The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War
Don H. Doyle
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In The Cause of All Nations, distinguished historian Don H. Doyle explains that the Civil War was viewed abroad as part of a much larger struggle for democracy that spanned the Atlantic Ocean, and had begun with the American and French Revolutions. While battles raged at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, a parallel contest took place abroad, both in the marbled courts of power and in the public square. Foreign observers held widely divergent views on the war—from radicals such as Karl Marx and Giuseppe Garibaldi who called on the North to fight for liberty and equality, to aristocratic monarchists, who hoped that the collapse of the Union would strike a death blow against democratic movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Nowhere were these monarchist dreams more ominous than in Mexico, where Napoleon III sought to implement his Grand Design for a Latin Catholic empire that would thwart the spread of Anglo-Saxon democracy and use the Confederacy as a buffer state.
Hoping to capitalize on public sympathies abroad, both the Union and the Confederacy sent diplomats and special agents overseas: the South to seek recognition and support, and the North to keep European powers from interfering. Confederate agents appealed to those conservative elements who wanted the South to serve as a bulwark against radical egalitarianism. Lincoln and his Union agents overseas learned to appeal to many foreigners by embracing emancipation and casting the Union as the embattled defender of universal republican ideals, the “last best hope of earth.”
A bold account of the international dimensions of America’s defining conflict, The Cause of All Nations frames the Civil War as a pivotal moment in a global struggle that would decide the survival of democracy.
rebels.” Motley’s pique seemed calmed by his old friend’s amiable plea, but he could not resist taking up the question that had gnawed at him for more than a year: “You asked me in the last letter before the present one ‘if we knew what we were fighting for.’ I can’t let the question go unanswered. We are fighting to preserve the existence of a magnificent commonwealth which traitors are trying to destroy, and to annihilate the loathsome institution of negro slavery, to perpetuate and extend
and informant that is signed “Cintrat.” My thanks to Stève Sainlaude for bringing this to my attention. 39. Slidell to [Hunter], Paris, February 11, 1862, ORN, ser. 2, 3:336. 40. Mason to Hunter, London, February 7, 1862, ORN, ser. 2, 3:330–331; Slidell to Mason, Paris, February 12, 1862, J. M. Mason Papers, LoC; Louis Martin Sears, “A Confederate Diplomat at the Court of Napoleon III,” American Historical Review 26, no. 2 (1921): 257. 41. Michel Chevalier and Ernest Rasetti, La France, le
Douglass the cosmopolitan context of the struggle that engulfed them. Meanwhile, against all odds, she sought to live out her ideal of love across the color line, which she viewed as the ultimate rebuke to the racial prejudice that lay at the heart of slavery. Emancipation, Assing hoped, might permit her to realize her desire to live as Douglass’s “natural” wife. Douglass, however, remained bound to his actual wife until her death in 1882. He and Assing had parted ways in the meanwhile. Ottilie
Benjamin. Both men were interested in De Leon’s proposal for a well-funded, centrally organized, hard-nosed campaign to “infiltrate the European press with our ideas and our version of the struggle,” as he put it, and appeal “not to sentimental considerations” but to the “substantial interests” of European powers. De Leon also advised that France was disposed to “more friendly feeling towards us than England” and could be induced to aid the South.23 According to De Leon’s retrospective account,
considerable fleet for a length of time quite sufficient to open the Atlantic and Gulf ports to the commerce of France.” The Confederacy was, in effect, offering to pay whatever it cost to hire the French navy to break the Union blockade.42 Alas, Benjamin’s April 1862 instructions did not reach Slidell’s hands until early July—underscoring how effective the blockade had in fact become. Fortuitously for the Confederates, news of their stunning victories against Union general George McClellan’s