The Irony of Confederate Diplomacy: Visions of Empire, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Quest for Nationhood

5fish

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Pull out the flowers form the weeds... This passage it from the original post.

This essay argues (1) that many Old South secessionists envisioned acquiring Cuba and imposing their slave labor system elsewhere in Latin America after leaving the Union; (2) that the Confederate constitution encouraged territorial growth and Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s administration was packed with tropical expansionists; (3) that talk of empire persisted into the early days of Confederate nationhood and that the Confederacy likely would have attempted territorial growth southward had secession been effected peacefully or easily; (4) that once embroiled in war, Confederates shrewdly suppressed imperialistic rhetoric and programs rather than project an aggressive image counterproductive to getting international recognition and assistance; and (5) that, in a bizarrely ironic twist, by mid-war Confederates were so compromised militarily that they even condoned Old World contravention of the Monroe Doctrine, sacrificing imperialistic dreams indefinitely in a desperate quest for national survival. This essay contends not only that this imperial strain in Confederate history has been inadequately appreciated in scholarship but also that an understanding of it illuminates Confederate diplomacy, informs scholarly disputes about the depth of Confederate nationalism, contributes to ongoing efforts to internationalize the history of the Civil War and probe its transnational effects, and carries a message for current discourses over Confederate memory and public displays of Confederate symbolism.
 

5fish

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Significantly, Article IV, Section 3, of the Confederate constitution allowed for the acquisition of new territory and mandated slavery’s legality in such additions...

I think a lot of this talk in the article was wishful thinking about a future Confederacy by South secessionists. These were wealthy men with a vision for a great slave empire and a greater Confederacy. The question is if the Confederacy would have had the will to fight and impose slavery in the Islands and Central America after fighting their bloody Civil War.
 

jgoodguy

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I always have a problem with an author who claims to have found a shiny object that no one else has seen. A problem is that the length of the Confederacy was so short, just a few months over 4 years, that finding coherent narratives about diplomacy seem to be difficult to me.
 

jgoodguy

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Significantly, Article IV, Section 3, of the Confederate constitution allowed for the acquisition of new territory and mandated slavery’s legality in such additions...

I think a lot of this talk in the article was wishful thinking about a future Confederacy by South secessionists. These were wealthy men with a vision for a great slave empire and a greater Confederacy. The question is if the Confederacy would have had the will to fight and impose slavery in the Islands and Central America after fighting their bloody Civil War.
Exactly.
If the secessionists had blackboarded secession, it would have resembled this.
1690792175977.png
Imagine if there was no Civil War and the CSA government talked about taxing the rich to pay for wars of expansion.
 

5fish

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@Union8448, as you see the Confederate leadership had little interest in making the South an industrial power. They were focused on building a plantation empire fluid with slaves. The leadership had little or no interest in creating any type of industry in the South. If they had won the south would have been the ugly step child to the North.
 

5fish

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Here is a good article about how the conservative elements of Europe declared the "Great Republic Experiment Dead". Our troubles embolden the Spanish and French to turn their noses up at the Monroe Doctrine...


From the outset of the war in America, foreign observers anticipated that the outcome would matter greatly to the world at large. Of course, the disruption of the cotton trade posed grave implications, not only for merchants and manufacturers but also for workers who depended on cotton production for their livelihood. It was the political implications of the American contest, however, that seemed to seize the attention of so many journalists, intellectuals, political leaders, and others viewing the war from abroad.

Conservatives in Europe received news of the debacle in the so-called Great Republic with unbridled glee, and they leaped at the opportunity to pronounce the ignoble end of the entire “republican experiment” that had been most violently witnessed in the French Revolution of 1789. Everywhere and in all of history, skeptics believed, experiments in “popular government” ended in anarchy or despotism. Democratic forms of government were inherently weak, they believed, and especially prone to self-destruction during the strain of war. Tory MP Sir John Ramsden took the occasion to advise the British public that they were “now witnessing the bursting of that great Republican bubble which had been so often held up to us as the model on which to recast our own English Constitution.” The first duty of the British government, he advised, ought to be to strengthen “the great distinction between the safe and rational, and tempered liberties of England, and the wild and unreflecting excesses of mob-rule which had too often desecrated freedom and outraged humanity in America.”3 The Earl of Shrewsbury, another venerable Tory MP, congratulated Britain on its aristocratic tradition of governing and compared its success with the extreme democracy now running amok in America. “In America,” he told his constituents, “they saw Democracy on its trial, and they saw how it failed.” Among those standing before him, he predicted, those “who lived long enough would. . .see an aristocracy established in America.”4

Anti-American sentiment ran equally strong among French conservatives who had witnessed two failed republican experiments in their own country. “Your Republic is dead, and it is probably the last the world will see,” Achille Fould, a member of Napoleon III’s cabinet, told one astonished American early in the war. “You will have a reign of terror, and then two or three monarchies.”5 French conservatives saw in America’s democracy the same fatal flaws that had doomed their violent history with republicanism. In the North, one explained, there was an aristocracy of wealth and another of “ultra-puritan reverends” who led their flock beneath a mantle of hypocrisy and intolerance. Le Monde, an arch-monarchist journal, condemned the American experiment as a mistake from the beginning. Eighty years ago “the republican tree” had been planted; now “its spoiled fruits had fallen, and its roots were rotten.” It added ruefully: behold slaveholding liberals in the South now crying Vive la liberté!6 French skeptics, too, prophesied the return of monarchy to the United States, whose bloody civil war was further proof that people simply cannot govern themselves.7

Spain’s ultra-conservative Catholic press was even more severe in its judgment of America’s godless experiment. “In the model republic of what were the United States, we see more and more clearly of how little account is a society constituted without God, merely for the sake of men. . . . Look at their wild ways of annihilating each other, confiscating each other’s goods, mutually destroying each other’s cities, and cordially wishing each other extinct!” It mocked the “model republic” founded in rebellion and atheism, “populated by the dregs of all the nations in the world” and living “without law of God or man.” Now America’s republic stood doomed to “die in a flood of blood and mire” and serve as a rebuke to “the flaming theories of democracy.”8
 

Union8448

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it must have seemed the US was doomed during the secessionist crisis. But by September 1861 it was obvious that most of the US had not seceded. The outcome was contingent. But as God favors the belligerent with the most ironclads, to paraphrase an aphorism, the odds of eventual US dominance were good.
After 13 months every major in the US was under national control. I doubt anyone in Europe noticed the change or commented on it.
But by July 1863 the British were aware that the US had control of all the major internal rivers. We don't know what the journalists in Europe wrote, but immigrants once again began betting their futures on America. And the British were meeting with and co-operating with US naval officers and US government officials.
Reality did impose restrictions on the ambitions of the southern expansionists quickly.
 

Union8448

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Interesting read
Good article. How had they talked themselves into such unrealistic ambitions? The seemed willing to ignore that all southern expansion had occurred as part of the US.
There is a fundamental avoidance of reality as to British power and French intentions. Particularly with respect to Mexico, there is a massive ignorance about how much Scott and the US wanted to get out of Mexico as soon as possible.
Even more basic, the expansionists don't confront the question of who is going to pay for all of this? Because its that question that led Washington and other Virginians to ally with the Federalists in the first place.
How does this kind of thinking become acceptable? But the secessionists were notable, not exceptional, in thinking the proper role of the ordinary man was to put on a uniform and die in an expansionist war.
 

5fish

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It was Southern Nationalism was the best answer. We talk about slavery, tariffs, and State Rights but it was Southern Nationalism. Nationalism always creates monsters that are not there and myths to support their values and views and ignore facts. The Fire Eaters were promoting Southern Nationalism... The pro-slavery and state rights talk was Southern nationalism...

https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3559#:~:text=Seeking to free their region,develop a distinctive southern literature.

Beginning in the 1830s, the South developed a new and aggressive sense of “nationalism” that was rooted in its sense of distinctiveness and its perception that it was ringed by enemies. The South began to conceive of itself more and more as the true custodian of America’s revolutionary heritage. Southern travelers who ventured into the North regarded it as a “strange and distant land” and expressed disgust about its vice-ridden cities and its grasping materialism.

Seeking to free their region from cultural, economic, and religious dependence on the North, southern “nationalists” sought to promote southern economic self-sufficiency, to create southern-oriented educational and religious institutions, and to develop a distinctive southern literature. Beginning in 1837, southern leaders held the first of a series of commercial conventions in an attempt to diversify the southern economy and to rescue the South from northern “pecuniary and commercial supremacy.”



Perhaps the most famous statement came from Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. In 1861, in Savannah, Georgia, Stephens bluntly declared that slavery was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution." He said the United States had been founded on the false belief that all men are created equal. The Confederacy, in contrast, had been "founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural moral condition."
 
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Union8448

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How that southern nationalism become so prominent? When the Polk administration settled both the northern and southern boundaries of the US and the Pacific Ocean temporarily formed the western boundary there was a high probability that the sectional differences, which were mainly due to slavery, would come to the fore.
I think that part of it was the very large number of enslaved people in what became the 7 original secessionist states. A large number of involuntary immigrants had been delivered legally up to 1807 and secretly thereafter. The people in those far south states were facing a very different and much more dangerous situation. In the middle eight states I think the enslaved population was much more Americanized and in many places not as dense as in the far south.
That brings another historical issue to mind. Its incorrect to speak of the South as a homogenous entity. The secessionist suspected the loyalty of the middle eight states and many Jacksonian Democrats had doubts about the plantation owners. Those divisions get glossed over in the dreamy world of southern imperial ambitions.
 

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Even Thomas Jefferson found out, a navy costs money. And prying Louisiana away French claims prior to stealing the western lands from the indigenous people, that costs money too. And the Dutch don't give interest free loans.
 

Union8448

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It has always taken a tremendous amount of real suffering to convince the adherents to these nationalist surges that they were wrong and that they were losing. To that extent the Confederate imperialists were no different than similar war advocates before and after them. The odd thing about the Southern imperialists, they were willing to have their sons die in the attempt, but not willing to give the slaves freedom to induce to fight for the cause.
 

5fish

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Here is an article talking about the study of nationalism during the Civil War era...


A broader perspective on Civil War nationalism not only allows us to contribute meaningfully to the unfolding discourse on nationalism in the modern world, but it also helps us better understand what nineteenth-century American nationalists thought they were up to. While we must engage more directly with the contemporary theoretical models of nationalism, we need not be beholden to them. Civil War‑era Americans had their own theories about nationalism, and these deserve to be taken seriously. Nationalism was not something that happened to nineteenth-century Americans, not some inexorable force in which they found themselves passively caught. Rather, they consciously created, cultivated, and constructed it. They knew, or they thought they knew, what they were doing. They wrote, talked, sang, and painted about it and did so with their eyes wide open. Nineteenth-century Americans spoke and understood the language of nationalism even if they did not often use the word—preferring “nationhood,” “nationality,” or “national character.” This was something they shared with others around the globe, and these commonalities, these common understandings and methods of nation-making and legitimization, are significant.
 

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In the real world slavery was losing. There was not enough demographic power to fill up Missouri with slaves. Almost no slave owners wanted to risk their enslaved labor in Kansas and Nebraska. Slavery never made the jump to California, though advocates of slavery existed there.
There weren't even enough slaves in the south for Texas to keep pace with growth in what was then the western paid labor states.
Growth in Texas took off after 1870.
Were these ambitions real? Did rich guys put their money behind it? Or was a fantasy world in which the reality of naval power and finance could be ignored?
 

5fish

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Imagine if there was no Civil War and the CSA government talked about taxing the rich to pay for wars of expansion.
I think CSA would offer the rich land concession to pay for their wars of expansion into Central America, Cuba, Mexico, and Western America... They would have conceded areas of land before the wars began. The increase in any taxation would be offset by the land grants later as spoils but they have to win these wars of expansion... If smart they may have allowed the wealthy to create and fund their military units.
 

5fish

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In the real world slavery was losing.
Yes, but a CSA would have held out until it was not politically untenable or became unprofitable and I see that not happen until the early 20th century... The question is would the CSA industrialized to support their wars of expansion or live off war profiteers...
 

jgoodguy

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Yes, but a CSA would have held out until it was not politically untenable or became unprofitable and I see that not happen until the early 20th century... The question is would the CSA industrialized to support their wars of expansion or live off war profiteers...
The French tried that in Mexico and it did not go well.
 
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