At a local Barnes and Noble Civil War book discussion group, the topic
of why England would not recognize the CSA as a Nation came up.
A common answer was England not wanting to side with a country that endorsed
I proposed another reason. WHEAT.
During the 3 years of 1860, 1861, and 1862 England crops were a failure, and in
one of the years the entire European crop was a failure(1a,2a) while the U.S. enjoyed
In 1861 the british crop was 40,000,000 bushels below the average. In 1862
britian imported 32,000,000 bushels of American wheat. For the preceding 10
years the United States sent 20,000,000 bushels annually to foreign countries,
while in the 2nd year of the war the total exportation reached 60,000,000. (2a)
This doesn't include corn, which reached 7,385,717 cwt. in 1861 and 6,511,718 cwt.
in 1862 from prewar levels of 1,692,583 cwt. in 1858 and 14,417 cwt. in 1859. (3)
"exports of wheat, wheat flour and corn from New York mounted from 9 million
bushels annually to 57 million, Philadelpha limped along on a mere 5 million, Boston
had 2," (for a total of 64 million bushels).
To spead the wheat on its way, the first floating elevators were used at the
Brooklyn Atlantic Dock. These elevators could remove 5 thousand bushels per
hour, weigh, bag, and reload from canal boats to steamers.(4)
Lard and meat exports to Britian broke all records in 1861- 2 million hogs.
"Nothing like this has ever happened before." wrote Cinncinnati's trade annalist.
"It shows....that there is now secured a market for our pork in Great Britian
and on the Continent of such magnitued that....the amount consumed heretofore
in the Southern States sinks into comparative insignificance" (1b)
So did Northern wheat prevent British recongnition of the Confederacy? It
most likely contributed.
The United States, Russian, Prussia, and France were the leading foreign
granaries for Great Britian, and in its hour of need, only 1 country responded. (2b)
A conservative view was stated by a leading English Liberal, Willian E. Forster,
debating the celebrated Roebuck motion in Parliament for recognition of the
"He believed his amendment was proposed with a motive and view to peace,
and in truth, unless the harvest was better than it promised, the sufferings of the
countrymen of the honorable member would be great indeed if they were deprived
of the American crop of this year. He would never allow commercial
consideration to prevent his engaging in a just war, but when they were asked by
the honorable and learned member for Sheffield to go to war for merely selfish
purposed, to procure cotton, it was allowable to ask, 'What would be the cost of the
war in corn?" (2c)
While the need for grain would not have prevented England from defending
herself from a war of aggression by the United States, it was doubtless one
important factor in preventing aggressive demonstrations in England for the
Confederacy and against the United States.
1 .War for the Union 1862-1863 Allen Nevins a-pg 489, b-pg 489-90
2 .Social and Industrial Conditions in the North During the Civil War,
Emerson David Fite a-pg 17; b-pg 19; c-pg 21.
3. The Economic Impact of the American Civil War. Ralph Andreano
from chart on page 237. CWT.=100 lbs.
4. Gothan A History of New York City to 1898, Burrows and Wallace.