Monday, December 26, 2011

Trent Affair Resolved

William Seward, Secretary of State
Over a month ago a United States warship stopped a British vessel and forceably removed two Confederates, Mason and Slidell which were going to Europe as ambassadors, in violation of international law. The English were outraged when they heard the news, and it seemed if the United States did not release the two men, England would be willing to go to war to defend their honor. The Duchess of Argyll said the capture was “the maddest act that ever was done, and, unless the [United States] government intend to force us to war, utterly inconceivable." The United States ambassador in England wrote to Lincoln,
The passions of the country are up and a collision is inevitable if the Government of the United States should, before the news reaches the other side, have assumed the position of Captain Wilkes in a manner to preclude the possibility of explanation. … Ministers and people now fully believe it is the intention of the [U.S.] Government to drive them into hostilities.
The Confederacy's best chance for victory would be to have European nations as Allies, as the French helped the Americans during the War for Independence. But after several cabinet meetings, the United States finally unanimously decided to free the prisoners. The actions of Captain Wilkes, who had captured the prisoners, were disavowed and Mason and Slidell were released, 150 years ago today.


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