In February 1861, among the 34 U. S. states, seven Southern slave states decided to breakaway from the Union to form their own confederacy. By April 1861, when war broke out, between the two sides, President Abraham Lincoln knew that a large part of the fight would be an economic one. He had to cut off the money supply of the Southern Confederacy.
You can’t fight a war without money.
By 1862, as the American Civil War raged over the question of slavery, the blacklisting order affecting the Bahamas, they say, came directly from the great man himself, President Abraham Lincoln.
Among all of the British West Indian colonies of the Caribbean, in 1862, the Bahamas was the only one singled out for a restrictive trade policy.
Bahamians had inserted themselves between the two warring factions, the North and the South. Bahamians were prolonging the bitterest ideological war the West had ever seen by blockade running for the Southern Confederates. Somehow, despite the British 1834 slave emancipation laws and the 1840 end to slave apprenticeships, the Bahamas had become pro-slavery in light of their economic ties with the states of the Southern Confederation.
The Bahamas was to be blacklisted for its lack of good judgment, and its decision to be on the wrong side of history.
Bahamians were giving aid and comfort to the Southern Confederacy, the side which was fighting to keep and indeed, expand slavery. Bahamian boats were running the Northern imposed blockade on Southern produced goods. Bahamians were helping Southern Confederate goods to make their way out of the United States, past blockades set up on the open seas to their exportation to markets in Europe and elsewhere.
Moreover, the Bahamas was actively buying extra goods like coal and machinery parts, from Great Britain, just to resell to waiting Southern Confederate buyers.
America was having none of it.
“An Act of Congress passed on May 26, 1862, empowered the Secretary of the Treasury to refuse a clearance to any vessel loaded with goods, wares or merchandise for a foreign or domestic port, whenever he had reasons to believe that such goods, wares or merchandise or any part thereof, “whatever may be there ostensible destination, are intended for ports or places in possession of or under the control of insurgents against the United States.”
In 1864 another act was passed making even more stringent the prohibition regarding the trade with insurgents. Under these statutes many British firms, especially in the Bahama Islands, were prevented from transacting business.”
(The San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, 22 July 1916)
TRADE WITH THE BAHAMAS
RESTRICTIONS LAID UPON BRITISH COMMERCE
In 1863, a war of words erupted over the American seizing of goods from ships bound for NASSAU, Bahamas. Shipping agents in New York had received instructions to halt the continued journey of goods from Great Britain destined for the Bahamas.
The term blacklisting didn’t become a part of the economic vernacular until after 1900. In 1863, words like restriction, seized and held, were more commonly used.
The Americans were stopping goods from being shipped into the port of Nassau. Anything listed on ship’s manifest with the end port being Nassau, were stopped. Ships were not allowed to leave until goods were taken off. Lincoln’s United States Government suspected, and rightly so, that these goods were intended for sale to the Southern Confederation.
Letters and dispatches flew back and forth between May 1862 to July 1863.
Britain tried to intervene claiming ignorance as to anything the Bahamas may or may not have been doing with goods imported into Nassau. They pleaded to the US Government to remember that they were a friendly, and as such, all their colonies should be treated the same way and with the same consideration.
Then follows in the correspondence a second letter from the Lord Lyons to Earl Russell, dated Washington, May 26, in which he encloses an extract from a dispatch which he had received a day or two previously for Mr. Bayley, Governor of the Bahama Islands, on the subject of a report which prevailed there, that the Customs authorities at New York had determined to prevent or impede the exportation of ordinary supplies from that city to the Port of Nassau.
Lord Lyons adds that he had directed Her Majesty’s Acting at the New York to ascertain and let him know as soon as possible whether there was any foundation for such a report, and in his next dispatch he transmits a copy of a letter written to Mr Bayley by Messers Adderley and Co., complaining that a bond had been exacted from their agent by the Customs authorities at New York, restricting the disposal of a cargo of coals shipped for Nassau. The Messers. Adderley, while fully admitting the right of the American government to make such customs, laws and regulations as they think for, contend that such laws and regulations should be of general application, and that Great Britain, being placed by international treaty on the footing of the most favoured nations, the American Government had no right to single out any particular British colony and make regulations applicable to that colony alone.
The circumstances which led them to make such remarks are stated in a letter to Mr. Bayley, dated Nassau, New Providence, May 12, 1862.
In the end, Lincoln’s Republican government ignored all the pleadings by Britain on behalf of the Bahamas.
A final letter dated 18th July 1863, saw the United States standing firm against Britain’s Bahama Islands.
The Bahamas was, in all likelihood, blacklisted for the duration of the American Civil War.
Subsequently to this dispatch, there is one from Lord Lyons, enclosing a copy of a letter addressed to Counsul Archibald, by the firm of Tootal, Broadhurst & Lee, British merchants, Manchester, carrying on business at New York, complaining of the difficulties thrown in the way of the shipment of goods hence to Nassau, and the correspondence concludes with the following dispatch from Earl Russell:
Foreign Office, July 18, 1863,
My Lord: You will have learnt from my dispatch of the 10th instant, that as Her Majesty’s Government saw reason to hope that their representations respecting the interference exercised by the United States Government with the trade carried on between New York and the Bahamas would not remain without effect, that they had not considered it necessary to continue the controversy with that Government.
In this expectation, however, her Majesty’s Government is disappointed; for it would appear from the representation of Messrs. Tootal, Broadhurst & Co., which accompanies your dispatch of the 22nd instant, that the interference of the United States authorities with this trade is still persisted in, and I have accordingly to instruct you to address a fresh remonstrance on this subject to the United States Government.
I am, & c.,