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The Trent Affair

The Trent Affair


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The Trend Affair was the first major diplomatic crisis in the administration of Abraham Lincoln. On November 7, 1861, two Confederate commissioners, John Slidell and James M. Mason, set sail from Havana, Cuba, on the British mail steamer Trent, on their way to Britain and France on diplomatic missions. The following day, the USS San Jacinto stopped the Trent on the high seas. The jailing of these Southern representatives in Boston made Wilkes a hero in the eyes of many Northerners, but it sparked a serious strain on the relationship with the British.Under international conventions, the Trent and its passengers should have been brought into port where the matter would be adjudicated before an admiralty court.For a number of weeks there was loose talk of war on both sides. The Times of London led the agitation with strong language denouncing the insult which, in British eyes, clearly violated international law. Passions eventually cooled and on December 26, Charles Francis Adams, the United States ambassador to Britain, was able to announce that Mason and Slidell had been "cheerfully liberated."In fact, although popular in some circles, Captain Wilkes` actions had not been authorized and, in Adams` view, the conclusion of the affair was the correct one. "The extension of the rights of neutrals on the ocean and the protection of them against the arbitrary exercise of mere power," he wrote, "have been cardinal principles in the system of American statesmen ever since the foundation of the Government."


TRENT AFFAIR

The Trent affair, which occurred during the early years of the u.s. civil war, challenged the traditional concepts of freedom of the seas and the rights of neutrals and almost precipitated a war between the United States and Great Britain.

In 1861, the newly established Confederacy appointed two emissaries to represent its government overseas. James Murray Mason was assigned to London, England, and John Slidell was sent to Paris, France. The two envoys successfully made their way to Havana, Cuba, where they boarded an English ship, the Trent, which set sail on November 7. The next day, the San Jacinto, a Union warship under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, an officer in the U.S. Navy, intercepted the Trent. Wilkes acted upon his own authority and detained the English ship. He ordered a search of the Trent, and when the two Confederates were discovered, he ordered them to be transferred to the San Jacinto and transported to Fort Warren in Boston. The Trent was allowed to continue without further interference.

Although Wilkes was praised by Northerners and several members of the cabinet of President abraham lincoln for his action against the Confederacy, his disregard for their rights as a neutral power angered the English. Wilkes had

made the error of conducting the operation by himself rather than ordering the ship to port to undergo legal proceedings to determine if England had violated the rules of neutrality. Since Wilkes had not followed established legal procedure, he had no right to remove any cargo, human or otherwise, from another vessel.

English tempers flared and threats of war were issued. The English demands included a public apology and the release of the two Confederates. The English representative to the United States awaited orders to return to England if these demands were not met.

In England, however, news of the impending death of Prince Albert diverted attention from the Trent affair. When the English demands were received in the United States, Charles Francis Adams, U.S. diplomat to England, was ordered to explain to the English that Wilkes had acted of his own accord, without instructions from the government. In the meantime, Secretary of State William H. Seward studied the matter carefully he knew that Wilkes's conduct had not been correct. Seward was also aware that he had two choices: war with England or release of the incarcerated Confederates. In a communiqué to England, Seward admitted the mistake of Wilkes, reported the release of Mason and Slidell, and upheld the sanctity of freedom of the seas. War with England was averted, and navigation rights were maintained.


1860s

As the civil war begins tensions spread between the Union and Britain after certain events unfold in late 1861.

November

On the the 8th the USS San Jacinto intercepts the British mail packet Trent and also capture two Confederate diplomats who were trying to convince Europe to recognize the CSA. British and Union diplomats try to work out the problem before tensions spill into war. The Americans were happy of the capture but the Brits were furious. Negotiations went into the next month.

December

As the British built up their army and navy so did the Americans but they were all ready fighting. Men from both sides met to resolve the situation. As negotiations went on it was asked that Charles Wilkes, the captain of the San Jacinto, to release the diplomats, Mason and Slidell. He refused. Lincoln quickly sent a message saying he disapproved of the action and demanded they were released also. Britain though was growing impatient and poised to attack if necessary. Meanwhile France slowly found that the diplomats were also going to head to France. France was not as angered because they were not heading to France first. France though was not willing to jump into any war now but if it had to it would side with the Confederacy. Meanwhile the US was at work trying to prevent any war and was trying to convince France to join a war against Britain in case Britain sided with the Confederates. By the December 31 war was imminent as both sides prepared.

January

As tensions continue to rise the US needs to convince both sides to not join the civil war on the side of the CS but on January 14 and 15 the British and French join the war on the side of the CS. Since both are close to US borders especially France since they are the controllers of Mexican Emperor Maximilian 1 and the Mexicans aren't exactly allies of the US.

February-October

In February Grant captures two forts in Northern Tennessee and by April will head to Shiloh to fight a Joint force of British and Confederates. To the east British and French troops are landing in Virginia and other CS states. As they arrive naval battles spring up across the Union naval blockade and ships are being engaged that are heading toward New England but is actually to distract Union forces from learning of the Canadian-British force heading toward New England. Meanwhile McClellan is defeated outside of Richmond and quickly escapes Virginia before he suffers more losses. He receives re-inforcements soon but they won't be ready in time for the upcoming Battle of Washington. As more troops arrive from Europe across the CSA, French forces are slowly advancing into California and New Mexico Territory but with a Union Army that is causing problems for the French. In Shiloh the Confederates and their allies are winning the battle against Grant but he continues to fight as he believes he will win this battle. When the battle ends Grant is retreating with his army to Fort Henry and Donelson. By late April the CS and allies are in the streets of Washington battling McClellan and what is left of the Army of the Potomac. The government is already gone and is in Philadelphia waiting to hear the results of the battle. To the north the British have been spotted near Buffalo and the Union Army immediately has troops sent to engage but they are quickly seen running back to Buffalo as the British march toward the city with thousands of troops to the couple hundred that went to engage. By mid-May Grant's Army is obliterated at the forts and is forced to retreat to Cairo, Missouri. In the west everything stays the same as a stalemate becomes reality but in DC the CS and allies have taken the city and are marching toward a town called Antietam in Maryland. This time the Union swore it would be ready. Meanwhile, the Brits captured Buffalo and begin to head east toward Albany where they plan on steam rolling toward Philadelphia. One month later the Union is in dismay as the CSA and her allies have surrounded Philadelphia. The US government was unable to flee fast enough. What is left of the Army of the Potomac is now defending the capitol. The army is weak and fragile after the Battle of Antietam, which they lost, and if it loses the capitol again they will have to surrender. Meanwhile, the blockade is over as Union ships go down in flames and the British secure the sea. To the west, Grant's Army is defeated again and he flees to St. Louis. Other border states such as Missouri and Kentucky begin to see the CSA march into the rest of the Union. As the weeks go by the CSA and allies have taken Albany and marching farther into the border states while Philadelphia continues to starve. Lincoln and the government consider surrender as they are surrounded and are on their last bit of rations. On July 28 they learn of British landings on Long Island and they make a vow that if by August 10 the British aren't out of Long Island then they will surrender. 13 days later the British are 5 miles from New York City and the Union surrenders. All across the CSA church bells ring, fireworks go up in the sky and rifles are fired into the sky ceremoniously. All nations meet in Havana to discuss a peace treaty. The meetings are held from August 18 to August 25. The Treaty of Havana is made and it does many things that change the map:

  • The United States, France, Britain, and all other nations must recognize the Confederate States of America.
  • The borders of the CSA will include all states that seceded along with New Mexico Territory, Missouri, Indian Territory, and Kentucky.
  • And lastly the US can no longer invoke the Monroe Doctrine or intervene in Confederate or any European nations affairs anywhere in the world.(More info on treaty can be found in link above)

The treaty is signed into law by September 1 by all nations involved in the conflict (France, Britain, US, CS). The US now has lost a part of its nation but quickly uses political tactics to mess with the CSA.

October-December

The US quickly initiates its political tactics when they begin to pass amendments to its constitution that give equal rights and ban slavery. They are of course aimed to create slave rebellions in the south. The tactics don't really work at first but by late October the tactics are working as slaves rebel in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The Confederacy doesn't realize it at first but the US has instigated these rebellions to make the CSA look bad. Meanwhile in Europe, the British and French begin to get back to focusing on its colonies, internal affairs, and of course those in Europe. In the CSA the weakened army is trying to put down these rebellions but it is really tough since most of the army has bad supplies or are experiencing massive desertion. The US tactics are working well, for now. In Europe tensions are quickly building as the world faces possibly a war between France and Prussia over matters that may affect the world forever. As the year ends the new nation of the CSA is already experiencing problems from its ideologies and more are soon to come.

As the rebellions across the CSA are put down the USA, meanwhile, begins to rebuild its cities that were damaged in the war. They also begin to hire more European generals to help train their army while further modernizing in case another war with the CSA ever arises which more than likely. Though as the first Africans are freed, violence arises between whites and blacks. The CSA tries to quiet it down but it is failing to keep it from spreading around. In Europe France and Britain are beginning to resort to their old ways as they threaten each other and their alliance is over as quick as it started. The CSA finds itself further in a knot when Britain threatens to not trade with the CSA if they continue to trade with their enemies. The CSA is unsure of what to do. The USA, meanwhile, is trying to recover from the debt that has come from the war but is quickly finding ways to make the much needed money. Though their is a mostly equal society in the North the people have become more racist as they blame blacks for their sorrows but they are still accepted. Meanwhile, other nations are turning away from slavery including Brazil and others and those that use serfdom in case people began to get the idea of a new nation so they give them there freedom but it does not guarantee equal treatment. These events will affect world events for decades as slavery dies away and freedom spreads around the world. The events become known as "The Second Shot Heard Around the World" since it affected the world greatly.

Though the freedom has spread equality is still not widespread. In the South rebellions continue and slaves are suddenly hastily freed as the deadline is shortened to 1880. In Europe the Poles begin to get noticed as their rebellion against Russia becomes a revolution as support among Europe rises for the Poles. Meanwhile, Spain tries and fails to capture old colonies. To the south a war erupts in South America pitting Paraguay against Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. The CS of course has ambitions to one day control much of the land to its south so it decides to intervene on behalf of Brazil and her allies. The US can do nothing so they sit and watch as a war erupts to the south. The US decides to initiate a rebellion in Canada to make the CSA look bad as they seem to be the cause of all this rebellion and war. In June the Poles have taken strongholds of the Russian Army in Poland. Soon much of old Poland and Lithuania are secured as the Polish Rebellion becomes the Polish Revolution. Prussia and Britain begin to secretly supply the Polish with much needed supplies as the Russians continue to lose battle after battle.


The Trent Affair

The Trent Affair in 1861 brought England and the Union to the brink of war, which was averted by the return of the Confederate envoys who had been seized by the Union navy from the British vessel Trent.

The generation of southerners who formed the Confederate States of America were slow to appreciate the daunting task of war against a United States superior in so many critical areas—better equipped, organized, experienced, funded, and with substantial resources both human and material. Although the pride of the South clouded the realities of northern advantage, Confederate leadership acknowledged the necessity of courting Europeans, in particular Britain and France. By the close of summer 1861, the Jefferson Davis administration—resulting in part from the confidence growing from Confederate battlefield victories and in part from the frustrations of early attempts at diplomacy—prepared to dispatch two commissioners of adequate stature to head official Confederate legations in London and Paris on the occasion of the anticipated recognition of Confederate independence by both Britain and France. [1]

The two envoys selected were national figures with extensive resumes, much of which was cause for alarm to northerners. James Murray Mason of Virginia served in the United States Senate during the tumultuous decade leading to secession and, in fact, pressed his states’ rights agenda toward separation from the Union as far back as his opposition to the Compromise of 1850 and his authorship of the Fugitive Slave Law. Northerners were equally familiar with John Slidell of Louisiana who was sent as President James Knox Polk’s special envoy to Mexico City in 1845 in a failed attempt to prevent war. Like Mason, Slidell also served in the Senate in the 1850s where he too established himself as a southern anti-Union extremist. Described by many as having the acumen of a riverboat gambler, his appointment joined that of Mason to raise concern among northerners who were reeling from months of failed attempts to force the South into compliance and who feared that the Confederate mission would coincide with a growing sense in London and Paris of the inevitability of a severed Union. [2] Adding to the angst was the knowledge that the South had armed its diplomats with King Cotton. European appetite for the fragile fiber could quite possibly provide the last bit of incentive to enable the Confederate States of America to satisfy the commissioner’s primary objective: a “place [among nations] as a free and independent people.” [3]

On October 12, 1861 Mason and Slidell, along with their secretaries and Slidell’s family, successfully slipped through the Union blockade out of Charleston on the CSS Theodora. A few days later they arrived in Cardenas, Cuba where they arranged passage for the first week of November to Saint Thomas on board the British mail steamer RMS Trent. From Saint Thomas they planned to book passage to Southampton, England. [4] As the Confederate entourage awaited the leg of their journey from Cuba to the Danish West Indies, Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto arrived in the area, redeployed from the African coast to assist in a Union assault on Port Royal, South Carolina. Although his orders directed him to the southern coast, when he put in at Havana he learned of the plans of the southern commissioners and, as was his practice, ignored his orders and made plans to capture the Confederate trophies, Mason and Slidell. [5]

Despite finding no legal precedent in international law to remove Mason and Slidell from a neutral ship, Wilkes, on November 7, laid off the coast of Cuba in the Bahamas Channel awaiting the appearance of the Trent. In a novel reading of maritime jurisprudence, Wilkes planned to designate the envoys “the embodiment of dispatches,” making them legitimate targets for capture. [6] On November 8 at around midday Wilkes sighted the Trent and ordered one warning shot followed by a second shot across the bow. With this the Trent hove to. Wilkes directed his executive officer, Lieutenant Donald McNeill Fairfax, to board the British vessel with armed marines. Although he was instructed to seize the envoys and their secretaries, their diplomatic pouches, and declare the ship a prize to be taken to a prize court for adjudication, Fairfax came away only with the commissioners and their secretaries. Token resistance and the clever calculation of Mason at first sighting of the San Jacinto to have a Royal Naval officer take his and Slidell’s papers and secure them prevented Fairfax from capturing the diplomatic pouches. The lieutenant further violated his orders and released the ship, contending that it would be an unneeded burden and worse, might provoke war with Britain. Ironically, Fairfax’s determination to allow the Trent to continue on its voyage would soon escalate the crisis and contribute to talk of war. [7]

In mid-November Wilkes took his captives to Boston where they joined other Confederate prisoners at Fort Warren. The telegraph wires that had so far only carried dire news for the Union quickly circulated word of the capture of Mason and Slidell. Reaction across the North was universally positive. Finally, after seven months of failure, a Union victory of sorts led the headlines. One Boston reporter published his poem in the Daily Evening Transcript blustering about how Wilkes had refused to “wait, to study up Vattel and Wheaton” (international law authorities), but instead had boldly “bagged his game, and left the act for dull diplomacy to treat on.” [8] Meanwhile, American officials began to consider the legality of the incident and generally proclaimed the action justified. Wilkes was the hero of the hour, winning accolades from local leaders, special recognition from Congress and praise from the Lincoln administration. This was all, however, before news of the incident arrived in London. It was, perhaps, the good fortune of both London and Washington that the new transatlantic cable was down and news once again was relegated to transatlantic transfer by mail steamer. The delay in transmission of news and messages would prove critical to preventing this incident from exploding into a potential Anglo-American conflict. [9]

On November 25, reports of the incident arrived in Britain with a ship carrying an officer of the Trent and the Slidell family. [10] Two days later the London press recounted the affair. Confederate envoys still in place from the early days of the war exhibited excitement rivaling that of northerners at this turn of events and cynically filed a complaint with Lord Russell at the Foreign Office, highlighting their contention that Wilkes’s action had been a flagrant violation of British neutrality. The exuberance of the southerners was matched by that of the U.S. legation in London when the staff there received the report. Only Minister Charles Francis Adams’s assistant, Benjamin Moran, and the minister’s son Henry among those in the legation office seemed to appreciate the serious ramifications of this affront to the Crown. [11] When the minister himself received the news later in the day he feared the worst, and began preparing for a breach between Washington and London. Adams would maintain this attitude as a firestorm blew around him from an outraged British press and people over the next few weeks. Adams’s stress was compounded by the dearth of instructions from Secretary of State William Henry Seward that left the minister twisting in the wind until mid-December. Adams could “infer nothing, assume nothing, imagine nothing.” [12]

Meanwhile, on November 28 an outraged Prime Minister Lord Palmerston called his cabinet together with the stern “I don’t know whether you are going to stand this, but I’ll be damned if I do!” War Secretary George Cornwall Lewis felt war was inevitable. The Foreign Office sent word to Paris that the American insult was a clear provocation likely to cause war. On November 29 Palmerston outlined to Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell his requirements for a peaceful resolution—a formal apology and the release of the envoys. Failing to secure these requirements, the British minister in Washington, Lord Richard Lyons, would be directed to collect his papers and withdraw, thus breaking relations with Washington. This would be Palmerston’s ultimatum to Lincoln. [13]

Palmerston’s ire derived from more than a slight to British national honor it rested on Wilkes’s violation of international law, ironically, law that established the same rights of neutrals that the United States had championed since the early days of the republic. The Crown’s law officers were consulted and concluded that Wilkes had violated the law of nations by failing to take what was legitimately a prize—the papers and the ship. [14] When the captain of the Trent resisted a proper search and did not offer up the Confederate papers, he technically forfeited neutrality and made the ship a legitimate prize to be seized and taken to port for adjudication. Wilkes’s lieutenant, however, failed to exploit the mistake of the Trent captain and simply boarded the Trent and seized the Confederate entourage. By this action, Fairfax had appointed himself a virtual prize court and made an illicit ruling. Even astute Americans knew and lamented privately that Wilkes’s maneuver would not stand scrutiny. In London, Henry Adams could not believe the wrong-headed attitude reflected in the celebration of Wilkes in America. Minister Adams complained that Wilkes’s action had been based on the flawed assumption that the commissioners represented a “recognized” government, when, in fact, they were no more than “private gentlemen of distinction” traveling under a neutral flag between neutral ports. [15] Wilkes had clearly violated British neutrality, and the insistence by northerners on lauding his action for twisting the British lion’s tail raised a specter of Anglo-American war. The threat was only magnified by the established hawkish sentiments of Seward who had repeatedly made provocative gestures over the last several months. [16]

On November 30 two drafts of instructions to Lyons were reviewed by the cabinet and forwarded later that evening to the Queen, proposing that she “demand reparation and redress.” Prince Albert, from what would soon become his death bed, responded for the Queen. Albert feared that the language of the ultimatum would make it impossible for Lincoln to comply and so edited the missive to include the hope that Wilkes had acted on his own or that he had “misapprehended” his orders. And, while stressing that the Crown would not tolerate an insult to the flag or disruption of the mail, he remained confident that the matter could be settled peacefully with “the restoration of the unfortunate passengers and a suitable apology.” Prince Albert’s intervention would prove critical to providing the Lincoln administration a face-saving extrication from the crisis. [17]

The dispatch incorporating Albert’s recommendations left London for New York on the first of December and crossed on its journey incoming reports from The Times correspondent in America, William Russell, and dispatches from Lord Lyons, each recounting the jubilant reaction to the affair in the United States. [18] Lyons saw little indication that Americans appreciated the serious implications of the incident on Anglo-American relations and, in fact, thought it completely within character for Seward to have authorized Wilkes provocative action. Seward had established a pattern of belligerent rhetoric that climaxed in the midst of the Trent crisis when he blustered at a dinner party in the presence of William Russell that the United States would “wrap the whole world in flames.” [19] Russell’s first report of the Trent incident was published on 4 December and alerted readers in a follow up a few days later that the “violence of spirit among the lower orders of the [American] people,” would make it impossible for Lincoln to yield to a compromise. [20] Lord Lyons’s initial dispatch on the incident arrived at the Foreign Office in concert with Russell’s assessment and echoed the sentiment that the American people were pleased to have taken a poke at John Bull. The excessive glee from the United States now filling the London papers raised the prospects of Seward’s rhetoric becoming reality. British subjects were stirred to contribute to the flames of war. Henry Adams was beside himself to understand the reckless attitude exhibited by his countrymen: “How in the name of all that’s conceivable could you suppose that England would sit quiet under such an insult. We should have jumped out of our boots at such a one.” Even when word finally arrived at the American legation in London in mid-December that Wilkes’s action had not been authorized, Charles Adams feared the die was already cast for war. [21]

Adams was well aware of the military preparations initiated by the Crown in response to the Trent crisis. The preparations during December started slowly with the impressment of the less-than-seaworthy screw steamer Melbourne to supply Montreal but, by mid-December, included the deployment of over 11,000 men to Canada. And to see that the meaning of the troop movement was not missed by the United States, the American consul in Liverpool was invited with his staff to watch troops file onto eighteen transports to Canada. Adding a note of audacity, the movements were on occasion accompanied by the royal marine band striking up “Dixieland” or “I’m Off to Charleston.” Likewise, in Canada, anxious residents demonstrated their agitation over Mason and Slidell and the prospects of war by hoisting pints as musicians sounded “Dixie” in local taverns. [22]

Meanwhile, the directive to Lyons arrived in Washington and provided the minister considerable latitude in its time and method of delivery—a clear signal that, despite the public bellicosity, London hoped to avert war. The dispatch included two private letters, each intended to soften the ultimatum. In the first, Lyons was directed to meet with Seward informally to assess Seward’s disposition before delivering the Crown’s demands thus, tacitly extending the ultimatum timeline. The second letter deferred to Lyons’s discretion the approach and tone of delivery of the message to Seward. Russell also gave Lyons considerable leeway in determining if and when the Crown’s demands were adequately satisfied. Within this flexibility, however, Lyons clearly understood that the basic requirements were release of the Confederate commissioners and an appropriate apology within seven days of the formal delivery of the ultimatum. [23]

As Lyons had awaited instructions, several factors combined to reduce British war fever. On December 14 Prince Albert died. The death of the Queen’s consort diverted all public attention to the issue of mourning and limited the ink remaining for agitation over Mason and Slidell. [24] Three days after Albert’s death Adams received his long-awaited dispatch from Seward stating that, indeed, Wilkes had acted on his own and that the Crown should anticipate an acceptable resolution. [25] Also, there was a growing appreciation for the weakness in Canadian defenses reflected in news that several important military installations had been converted into reformatories and asylums. Finally, any British talk of war had to factor in a potential French reaction. Neither Palmerston nor the Queen trusted Napoleon to control his Machiavellian nature. If Britain became distracted by a war with the United States the emperor would be tempted to pursue some grand adventure at odds with British interests. [26]

With war talk waning in London, it devolved to Lyons and Seward to see to a remedy in Washington. On December 19 Lyons approached Seward informally with the Crown’s demands and volunteered to Seward that he would expect a response within seven days of the official delivery of Russell’s message. Lyons attempted to make the formal delivery on the December 21, but Seward requested an additional delay. By the time Lyons made the official transmission (starting the seven-day clock) on December 23, he had noted a new sense of optimism reflected in a change of attitude as Seward “does not like the look of the spirit he has called up.” [27] Reason had overtaken the secretary of state and convinced him along with most US citizens that war with Britain would doom the Union to fracture and ensure the permanence of the Confederate States of America. Mason and Slidell had gone from trophies to millstones. [28] Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Charles Sumner, who had advocated submitting the issue to arbitration, laid out for Lincoln the likely outcome of a war with Britain. These included immediate recognition of the Confederacy by London followed soon after by Paris and de facto southern independence the end of the blockade and loss of the fleet the installation of a British blockade of the U.S. coast from Virginia to New England and commercial exploitation by the British of a new American trade dependency. [29] Sumner joined a cabinet meeting on Christmas to consider Seward’s reply to Lyons and to pass words to the cabinet from prominent British leaders advocating peace. The following day the cabinet reconvened and, after four hours, supported Seward’s recommendation that Mason and Slidell be released. Most of the cabinet offered support, but Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase was unenthusiastic, considering it all “gall and wormwood.” Seward stayed on after the meeting to inquire why the president had not offered, as Seward had anticipated, an opposing view. Lincoln conceded that he had been unable to “make an argument that would satisfy” his own mind and Seward’s position, thus, must be “the right one.” [30]

The cabinet assigned Seward the task of constructing language that met the demands of the ultimatum without being seen as yielding to the pressure of the ultimatum. In this effort he first devalued Mason and Slidell, suggesting that their continued retention was of little importance. He then stated that Wilkes had acted correctly in stopping the Trent for a proper search as a neutral engaged in transport of contraband, but had erred by not seizing the ship as a prize under international law. Mason and Slidell would thus be released with reparations. No formal apology, however, would be issued. Seward then proceeded to reach for high ground, stating that the United States as champion of the rights of neutrals would grant to Britain the same protections that Americans had historically insisted upon. In this he, according to Gordon Warren, produced “a monument to illogic,” conflating impressment into naval service with the arrest of the Confederate envoys. [31] Also, Seward included a caveat in his response that went overlooked. If Mason and Slidell had held any importance to the security of the Union, the United States would have been within its rights to continue to hold them. In other words, Seward gave them up not strictly on admission that Britain was correct in its legal position, but because the commissioners were of no consequence to the security of the nation. [32]

On the day after Christmas Seward informed Lyons that the commissioners and their secretaries would be surrendered. On January 1 they were released and transferred to the British warship Rinaldo. Their transatlantic voyage, however, was interrupted once again. This time a winter storm caused the ship to reroute to Saint Thomas, ironically, their original destination. From there they finally managed a successful voyage to Britain, arriving in London at the end of January. [33] By that time, the crisis had dissipated. Lyons’s dispatch with Seward’s concession had been announced to cheering crowds in London theaters in the second week of January. To the chagrin of southerners, Anglo-American peace seemed assured. Also disappointing to Confederates was the cool reception of Mason and Slidell by British officials. In fact, the London papers disparaged the commissioners as holding no more value that two of their own slaves and expressed irritation at their role in the crisis. So, what had started as a victory for Confederate diplomacy turned, by most estimates, into an abject failure. Confederate observers in Europe noted that the peaceful resolution of the incident had strengthened the Palmerston government and bolstered British neutrality in the conflict. Hopes that agitation over the Trent would join King Cotton to deliver British intervention were greatly diminished as the Civil War entered its second year. One of the first biographies of Jefferson Davis described the end of the Trent affair as “one of the first of numerous disappointments…in the hope, so universally indulged, of foreign intervention.” [34]

  • [1] Howard Jones, Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 16-20 Evidence of early ineffective Confederate diplomacy is plentiful. For example, Lord Russell virtually shut down the first mission with an emphatic refusal to entertain Confederate overtures and a clear message that neutrality would be the Crown’s policy. See Russell to Yancey, Rost, and Mann, August 24, 1861, United States Navy Department, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1894-1927), Series I, volume 3, p. 248 (hereafter cited as O.R.N., I, 3, 248). Russell to Yancey, Rost, and Mann, August 7, 1861, in Yancey, Rost, and Mann to Toombs, August 7, 1861, Ibid., I, 3, 237 Russell to Yancey, Rost, and Mann, August 24, 1861, Ibid., I, 3, 248 See also, Gordon H. Warren, Fountain of Discontent: The Trent Affair and Freedom of the Seas (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1981), 2-3.
  • [2] The U.S. correspondent for the London Times, William H Russell, published a letter in the Times on December 10, 1861 describing Slidell as a “’wire-puller—a man who unseen moves the puppets on the pubic stage…who loves the excitement of combinations,…and who in his dungeon… would rather conspire with the mice against the cat sooner than not conspire at all.” Quoted in Charles Francis Adams, The Trent Affair: An Historical Retrospect (Boston: 1912), 8.
  • [3] Hunter to Mason and Slidell, Sept 23, 1861, O.R.N., II., 3,257-73 Frank L. Owsley, Jr., King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America 2009 ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1931) Jones, Blue and Gray, 84.
  • [4] Mason to Hunter, October 9, 1861, O.R.N.,II, 3, 280.
  • [5] For Wilkes’s insubordinate reputation see William Jeffres, “The Civil War Career of Charles Wilkes,” in Journal of Southern History (August, 1945): 324-48 and John Sherman Long, “Glory-Hunting off Havana: Wilkes and the Trent Affair,” in Civil War History 9 (June 1963): 133-44 Norman Ferris, The Trent Affair: A Diplomatic Crisis (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976), 24 Wilkes to Welles, November 15, 1861, O.R.N.,I, 1, 131 Howard P. Nash, Jr., A Naval History of the Civil War (South Brunswick and New York: A.S. Barnes, 1972), 57.
  • [6] Wilkes to Welles, November 16, 1861, O.R.N., I, 1, 144.
  • [7] Ferris, Trent Affair, 24 Warren, Fountain, 16-23 Wilkes instructions to Fairfax, November, 8, 1861, O.R.N., I, 1, 131-32 Report of Fairfax to Wilkes, November 12, 1861, Ibid., 133.
  • [8] For the flavor of the northern excitement see Warren, Fountain, 26-30.
  • [9] Jones, Blue and Gray, 92 Warren, Fountain, 28.
  • [10] Dean B. Mahin, One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War (Washington D.C.: Brassey’s, 1999), 66.
  • [11] Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961), 119 Sarah A .Wallace and Frances E. Gillespie, eds., The Journal of Benjamin Moran, 1857-1865, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949) II:912-14 Warren, Fountain, 103.
  • [12] Frank J. Merli, Great Britain and the Confederate Navy, 1861-1865, 2004 ed. (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1970), 80.
  • [13] Lewis to Palmerston, November 27, 1861, Palmerston Papers, Historical Manuscripts Commissions (HMC), Chancery Lane, London Hammond to Cowly, December 2, 1861, Cowly Papers, British National Archives (PRO) FO 519/190, Kew Gardens Merli, Great Britain, 79 Warren, Fountain, 109 Palmerston to Queen Victoria, November 29, 1861, in Arthur Christopher Benson, and Viscount Esher, eds., Letters of Queen Victoria, 3 vols, (London: John Murray, 1907) 3:469 Palmerston to Russell, November 29, 1861, Russell Papers, PRO 30/22/21(PRO) Jones, Blue and Gray, 95.
  • [14] For a discussion of the views of the Crown’s law officers see Alice O’Rourke, “The Law Officers of the Crown and the Trent Affair,” Mid-America 54 (July 1972): 157-71 Adams offers an interesting reflection on the conflict amongst the law officers concerning the actual basis of British objections and, in fact, on at least one take were in agreement with Senator Sumner’s brother’s contention that Wilkes had acted in keeping with “English principles” and “English practices.” See Adams, Education, 22-26.
  • [15] Ibid., 12.
  • [16] Jones, Blue and Gray, 96 Ferris, Trent Affair, 58 Warren, Fountain, 64-69 A number of Lyons’s dispatches demonstrated his concern over Seward’s posture. Lyons to Russell, May 6, 1861, FO 5/763 (PRO) Lyons to Russell, May 6, 1861, PRO 30/22/35 (PRO) Lyons to Russell, May 20, 1861, FO 5/764 (PRO).
  • [17] Ferris, Trent Affair, 51-262 Queen Victoria to Russell, December 1, 1861, Russell Papers, PRO 30/22/21 Russell to Lyons, November 30, 1861, FO 5/758 Jones, Blue and Gray, 98 Mahin, One War, 68 For a discussion of Albert’s role and its support from the Times see Norman B. Ferris, “The Prince Consort, The Times, and the Trent Affair,” Civil War History 6 (June 1960): 152-6.
  • [18] Ibid., 69.
  • [19] W.H. Russell, My Diary North and South (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1863), 331 Warren, Fountain, 174-5 Jones, Blue and Gray, 102.
  • [20] The Times, December 4 and 10, 1861.
  • [21] Lyons to Russell, November 19, 1861, FO 115/258 (PRO) Seward to Charles Francis Adams, November 27, 1861, vol 18, Diplomatic Instructions, Great Britain, National Archives (DINA) For Adams’s despair that continued after Seward’s disclaimer see Charles Francis Adams to Charles Francis Adams, Jr., December 20, 1861, in Worthington C Ford, ed., A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861-1865, 2 vols., (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1930) 1:88-9 See also Jones, 102-3.
  • [22] For British movements toward a war footing and Canadian security see Kenneth Bourne, “British Preparations for War with the North, 1861-62,” English Historical Review 76 (October 1961):600-32 Warren, Fountain, 120-41.
  • [23] Russell to Lyons, November 30, 1861, O.R.N., I, 1,156-60 Lyons to Russell, December, 19, 1861, FO5/777 (PRO) Merli, Great Britain, 81 Warren, Fountain 177.
  • [24] Merli, Great Britain, 83.
  • [25] Seward to Adams, November 27, 1861, DINA, vol. 18 Warren, Fountain, 164.
  • [26] Victoria to Russell, October 28, 1860, Russell Papers, PRO, 30/22/14 (PRO) Palmerston to Russell, December 30, 1861, Cowley Papers, FO 519/199 (PRO) Merli, Great Britain, 82 Jones, Blue and Gray, 100-1 For an exhaustive treatment of the French posture toward the American Civil War see Lynn M. Case and Warren F. Spencer, The United States and France: Civil War Diplomacy. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970).
  • [27] Lyons to Russell, December 23, 1861, FO5/177 (PRO) Jones, Blue andGray, 104-5 Warren, Fountain, 177.
  • [28] Merli, Great Britain 83 Chase quotation in Ibid., 79.
  • [29] For Sumner’s caution see Warren, Fountain, 178 Mahin, One War, 77.
  • [30] Warren, Fountain, 182-3 For a discussion of Sumner’s position on the crisis see Victor H. Cohen, “Charles Sumner and the Trent Affair.” Journal of Southern History 22 (May 1956): 205-19.
  • [31] Warren, Fountain, 184.
  • [32] Seward to Lyons, December 26, 1861, O.R.N., I, 1,177-87 Warren, Fountain 183-4 Jones, Blue and Gray,106-08.
  • [33] Mahin, One War, 80 Warren, Fountain, 211-12.
  • [34] Warren, Fountain, 212-13 Russell to Lyons, January, 10, 1862, O.R.N., I, 1,:189 Jones, Blue and Gray, 110-11 Times, January 9,10,11, 1862 Ferris, Trent Affair, 191 Quotation of Frank H. Alfriend in Mahin, One War, 82.

If you can read only one book:

Ferris, Norman. The Trent Affair: A Diplomatic Crisis. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.


The Trent Affair: When the United States and Great Britain Nearly Went to War

When a Union warship stopped a British mail steamer during the Civil War, it touched off an international incident.

In November 1861, word swept through London that an American warship, James Adger, in port at Southampton, was planning to put to sea and intercept a British ship bringing Confederate emissaries to Europe. As a result, the American minister to Great Britain found himself summoned to see the British prime minister at his residence at 94 Piccadilly. Charles Francis Adams made his way through the yellow gloom of a London fog and found Lord Palmerston waiting for him in the library. Palmerston immediately complained to Adams that Adger’s captain and crew, while “enjoying the hospitality of this country, filling his ship with coals and other supplies, and filling his own stomach with brandy should, within sight of the shore, commit an act which would be felt as offensive to the national flag.”

Earlier in the year, President Abraham Lincoln had proclaimed a blockade of Southern ports, after which Great Britain and France commenced a policy of neutrality that carried with it the rights of belligerent action by the Confederacy. It was the only important concession made to the Confederate states by European powers during the war. The Confederate commissioners in Britain at that time were a poor lot, while the United States foreign minister, Adams, the son of former President John Quincy Adams, was a skilled diplomat who had been urged by Secretary of State William H. Seward to be bold in asserting American rights.

Confederate diplomacy in Europe was more complacent, based on a belief in the economic power of “King Cotton” upon which British and French mills were dependent. Confederate President Jefferson Davis subscribed to this view. Prior to the war, England and Europe had imported nearly 85 percent of their cotton from the South. Nearly one-fifth of the British population earned its livelihood from the cotton industry, while one-tenth of Britain’s capital was invested in cotton as well. However, there was no official Confederate policy to produce a phony cotton famine in Europe or rush cotton abroad to fill the coffers of the South. It would be a short war, in Davis’s view. If it lasted longer, a concomitant cotton famine would inevitably bring Great Britain into the war to safeguard her economic interests and rescue the South.

Mason and Slidell: The Confederacy’s European Diplomats

William L. Yancey had resigned as Confederate envoy to Britain. In his place, Davis assigned a pair of trusted political cronies to represent Southern interests in London and Paris. James M. Mason, Yancey’s replacement, was a strange choice in the view of well-connected political wife Mary Boykin Chesnut, who wrote in her diary: “My wildest imagination will not picture Mr. Mason as a diplomat. He will say ‘chaw’ for ‘chew’ and he will call himself ‘Jeems’ and he will wear a dress coat to breakfast. Over here whatever a Mason does is right. He is above the law.” His Paris-based associate John Slidell was a better choice. Slidell was a skilled politician and sophisticated New Yorker who had married a French-speaking Creole and moved to New Orleans.

In October, Mason and Slidell were in Charleston waiting to run the blockade aboard CSS Nashville, a fast steamer heading directly for England. However, Nashville had a deep draft and could only use one of Charleston’s channels, which were heavily guarded by Union warships. The diplomats booked passage on Gordon, a ship chartered for $10,000 by George Trenholm, who ran a cotton brokerage, finance, and shipping firm, with offices in Liverpool. The Fraser, Trenholm Company did much of the banking for the Confederacy in Great Britain. The shallow-draft Gordon, renamed Theodora to confuse Union blockaders, could use any channel she left Charleston at 1 am on October 12 and easily evaded the blockade. “Here we are,” Mason wrote gleefully, “on the deep blue sea, clear of all the Yankees. We ran the blockade in splendid style.”

Two days later the diplomats arrived in Nassau but missed their connection with a British steamer. They turned for Cuba, hoping to find a British mail ship bound for England. Arriving in Cuba on October 15, they found that British mail ships did dock at Havana but that they would have to wait three weeks for the next ship, RMS Trent.

The Union’s Hunt For the Diplomats

Union intelligence sources thought Mason and Slidell had escaped aboard Nashville. Thus the U.S. Navy dispatched James Adger, commanded by John B. Marchand, with orders to intercept Nashville. On October 3 the Union steam frigate San Jacinto, commanded by 62-year-old Captain Charles D. Wilkes, arrived at St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies. He was hunting the Confederate raider CSS Sumter.

Wilkes, a gifted astronomer, had experienced many ups and downs in his naval career. Early on, he had won accolades for his voyages of discovery to Antarctica and the Fiji Islands. But repeated displays of bad temper and insubordination had landed him in hot water with his superiors, and Wilkes had been shunted aside to a minor bureaucratic desk in Washington before receiving orders to take command of the steam warship San Jacinto on patrol off the coast of West Africa. He was directed to sail the ship home for refitting. Characteristically disobeying orders, Wilkes determined instead to prowl the West Indies for Rebel shipping.

In Cienfuegos, on the southern coast of Cuba, Wilkes learned from a newspaper that Mason and Slidell were in Havana waiting to take passage on Trent, sailing first for St. Thomas and then on to England. Wilkes knew that Trent would have to use the Bahama Channel between Cuba and the Great Bahama Bank. He thought over the legal implications of trying to remove the Confederate envoys from the British vessel, asking the opinion of his executive officer, Lieutenant D.M. Fairfax. He decided that Mason and Slidell could be considered “contraband” and legally seized.

Boarding the RMS Trent

Trent left Havana on November 7 with Mason and Slidell on board Slidell was accompanied by his wife and children. Diplomatic secretaries James E. Macfarland and George Eustis were also part of the official company. Passing through the Bahama Channel they found San Jacinto waiting. The Federal ship spotted Trent about noon on November 8 the mail ship was flying the Union Jack. Wilkes ordered a shot fired across Trent’s bow. It was ignored. A second shot landed close to the bow. Trent hove to. Wilkes gave detailed instructions to Fairfax. “Should Mister Mason, Mister Slidell, Mister Eustis and Mister Macfarland be on board,” he said, “make them prisoners and send them on board this ship immediately and take possession [of the Trent] as a prize.” Fairfax was also instructed to seize any dispatches and official correspondence he might find.

Armed with cutlasses and pistols, Fairfax and a boarding party of 20 men approached Trent in two cutters. Fairfax boarded alone, not wishing to enflame the situation, but found Captain James Moir furious that his ship had been stopped at sea. Fairfax told him his orders, Moir refused to cooperate, and Fairfax soon found himself surrounded and threatened by passengers and crew. He had little choice but to order the armed party in the waiting boats to join him. Once again Moir refused permission for the boarding party to search the ship. Mason and Slidell came forward willingly, and Fairfax backed down, belatedly realizing that such a search would constitute a de facto seizing of the ship—a clear act of war.

Mason and Slidell formally refused to go with Fairfax but did not resist when led to the boats. Wilkes had hoped to find important documents in the captured men’s luggage but found nothing. All their dispatches had been taken in hand by Trent’s mail agent, Richard Williams, who promised to deliver them to Confederate authorities in London. In the meantime, Slidell’s furious wife and daughters heaped verbal abuse on the Union sailors, even after Fairfax grabbed one of the daughters and saved her from falling overboard after a sudden wave.

Mixed Reactions in the North About the Capture

Wilkes was still keen to seize Trent, but Fairfax talked him out of it. A prize crew would be needed, he warned, and the inconvenience to Trent’s other passengers and mail recipients was unacceptable. Wilkes reluctantly agreed, and Trent was allowed to proceed on her way. Meanwhile, San Jacinto reached Hampton Roads on November 15 for coaling, and Wilkes was able to contact Washington. He was ordered on to Boston, where his captives were imprisoned in Fort Warren. A congratulatory telegram was waiting for Wilkes from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. “Your conduct in seizing these public enemies was marked by intelligence, ability, decision, and firmness, and has the emphatic approval of this Department,” Welles informed him.

Others in the North likewise praised Wilkes and his crew. Congress thanked him for his “brave, adroit and patriotic conduct in the arrest of the traitors” and had a gold medal struck for him. He was the toast of Boston and celebrated throughout the country as a hero of the republic. The New York Times stoked the patriotic fervor. “We do not believe the American heart ever thrilled with more genuine delight than it did yesterday, at the intelligence of the capture of Messrs. Slidell and Mason,” the newspaper reported. To a Northern public conditioned to believe that Great Britain was decidedly pro-Confederate, the Trent affair seemed like a perfect way to put the haughty Britons in their place.


Trent Affair: 1861-1862

The Trent Affair was the diplomatic crisis that potentially brought Great Britain and the United States closest to war during the first year of the American Civil War. Although war seemed possible, both sides managed to avoid an armed conflict, and in the process gained greater confidence in one another.

Seeking international support against the North, Confederate President Jefferson Davis sent diplomats James Mason of Virginia as minister to Britain, and John Slidell of Louisiana as minister to France. Eluding the Union blockade, the Southerners reached Cuba, where they boarded a British mail steamer, the Trent, for passage across the Atlantic Ocean. On November 8, 1861, Captain Wilkes, of the USS San Jacinto , halted the Trent 300 miles east of Havana with two shots across the bow. A boarding party from the San Jacinto seized the Confederate diplomats and their secretaries, but then allowed the Trent to resume its voyage. This decision became a source of controversy with the British, many claiming that the San Jacinto had violated international law by removing persons from a ship without taking the ship to a prize court for adjudication.


Trent Affair - International Reaction:

Though Wilkes was feted and initially praised by leaders in Washington, some questioned the legality of his actions. Welles was pleased with the capture, but expressed concern that Trent was not brought to a prize court. As November passed, many in the North began to realize that Wilkes' actions may have been excessive and lacked legal precedent. Others commented that Mason and Slidell's removal was similar to the impressment practiced by the Royal Navy which had contributed to War of 1812. As a result, public opinion began to swing towards releasing the men in order to avoid trouble with Britain.

News of the Trent Affair reached London on November 27 and immediately incited public outrage. Angered, the government of Lord Palmerston viewed the incident as a violation of maritime law. As a possible war loomed between the United States and Britain, Adams and Secretary of State William Seward worked with Russell to diffuse the crisis with the former clearly stating that Wilkes acted without orders. Demanding the release of the Confederate commissioners and an apology, the British began reinforcing their military position in Canada.

Meeting with his cabinet on December 25, President Abraham Lincoln listened as Seward outlined a possible solution which would appease the British but also preserve support at home. Seward stated that while stopping Trent had been consistent with international law, the failure to take it port was a severe error on the part of Wilkes. As such, the Confederates should be released “to do to the British nation just what we have always insisted all nations ought to do to us.” This position was accepted by Lincoln and two days later was presented to the British ambassador, Lord Lyons. Though Seward's statement offered no apology, it was viewed favorably in London and the crisis passed.


Trent Affair

The Trent affair, which occurred during the early years of the U.S. CIVIL WAR, challenged the traditional concepts of freedom of the seas and the rights of neutrals and almost precipitated a war between the United States and Great Britain.

In 1861, the newly established Confederacy appointed two emissaries to represent its government overseas. James Murray Mason was assigned to London, England, and John Slidell was sent to Paris, France. The two envoys successfully made their way to Havana, Cuba, where they boarded an English ship, the Trent, which set sail on November 7. The next day, the San Jacinto, a Union warship under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, an officer in the U.S. Navy, intercepted the Trent. Wilkes acted upon his own authority and detained the English ship. He ordered a search of the Trent, and when the two Confederates were discovered, he ordered them to be transferred to the San Jacinto and transported to Fort Warren in Boston. The Trent was allowed to continue without further interference.

Although Wilkes was praised by Northerners and several members of the cabinet of President ABRAHAM LINCOLN for his action against the Confederacy, his disregard for their rights as a neutral power angered the English. Wilkes had

J.M. Mason, a confederate emissary bound for London, is removed from the Trent, an English vessel. Mason and John Slidell, another confederate emissary, were removed to the U.S. warship San Jacinto in November 1861 and taken to Fort Warren in Boston.
BETTMANN/CORBIS

made the error of conducting the operation by himself rather than ordering the ship to port to undergo legal proceedings to determine if England had violated the rules of neutrality. Since Wilkes had not followed established legal procedure, he had no right to remove any cargo, human or otherwise, from another vessel.

English tempers flared and threats of war were issued. The English demands included a public apology and the release of the two Confederates. The English representative to the United States awaited orders to return to England if these demands were not met.

In England, however, news of the impending death of Prince Albert diverted attention from the Trent affair. When the English demands were received in the United States, Charles Francis Adams, U.S. diplomat to England, was ordered to explain to the English that Wilkes had acted of his own accord, without instructions from the government. In the meantime, Secretary of State William H. Seward studied the matter carefully he knew that Wilkes's conduct had not been correct. Seward was also aware that he had two choices: war with England or release of the incarcerated Confederates. In a communiqué to England, Seward admitted the mistake of Wilkes, reported the release of Mason and Slidell, and upheld the sanctity of freedom of the seas. War with England was averted, and navigation rights were maintained.


Woodrow Wilson: President Woodrow Wilson And World War I

Zimmerman promised to help Mexico regain lost territory that the United States took away (all of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico). Unfortunately for Zimmerman, the British intercepted the message and decoded it. Then the British eagerly delivered it to President Wilson. To persuade Congress to give him the power to wage an undeclared naval war and protect American merchant ships against German submarines, Wilson published the Zimmerman note. A wave of anger swept through the United States and the Armed Ship bill was passed.


The Trent Affair

In 1861, the USS San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British mail packet, RMS Trent, and captured two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell. The incident was a diplomatic incident of the first order.

United States Naval Officer, Penny Illustrated News, 16 Nov. 1861, p. 85

At the outbreak of the Civil War, and lacking an industrial base, the Confederate government quickly identified the need to win material and diplomatic support from Britain and France.

In November 1861, the British mail packet RMS Trent, carrying the Confederate commissioners James M. Mason and John Slidell to London and Paris, was intercepted in the international waters of the Bahamas Canal by the US warship San Jacinto. Acting without official instructions, her commander, Captain Charles Wilkes, forcibly removed the commissioners and the secretaries, interning them at Fort Warren in Boston, and receiving wild acclaim in the North. The seizure of the men contravened earlier understandings of the laws of the sea Wilkes counted the men as enemy contraband, designating them 'embodied dispatches'.

Britain drafted a sharp response, which although softened somewhat by Prince Albert, demanded the release of the men within seven days, otherwise war would be declared and the Confederacy diplomatically recognised. Lord Palmerston convened a special cabinet committee to prepare for war, ordering reinforcements to Canada and to the British Navy in North American waters, and ceased the sale of saltpeter (vital for gunpowder) to foreign nations. The newspapers were full of talk of war.


Watch the video: Trent Affair. Wikipedia audio article (May 2022).