American Civil War

DMS dmschanoes at
Wed Jul 9 10:34:16 MDT 2003

Gee, I thought I had been concrete in my response to
Nestor's formulations by asking concrete questions and
showing how none of driving forces of the Civil War were
the result of the conflict between British capital and
US Northern Capital.

But, let's try more cement-- whatever the South's relation
with the UK, it's dread was of the North, of emerging
Northern industry, urban population, free agriculture,
overall economic development thus destroying the South's
political control of the United States.

Some 30 years earlier, the secession crisis during Jackson's
tenure, when  South Carolina nullified the Congress'
establishment of tariffs to protect emerging Northern
industry and then attempted to secede is commonly known as
"the dress rehearsal" for the Civil War. South Carolina,
speaking through the voice of one of the most reactionary
human beings to hold offical status in the US government,
John C. Calhoun, articulates clearly the impending doom of
the South should Northern free labor, free soil, be protected
and allowed to expand into the territories.

This is the enduring theme of every US political contest from
the Constitutional Convention through the US Civil War.

Britain had a great but fundamentally narrow interest
in the continued supply of cotton from the South was sympathetic
to the secession.  However, it did not, it could not engage
the North in direct conflict, nor even provide material
support for the South.  Certainly there was considerable
support for a British intervention by the specifically
mercantile section of the British bourgeoisie.  Certainly
Palmerston wished he could find some pretext to provoke the
war.  But he could not.  And he could not because the issue
of the war was slavery, despite the British and Union
protestations to the opposite, because the disruption of the
cotton trade and fabric production by the Union blockade was
so effective, action would have required the deployment of
the whole British Navy, and even then would have not
been guaranteed of success, and because other British interests
had more at stake in the North than maintaining slavery in
the South, and lastly but foremost, to risk war on the side
of slaveholders would precipitate a working class protest
that would have threatened more than the cotton trade.

Consequently, Britain restricted itself in what it would do.
And, it also curbed the French, who under Louis Bonaparte
dreamed of undoing at least part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The bottom line is sympathies represent material interests,
but they are not vital interests, nor are they causes.  Marx
grasped this and in his letters to Engels he proclaims more
than once the Palmerston may want to go to war with the North
but that he will not go to war.


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