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Question for history nerds - American Civil War

Angry Floof

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I'm curious about international criticism of American democracy during our Civil War.

Google is not forthcoming, probably because I don't know what key words would narrow that down. I only get contemporary topics no matter what search terms I use, and I specifically want to understand how other countries viewed the US during that time in our history, what they thought about the ideals of democracy in the context of the Grand Experiment, did they think democracy was a failure or the US as a failure in general? Stuff like that.

Does anyone have links that might help me? Even the extensive Wikipedia topic offers nothing about this specifically.
 

Angry Floof

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rousseau

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You might not be finding much info with Google because it's a pretty esoteric ask. One of the counter-intuitive things I've found with history, is that sometimes the information you're looking for is harder to find than you realize, and if you go back far enough it just doesn't exist.

My guess is that the American Civil War has plenty of writing about it, but the opinion of Europe at the time not as much and may not even be widely known. But with regards to your question, my guess is that it's unlikely that Europe viewed the U.S. democracy unfavorably at the time. That was around the time that democracy was emerging worldwide, including within Europe, and the Civil War may have been seen for exactly what it was - a necessary war between two factions of a single state.

And even that might be an over-simplification, because different states and parties may have viewed things differently.
 

Bronzeage

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No nation recognized the Confederate States of America, which is understandable. At the time, no European nation would see any advantage to either outcome of the US war. It did give France the confidence to invade Mexico.

The invasion began as a coalition between France, Britain, and Spain to force the Mexican government to honor foreign debt payments. When it became apparent that France intended to conquer Mexico and install a monarch subject to the French Emperor, Napoleon III, Britain and Spain withdrew, leaving France by themselves.

It's not really conceivable any of this would have been possible if the United States had not been distracted with domestic matters.
 

Trausti

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It seems unlikely that critique of American democracy would have been a subject at the time. The Union still existed and both sides had elected governments. Neither had universal suffrage; nor did any of the other purported democracies of the day. The idea that democracy is good and should be protected is a byproduct of the First World War.
 

SLD

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I think most of Europe was preoccupied with its own problems. France, under Nap III was embroiled in Mexico, Prussia was busy reuniting. So was Italy. Spain had too many problems throughout its empire to be concerned. Britain was the most involved since they relied heavily on cotton for manufacturing and corn from the North for food. They almost intervened on behalf of the confederacy, but Lincoln wisely backed down, saying one war at a time.

Continued mass immigration fueled Union Armies, including my great great grandfather.

Militarily, though, the fighting was widely studied in Europe by the professionals. Breech loaders appeared shortly after the end of the war and became quite common quickly. The Prussian General Staff took careful note of the use of trains in the war. They used those lessons wisely just a few years later against France. Germany later adopted Upton’s tactics at Spotsylvania on a much grander scale in the Spring of 1918. It almost worked just as it almost worked at Spotsylvania.
 

steve_bank

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The quetion for American democracy was whether or not it could function without a monarchy and educated aritocrat class.


He had a balanced pro and con view. Rising standards of living and the possibility of new forms of tyranny.


Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (French: [a.lɛk.si‿də tɔk.vil]; 29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859),[10] colloquially known as Tocqueville (/ˈtɒkvɪl, ˈtoʊk-/),[11] was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian. He is best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both, he analysed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.[12] Tocqueville argued the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. He believed the failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals.

Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government and was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.[12] During his time in parliament, he sat on the centre-left,[13] but the complex and restless nature of his liberalism has led to contrasting interpretations and admirers across the political spectrum.[3][4][5][14] Regarding his political position, Tocqueville wrote "the word 'left' is [...] the word I wanted to attach to my name so that it would remain attached to it forever".[15]

On democracy and new forms of tyranny​



Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism. "In such conditions, we might become so enamored with 'a relaxed love of present enjoyments' that we lose interest in the future of our descendants...and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one", wrote The New Yorker's James Wood.[39] Tocqueville worried that if despotism were to take root in a modern democracy, it would be a much more dangerous version than the oppression under the Roman emperors or tyrants of the past who could only exert a pernicious influence on a small group of people at a time.[23]

In contrast, a despotism under a democracy could see "a multitude of men", uniformly alike, equal, "constantly circling for petty pleasures", unaware of fellow citizens and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an "immense protective power".[23] Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens (children) as "perpetual children" and which does not break men's wills, but rather guides it and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a "flock of timid animals".[23]
 

DBT

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The quetion for American democracy was whether or not it could function without a monarchy and educated aritocrat class.


He had a balanced pro and con view. Rising standards of living and the possibility of new forms of tyranny.


Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (French: [a.lɛk.si‿də tɔk.vil]; 29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859),[10] colloquially known as Tocqueville (/ˈtɒkvɪl, ˈtoʊk-/),[11] was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian. He is best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both, he analysed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.[12] Tocqueville argued the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. He believed the failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals.

Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government and was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.[12] During his time in parliament, he sat on the centre-left,[13] but the complex and restless nature of his liberalism has led to contrasting interpretations and admirers across the political spectrum.[3][4][5][14] Regarding his political position, Tocqueville wrote "the word 'left' is [...] the word I wanted to attach to my name so that it would remain attached to it forever".[15]

On democracy and new forms of tyranny​



Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism. "In such conditions, we might become so enamored with 'a relaxed love of present enjoyments' that we lose interest in the future of our descendants...and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one", wrote The New Yorker's James Wood.[39] Tocqueville worried that if despotism were to take root in a modern democracy, it would be a much more dangerous version than the oppression under the Roman emperors or tyrants of the past who could only exert a pernicious influence on a small group of people at a time.[23]

In contrast, a despotism under a democracy could see "a multitude of men", uniformly alike, equal, "constantly circling for petty pleasures", unaware of fellow citizens and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an "immense protective power".[23] Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens (children) as "perpetual children" and which does not break men's wills, but rather guides it and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a "flock of timid animals".[23]

It seems that we have already gone well down that road....
 
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