Union in Peril: The Crisis over British Intervention in the Civil War

By Howard Jones | Go to book overview
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The most simple, if not the only way, would be to recognize the Southern Confederacy.

-- Lord Lyons,

March 26, 1861


1
Problems of Recognition

For many reasons, the possible British recognition of the Confederacy constituted the most dangerous issue confronting the United States and England during the Civil War. If Southern independence were formally acknowledged, the Confederacy would acquire nationhood and win access to British ports and purses as well as the right to negotiate military and commercial treaties. From the Union's perspective, recognition would undermine its arguments about the sanctity of the Constitution. Indeed, England's granting of recognition might compel France and other European nations to do the same. Accompanied by military and commercial alliances, such action might guarantee the triumph of secession. Even an offer of mediation or a call for an armistice would raise Northern objections because either move implied the existence of a Southern entity, if not a nation. Any effort at intervention by England--including making its good offices avail

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