American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...
. On November 8, 1861, the USS San Jacinto
USS San Jacinto (1850)
The first USS San Jacinto was an early screw frigate in the United States Navy during the mid-19th century. She was named for the San Jacinto River, site of the Battle of San Jacinto during the Texas Revolution. She is perhaps best known for her role in the Trent Affair of 1861.San Jacinto was laid...
, commanded by Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...
Captain Charles Wilkes
Charles Wilkes was an American naval officer and explorer. He led the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 and commanded the ship in the Trent Affair during the American Civil War...
, intercepted the British mail packet
A "packet ship" was originally a vessel employed to carry post office mail packets to and from British embassies, colonies and outposts. In sea transport, a packet service is a regular, scheduled service, carrying freight and passengers...
RMS Trent was a British Royal Mail paddle steamer built in 1841 by William Pitcher of Northfleet for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She measured 1,856 gross tons and could carry 60 passengers....
and removed, as contraband of war, two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell
John Slidell was an American politician, lawyer and businessman. A native of New York, Slidell moved to Louisiana as a young man and became a staunch defender of southern rights as a U.S. Representative and Senator...
. The envoys were bound for Great Britain
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition
Diplomatic recognition in international law is a unilateral political act with domestic and international legal consequences, whereby a state acknowledges an act or status of another state or government in control of a state...
The initial reaction in the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
was to rally against Britain, threatening war; but President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...
and his top advisors did not want to risk war.