European Feelings of the U.S. Civil War
In the eyes of the Europeans the issues of the war were far from clear at first. The Southerner leaders, minimizing
slavery, were presenting the cause of the Confederacy to the world as that of liberty against federal tyranny and
drawing a parallel with the American Revolution. Lincoln was being cautious with respect to slavery, his emphasis
was on the Union, and his attempt to restore this by force was confusing the foreign friends of freedom. It was not
until after a year and a half of fighting and then the Emancipation Proclamation that the Europeans saw the Civil
War as a proving ground for democracy in their continent as well as America.
If the South made good on its independence, the prestige of aristocracy everywhere would rise. If the North
preserved the Union and destroyed slavery democrats everywhere would take heart. Conservatives and
reactionaries in all European countries despised the American experiment as unholy mob rule, predicted that it
must end in disaster and hoped for Confederate victory. Liberals and radicals whole heartedly hoped for Union
victory to prove that democracy could prevail over all its enemies and command the future of humanity. A foreign
people could not be expected to understand the local implications of the American domestic conflict, but they
eventually saw in it a significance which was not only international but universal.
1. Empire for Liberty, Rauch-Malone, 1960.