During the U.S. Civil War, the government of the Confederacy eagerly sought recognition from European powers, chiefly France and Britain, by exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on them. At one point, the South ordered the burning of over 2.5 million bales of cotton in an effort to produce an artificial cotton shortage and motivate the British textile industry to seek peace on the basis of secession.Continue Reading
Unfortunately for the South, Britain had foreseen the soft embargo of cotton prior to the war and had stockpiled over 1 million bales for use by its domestic industry while large-scale cotton plantations were set up in India. Though the price of cotton jumped, from $0.10 a bale in 1860 to $1.85 during the war, Britain was not sufficiently moved to recognize the CSA as a sovreign state.
Confederate diplomatic efforts were just as strenuous as the economic pressure the South tried to bring on the governments of Europe. Tensions over the Confederate overtures to Britain culminated with the seizure of a British mail ship, the Trent, in a Cuban harbor. Two Confederate diplomats were taken prisoner, though the federal government relented when Britain threatened war over the incident. Eventually, the Emancipation Proclamation rendered European support for the CSA impossible, as Britain would not support a slave-holding state against a free nation.Learn more about US History