Sale 5127

Lot 3216

The Trent Affair - James Murray Mason and John Slidell, two photographic Cartes de Visite ca. 1870s by E. Anderson & Co. of New York from a Mathew Brady negative, Very Fine.
Suggested Bid $200

The Trent Affair was a diplomatic incident that occurred in November 1861 and threatened a war between the United States and the United Kingdom. The U.S.S. San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes intercepted the British mail packet R.M.S. Trent and illegally took into custody two Confederate diplomats that were aboard, James Murray Mason and John Slidell. Wilkes considered the two, who had been bound for Britain and France to press the Confederacy's case for diplomatic recognition and to lobby for possible financial and military support, to be contraband of war.

In the U.S., the public celebrated the capture and rallied against Britain, threatening war. In the Confederacy, the hope was that the incident would lead to a break in Anglo-American relations, possibly even war, or at least to diplomatic recognition by Britain. The British public disapproved of this violation of their neutral rights and insult to their national honor, while the British government demanded an apology and the release of the prisoners, taking steps to strengthen British military forces in Canada and the Atlantic.

President Lincoln and his advisors did not want to risk war with Britain and, after several tense weeks, the Lincoln administration disavowed Captain Wilkes's actions and released Mason and Slidell, who resumed their voyage to Britain but failed in achieving diplomatic recognition. No official apology was ever made.

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