American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

Seizure of Mason and Slidell

The president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was anxious to get letters to France and England, asking them for help. Of course, with the ports blockaded, it was almost impossible for any one to get away. But some way, two men, Mason and Slidell, did "run the blockade," went to Havana, and from there boarded an English vessel.

A Union sea-captain had heard of the departure of these two men, and, thinking they were up to mischief, watched them. When he found they had gone on board this English vessel, bound for England, he followed, came up with the English vessel, boarded her, and took Mason and Slidell prisoners as traitors to their country.

At first it seemed a very fortunate thing to have kept these two men from going to France and England with their letters asking for help; and the whole North was delighted. No one once thought that the English government had now a chance to say, "You have done to one of our vessels just what you waged war with us for doing in 1812. Have you forgotten that it was because of our taking men from your vessels that that war was brought about? Why can we not wage war upon you now for having done the same thing?"

No one thought of this; but England thought of it, and said it, too, very soon. She demanded, too, that the two men taken from her vessels be returned.

Some Northerners were at first inclined to stand by their deed; but there was an honest man at the head of the Government all this time, you know, and he said, "It does seem a pity to let these men go; but England is right, and it is our duty, not only to return the men, but to make an apology for taking them."

And when the people thought it over, they owned that England was right, and the two men were returned.

This was a good, honest, straightforward way to do, and I'm sure England and France both thought so, and respected the North for it. At any rate, the two men had no sort of success in either country, and the South was disappointed and disgusted with the whole affair.