For the first half of the Civil War President Jefferson Davis and many other Confederate leaders were hopeful that Britain and France would intervene on the side of the South. Great Britain had the world’s mightiest antebellum economy and about 20% was linked to cotton textile manufacturing, which obtain nearly 90% of its feedstock from the American South. The industry was similarly important to France, which was the second largest importer of Southern cotton. Moreover, both Britain and France resented the protective tariffs popular in the Northern states whereas the South favored free trade.
Nonetheless, Britain would require convincing reasons to diplomatically recognize the Confederacy because such action would likely provoke a war with the United States. Emperor Napoleon III of France felt the same way, although he was busily creating the required compelling reasons by preparing to install a puppet monarchy in Mexico. America’s Civil War provided him the opportunity to test Lincoln’s resolve to enforce the Monroe Doctrine while the president was pre-occupied with suppressing the Southern rebellion.
A French army landed in Mexico in January 1862 under the pretext of enforcing debt collections owed by the Liberal government under Benito Juarez. Napoleon’s real intention was to install a monarchy under the Austrian Archduke Maximilian whose throne would be protected by the French army. Mexico’s popular governments had repeatedly failed. Since gaining independence from Spain in 1821 she was governed by over fifty different administrations over the next forty years. Church clerics and conservatives concluded Mexico would do better under a monarchy. Continue reading