The New International Encyclopædia/Trent Affair, The
TRENT AFFAIR, The. A diplomatic episode growing out of the seizure by an American vessel on November 8, 1861, during the Civil War in America, of two Confederate commissioners on board a British mail steamer. In the autumn of 1861 the Confederate Government sent John Slidell and James M. Mason as commissioners to France and England respectively. They ran the blockade at Charleston and went to Havana, where they embarked for England on the British mail steamer Trent. On November 8th Capt. Charles Wilkes (q.v.) of the United States vessel San Jacinto stopped the Trent on the high seas, sent a searching party on board and arrested the commissioners, who were eventually placed in Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, as prisoners. This act was applauded by the people of the North, and by many of the political leaders, including the Secretary of the Navy; but President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward recognized the impropriety of the act and strongly disapproved it, and when a formal demand was made by the British Minister for the surrender of the commissioners it was speedily complied with and an apology tendered, on the ground that the commissioners had been forcibly taken from a neutral vessel on the high seas and in the prosecution of a voyage from one neutral point to another. Consult Harris, The Trent Affair (Indianapolis, 1896), which contains a bibliography.