Sunday, June 4, 2017

Seward Declares the War Not Fought Over Slavery

Observers in Europe saw the North’s war upon the South as nothing more than conquest from the beginning, and especially as the Republican Party expressed its intention of only saving the Union. When Lincoln announced his proclamation regarding slavery in 1863, it was seen as simply a newer version of Lord Dunmore’s proclamation in November 1775, and Sir Alexander Cochrane’s in 1814 – all desperate actions with the intention of inciting race war in the South.
Bernhard Thuersam,   The Great American Political Divide

Seward Declares the War Not Fought  Over Slavery

“For years the Old South had been close to Great Britain in both business and society, and it was easy to see in the Southern planters an equivalent of the English gentry. British aristocrats like the Marquis of Lothian, the Marquis of Bath, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord Wharncliffe thought that the success of the Confederacy would give a much-needed check to democracy, both in America and in Europe.

More liberal Englishmen, too, could favor the South, supposing its desire to escape Northern “tyranny” was something comparable to the fulfillment of Italian and German national aspirations. The character of the leaders of the Southern Confederacy inspired respect abroad, and the chivalric bearing of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson enlisted the Englishman’s deepest admiration.

At first it seemed that the North muffed every opportunity to enlist British support. Already fearful of Northern economic competition, which threatened the supremacy of the British merchant marine and challenged the pre-eminence of British manufactures, the English middle classes were alienated when the Republicans adopted the Morrill tariff of 1861.

Northern appeals to British idealism were undercut when [Secretary of State William] Seward, early in the war, explicitly declared that the conflict was not being waged over slavery and would not disturb the South’s peculiar institution.

Even a staunch friend of the Union like the Duke of Argyll was obliged to conclude “that the North is not entitled to claim all the sympathy which belongs to a cause which they do not avow; and which is promoted only as an indirect consequence of a contest which (on their side at least) is waged for other objects, and on other grounds.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1969, excerpts, pp. 356-357)


  1. Before one looks at the English as some sort of neutral observers of the American conflict there are some very important facts that must be considered.

    Subsequent to their defeat, and what they regarded as a humiliation, at Yorktown the entire focus of their foreign policy as towards our new nation was to subvert it and destroy it as a threat to the economy of the Empire and the concept of rule by royal aristocracy. One only needs to read the works of Lord Palmerston to confirm this.

    It also has to be considered that the economic focus of the Empire was to extract raw materials from their colonies as cheaply as possible and force those same colonies to buy finished goods for as much as possible. This was the economic driver behind our Revolution.
    By the middle of the 19th century The greatest monetary percentage of this extraction and resale was raw cotton and finished textiles.
    At that same point in time there were three primary locations for the production of cotton, India, Egypt and the American South. Once they had secured control of India's cotton the first thing they did was ban and severly punish any local textile production. Hand looming of cotton,wool and silk had been a staple of India's economy for hundreds of years. England's policy brought about not just depression but mass starvation and death not seen since the Mogul invasion. The English then tried to justify it with the criminal madness of the "Malthusian theory".

    Not content with their blood soaked profits from India, they had finally completed their total control of Egypt after defeating Napoleon and were carrying out the same methods and goals there. All those opulent English Manor homes were built on foundations of Indian bones.

    Had the South begun to prevail in the Civil War and the blockade been broken the English would have no doubt have been more than willing to pay a premium for Southern cotton in exchange for Northern textile mills being cut off from nearly all supplies.

    This would have been killing two birds with one stone for the English. Control of both global cotton supplies and a near fatal blow to American textile production that would have severly contracted the American economy.

    The English have NEVER been our friends except when they need us to save them from Germans who they equally regarded as industrial rivals. But that is another story.

    1. This would have been killing two birds with one stone for the English. Control of both global cotton supplies and a near fatal blow to American textile production that would have severly contracted the American economy.

      Thanks and good point.