Not long ago, New Orleans removed a well-known statue of Robert E. Lee that stood high on a pedestal in the middle of Lee Circle. That’s one of many recent examples of communities removing monuments to prewar Southern figures or institutions. Flags and seals and street names have been changed too, to deny such honors to Confederate officers.
I have a friend who’s angry about this sort of thing. I think that he feels some emotional connection with ancestors who fought for the South, and his pride in them is being tainted. He tends to suggest that this changing social attitude to the pre-war South is somehow kooky and out-of-proportion. I thought it would be relevant to show him widespread European public opinion during the slavery period. I had assumed that polite educated society in non-slave-holding Europe would be frank in the view that American slavery was horrifying and barbaric.
But it seems I’m wrong about that. I have not found the moral attitude I expected from any well-known figures of the day (except for Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens). I find occasion disapproval of slavery per se, but not what I expected at all towards the South of US.
Was my expectation just anachronistic? Were those sorts of outpourings of opinion just a phenomenon of the days of Watergate or the Viet Nam war – and since then? Prominent public figures taking sides against each other thereby give us indirect evidence about feelings of ordinary people. What slavery-related issues were most controversial in terms of popular support in Europe in 1800-1860s? I'm asking about mainstream, not fringe.
(I realize the arguable irrelevance of all the personal content in this question, but I recently asked directly for the evidence I’m wondering about, and as happens so often in Stack Exchange, I found that lots of people couldn’t understand what I was trying to ask, and clarifications were repeatedly suggested, etc.)