Friday, April 15, 2011
The U.S. Civil War and Monarchy
As we have talked about before, the English Civil War was felt in North America with the northern colonies tending toward the Parliamentarians and the southern colonies tending to be more royalist. Much of this was due to religious differences as Puritan New England was more religiously liberal than southern colonies like Catholic Maryland and Anglican Virginia. Over the years the two regions became increasingly different and did not have, by any means, a consistent policy regarding what they thought of monarchy. Again, if asked, everyone in the north or south would have recoiled at the image of a king. During the War of 1812, for example, it was the south that was the most aggressive in supporting the war against Great Britain and the invasion of Canada -for imperialistic reasons, and it was the north that most opposed it -for economic reasons. Yet, as America grew older it was the south, for economic reasons, which became increasingly friendly with Great Britain and the newly revived Empire of the French.
The south loved the British because they bought southern cotton by the shipload and because they sold quality manufactured goods to southerners at a price below that for which northern merchants sold the same products. The south also had, because of slavery and the agricultural predominance in the region, a very aristocratic society whereas the north did not. The north was also home to most immigrants to the U.S. and, at the time of the American Civil War, most of these were Irish, German or Italian and most had fled the aftermath of the 1848 Revolutions and were very anti-monarchy. The south, on the other hand, attracted relatively few immigrants and much of the population was ethnically Scotch-Irish or English, in any case people who generally looked with favor on the British Empire. The result was that increasingly the north viewed Great Britain with hostility whereas the south viewed Britain with friendship or nostalgia. Southern gentlemen liked to consider themselves on a level with the landed aristocracy of Britain and took their trends as their own.
Then there is France. America had always had a love-hate relationship with France but there was, clearly, more pro-French sentiment in the south than in the north in 1861. Louisiana held a still considerable Francophone population and South Carolina was home to a very large French community made up of people who had fled the bloody slave revolt in Haiti. Southerners, being a martial sort of people, also tended to look with admiration on the legacy of Napoleon and his military genius. If some had a bit of hesitation about admiring Britain, the traditional enemy of 1776 and 1812, there was none concerning France. Wealthy planters taught their children French (it was *the* language of the fashionable upper class) and in both civilian and military life French fashions were widely copied. When the Confederacy was formed their army had a very pronounced French appearance to it, some units going farther than others. One of the most famous was the “Louisiana Tigers” who adopted the uniform of the French Zouaves after the successful campaigns of France in North Africa. In the south, the French Empire was to be admired and emulated.
When the war came, how then did the great monarchies of Europe view the situation? Of course, slavery was the sticking point as virtually no country in Europe wanted to be seen as supporting something like that. However, by and large, it was quickly obvious that the British Empire and the French Empire were friendlier toward the Confederacy than they were toward the Union. The only major power that openly sympathized with the Union was, ironically, the Russian Empire of Tsar Alexander II. However, even this was due mostly to the fact that Britain and France sympathized with the south and, as both parties were recently hostile to Russia, it was natural for the Russian Empire to side with the United States. With the north being home to so many Irish republicans and celebrating such revolutionaries as Garibaldi, Kossuth and others it is no wonder most monarchies in Europe tended to look on the United States, especially the north, with little sympathy. So, why did Britain and France favor the Confederates (keeping in mind neither ever recognized them or openly came to their aid)? Both had very practical reasons for doing so.
The British viewed the south as a good customer and a valuable source of raw materials. They also had, for very good reasons, developed a very wary attitude toward the United States. The north was an industrial competitor and also a rapidly expanding naval power. Largely because of her industry, trade and maritime presence, the north was a rival to Great Britain in a way that the south could never be. The north, as mentioned, also harbored many people that Britain worried about; namely large numbers of Irish immigrants who were adamantly anti-British. Fears about this population were not unfounded as the Fenian Raids on Canada after the war would prove. The south might have been imperialistic but the areas they longed for were areas where Great Britain had little or no interest and thus the south, a land with little industry and practically no navy, was nothing for Britain to fear. The British also thought the south would win. Like few other powers in the world the British have always been very good about learning from their own history and the lesson they took from 1776 was that an American population in rebellion was impossible to subdue. The south would win and who wouldn’t want to be on the good side of the winners?
Emperor Louis Napoleon III of the French had little particular interest in the United States itself but he had recently become very interested in Mexico. He had a grand vision of building the French empire denied his uncle in Europe in Central and South America. At various times he entertained ideas of expanding French influence into Mexico, Panama and even into South America via Ecuador with the creation of a ‘Kingdom of the Andes’. However, the United States had long ago stated her unalterable opposition to any European “meddling” in the Americas and were sure to oppose any such efforts to establish new monarchies in America on the part of France. In fact, before the French and Mexican monarchists had even placed the ill-fated Austrian Archduke Maximilian on the throne of Mexico the United States sent a very strongly worded letter of warning to Paris that the U.S.A. would oppose any such effort and would never recognize the establishment of any monarchy on the shores of the New World. However, if the south were to win the war, the Confederacy would serve as a most valuable buffer-state between the United States and the French ‘mission of civilization’ in Mexico and points south. Like the British, the French also recognized that a divided America would be an America easier for them to deal with and less of a danger of becoming overpowering.
As for the lesser monarchies, attitudes were much the same. The Empire of Brazil, the only other major, western, slave-holding power, was mostly sympathetic to the south. Monarchies like Austria-Hungary and Belgium sympathized only insofar as a Confederate victory would help ensure the continued safety of their son and daughter in Mexico (Maximilian and Carlota) and Pope Pius IX was generally sympathetic to the south. Given how Garibaldi was celebrated in the north, this is perhaps not surprising, and the Pontiff was the only world leader to address Jefferson Davis as the President of the Confederate States of America in his correspondence. The north, with the Monroe Doctrine and other means, had become rather unpopular in the world at large for threatening war with any power that “meddled” in the Americas while feeling free to meddle themselves whenever it suited them.
And that, in a nutshell, is the attitude of the Americans toward monarchy and the great monarchies toward America at the time of the War Between the States. In general, the majority sympathized with the Confederates, despite their opposition to slavery which Britain and France had long abolished peacefully, but because they recognized that a Confederate victory would be more beneficial to their interests than a Union victory would. Some may not like the way that sounds but they were proven to be all too correct. No sooner had the dust settled in America with the northern states victorious the U.S. sent a massive army to the Mexican border with orders for the French to leave willingly or with a bayonet to encourage them and a number of ridiculously audacious raids were launched on Canada by Irish veterans of the Union ranks eager to strike a blow against the British Empire. Canada was saved though the victorious U.S. forced a handsome amount of ‘so sorry for cheering against you’ money from London. Mexico was not so lucky as the French pulled out just when they were on the cusp of total victory and Emperor Maximilian and his empire went down to noble but disastrous defeat with his enemies having the full moral and material support of the triumphant United States.