Most studies of the American Civil War (1861-1865) focus on political and military leaders, military campaigns, and battles. Dr Howard Jones, Universi...moreMost studies of the American Civil War (1861-1865) focus on political and military leaders, military campaigns, and battles. Dr Howard Jones, University Research Professor at the University of Alabama, provides a diplomatic history of the American conflict that considers the foreign relations of the United States and Confederacy with the European Powers. Previous works by Jones include To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1783-1843 (1977), Union in Peril: The Crisis over British Intervention in the Civil War (1992), Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War (1999), and Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913 (2002).
In this study, Jones recounts the diplomatic events of the Civil War focusing on the issue of foreign intervention. He first looks at foreign relations from the outbreak of the war in April 1861 through the autumn of 1862. This was a period when the Palmerston Cabinet in London took the lead in declaring neutrality and recognizing the belligerent status of the South, and then considered mediation and possible diplomatic recognition of the Confederate States. He clearly shows the danger of British intervention in the Trent Affair (1861) and the Intervention Debates of 1862. Throughout this time the United States, using the threat of war, pursued its main goal of deterring Britain from diplomatically recognizing the South. The author shows that, despite pressure from certain circles, especially over the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Britain opted to avoid a war against the United States in support of the Confederacy. London had to consider the Union threat to Canada and British commerce. By the end of 1862 the Confederacy was losing hope of British diplomatic recognition of the South, as well as hope for an alliance with Britain against the North.
Confederate diplomacy slowly began to focus on Napoleon III and France. Napoleon sympathized with the Southern cause. He entertained the ideas of diplomatic recognition and an armistice. The Emperor was open to Confederate proposals for an alliance, so long as it benefited French involvement in Mexican affairs and the pursuit of his dream to reestablish a French Empire in the New World. “Napoleon,” writes Jones, “considered Confederate independence crucial to the military and commercial bastion he envisioned in the Western Hemisphere” (p.310). The Lincoln administration was strongly against French interference in Mexican affairs. Jones shows that French support for the Confederacy became shaky after the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July 1863. Napoleon quickly abandoned the South after the United States threatened a war in Mexico in March 1864.
Blue and Gray Diplomacy is an outstanding study covering foreign relations between the Union, Confederacy, Britain, and France. It replaces David P. Crook’s The North, the South, and the Powers, 1861-1865 (1974) as the best study of foreign relations regarding the Civil War. Even so, the study can be supplemented by the recent publication of Wayne H. Bowen’s Spain and the American Civil War (2011). This reviewer highly recommends Blue and Gray Diplomacy to students and scholars of the Civil War to gain an understanding of the diplomatic events that touched the course and outcome of the conflict, especially the fact that Britain and France highly considered intervention in favor of the South, and in the end, backed away from such action. (less)
Dr Phillip E. Myers, Director of Administration at the Western Kentucky University Research Foundation, examines Anglo-American relations after the Wa...moreDr Phillip E. Myers, Director of Administration at the Western Kentucky University Research Foundation, examines Anglo-American relations after the War of 1812 to the Treaty of Washington (1871). The author focuses on Anglo-American relations during the American Civil War and puts it into the larger context of overall relations between the two states during the nineteenth century.
Myers argues against the traditional view that Britain and the United States had tense relations that could have easily resulted in foreign intervention or an Anglo-Union war during the American Civil War. Instead, the author stresses that Britain and the United States employed caution and cooperation, rather than conflict, in their wartime relations. Myers shows that both states had used caution and cooperation in their relations before the conflict that resolved border issues in the Rush-Bagot Agreement (1817), Convention of 1818, Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), and Oregon Treaty of 1846. He writes: “The four treaties showed that caution and cooperation were the leading British-American aims” (p.23).
After the outbreak of the American Civil War, Myers stresses that Britain and United States worked to avoid an Anglo-American conflict, and that neither side seriously wanted war against the other. The North had its hands full with the war against the South. Britain was more worried about Napoleon III and the French threat to the British Isles and the European Balance of Power. Britain declared neutrality in the American conflict, resulting in British recognition of belligerent status for the South. Tension was evident over British trade with the South and the Union blockade. Myers stresses that the Trent Affair (1861), traditionally thought to be a crisis moment when Britain and the United States might to go war against one another, was less serious than previously believed. Neither power wanted war. Private diplomacy quickly brought the two states back to cooperative relations that avoided a crisis for the rest of the American conflict. He points out that the Palmerston Cabinet opted for cooperation with the Union in the Intervention Debate of 1862, and relations continually improved for the duration of the war. The author states that, “by the end of 1862 the British-American peace was stronger than at any time since the beginning of the Civiil War . . .” (p.139).
Myer’s argument contrasts sharply with previous historians, such as Howard Jones’ Union in Peril: The Crisis over British Intervention in the Civil War (1992), that stress tense Anglo-American relations and crisis moments between Britain and the United States that could have led to foreign intervention in the American Civil War. Myers’ work is based on archival research in Britain, the United States, and Canada. The study is valuable for depicting Anglo-American relations in a different light. Is his thesis of Anglo-American caution and cooperation overstated? This reviewer recommends this study for students and scholars to read and make up their own minds. (less)
Interesting study that reminds the reader of Spain's involvement in the American Civil War. Spain, undergoing a mid-19th century revival in internatio...moreInteresting study that reminds the reader of Spain's involvement in the American Civil War. Spain, undergoing a mid-19th century revival in international relations, flexed its muscles in Morocco, Santo Domingo, and for a brief moment in Mexico. Bowen argues that cooperation or an alliance could have been in the cards for Spain and the Confederate States of America. However, Spain's military weakness, especially in light of the guerrilla war it was fighting in Santo Domingo, and reliance on Britain and France to take the lead in the diplomatic recognition (which did not happen) limited Spain's efforts. Even so, Spain, a so-called neutral power, showed its pro-South sympathy by allowing Confederate ships, blockade runners, and arms trade to operate out of Spanish territory, especially Cuba. Bowen's strength is his discussion of Spanish operations in Cuba and Santo Domingo. For most of the book the author strives to show the operation of Spanish diplomacy in the shadows of France (and Britain). A good read, but at times it seems like the author is stretching to make his points. (less)
Cunningham writes a revisionist history of Emperor Napoleon III of France's intentions and activities in Mexico from 1861 to 1867. Instead of argument...moreCunningham writes a revisionist history of Emperor Napoleon III of France's intentions and activities in Mexico from 1861 to 1867. Instead of arguments that Napoleon sought to establish French control in Mexico and the region for French strategic and economic gains, the author stresses the emperor's "selfless and humanitarian motives" to stablize the political situation in Mexico and enable access for all nations to the markets of Central America. Cunningham believes that Napoleon had no long-term French goals in Mexico, believing that the combined actions of Britain, Spain, and France would quickly resolve the issues in Mexico in 1862. (Britain and Spain pulled out of Mexico in April 1862.) The author goes to great lengths to show that Napoleon (in France) was misinformed by French leaders on the scene, and some of them misunderstood his intentions or made their own decisions -- that were not in line with the emperor's thoughts -- to take action that resulted in the Franco-Mexican War and the establishment of Emperor Maximilian on the Mexican throne in 1864. Cunningham fully believes that Napoleon wanted to quickly resolve the issues in Mexico and then pull French forces out of the region. The author sees Napoleon's foreign policy as idealistic and the emperor as "the visionary who foresaw the establishment of the United Nations and related organizations, and a European Parliment" (p.212). This is an interesting read, based on archival sources, but some of the arguments are hard to swallow.(less)