Great Britain and the American Civil War eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 825 pages of information about Great Britain and the American Civil War.
made both by the captain of the Trent and by Commander Williams, R.N., admiralty agent in charge of mails on board the ship[401].  The two envoys also declared that they would yield only to personal compulsion, whereupon hands were laid upon shoulders and coat collars, and, accepting this as the application of force, they were transferred to the San Jacinto’s boats.  The scene on the Trent, as described by all parties, both then and later, partakes of the nature of comic opera, yet was serious enough to the participants.  In fact, the envoys, especially Slidell, were exultant in the conviction that the action of Wilkes would inevitably result in the early realization of the object of their journey—­recognition of the South, at least by Great Britain[402].  Once on board the San Jacinto they were treated more like guests on a private yacht, having “seats at the captain’s table,” than as enemy prisoners on an American war-ship.

Captain Wilkes had acted without orders, and, indeed, even without any recent official information from Washington.  He was returning from a cruise off the African coast, and had reached St. Thomas on October 10.  A few days later, when off the south coat of Cuba, he had learned of the Confederate appointment of Mason and Slidell, and on the twenty-eighth, in Havana harbour, he heard that the Commissioners were to sail on the Trent.  At once he conceived the idea of intercepting the Trent, exercising the right of search, and seizing the envoys, in spite of the alleged objections of his executive officer, Lieutenant Fairfax.  The result was that quite without authority from the United States Navy Department, and solely upon his own responsibility, a challenge was addressed to Britain, the “mistress of the seas,” certain to be accepted by that nation as an insult to national prestige and national pride not quietly to be suffered.

The San Jacinto reached Fortress Monroe on the evening of November 15.  The next day the news was known, but since it was Saturday, few papers contained more than brief and inaccurate accounts and, there being then few Sunday papers, it was not until Monday, the eighteenth, that there broke out a widespread rejoicing and glorification in the Northern press[403].  America, for a few days, passed through a spasm of exultation hard to understand, even by those who felt it, once the first emotion had subsided.  This had various causes, but among them is evident a quite childish fear of the acuteness and abilities of Mason and Slidell.  Both men were indeed persons of distinction in the politics of the previous decades.  Mason had always been open in his expressed antipathy to the North, especially to New England, had long been a leader in Virginia, and at the time of the Southern secession, was a United States Senator from that State.  Slidell, a Northerner by birth, but early removed to Louisiana, had acquired fortune in business there,

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Great Britain and the American Civil War from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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