The Southern Scare: Southern Fear of British Abolitionism

In Chapter 14, Davis makes the case that one of the driving forces behind the South’s fear of restriction on the expansion of slavery was British abolitionism. Davis makes the case that the south saw this British abolitionism as a new form of british control as NIPAPPAYLIOU noted. “… Southerners believed that Britain was attempting to spread their abolitionist ideas throughout the world as a new form of imperialism.” This fear of British cultural imperialism coincided with a period of vehement anti-British sentiment, which fed into anti-Federalist sentiment, as the federalists were viewed as being too pro-British. This anti-British sentiment, alongside connections between Britain and abolitionism, and a fear that Britain was seeking to collapse slave-holding economies so that their newly slave-free colonies could become competitive, lead to intense suspicion of Northern abolitionists as potentially being unpatriotic and likely to be in bed with British interests. The irony of this all was of course that, despite Britsh abolitionism and anti-British sentiment which was strongest in the south, when the Civil War finally came to the fore, Britain would consider joining the war, but on the Southern side, rather than the Northern side. Thus while Southern fear may not have been entirely unwarranted, with regards to beliefs that Britain was seeking to abolish slavery more broadly, it was almost certainly overstated.