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[376] not become known. But the object of their mission was to obtain a recognition of the Southern Confederacy as an independent State, if possible; or in any event, the recognition of the Southern States as belligerents. The Rebel ports being under strict blockade, they could cross the Atlantic only by reaching Havana, where, under a neutral flag, they might get conveyance to Europe. They took passage in the Trent, bound from Havana to St. Thomas, from which island a regular line of British steamers ran to England.

In Mr. Richard H. Dana's notes to Wheaton's Elements of International Law, he says of the envoys: ‘Their character and destination were well known to the agent and master of the Trent, as well as the great interest felt by the Rebels that they should, and by the United States officials that they should not, reach their destination in safety.’

As passengers, they were now on the high seas. Within a few hours' sail of Nassau, the Trent was stopped and searched by the United States war vessel San Facinto, commanded by Captain Wilkes, who, without instructions, and entirely on his own responsibility, seized the two commissioners and their secretaries, and returned with them as prisoners to the United States, while the Trent was left to proceed on her voyage.

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