Save Our Industry, The Economy Depends on It

I have been on a Civil War reading binge lately, which began when I read "Time on the Cross", which is a really interesting economic analysis of American slavery.  Since I have read a number of other Civil War and Ante-Bellum history books, including James McPherson's excellent one volume Civil War history.

I was struck in several of these books by the reaction of British textile manufacturers to the war and, more specifically, the informal southern embargo of cotton exports in 1860-61.  These textile producers screamed bloody murder to the British government, demanding that they recognize the Confederacy and intervene on their behalf, claiming that the lack of cotton would doom their industry and thereby doom the whole country.  On its face, this was a credible argument, as textiles probably made up more of the British GDP at the time than any three or four industries account for in the US today. 

Fortunately, the British chose not to intervene, and risked the economic consequences of not supporting the textile industry by jumping into the American Civil War.  As it turned out, the British economy was fine, and in fact even the textile industry was fine as well, as demand was still high and other sources around the world stepped up (because of the higher prices that resulted from the Southern boycott) with increased cotton supplies.


  1. John Anderson:

    Forgive me if I'm mis-construing your implied message here (that maybe we shouldn't bailout Wall Street), but I can't help but think of the parable of the boy who cried wolf. I'm sure that many people in the past have used the hyperbole in situations like this that not saving their industry would mean ruin for the country and it turned out to not be true.

    In no way am I saying I have the answer. I'm just a financially-ignorant web-developer. But what if the wolf really is about to eat all the sheep?

  2. Nologo:

    The only links between the Conservatives and saving industry are straight out of the pages of "Bleak House" by Dickens. Using 1860s ingenuity might outsmart the Liberals but not the millions of Canadians voting NDP

  3. ElamBend:

    I believe this is when the Egyptian cotton industry really got rolling. Brit politics at the time was torn. By the time of the war, Britain had been anti-slavery for a while, and official policy was to suppress the trade in the Atlantic. British politics of the period, in many ways, resembled American political thought, so there were those who actively supported the United States as well as the Confederacy.