This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 Britain, and therefore British North America (BNA), declared neutrality. The North saw the proclamation as British support of the South even though the British viewed the South as belligerent. English diplomacy did little to defuse this perception. In the beginning BNA sympathies were generally anti-slavery and anti-secessionist.
However, as the war went on bringing economic difficulties, the fear of American attack and a perception that the North's main aim was not the abolition of slavery but the smashing of the South, attitudes changed. More and more people north of the frontier began to see a Southern victory as their best defence and guarantee of independence. There was a growing fear of annexation. The Trent affair and the Chesapeake incident served to heighten the tension between the North and BNA. Although both the North and the South had violated British neutrality, the overtly pro-South or at least increasingly anti-North sentiments in BNA made it an inviting base for Confederate agents.
A selection of excerpts from Confederate Operations in Canada and New York gives a glimpse into some of the activities of Confederate agents in Canada.