Abraham Lincoln was born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln on the 12th of February, 1809 and became the 16th President of the United States of America. He was just nine years old when his mother passed on at a young age of 34. He taught himself and eventually became a Lawyer and Legislator several years after. He is believed to be one of the greatest Presidents that have led the country. One of the immediate and major crisis that he faced upon election as President of the United States of America was the secession of the Southern States from the Union. This culminated in a civil war against the Confederates and ultimately was the reason that led to his assassination a few weeks into his second term as President. He led the country through a bloody Civil War and was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation which brought freedom to blacks and an end to slavery in America. Without his concerted efforts, the country may never have been able to get back as one. In this article, I shall be examining some of the foreign policies he pursued during his time in office as President.
It has been mentioned that Abraham Lincoln initially did not have much understanding in foreign relations and relied much on the experience of some of his trusted aides. In all, he was said to be a very skillful and patient person who was able to learn quickly. His foreign policies were focused on preventing and minimizing foreign interference in the country especially during the civil war.
He also pursued an agenda of maintaining and expanding the role of the U.S. as an example of a successful democratic government. His administration understood very early the importance of maintaining good relations with the foreign powers especially during the civil war in order to prevent any form of support or intervention from the Europeans to the Confederates. It has been said that at the beginning of the war, Russia was the only great power that offered full support to the Union while some of the other European powers had sympathy for the Confederates. All through the war, the foreign powers were largely neutral and none of them recognized the Confederacy. This was seen as a major achievement for the U.S. administration. It is recorded that the handling of three major events by his administration defined the direction of his foreign policy. These were the declaration of blockade of the Southern borders by the Union, another event that came to be known as the Trent affair and the invasion of Mexico by France.
The military strategy of Abraham Lincoln was focused upon an effective blockade of the 3,500 miles of the South's shoreline which included a dozen major ports and about two hundred bays, inlets and navigable rivers. This seemed like an impossible task for a country which had just a handful of ships. This intervention was successful in that it captured or destroyed about 1,500 blockade runners. It was targeted at preventing the Confederates from being able to trade with foreign nations. It was proclaimed by the President in April 1861. This declaration was required to avoid any form of conflict between the United States and Britain if British ships were to be searched because there were allegations that they were trading with the Confederates. With the declaration, the Union had the privileges of international law and was able to bring to the barest minimum the volume of trade in cotton by the Confederates to other countries. This dealt a major blow on them as cotton exports dipped from about 10 million bales to only 500,000 bales during the time when the blockage was in effect. The Confederacy had thought that because of the dependence of the Europeans on cotton for their textile industry,
they would have easily been able to receive diplomatic recognition and assistance. The declaration also led to reduction in the importation of items such as medicine, food, war materials and other manufactured goods. In all, this strategy brought victory to the Union and played a role in their eventual victory in the war. The blockade also had a major effect on the British economy which depended on cotton coming from the areas controlled by the Confederacy. There were periods of unemployment in countries such as France and Britain which depended on Southern cotton.
In 1861, a major diplomatic problem which was later referred to as the Trent affair arose between the United States and Britain. The Union Navy had intercepted a British mail ship known as the Trent on the high seas. In it were two Confederates who were on their way to Europe to push for support of the Confederacy and possibly solicit support financially and militarily. This incidence was greeted with celebration in the U.S. and rallies against Britain. The Confederates had hoped that it would lead to friction in relations between the two countries and hoped to gain leverage from it in terms of formal recognition by Britain. The crisis lasted for a few weeks, after which President Abraham Lincoln and his advisers made a decision to release the envoys. They did this to avoid the risk of war with Britain over the issue. The resolution of the crisis had a negative impact on the diplomatic efforts of the Confederacy. It showed the British that the Union was ready to defend itself and were also willing to abide by international law. The other event which took place was the French invasion of Mexico. In 1862 the Emperor of France, Napoleon III moved into North America with the plan to establish a state in Mexico and installed Maximillian of Habsburg as Emperor of Mexico. The U.S. government made effort to avoid direct confrontation with France but were vocal and displeased at their interference in Mexico. They remained largely neutral throughout the conflict as there was stiff opposition to the rule of Maximillian within Mexico. In 1867, Napoleon III ordered the withdrawal of France and this reduced tensions between both countries.