On this day in 1863, our ambassador to Britain, Charles Francis Adams, threatened the British Empire with war.
By that time, British shipyards had nearly completed three ironclad ships ordered by Confederate agents.
Facing this potential change in the Civil War's naval balance of power, Adams issued his warning. It was probably not a credible threat. Embroiled by our own civil war, we were probably not in a position to inflict much harm on the British. There is no evidence that the English were in any way intimidated.
However, the British foreign minister, Lord Russell, assured Adams that the ships had already been impounded three days before.
I have always felt that history provides lessons for the present and even the future.
Secretary of State William Seawrd had delivered threats of war to the British prior to Adams' warning. This blackmail, however baseless, showed the leaders in London that there would be trouble with the U.S. if it helped the Confederacy.
This belligerent diplomacy, coupled with President Lincoln's political skill (the Emancipation Proclamation) prevented the British from providing any kind of diplomatic or material aid to the South throughout the war.
This episode teaches us that the ideology of peace will not produce peace, or national security for that matter. Only the politically astute application of diplomacy, backed by a willingness to use force, can create a more peaceful world. We now call it deterrence.
What is your view?
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