Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation Viewed in England

Here’s Amanda Foreman speaking at the 2011 Abraham Lincoln Institute Symposium on how the British viewed the Emancipation Proclamation, the American Civil War, and the fate of slavery in the US.



  1. Edwin Thompson · · Reply

    Thanks Al – Good lecture – I wasn’t sure why she mentioned Fremont’s Emancipation act, Lincoln’s first inaugural address and ignored the Confiscation Act and the 1860 Republican party platform. And she did not link the causes for the Souths succession – nor the fact that it occurred before Lincoln held office. She left me with more questions than answers about the British politicians and public opinions. Canada was a Commonwealth nation and slaves were escaping to this safe haven. I guess you have to read the book.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Edwin. I think that points up how the British really didn’t understand the situation in the US.

  2. Edwin Thompson · · Reply

    I still haven’t read Foremans book, but I remembered reading the following passage from a 1912 book “Lincoln’s Own Stories” by Anthony Gross concerning Englands assistance to the south. It is an interesting Lincoln story where a barber (England) is providing very poor service to a gentleman (the south). I guess it belongs in this thread.

    Horace Porter tells the following story, which he heard the last time he talked with Lincoln: We were discussing the subject of England’s assistance to the South, and how, after the collapse of the Confederacy, England would find she had aided it but little and only injured herself. He said: ‘That reminds me of a barber in Sangamon County. He had just gone to bed, when a stranger came along and said he must be shaved; that he had four days’ beard on his face and was going to a ball, and that the beard must come off. Well, the barber reluctantly got up and dressed, and seated the man in a chair with a back so low that every time he bore down on him he came near dislocating his victim’s neck. He began by lathering his face, including his nose, eyes, and ears, stropped his razor on his boot, and then made a drive at the man’s countenance as if he had practised mowing in a stubble-field. He made a bold swath across the cheek, carrying away the beard, pimple, and two warts. The man in the chair ventured the remark, “You appear to make everything level as you go.” Said the barber, ” Yes, and if this handle don’t break, I guess I’ll get away with what there is there.” The man’s cheeks were so hollow that the barber could not get down into the valleys with the razor, and the ingenious idea occurred to him to stick his finger in the man’s mouth and press out the cheeks. Finally he cut clear through the cheek and into his own finger. He pulled the finger out of the man’s mouth, snapped the blood off it, glared at him and said, “There, you lantern jawed cuss, you’ve made me cut my finger. Now said Mr. Lincoln, ‘England will find that she has got the South into a pretty bad scrape by tryng to administer to her, and in the end she will find that she has only cut her own finger.

  3. Beginning with World War I, Americans were taught that there was a “special” relationship between the two Anglo-Saxon Protestant powers. We forget that before then we fought two wars with the English and that many Americans viscerally hated that Empire. The most accurate aspect of the film Gangs of New York was that Daniel Day Lewis’s Know Nothing leader Bill the Butcher agrees with his Irish antagonists on only one thing, that England is evil! It was only after the Civil War that a warming began. I note that the John Andre monument in Old Tappan, which describes the US and England as “ONE IN RACE, IN LANGUAGE, AND IN RELIGION” probably could not have been erected in the 1850s. Even when it was put up in 1879, leftists tried to blow it up and it was frequently defaced.

    It might be an interesting thing for scholars of memory to explore how this antipathy was transformed during the 20th Century into a trans-national racial alliance.

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