Why No Side Choosing During The Civil War?

Most Americans have studied the American War Between The States….but the one question that seldom gets asked is….why did the European powers not choose sides to support?

After all it would have been the perfect time to flex their muscle and make in-roads into the United States of America or the Confederated States of America. The nation would be focused on the internal struggle leaving lots of opportunities for influence peddling.

So again….why no choosing of sides?

By the beginning of the American Civil War, the United States was a little more than 50 years of age. They had started to develop relationships with all the major powers in Europe and the rest of the world.

It was evident both sides wished to gain the support of specific major powers, to enable them to take advantage of both military and financial assistance.

However, each nation remained “officially neutral” throughout the entirety of the war (although most favored one or the other). Some did not go as far as recognizing the Confederacy as a real country, but rather saw the South as an organized rebellion.

In fact, the Union told all the European countries if they recognized the Confederacy’s legitimacy, it was equal to declaring war against the Union. This neutrality for the most part, however, did not keep European countries from participating in various ways


This would be an excellent question to ask grad students in either international relations or conflict management…..

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

5 thoughts on “Why No Side Choosing During The Civil War?

  1. While no question this (what you report) was part of the European “apprehension” for taking sides… the Northern economy, because of the population, tended to be purchasers/importers of foreign goods.. and the South exported the world’s cotton. Mercantilism seemed to assure neutrality. Politically the foreign powers thought the end result of a civil war was up for grabs… so best lay low and play ball with the next ones in charge.

  2. In Britain, it was decided to send military observers to the Confederate Army, to judge whether or not to enter the war on their side. (This is actually shown in the film ‘Gettysburg’. )

    Although Britain had abolished slavery, they feared the loss of cheap cotton imports because of the war. At the beginning, they thought the South would win, so saw no need to enter the war as their ally. And supporting the side seen to be fighting for slavery was generally unacceptable to the government here at the time.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. One reason for Emancipation Proclamation was to shame anti slavery Britain from supporting South even though needed cotton for clothing mills . Then got cotton from Egypt.

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