Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America

Analysis of the book “King Cotton Diplomacy” by Frank Lawrence Owsley which discusses the economics of the Confederate States during the Civil War.

During the American Civil War, the government of the Confederacy made use of its economic power in cotton first to try to gain support for its cause and then for other dealings with foreign governments. This book covers the history of that period. This paper discusses this economic period and looks at the steps which were used by the government of the Confederacy in order to exert its power – trade embargos, propaganda, blockades and more.
“Owsley begins with the development of the King Cotton philosophy, based on the fact that cotton was the economic engine of the American south and was also highly successful on the international marketplace, selling better than cotton from India. This cotton was especially attractive in the European countries of England and France, and when the Civil War broke out, the South thought that it could use the demand for cotton as a way of gaining support from these countries for its cause. The British public depended on this cotton, and the British cotton industry was especially important in the world market. The British were aware that a civil war in America would mean economic problems for the British. This idea in the South led to the King Cotton idea: “These countries would be bankrupted and perhaps precipitated into a revolution if their American cotton were cut off or badly threatened” (12). The term “King Cotton” comes from an 1855 book by David Christy called Cotton Is King: Slavery in the Light of Political Economy. “Cotton is king” would become a slogan.”