The Trent Affair

Diplomatic Crisis

††††††††††† The diplomatic crisis that ensued after the stopping of the Trent and the seizure of the Southern diplomats was one of the greatest dilemmas in American history. Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of England, called an emergency meeting of parliament and began to take extreme measures. The following day Palmerston ordered the English ambassador to America, Lyons, to make three demands of the United States government that were to be met in seven days, if not he was to break off relations and return home to England. The demands were: reparations or a payment for the offense, the release of Slidell and Mason, and a formal apology. The English government then put itís navy on high alert and sent 11,000 soldiers to Canada, who left England with an excited crowd and a band that played "Dixie," which was basically the Southern anthem. To many, war seemed inevitable.

††††††††††† Interestingly, though, fate intervened for the Union. A cable that was laid in the 1850ís that enabled communications to flow from England to America did not work at the time. Americanís did not learn of the English response until a month after it was issued. The British, not wanting to possibly start a war before the Union had a chance to respond, waited for a response in case the Yankees had backed off. During this time emotions cooled and the Union diplomatic core had a chance to respond. Lincoln and Sumner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, scrambled to find a solution. Also, Prince Albert, who was deathly ill, came out of bed to sue for peace. He asked for a toning down of the demands. Prince Albert also died during the tense month of December and the nationwide mourning gave both sides more time to defuse the situation (Jones 198-199).


Chad Kinsella