Cotton and Slavery: An Unconventional Civil War Analysis Open Access

Small, Michael A (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/2r36tz115?locale=en
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Abstract

Although the American Civil War was ultimately won by Lincoln's forces in 1865, the Union might not have been victorious had Great Britain decided to join forces with the Confederate States of America. Traditional scholars and historians have attributed initial British sympathy for the South to its practical need for Southern cotton in its textile industry. They maintain, though, that Britain ultimately remained neutral because of its presumption that the North was ethically superior in its abolitionist stance.

However, after examining British speeches and editorials from the Civil War era, this thesis has determined that these conventional conclusions are overly simplified, and are in some cases entirely wrong. Building off the work of more recent scholars, this thesis will first analyze the issue of cotton and determine if it were indeed a strong reason for Britain to join the South. Upon review, this thesis will show that the issue of cotton could actually be used as a strong pro-Union argument, or at least a reason to remain neutral in the conflict.

Secondly, and perhaps more provocatively, this thesis will then deal with the issue of slavery, and why abolitionists might actually favor the Confederacy as the side more likely to enact positive emancipation. Sources indicate that many British were wary of Lincoln's abolitionist stance, whether because of inherent flaws in his plan or because British onlookers doubted Lincoln's true intentions for abolition. The Union's poor treatment of its African American population, and its role in the continuation of the slave trade internationally is also analyzed in this context. Finally, this thesis delves into the issue of Confederate emancipation. Many British onlookers felt that the South would soon be forced to abolish slavery for various reasons and that the methods that Confederates would use to free slaves would be more beneficial to their enslaved brethren than any Northern practices could be. By analyzing these two issues, cotton and slavery, this thesis questions and contests views typically held by historians studying the American Civil War from the British perspective.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
1. Introduction……………………………............................……….……..1

2. Background and Pro-Union Arguments...............................8
3. Skepticism of Lincoln.....................................................17
4. Dark Past.....................................................................30
5. Slavery........................................................................40
6. Conclusion...................................................................52
Bibliography.....................................................................58

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