rioting, themselves to present a Reform Bill.  Disraeli’s measure, introduced with a number of “fancy franchises,” which, in effect, sought to counteract the giving of the vote to British working-men, was quickly subjected to such caustic criticism that all the planned advantages to Conservatism were soon thrown overboard, and a Bill presented so Radical as to permit a transfer of political power to the working classes[1396].  The Reform Bill of 1867 changed Great Britain from a government by aristocracy to one by democracy.  A new nation came into being.  The friends of the North had triumphed.

Thus in addition to the play of diplomatic incidents, the incidental frictions, the effect on trade relations, the applications of British neutrality, and the general policy of the Government, there existed for Great Britain a great issue in the outcome of the Civil War—­the issue of the adoption of democratic institutions.  It affected at every turn British public attitude, creating an intensity and bitterness of tone, on both sides, unexampled in the expressions of a neutral people.  In America this was little understood, and American writers both during the war and long afterwards, gave little attention to it[1397].  Immediately upon the conclusion of the war, Goldwin Smith, whose words during the conflict were bitter toward the aristocracy, declared that “the territorial aristocracy of this country and the clergy of the Established Church” would have been excusable “if they could only have said frankly that they desired the downfall of institutions opposed to their own, instead of talking about their sympathy for the weak, and their respect for national independence, and their anxiety for the triumph of Free Trade[1398].”  This was stated before the democratic hope in England had been realized.  Three years later the same staunch friend of the North, now removed to America and occupying a chair of history at Cornell University, wrote of the British aristocracy in excuse of their attitude:  “I fought these men hard; I believed, and believe now, that their defeat was essential to the progress of civilization.  But I daresay we should have done pretty much as they did, if we had been born members of a privileged order, instead of being brought up under the blessed influence of equality and justice[1399].”

Such judgment and such excuses will appear to the historian as well-founded.  But to Americans who conceived the Civil War as one fought first of all for the preservation of the nation, the issue of democracy in England seemed of little moment and little to excuse either the “cold neutrality” of the Government or the tone of the press.  To Americans Great Britain appeared friendly to the dissolution of the

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