King Cotton diplomacy is a term that describes the Confederate States of America's approach to foreign policy and diplomacy during the Civil War. Cotton was the Confederacy's one major asset going into the war, and they used this asset to attempt to gain a diplomatic advantage in Europe.
Cotton was a major bargaining chip for the Confederacy, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis supported a mostly informal policy that has come to be known as King Cotton diplomacy. One of the first actions that were taken as part of this policy was the burning of several million bales of cotton, a move that was deliberately intended to create an international cotton shortage. By doing so, the South attempted to show its strength to gain support from Great Britain, but this didn't quite work out; the British had already amassed a large stockpile of cotton prior to the Civil War.