Civil War 150: The South Asks for English and French Recognition
The Confederacy faced innumerable challenges during the Civil War. In addition to fighting bloody battles daily, they also were establishing a new government, currency and all that goes with the creation of a new nation. They also worked toward international recognition, mainly from England and France.
While the Civil War fundamentally came down to a battle between the North and the South, it was no secret that, if earned, international recognition of the Confederacy would bolster southern morale and militarily assist the southern cause, drastically changing the outcome of the war. While France was more likely to support the Confederacy, Napoleon III refused to recognize the Confederacy as a separate government or intervene on behalf of them until England would also do so.
England had a major stake in both northern and southern exports. The North exported a large amount of grain to England, while the South provided cotton that was needed for the British textile factories. Even with a Northern embargo on cotton exports from the South, England was able to acquire cotton from the Confederacy. As long as this remained the case and England would receive the food necessary from the North to prevent famine, they would remain neutral.
England’s continued need for Northern food exports and France’s unwillingness to act alone gave the Union a major edge over the South. In February of 1863, the Confederacy’s hopes for recognition as an independent state by Europe were hindered. On February 5, Queen Victoria made clear that Britain would not involve itself with America’s Civil War. The next day, Secretary Seward sent correspondence to Napoleon III that the Union refused to participate in French mediations for a peaceful separation between the north and south.
Connie Golding earned a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Fine Arts from The George Washington University.