An interesting article in The Atlantic by Ronald Brownstein draws the conclusion of Michael Podhorzer, a political strategist for trade unions, which is summed up in the sentence: perhaps it is time to stop talking about the United States as "red" and "blue", and argues that it is necessary to start thinking of the United States as a federated republic of two fundamentally different nations that uncomfortably share the same geographical space, based on different kinds of criteria, such as historical, social and so on.
According to Podhorzer, the growing divisions between red (Republican Party) and blue (Democratic Party) states actually represent a reversal of the lines of separation for much of America's history as a nation. The differences between the states in the era of Donald Trump are, in Podhorzer's view, "very similar, both geographically and culturally, to the divisions between the Union and the Confederacy", tracing those dividing lines to determine their respective spaces largely to the nation's founding, when slave states and free states forged an uneasy alliance to become 'one nation'.
I agree with Podhorzer, for the expansion of the 18th century left "winning" groups on both sides of the Atlantic. While in Europe it was all large landowners with highly marketable agricultural surpluses, industrialists and mine owners who amassed fortunes, in the American colonies the planters, in a context marked by a phase of expansion, also developed large fortunes, to which should be added merchants and shipowners, as well as financiers and large civil servants.
These great fortunes born of the transatlantic trade were not distributed equitably, beyond the ethical reproaches that can be made about slavery, for example. This led to growing tensions within elites, such as merchants and landowners, and the latter, with the regulators established by the metropole, began to experience tensions in the Atlantic realm, while in Europe tensions arose between wealthy commoners and aristocrats, and between the different states with the power to fight for more colonial resources.
An interesting example, emerging at this time, is the tendency towards antagonism between merchants and slave plantation owners, as lack of access to credit led the latter to deal with merchants and shipowners, who charged them high rates of interest, and whose animosity extended to colonial governments, who favoured merchants and shipowners by granting them trade monopolies. In the case of Virginia tobacco planters, for example, this meant that they had to sell their crops at a very low price to British monopoly merchants, who then shipped four-fifths of the crop to Europe to be re-exported there to various markets, increasing profits enormously.
This was sustained as long as commercial expansion was such as to offset these tensions in the elite.... as the balances of power broke down, revolutionary elements were generated, to which must be added the "relaxing" factor of smuggling, which allowed certain colonists with plantations to exploit their human resources and networks in the metropolis to their advantage, In addition to the well-established representative assemblies in the colonial territories, there was the enslavement of millions of human beings who were "consumed" as a resource and the hundreds of thousands of lives of members of the lower classes to be enlisted in the merchant navy and the navy, to keep the whole machinery running, so that their expansionism was fuelled by the power of the Royal Navy and the British administration which in every possible dimension at the time, land and sea, kept the French and Native Americans under control, as well as controlling slave uprisings and extending a system based on plantations and slavery.
Another associated phenomenon has to do with the fact that such expansion of trade and production led to the emergence of a growing number of members of what we would today call "middle classes" in any urban centre whose activities revolved around these axes, providing services and managing and promoting trade and colonial expansion from different perspectives. At the same time, the plantation owners, who, where possible, were only growing and increasing, promoted another model of land ownership, more directed towards the support of masses of people, as well as manufacturers of all kinds, not to mention accountants, doctors, lawyers and so on.
This created the basis for a white racial solidarity with the aim of creating conditions that would favour the greatest possible number of members of this race, which was soon joined by a growing number of people of white European origin who were driven to leave the Old Continent for various reasons to find a better life, and which only reinforced the white racial colonial pact, creating conditions where the wigh political theory began to flourish and become predominant.
But the balance of power began to shift after a long economic expansion fuelled by colonial expansion, and given the blockage in expansion that came with the defeat of France in the Seven Years' War, on the one hand, and given that the colonial elites were strong enough in all respects, including socially, to think they could change the colonial relationship when their profits dwindled due to the stagnation of colonial expansion, fuelled by a commercial depression coupled with the speculation of the finance of the time, with growing social polarisation and strong middle-class support for the elite interests that had defined the status quo, although land tenure differentiated the north with other types of agricultural holdings, and with a different social and economic organisation from the plantation-concentrated south.
Precisely the first years of the Seven Years' War also generated a certain balance between the different northern and southern parts of the colonies, because they served, above all in the early years, to relaunch the northern commercial centres, given the war front and their different needs, creating a time of general abundance with the exception of Boston, boosting trade, specialising these colonies and their commercial centres in supplying and sustaining masses of soldiers; This in turn was joined by merchants attacking the French routes through piracy, who also accumulated large masses of capital, as well as smuggling at very high prices to supply the isolated enemy. But it also had a political impact, because all the colonies needed to coordinate their efforts, finances, etc. to sustain the war effort, which deepened the conception of the elites and their co-opted partners of feeling part of a common political community. Finally, the unmitigated victory over France meant that, given their involvement in the war in different facets, which was predominant, they felt very much reinforced in their view of themselves as a militarily capable force... and since in all this the British did not have the same relative weight, and given the circumstances... what did the colonists need the British for? why did the colonists need British "protection" in the circumstances?
The destabilising aspect came at the end of the war against France, as contracts were terminated and the withdrawal of troops and their support in various economic activities came to a screeching halt. Moreover, the British administration not only stopped the credit directed towards the colonies for the support of the war, but also imposed an optimised system of control and supervision: the war now had to be paid for and the colonial empire was chosen to foot the bill instead of the metropolis through measures such as the Stamp Act of 1765 or the Tea Act of 1773. This created a common front of impoverished workers and artisans, manufacturers of all kinds of supplies, plantation owners whose equilibrium had been broken to their detriment and who were unable to pass on the costs to colonial expansion, and these groups were joined by merchants.
To this must be added the armed resistance of the Native Americans, which had an impact on the colonists by blocking the outflow of migrants from Ireland and what is now Germany. After the Pontiac's Rebellion, which the British had to crush with all force for the safety of the colonists, the British perceived the need to save more military expenses and avoid colonial expansion towards the West, transforming the trans-Appalachian area as a source of extraction, but using peaceful trade with the different indigenous populations that were safe, further activating the conflict between colonies and metropolis.
At the same time, the post-war depression proved to be longer and deeper than previous cycles of growth and decline in the eighteenth century, and in addition there was a wider and deeper polarisation of wealth, which created growing impoverished masses in the port cities and affected the middle classes of the day in increasing numbers and sent them into the lower classes, These people were the most politically aware and can be found in the Philadelphia volunteer militia, the Boston assembly or the New York city council, to cite a few paradigmatic examples.
With the elites feeling unable to stand with the British because of the limitation of colonial expansion for the plantations, and aspects such as the aforementioned Stamp Act or Tea Act, they agreed to join those positions but feared that such radical sentiments and actions would be directed against the British and their supporters in general terms, but not towards the oligarchy when the American Revolution of 1776 broke out. This forced, in the interests of forging the nation's independence, a refrain from pursuing abolitionist movements, particularly the constitutional compromise on taxation and representation (whereby a slave counted as three-fifths of a free person), which was the foundation that held the various states together, The distinction was made between those whose oligarchy was the large landowner, focused on large plantation crops and their allies, located in some southern states, and those who had to compromise on this important point in the interest of nation-building, but who were abolitionist and had a different economic and social structure, located in the north. At the same time, the compromise that secured the Northwest as a place for family farms held them together as an expanding power that violently displaced indigenous populations, whether in the Northwest, with other land tenure and crops, or in the Southwest, where the slave plantations of the more powerful oligarchy continued to expand.
Thus, behind the inspirational and grand proclamations of the American Revolution one could read a fine print that conditioned such a text, and which benefited an oligarchy within an international system of trade and production where their slave plantations were the pillar on which their power rested, For this reason, in Saint-Domingue, when the slave rebellion that led to the proclamation of the Republic of Haiti as an independent state took place, the attempt to restore the rule of the slave owners of large plantations in this part of the Caribbean was supported by the British Empire and the United States in 1802.
But, in turn, the French and Haitian revolutions also spurred a second wave of abolitionist sentiment in the United States that this time could not be stopped: the Emancipation Act was passed in New York in 1799. The failure of the 1802 expedition led to New Jersey also drafting and passing its emancipation act in 1804, the year in which the Republic of Haiti was proclaimed, and the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.
This offensive, which we will go into in more detail later in this paragraph, led to a reaction led by Jefferson and the Jeffersonians and directed on several fronts: The first was to prevent a slave rebellion of the kind seen in that context and which could lay the foundations for the end of the landed oligarchy, so he launched a battery of measures to this end, including the prohibition of the slave trade as part of the effort to ensure that slaves remained a minority of the population in the southern states; the next element was to strengthen the class alliances between the slave plantation owners and the white farmers and artisans; They also pushed for federal structures around the shield of "states' rights" to prevent the functioning of a federation that would bring success to the best statements that inspired the forging of the nation by making the northern states unable to change the status quo from any perspective that gave that power to white slave plantation owners. Blackburn (1988, 268-286) characterises Jefferson's programme as bringing whites closer to their government, with the focus on the landed oligarchy and their interests, but screwing the chains of black slaves in the South in return".
It can be argued that the foundations for economic rise and development were laid by the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States under President George Washington's administration, Alexander Hamilton. The fundamental pillars were laid down in three reports:
1/ First Report on the Public Credit, of 14 January 1790;
2/ Second Report on the Public Credit, also called "Report on the Public Credit", of 13 December 1790; and,
3/ The most decisive, Alexander Hamilton's Final Version of the Report on the Subject of Manufactures, 5 December 1791.
Of particular relevance is the third and last of the Reports which are the basis of the American School of Economics. According to the text, Hamilton reasons that in order to secure the independence of the United States, a sound policy must be created to encourage industrial growth and thus secure the future as a permanent feature, and the adjective "permanent" should be especially emphasised, of the economic system of the federation of states.
To achieve his goals, according to Hamilton, a system had to be established that combined rewards or subsidies to industry, a regulation of trade with moderate tariff protection that did not stop imports, but rather increased revenues, and thereby shifted them towards supporting the manufacturing of American industry (as well as unleashing a race to improve and outdo the competitor). The result was to be: growth of industry, diversified and stable employment opportunities, and the boosting of the demographics of the federation, as the purpose was also to ensure high wages compared to Europe, which would generate more consumption, more job stability, a demographic increase and the attraction of young people from Europe to bolster the demographics and capabilities of the United States. He did not neglect the application of scientific and technical progress for all sectors, including the agricultural sector, for remember also that there is no industrial revolution without a green revolution. In his report he also advocates rewarding all who contribute "improvements and secrets of extraordinary value": in other words, industrial intelligence. I recommend reading this interesting The Aftermath of Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures", by Douglas A. Irwin.
Alexander Hamilton was joined in his strategic gamble by Henry Clay, Henry and Matthew Cary, John Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. For example, the main ideas of Hamilton's Report on Manufactures were later added to the "American System" programme by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay and his Whig Party, as well as being a cornerstone of Abraham Lincoln's programme along with his opposition to the institution and expansion of slavery.
The vision of economic policy-making of Hamilton and those who followed him was seen as naïve, and even foolish or foolish, by most American academic economists, educated in the laissez faire doctrines then fashionable in the UK, who were the voice of the interests of the southern landed oligarchy and their interests, Hence it was in their interests as a landed oligarchy that we saw the United States and the British Empire supporting France in its attempt to crush the rebellion of Santo Domingo in 1802 to which I referred earlier, and hence the measures adopted by Jefferson and the Jeffersonians. Precisely, the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian factions opposed with all their might the implementation of such ideas... although the Jeffersonian position originally favoured an "agrarian" economy and its interests, it did change over time to embrace many of Hamilton's original ideas, out of a need to strengthen the whole and a way to avoid the break-up of the northern states as they advanced their positions vis-à-vis the southern ones. It is also true that Madison's administration helped bring about the first truly protectionist tariff in American history.
As we have already mentioned, Hamilton establishes this principle because American manufacturing capacity cannot compete with superior British quality. According to the prevailing theories, by the way, both at the time of Hamilton, who went against the grain as noted above, and also now (let us reflect on this calmly), which were based on Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the Americans had to specialise in the areas in which they excelled relative to the British, which was the primary sector. So American economic policy had to be directed towards converting American agriculture to the production of cash crops in a mercantilist context: rice, tobacco, sugar, wheat and, above all, cotton by maximising the production of these products and exchanging them for British manufactured goods which were cheaper and superior, despite the freight charges.
According to Ricardo, then as now, assuming a static distribution of comparative advantage, with each country becoming a specialist in its respective comparative advantage, overall production is maximised and through the regulatory effect of trade, in this particular case, both British and Americans will be better off, when the reality is that in this way the Americans follow a model of underdevelopment subsidised and co-opted by British interests and their manufactures, conquering a market in both a producer and consumer sense, so that only the slave-owning landed oligarchs are the real winners.
This situation generated a clash in the United States due to the establishment of the different states of the Union, which came from the starting point of two agrarian models that were immediately differentiated. In the South, American academics followed British doctrines because they were producers of raw materials and were interested in free trade, slavery, and support for Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. In the Northeast, however, the configuration of land ownership led to the implementation of Hamilton's measures. Differing views on free trade, slavery, states' rights and the functioning of the federation versus the confederation led to a North-South conflict that ended in Civil War.
Hamilton was firmly convinced that it was important for the United States to develop its own manufacturing base because, as he explained in his 1791 Congressional report mentioned above, he argued that productivity growth was likely to be so much greater in manufacturing than in agriculture or mineral extraction that all three should be integrated into a single system. These positions place him in the antithesis of David Ricardo because Hamilton believed that comparative advantage was not static and could be forced to change in ways that benefited less productive countries, as in the case of the United States vis-à-vis the British Empire. Moreover, he thought that manufacturing could employ a greater variety of people, in greater numbers, and was not subject to seasonal fluctuations or fluctuations in access to minerals.
A key element is the mix of industry protection from competition, but as Hamilton says, there has to be a stimulus for domestic innovation and in the end it is competition that leads to breakthroughs in productivity and management organisation.
As we see, the basis for the implementation of any ideological approach is to transform it into tangible and material facts, an industrial, productive, social, labour and wage transformation that generates the conditions whereby obstacles are removed and ideological aspirations crystallise.
Trade from the British metropolis was for part of the 19th century at a ratio of 25% imports and exports for the United States, and another 25% for the rest of the countries of continental Europe, according to Barratt Brown (1963). How was this basis of agreement constructed? After the hegemonic transition from the United Low Provinces to the British Empire was finally closed, with the last competition between France and the British Empire, the latter emerged as the world's most powerful hegemony-building agent militarily and economically, pursuing a profoundly conservative and restorationist agenda.
In 1815 the Peace of Vienna brought a hundred years of peace, until 1914, between Europe's key contenders, circumscribing conflicts to very specific events. We can say that the so-called Pax Britannica began in exchange for moving the wars to the colonial periphery.
Then, with the Peace of Vienna of 1815, they began something that had not been seen for a long time: 100 years of peace for Europe.
According to Polanyi in chapter 1 of "The Great Transformation", we can see that one of the key factors for peace in the 19th century was based on the balance of power whereby at least three or more political entities with regional hegemonies and a leading hegemon, the British Empire, accompanied by almost a peer, the French Empire, would create a pattern of behaviour whereby the power of the combination of the weak would increase as long as a stronger party increased in power. This balance of power differs from that of the previous hegemony, the Dutch hegemony, in that while with the Dutch hegemony there is no political entity capable of confronting the others and placing itself at the undisputed centre of all conceivable factors of power, with the British Empire this is the case because it is at the centre.
To achieve its aims, as soon as it had the necessary resources, the British Empire took care to compensate the absolutist or counter-revolutionary powers through the Holy Alliance, which ensured that changes of power in Europe would only be made with the approval of the Great Powers. The balance of the continental great powers was balanced by the United Kingdom ensuring the inclusion of France, albeit with "nooses", aligned with second-rank powers whose sovereignty resided in the Concert; The second part of the balance of power came from the Holy Alliance's formulation of a return to Europe's place on the world stage through the colonies, for which the United Kingdom introduced the principle of non-intervention for all of Latin America, counting on the United States to support this proposition in such a way as to affirm a pact between the British Empire and the white landowners and slaveholders, Thus inspiring the Americans with the principle of the so-called Monroe Doctrine, which was accompanied by the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny, whose relationship between the two doctrines can be traced by McDougall (1998, 74); and, Weinberg (2012, 109) states that "the expansionism of the 1840s arose as a defensive effort to prevent European encroachment on North America".
The idea was that, in the face of fragmented power in continental Europe and in equilibrium, the dominance of the UK and its structures were the key to sustaining peace in the world. To reinforce this message, he returned parts of the East and West Indies to the Netherlands and France, as well as making trade across the seas, cartography and the exploration of all oceans a general interest, following in summary chapters 3 and 6 of Kennedy (2017), which are very illuminating in this respect.
This lowered domestic costs for the UK and created the means of payment for other countries to access British manufactures, generating the aforementioned cooperation between Ricardo's states, anchoring the UK as the big industrial winner, and reducing the need for protection costs. London became, replacing Amsterdam, the centre of exchange and intermediation, this time global, resulting in a strong division of labour directed from London and on a global scale. In addition to this, London and the United Kingdom had a greater power than Amsterdam and the United Low Provinces, and unlike Amsterdam, London and the United Kingdom were configured as a centre of exchange, intermediation and industrial capacity, which was key to facing the Napoleonic challenge, and which in fact proved to be the key conflict in launching it as a great industrial centre.
Following McNeill (2007, 234-236), it is the UK's outstanding industrial capacity in the face of the Napoleonic Wars which, together with other factors, favoured its victory, but which turned out to be excessive in the period of peace, creating a depression that lasted until 1820. However, it was these same circumstances that allowed a destination to be found for these accumulated means and knowledge, allowing them to be unleashed through basic infrastructures such as the railway and iron steamships, creating infrastructures capable of uniting the world, to which would be added the telegraph, telephone, etc. Let us remember that the immediacy of information communications began precisely with British globalisation, where stock market quotations and sensitive information of different kinds travelled from one end of the world to the other in an instant; furthermore, railways and new means of navigation were safer, cheaper and more efficient. Since then, we have only over-abounded in the same ideas. Hence, if we follow Hobsbawm in "The Age of Capital: 1828-1875", between the mid-1840s and the mid-1870s we went from a single country with a railway network of the capabilities of the British one to its extension across several points of the globe which meant that the volume of goods moving across the sea between the countries of Europe increased at least fourfold, and the value of trade between the United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire, Latin America, India and South Asia increased sixfold. It will be precisely these circumstances that will break the balance by generating new quotas that allow the hegemonic game to be changed by gaining points while subtracting from the UK in key regions, sectors, etc., although for a time, the structures organised by the British Empire were not wasted and were key.
So we had a growing opposition between the southern and northern states, with a series of steps being taken towards the actual formation and confluence of the American nation, and with the eagerness to escape from what we might call the "British trap" which centred on a pact with the great slaveholders, and which did not fail, on this basis, to allow them to dominate and prevent the progress and development on the basis of industry, of the United States.
Interestingly, in the final years before the Civil War, the political orientation of the Southern states and their establishment, once extended in its interests to the entire United States, was marked by a distinctly offensive character: through the courts (the Dred Scott decision of 1857) and in Congress (the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854), their primary goal was to authorise the expansion of slavery into more territories and states. Rather than merely protecting slavery within their borders, the southern states wanted to control federal policy to impose their vision on more of the nation, potentially even to the point of overturning prohibitions against slavery in the free states.
The definitive turn of southern landowners who looked askance at the northern states can be pinpointed in the figure of John C. Calhoun (1782-1850). Calhoun (1782-1850), an American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina who served as Secretary of War (now Defense) in 1817, was one of the so-called War Hawks who pushed for the US-UK War of 1812, and was the seventh Vice President of the United States from 1825 to 1832 with Andrew Jackson as President, while strongly defending slavery and protecting the interests of the white landowning South, among other positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, moderniser and supporter of a strong national government and protective tariffs, but by the late 1820s, his views changed radically and he became a leading advocate of states' rights, limited government, nullification and opposition to high tariffs, as he perceived an evolution of Hamilton's views and Northern ideas on the slavery issue that concerned him, and he made Northern acceptance of these policies a sine qua non for the South to remain in the Union. Calhoun vigorously supported South Carolina's right to nullify federal tariff legislation that he believed unfairly favoured the North, which brought him into conflict with Unionists such as Jackson.
In 1832 Calhoun, with only a few months remaining in his second term, resigned as vice president and entered the Senate. He sought the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency in 1844, but lost to James K. Polk, who would go on to win the election. Calhoun served as Secretary of State under President John Tyler from 1844 to 1845, and in that role supported the annexation of Texas as a means of extending the power of slaveholders in the 1840s and 1850s, and helped resolve the Oregon border dispute with the United Kingdom, now to favour the status quo. He often served as a virtual independent, aligning himself in various ways, as needed, with Democrats and Whigs to advance the southern states' establishment agenda and interests.
Calhoun's concept of republicanism emphasised the approval of slavery and minority states' rights as embodied particularly by the South. To protect the rights of minorities against majority rule, he called for a concurrent majority by which the minority could block certain proposals that it felt infringed upon its liberties. To that end, Calhoun supported states' rights and nullification whereby states could declare null and void federal laws they deemed unconstitutional, but all with the aim of strengthening the interests of the slave-owning cotton landowners.
According to Cheek Jr. (2004, 8) within American republicanism two main branches can be distinguished: the Puritan tradition, which would be based in New England, and which the Confederates would seek to damage in their economic base during the conflict as a way of weakening their power, and the agrarian or South Atlantic tradition, which Cheek argues was adopted by Calhoun. Whereas the New England tradition emphasised a politically centralised enforcement of moral and religious norms to ensure civic virtue, the South Atlantic tradition relied on a decentralised moral and religious order based on the idea of subsidiarity (or localism). Cheek argues that the "Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions" (1798), written by Jefferson and Madison, were the cornerstone of Calhoun's republicanism. Calhoun emphasised the primacy of subsidiarity, arguing that popular government is best expressed in local communities that are quasi-autonomous while serving as units of a larger society. Of course, this protected the interests of slave-owning landowners and prevented the abolition of slavery, the social, economic and political transformation of the United States by preventing Northerners from developing their political, economic, social and moral principles.
Calhoun's beliefs and warnings greatly influenced the secession of the South from the Union in 1860-1861.
Additionally, the Confederates, under the leadership of President Jefferson Davis, were convinced that they had an ace in the hole with cotton, and defined such a strategy to achieve their goals as "King Cotton", which was based on the idea that British dependence on cotton for its large textile industry would lead to diplomatic recognition and mediation or military intervention... even the Confederates claimed that on this argument there was no need to fear war with the Northern states.
The "King Cotton" theory held that control over cotton exports would make a proposed independent Confederacy economically prosperous, ruin the New England textile industry in the North, and, most importantly, force the United Kingdom and perhaps France into military support of the Confederacy because their industrial economies depended on Southern cotton. The slogan, widely accepted throughout the South, helped mobilise support for secession: by February 1861, the seven states whose economies were based on cotton plantations had seceded and formed the Confederacy. Meanwhile, the other eight slave states, with little or no cotton production, remained in the Union.
The Anglo-French war that developed in the early 1790s restricted access to continental Europe, which made the United States a major, and for a time even the largest, consumer of British cotton manufactures. In fact, in 1791, US cotton production was small, at only 900,000 kilograms. Several factors contributed to the growth of the cotton industry in the United States:
1/ Increasing British demand;
2/ Innovations in spinning, weaving and steaming;
3/ A system that involved access to cheap land; and,
4/ Slave labour.
Eli Whitney's modern cotton gin, invented in 1793, was the great factor that greatly expanded the American cotton industry, which had previously been limited by the speed of manual seed removal from the fibre, and helped cotton overtake tobacco as the South's main cash crop, so that by 1801 annual cotton production had reached more than 22 million kilograms, and by the early 1830s the United States produced most of the world's cotton. Cotton also exceeded the value of all other US exports combined, reinforcing the ties and interests I have been discussing. The need for fertile land conducive to its cultivation led to the expansion of slavery in the United States and a land rush in the early 19th century known as Alabama Fever, as the Southern states in particular have long, hot summers and rich soils in river valleys.
Growing cotton with slaves brought huge profits to large plantation owners, making them some of the richest men in the United States before the Civil War. In non-slave-owning states, farms rarely grew more than a family could cultivate due to a shortage of farm labourers. In slave states, farm owners could buy many slaves and thus cultivate large tracts of land. In the 1850s, slaves constituted 50 per cent of the population in the major cotton states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Slaves were the most important asset in cotton farming and their sale brought profits to slave owners outside the cotton growing areas.
Hence, Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina enunciated in 1858 the pillars of "King Cotton" as the basis, cotton being associated with the interests of Europe, led by the United Kingdom and France, so that they could pursue their agenda to expand and control the Union, or if that was not possible, successfully establish the Confederacy and win a civil war... but this was not to be.
In view of such events, before the outbreak of the Civil War, the Lancashire companies issued surveys to find new cotton-producing countries if the Civil War occurred and to reduce US exports. India was deemed to be the country capable of growing the necessary quantities. Indeed, it helped fill the gap during the war, accounting for only 31% of British cotton imports in 1861, but 90% in 1862 and 67% in 1864, with Egypt nevertheless playing a major role in supplying cotton to the UK and France. In fact, after the American Civil War in 1865, British and French traders abandoned Egyptian cotton and turned to cheap American exports, sending Egypt into a spiral of deficit that led the country into bankruptcy in 1876, a key factor behind the occupation of Egypt by the British Empire in 1882.
Although the Civil War was thought to have caused the Lancashire Cotton Famine, the period of depression between 1861 and 1865 in the British cotton industry as a result of the blockade of American cotton, other factors such as overproduction and price inflation caused by the expectation of future shortages must also be considered.
Ultimately, by 1860, southern plantations in the United States supplied 75% of the world's cotton, with shipments from Houston, New Orleans, Charleston, Mobile, Savannah and other ports.
The Confederacy did not prepare a diplomatic offensive to determine whether or not its assessment of King Cotton's political strategy would be effective. In this atmosphere, and given the propagandist action and various other elements which it is not the purpose now to go into, cotton shipments to Europe ended in the spring of 1861. The Confederates' diplomatic action towards British leaders focused on the fact that the US naval blockade was an illegal paper blockade, whereas Davis generally left foreign policy to others in the government and, rather than developing an aggressive diplomatic effort, tended to wait for events to achieve diplomatic objectives, for he himself was also convinced that cotton would secure recognition and legitimacy for the Confederacy from the European powers. The men Davis selected as secretaries of state and emissaries to Europe were chosen for political and personal reasons, not for their diplomatic potential. The result was a stubborn and coercive policy on Davis' part, such that the British and their establishment found it not in their best interests either, which is why Secretary of War Judah Benjamin and Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger warned that cotton should be exported immediately to build up foreign credits... and in the process show a profile that would win them a more favourable line in the relevant international chancelleries.
The result is that, with some interesting nuances, the UK remained officially neutral during the American Civil War (1861-1865), but it did legally recognise the belligerent status of the Confederate States of America although it refrained from recognising them as a nation and did not sign a treaty with it or exchange ambassadors.
Roughly speaking, just over 90 per cent of Confederate trade with the UK ended, causing a severe cotton shortage in 1862, which meant that certain elements of the British establishment sent munitions, among other things, to Confederate ports in exchange for cotton and tobacco. The massive reduction in available US cotton led, along with other aspects I have already noted, to the so-called Lancashire cotton famine, resulting in high unemployment, despite which some Manchester cotton workers refused on principle to process any US cotton, prompting direct praise from President Lincoln. For its part, a debate developed in the UK over the offer to mediate in the first 18 months, which the Confederacy intended, as we have seen and certainly expected, but the US strenuously refused.
Generally speaking, certain members of the British elite tended to support the Confederacy, and as we have seen, certain working classes, among other groups, supported the Union for different reasons: the aristocracy and gentry, who identified with the plantation landowners, and the Anglican clergy and some professionals who admired tradition, hierarchy and paternalism stood with the Confederacy, while the Union had the sympathies of the middle classes, religious nonconformists, intellectuals, reformers and most factory workers, who saw slavery and forced labour as a threat to the status of the worker.
Chancellor of the Exchequer William E. Gladstone, whose family fortune was built on slavery in the West Indies before 1833, supported the Confederacy, but Foreign Secretary Lord Russell advocated British neutrality. Prime Minister Lord Palmerston vacillated between support for national independence, his opposition to slavery and the strong economic advantages of the UK remaining neutral.Even before the outbreak of the Civil War, Lord Palmerston pursued a policy of neutrality. His international concerns centred on Europe, where Napoleon III's ambitions in Europe were rising and pointed towards different places that the British Empire viewed with concern, while on the other hand Otto von Bismarck's ambitions in Prussia were rising and he was doing the same by defining an exclusive space that overlapped with the French and their ambitions, with scenarios that required British attention in Italy, Poland, Russia, Denmark, but also in strategic China.
On this basis, British reactions to US events were shaped by past British policies and its own national interests, both strategically and economically. In the Western Hemisphere, as relations with the United States improved, the UK had become wary of dealing with Central American problems. As a naval power, the UK had a long history of insisting that neutral nations comply with its blockades, a perspective that led from the early days of the war to de facto support for the Union blockade and frustration in the South.
For its part, trade continued to develop on the established basis, with the United States sending grain to the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom sending its manufactured goods and munitions to the United States.
The Confederate strategy to secure independence was truncated on the basis of grain exports, on the one hand, as well as the purchase of manufactured goods and on the basis that the United States threatened war (remember that Canada borders the United States to the north).
On the other hand, France was in the throes of intervention in Mexico, so French resources were focused on securing its interests on the Confederates' southern frontier. By early 1863, intervention was no longer seriously considered, as the UK turned its attention elsewhere, especially to Russia and Greece.
A long-term problem was the sale of warships to the Confederacy. A British shipyard (John Laird and Sons) built two warships for the Confederacy, including the CSS Alabama, despite US protests, leading to the so-called Alabama Claims, which were settled peacefully after the Civil War when an international tribunal awarded the United States $15.5 million in arbitration for damages caused by the warships.
In the end, British involvement did not significantly affect the outcome of the war, and in addition to the above-mentioned reasons, the US diplomatic mission, led by Charles Francis Adams Sr.
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, announced in preliminary form in September 1862, made the end of slavery an objective of the war and made European intervention on the Confederate side unpopular. However, some British leaders hoped it would provoke a full-scale race war that might necessitate foreign intervention. Pro-Confederate leaders in the UK spoke of mediation, which they understood to mean Confederate independence and the continuation of slavery, which was strategic for the UK and its establishment, as it would bind the hypothetical nascent Confederate state in the South even more closely to their interests, This was strategic for the UK and its establishment, as it would bind the hypothetical nascent Confederate state of the South even more closely to its interests, with a war debt and a fully UK-controlled economy, away from the North and the industrial and development policies of Hamilton and his followers, as well as weakening a dangerous rival for control of the North American trading node while dominating the rest of the global trading nodes, and frustrating the rise of the great competitor.
Indeed, as reported by May and Hong in Rosecrance and Guoliang (2009, 13), the British were deterred from intervening on behalf of their interests in the Civil War in part by pro-American public opinion.
In this respect, in 1840 List warns of the following:
"The same causes which have brought Great Britain to her present high state will, probably in the course of the next century, bring compact America to a degree of wealth, power, and industrial development which will surpass that now found in England, in the same proportion as England now surpasses little Holland. By the normal course of things, America will in that time increase its population by hundreds of millions, and (...) exploit a continent which infinitely surpasses that of Europe in extent and natural wealth; the sea power of the Western world will surpass that of Great Britain as much as her coasts and rivers surpass those of England in extent and flow. Thus, in the near future, just as natural necessity compels the French and Germans to form a continental alliance against British supremacy, so will it compel the English to form a European coalition against American supremacy. Britain will then have to and will find in the hegemony of the united European powers protection, security and prestige against American dominance and compensation for lost supremacy'. List (1997; 337).
German geopolitics, the cornerstone of which is Karl Haushofer, who developed the concept of "Geopolitik" from a wide variety of sources, including the writings of Oswald Spengler, Alexander Humboldt, Karl Ritter, the one mentioned by Weigert, Friedrich Ratzel, as well as Rudolf Kjellén and Halford J. Mackinder. Mackinder, and which he put at the service of a conception of power that linked up with the aspirations of the German National Socialist Party through Haushofer's pupil Rudolf Hess in the 20th century, and which we can see continued in this vision of the 19th century German political economist, through Weigert reflecting on Ratzel, when Weigert states:
"Ratzel believes that the United States should also be able to avoid the action of the apparent law that predicts the inevitable ruin of the great (agrarian) empires. Revolutionary means of communication and transport have definitively changed the role of the great continental powers in international politics (...) It seems natural that the law of growing spaces should lead Ratzel to examine the future of the two largest continental empires, the United States and Russia (...). He believes that their destinies cannot be compared with the empires that declined in the past, because of the vital role that the new means of communication and transport will play in the life of great empires rooted in large continental land masses. (...). The railway and the road, the telegraph and the telephone, became, for the geographic-political thinking of the last decades of the 19th century, the instruments with which an organic state system of maximum continental dimensions could be built up. Without the development of an organic, united political body within the boundaries of the great spaces, empires based on them could neither be founded nor secured. Such convictions paved the way for the firm conviction of all adherents of the Ratzel school that future empires would be continental empires replacing the old European powers.
(...) The United States and Russia represent such a superior continental power over the small spaces of the European states that Ratzel cannot help worrying about the ruin of Western political systems. He even asks whether such a process should not lead to a united Europe, to a European system of power in the face of the powers of Russia and the United States. (...) Never before have the populations of whole continents been brought to adopt a united political spirit and to take their place as truly continental powers. A new phase of continental history has begun which will lead, perhaps, to the final, spatial purpose of all history, that of mankind embracing the world. (...) Ours is the era of continental history, the course of which will be determined by the great powers dominating the great spaces". In Weigert (1943; 115-118).
Thus, during the last three decades of the 19th century, the United States had risen from the ashes of its civil war to become an economic colossus. Recall that by 1850, the populations of the United Kingdom and the United States were roughly equal, while by 1900, there were twice as many Americans as Britons. The US economy surpassed that of the UK in 1870 and grew to twice the size of the UK by 1914. In 1880, the UK accounted for 23 per cent of world manufacturing output. By 1914, its market share had fallen to 13 per cent while that of the United States rose to 32 per cent.
It is therefore worth asking whether this scenario can be repeated in the future in the United States, what role the battle of ideas and rights plays, and the economic model. I will talk about all this in a moment once I have laid the necessary foundations in this article.
The bibliography used can be found in the final article of this series.