In the US Civil War, I've learned that France supported the south. If they had already banned slavery, why would they support the party fighting to keep it? Did they have any diplomatic or political reasons for doing so?

  • I have always heard that French aristocrats felt some affinity to the southern landed gentry. Also there were many prominent French southerners, especially from Lousiana. Also they wanted to ensure a steady flow of southern commodities that were being stopped by the American Blockade. I have no sources on this though.
    – ed.hank
    Apr 26, 2017 at 22:43
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    "The Second French Empire remained officially neutral throughout the American Civil War and never recognized the Confederate States of America. " Wikipedia VtC: trivial
    – MCW
    Apr 26, 2017 at 23:54
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    Further to @MarkC.Wallace - "The Confederacy was supported by Conservative supporters of Napoleon III, Bourbon legitimists, and Roman Catholic interests. The Union had the support of republicans and Orléanists (those who wanted a descendant of Louis Philippe on the throne)."
    – user13123
    Apr 27, 2017 at 1:40
  • There was significant support for the Confederacy in England even though England took an active role against slavery. England had something like diplomatic relations with the South. and at least one prominent Confederate was give refuge in England after the Civil War (Judah P. Benjamin). I believe the support came largely from financial/trade considerations but also a desire to see a weaker USA at least by some in England. Maybe similar ideas apply to French support to whatever extent it existed.
    – Jeff
    Apr 27, 2017 at 9:13
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    This is a non trivial question because the result was counterintuitive. That is, the true situation was very different from the "official" situation. 1) France was formally against slavery and yet supported the South. 2) Not everyone knows that Austria's Maximilian was a French "puppet" in Mexico. This is particularly the case because Austria and France were enemies in Europe. Vote to re-open.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 15, 2018 at 1:18

1 Answer 1


France placed a European ruler, Maximilian on the throne in Mexico for economic reasons. A united "United States" would have opposed such a move (and in fact, did, after the Civil War), under the Monroe Doctrine. France wanted the Confederacy as a "buffer state" between its protectorate in Mexico and the rest of the United States.

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    I agree with this. It is hard to understand now but I think European powers had not completely accepted the Monroe Doctrine and saw parts of what are now USA become part of their empires. I don't think Britain had given up completely on the idea of reclaiming the American colonies even as late as the USA Civil War.
    – Jeff
    Apr 27, 2017 at 21:15

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