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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

As Union agents moved in European circles during the Civil War, they understood that shaping the opinion of the foreign public could aid diplomacy and further the Union cause. They pursued campaigns to influence that opinion by engaging in forms of public diplomacy directed at keeping Europe from recognizing the Confederacy. It was rudimentary by today’s public diplomacy standards but it met all the essential elements of public diplomacy. It presented, in the words of public diplomacy, “a manipulated image of the state,” and thereby influenced European policies on the war from within by shaping the impressions, desires and values of the British and French public and establishing a mutuality of goals.It is difficult to measure the impact of public diplomacy, more so in the Civil War era than today. Public diplomacy is seldom decisive in foreign relations. This is the case with the public diplomacy exercised by the Union in the Civil War. Great Britain and France never recognized the Confederate States of America--a feat in part because of the Union’s public diplomacy efforts.

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