1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Trescot, William Henry

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TRESCOT, WILLIAM HENRY (1822–1898), American diplomatist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on the 10th of November 1822. He graduated at Charleston College in 1840, studied law at Harvard, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. In 1852–1854 he was secretary of the U.S. legation in London. In June 1860 he was appointed assistant secretary of state, and he was acting secretary of state in June-October, during General Lewis Cass's absence from Washington, and for a few days in December after Cass's resignation. His position was important, as the only South Carolinian holding anything like official rank, because of his intimacy with President Buchanan, and his close relations with the secession leaders in South Carolina. He opposed[1] the re-enforcement of Fort Sumter, used his influence to prevent any attack on the fort by South Carolina before the meeting of the state's convention called to consider the question of secession, and became the special agent of South Carolina in Washington after his resignation from the state department in December. He returned to Charleston in February 1861; was a member of the state legislature in 1862–1866, and served as colonel on the staff of General Roswell S. Ripley during the Civil War; and later returned to Washington. He was counsel for the United States before the Halifax Fishery Commission in 1877; was commissioner for the revision of the treaty with China in 1880; was minister to Chile in 1881–1882; in 1882 with General U.S. Grant negotiated a commercial treaty with Mexico; and in 1889–1890 was a delegate to the Pan-American Congress in Washington. He died at Pendleton, South Carolina, his country place, on the 4th of May 1898.

His writings include The Diplomacy of the Revolution (1852), An American View of the Eastern Question (1854) and The Diplomatic History of the Administrations of Washington and Adams (1857).

  1. His "Narrative. . .concerning the Negotiations between South Carolina and President Buchanan in December 1860," written in February 1861, edited by Gaillard Hunt, appeared in the American Historical Review, xiii. 528–556 (1908).