MOOC | Politics, Diplomacy, Emancipation | The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1865 | 2.3.6
>>Well, McClellan, when the Preliminary Proclamation is issued, McClellan issues a statement to his troops, in which he says, I’m afraid we’re going to have to abide by this because, you know, civilian control. But actually, it’s a terrible idea. And those who oppose it should find their remedy at the polls. In other words, people should go out and vote for the Democrats, is what he’s saying, in order to prevent the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation from finally going into effect. And that, in a sense, is one little indication of how this Preliminary Proclamation will become a major issue in the fall 1862 election campaign. The Democrats will use every racist charge under the Sun, that the North is going to get flooded with emancipated slaves. They’re going to take your jobs. They’re going to marry your daughters. Lincoln is unleashing a tremendous, you know, flood of people into the North. And this has an effect. The Democrats make sizable gains in the fall elections. The Republicans maintain their majority in Congress, but it’s much reduced. And some people feel that Lincoln is not going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation as a result of this. Nobody knows what is going to happen. One other factor that I should talk about briefly, in this whole picture, is Civil War diplomacy, because the Confederacy, from the very beginning, made a big effort to try to get Britain, particularly Britain, to recognize its independence, to intervene on its side. Now, of course, Britain had abolished slavery in 1833 and was, you know — public opinion in Britain was anti-slavery by this point. But as long as the war is about the Union, the British see it as just a question of local self-determination. If the North is not fighting to get rid of slavery, why should Britain worry about this? Britain, as we have said, is very dependent on Southern cotton for its industrial, you know, industrial establishment in Lancashire, the cotton factories up there. And it’s remarkable how much pro-Confederate sentiment there was in Great Britain among politicians, among professors at Oxford and Cambridge, among ministers, journalists. Many of them would like to see the United States knocked down a peg or two. Many of them didn’t like democracy and they thought, you know, it would weaken democracy in the world if the United States were broken in two. There was still, there was a lot of anti-Confederate or pro-Union sentiment, too. Working-class organizations, labor organizations, were very pro-Union, very anti-slavery. With British public opinion divided, the government of Lord Palmerston, the prime minister, was pretty immobilized. I mean, we know now, we know now that there was never a chance Britain was going to intervene on the side of the Confederacy. Britain’s position basically was, you guys go and win the war, and then we’ll give you all the help you need. Once the war’s over, we’re on your side, man. But they weren’t going to intervene other than that. It would split the cabinet, it would split the country. And they were worried about Canada. William Seward kept ranting on about, yeah, come on, Britain. Come on, come on. Let’s go and fight. You wanna to fight? You know, remember George W. Bush? Bring ’em on, bring ’em on. Come on, Britain, you want to fight? We’re going to invade Canada. This is crazy. They’re already fighting one war here. But the British say, no, this Seward is crazy. And Charles Francis Adams, the ambassador in England, said, yeah, you know, Seward is really crazy. I don’t know what he’s talking about. But you guys better really not do anything to provoke him, you know. [laughter] So basically, nothing happened. The crisis came in 1862. Some people think the Proclamation was also aimed at, in part, at deterring British intervention. Particularly because in late 1862, Napoleon III, the emperor of France, proposed European mediation, that the European countries should get together and offer to mediate the war that — I mean, it’s sort of like, you know, nowadays people talk about humanitarian intervention, right? There was so much bloodshed by this point, let other countries try to do something to stop — like going on in Syria. Of course, nothing is happening except the war is going on. But there are many people that think somehow the international community should intervene in some way. Not sending troops exactly, but some way to stop this bloodshed. Well, now, Napoleon III had his eye on Mexico, and indeed the French were scheming in Mexico all during the Civil War. But the British had to decide whether to join up with this. But see, the South would accept this. The North would not. And then the plan was, well, if one side accepts it and the other doesn’t, we will recognize the Confederacy, if the North refuses to allow European mediation. But interestingly, in terms of what’s going on right today, the European power most friendly to the United States was Russia. Russia refused to join up in this European mediation plan. Why? Well, one reason, you know, the czar, Alexander, had emancipated the serfs of Russia in 1861, had decreed the emancipation of the serfs. Now, serfdom is not the same thing as slavery. That’s the subject of a whole other lecture. But nonetheless, it was a, quite a remarkable step in the general abolition of servile labor in the 19th century. So there was a sympathy there for the Union on the slavery issue. But also, maybe more pragmatically, and Russians seemed to be pragmatic also, they didn’t want — they thought the United States was an antidote to British power. You know, Europe always worked then as the balance of power at diplomacy. And they thought a strong United States was an antidote to Britain being supreme in the Atlantic World on the seas, etc., and they didn’t want to see the United States broken up. So with Russia refusing to go along, with the British cabinet divided, and with Lincoln having issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the European intervention story collapsed. So it’s not going to happen during the war. So finally, after those elections, one last time in early December, Lincoln puts forward again his whole plan. Lincoln’s message to Congress — I talk about this in my book — of early December 1862, is very bizarre, because he resurrects once more his plan of compensation, gradualism, colonization. But he also, you know, says the very famous lines, you know, “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves…. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation…. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.” He doesn’t mention the Emancipation Proclamation, but “in giving freedom to the slave,” that’s his, you know, kind of look to the future, even though he’s still promoting this old plan.