The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #122144 Message #2684033
Posted By: Ron Davies
20-Jul-09 - 03:59 PM
Thread Name: BS: British support for the confederacy?
Subject: RE: BS: British support for the confederacy?
"our own ineptitude..." in the "Trent" affair. Only the intervention of " Prince Albert's people...". That also appears to be an oversimplification of the crisis and its resolution.
Yes, Prince Albert toned down the first proposed British response.
But, as I understand it, Wilkes' action in taking the two Southern emissaries, Mason and Slidell, off the "Trent" was not sanctioned by the Lincoln administration, despite being rapturously received by the North at large--and even approved by Lincoln in the beginning. In fact Wilkes also had a personal grudge against Britain, since he felt Britons had been responsible for "stealing credit that was rightly his for his Antarctic expeditions" (A Great Civil War, by Russell Weigley, p 77).
Seward was thought to favor a war with Britain as a means of reuniting the US--and possibly even acquiring Canada. I've found contradictory reports on those stories. But he did eventually realize this idea was a disaster, and found a way to give back Slidell and Mason while not being seen as completely surrendering to Britain. Seward said that in "impressing passengers from a merchant vessel, Wilkes had followed a British, not an American line of conduct" ( Foote, p 162)--in fact the conduct which was one of the main issues leading to the War of 1812. Therefore the Southerners "will be cheerfully liberated".
Lincoln called it "a pretty bitter pill", but also agreed the North should only fight one war at a time".