Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our Nation Divided: French Intervention

The Confederacy was not stupid, from the beginning they knew that the Union army had the power of manufacturing and extensive transportation to secure them the armament necessary to win a war. In order for the South to be victorious they needed the either the French or the English to intervene and recognize the Confederacy. The South was going to need their manufacturing to produce weapons necessary to win and were hoping cotton could be their leverage. Lincoln recognized this potential scenario and worked hard at keep European sentiments on the side of the Union. In fact one of the biggest reason Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation was to secure European support because they had ended slavery decades ago. In a blog titled "Foreign Intervention during the Civil War", from President Lincoln's Cottage Blog the author references an article in Harper's Weekly in July 1862 which talks about how the English Parliament and the French Emperor were debating the idea of getting involved in the American conflict. Europeans had far more in common with the Southern states then the North, this had been true since the American Revolution. Europe would have been pleased probably to see the United States split in two, however in reality the European powers found it morally difficult to support the Confederacy because the centerpiece of their way of life was slavery and Europe could not support it publicly  Behind closed doors however many diplomats stated the elite of France and England supported the Confederacy.

The threat of foreign intervention was echoed in a letter published in The News York Times dated February 3, 1863. The correspondent writes "Thus I may tell you to-day that the indications are for intervention." This is the very thing the North feared and the South was waiting for. France finally felt they were in a better position to support the separation of the United States after the results of the Battle of Fredericksburg. They believed that "separation in the United States is final." The correspondence indicates that a deal was made with "Mr. Slidell", who was the South's minister to France, "for a large quantity of cotton, will ask the American Government for facilities for getting it out, promising, at the same time that no contraband of war shall be introduced in exchange, and if the American Government will not consent to this, they will take it by force." On February 3, 1863 the United States was on the edge of war with France if they tried to break through the Northern blockade. Luckily thanks to diplomatic talks this possible crisis was averted, but the aspects of foreign intervention was an important part of the Civil War and should not be overlooked. 

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