Trent Affair Facts

Trent Affair Facts
In the early stages of the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America tried desperately to attain official recognition from other nation-states, particularly in Europe. Confederate leaders hoped that by being recognized by one or more nation-states diplomatic pressure would be placed on the United States to end the war in a way that gave the Confederacy independence. The Confederates also hoped that official recognition of the CSA could lead to an alliance, or in the very least a favorable trade deal. Since the Confederate states had such a low industrial output compared to the north, some Confederate leaders believed that they could trade southern cotton for European arms. But no alliance or trade deal could be made if diplomats were not first exchanged, which is what led to the Trent Affair. On November 8, 1861, the Union frigate the USS San Jacinto intercepted a British freighter and captured two Confederate diplomats who were headed to Britain - James Murray Mason and John Slidell. After weeks of being held captive, Slidell and Mason were eventually released and allowed to continue their journey to Europe, but no foreign power ever recognized the CSA.
Interesting Trent Affair Facts:
The United States Secretary of State, William H. Seward, through his ambassadors, made it clear to Britain and the other European powers that the American Civil War was an insurrection and any recognition of the CSA would be met with repercussions.
The Confederacy opened informal negotiations with British Foreign Secretary John Russell in the spring of 1861.
Mason and Slidell secretly left from the blockaded Charleston on October 12 and headed south to Havana, Cuba where they then boarded the British ship the RMS Trent.
Mason was to got to London, while Slidell was ordered to Paris to argue the Confederate cause.
The captain of the San Jacinto was Charles Wilkes.
Prior the Trent Affair, Wilkes violated British neutrality by blockading Bermuda.
The Trent left Cuba on November 7, but was captured by the San Jacinto the next day in the Bahamas.
Wilkes violated international law by failing to bring the Trent into port to be examined before a neutral court.
Public reaction in the northern states to the capture of the Trent was immediately positive, but the stock market went into a sharp decline over fears of war with Great Britain. There was also a run on the banks.
Most of the Union Army's saltpeter, which is the principal ingredient of gunpowder, was acquired from India, which was a British colony, further complicating the matter.
The British public were angered by Wilkes' actions, but leaders in England indicated that they would be open to a deal.
During a Christmas Day meeting, Lincoln and his cabinet decided that they had to let Slidell and Mason go.
President Lincoln never issued a formal apology over the affair.
Slidell spent his later years in France and England while Mason lived in Canada before dying in his native Virginia.


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