An American History Question (to go with the canadian one)

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    Jan 05, 2008 3:04 PM GMT
    Why was Britain afraid that the Union might attack Canada during the US Civil War?
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    Jan 05, 2008 6:44 PM GMT
    Just guessing but could it have anything to do with the choice by British citizens to assist break the union blockade and supply the confederacy?

    The South did want assistance and recognition from Europe but I think and hope of that disappeared quickly.
  • jarhead5536

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    Jan 05, 2008 6:55 PM GMT
    Didn't the French also immediately recognize the Confederacy?
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    Jan 05, 2008 6:56 PM GMT
    This doesn't exactly answer the question, but the British were sympathetic to the Confederacy. It was the diplomacy of Charles Adams (grandson of John, son of John Quincy) that kept GB neutral.
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    Jan 05, 2008 8:48 PM GMT
    There had been a lingering animosity between Britain and the US since the American Revolution. There had been outright war in 1812, and there had been some American assistance provided in a rebellion in Canada in 1837.
    At the outset of the Civil War, Canada was lightly defended by British regulars. So when the Civil war broke out, reinforcements were sent, which was interpreted by the North as a hostile gesture. Some fortifications in the northern states were increased which was interpreted as hostile by the British.
    There was open talk in the Northern press that if the south were lost, the colonies of British North America would be adequate compensation. There was some discussion of this in government circles as well, and it was thought that the Canadian colonists would welcome annexation, and perhaps Britain would be happy to give up the colonies too. With the westward expansion of the US, there had be open talk for years about the US annexing the British colonies and the vast territory owned by the Hudson's Bay Company (modern day Alberta, Saskatchewan, much of Manitoba and Northern Ontario). The Monroe doctrine, establishing the Americas as being under the US sphere of influence rather than the old world powers, and the idea of Manifest Destiny, gave further weight to this talk, and Britain's worries.
    At the outset, it was thought the Civil War would be over quickly. The fear in Britian was that a large Northern Army could then quickly be turned northwards to easily annex the lightly defended Canada.
    1861 was an election year in Canada and the Anti-American sentiment increased during the election campaign. Some railroad interests encouraged the growing war hysteria to get government subsidies for their railways connecting the colonies directly, rather than through the US.
    The Trent affair, where the Union intercepted a British ship, the Trent, heading from Havana to London so they could remove 2 confederate diplomats heading to Europe to rally support, was seen in Canada and Britain as a supremely hostile act and troop reinforcements were greatly increased.
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    Jan 05, 2008 10:05 PM GMT
    Edgey has it right as I understand it. Britain & France relied on Southern cotton to supply their cotton mills, a big part of their economies. I don't recall that any country recognized the Confederacy, but I think France and Britain and possibly others recognized the Confederate Govt. as a belligerant, which gave it certain rights under the rules of warfare.

    There was actually a raid by Confederate irregulars from Quebec on a small town in Vermont, so there was a lot of tension between these countries.

    The Civil War took place at the same time that Emperor Napoleon III of France had sent troops to Mexico to establish the Mexican Empire, led by the ill-fated Maximillian and Carlotta, so there were tensions with France as well.
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    Jan 05, 2008 11:19 PM GMT
    To ensure an uninterrupted supply of poutine?
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    Jan 06, 2008 12:26 AM GMT
    Correct, Britain was sympathetic with the South. So there was talk of attacking Canada, but it was decided fighting both the South and Britain was too much.

    France did not recognize the South. Napoleon III, coward that he was, wanted the British to make the first move, and then he would follow. They never did, so neither did he.

    The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in part to influence Britain and France to stop helping the South.

    "Abroad, as Lincoln hoped, the Proclamation turned foreign popular opinion in favor of the Union for its new commitment to end slavery. That shift ended any hope the Confederacy might have had of gaining official recognition, particularly from the United Kingdom. If Britain or France, both of which had abolished slavery, continued to consider supporting the Confederacy, it would seem as though they were supporting slavery. Prior to Lincoln's decree, Britain's actions had favored the Confederacy, especially in its construction of warships such as the CSS Alabama and CSS Florida."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_Proclamation