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English Public Opinion and the American Civil War

English Public Opinion and the American Civil War

Duncan Andrew Campbell
Volume: 33
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    English Public Opinion and the American Civil War
    Book Description:

    At the end of the American Civil War, both North and South condemned Britain for allegedly sympathising with the other side. Yet after the conflict, a traditional interpretation of the subject arose which divided English sentiment between progressivism siding with the Union and conservatism supporting the Confederacy. Despite historians subsequently questioning whether English opinion can be so easily divided, challenging certain aspects and arguments of this version of events, the traditional interpretation has persevered and remains the dominant view of the subject. This work posits that English public and political opinion was not, in fact, split between two such opposing camps - rather, that most in England were suspicious of both sides in the conflict, and even those who did take sides did not consist largely of any one particular social or political group. Covering the period from 1861 to 1865, Campbell traces the development of English opinion on the American Civil War, looking particularly at reaction to issues of slavery, neutral rights, democracy, republicanism, American expansionism,trade and propaganda. In so doing he offers a new interpretation of English attitudes towards the American Civil War. DUNCAN ANDREW CAMPBELL lectures at the Department of American Studies, University of Maryland Baltimore County.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-070-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Duncan Andrew Campbell
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The last Confederate unit that lowered its flag did so, not in the United States, but in Britain. This was the southern raider, the CSS Shenandoah that, whilst cruising off the Californian coast, encountered the British ship Barracouta, on 2 August 1865 and learned of the collapse of the Confederacy and the capture of its president, Jefferson Davis. Deciding against the risks of surrender at an American port, the Shenandoah’s captain, James Waddell, instead set sail for Liverpool some 17,000 miles away. Evading a United States navy searching for her, the vessel travelled around the horn of Africa and, on...

  5. 1 Differences of Opinion
    (pp. 17-60)

    Southern secession took Britain by surprise. Having witnessed the various state wranglings of the previous decade, the actual occurrence of secession came as something of a shock.¹ The shock subsided, however, and, as historians from E. D. Adams onward have established, English public opinion was against the Confederacy from the outset.² The belief that the South had no better justification for secession than defeat in a fair election, combined with contempt for its ‘domestic institution’, ensured that South Carolina and her fellow secessionists of the lower South were universally condemned.³

    It was from this point, according to the traditional interpretation,...

  6. 2 The Trent Outrage
    (pp. 61-95)

    Among all the aspects of Anglo-American relations during the Civil War, the Trent affair has been the most closely examined. The actual capture of the Confederate envoys, the opinions of the British and northern cabinets, and the complex legalities surrounding Captain Charles Wilkes’s actions have all been studied by historians of Anglo-American affairs. Additionally, in recent years, two separate studies on the incident itself have been published.¹ Despite all this research, however, both parliamentary and popular opinion – as opposed to the diplomacy – remain either misunderstood or, worse, misrepresented. The controversy surrounding the Trent affair was very much a product of...

  7. 3 Observations from Experience
    (pp. 96-133)

    With the conclusion of the Trent affair, and as the likelihood of immediate British intervention in the war receded, the North and the South could again turn their attention to one another. After avoiding becoming involved in the war against their wishes, the public in England resumed their observations of the conflict as outsiders. As the struggle in America progressed and changed, so too did English observations of it. These changing circumstances, and the evolving English views, are the subjects of this chapter, which follows broadly thematic lines rather than chronological ones and, generally, covers the period from 1862 until...

  8. 4 The Political Debate
    (pp. 134-162)

    It is surely one of the most enduring myths of the nineteenth century that the English aristocracy and conservatives favoured the insurgent Confederacy because its establishment would check democracy in general and demands for an expanded suffrage in England in particular. Beyond the unsubstantiated accusations by certain members of the pro-northern lobby there is little evidence that the British establishment believed Confederate independence would slow demands for an extension of the suffrage at home. It goes beyond H. C. Allen’s statement that ‘it is difficult to find a great deal of positive evidence of specific aristocratic fellow feeling for the...

  9. 5 The Confederacy’s Partisans
    (pp. 163-193)

    Having now examined both the contradictory views of English public opinion and the speeches of members of parliament on the American Civil War, we need to look at the efforts made by pro-southern members of parliament to obtain recognition of the Confederacy in the House of Commons. Besides looking at these attempts, we also need to measure the strength of pro-Confederate sympathy in England and determine the following pro-southern societies enjoyed. In addition, Confederate views of English opinion also need to be examined. This chapter examines the attempts to obtain formal recognition of the Confederacy made by pro-southern members of...

  10. 6 Who Supported the Union?
    (pp. 194-233)

    On the question of Anglo-American relations during the Civil War, no aspect is as controversial as that of radical and working-class opinion on the conflict. What is immediately significant is just how resilient the chief argument of the traditional interpretation, that radicals and their working-class allies were pro-North because they viewed the Union as the bulwark of democracy and equated democracy’s survival with that of the North, has proven to be. It has survived not only the overwhelming amount of evidence produced militating against it, but has also proven resilient in the face of the recent debates surrounding the history...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 234-246)

    Towards the end of 1865, Leslie Stephen published his pamphlet The Times and the American Civil War which simply misrepresented the paper’s views on the war by either selective quotes or outright fabrication. Stephen claimed, for example, that The Times blamed the war on democracy which, as we have seen, was wholly false; he also sneered at English anger towards the Morrill tariff, which took a lot of nerve, considering, as we have also seen, that he had objected to it himself in Macmillan’s Magazine in 1862.¹ This, of course, merely highlights the difference between what pro-Northerners said during the...

  12. APPENDIX 1. MPs’ Proclivities During the Civil War
    (pp. 247-249)
  13. APPENDIX 2 Aristocratic Proclivities During the Civil War
    (pp. 250-252)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-260)
  15. Index
    (pp. 261-266)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-267)