[Footnote 395: Ashley, Palmerston, II, 218-19. On October 30, Russell wrote to Gladstone expressing himself as worried about cotton but stating that the North was about to try to take New Orleans and thus release cotton. (Gladstone Papers).]
[Footnote 396: Bancroft, Seward, II, p. 219. Bancroft cites also a letter from Seward to his wife showing that he appreciated thoroughly the probability of a foreign war if France should press on in the line taken.]
[Footnote 397: F.O., America, Vol. 773. No. 623. Confidential. Lyons to Russell, Nov. 4, 1861.]
[Footnote 398: Ibid., No. 634. Confidential. Lyons to Russell, Nov. 8, 1861. In truth Lyons felt something of that suspicion of France indicated by Cowley, and for both men these suspicions date from the moment when France seemed lukewarm in support of England in the matter of Bunch.]
The Trent affair seemed to Great Britain like the climax of American arrogance. The Confederate agents sent to Europe at the outbreak of the Civil War had accomplished little, and after seven months of waiting for a more favourable turn in foreign relations, President Davis determined to replace them by two “Special Commissioners of the Confederate States of America.” These were James M. Mason of Virginia, for Great Britain, and John Slidell of Louisiana, for France. Their appointment indicated that the South had at last awakened to the need of a serious foreign policy. It was publicly and widely commented on by the Southern press, thereby arousing an excited apprehension in the North, almost as if the mere sending of two new men with instructions to secure recognition abroad were tantamount to the actual accomplishment of their object.
Mason and Slidell succeeded in running the blockade at Charleston on the night of October 12, 1861, on the Confederate steamer Theodora, and arrived at New Providence, Nassau, on the fourteenth, thence proceeded by the same vessel to Cardenas, Cuba, and from that point journeyed overland to Havana, arriving October 22. In the party there were, besides the two envoys, their secretaries, McFarland and Eustis, and the family of Slidell. On November 7 they sailed for the Danish island of St. Thomas, expecting thence to take a British steamer for Southampton. The vessel on which they left Havana was the British contract mail-packet Trent, whose captain had full knowledge of the diplomatic character of his passengers. About noon on November 8 the Trent was stopped in the Bahama Channel by the United States sloop of war, San Jacinto, Captain Wilkes commanding, by a shot across the bows, and a boarding party took from the Trent Mason and Slidell with their secretaries, transferred them to the San Jacinto, and proceeded to an American port. Protest was