This post is inspired by Rea Andrew Redd's latest post on his Civil War Librarian blog.
I think it is important to recognize that the Civil War was a largely regional war. At best, its international impact was confined to Canada and Mexico. Our war later influenced Canada to create a stronger federation when it united in 1867. As for Mexico, the Civil War allowed France to prolong its occupation of that country. However, to the chagrin of Southern statesmen like Jefferson Davis, the war did not have a global significance. The failure of the South's policy of diplomatic recognition showed the regional significance of the conflict. Unlike our entry into the First World War, no outside power felt the need to get involved.
One should recognize that the United States at that time was what we would call a developing country. The center of art, culture and political power lay in Europe in the 1860's. The 1870 Franco-Prussian War had a far greater importance for Europe and the world than our Civil War. Though Britain and France were forced to choose about Confederate recognition, neither country felt the need to intervene.
Like the weaker side in any conflict, the South sought to internationalize the conflict. The North successfully sought to keep the diplomatic confines of the war within America. This was one reason Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. His edict made it impossible for Britain to recognize the Confederacy because the Proclamation electrified the anti-slavery British public in favor of the Union. It was a masterful diplomatic move that kept the war from becoming an international one.
This is not to detract from the massive significance that the war had within our country. It was a foundational conflict like the Revoltionary War that set our course forever. However, its global impact was limited at best.
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