San Francisco Civil War Round Table Meeting
Thursday 16th February 2017
at the United Irish Cultural Center
2700 45th Avenue, San Francisco
Civil War Diplomacy
Professor Sherri Patton
Many things were necessary for the South to create a new nation. One of the
most important was international recognition of the Confederacy as a sovereign
state. Charles Francis Adams, the son of President John Quincy Adams and
grandson of President John Adams, served as the American minister in England and
worked to forestall British recognition of the South. Britain did not support the
Confederacy because of slavery but there was more to the diplomacy than the
obvious. The British felt a greater affinity with the aristocratic structure of Southern
society. British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston favored the South but the English
working class would not support a government based on slavery. Social
acceptability in British circles was important in diplomacy.
Adams felt snubbed by the aristocracy and took personal offense to that, and in
general was not a skilled diplomat. Secretary of State William H. Seward's decisions
were directed at the domestic audience rather than international reality. But both the
North and the South were unrealistic in thinking Britain would support either one.
Southern diplomats were ineffective, and failed to convince either Great Britain or
France (Second Empire at the time) to extend diplomatic recognition or military
support to the Confederacy.
The Confederate government's failure to understand the weakness of its
diplomatic position is a telling aspect of the Civil War.
Professor Sherri Patton teaches history and women's studies at Sacramento
City College. No stranger to San Francisco, she did her undergraduate degree at
San Francisco State University and later graduate studies at the University of
California, Davis. She also taught at Mission High School here in San Francisco
before landing a position on the permanent faculty at Sacramento City, where she
currently teaches the History of the United States and an advanced honors seminar
in U.S. history.
Professor Patton is a member of the Sacramento Civil War Round Table and
has made presentations on several Civil War era topics to our capital city