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In "The Cause of All Nations," distinguished historian Don H. Doyle explains that the Civil War was viewed abroad as part of a much larger struggle for democracy that spanned the Atlantic Ocean, and had begun with the American and French Revolutions. While battles raged at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, a parallel contest took place abroad, both in the marbled courts of power and in the public square. Foreign observers held widely divergent views on the warfrom radicals such as Karl Marx and Giuseppe Garibaldi who called on the North to fight for liberty and equality, to aristocratic monarchists, who hoped that the collapse of the Union would strike a death blow against democratic movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Nowhere were these monarchist dreams more ominous than in Mexico, where Napoleon III sought to implement his Grand Design for a Latin Catholic empire that would thwart the spread of Anglo-Saxon democracy and use the Confederacy as a buffer state.
Hoping to capitalize on public sympathies abroad, both the Union and the Confederacy sent diplomats and special agents overseas: the South to seek recognition and support, and the North to keep European powers from interfering. Confederate agents appealed to those conservative elements who wanted the South to serve as a bulwark against radical egalitarianism. Lincoln and his Union agents overseas learned to appeal to many foreigners by embracing emancipation and casting the Union as the embattled defender of universal republican ideals, the last best hope of earth.
A bold account of the international dimensions of America s defining conflict, "The Cause of All Nations" frames the Civil War as a pivotal moment in a global struggle that would decide the survival of democracy.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-10-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Following British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston’s dictum that “Opinions are stronger than armies,” Doyle, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina, offers an intercontinental history of the Civil War that emphasizes diplomacy and ideology over military tactics. Doyle (Secession as an International Phenomenon) sees the Civil War as a global referendum on the viability of republicanism and mass suffrage following the failure of the revolutions of 1848—a referendum acted out on a radically new field of battle thanks to the development of an international press. Neither the Union nor the Confederacy comes out looking good in Doyle’s account: the South’s struggle for recognition was hampered by incompetent diplomats; the North, insisting to Europeans that the war was precipitated by a legalistic disagreement about constitutional law, failed to capitalize on the powerful antislavery sentiments across the Atlantic until it was nearly too late. Throughout, Doyle lucidly contextualizes these dueling diplomatic missions within the larger machinations of European rulers: to quell dissent at home and reignite their own imperialist ambitions across the Atlantic. Doyle’s account, while lacking in organization, is nonetheless a readable and refreshing perspective on a conflict too often understood through a purely domestic context. (Jan.)