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1861. Sir:--We desire to communicate to you by this memorandum the facts attending our arrest yesterday on board the British mail steamer Trent, by your order. and our transfer to this ship. We, the undersigned, embarked at Havana on the 7th inst. as passengers on board the Trent, Captain Moir, bound to the Island of St. Thomas, in one of the regular passenger lines of the British Royal Mail Steamship Company, running from Vera Cruz, via Havana, to St. Thomas, and thence to Southampton, epresentative of the said company; Mr. Slidell being accompanied by his family, consisting of his wife, four children and a servant, and Mr. Eustis by his wife and servants. The Trent left Havana about 8 o'clock, a. m., on the morning of the 7th inst., and pursued her voyage uninterruptedly until intercepted by the United States steamer San Jacinto, under your command, on the following day (the 8th) in the manner now to be related: When the San Jacinto was first observed, several miles di
The Trent was one of a line of British steamers which ran regularly between Vera Cruz and Havana, thence to St. Thomas, and from there to England. The company had a contract with the British Government to carry the mails, and its steamers had ample accommodations for the passenger travel between England and the West Indies. The Trent left the port of Havana on the morning of the 7th of November, under the command of Captain Moir. Nothing of interest occurred until about noon of the 8th, when, in the narrow passage of the Old Bahama Channel, opposite the Panador Grande light, from the Trent was seen a steamer ahead, apparently waiting and showing no colors. The Trent at this time was on her legitimate voyage; she had touched at no port in the Southern Confederacy, and had held no communication with vessels coming from or going to the insurrectionary States; neither was she bound herself to any Southern port, but was pursuing the route usually traveled by the company's mai
November 7th (search for this): chapter 7
England and France; the other two were Messrs. Eustis and McFarland, attaches to the commissioners. The Trent was one of a line of British steamers which ran regularly between Vera Cruz and Havana, thence to St. Thomas, and from there to England. The company had a contract with the British Government to carry the mails, and its steamers had ample accommodations for the passenger travel between England and the West Indies. The Trent left the port of Havana on the morning of the 7th of November, under the command of Captain Moir. Nothing of interest occurred until about noon of the 8th, when, in the narrow passage of the Old Bahama Channel, opposite the Panador Grande light, from the Trent was seen a steamer ahead, apparently waiting and showing no colors. The Trent at this time was on her legitimate voyage; she had touched at no port in the Southern Confederacy, and had held no communication with vessels coming from or going to the insurrectionary States; neither was sh
December 10th (search for this): chapter 7
rsons seized were contraband, the vessel knowingly carrying them as passengers was contraband also, and should have been taken into a United States port and the case tried before an Admiralty Court; which would most likely have decided in favor of the Trent and awarded damages. This course would have saved the United States the humiliation of making a forced apology. England was not the only nation that took exceptions to the seizure of the persons of Mason and Slidell, for, on the 10th December, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in France wrote to the representative of that court at Washington: The arrest had produced in France, if not the same emotion as in England, at least extreme astonishmient and sensation. Public sentiment was at once engrossed with the unlawfulness and consequence of such an act. The desire to contribute to prevent a conflict perhaps imminent between two powers for which the French Government is associated by sentiments equally friendly, and the du
does honor to the British nation, and is one that her descendants in America have cherished since 1812, when the United States went to war with England, determined to resist the right of search which elves; and when in like cases on the part of England we had placed her in the wrong in the war of 1812, and retaliated on her so severely that she was glad to invoke peace. In the mean time Messrs.ought up against us in the Trent case, and it was shown that our statesmen in their arguments, in 1812, had specified the only classes that could be lawfully stopped in transit, namely, persons appare same special Pleading practiced by Great Britain in regard to the right of searching neutrals in 1812. Our statesmen in 1861 tried to prove that the two Commissioners, Messrs. Mason and Slidell, werin a condition to embark. The President did not want to go back on the principles for which the United States had so strongly contended in 1812; and he was right, as all unprejudiced minds must see.
show them that if we want to hold any prestige amongst foreign powers, we must have a naval force adequate not only to protect our own coast but to carry war into the enemy's country. We are more deficient to-day in naval ships, than we were in 1861. If called upon to-morrow to redress an insult, we would be no better prepared to do it than we were at the time when the English threatened us with her army and navy for pursuing a course which is common enough in English practice. When it su in the naval or military service of an enemy. We had no answer to make to our own arguments, and had almost to resort to the same special Pleading practiced by Great Britain in regard to the right of searching neutrals in 1812. Our statesmen in 1861 tried to prove that the two Commissioners, Messrs. Mason and Slidell, were far more dangerous to the United States, if let loose in Europe to work against us, than a dozen military men would be; and it was considered absurd to contend for the priv
November 8th, 1861 AD (search for this): chapter 7
ly held this feeling in check until a favorable opportunity should occur, when, with some show of reason, it could assume an offensive attitude. With such opinions existing it would have been wiser for our Government in its then weak condition to have avoided anything that could in any way be considered unjustifiable, and to have endeavored as much as possible to prevent collisions of any kind with foreign powers, unless it was positively clear that we were in the right. On the 8th of November, 1861, an event occurred which created the wildest excitement throughout all parts of the United States and Great Britain; in fact, all Europe looked on with anxiety, anticipating a war between England and the Northern States of the Union. This excitement grew out of the arrest of the British mail steamer Trent on the high seas, by Captain Charles Wilkes, of the Captain Charles Wilkes. United States frigate San Jacinto, and taking from her four male passengers who claimed the protectio
November 9th, 1861 AD (search for this): chapter 7
st the seizure of their persons, and laid it before Captain Wilkes, not with the expectation that it would have any effect on their detainer, but it would add to the effect of what they considered their false imprisonment, and create an extra amount of sympathy for them throughout Europe. The following is a pretty fair statement of the Commissioners, and as it is a part of the history of the times at a very important point, it is herewith inserted: U. S. Ship San Jacinto, At Sea, Nov. 9, 1861. Sir:--We desire to communicate to you by this memorandum the facts attending our arrest yesterday on board the British mail steamer Trent, by your order. and our transfer to this ship. We, the undersigned, embarked at Havana on the 7th inst. as passengers on board the Trent, Captain Moir, bound to the Island of St. Thomas, in one of the regular passenger lines of the British Royal Mail Steamship Company, running from Vera Cruz, via Havana, to St. Thomas, and thence to Southampton,
November 30th, 1861 AD (search for this): chapter 7
e believe that England did not sympathize with the South, and that, while she was full of friendly professions towards the North, she was not ready at the first opportunity to throw her weight in the scale against us. Navy Department, November 30, 1861 Sir:I congratulate you on your safe arrival, and especially do I congratulate you on the great public service you have rendered the Union in the capture of the rebel commissioners. Messrs. Mason and Slidell have been conspicuous in theasier for the United States to have anticipated at once the action of the British government; but diplomatists have their methods, and they sometimes lead nations to the verge of war rather than admit a defect in their system. On the 30th of November, 1861, Mr. Seward wrote to Mr. Adams, our minister to England, informing him that Captain Wilkes had boarded a British colonial mail steamer and taken from her deck two insurgents, who were proceeding to England and France on an errand of treas
at a time when it would have been ruin to us for three years at least: for it would have taken us that length of time to prepare for a definite resistance against England, which we were quite capable of making at the close of the war, when we were launching our invulnerable iron-clads as fast as our machine shops and ship-yards could turn them out. It is not improbable that neither France nor England would have taken so fierce a stand if the Trent affair had happened in the latter part of 1864. Whatever may have been Mr. Seward's opinions on the subject of the Trent matter, and though he made a faint attempt at making an argument, yet, with that astuteness that characterized him in all his foreign intercourse during the war, he thought it better to conform principles which had always governed this nation, Wand avoid a foreign war in addition to what we already had on our hands. An attempt was made to show that Mr Seward had pursued a timid policy in opposition to the broad pr
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