W. E. Forster
W. E. Forster was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Bradford. A young MP at the time of the American Civil War, he was of Quaker ancestry but converted to Anglicanism upon marriage. Forster was the second leading pro-Union advocate in the House of Commons to John Bright, and frequently made strong arguments for explaining why Britain ought not intervene on behalf of the Confederacy.
In 1862 when the Union blockade of the Southern coast all but halted the export of cotton, textile mills in Lancashire and other areas of Britain began to shut, causing the ‘cotton famine’. When this issue was raised in Parliament by pro-Confederate activists intent on using the matter to secure recognition of an independent South, Forster torpedoed their argument by reminding the House that Britain obtained most of its wheat and corn from the Northern states, and stated that if they voted to intervene on the side of the Confederates, the British would soon also face a corn famine.