Internationalperspectives have a great impact on the history of our nation. The debate overslavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, a few part of our nation’s history, canall be put in relation to international influences. The tension over slaveryheld great foreign influence. Britain, Mexico, Ireland, and China all hadcaused further debate over American slavery.
Although some countries had lessinfluence than others, they all had a great impact on the tension. The CivilWar and Reconstruction period was not influenced by foreign influence as muchas the tension over slavery was, but it did influence international nations. It is vital in understanding the effectthe Cotton Kingdom had on the expansion of slavery. The industrial revolutionwhich started in England spread its way to parts of the North, and caused arise in demand for cotton. Cotton was suited best to grow in the South becauseof its climate and fertile soil. Many Americans believed that slavery wouldfade away because the growth of tobacco was damaging the soil. However, thedemand of cotton caused a big expansion of slavery. Nonetheless, the rise ofcotton not only caused an immense demand from the nation, but also from Europe.
The North America was looked upon for rice, and mainly, tobacco; Cotton wasknown as a crop that grew in the Caribbean, but because cotton was introducedto North America, the United States became a part of the global economy. Thedemand of cotton required a massive amount of work. Southerners saw this as achance to profit off of slaves by forcing them to produce cotton. In a letterwritten by Fredrick Norcom, he states “I have seen a great number who came hererich and now immensely rich […] and these were all merchants, whowithout much Capitol went to speculating in Cotton” (Oakes, 211).Norcom explains the effects the Cotton Kingdom has had on the economy. Hedescribes how cotton has made the rich, richer, and has brought in manymerchants to gain profit off of the cotton industry. Due to the fact thatcotton has caused a boost in the salary of many Southerners, the expansion ofslavery was inevitable. The profit that was gained from slaves was also areason why many Southerners were okay with slavery.
They saw slavery has abenefit for themselves. Mexico also had a significant impact onthe growth of slavery in the United States. Slavery itself was abolished inMexico in 1829 after gaining its independence from Britain in 1821. Americanslaveholders viewed Mexico as another place where slavery would prosper, butultimately Mexico was able to abolish slavery. However, after the TexasRevolution ended in 1836, the United States saw it as a way to expand slavery,and congress ended up admitting Texas in 1845 which led to the Mexican War. Thewar led to the Treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) in which Mexico cededCalifornia, New Mexico, and Texas territory to the United States.
The WilmotProviso in 1846 banned slavery from new territory acquired from Mexicoexcluding Texas. The acquirement of territory from Mexico caused further debateon slavery. The United States fought over which states should be consideredslave states and which shouldn’t. An example of the further sectionaldebate over slavery would be the rise of the Free Soil Party in 1848 which wasa group of abolitionists who promoted the idea of the acquired territory fromMexico to be free states. The Gold Rush had a small impact onthe sectional debate over slavery, but it resulted in making California a Whiteman’sland. The Gold Rush caused a growth in Chinese immigration.
The governor ofCalifornia, John Bigler, saw this growth as an opportunity to promote ideas ofracism. He stated that Europeans were “part of our own people, belonging to thesame race.” Asians “in a moral and political sense are the antipodes of our race.” The governor viewed Asians to be inferior to the European race. NormanAsign, a Chinese naturalized American citizen makes clear of the view thegovernment of California holds when he stated, “Youargue that this is a republic of a particular race—that the Constitution of the United States admits of no asylum toany other than the pale face”(Oakes, 260). Asign points out the argument the government of California putsforth to support racism.
Also, a court case called, “The People v. Hall,” led to legal discrimination and it also led to Asians, Blacks, andIndians to have no right in testifying in court. This can be seen as a factorof the sectional debate over slavery. Although slavery was not allowed inCalifornia, discrimination towards Blacks further grew to the West which stillmade Blacks inferior to Whites. It allowed racist sentiments supporting slaveryto spread in the nation.
Althoughslavery was a huge debate in the United States, there were Abolitionistmovements around the world. In 1772, Britain abolished slavery, the FrenchRevolution abolished slavery, and in 1838 abolition occurred in BritishCaribbean colonies. However, India suffered from the debate over slavery. TheBritish India Society founded by British abolitionists in 1839 sought todestroy American slavery with Indian cotton.
Slave overseers from America werehired in India, and practices of American slavery were imported to BritishIndia. Slavery in India also further promoted and supported the idea ofslavery. Not only was slavery justified in parts of the nation, it wasjustified in parts of the world, such as, India.
Irishimmigrants also had an influence on the debate over slavery. Irish immigrantswere hostile to blacks. They believed blacks caused job competition, so theydrove out blacks from the job market. The Irish believed that the abolition ofslavery was a threat to their economic status. They were afraid with competingagainst millions of people who were paid with lower wages than they received.
Furthermore,a group of Irish nationalists even sought support from proslavery Americans. However,during the Civil War there was an enlistment of Irish Immigrants. 150,000 Irishand Irish Americans were in the Union Army. They viewed America as a refuge forthe oppressed. The enlistment of the Irish in the Union Army shows howattitudes of immigrants toward slavery was influenced by their experiencesbefore immigration.
The Irish caused further tension over slavery. Furthermore, the Civil War wasstrongly influenced by foreign countries in Europe. America turned to Europefor aid, and although some Europeans supported the Confederates, some neglectedthem and decided to remain neutral. The tension over slavery and the Civil Warwas not only influenced by international perspectives, they also had influencedon them. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, Tsar Alexander II of Russiaemancipated serfs who were bound agricultural laborers. Furthermore, the “New Birth ofFreedom”supported the idea for the enfranchisement of workmen in Britain. Also, therewas a growth in cotton production around the world in countries such as, Egypt,Indian and Central Asia.
It’s important that we compare the UnitedStates to other countries that went through the process of Emancipation, sothat we are able to see the effect slavery had on international perspectives. Therewere similarities in post-Emancipation societies such as, Haiti, British WestIndies, and South Africa. These places held the same visions of formerplanters, and there was also an importation of Asian workers to help with laborshortages. The difference between the United States and these countries werethat the United States was the only country where former slaves gainedpolitical power.
Nonetheless, immigration from foreign countries influencedideas of equality during Reconstruction. For example, Frederick Douglass was asupporter of equal rights for Asian Americans. He criticized discriminationtowards Asian Americans, and promoted the idea that they should hold the samerights as Americans.
He stated, “I want a home here not only for thenegro, the mulatto, and the Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a homehere in the United States” (Oakes, 327). This statements supports the idea forequality for all races, and although his idea at first was viewed to be tooradical, it was accepted later on during the twentieth century. Learning our history through theeyes of international perspectives is essential to actually understanding ourhistory. Our history is influenced by many international nations. It’s impossible toignore the foreign influence on the United States. The influence goes bothways; the United States influences other foreign countries, while theyinfluence us. The debate over slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction areall few examples of this influence.