Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Trent Affair



This was an episode in the history of Anglo-American relations that threatened in 1861 to embroil Canada, as part of the British Empire , in war with the United States. On November 8, 1861, Captain Wilkes of the United States sloop Jacinto halted the British steamer Trent, plying between Vera Cruz and the Danish islands of St. Thomas, and removed from it two commissioners of the Southern Confederacy, James Murray Mason and John Slidell, who were on their way to Europe. The British government promptly protested against this flagrant breach of international law; and for a few weeks it looked as though the incident might lead to war. But in the end the United States government acceded to the British demands, and surrendered the two Confederate commissioners. The incident was influential in Canada in bringing about a reorganization of the Canadian militia, in hastening the construction of an intercolonial railway, and in aiding the movement toward British American union, or Confederation. See F. Landon, The Trent affair of 1861 (Can. hist. rev., 1922).


Source : W. Stewart WALLACE, "Trent Affair", in The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. VI, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., p. 172.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College