THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2019 101 Diplomacy in Desperate Times Lincoln, Seward, and US Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era Joseph A. Fry, University Press of Kentucky, 2019, $60/hardcover, $55.10/Kindle, 256 pages. Reviewed by Joseph L. Novak There are far fewer books on the inter- national diplomacy surrounding the Civil War than on its military campaigns and decisive battles. Into this mix comes Joseph A. Fry’s concise Lincoln, Seward, and US Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era. Professor emeritus at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas, Fry has given us fascinating portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, and delves into their leadership and management of U.S. diplomacy during the war. His book shines a spotlight on how their success- ful collaboration helped save the Union. Fry begins with brief biographic sketches of Lincoln and Seward, who could not have been more different. Seward came from an established family in upstate New York and was a well- known politician with service as gov- ernor and senator. Lincoln, in contrast, was from modest means in Kentucky and Illinois and, before his election as president in 1860, had served only spo- radically in political office. Fry goes on to describe what came to unite them: they were Whig Party mem- bers who then became Republicans and, most important, were both strongly antislavery. The book hits its stride when prob- ing Lincoln and Seward’s diplomatic partnership that took shape amid the drumbeat of announcements by South- ern states that they were seceding from the Union. With the start of the war in April 1861, Fry vividly describes the tensions and uncertainties of the time as Lincoln and Seward took up their positions to get a grip on the situation. On the foreign policy front, Lincoln and Seward rapidly developed the core policy guiding all of their diplomatic efforts: the United States, already on the defensive in the conflict with the South, must fight only “one war at a time.” As Fry makes clear, the practical result of Lincoln and Seward’s policy was to work to prevent the “superpow- ers” of the era—Britain and France— from taking steps that could tilt the balance of the war in favor of the South, without the North entering into an actual military conflict with either country. With the North flailing on the military front, both London and Paris quickly recognized the South as a lawful belligerent and seemed to be inclined toward granting outright diplomatic recognition. British Chancellor of the Exchequer William E. Gladstone even publicly stated in 1862 that “Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have [no doubt] made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they … have made a nation.” There was talk that a consortium of European nations would force the North to compromise and end the war. Lincoln and Seward knew that European intervention would likely be the death knell of the Union; they scrambled to head off that decision. This riveting book is at its best in describing how Lincoln and Seward worked together and with U.S. diplomatic mis- sions abroad to prevent various crises from degenerating into permanent rupture and war. It was a close-run thing: controversies such as the Trent Affair (the 1861 interception of a British ship carrying Confederate officials) and the building of ships meant for the South’s navy in foreign dockyards almost sparked conflict. Lincoln and Seward, however, were effective at making clear that the North had specific red lines that, if crossed, would lead to war. They routinely took the off-ramp, however, before tensions spilled over into conflict, actively engaging London and Paris in diplomatic exchanges that resolved each crisis. Charles Francis Adams Sr., the U.S. minister in London and scion of the illustrious Adams family, and U.S. Minister to France William L. Dayton ably implemented Lincoln and Seward’s policies. With Northern forces gaining ascendency on the battlefield (e.g., Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July BOOKS This riveting book is at its best in describing how Lincoln and Seward worked together and with U.S. diplomatic missions abroad to prevent various crises from degenerating into permanent rupture and war.