1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Slidell, John

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SLIDELL, JOHN (1793-1871), American political leader and diplomatist, was born in New York City in 1793. He graduated from Columbia College in 1810, engaged in business for a short time, then studied law, and became one of the leaders of the bar at New Orleans, Louisiana, where he settled permanently in 1825. He was a member of the national House of Representatives as a state's rights Democrat from 1843 to 1845, when he resigned and was sent by President Polk on a secret mission to Mexico, with power to adjust the difficulties growing out of the annexation of Texas to the United States, and to acquire by purchase both New Mexico (including the present Arizona,) and Upper California. He was not, however, received by the Mexican government. From 1853 to 1861 he was a representative of Louisiana in the United States Senate, and was an influential working member of important committees, though he seldom took part in debate. During this period he was intimately associated with James Buchanan, and is supposed to have had an important part in bringing about Buchanan's nomination for the presidency in 1856. When Louisiana seceded in 1861, Slidell withdrew from the Senate, and late in 1861 was sent by the Confederate Government as commissioner to France. With James M. Mason (q.v.), the Confederate commissioner to England, he was taken from the British steamer “Trent” by Captain Charles Wilkes of the United States navy, and was imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston harbour. In January 1862, at the demand of England, the Confederate commissioners were released, and Slidell proceeded to France. His mission there was to secure the recognition of the Confederate States; in this he was unsuccessful, but he was able to keep France sympathetic, and to help to secure supplies for the Confederate army and navy. After the war he remained abroad, settling in England, and his daughter married a French nobleman. He died in London on the 29th of July 1871.