The long-standing myth of British weaving-town support for the North during the war is refuted by the author below, who finds that in fact there was “in fact a supreme determination to aid the South with at least moral backing while the North was viewed with mistrust that deepened with the intensity of Lancashire’s distress [from Lincoln’s blockade].”
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
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Lincoln More Fit for a Fire Shovel
“As president of the disrupted Union, Abraham Lincoln exercised a continuing fascination in Lancashire throughout the war. He aroused more anger and disdain than admiration . . . Seward and a few prominent Northern leaders were occasionally selected to share the disrepute in which Lincoln was commonly held.
Rather more frequently the chief executive was unfavorably contrasted with the mildly esteemed Southern president. The Marquis of Hartington was typical of Lancashire in respecting Jefferson Davis far more than Lincoln, of whom he scathingly said, “I [should] think he was [a] very well meaning sort of man, but as almost everybody says, about as fit for his position now as a fire shovel.”
Lincoln was criticized mainly on the occasions of his annual speeches, his Emancipation Proclamation, and his reelection in 1864. The Emancipation Proclamation, which was often seen as a concerted attack on the lives of white Southerners, through the possibility of a servile insurrection, was almost universally dismissed as an act of hypocrisy.
Lincoln himself was rarely credited with any humanitarian or altruistic motives in issuing the proclamation. He was thought to be unsure about the morality of slavery and untruthful about its abolition. Even though his mentality was often dismissed as low, he was judged to be well aware that his the proclamation was unlikely to free any slaves in the South, and it did not even attempt to release from slavery those in the border States.
Only occasionally was the proclamation interpreted as an astute political move by an adept politician. More often it was sneered at as the inept fumbling of a leader who could not win victory over the South by any more straightforward means. By only a handful of editors and meetings was Lincoln ever envisaged as a man of moral status and strength who freed Southern slaves through personal conviction as well as military necessity.
Lincoln was not as much hated or despised as a personality or a politician but as a symbol of the North’s desire to subjugate the South.
In 1861 the “timid and incapable hands” of Lincoln were felt by the Preston Chronicle to be inadequate for leading the Union. A letter to the same paper accused Lincoln of inconsistency, quoting a speech he had made in 1848 upholding the right of secession. The press of Preston and Blackburn hoped for Lincoln’s defeat in the 1864 election; on his success, bitter attacks were made on his trampling of liberty and rights under a military despotism.”
(Support for Secession, Lancashire and the American Civil War, Mary Ellison, University of Chicago Press, 1972, pp. 173-174)