Trent Affair

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Trent Affair,

incident in the diplomatic relations between the United States and Great Britain, which occurred during the American Civil War. On Nov. 8, 1861, the British mail packet Trent, carrying James M. MasonMason, James Murray,
1798–1871, U.S. Senator and Confederate diplomat, b. Georgetown, D.C.; grandson of George Mason. He began to practice law in Winchester, Va., in 1820.
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 and John SlidellSlidell, John
, 1793–1871, American political leader and diplomat, b. New York City. He became a prominent lawyer and political figure in New Orleans and served as a Democrat in Congress (1843–45). In 1845, Slidell was appointed special U.S.
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, Confederate commissioners to London and Paris respectively, was halted in the Bahama Channel by the U.S. warship San Jacinto, commanded by Capt. Charles WilkesWilkes, Charles,
1798–1877, American naval officer and explorer, b. New York City, educated by his father. In 1815 he entered the merchant service and received (1818) an appointment as a midshipman.
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. The commissioners and their secretaries were forcibly removed from the Trent and taken to Boston, where they were interned in Fort Warren. This act was strictly opposed to the laws of the sea as they had been previously upheld by the United States, since Wilkes did not seize the vessel and bring it in for admiralty adjudication but merely exercised search and seizure of the men. Nevertheless, Wilkes's action was greeted with wild acclaim and he was thanked by the U.S. House of Representatives. In Great Britain the act aroused popular indignation. The British drafted a sharp note to the U.S. government, the terms of which were softened by Prince Albert; they demanded the release of the commissioners and an explanation. A seven-day limit was set for reply. It seemed for a time that Great Britain would not only recognize the Confederacy but declare war against the Union. However, Lord Lyons, the British minister to the United States, delayed presentation of the note for several days, meanwhile notifying Secretary of State William H. Seward of its contents. The note was presented Dec. 23, 1861. By that time popular feeling in the United States had died down, and the prospect of war with Britain was anything but welcome. A cabinet meeting on Dec. 26 led to a decision to send to Britain a note by Seward disavowing Wilkes's act and promising to release the prisoners. They were released in Jan., 1862, and probable war with Great Britain was averted.
References in periodicals archive ?
The first war crisis came, however, over the Trent affair in late 1861.
Although her text offers few surprises about such well-studied topics as the Trent Affair, how the loss of Southern cotton affected British textile manufacturers and workers, and maneuvers relating to diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy, it excels at deft biographical portraits and inserts readers into the drawing rooms, governmental buildings and other sites of discussion, debate and policy-making.
Anglo-American cooperation in ending the slave trade in 1862, Myers suggests, stemmed from smoothing over the unfortunate edges of the Trent affair.
In spite of ill health, the Prince Consort was deeply concerned with the Trent Affair.
Dayton) proved skilled negotiators, played on European concerns, and recovered quickly from stumbles, notably the Trent affair.
Principal battles and campaigns: South Pacific and Antarctic scientific expeditions (1838-1842); Trent affair (1861).
One of the most dramatic of these is the little-known Trent Affair, that almost changed the course of the entire U.
Her analysis, though written in lively, accessible language, assumes significant knowledge on the reader's part; she had to economize on explaining Alexis de Tocqueville's 1830s critique of American culture, for example (as well as the Trent affair, the Paris Commune, and the politics of Benjamin Disraeli), so that she could give more space to Higginson's Civil War service, Curtis's denunciations of Thomas Carlyle's conservative spume, Lowell's advocacy of female suffrage, Norton's friendship with Leslie Stephen, the Morant Bay massacre, and all four liberals' camaraderie with prominent British reformers, particularly J.
Seward as secretary of state, the passage of a protective tariff, and anti-British newspaper editorials in the North following the Trent Affair dissipated sympathy for the Lincoln administration.
A chapter on the Trent Affair, primarily a diplomatic imbroglio, seems extraneous.
Lincoln's uneven performance during the Trent affair is omitted.