British Neutrality and the Civil War Prize Cases
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British Neutrality and the Civil War Prize Cases Stuart W. Bernath Thehe has been no lack of studies of English attitudes on the American Civil War, and these studies have been important, for they have attempted to reveal the reasons for England's failure to intervene in the war.1 Curiously, only one of these studies took notice of English attitudes toward the Civil War prize cases except as they related to the Trent incident, even though English interests were very much involved 1 Professor James P. Baxter, in "The British Government and Neutral Rights, 1861-1865," American Historical Review, XXXIV (October, 1928), 9-29, pointed out that the official British response to the prize cases was dictated largely by the future interests of British sea power. This is correct, of course, but Baxter overlooked the "unofficial response"—press opinion and Parliamentary debates—and its relation to official policy. See J. R. Pole, Abraham Lincoln and the Working Classes of Britain (London, 1952); Joseph H. Park, "The English Workingmen and the American Civil War," Political Science Quarterly, XXXIX (Sept. 1924), 432-457; Royden Harrison, "British Labour and the Confederacy," International Review of Social History, II (1951), 78-105; "The Opinion of the Middle Classes," Saturday Review, XLV (Jan. 31, 1963), 137-138, Arnold Whitridge, "British Liberals and the American Civil War," History Today, XII (Oct., 1962), 688-695; Wilbur D. Jones, "The British Conservatives and the American Civil War," American Historical Review, LVIII (Apr., 1953), 527-543; John O. Waller, "Attitudes (1860-1865) of Certain Representative English Men of Letters on the American Civil War," (M.A. thesis, Univ. of S. Calif., 1949); Robert L. Duffus, "Contemporary English Popular Opinion on the American Civil War," (M.A. thesis, Stanford Univ., 1911); Ephraim D. Adams, Great Britain and the American Civil War (New York, 1925); Henry D. Jordan, "England and the War of Secession: A Study of Contemporary Opinion," (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard Univ., 1925); Max BeIoIl, "Great Britain and the American Civil War," History, XXVII (Feb., 1952), 40-48; Kenneth Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America, 1815-1918 (Berkeley, 1967), pp. 251-312; Joseph M. Hemon, Jr., "British Sympathies in the American Civil War: A Reconsideration," Journal of Southern History, XXXIII (Aug., 1967), 356-367; Robert H. Jones, "Anglo-American Relations, 1861-1865, Reconsidered," Mid-America (Jan., 1963), 36-49; Martin P. Claussen, "Peace Factors in Anglo-American Relations, 1861-1865," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXVI (Mar., 1940), 511-522; Amos Khasigian, "Economic Factors and British Neutrality , 1861-1865," Historian, XXV (Aug. 1963), 451-465; Louis B. Schmidt, "The Influence of Wheat and Cotton on Anglo-American Relations during the Civil War," Iowa Journal of History and Politics, XVI (July, 1918), 400-439; Eli Ginsberg, "The Economics of British Neutrality during the American Civil War," Agricultural History, X (Oct., 1936), 147-156; Henry B. Smith, "British Sympathies with America . A Review of the Leading Periodicals of Great Britain upon the Rebellion in America," American Presbyterian Review (July 1962), 478-532; George H. Putnam , "The London Times and the American Civil War," Putnam's Magazine, V (Nov., 1908), 183-191; Sarah A. Wallace, "Public Opinion in Great Britain on the American Civil War, 1861-1865 as Shown in the London Times," (Ph.D. dissertation , American Univ., 1925); Joseph M. Hemon, Jr., Celts, Catholics, and Copperheads : Ireland Views the American Civil War (Cleveland, 1967). 320 in terms of profits and losses, in terms of the possibility of war with the United States, and in terms of the long-range needs of England as the principal maritime power. The prize cases were diplomatic and legal cases which emanated from the efforts of United States naval officers to seize vessels suspected of carrying contraband to the Confederacy or of intending to violate the Union blockade of the southern ooast. One type of case involved the seizure of British vessels engaged in trade with Confederate -controlled Texas by way of Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas. A blockade of the river was illegal, according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and Englishmen were understandably upset by the seizures. The evident illegality of the seizures and the apparent misuse...


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