United Kingdom and the American Civil War
The United Kingdom and its empire remained officially neutral throughout the American Civil War (1861–65). It legally recognised the belligerent status of the Confederacy; it never recognized it as a nation and never signed a treaty or exchanged ambassadors. However, the top British officials debated intervention in the first 18 months. Elite opinion tended to favour the Confederacy, while public opinion tended to favour the United States. Large scale trade continued in both directions, with the Americans shipping grain to Britain while Britain sent manufactured items and munitions. Immigration continued into the U.S., with Britons volunteering for the Union Army. British trade with the Confederacy fell over 90% from prewar, with a little cotton going to Britain and some munitions slipped in by numerous small blockade runners. The blockade runners were operated and funded by British private interests; they were legal under international law and were not a cause of dispute between Washington and London. The Confederate strategy for securing independence was largely based on the hope of military intervention by Britain and France, which never happened; military intervention would have meant war with the United States. A serious diplomatic dispute with the United States erupted over the ""Trent Affair"" in late 1861; it was resolved peacefully in a few months. British intervention was only likely in cooperation with France, which had an imperialistic venture underway in Mexico. By early 1863, intervention was no longer seriously considered, as Britain turned her attention elsewhere, especially toward Russia and Greece.A long-term issue was a British shipyard (John Laird and Sons) building two warships for the Confederacy, including the CSS Alabama, over vehement protests from the United States. This controversy was resolved after the Civil War when the United States was awarded $15.5 million in arbitration by an international tribunal for damages caused by these warships. That British private interests operated blockade runners was not a cause of serious tension. In the end, British involvement did not significantly affect the outcome of the American Civil War. The U.S. diplomatic mission headed by Minister Charles Francis Adams, Sr. proved much more successful than the Confederate missions, which were never officially recognized.