03 March 2016

The 1st March of Donald Trump

I have been watching the progress of Donald Trump with interest since August 2015, when polling piqued my curiosity about his chances of success. I have written about it at increasing length in a private corner of the Internet populated by exiles from a web site about baseball. Some of what I write here was originally written there. However, now that the phenomenon which Trump represents has triumphed in a fashion that might have seemed unimaginable six months ago, it seems time to push some of what I have learned into the slightly less private corner that is my blog. (I apologise for the paucity of references, and ask that readers assume I can back at least most of my points up with links.)

The first thing is to understand what Trump isn't. He did not receive much in the way of endorsements at any point in the campaign, and in fact was shunned by the Republican party's elected representatives at both national and state capital levels. (I cannot speak of county or municipal ones.) He was spurned by the bigger donors of the party, even when he took the time to approach them. Trump at first didn't embark on a crusade to challenge the authority of these two pillars of the GOP. He offered to work with them, not against them.

So let us move on to what Trump is. Above all else, Trump is a Republican. He endorsed John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. It is not hard to fit his campaign against the Democrats into the mainstream of Republican political positions of the past eight years. The 'insurgent' qualities of the Trump campaign always have been something of a media invention. Trump was expressly running against Washington, but it was a Washington in which a Republican Congress had raised annual objections to working with a Democratic White House, a Congress that sought to obstruct executive action as much as to legislate. In theory, at least, Trump could praise their efforts, could exclude them from rhetoric that portrayed government as doing nothing for the American people.

The second thing is that Trump speaks about policy options in a way that has, shall we say, a degree of frankness unusual for twenty-first century discourse, yet still leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre. He will end Obamacare, but not at the cost of people dying in the streets. Moslems need to be kept out of the country, but only temporarily. Other countries need to be held to account for their self-interested economic policies, but the treaty framework is fundamentally sound. It is a rare statement by Trump that does not include wiggle room. Examples are a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent and that he will make the Mexicans pay for the wall (but all of it?). In this context, there is enough evidence that Trump supporters, unlike his opponents, do not take his statements at face value. In fact, they remember Trump as the author of The Art of the Deal, and regard his approach as that of a negotiator at first asking for everything.

The third thing is to understand the forces that have kept the Trump campaign afloat in spite of the hostility towards it on the part of the Republican party's paymasters and their servants in the government. The first of these is the media. Trump has received a great deal of coverage from Fox News and from MSNBC. The other force that has propelled Trump to front-runner status is his consistent success with a specific set of voters. Analysing his results by county in places like Iowa and New Hampshire showed Trump running strongly in economically depressed areas and in smaller cities lacking large universities or state government bureaucracies. He runs behind Cruz in areas that went for the ideological conservative Rick Santorum in a big way in 2012, but ahead of Cruz in areas where Santorum underperformed and Romney and Newt Gingrich ran better. Trump has picked up a significant portion of the Romney coalition (the non-elite parts) and added a lot of Gingrich's. The Super Tuesday states Trump did well in were very similar to those won by Gingrich and Romney, and not so cloe to those won by Santorum.

One Iowa county in particular caught my interest. In 1960 and 1968, Carroll county in Iowa was solidly Democratic. In 1976 it went for Jimmy Carter. But in 1980 it swung to Reagan by a pretty substantial percentage, but Reagan only squeaked out a win there in 1984, and it returned to its Democratic ways until George W Bush took it in 2000, and only Senator John McCain in 2008 lost it from the Republican column since. Could it be a marker for the old-time Reagan Democrats? One county is not enough foundation on which to base such a hypothesis, but it is a fact that Trump had a narrow lead over Ted Cruz there, whereas Marco Rubio finished firmly in third place, his elite-sponsorship doing him no good at all. There may be signs that supporters of Cruz are swinging to Trump, as recent polls in Florida show Trump gaining as Cruz' percentage falls. The bedrock of Trump's support rests on what one might call 'rank-and-file' GOPers. The message from the party Establishment has so far fallen on deaf ears.

The other factor here is turnout. Turnout for GOP caucuses and primaries has been way up this year compared to 2008 and 2012. Some of these people are coming out to vote for Trump, and it appears some are coming out to vote against him. So far it is not so clear how many of the new Republicans are voting for Trump. Initially, at least, late deciders voted against him. In national polls his 'negative value' among Republicans has been fairly stable throughout.

The dilemma confronting the GOP leadership hasn't really sunk in, by all appearances. They are acting as if they believe they will lose down the ticket if Trump is at the top of it. They are trusting that if they block Trump's bid for the nomination by any means possible, their supporters will still turn out to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. But what if they don't? What if they are so angered by the shenanigans of a party leadership turning on the voters' choice that they stay home? I did a calculation that suggested, using evidence from Quinnipac University polls, that Trump might cost the Republicans about 15 per cent of their base vote, but it is impossible on the basis of that data to calculate how many of Trump's supporters are voting Trump or nothing.

American political parties are built on a 'strategic triad' of elected politicians, donors and voters. Each has a vital role to play in the electoral process. It has been a long time since we have seen the kind of civil war now going on among Republicans in an American party, and the reality is that these outcomes never end well for the victims. The Democratic party ran against both George McGovern in 1972 and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and again in 1980. The result was twelve years of Republican control of the White House, and it could have been longer had it not been for Ross Perot's quixotic tilt in 1992. Unless this civil war is rapidly brought to an end, or some unforeseen event occurs between now and November, it looks like the Republicans will basically be a Congressional and state-house party for some time to come.

07 January 2016

Did Americans Invent the Commonwealth of Nations?

Eric Nelson is a professor at Harvard University who has written a book that examines a neglected aspect of the ideologies underlying the American War of Independence. If you want a taster, you can listen to an interview with him that is part of a series of podcasts under the rubric 'Ben Franklin's World'. It is about an hour long.

During the course of the podcast, he reminds us that the political problem the war of independence solved was more than one of the relationship between the colonies and the government in London. In fact, it was as much one of an Anglospheric one in that the Colonists tried to raise questions about the relationship between the British monarch and parliament. Nelson explains the constitutional history of Britain either side of the civil wars that took place in the British Isles in the middle of the seventeenth century. Nelson has reminded us of the fact that some colonists perceived the struggle not to be one between colonial assemblies and King George, but in fact as one between colonial assemblies and parliament. The colonists, in other words, saw the colonial assemblies as equals to the parliament in London.

In this sense at least some of the colonists were enunciating a version of Responsible Government, avant la lettre. Responsible government, of course, was the basis for the granting of dominion status within the empire, and the ideology of the British Commonwealth of Nations holds that present or past loyalty to the Crown unites free and equal polities. While pre-1776 British North American colonial administrations did not assert an authority to conduct an independent foreign policy (except in regard to American Indians, perhaps), the Patriots who blamed parliamentary over-reach for the crisis did assert the authority for their assemblies and governors to conduct an independent domestic fiscal policy.

The answer to my headline question, of course, is a definite 'no'. But the ideological debate during the American crisis does appear to foreshadow subsequent constitutional developments within the British Empire.

06 January 2016

The Spectre of Nativism

Few things get my historical scholar's goat more than a post like this one, about Trump the Nativist.

Nativism was a complex phenomenon throughout American history, and a very mutable one. In this case, I would like to look at what might be considered a Janus-faced component of the old-time Nativist like George Bourne, whose Abolitionist views were inseperable from those attitudes he shared with Trump. Let's take a closer look at Robin Dale Jacobson's commentary.

While many pundits have looked to former regimes in Germany or Italy to explain the dangers they perceive Trump to embody, we need to understand him and his following as an American phenomenon. . . . John Higham, in the canonical book Strangers in the Land, wrote that nativism is “an intense opposition to an internal minority on the ground of its foreign (i.e. ‘un-American’) connections.” This opposition can have a wide range of targets in “response to the changing character of the minority irritants and the shifting conditions of the day; but through each separate hostility runs the connecting, energizing force of modern nationalism.”

Certainly American Nativism is rooted in the idea of nationality. The problem is that nationality is another of those mutable ideas that in a political discourse conceals much more than it reveals. What is the basis for a nation? The first naturalisation act, passed in 1790, defined a potential new American as a 'free white person'. It then asked them to live in the country for two years. It is this residency period that is of interest here, and is a commonplace in naturalisation legislation around the world even today. The final step in the process was to swear an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution. Today's historians focus on the whiteness requirement, but at the time that was barely discussed. In fact, it certainly seems that the residency requirement was seen as crucial.

Mr Hartley said...he thought some security for their fidelity and allegiance was requisite besides the bare oath that is, he thought an actual residence of such a length of time as would give a man an opportunity of esteeming the Government from knowing its intrinsic value, was essentially necessary to assure us of a man's becoming a good citizen.

from the House Journal, 1st Congress, pp 1147-8

Thus, from the very first piece of federal legislation concerning immigrants, we see that there are important political considerations involved in the question of nationality. The key element turns out to have been the residency requirement, as opposed to the 'bare oath' This is further illustrated by later debates on the 1798 act that sought to extend the residency period to fourteen years.

Mr Bayard said...Every principle of policy, in his opinion, required this regulation to be made general; for he believed there was many Jacobins and vagabonds come into the United States during the last two years, as may come for ten years hence; so that these very persons against whom this law was intended to operate, will become citizens, and may be chosen into the government.

from the House Journal, 5th Congress, p 1780

Again, here we see a political issue. At the time of the French Revolution, Jacobins were seen as having the potential to subvert the Constitution, given their unhealthy enthusiasm for the will of the people, as opposed to the kind of solid bourgeois republicanism that defined the American. But it was also the moment of the Quasi-War, which could easily have turned into a proper one.

Mr Varnum said...there was no necessity for any measures being taken with respect to foreigners, except such as belong to the nation with whom we expect to be at war.

from the House Journal, 5th Congress, p1782

I can easily imagine how a Trump supporter might see the United States as a nation at war with Islam, or at least those of its Radicals who have in practical terms declared war on it. The fact that a significant majority of Americans polled are opposed to a ban on Moslem visitors should give us some comfort. Let me return to Jacobson's text.

The durable American nativist tradition has an additional common feature: a racial religious othering. Throughout history we see religious differences being blended with racial differences; groups of people perceived to be sharing a religion are characterized as having innate immutable differences that threaten the native citizens or the nation as a whole. ... Nativist responses to new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe in the early twentieth century were also centered at the intersection of race and religion. Advocates who opposed immigration argued that these newcomers from sending areas in Europe, including Italian and Irish Catholics as well as eastern European Jews, threatened to overwhelm the U.S., and to damage the racial and religious character (read: white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) of the country.

Here Jacobson is guilty of condensing two distinct moments in Nativism. In the 1830s through the 1850s, hostility towards immigrants was mostly rooted in their Catholicism. The hostility that emerged in the 1890s and carried on into the quotas of the 1924 immigration legislation did identify nationality or, if one prefers, ethnicity in relation to religious hostility. Tellingly, this covers the period that Higham does. He gives only a few pages over to the earlier manifestations of Nativism, and does not reflect at length on the process by which ethnicity became attached. But I would like to focus on the earlier response. Why did Roman Catholicism seem to present a threat?

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it.

Para 14 of the Papal Encyclical Mirari Vos, issued in August 1832

Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor. We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets, and other writings which, though small in weight, are very great in malice.

Para 15 of the Papal Encyclical Mirari Vos, issued in August 1832

These two paragraphs suggest that 1830s Americans had cause to be suspicious about the threat posed by the Roman church to proverbially American values enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Nor were Americans shy about taking these comments aimed at liberty of conscience and freedom of speech and expanding them to encompass much more.

Romanism, in its merely secular attributes and political and social effects, ever and immutably is opposed to civil and religious freedom; and is destructive of all those rights of man with which our Declaration of Independence proclaims to be inalienable.

p6, The Text-Book of American Popery, George Bourne's Nativist book

And, of course, as immigration from Catholic countries grew, it was associated with this political threat to the American political order.

This danger from uneducated mind is augmenting daily by the rapid influx of foreign emigrants, the greater part unacquainted with our institutions, unaccustomed to self-government, inaccessible to education and easily accessible to prepossession, and inveterate credulity, and intrigue, and easily embodied and wielded by sinister design. In the beginning this eruption of revolutionary Europe was not anticipated, and we opened our doors wide to the influx and naturalisation of foreigners. But it is becoming a terrific inundation...what if this emigration, self-moved and slow in the beginning, is now rolling its broad tide at the bidding of the powers of Europe hostile to free institutions, and associated in holy alliance to arrest and put them down?...Are not the continental powers alarmed at the march of liberal opinions, and associated to put them down?

pp 51-2, Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States, by Samuel Morse (unlike Bourne, a defender of slavery).

Morse chooses his words with care there, as the 'holy alliance' was indeed a real thing, lasting from about 1815 to 1820. And the Papacy was seen as in league with the Austrian Empire, itself in the care of Prince Klemens von Metternich, a particular bogeyman of those 1830s Nativists, as can be demonstrated by a citation from this 1836 article.

Austria is now the only temporal support of the Papal power in Europe. Under the ministry of the most tyrannical Prince Metternich, she continues her support to the Court of Rome. This Prince Metternich is one of the greatest enemies of mankind now living; a man who has done more for the support of despotic principle, and to enslave the masses of Europe, than any other man.

p178, Methodist Magazine, April 1837, from an article on the Papacy's prospects by a New England divine named S W Coggeshall who was possibly the author of this letter to Lincoln supporting a more radical approach to war against the Confederacy.

Those masses fleeing Metternich's slavery, however, showed little sign of embracing Protestant religion, despite spending several years breathing liberty's air in the United States. Instead, they were building up a Catholic presence in the United States, which people like Bourne, Morse and Coggeshall thought clearly alien to American political values. While Coggeshall mentions Irish immigration, it is only a reference to its scale (see p 180). His invective says nothing about race but everything of his fears of Catholic institutions being founded in the United States, and the conspiratorial efforts of a mysterious St Leopold Foundation, directed from Vienna and in receipt of papal approbation.

Whatever changes might arise for historians to argue over in its later manifestations, history shows us that the man concern Americans initially had about immigrants related to their politics. In this case, the internal minority was a religious one and, further to remove race from the equation, one that drew its membership from multiple states, and thus possessed loyalty (or antipathy, in the case of the Irish) towards different regimes that might, in fact, find themselves at war with one another.

It is without question that American Nativism was from the first about protecting more than the political character of the United States, and that initially race was a less significant factor since not many sought to emigrate here willingly from Africa or Asia. Slavery was, however, seen as a blot on the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence by many Americans. It was Lincoln himself who put forth that the civil war was 'testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived [in Liberty] and so dedicated, can long endure'. For Americans of his time and the few decades earlier, American liberty seemed a precariously planted tree in a world where monarchs ruled China, India, Russia, Prussia, Austria, Brazil, Turkey, Persia, Morocco, Zululand and Madagascar. Those ideas of liberty were rooted in an Anglo-Saxon, Protestant outlook that was a smaller set than the word 'white' might imply in naturalisation acts passed by Congress. It was this day-to-day 'Anglo' culture that was seen as defining Americans. To reduce these fears to race alone does a disservice to that generation of abolitionists, unsympathetic toward 'papist' religion, who fought more successfully to end race-based slavery.

(P.S. -- By the way, if you didn't follow the Wikipedia link, George Bourne, abolitionist and nativist, was himself an immigrant from England.)

30 December 2015

Locating Gay Marriage

This map, courtesy of a tweet by the ever-fascinating @LindaRegber, brought home a point I had never really considered before.
Britain, the core country of the Anglosphere, allows it. It is joined by the settler colonies of Canada, New Zealand and South Africa and, as the caption on the map indicates, parts of the United States. By contrast, the Francophonie has little place for gay marriage outside the metropolitan area. Hispanohablantes are a little bit more enthusiastic. And, of course, in the Scandinavian world it appears to be almost universal.

Gay marriage at the moment is very clearly a marker for Anglospheric culture, which itself has roots drawn from a Scandinavian planting, as Norse and Danish influence on the British Isles was considerable, for a time. This will probably change sooner rather than later, but at the moment, tolerance for gay marriage sets English-speakers apart.

14 December 2015

You're welcome, high-school students

My high-school daughter asked me to help her revise for a history test, one question of which will ask her about the causes of the War Between the States. So I reproduce here the brief analysis we constructed.

The immediate cause of the War Between the States was the bombardment of Fort Sumter, in the harbour of Charleston, SC, in April 1861. As a result of this, President Abraham Lincoln of the United States called for volunteers to serve three months in the militia, in order to suppress the insurrection. A military conflict with the seceding states became inevitable at that point.

But why did Fort Sumter have to be bombarded?

Between December 1860 and February 1861, seven states seceded from the United States, as they saw it reclaiming their sovereign rights. However, the federal government controlled things like the naval, military and postal services. The question of to whom these belonged would obviously be controversial. In the case of military installations, the presence of a garrison meant that attempts by local or new authorities could be resisted, at least for a time. This is what happened at Fort Sumter.

But why did these states secede?

In November 1860, a split in the Democratic party between northern and southern wings assisted in the election of the Republican party's candidate for president, the aforementioned Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's party had a plank in its platform stating 'we deny the authority of congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States'. The question of whether slavery could be permitted in the parts of the United States that had not yet acquired statehood, much of which had been organised into territories, had been extremely controversial before the election/ In the case of Kansas, a mini-civil-war had raged for some years. All the parties took a position on this. The Democrats split over the question of slavery in the territories, with the Northern faction wanting to limit it on the basis of 'popular sovereignty': if the representatives elected to a territorial convention voted to abolish slavery in its territory, slaveholders would have to abide by that. By contrast, the Southern Democrats wanted the right of slaveholders to their human property to be respected in all territories, regardless of local sentiment. Lincoln's election, and even more significantly the election of Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, gave slaveholders little hope that in future their right to human property would be respected in the territories. Inevitably, as 'free soil' territories became states, Slaveholding power within the legislature as represented by members of Congress would dwindle. This would open the way for abolitionists to end slavery altogether in the United States.

Thus, the fundamental cause of the civil war was slavery. However, one can argue a secondary cause of state's rights, on the basis that the outcome of the civil war established, by main force, that states have no right to secede from the Union unilaterally. They can only secede if the federal government assents to their departure. But, in the absence of the controversy over slavery, it is hard to see why that right of state sovereignty would have been asserted. Given an opportunity to claim it over tariffs in 1832-3, no state considered that issue significant enough.

02 December 2015

Talk About the Past

(I don't normally blog such extensive commentary about a book, but I wrote it up somewhere else and decided that an edited version could continue the current Canadian theme on this blog.)

The Strange Demise of British Canada describes itself as a response to Igartura's The Other 'Quiet Revolution', a book I have not read, but which I have known about for many years. The issue both books grapple with, the loss of a 'British Canadian' identity during the 1950s and 1960s, applies as much to the United States, where the WASP Ascendancy began to crumble at about the same time. (Although it might also be said to have crumbled in the US in the aftermath of the Great Depression.) Where Igartura apparently sees a transition from 'British Canada' to Anglophonie, in Champion's analysis, the British Canadian identity persists, much less visibly, because it remains the default ideology of Canada.

Champion's interest is in a particular group of British Canadians who gathered around Lester Pearson, the Liberal party politician who is popularly credited with inventing peacekeeping, and who brought to an end the old red ensign flag, with the Union flag in the quarter. The red ensign was replaced by the wildly successful Maple Leaf Flag, one of the best flags currently flying for standing as a representative icon of a country. (It was not, significantly, Pearson's own choice of design.) Champion has come in for some criticism in focusing on an elite group, but I think such a complaint is unwarranted. The whole process he is describing is one of political leadership, and it was decisions at the top that did much to undermine the link between Britain and Canada's Britons.

Champion points out that many of these men had experience of Britain either through war service in the world wars or through study at Oxford or Cambridge university during the interwar period. Many of them were small-town Ontarians, who had grown up in a province dominated by Methodists and Presbyterians. Small towns and low churches possess a kind of basic democracy, despite the presence of a petit-bourgeois paternalism. In Oxford, or in the service, they encountered the British caste system in all its pomp. As rustic colonials, they would already have provided some amusement to the immature representatives of the Ruling Class. The discomfort rural Ontario felt in addition with the presence of deferential servants who expected to fetch and carry was fatal to encouraging close ties with the political elite of the Mother Country. (I focus on Ontario here because Champion points out that Atlantic Canadians seem to make the transition from middle-class dominion to caste-ridden Britain more comfortably.) The drunken academic sport familiarly depicted in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited must have seemed exceptionally alien to boot. Champion makes the point that these attitudes were not exclusively Canadian, but were shared by many Britons, about their own country. Indeed, the difference between modern British attitudes and modern Canadian attitudes concerning the legacy relationships of Crown, Altar and Lords are not very far apart.

But, Champion could have taken his analysis a little bit further. Consider: in 1957, John Diefenbaker led the Progressive Conservatives to a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, pledged to reduce Canada's dependence on the US economy and to foster closer ties with Britain. However, Britain was already beginning to look to a future as part of the Common Market, which took formal shape with an application for membership in 1961. Diefenbaker was outraged. But did it not prove that Canada needed to accommodate a future without formerly close political relationships with Britain? Tied into the restrictive trade arrangements of the Common Market, Canada's previous alternative to the US for exports and investment would no longer be effective. New relationships would have to be forged. A new flag becomes a symbolic gesture that costs little and, done in a particular way, conveys a lot about self-image.

Champion's saddest chapter is his last case study, about the unification of the Canadian Forces. Pearson and his government come across as no better than a bunch of Stalinists (or, to make an allusion more of their time, Maoists). They did away with the 'Royal' prefixes of the navy and air force, despite the fact that the country remained a monarchy. They imposed a new uniform common to all services, and Americanised the ranks of an air force that historically did not share the same institutional history as the US Army Air Force. The Royal Air Force ripped away its army roots, in very 'Pearsonian' fashion, and its rank structure, with Flying Officers, Squadron Leaders and Group Captains, among others, was very descriptive and modern compared to 'colonels' and 'majors'. It really was too sad for many words.

The book assumes more knowledge of twentieth-century Canadian history and politics than I imagine a typical non-Canadian would possess, and in particular the lack of information about the 1945-64 period might prove a handicap. I don't entirely agree with Champion's subtle perceptions, but he does make a broad point that the more dominant narrative, that of Igartura by all accounts, doesn't neglect so much as actively ignores. Champion raises some interesting questions about the kind of 'mythic history' that provides the basis to school curricula, the environment in which most people make their limited acquaintance with history. However, the 'one size to fit as many as possible' presentation to impressionable minors neglects the reality that history is a constant battleground of competing visions. The losers in the flag debate simply had a different view of Canada, one in which the British -- or more specifically English -- Canadians did not have to retreat into a hapless anonymity, while still underpinning so much of what passes for 'Canadian'.

30 November 2015

False Facts

I may have never before seen a statement quite so misleading in a quasi-official publication subsidised by a national government as the following from thecanadianencyclopedia.ca
Although officially neutral, Britain had supported the Confederate states in the American Civil War
The context of the statement is the cancellation in 1866 of a trade treaty between Britain and the United States signed in 1854 governing trade between British North America and the USA.

I wonder what Abraham Lincoln might have had to say about the efforts of Britons to oppose the Confederacy?

Mr Lincoln, in a letter dated 19 January 1863...replied with the words that are inscribed on his statue: 'I cannot but regard your decisive utterances on the question as an instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country. 'It is indeed an energetic and re-inspiring assurance of the inherent truth and of the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity and freedom...Whatever misfortune may befall your country or my own, the peace and friendship which now exists between the two nations will be, as it shall be my desire to make them, perpetual.'
Lincoln in this passage refers to the workers in Lancashire cotton mills support for the war against slavery, despite the fact that they were undergoing terrible hardship because there was no work. The mills' cotton normally came from the states that had seceded, those states (and the Union blockade) had restricted the export of the cotton, so the mill workers had no work. You can read more about the affair in this BBC.com News post. You can also listen to an In Our Time episode about the Lancashire cotton famine. The Union was without doubt the favoured side of the British people in the war, although opinion among those whose job it is to worry about Britain's national security saw some advantage in a United States divided into two.

What thecanadianencylopedia.ca must refer to are the Alabama Claims. The basis for these claims were the raids of five ships that were built in British yards but sold to the Confederate States' Navy. These raids sank over 150 'Northern ships' in the course of their commerce raiding during the War Between the States. Given that Britain remained officially neutral throughout the war, the question of whether ships built by private British interests for foreign buyers that put to sea in an unarmed state raised technical legal questions far removed from the blatant Union abuse of British neutrality in the Trent affair. That the British government did not want to get mixed-up in a private transaction cpncerning the Alabama following such a presumption on the part of the American navy can at worst be regarded as a bit of tit-for-tat diplomacy. In the end, the British prime minister and foreign secretary both accepted that they should have stopped the Alabama putting to sea, in the same way that the President Lincoln disavowed the actions of the US naval officer in the Trent affair.

In fact, the Alabama claims led to an attempt by the United States to dismember Canada, suggesting that British Columbia, parts of western Canada between the Rockies and Manitoba and a portion of Nova Scotia might be appropriate return for the losses to the US merchant fleet. Of course, one won't find American territorial ambitions in Canada mentioned. Having lived there for several years there are moments when to my mind there seems to be an ideological war in Canada against Britain, which I neither understand the necessity for, nor believe all of its practitioners fully understand the potential consequences of it.

Of course, having worked in publishing for many decades I know what happened here. There was a word limit and a more nuanced description of the fraught state of Anglo-American relationships during 1861-72 was compressed to the point that it became wrong. Still, one would expect it to have been corrected in the last listed revision of the original article, last July.