Friday, April 15, 2011

The U.S. Civil War and Monarchy

I have been chastised for not mentioning the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War/War Between the States/etc. It is certainly not because of a lack of interest in the period, in fact, that era was one of the first historical episodes I studied seriously for many years. However, it did not relate directly to what this web log is all about and I had other things on my list. However, having been prompted (and because I’m an absolutist blogger who will write about whatever I darn well please) I will address the War Between the States in terms of how it related, in secondary ways, to the ongoing struggle between monarchy and republicanism. Of course, it did not relate directly to it because what you had in the Civil War was a clash of two republican governments: a centralized federal union on one hand and a more decentralized confederacy on the other. However, though the people in both the northern and southern halves of America were staunchly republican, then as now, they were not entirely identical in their outlook toward 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.


  1. A great summary. So sorry for the Empire of Mexico. Would've been great if it would still exist.

  2. Yes, things would have been interesting if the Confederacy survived. I'm sure slavery would have been finished any way in that same century. And I especially like that the Confederacy tried to be more decentralized, the way I think the whole US should have been from the start.

  3. I always supported opinion that the south had full right to separate of the Union no matter what was the cause it was an right of every state of USA, so the American civil War was an war betwen an independent nation and they former owners.

    Long live to the South and all the people that live there!.

    Hi from Argentina.

  4. I would agree with that, putting morality aside for the moment, as a simple matter of legality, the States joined the Union voluntarily so it stands to reason that they had every right to leave voluntarily. Of course, Abe Lincoln and half a million federal troops thought otherwise.

  5. I have also supported the idea that the South should have had the right to secede. I have no doubt that their issue with slavery would have been resolved in due time.
    Being partly from that region myself, even if I barely comprehend much of American culture (or, indeed, much of the Western Civilization - not anymore at least), I attach a sentimentality to the South. If I were to be American I'd bally well be a Southerner.
    I have also thought the Monroe doctrine was profoundly unfair. While I am very grateful to America helping us out in World War II (World War I I think could have been resolved properly without a need for their involvement), I don't see why Europe shouldn't set out some equivalent idea, in response. The Libyan situation, for example, seems like it should be the sole domain of Europeans, as it is a former European colony, just across the Mediterranean from us, and frankly, it's our responsibility.

  6. I agree and I don't think the war was 'about' slavery (though that certainly had alot to do with it) because every other country got rid of it peacefully. I also fully agree with the Monroe Doctrine -it should not have been adopted or, at the least, it should not be the US alone which has a "hands off" zone. I said the same thing when Russia objected to US bases in the central Asian republics -very hypocritical considering the Monroe Doctrine.

    I would also agree on Libya, however, as with the First World War, it has been Britain and France that have been urging the US to, first, get involved, and then to do more. I am often as frustrated as anyone with American "meddling" around the world but I say these other countries have to stop expecting the US to 'take the lead' or 'save the day' or otherwise carry the burden.

    Europe (and other places) have been a little stuck on this issue though because they've downsized their own militaries to a bare minimum to pay for their socialist welfare states, confident that their American big brother would bear the brunt in any wars needing to be fought. I want to see Europe scrap the Marxist crap, build up their own strength (on a national level -not EU) and then be able to tell the America, 'mind your own business, we don't need your help this time'.

  7. American Civil War was a part of eternal conflict between right and left, good and evil. Liberal, degenerated , egalitarian north against conservative, aristocratic south. Now when ruler of US is black, islamic, communist its the result that so many years ago in Amercia liberalism won in the war against conservatism.

  8. I hate to say it, but the general European attitude towards America is merely a large-scale application of the great malaise of the West.

    Everybody thinks that somebody should do something about something. When pressed, people point to the government, bureaucrats point to other bureaucrats outside their department or government level, politicians point to other politicians, and governments point to other governments.

    Nobody wants to do what Everybody thinks Somebody should do and that Anybody could do.

  9. Now, Andrzej, I do not think you should be calling the President Muslim. No evidence exists to support that claim.
    Besides, if he is Muslim he's hardly a devout one. He drinks alcohol, I'm sure he eats pork, and we don't see him praying seven times a day. And attacking Libya and keeping up the Afghan War are hardly something a devout Muslim ruler would do.
    And I do not think he is Communist either. I may dislike his policies as much as the next man, but mislabeling them isn't going to win our side any supporters. He's a leftist. A liberal. But not a communist. A lot of what he does is reminiscent of policies that communists use, but isn't exclusive to them.

  10. Nicot, I fully agree.

    This is why I rant about our poor grasp of History too. If you want to know the sources of some of these misconceptions, visit WorldNetDaily (WND), they push the “Obama is a Socialist” line, and many see him as a closet Muslim. There is no evidence, but the point is to use emotionally laden words to get people to not like him to shore up their own Neo-Conservatism. They also lump the Communists, Socialists, Obama like Liberals, and Monarchists like us together. Monarchism, to them, is a Left Wing Ideology. I even mentioned the book where this was first stated, “The 5000 Year Leap”, by Cleon Skousen.

    It doesn’t matter that this contradicts. In fact, I have hear Obama described as an Atheist and a Muslim at the same time by the same person once. It doesn’t matter how contradictory this is. This man is a Christian ( Of the Neocon, Evangelical variety) and thus hates Atheists and hates Muslims, so all of them are bad, and putting Obama in their category helps to justify a blind, ultimately irrational hatred of him.

    The left did the same thing with Bush, comparing him to Hitler or finding links to Osama Ben laden based on obscure facts like both owned Oil Shares in Saudi Arabia.

    The game is to take words people barely know but have an emotional aversion to and use them as labels for their enemies, while describing yourself in the positive words that generate good feelings but are equally meaningless how they are used.

    Its like Society is composed of Pavlov’s Dogs.

  11. Awhile back, I purchased, at a used book store, a hardback edition of a two volume set: "The Papers of Jefferson Davis and the Confedracy." The first volume of the work is a quantity of President Davis's state papers, the second volume is diplomatic correspondence between the C.S. State Department and the Confederacy's diplomatic reprsentatives in Europe.

    The first thing that jumps out of both volumes is how splendidly the English language reads in documents written by owners of a 19th Century education. Besides being educational, the books are interesting for the beautiful prose and style, if nothing else.

    The War For Southern Independence is an interest of mine, so the work is not my first exposure to the subject matter. The more time I spend with the diplomatic documents, the more I think the CS agents in Europe focused too much on London, and the always dim possibility of obtaining diplomatic recognition prior to actually winning the war. Something might have been possible had Sharpsburg/Antietam (17 September 1862) turned out better, but the dollar value of British commerce with the US (even with the Yankee blockade of CS ports) and the quasi-hostage status of Canada -- within easy reach of US armies made British intevention unlikely.

    I wonder, though, if more could have been obtained from Napoleon III? The French seemed to want to wait on Britain (particularly the permanent employees of the French Foreign Ministry), but the Emperor himself seems to have been more sympathetic, personally, to the CS than the government in London; and the French had their interests in Mexico, which would, could and did suffer from a US victory.

  12. Britain was the dominant naval power and I think that pulled alot of weight. The US Navy grew during the war to be the largest in the world and no help could come without that being dealt with. France (at least the Emperor) probably was more sympathetic because of Mexico but it was also because of Mexico that intervention, especially without Britain, would have been very risky. They were already so heavily engaged in Mexico that they could not do much elsewhere without abandoning their position south of the border.

  13. Did the British Monarchy sign an agreement with the Southern States that abolished slavery?


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