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Lord Lyons and the Sectional Conflict, 1859-1861, Part 1


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Lord Lyons and the Sectional Conflict, 1859-1861, Part 1

By Ryan WaltersAugust 2, 2022Blog

In 1859 the Union of American States entered the final stages of its greatest crisis, one that would eventually split the country in two. America was then a young republic but growing larger and stronger with each passing year. Yet North and South were growing apart, seeing the world through a different lens. The North was more industrial, while the South was the center of American agriculture. Each section also saw the Union differently. These differences caused the national fracture, a breakup that would also have far-reaching consequences abroad, particularly for England. The British Empire, once the mother to its American children, now had a working relationship with the United States and a split could affect its financial well being, most notably a dependence on Southern cotton for its massive textile industry.

Viewing the situation from Washington was British Ambassador Lord Richard Lyons, who wrote frequent letters to Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell in London advising him of the situation in America. These letters offer insight into the viewpoint of the British towards the American crisis.

Though the secession of the Southern States began in December 1860, the relationship between North and South in the American Union had been in a state of decline for many years, reaching its peak in the 1850s, a decade that seemed to jump from crisis to crisis as the two sections of the country battled it out over the main issues of the day. For many historians the major incident that did more to push the South toward secession was John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in October 1859, an attempt by Northern fanatics to seize a federal armory and lead a slave revolt in the South.  At this point, most Southerners hadn’t given much thought to disunion but now many moved into the radical, fire-eater camp as the realization hit that they were no longer safe in the Union, particularly when it was discovered that many Northerners found sympathy with the plot, which only further alienated the South.  :snip: https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/lord-lyons-and-the-sectional-conflict-1859-1861-part-1/

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