The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

One Special Young Man

What did the British government have to say about secession and war?

Queen Victoria (1819–1901) issued a statement in April 1861 declaring that England was happily at peace with all “Sovereigns, Powers, and States” and given that she was at peace with the United States, she enjoined her subjects to observe a “strict and impartial neutrality” in the American Civil War.

It is difficult to say precisely what the feeling was on the part of the English people. Historians, generally, believe that the upper class of England was somewhat favorable to the Confederacy, while its working class was distinctly favorable to the Union. It should be pointed out that the British laborer, whether in Manchester, Liverpool, or Leeds, had more to gain from an alliance with the Confederacy than he had to lose with an alliance with the Union. Even so, the British working class generally remained sympathetic to the North throughout the war, a powerful testimony to the importance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


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