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p THE TRENT AFFAIR The Trent Affair In 1861 during the beginning of the American Civil War , an incident took place which , under normal circumstances , would have been a minor diplomatic and political occurrence between the United States and Great Britain . Because the incident , known as the "Trent Affair " took place during one of the most precarious and volatile periods in American history , the potential for international crisis and , in fact , world war loomed for several weeks while American and British diplomats worked to avert disaster "The Trent Afffair " concerned the American

naval interception of the British mail packet Trent by the American ship San Jacinto , commanded by Captain Wilkes . Because the Union had imposed a blockade on Confederate ports , the interception of the Trent was undertaken by the American cruiser under the auspices of the formal blockade . Aboard the Trent were two Confederate diplomats bound for England to work for the securing of British recognition of the Confederate nation . Due to the ensuing climate after the First Battle of Bull-Run which was viewed as an overwhelming military victory by the Confederacy , conditions were viewed as ripe for the earning of international recognition and perhaps even British intervention in the American Civil War which would decide a favorable outcome for the Confederacy "Trent Affair " 2007

Although the Trent was "a ship of a neutral nation , and it was plying a regular schedule between neutral ports " the American marines , under the command of "Lieutenant Fairfax[ .] proceeded forcibly to remove the Confederate diplomats , Mason , Slidell , and their secretaries (Rawley 1989 ,

. 79 ) from the British ship . Although Captain Wilkes was widely regarded by the Northern American population as having acted as a patriot , his actions "created an international affair , whose dimensions he did not foresee . The rash officer had brought the sorely beset Union to the brink of foreign war against the foremost naval power in the world (Rawley , 1989 ,

. 80 ) and the potential for disaster could not have been greater given the Union 's already tenuous showing militarily in the conflict with the South

Meanwhile , the diplomats and their secretaries were "taken to Boston where they were interned in Fort Warren . This act was strictly opposed to the laws of the sea as they had been previously upheld by the United States , since Wilkes did not seize the vessel and bring it in for admiralty adjudication but merely exercised search and seizure of the men "Trent Affair " 2007 ) and in fact , Wilkes failure to seize the British vessel was a violation of international law . Of course , the British responded in haste and with a touch of anger they "drafted a sharp note to the U .S . government[ .] they demanded the release of the commissioners and an explanation . A seven-day limit was set for reply "Trent Affair " 2007 . Such an outcome would have proven critical to the Union . Furthermore , Britain "decided to ostentatiously make war preparations and announced an embargo on exports of saltpetre , the main ingredient of gunpowder , to...

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