Civil War Diplomacy - Conclusion

It is doubtful that the Confederacy could ever have achieved the support that it expected during the Civil War. It never was in the interest of the nations of Europe to become entangled in the American conflict. Rather, they profited by a neutral policy. Confederates relied on sympathy and the pressure from cotton textile manufacturers to force Britain, and then other nations in Europe, to their support and defense. They believed that time was on their side. As a consequence, the Confederate government delayed in adopting a bold diplomatic strategy until it was far too late. At the same time, William Henry Seward, with the significant aid of Charles Francis Adams in London and a number of other superb diplomats, developed an aggressive and consistent program that did not always win friends but was effective. Seward began his term of office with a reputation for recklessness and hostility toward the British, and his initial maneuvers seemed to confirm, as Lyons wrote home, that he would be a "dangerous foreign minister." Seward's erratic behavior had the positive effect of making European foreign ministers more cautious. During the critical first year of the war, Palmerston and Russell worried that Seward had little understanding of the limits to which he could go in his threats and bluster against British policy, and so as not to arouse him and precipitate a crisis, the British leaders adopted a largely passive policy, ended official contacts with Confederate officials, and resisted attempts by pro-Confederate members of Parliament to support the Southern cause. After Seward's first year in office, his reputation improved, and by the end of the war, he and Adams were highly regarded overseas.

It is clear that international relations during the war years were largely determined by the interests of all the nations involved directly and indirectly in the struggle. It is difficult to see how the Confederacy could have acquired the support it needed or how the Union could have done better. It is also clear that the Confederacy's weak policy did not help its cause and that the strong and clearsighted Union policy, conducted by able hands, made a profound difference and was essential to a Union victory in 1865.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: