Book Review: Lincoln, Seward, and US Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era


by Joseph A. Fry

Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2019. Pp. viii, 244. Notes., biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 081317712X

Shaping of Foreign Relations during the Civil War

In this new work Prof. Fry (Emeritus, Nevada) does more than just discuss the Lincoln administration’s efforts to prevent foreign intervention in the Civil War, a topic well covered by many authors, but also touches on the broader range of issues that more or less fell under the umbrella of “foreign relations”

Fry uses about a fifth of his text to introduce the Lincoln and Seward, with biographical profiles that look at the evolution of their thinking on politics, race, and nationality, matters on which in the ante bellum era they differed significantly, and covers their competition for the Republican nomination for President in 1860.

Thereafter, Fry looks at how the two men grew into an effective team, not only in the critical matter of preventing British or French recognition of the Confederacy, but also other matters, including relations with Spain, Russia, and several Latin American countries. We also get a look at their views and influence on the question of territorial expansion, Seward particularly having his eye on Hawaii, some places in the Caribbean, and most famously, Alaska, as well as the problem of the French intervention in Mexico. In domestic affairs Fry examines how they worked together on the question of Emancipation, and also on “Indian Affairs”, immigration, and more.

Fry’s treatment is not strictly chronological, given some issues had to be worked out over time, and he carries us through the end of Seward’s tenure at the State Department in 1869, having crowned his time in office with the purchase of Alaska.

A volume in the UPK series “Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace”, Lincoln, Seward, and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, which unfortunately lacks maps, is a valuable read for anyone interested in American foreign policy in the mid-nineteenth century, and, of course, the Civil War.


Note: Lincoln, Seward, and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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