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When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he had broader aims than simply rallying a war-weary nation. Lincoln realized that the Civil War had taken on a wider significance—that all of Europe and Latin America was watching to see whether the United States, a beleaguered model of democracy, would indeed “perish from the earth.” In The Cause of All Nation When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he had broader aims than simply rallying a war-weary nation. Lincoln realized that the Civil War had taken on a wider significance—that all of Europe and Latin America was watching to see whether the United States, a beleaguered model of democracy, would indeed “perish from the earth.” In The Cause of All Nations, distinguished historian Don H. Doyle explains that the Civil War was viewed abroad as part of a much larger struggle for democracy that spanned the Atlantic Ocean, and had begun with the American and French Revolutions. While battles raged at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, a parallel contest took place abroad, both in the marbled courts of power and in the public square. Foreign observers held widely divergent views on the war—from radicals such as Karl Marx and Giuseppe Garibaldi who called on the North to fight for liberty and equality, to aristocratic monarchists, who hoped that the collapse of the Union would strike a death blow against democratic movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Nowhere were these monarchist dreams more ominous than in Mexico, where Napoleon III sought to implement his Grand Design for a Latin Catholic empire that would thwart the spread of Anglo-Saxon democracy and use the Confederacy as a buffer state. Hoping to capitalize on public sympathies abroad, both the Union and the Confederacy sent diplomats and special agents overseas: the South to seek recognition and support, and the North to keep European powers from interfering. Confederate agents appealed to those conservative elements who wanted the South to serve as a bulwark against radical egalitarianism. Lincoln and his Union agents overseas learned to appeal to many foreigners by embracing emancipation and casting the Union as the embattled defender of universal republican ideals, the “last best hope of earth.” A bold account of the international dimensions of America's defining conflict, The Cause of All Nations frames the Civil War as a pivotal moment in a global struggle that would decide the survival of democracy.


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When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he had broader aims than simply rallying a war-weary nation. Lincoln realized that the Civil War had taken on a wider significance—that all of Europe and Latin America was watching to see whether the United States, a beleaguered model of democracy, would indeed “perish from the earth.” In The Cause of All Nation When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he had broader aims than simply rallying a war-weary nation. Lincoln realized that the Civil War had taken on a wider significance—that all of Europe and Latin America was watching to see whether the United States, a beleaguered model of democracy, would indeed “perish from the earth.” In The Cause of All Nations, distinguished historian Don H. Doyle explains that the Civil War was viewed abroad as part of a much larger struggle for democracy that spanned the Atlantic Ocean, and had begun with the American and French Revolutions. While battles raged at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, a parallel contest took place abroad, both in the marbled courts of power and in the public square. Foreign observers held widely divergent views on the war—from radicals such as Karl Marx and Giuseppe Garibaldi who called on the North to fight for liberty and equality, to aristocratic monarchists, who hoped that the collapse of the Union would strike a death blow against democratic movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Nowhere were these monarchist dreams more ominous than in Mexico, where Napoleon III sought to implement his Grand Design for a Latin Catholic empire that would thwart the spread of Anglo-Saxon democracy and use the Confederacy as a buffer state. Hoping to capitalize on public sympathies abroad, both the Union and the Confederacy sent diplomats and special agents overseas: the South to seek recognition and support, and the North to keep European powers from interfering. Confederate agents appealed to those conservative elements who wanted the South to serve as a bulwark against radical egalitarianism. Lincoln and his Union agents overseas learned to appeal to many foreigners by embracing emancipation and casting the Union as the embattled defender of universal republican ideals, the “last best hope of earth.” A bold account of the international dimensions of America's defining conflict, The Cause of All Nations frames the Civil War as a pivotal moment in a global struggle that would decide the survival of democracy.

30 review for The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I am not knowledgeable enough about the voluminous literature about the American Civil War to know whether or not The Cause of All Nations provides a unique and original perspective on the war, but for me at least, much of what I read in the book was new. The book departs from the traditional focus on the military campaigns and battles of the war to look at the ways in which the war was perceived by the international (primarily European) community, as well as the Union’s and the Confederacy’s res I am not knowledgeable enough about the voluminous literature about the American Civil War to know whether or not The Cause of All Nations provides a unique and original perspective on the war, but for me at least, much of what I read in the book was new. The book departs from the traditional focus on the military campaigns and battles of the war to look at the ways in which the war was perceived by the international (primarily European) community, as well as the Union’s and the Confederacy’s respective efforts to influence those perceptions through diplomacy and public relations campaigns. The stakes were high. The South wanted recognition, especially by Britain and France, as a legitimate separate and independent nation, with possible intervention in the war on the Confederacy's side. The North recognized that recognition would change the character of the war and that intervention would greatly increase the chances of the Confederacy’s success. So as the war was being fought on the battlefields, both sides were also engaging in a parallel war to win the support of European governments as well as the hearts and minds of their populations. Looking back at the Civil War period over a century and a half later, it is easy to forget that, at the time, many people around the world viewed the United States with great interest as an ongoing experiment in republican self-government. The war was a life-and-death struggle that would determine whether the experiment would be successful, or whether it had run its course. Non-democratic governments had a stake in seeing the South succeed, while popular movements, such as those being led by Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy, hoped that the Union would endure and that American republican and democratic ideas would take root in their own countries. The key to international public opinion was the issue of slavery. Many Europeans viewed slavery as incompatible with democracy. Despite economic pressures resulting from the lack of cotton imports from the South, it was clear that the European public would support the Union and not the South if they perceived the war as a fight over slavery. And European governments could not realistically intervene to aid the Confederacy if public opinion would equate intervention with supporting slavery. It should have been clear right from the start that the South was fighting to preserve slavery (although false narratives persist even today). In a March 1861 speech that became known as the “Cornerstone Speech,” Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens affirmed that the Confederacy existed for that very purpose. “Our new Government[’s] … foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” But the Confederate diplomats and propagandists largely avoided this inconvenient fact, preferring instead to make the South’s case for independence on the notion that it was simply reacting to unreasonable oppression by the North. For the first two years of the war, the North likewise avoided the slavery issue in its efforts to obtain international support. Lincoln was walking a fine line. He had constitutional concerns about freeing the slaves. He was also concerned that many Union soldiers and Northern citizens would not be as keen to support a war to free slaves as they would be to fight for the principle of preserving the Union. But in the fall of 1862, he made the war explicitly about abolition when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Some European commentators criticized Lincoln’s effort. The London Spectator said, “The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.” But overall, the Proclamation succeeded in rallying international opinion to the Union cause. (One notable commentator, Karl Marx, explicitly praised Lincoln’s genius.) There was no longer any possibility of Britain or France intervening to aid the Confederacy. The South was on its way to defeat, and the cause of liberty survived to inspire people around the world. As I said at the outset, I learned a lot from this book. For the most part, it is engagingly written too. I can’t speak for Civil War scholars, but I certainly think that most general readers with an interest in the Civil War will find the book quite fascinating.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    The story of the American Civil War is a very familiar one to Americans as about a war between union or disunion, emancipation and slavery. Many great books, TV shows, and movies have been made about this defining moment in American history. But what often gets left out of the telling is how important the Civil War was to people *outside* the United States, particularly in Europe. In this revealing and well-balanced book, Mr. Doyle lays out how and why Europeans took such a keen interest in the The story of the American Civil War is a very familiar one to Americans as about a war between union or disunion, emancipation and slavery. Many great books, TV shows, and movies have been made about this defining moment in American history. But what often gets left out of the telling is how important the Civil War was to people *outside* the United States, particularly in Europe. In this revealing and well-balanced book, Mr. Doyle lays out how and why Europeans took such a keen interest in the Civil War and why, as the title suggests, the Civil War really was the cause of all nations. Mr. Doyle tells reveals both the diplomacy and politics that the Union and the Confederacy engaged in to win European governments to their side. He also shows how both sides engaged in the world's first sustained example of public diplomacy in order to win the peoples of Europe over to their side. Intellectuals like Edouard Laboulaye and Karl Marx, republican fighters like Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Mexican republican soldiers, and many others were animated by the causes of and fighting in the Civil War that would ultimately prove whether republican forms of government could survive. Mr. Doyle also gives equal time to the conservative and monarchist factions that looked for a Confederate victory and even tried to use it the Civil War as an excuse to establish colonial rule in Latin America, France's attempted conquest of Mexico the biggest example. Mr. Doyle also shows that while Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did help sway public opinion in favor towards the Union, it was also Garibaldi's failed attempt to march on Rome and thus complete the Italian Risorgimento in October 1862 that proved decisive in keeping Europe from recognizing the Confederacy. As everyone knew, had even one nation recognized the Confederacy as a sovereign nation, the game would've been over for the Union cause. Mr. Doyle then ends the book with a coda that shows how within a few years of the end of the Civil War, capitols in Europe began to turn irrevocably in the direction of republican government. His last note on Laboulaye's original meaning for the Statue of Liberty, which he helped design and fund as a gift to America, was meant not to be a welcome for immigrants as we have made it, but rather Lady Liberty coming across the Atlantic to shine the light of republican freedom upon the monarchical and tyrannical governments of Europe. I honestly don't have any serious critiques of this book. It may not be an exhaustive look at the topic and, indeed, there are probably more books out there that could tell a fuller story. But Mr. Doyle's book strikes a good balance between being a book for general audiences as well as more knowledgable history buffs who may not know the international story behind the Civil War. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Civil War, U.S. History, and/or diplomatic history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.

    This book is not only great history, it is also a great read. I couldn't put it down. I'm not a Civil War historian, so I don't know whether or not Doyle's thesis is well-known. In brief, he tells the story of the Civil War from an international perspective. The world looked on as the fate of human freedom hung in the balance in the struggle between the Union and the slave-owning oligarchs of the Confederacy. Doyle seems to have done an enormous amount of research. This is an inspiring and insig This book is not only great history, it is also a great read. I couldn't put it down. I'm not a Civil War historian, so I don't know whether or not Doyle's thesis is well-known. In brief, he tells the story of the Civil War from an international perspective. The world looked on as the fate of human freedom hung in the balance in the struggle between the Union and the slave-owning oligarchs of the Confederacy. Doyle seems to have done an enormous amount of research. This is an inspiring and insightful book, and I highly recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    I don't know of many books which can follow the affairs of nations while so I will tediously following the individual fortunes of men and the social currents in which they are engulfed, but this book can and does.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    If anyone would like to discover the true meaning of American Exceptionalism, as opposed to the modern film-flam of certain politicians, then spend time reading Doyle's impressive and insightful study of the Union's foreign policy during the Civil War. Not only will you be educated, but Doyle's pace and language will embrace you. While I think Doyle's clear love affair with egalitarian America and dislike of the oligarchy of the "Old World" is a bit more peripatetic than I would choose, this is If anyone would like to discover the true meaning of American Exceptionalism, as opposed to the modern film-flam of certain politicians, then spend time reading Doyle's impressive and insightful study of the Union's foreign policy during the Civil War. Not only will you be educated, but Doyle's pace and language will embrace you. While I think Doyle's clear love affair with egalitarian America and dislike of the oligarchy of the "Old World" is a bit more peripatetic than I would choose, this is well written, brilliantly articulated history at its best! Bravo!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    After all of the hundreds (thousands) of books and documentaries illuminating one aspect or another of the American Civil War, Doyle manages to find something somewhat fresh to discuss - the reactions of both foreign people and governments to the United States and how the two warring sides tried to manipulate them. The Union came dangerously close to losing the support of Britain and France, which could have tilted circumstances toward the Southern states. And if you thought propaganda was a mor After all of the hundreds (thousands) of books and documentaries illuminating one aspect or another of the American Civil War, Doyle manages to find something somewhat fresh to discuss - the reactions of both foreign people and governments to the United States and how the two warring sides tried to manipulate them. The Union came dangerously close to losing the support of Britain and France, which could have tilted circumstances toward the Southern states. And if you thought propaganda was a more of a 20th-century development, you'll be quite surprised when you read this book. The structure of the book and the flow of the thoughts sometimes get confusing, but it is worth it to soldier through because there is much of interest here.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    I have been a student of the US Civil war for many years and like far too many of us I have considered it in the very narrow context of US history without thinking about it in a larger context. This book is a masterful exposition on just how important the struggle was in a much wider context with a much wider audience than just us! Mr. Doyle does a first-rate job with his research and delves very deeply into how the Civil War figured into the much larger history of the Atlantic world and the long I have been a student of the US Civil war for many years and like far too many of us I have considered it in the very narrow context of US history without thinking about it in a larger context. This book is a masterful exposition on just how important the struggle was in a much wider context with a much wider audience than just us! Mr. Doyle does a first-rate job with his research and delves very deeply into how the Civil War figured into the much larger history of the Atlantic world and the long simmering question of liberal republican "government of the people, by the people, for the people" vs. the older conservative government of hereditary kings and privilege. This has been an evolving question for the last several hundred years ever since men started the idea that man can govern himself during the Age of Enlightenment. This book points out that the Civil War was a continuation of ideas that were first made manifest during our founding during the period leading up to and including the Revolutionary War and the writing of the Constitution. With a deeper reading you can also see how so many of the same ideas continue to play out even today as individuals and institutions continue to fight and try to define the soul of the "American Experience". The story is interwoven with all of the characters; Europeans, Unionists and Confederates as well as various governments and how the play of politics worked throughout the struggle. The extensive research is evident in so much of the archival information and personal information that really brings the story to life both in terms of the individuals and the larger forces at play! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the history of both ourselves and the wider world!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    In this interesting, readable, engaging and original volume, Doyle puts the Civil War into its international context, but he mainly examines it through the lens of public opinion, (“public diplomacy”) and the use of “soft power” rather than foreign policy and formal diplomacy. Doyle shows to what extent the international community was involved in the war, mainly by debates over its meaning and purpose. To a large extent, Doyle argues, the world saw the war as a test of republicanism and closely f In this interesting, readable, engaging and original volume, Doyle puts the Civil War into its international context, but he mainly examines it through the lens of public opinion, (“public diplomacy”) and the use of “soft power” rather than foreign policy and formal diplomacy. Doyle shows to what extent the international community was involved in the war, mainly by debates over its meaning and purpose. To a large extent, Doyle argues, the world saw the war as a test of republicanism and closely followed its progress, eager to declare the concept a success or failure based on the war’s progress and outcome. Neither the US or the Confederacy were particularly savvy when it came to this issue. Doyle also shows how crucial slavery was to the world’s perception of the conflict, and how much of a stumbling block it proved to both Union and Confederate diplomats and propagandists, and how both sides initially avoided mentioning the subject in their diplomacy abroad. He also describes how heavily foreigners were involved in the Union war effort, something I was previously unaware of. Also interestingly, he argues that the actions of Garibaldi in Italy were a crucial factor in heading off European intervention in the Civil War. Interesting, lively, well-researched, and clearly written, if not particularly well organized. Also, I think Doyle should have included the role that Russia played in blocking British or French intervention in the war.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    The US civil war had reverberations throughout the world in the 19th century. It was a cause celebre of the European left. Yes at one time the US was championed by the European left. Aristocrats and conservatives in old Europe sympathized with Confederacy. At the same time as the ideological commitments pitting left and right played out over the fate of the Union there was some realpolitik going on behind the scenes as players in England, France and Spain saw an opportunity to turn back the Mon The US civil war had reverberations throughout the world in the 19th century. It was a cause celebre of the European left. Yes at one time the US was championed by the European left. Aristocrats and conservatives in old Europe sympathized with Confederacy. At the same time as the ideological commitments pitting left and right played out over the fate of the Union there was some realpolitik going on behind the scenes as players in England, France and Spain saw an opportunity to turn back the Monroe Doctrine and greedily eye former possessions in Latin America. It was in this dangerous geopolitical environment that the confederacy sought to try to get recognition and the Union attempted to stop them by finally championing the abolition of slavery in the emancipation proclamation. Good reading of the international scene during the Civil War.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jay Perkins

    A great book on the international reactions and issues pertaining to the American civil war. It is a must read for those seeking to understand the wider context of this devastating war. How the aristocrats and common people of Europe viewed the war and what it meant for their opposing political movements is surprising and enlightening.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tanna

    I never gave thought to the civil war on the international stage. This book is fascinating reading making history and the people real, showing amazing interconnections with other events, people and countries. Lincoln only becomes a more impressive president.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Clay Davis

    A very good book about how the American Civil War affected the International Community.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike Emett

    Incredible. Must read. Disclaimer: my thesis advisor was one Dr. Doyle's research assistants as he worked on his PhD, so there is probably some bias to my review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    A tremendously insightful view of the American Civil War, and a new perspective for me. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    Every once in a while a fond reader of diplomatic history such as myself will find a good book that takes a familiar subject and looks at it through the generally unfamiliar perspective of diplomacy.  Although the Civil War is a subject that is familiar to many readers and well represented by a large and diverse body of literature, at times it is important to recognize the connection between the Civil War and the larger world, where the repercussions had serious consequences on politics.  Close Every once in a while a fond reader of diplomatic history such as myself will find a good book that takes a familiar subject and looks at it through the generally unfamiliar perspective of diplomacy.  Although the Civil War is a subject that is familiar to many readers and well represented by a large and diverse body of literature, at times it is important to recognize the connection between the Civil War and the larger world, where the repercussions had serious consequences on politics.  Close to home, the Civil War encouraged the French invasion of Mexico to set up a puppet regime [1] as well as encouraging a brief imperial resurgence in Spain [2].  In Europe, there was a close connection between the United States and the various Italian states desiring their own unity [3].  This book does a good job at setting the context of the Civil War as it related to fellow Atlantic nations, making this book a thoughtful exercise in what could be called Atlantic History.  If you like the Civil War and want to know how it affected other nations, this is definitely a worthwhile book to check out. In terms of its contents it works in a chronological fashion that is slanted towards the early part of the Civil War before the message of the Union and Confederacy had been fully established.  A few overall themes come through over and over again in this book, which is about 300 pages or so of text.  The downplaying of the slavery issue that was deemed necessary for the Union home front was harmful in terms of the Union appeal abroad, especially among liberal and radical circles in Europe.  The North was far better served by its diplomats, who were a relatively able group, than the South was served by its inept crew.  The North was also better served by encouraging Europeans to write amicus briefs in the court of foreign public opinion than the South was served by its attempts to control the message of foreign sympathizers.  The author also shows the way that imperialistic and aristocratic elements (including the Pope) generally favored the South while antislavery and pro-democracy elements favored the North.  In that light, the book continues after the end of the Civil War to look at the effects of the Civil War on Spain (with the abolishing of the monarchy), France (with the fall of Napoleon III), Italy (the conquest of Rome by Italian forces), and the United Kingdom (the establishment of Canada and the passage of a major reform bill expanding the electorate in 1867), putting the Civil War in a larger context. This book contains precious little about the course of the Civil War itself, although important events of the war, such as the relationship between the Confederacy and Mexico, the seizure of Confederate agents in the Trent Affair, as well as the relationship between certain key events of the war and the price of Confederate cotton bonds on the international market, are discussed.  It is an unusual but also an intriguing matter to view the Civil War from the point of view of outsiders, and to think of the role played by the friends and agents of the North and South abroad.  Many readers of this book will likely be unfamiliar with the importance of public diplomacy in influencing the behavior of other nations and in the way that paid agents and unpaid sympathizers saw in the Civil War encouragement or barriers to their own ambitions in their own countries.  This volume is a worthwhile effort at encouraging students of the Civil War to be a bit less insular about the war and to recognize that what happens in the world has effects on other parts of the world as well, a lesson we would do well to remember in our own times. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012... [2] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012... [3] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rhuff

    Professor Doyle begins his look at the international repercussions of the American civil war by quoting Adolf Hitler's 1933 dinner-table critique, that the victorious American Republic was "ruled by a corrupt class of tradesmen." Doyle assures his own readers that Hitler's take was "grotesquely flawed"; yet this judgment long predated the Depression era caused by such corrupt tradesmen. It was but a restatement of a common disappointment from the very day of Union victory in 1865. Black freedmen Professor Doyle begins his look at the international repercussions of the American civil war by quoting Adolf Hitler's 1933 dinner-table critique, that the victorious American Republic was "ruled by a corrupt class of tradesmen." Doyle assures his own readers that Hitler's take was "grotesquely flawed"; yet this judgment long predated the Depression era caused by such corrupt tradesmen. It was but a restatement of a common disappointment from the very day of Union victory in 1865. Black freedmen, immigrants, industrial workers, feminists, and liberal progressives - the very people that had led Unionist public opinion - were the most despairing of the postwar New Order. (See Jack Beatty's "Age of Betrayal.") Despite a century and more of building upon the unfinished legacy of 1865, we again see a corrupt trading class, equating wealth with personhood, defining the social contract of the republic. Professor Doyle believes Confederate rhetoric that its victory would guarantee chattel slavery in perpetuity, but this is by no means certain. As shown by subsequent events, racial domination and economic subjection can be successfully achieved by peonage, mass convict labor enforced by biased, oppressive laws - along with extralegal terrorism - and an iron curtain of segregation, all without the odium or burdens of direct ownership. There is no reason to doubt that a second generation of Confederates would have accepted such "reform;" just as the children of abolitionists acquiesced to the convenience of separate but equal. Brazil and Cuba abolished slavery in the 1880s for this very reason. Doyle's premise is that American democratic values embodied the cause of democracy worldwide: one that has greatly tarnished in the intervening century and a half but is still essential to ideas of "exceptionalism" and America's sovereign democratic right to project them globally as it did upon its own South. In tandem, he bids us accept that a Union defeat could have led to a world war, of the kind we know from the 20th century. I find this unlikely, though it might indeed have sparked a wave of national pro- and anti-democratic clashes hindering Europe's great-power growth in the 19th. The immigrant flocking to the Union Army I also find overstated. Some, like the Germans, did see the Union cause an extension of their own in Europe. But many Irish did not. As Doyle admits their Catholicism, adherence to the Democratic Party, and experience with Yankee nativism pushed them away from a Republican war for abolition. The one-in-four ratio of immigrants in the Union Army speaks as much to the class realities of the draft, as an indice of immigrant politics. The Draft Riots of 1863 are nicely elided from Doyle's discussion. But one can compare the international progressive idealism of the American civil war to that of Spain in the 1930s. Or, better yet, the hopes of the American Union of 1861 to the Soviet Union's fight against Hitler and fascism 80 years later. Realists in both cases sided with what was assuredly the lesser evil. Marx knew full well what the capitalist North was all about, yet realized the hope of an emancipated proletariat could never be forwarded by a slaveholders' victory. Similarly, Trotsky could hold his nose at a Stalinist USSR and still advocate supporting it against Hitler. The victory of both hardly lived up to the ideals projected upon them. Yet their defeat would have been a tragedy for humanity's best aspirations. As for the legitimacy of secession explored in Doyle's book, it's interesting that the Baltic States of the USSR used the same Confederate logic of original sovereignty in their (successful) bid for secession - without a peep from anyone in the North American Republic. For naught did Gorbachev evoke the imagery and legacy of Lincoln in preserving his Union. To paraphrase Lenin, the who-whom of whose ox gets gored yet determines the ethical judgment of history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Often, I decide to read a book because I believe it will improve my understanding of a subject and inspire me. And, often, the book has accomplished the former but failed in the latter. Not here, though. This is one of those rare books that both teaches and inspires. You can read many better and more informed reviews here about the substance of this well-told story. Perhaps what stands out most to the reader is Mr. Doyle's deliberate choice to set the famous battles of the American Civil War—Bull Often, I decide to read a book because I believe it will improve my understanding of a subject and inspire me. And, often, the book has accomplished the former but failed in the latter. Not here, though. This is one of those rare books that both teaches and inspires. You can read many better and more informed reviews here about the substance of this well-told story. Perhaps what stands out most to the reader is Mr. Doyle's deliberate choice to set the famous battles of the American Civil War—Bull Run, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Fort Sumter, etc.—in the distant background. Instead, the battles in the foreground are those waged across the Atlantic by Confederate diplomats and politicians, Union representatives and ambassadors, monarchical Catholic sympathizers, and fiery, ragtag republican groups of Europeans. The same can be said of the usual cast of characters. The dynamos of famous Union and Confederate generals—Grant, Lee, Sherman, and McClellan—are put aside in favor of the coruscating personalities of the bleeding-heart unifier of modern Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi; the colonial-hungry emperor of France, Napoleon III; the ever-suspicious and self-proclaimed infallible Pope Pius IX; and the tenacious and highly varied Union and Confederate representatives—diplomats, newspapermen, businessmen, politicians, secretaries—who fought for the attention of the European movers and shakers. As other reviewers have noted, Mr. Doyle has done a superb job at transforming the holders of seemingly trivial posts into heroes and villains. For the most part, the book is a consistent and easy-to-read narrative. At times, it feels as if Mr. Doyle felt compelled to recognize the accomplishments of those who, at least in relation to the narrative he established, are like distant family members stopping by the protagonist's house for dinner. The chapter on the importance of translators in telling the story of republicanism in different languages or cultures is, without a doubt, significant to the success of the Union. But it is not so significant to this story. The same could be said about the following chapter on the use of foreign legions in fighting the war. Both chapters remove the reader momentarily from the captivating story, bringing it out of the spotlight as the intermission house-lights do the stage play. Fortunately, Mr. Doyle does just enough to tell the reader why he introduced this cast: the work of the heroes and villains impressed not only heads of state, but reached into every order of Western society and inspired those within them to act. Similarly, Mr. Doyle inspired me. Not until I finished the last page of the epilogue ("Coda") did it occur to me how tremendously important Union victory or Confederate victory meant to the people of the world—or, at least, to Europeans. Sure, we learn about "American exceptionalism," but such abstracts are nothing but intellectual checkmarks for me. It is the rare story like this one, which illuminates the mundane, makes heroes of ordinary folks, and casts the importance of isolated moments in universal appeal, that animates those abstracts and makes the reader feel grateful to be alive. Even more, though, it this sort of story that makes the reader feel like his or her own life can be just as heroic. Oh, and before I forget. Don't worry. There's plenty of Abraham Lincoln in here. And, yes, he still remains as lionized as ever.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    Don Doyle's “The Cause For All Nations” came very close to earning a place in my list of Must Read books on the Civil War. When I first started reading the book, I had to compare it with Amanda Foreman’s A World On Fire. A large part of Foreman’s book talks about foreign relations between Great Britain, the USA, and the CSA---but from the perspective of a British Scholar. Doyle’s book similarly discusses foreign relations, but from an American perspective. Initially, I felt Foreman’s book was sup Don Doyle's “The Cause For All Nations” came very close to earning a place in my list of Must Read books on the Civil War. When I first started reading the book, I had to compare it with Amanda Foreman’s A World On Fire. A large part of Foreman’s book talks about foreign relations between Great Britain, the USA, and the CSA---but from the perspective of a British Scholar. Doyle’s book similarly discusses foreign relations, but from an American perspective. Initially, I felt Foreman’s book was superior. There were several places where I could not help but think, “Er, Foreman, who is a British Scholar, reached a different conclusion” or “You are showing your American bias.” At one point I considered putting this book aside. What I came to realize is that this difference compliments each other. For example, most American historians take it for granted that the Emancipation Proclamation kept England and France from joining the side of the Confederacy. They teach that Seward was a diplomatic mastermind. Foreman refutes this point of view. She argues that England stayed out of the war despite Seward’s, not because of him. She states that Parliament was sophisticated enough to realized that the EP was nothing more than an executive order that could be reversed by the current or future president. Doyle’s views are more in line with the traditional American interpretation. At first, I was ready to discount Doyle’s view, but then the nuisances between the two perspectives becomes clear. Doyle acknowledged that Parliament responded negatively to the E.P. The difference between Foreman’s and Doyle’s presentations is that Foreman focused on the “elites” POV, while Doyle talked about the average British citizen. According to Doyle, the E.P. resonated with the common person and worked its way up the British heirachy. The big difference between the two books is that Doyle covers more ground. While Foreman focused on Great Britain/USA/CSA, Doyle included Mexico, Italy, Spain, and Russia. His book covers more international ground, and the successes and failures of both the USA and CSA. My biggest complaints with the book is that Doyle’s Americancentric view sometimes comes across too strongly. If you want to know how the Civil War fit into the global perspective, I would recommend reading Foreman’s book first and then Doyle’s book, and Matthew Karp’s This Vast Southern Empire.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hogan

    This is one of the most significant books written about the American Civil War and its impact on the rest of the world. Contemporary readers tend to forget Lincoln’s warning at Gettysburg that the war was, in fact, a test, to determine whether “that nation or any nation” founded on democratic principles “can long endure.” Monarchies around the world were challenging the concept of republican government. Most associated them with anarchy and the bloodbath of the French Revolution. The same year o This is one of the most significant books written about the American Civil War and its impact on the rest of the world. Contemporary readers tend to forget Lincoln’s warning at Gettysburg that the war was, in fact, a test, to determine whether “that nation or any nation” founded on democratic principles “can long endure.” Monarchies around the world were challenging the concept of republican government. Most associated them with anarchy and the bloodbath of the French Revolution. The same year of Lincoln’s famous speech, the Hapsburg archduke, Maximilian, supported by the armies of Napoleon III, was crowned Emperor of Mexico. Don D. Doyle reminds us that, at least in the beginning, the Civil War was not seen as a challenge to slavery. Rather it appeared to be about the right of a people, in the words of Jefferson “to alter and abolish” any government which was destructive of the ends to which it had been dedicated. Southern diplomats abroad encouraged this interpretation and most of Europe acquiesced. While there have been some fine books about the diplomatic history of the era, none have dealt with the informal aspects of diplomacy. Influential visitors abroad, newspapers, magazines, and books which helped shape public opinion during this period are closely examined by Doyle. “It seems your Republic going to pieces,” one French officer remarked gleefully to an American visitor to Paris in 1861. It was widely believed that the US with its sectional differences would collapse as a republic and the European powers would gain territory and hegemony in the New World once again. Already France and Austria had armies in North America, and the Confederacy was actively trading with Great Britain. A failed “experiment” in democracy would have drastically changed the map of the Americas, “rendered the Monroe Doctrine toothless,” and led to the recolonization of most of Central and South America. For too long the story of the Civil War has been one presented as a uniquely American one. Professor Doyle shows us the long overdue repercussions of the Union victory abroad and how it shaped the modern world. It is a valuable and enlightening contribution. Michael Hogan, author of Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A History of Courage, Intrigue and Unlikely Friendships.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tollemache

    "The Cause of All Nations" opens at the start of the US Civil War with an enterprising US diplomat making a pilgrimage to visit Giussepe Garibaldi, the mid 19th century celebrity military commander and liberal revolutionary, to propose deputizing him as general in the Union Army. The idea being that Garibaldi fighting for the Union would be a PR coup in the court of world opinion as both the CSA and USA tried to court the world to their causes. So opens a this very compelling book on how the US "The Cause of All Nations" opens at the start of the US Civil War with an enterprising US diplomat making a pilgrimage to visit Giussepe Garibaldi, the mid 19th century celebrity military commander and liberal revolutionary, to propose deputizing him as general in the Union Army. The idea being that Garibaldi fighting for the Union would be a PR coup in the court of world opinion as both the CSA and USA tried to court the world to their causes. So opens a this very compelling book on how the US Civil War played out on the international stage. At the outset of the Civil War many European powers like Spain and France, saw the conflict as a chance to make gains in the Western hHemisphere. With the Monroe Doctrine seemingly on hold, Spain wanted to expand in Cuba and the Dominican Rep, France eyed getting Louisiana back and imposed Emperor Maximillian as ruler of Mexico since Mexico owed Fr banks money. England would work to build a coalition with France, Spain and others to force the Union and CSA to accept a truce and end the war. England feared doing it solo since Seward, Lincoln's Sec of State, had threatened invading Canada sicking the US Navy on British shipping. In the darkest days for the Union, the Europeans were on the verge of intervening when Garibaldi conquered Rome and sent Europe into a tizzy. By the time the dust settled, the Union had started winning, Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation and made any European effort to recognize the CSA and end the war an explicitly pro-slavery move. In the final months of the war the South even made a desparate bid for European help built upon the CSA offering to end slavery and enlist former slaves in the Confederate Army. The offer fell on deaf ears. Europe saw the war as essentially over and did not want to take on a staggeringly powerful USA with a huge economy and a modern, battle tested military. It was in the Summer of 1865 that the UNited States set its path for becoming a global Super Power within a generation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amaranth

    Well written and researched. Doyle paints a broad but detailed narrative of the how the Civil War was seen by foreign governments and nations and the influence their reactions and decisions played throughout the four years. I have only learned about the Civil War from an American perspective - which makes sense considering it is an internal struggle. However, by the 1860s America had undeniably formed a larger presence on the world stage and there were many people invested in the end of its stru Well written and researched. Doyle paints a broad but detailed narrative of the how the Civil War was seen by foreign governments and nations and the influence their reactions and decisions played throughout the four years. I have only learned about the Civil War from an American perspective - which makes sense considering it is an internal struggle. However, by the 1860s America had undeniably formed a larger presence on the world stage and there were many people invested in the end of its struggle. Furthermore, the Confederacy would have benefited greatly had European powers decided to officially acknowledge its existence and provided aid. This book expanded on that and offered much more salient points which I had not even considered. There is the impact of the fact that the Confederacy based its very existence on slavery and how other nations reacted and responded to that. There is the influence of the diplomatic corps sent by both conflicting parties to try and manipulate the narrative across the Atlantic. There is also the fight for America's own nationhood and how people of various political views and agendas reacted to the internal fighting of one of the longest and most stable examples of democracy of the time. This idea along with the issue of slavery would even inspire many immigrants - not just those already in the US - to come and fight in our battlefields. I had been taught to see the Civil War as a battle between brothers - a battle between the two largest and well established regions of the US. This books illustrates that it was much more than that. Even our battles included foreign soldiers within their ranks. Foreign reactions to the conflict - not only from national leaders but also to the writers and organizations of more common people - had a large impact - and it was a pleasure to finally see that side. This offered a refreshing perspective to the conflict and gave great ideas and analysis as to the progression and impact of countries from both sides of the Atlantic. A tall order but one Doyle achieved to some extent here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ian Raffaele

    Abraham Lincoln remarked at the Gettysburg Address, “[T]he struggle of today, is not altogether for today – it is for a vast future also.” The Cause of All Nations by Professor Don H. Doyle explores the American Civil War from the point of view of foreign nations. The author chiefly focuses on how the governments and different classes of France and England reacted to the conflict. The book also mentions Latin American countries in the western hemisphere, Spain, Italy, the Vatican, Germany, and Abraham Lincoln remarked at the Gettysburg Address, “[T]he struggle of today, is not altogether for today – it is for a vast future also.” The Cause of All Nations by Professor Don H. Doyle explores the American Civil War from the point of view of foreign nations. The author chiefly focuses on how the governments and different classes of France and England reacted to the conflict. The book also mentions Latin American countries in the western hemisphere, Spain, Italy, the Vatican, Germany, and Russia in passing. The figure of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the “Hero of Two Worlds,” bookends the story nicely. The journey begins with the Lincoln administration scrambling to replace Buchanan’s European diplomatic corps from doing any more damage since South Carolina announced its secession. Most of Buchanan’s ambassadors and diplomats were southerners or sympathetic to the nascent Confederacy and had spent the winter telling their European counterparts that the split between North and South was an accomplished fact. Jefferson Davis is also scrambling to get diplomats into European courts as well. At first both North and South struggle to find their footing. Eventually, Lincoln’s agents in Europe did an excellent job selling the Union position while countering Confederate designs in England and France. The South, meanwhile, never seemed to figure out the intrigue of European diplomatic courts. Unworldly, small-minded, and prejudiced to the outside world, they were wholly unsuited to the experience. That is not to say that there weren’t some moments of hope for the Rebels. 1862 – 1863 saw a real danger of Britain and France recognizing the Confederacy and sending aid to Richmond. Only the general public’s revulsion of slavery in Great Britain and France and timely Union victories (plus French misadventure in Mexico) saved the Union from this scenario. The South further hurts its chances in Europe when Davis declares that all captured black Union soldiers and the white officers leading them would be summarily executed. In the end, Professor Édouard René de Laboulaye summarized the importance of the outcome of America’s struggle to the rest of the Republican world: America’s cause was the cause of all nations. If Republicanism could win in America, that beacon for the rest of the freedom loving world, then it could win in Europe and beyond. The aristocrats and conservatives from Palmerston’s Britain to Napoleon III in France knew this as well. Both governments would not last long after the Civil War. This book is a fantastic read for Civil War buffs. Professor Doyle also does an excellent job outlining the causes of the war (slavery) and how that shaped European opinion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Perhaps my favorite non-fiction book I've read this year. Truly inspired. It really helped crystallize the influence and consequences of the Civil War. I had known vaguely that the Civil War influenced other parts of the world, but this argues it really was the spark that has led almost every revolution since. How had I not been taught about Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary who led a revolution in South America and was almost granted control of the Union Army? A must read for every person wh Perhaps my favorite non-fiction book I've read this year. Truly inspired. It really helped crystallize the influence and consequences of the Civil War. I had known vaguely that the Civil War influenced other parts of the world, but this argues it really was the spark that has led almost every revolution since. How had I not been taught about Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary who led a revolution in South America and was almost granted control of the Union Army? A must read for every person who desires to understand history. A teaser quote from Doyle: "Long after the defeat of the Confederacy, enemies of liberal, egalitarian society had every reason to look back on America’s Civil War with regret. In 1933, during an after-dinner discussion in Munich, Adolf Hitler bemoaned the South’s defeat in chilling terms: “The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality were destroyed by that war, and with them also the embryo of a future truly great America that would not have been ruled by a corrupt caste of tradesmen, but by a real Herren-class that would have swept away all the falsities of liberty and equality.” Hitler’s reading of America’s history might have been grotesquely flawed, but his outburst echoed the same refrains against the evils of “extreme democracy” and “fanatical egalitarianism” heard in the 1860s."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I have read quite a few books about the American Civil War. The books that I have read either focus on the battles and tactics, or approach the political situation from a very local perspective. The international perspective is very important, and this book made me realize how close the south was to achieving the goal of secession with the help of European countries whose leaders were eager to show proof that republicanism was inferior to their monarchies. This book also makes it very clear that I have read quite a few books about the American Civil War. The books that I have read either focus on the battles and tactics, or approach the political situation from a very local perspective. The international perspective is very important, and this book made me realize how close the south was to achieving the goal of secession with the help of European countries whose leaders were eager to show proof that republicanism was inferior to their monarchies. This book also makes it very clear that the Civil War was about slavery. I have always felt this is true, but this book shows a good broad picture that makes it evident. I don't really understand why many people insist that it was not about slavery. They love to trot out the statements by Abraham Lincoln that he would save the union if he could do it with slavery intact. Lincoln and Seward both thought it was expedient to give that impression. But, looking at the entire situation, it is very evident that slavery was the cause. I enjoyed reading the part about Garibaldi. I had not heard that history before.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Allen

    A very thought provoking book on the international politics side of the American Civil War. Some information was not new, for me as a person constantly reading something pertaining to this conflict. I am not well versed in the international aspects of this conflict. What was new was much of the "cloak-and-dagger" maneuvers both sides were trying to pull abroad and just how close to recognition the South actually came. Most authors, that I've read thus far anyway, are typically committed to the e A very thought provoking book on the international politics side of the American Civil War. Some information was not new, for me as a person constantly reading something pertaining to this conflict. I am not well versed in the international aspects of this conflict. What was new was much of the "cloak-and-dagger" maneuvers both sides were trying to pull abroad and just how close to recognition the South actually came. Most authors, that I've read thus far anyway, are typically committed to the events within the United States and mention, sometimes in detail, which people were sent abroad, where they were sent, and not a whole lot of what happened, other than Britain had supplied the South with an ironclad and had up to 6 others in the works. This book spends a great deal of time discussing these events, but more importantly, how the governments and the average citizens felt about the conflict and which side each group was rooting for.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anson Cassel Mills

    Cause of All Nations argues that Europeans, both liberal and conservative, viewed the American Civil War as part of the conflict for republicanism within their own countries and that, had Southern succession prevailed, government of the people, by the people, and for the people might have been seriously retarded in Europe and its imperial dominions. Doyle writes with clarity and grace, and I learned a great deal from this fine book—including, I’m sorry to say, the detail that the Confederate env Cause of All Nations argues that Europeans, both liberal and conservative, viewed the American Civil War as part of the conflict for republicanism within their own countries and that, had Southern succession prevailed, government of the people, by the people, and for the people might have been seriously retarded in Europe and its imperial dominions. Doyle writes with clarity and grace, and I learned a great deal from this fine book—including, I’m sorry to say, the detail that the Confederate envoy James Mason had to be reprimanded by one of his hosts for spitting in his London home. Perhaps Garibaldi's career was not quite as important to this story as Doyle asserts, but I will never again read about Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation without wondering if Garibaldi's wounded ankle might have been as critical to Northern victory as Doyle proposes.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Luongo

    Interesting perspective of the Civil War from abroad. Some interesting information on the whole situation of Giuseppe Garibaldi and possibly a command in the Union Army. Garibaldi wanting a reason to fight and Union representatives not being able to give him a reason they were prepared to go to war (1861). Of course, "spin" plays a role. Seward and his agents saying a Major General's rank was insufficient for the "Hero of Two Worlds" when in fact they couldn't provide him with an answer to his q Interesting perspective of the Civil War from abroad. Some interesting information on the whole situation of Giuseppe Garibaldi and possibly a command in the Union Army. Garibaldi wanting a reason to fight and Union representatives not being able to give him a reason they were prepared to go to war (1861). Of course, "spin" plays a role. Seward and his agents saying a Major General's rank was insufficient for the "Hero of Two Worlds" when in fact they couldn't provide him with an answer to his question. Garibaldi had more important things to do anyway. Delves into the international intervention in Mexico which left the Austrian Maximilian on the throne and his eventual failure and death.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Stone

    Recommended for recounting details of the American Civil War from an international perspective. Foreign diplomacy played an important role as both north and south tried to manipulate international opinion and involvement. Most noted was the progression of the northern argument from keeping the union together to the eventual goal of eliminating slavery. I had never heard of the Italian General Giuseppe Garibaldi nor his influence on the war. If not for errors in diplomacy, the south could have go Recommended for recounting details of the American Civil War from an international perspective. Foreign diplomacy played an important role as both north and south tried to manipulate international opinion and involvement. Most noted was the progression of the northern argument from keeping the union together to the eventual goal of eliminating slavery. I had never heard of the Italian General Giuseppe Garibaldi nor his influence on the war. If not for errors in diplomacy, the south could have got much needed foreign recognition, arms and aid from Europe to prolonged the war or perhaps, have created two separate nations.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was an interesting take on the war of rebellion - a history of the State department's endeavors during the war. The most interesting bit of information was near the end of the book when it was revealed that the confederacy sent envoys to Europe, to shore up their dying cause, with the promise of an abolition of slavery if the nations of Europe would recognize them as an independent nation. The senselessness and tragedy of this war is mind-boggling. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sydney Robertson

    I have always wanted to look at an international history of the Civil War, and Doyle presents a great view. This illuminated the importance of outside players in what has always been taught as merely a domestic and internal conflict. I love when my preconceptions are challenged, and if you are tired of reading about the Civil War in the same way you always have, then give this book a go!

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