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> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-rev...@lists.h-net.org>
> Date: September 5, 2019 at 8:34:35 AM EDT
> To: h-rev...@lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revh...@mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]:  Eichhorn on O'Connor, 'American Sectionalism 
> in the British Mind, 1832-1863'
> Reply-To: h-rev...@lists.h-net.org
> Peter O'Connor.  American Sectionalism in the British Mind, 
> 1832-1863.  Baton Rouge  Louisiana State University Press, 2017.  280 
> pp.  $47.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8071-6815-8.
> Reviewed by Niels Eichhorn (Middle Georgia State University)
> Published on H-War (September, 2019)
> Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
> "We may be for the North or the South; but we have no doubt of 
> this--that Jefferson Davis and the other Confederate leaders have 
> made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made 
> what is more than either--they have made a nation."[1] These famous 
> words by Chancellor of the Exchequer William Ewart Gladstone in 
> Newcastle upon Tyne are the linchpin upon which Peter O'Connor 
> constructs his argument. 
> Engaging the growing literature of US in the world and transnational 
> Civil War scholarship, O'Connor faults scholars for focusing too 
> narrowly on the Civil War years, which skews their understanding of 
> British public opinion.[2] By looking at leading British 
> intellectuals and their writings about the United States, especially 
> travelogues, O'Connor argues that the prewar discourse regarding 
> politics, slavery, and sectionalism influenced British attitudes 
> concerning the secession crisis and Civil War, leading to a 
> reluctance to support either section. He closes the book in 1863 when 
> the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation permanently 
> changed British opinion in favor of the United States. Divided into 
> two sections, the book starts with the Nullification Crisis of 1832, 
> tackling "issues of race, slavery, and labor" in chapter 1, 
> perceptions of "US ethno-cultural regional identity" in chapter 2, 
> and "political policy, political culture, and states' rights" in 
> chapter 3 (pp. 8, 9). 
> British observers frequently reported the paternal attitude southern 
> planters had toward their chattel, thus downplaying the human carnage 
> of slavery. Furthermore, to these Britons, guilt for slavery did not 
> rest solely at the door of the plantation mansion but with the entire 
> country that tolerated and profited from slavery's products. In a 
> long-overdue nuanced fashion, O'Connor explains that British 
> perceptions that the southern identity centered on slavery did not 
> translate automatically to a pro-northern attitude. This part of 
> O'Connor's argument is reminiscent of what Duncan A. Campbell 
> illustrates in his works on British public opinion (_English Public 
> Opinion and the American Civil War_ [2003] and _Unlikely Allies: 
> Britain, America and the Victorian Origins of the Special 
> Relationship_ [2007]): anti-southern views did not automatically mean 
> an embrace of the other section. 
> Next, O'Connor engages ethnicity and geography as Britons looked for 
> an image of themselves in the United States. Observers frequently 
> invoked a Puritan New England and Cavalier South to illustrate the 
> distinctive characters of the two sections. Complicating matters was 
> that the northern parts of the country included a diverse immigrant 
> population, diluting its British heritage. Therefore, pure 
> Britishness was located in the Cavalier, ethnically cohesive southern 
> parts. Confounding things was the Irish population in cities like New 
> York, O'Connor argues. British anti-Irish and anti-Catholic attitudes 
> translated into concerns about the northern section. Finally, 
> O'Connor's subjects indicated a detailed understanding of politics in 
> the United States that escalated sectional divisions. In the course 
> of this discussion, O'Connor notes how Britons continued to perceive 
> of the democratic system in the United States as mob rule and even 
> more how some, but certainly not all, viewed democracy as a northern 
> phenomenon and saw an aristocratic society in the southern states. 
> However, the detailed engagement Britons had with the states' rights 
> issues in the United States caused many to view the growing crisis 
> from a constitutional point of view, rather than a moral 
> slavery-based argument. Thus, O'Connor provides an important overview 
> of antebellum British opinions about the United States. 
> In the second part of the book, O'Connor chronicles the changing 
> British attitude in 1861 and 1862. Based on thirty years of matured 
> understanding, Britons located many pitfalls with the northern 
> government, such as the anti-free trade Morrill Tariff, as well as 
> the absence of abolition as a war goal, which allowed Confederate 
> sympathies to spread. As long as slavery was not a war goal, 
> Confederate and Confederate-sympathetic propagandists could liberally 
> build on British prewar attitudes of the United States and planter 
> paternalism. The reports on the use of Irish soldiers and the 
> significant number of foreign-born soldiers permitted the return to 
> arguments about the Britishness of the southern part of the country. 
> However, again embracing a nuanced approach and reminding readers of 
> Campbell's work, O'Connor cautions that "antipathy toward the Union" 
> did not mean "sympathy for the Confederacy" (p. 176). Finally, 
> O'Connor notes that "disillusion with immediate emancipation in 
> Britain ... stemm[ed] from the nation's experience in the West 
> Indies" (p. 146). Nevertheless, O'Connor concludes that Abraham 
> Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation forced Britons to reevaluate 
> their view on the sectionally torn United States and permanently 
> aligned them with the US. 
> O'Connor's work fits into an emerging pattern of scholarship that has 
> moved away from looking at the Civil War era's diplomatic relations 
> confined by the four years of fighting. Instead, like Philip E. Myers 
> (_Caution and Cooperation: The American Civil War in British-American 
> Relations_ [2008]) and Jay Sexton (_Debtor Diplomacy Finance and 
> American Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837-1873_ [2005]), 
> O'Connor believes the key to understanding British wartime attitudes 
> lies in the antebellum years. However, O'Connor does not explain why 
> he starts in 1830, considering that sectional issues and geographic 
> differences existed well before then. Similarly, how much does the 
> focus on a select group of intellectuals and their travelogues skew 
> the understanding? Did they have an influence outside of their 
> specific intellectual strata? How much did they influence the middle 
> strata of society and even the working class? While these are 
> important intellectual components, there is very little politics. 
> Prime Minister Lord John Palmerston is only mentioned about a dozen 
> times and Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell even less, yet these 
> were the leading politicians in the country during the Civil War. Did 
> they accept and read these works? 
> _American Sectionalism in the British Mind_ is an appreciated and 
> critical addition to the transnational literature of the Civil War 
> era. The book forces scholars interested in the transnational and 
> diplomatic aspects of the era to consider the long durée of 
> political, diplomatic, and intellectual narratives and no longer 
> engage solely on the four years of war. Finally, this book hopefully 
> will encourage other studies. Besides the pantheon of travelogues 
> used by O'Connor, there are other famous ones by Alexis de 
> Tocqueville and his travel companion Gustave de Beaumont that 
> critically assessed the political and racial landscape in the United 
> States. How did these two and others affect French perceptions? How 
> did antebellum literature influence people in other countries in 
> regard to the United States? Importantly, O'Connor alters the 
> narrative from the US-centric transnational account available so far 
> and looks at the people who mattered in making British opinions, 
> British opinion-makers and policymakers. This book will have a 
> lasting impact on the international aspects of the Civil War. 
> Notes 
> [1]. William Ewart Gladstone, "Speech on the American Civil War," 
> Town Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne, printed in _The Times_ (London), 
> October 9, 1862. 
> [2]. Enrico Dal Lago, _William Lloyd Garrison and Giuseppe Mazzini: 
> Abolition, Democracy, and Radical Reform_ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana 
> State University Press, 2013); Don H. Doyle, ed., _American Civil 
> Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Crisis of the 
> 1860s_ (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016); Don 
> H. Doyle, _The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the 
> American Civil War _(New York: Basic Books, 2014); Niels Eichhorn, 
> _Liberty and Slavery: European Separatists, Southern Secession, and 
> the American Civil War_ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University 
> Press, forthcoming 2019); Andre M. Fleche, _The Revolution of 1861: 
> The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict_ (Chapel 
> Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); David T. Gleeson and 
> Simon Lewis, _The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational 
> Meanings of the American Civil War_ (Columbia: University of South 
> Carolina Press, 2014); Jörg Nagler, Don H. Doyle, and Marcus 
> Gräser, eds., _The Transnational Significance of the American Civil 
> War_ (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016); Paul Quigley, 
> _Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-1865_ 
> (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Paul Quigley, ed., _The 
> Civil War and the Transformation of American Citizenship_ (Baton 
> Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2018); Brian Schoen, _The 
> Fragile Fabric of Union Cotton, Federal Politics, and the Global 
> Origins of the Civil War _(Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University 
> Press, 2009); and Ann L. Tucker, _"Newest Born of Nations": European 
> Nationalist Movements and the Making of Southern Nationhood, 
> 1820-1865_ (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 
> forthcoming).________ 
> Citation: Niels Eichhorn. Review of O'Connor, Peter, _American 
> Sectionalism in the British Mind, 1832-1863_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. 
> September, 2019.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53955
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 
> License.
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