The Russo-Union Alliance: A Marriage of Convenience

Wednesday, March 28, AD 2012

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it, “all men are created equal except negroes.” When the Know-nothings get control, it will read, “all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, letter to Joshua F. Speed, Aug. 24, 1855

SHADOWED so long by the storm-cloud of danger,

Thou whom the prayers of an empire defend,

Welcome, thrice welcome! but not as a stranger,

Come to the nation that calls thee its friend!

Bleak are our shores with the blasts of December,

Fettered and chill is the rivulet’s flow;

Throbbing and warm are the hearts that remember

Who was our friend when the world was our foe.

Look on the lips that are smiling to greet thee,

See the fresh flowers that a people has strewn

Count them thy sisters and brothers that meet thee;

Guest of the Nation, her heart is thine own!

Fires of the North, in eternal communion,

Blend your broad flashes with evening’s bright star!

God bless the Empire that loves the Great Union;

Strength to her people! Long life to the Czar!

So Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1871 in honor of the visit of Grand Duke Alexei, fourth son of Tsar Alexander II, as a good will ambassador to the US.  He encountered in the Northern states a vast reservoir of good will towards Russia for its steadfast support of the Union during the Civil War.  Russia and Great Britain were enmeshed in the cold war known as the Great Game for control of Central Asia.  The Russians viewed the United States as a power traditionally hostile to Great Britain and viewed the Civil War with alarm as a possible diminution of the power of the United States, along with a potential Anglo-Confederate alliance if the South achieved independence.  From the beginning the Russian government publicly proclaimed its support for the Union and its opposition to any attempt by other powers to intervene in the conflict.

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5 Responses to The Russo-Union Alliance: A Marriage of Convenience

  • The Russo-Union Alliance: A Marriage of Convenience which bore freedom.

  • One of the Tsar’s Imperial Guard officers, Ivan Turchaninov, better known to his troops as “John Turchin,” was a solid brigadier general in the Army of the Cumberland.

  • I’m sorry, but Alexander II was talking out of his autocratic arse. Anyone who takes the trouble to read Amanda Foreman’s ‘A World on Fire’ will discover that the constant thread running through the book is the persistent belief in the North, contrary to all the evidence, that England was anti-Union and pro-Confederacy. And for all Napoleon III’s blandishments towards representatives of the Confederacy he had no more intention of recognizing its independence than did the British government. The idea of Russian naval power facing down France and England (who had recently defeated Russia in the Crimean War) and securing the American Republic is quite simply hilarious.

    The way Imperial Russia conducted its foreign policy (mainly through intrigue and destabilization, and with little regard for international law) was continued by the Bolsheviks, and, no surprise, is continued under Vladimir Putin. With friends like these, you don’t need enemies.

  • “Anyone who takes the trouble to read Amanda Foreman’s ‘A World on Fire’ will discover that the constant thread running through the book is the persistent belief in the North, contrary to all the evidence, that England was anti-Union and pro-Confederacy. ”

    Read it and praised it John, and I think most of the English elites in and out of government would have loved for the Union to have been ripped asunder. Chancellor of the Exchequer Willian Gladstone, the future Grand Old Man of the Liberal Party spoke for many on October 7, 1862 when he said: “There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more than either-they have made a nation. We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North.”

    To be sure the Union had friends in England also, however I believe the dominant sentiment among the rulers of England was pro-Confederate, although not sufficiently so to fight a war with the Union to ensure Confederate independence.

  • Don, although the desire to see the USA get its comeuppance was widespread, and in view of the events of the previous 50 years understandable, the opinion was also widespread that support for the South meant support for slavery, which was unthinkable. The rather tortuous inner logic Gladstone was prone to employ to square his conscience was well-known, his intervention embarrassed the government, and he himself admitted later that he had been wrong.