Lincoln on Race and Slavery

By Abraham Lincoln; Henry Louis Gates Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

55

Resolution on Slavery:
CW, 6:176

The Lincoln administration faced critical challenges from abroad, above all keeping Great Britain and other European powers from recognizing the independence of the Confederacy. Britain already provided ships and munitions to the South and safe neutral harbors for rebel vessels. Lincoln correctly feared that diplomatic recognition would open the floodgates, leading to a permanent division of the Union. Relations between the United States and Great Britain had nearly ruptured in November 1861, over the Trent Affair, when a U.S. warship stopped a British vessel in international waters to seize Confederate emissaries. British public opinion divided over recognition of the Confederacy, with many elites and working classes supporting the South because of the Trent Affair. Yet equal numbers supported the North and emancipation. Through his friendship with Charles Sumner, the antislavery senator from Massachusetts, Lincoln attempted to influence British policy. He asked Sumner to pass on this draft resolution to John Bright, a Quaker industrialist, reform parliamentarian from Birmingham, and England's greatest supporter of the United States. Bright's enormous popularity could help strengthen the Union cause if, as Lincoln hoped, Bright could arrange for public meetings to adopt the resolution. Lincoln's handiwork emphasized the fundamental issue at stake in the war—something he could not have done before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. For conflicted British opinion on the American Civil War, see: R.J.M. Blackett, Divided Hearts: Britain and the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001).

-272-

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