Mere Lust of Dominion and Empire the Cause of War
The British saw the quarrel between North and South for what it truly was, and were not swayed by the high-sounding morality of abolitionists — most of them sons of New England slave-traders and mill owners who grew rich from slave labor on cotton plantations. They also learned from Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward that Canada was to be a target of seizure after the South was subjugated.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Mere Lust of Dominion and Empire the Cause of War:
“The London Economist was of the opinion at this time [in early 1862] that [James] Spence’s book [The American Union] had done more “to mould into definite form the floating mass of public opinion on the right and wrong doing of the Southern States in the matter of secession” than any other work of its kind.  In his book Spence had convincingly argued the sovereign nature of the American States and their constitutional right to secede.
With even greater force he placed before the English the fundamental difference between the North and the South which made the secession of the South inescapable. The North was industrial, powerful and constantly threatening the less powerful, rural and agricultural South. But the thing which created the deepest impression was not so much the economic differences between the two sections as the racial.
The North, according to Spence, was composed of a conglomerate, unfused mass of nationalities – Irish, German, Swiss, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Jewish, Roumanian, and Turkish – an inferior, mongrel people, while the South was almost pure British. This idea stuck – and even today sticks in the British mind – and the majority of the British soon felt a racial sympathy with the South which they did not have for the North. Henceforth, the bragging, swaggering, dishonest American with the nasal twang came from north of the Mason and Dixon Line.
The initial sympathy of the British people for the North because of the belief that the South had seceded to set up a slave state and that the North stood for the freedom of the slave was soon destroyed, and a strong conviction arose that the freedom of the slave was not an issue in the war. One can hardly escape the logic of events which forced this conclusion upon the British mind. During the winter of 1861….numerous compromises of the American troubles were discussed, the most important of which was the Crittenden compromise conceding a permanent share in the territories to slavery.
The [London] Economist upon hearing of such proposals spoke of the measures as iniquitous, and was not willing to believe that Lincoln would yield to them. But the final disillusionment came when in his inaugural address Lincoln said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists,…..I believe I have no lawful right to do so and have no intention to do so.”
This was, in truth, the death knell of British sympathy based upon the moral righteousness of the northern cause. If freedom was not the cause [of the North], then what was it?
The Economist late in the summer of 1861 pronounced….[the war] was not for freeing the slaves on the part of the North or preserving slavery on the part of the South, but was for dominion and power on the part of the one and the right of self government of the other. The inevitable conclusion was that the war was “a war of conquest and not of philanthropy”…..and after all the South was “only fighting for that right to choose their government.” All were now conscious that no really noble or soul-stirring cause was in any way at issue, since the abolition sentiment had “nothing to do with the quarrel and the protective tariff a great deal and the mere lust of dominion and empire more than either.”
Then if the freedom of the slave was not the issue, asked the Economist, “on what other ground can we be fairly be called upon to sympathize so warmly with the Federal cause?”
(King Cotton Diplomacy, Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America, Frank Lawrence Owsley, University of Chicago Press, 1931, pp. 172-173; 186-188)