Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston) was the British Prime Minister during the American Civil War. Although he was anti-slavery, his sympathies were with the Confederacy, believing that once independent of the United States they would be a valuable trading partner in cotton, tobacco, tea, and whisky. Furthermore, before the war he was concerned the growing American nation could eventually become a threat to the British Empire, so felt that successful Southern secession was in Britain’s best interests.
Before the war, the Liberal leader was largely concerned with the issue of ironclad ships, obsessed with not being out-powered by the French on that front. One year into the American Civil War, Lord Palmerston soon realised that United States Navy was his new chief rival in this ‘arms race’. This played a prominent role in decision-making regarding intervention or even recognition of the Confederacy’s independence.
The Prime Minister was always cautious when dealing with the issue of the American Civil War, and he was the world figure the Confederates needed to convince to intervene on their behalf more than any other.
In 1864, he received a deputation from the pro-Southern Society for Promoting a Cessation of Hostilities.