News From The Past
This is how the Washington Star reported the "Trent Affair" in November-December 1861

The Washington Star
Washington, D.C., Saturday, November 16, 1861

The Particulars of Their Capture

       The United States steamer San Jacinto, cruising in the Babama channel on the 8th November, in the forenoon, overhauled the English mail steamer Trent, and placed her under her (the San Jacinto's) guns.
       Lieut. Fairfax was ordered on board the
Trent to ascertain if Messrs. Slidell, Mason, McFarland and Eustis were on board; with directions, in case he found them there, to cause them to be brought on board the San Jacinto.
       They were found there, and declined to go on board the U.S. steamer unless force was used; whereupon Lieut. Fairfax placed his hand on Mason's shoulder, and with other assistance, quietly took him to the Trent's gangway, and from thence into the
San Jacinto's boat.
       Mr. Slidell making a similar assertion of his purpose, was taken to the gangway and carried on to the
San Jacinto's boat in the same way.
       They were all well treated on Captain Wilkes' ship, which immediately started for the United States with her important prisoners, reaching Hampton Roads yesterday-Friday-morning.
       Capt. Wilkes sends to the Navy Department voluminous papers on the affair, including written statements concerning their capture, from all the male prisoners named above.


The Washington Star
Washington, D.C., Tuesday, November 19, 1861


       Since the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, many persons have been anxiously enquiring what will England do? What she will do is uncertain, but what she ought to to is very sure. The British Government should direct Lord Lyons to return the thanks of her Majesty to the United States Government for its forbearance in not having seized the Steamer Trent, brought her into port and confiscated ship and cargo for an open flagrant breach of international law in suffering the agents of enemies at war with the United States to come on board, and for carrying official papers and despatches of the enemies of the United States. By all writers and jurists the conveyance of hostile despatches is regarded as an illegal assistance afforded to a belligerent of the most injurious, hostile and noxious character.
       This principle has been enforced by the British Government for nearly a hundred years with inflexibility severity against every maritime power. Carrying the enemy's despatches has often been declared by that government as an act of the most noxious and hostile character. . . .
       By the British Queen's Proclamation, in May last, Government acknowledged the rebel States to be Belligerents, to wit, enemies of the United States Government, making war upon it. The hour that proclamation was made, British ships, by their own principles of international law were bound under penalty of seizure and confiscation to abstain from carrying despatches or doing any act that favored the Confederates, because in time of war such act would be noxious and hostile to this Government. But instead of observing such conduct, British vessels have become the daily vehicles of Confederate communication. It was time for an end to be put to his unneutral conduct. . . .


The Washington Star
Washington, D.C., Thursday, November 21, 1861

Latest News from the South.

NEW YORK, Nov. 20-A special dispatch to the Tribune, dated Fortress Monroe, yesterday, says that Lieut. Warden states that the intelligence of the arrest of Mason and Slidell had caused great excitement among the rebels at Norfolk, with some rejoicing at the prospect of retaliation by England.


The Washington Star
Washington, D.C., Monday, December 16, 1861

Highly Important from England.
Great Excitement over the Mason and Slidell Affair.
A Queen's Messenger Sent with Dispatches to Lord Lyons to Demand the Restoration of the Persons of the Southern Envoys Views of the British Press

HALIFAX, Dec. 15.-The Europa arrived here to-day from Liverpool, on the 30th ult., and Queenstown on the 2d inst., where she was detained until Monday, by order of the British government. She has the Queen's messenger on board, with dispatches for Lord Lyons.

LONDON, Dec. 1.-The Observer states that the government will demand from President Lincoln and his Cabinet the restoration of the persons of the Southern envoys to the British government.
       Yesterday afternoon after five o'clock her Majesty held a Privy Council at Windsor Castle. Three of her Majesty's ministers, including the First Lord of Admiralty and Secretary of State for War, traveled from London to Windsor by special train to be present. Previous to leaving town, the three ministers bad attended a Cabinet council at Lord Palmerston's official residence.
       The Observer says a special messenger of foreign affairs has been ordered to carry our demands to Lord Lyons, and will proceed by packet from Queenstown to-day. The public will be satisfied to know that these demands are for an apology, and to insist on a restitution to the protection of the British flag of those who were violently and illegally torn from that sacred asylum.
       The Observer adds: "There is no reason why they should not be restored to the quarter-deck of a British Admiral at New York, or Washington itself, in the face of ten or twelve men of war, whose presence in the Potomac would render the blustering Cabinet at Washington as helpless as the Trent was before the guns and cutlasses of the San Jacinto. It is no fault of ours if it should come even to this."
       Arrangements for increasing the force in Canada are not yet complete, but in a very few hours everything will be settled. In the meantime a large ship, the Melbourne, has been taken up and is now being loaded with Armstrong guns, some 80,000 Enfield rifles, ammunition and other stores at Woolwich. It is not impossible that this vessel will be escorted by one or two ships of war. The rifles are intended for the Canadian military, and strong reinforcements of field artillery will be dispatched forthwith.
London Times' City article of the 30th says: "The position of the Federal States of America is almost identical in every commercial point of view with that which was occupied towards us by Russia before the Crimean War. Russia had a hostile tariff while we looked to her for a large portion of our general supply of breadstuffs, but there is this peculiarity in our present case, that the commencement would be by breaking up the blockade of the Southern ports, at once set free our industry from the anxiety of a cotton famine, and send prosperity to Lancashire through the winter. At the same time we shall open our trade to eight million in the Confederate States who desire nothing better than to be our customers.
       "At a privy council on Saturday an order was issued prohibiting the export from the United Kingdom, or the carrying coastwise, of gunpowder, saltpetre, nitrate of soda and brimstone."
Times has no hope that the Federal government will comply with the demands of England. . . .
       It was regarded when the Europa left that there was a hopeful look, and consols and cotton (stocks) bad slightly improved but, after digesting the tone of the American press, a reaction set in, and fears were entertained that the Washington government would justify the act.
       The English journals were very bitter and hostile, continuing to treat the affair as an intolerable insult. . . .


The Washington Star
Washington, D.C., Thursday, December 19, 1861

Warlike Preparations
Troops Under Orders for Canada
Letter from Gen. Scott.

       By the steamship Jura, at Portland from Liverpool and Londonderry on the 6st inst. (whose arrival we announced yesterday), the following has been received:
       The excitement relative to the Trent affair continued abated (sic). The stock market was more heavy and unsettled than ever.
       The United States Consul at Paris had communicated to the French papers a letter from General Scott, in which he declared there is no truth in the report that the Cabinet had ordered a seizure of the Southern commissioners, even under the protection of a neutral flag. He was quite ignorant of the decision of his Government, but says it is necessary to preserve good relations between America and England; and England, he hopes, will agree on a solution of the question whether the prisoners were contraband or not. If they were agents of the rebels, be says it will be difficult to convince even impartial minds that they were less contraband of war than rebel soldiers or cannon. In conclusion, General Scott expresses his conviction that a war between America and England cannot take place without more serious provocation that at present given.
       The London Star thinks that Gen. Scott's letter will receive a hearty response in England as a message of peace.
Times says that Gen. Scott, like his countrymen, is rather inclined to disavow the conception of the outrage than to repudiate it, now that it has been done.
       It is reported that rebel and federal privateers are cruising at the entrance of the English channel.
       It is said that the Admiralty have ordered two ships to proceed immediately to the West Indies to act as convoy to mail steamers.


The Washington Star
Washington, D.C., Saturday, December 28, 1861

The Settlement of the Mason and Slidell Affair

       Subjoined will be found an abstract of the correspondence between the Governments of Great Britain and of the United States in relation to the question of international law raised by the proceeding of Capt. Wilkes; and of the representations made on the same subject by the Government of France, and the reply of Mr. Seward in answer to these representations.
       The correspondence opens with a communication from Mr. Seward to Mr. (Charles Francis) Adams, our Minister to England, under date of November 30, in which, after mentioning the Trent affair, he says:
       "It is to be met and disposed of by the two Governments, if possible, in the spirit to which I have adverted. Lord Lyons has prudently refrained from opening the subject to me, as I presume waiting instructions from home. We have done nothing on the subject to anticipate the discussion; and we have not furnished you with any explanations. We adhere to that course now, because we think it more prudent that the ground taken by the British Government should be first made known to us here; and that the discussion, if there must be one, shall be had here. It is proper, however, that you should know one fact in the case without indicating that we attach importance to it, namely, that in the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell on board a British vessel, Capt. Wilkes having acted without any instructions from the Government, the subject is therefore free from the embarrassment which might have resulted had the act been specially directed by us.
       "I trust that the British Government will consider the subject in a friendly temper, and it may expect the best disposition on the part of this Government."
       On the same day (Nov. 30), Earl Russell, Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, writes to Lord Lyons, reciting the circumstances under which be understood the capture of these parties to have been made, and proceeds to characterize it as an outrage on the British flag, and, after expressing the hope and belief that it had not been authorized by our Government, adds:
       "Her Majesty's Government, therefore, trust that when this matter shall have been brought under the consideration of the Government of the United States, that Government will, of its own accord, offer to the British Government such redress as alone could satisfy the British nation, namely: the liberation of the four gentlemen and their delivery to your lordship, in order that -they may again be placed under British protection, and a suitable apology for the aggression which has been committed. . .        Lord Lyons, in acknowledging (Dec. 27) the receipt of Mr. Seward's communication, says:
       "I will, without any loss of time, forward to Her Majesty's Government a copy of the important communication which you have made to me.
       "I will also without delay do myself the honor to confer with you personally on the arrangements to he made for delivering the four gentlemen to me, in order that they may again be placed under the protection of the British flag.
       "I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration, sir, your most obedient humble servant,

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