A Conversation for The British Involvement in the American Civil War
Civil war and Britain
dim12trav Started conversation Jul 26, 2003
As a student of the American South, I will note several omissions that can be seen from the American side.
1st Cotton was "king" in America and most of it was shipped to Britain after some work was performed in the New England states. About 75% of all exports were cotton or related items. When this source of cotton for Britain stopped another source was found in India.
2nd Before Lincoln was elected nearly all of the high elected officers of our government were either slaveholders, slavery supporters, or willing to put up with it at least. Lincoln's electtion was not based upon his anti-slavery stance he really had no opinion on the subject (or wasn't willing to declare it is more likely). His emancipation proclamation was much later and probably motivated by an attempt to get the slaves to rise up and fight against the South.
3rd You're right about the issue of states rights although even that was not paramount. There was a total disconnect between the way the Southerners saw the issue of slavery and the Northerners saw slavery. Like the "revolution" of 1776, religion play a hugh role in the views people took. Both sides used scripture to "prove" their side was right, and the problem of runaway slaves might have been the problem that eventually could have stopped slavery peacably. Because runaways ended up costing so much to recover, the slave system would have eventually folded of its own weight as too costly a system to continue.
Lastly Britain dealt an early blow by eliminating the "slave trade" and later slavery in the British controlled areas and thereby raising the costs for the plantation owners. A good working man slave could cost $2000 as of 1844 and if he ranaway it would cost another $2000 to get him back (if he could be found). British controlled Canada would not return slaves and as long as there was some boundry beyond which the slave catchers could not go there would always be runaways.
America lost 600,000 people to this most "uncivil" war mostly to disease and the medicine of the times. I still prefer to call it the war between the states instead of the civil war.
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