Spain and the American Civil War

Spain and the American Civil War

Spain and the American Civil War

Spain and the American Civil War

Synopsis

In the mid-1800s, Spain experienced economic growth, political stabilization, and military revival, and the country began to sense that it again could be a great global power. In addition to its desire for international glory, Spain also was the only European country that continued to use slaves on plantations in Spanish-controlled Cuba and Puerto Rico. Historically, Spain never had close ties to Washington, D.C., and Spain's hard feelings increased as it lost Latin America to the United States in independence movements. Clearly, Spain shared many of the same feelings as the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, and it found itself in a unique position to aid the Confederacy since its territories lay so close to the South. Diplomats on both sides, in fact, declared them "natural allies." Yet, paradoxically, a close relationship between Spain and the Confederacy was never forged. In Spain and the American Civil War, Wayne H. Bowen presents the first comprehensive look at relations between Spain and the two antagonists of the American Civil War. Using Spanish, United States and Confederate sources, Bowen provides multiple perspectives of critical events during the Civil War, including Confederate attempts to bring Spain and other European nations, particularly France and Great Britain, into the war; reactions to those attempts; and Spain's revived imperial fortunes in Africa and the Caribbean as it tried to regain its status as a global power. Likewise, he documents Spain's relationship with Great Britain and France; Spanish thoughts of intervention, either with the help of Great Britain and France or alone; and Spanish receptiveness to the Confederate cause, including the support of Prime Minister Leopoldo O'Donnell. Bowen's in-depth study reveals how the situations, personalities, and histories of both Spain and the Confederacy kept both parties from establishing a closer relationship, which might have provided critical international diplomatic support for the Confederate States of America and a means through which Spain could exact revenge on the United States of America.

Excerpt

Spain is the natural ally of the South. If the South has
had a friend, from the beginning of her troubles, it has
been Spain
.

Richmond Dispatch, February 10, 1862

The American Civil War was primarily a domestic conflict, pitting the southeastern slaveholding states against the more urban and industrial North and the antislavery West. Other nations, including major powers such as France and Britain and less globally significant ones such as Russia and Spain, did not intervene militarily or politically in any significant way. Even so, there was strong international interest and involvement in the conflict. The United States before its civil war was a rising economic and ideological power, especially in the Americas and the Atlantic world, so its division into two warring factions generated interest in overseas capitals. Some historians have noted the attention paid to the war internationally, but most publications have focused on diplomatic and economic relations between the two American republics—the United States of America and the Confederate States of America (CSA)—with the French empire and the United Kingdom. Negotiations between the Confederacy and these two European powers and the potential for their intervention on behalf of the Southern rebels have generated deserved attention. Only these two European states had the potential to broaden the conflict instantly—with British troops in Canada and the French in Mexico . . .

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