Letter #17 – SEPTEMBER 1864  


Caricatures of main characters in the Trent Affair. 1862

America surrenders the great commissioners - England surrenders her pretensions - Jeff Davis surrenders his great expectations

(From L to R) John Russell was Englandís Foreign secretary with the English lion Mason and Sidell, the two confederate's two commissioners were taken (Illegally) from the British mail ship The Trent.. William Seward was US Secretary of State with the American eagle Jefferson Davis was (of course) President of the Confederates

The Confederate Steam Ship Tallahassee

This is the British built ship that is referred to in the letter that caused so much damage off of the coast of Delaware



Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013648221


Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSS_Tallahassee

Here Thomas Jackson hurls his anger and disappointment at the aristocracy and leaders of England whom he accuses (correctly as we now know) of not staying neutral regarding the American Civil War. England had reneged and was secretly supporting the confederacy.

He holds nothing back as he assails the British for their immoral and devious behaviors. This attitude lead to America's famous "Alabama Claims". (See TJ letter 25, 1872)

The fact that TJ specifically requested (in other letters) that his cousin, Caleb Slater, get his letters published in England suggests that he totally distrusted the English leaders and wanted to gain support for Lincoln and the movement to abolish slavery as opposed to supporting the Confederates.


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The crowned heads and aristocracy of Europe have never been really friendly to the United States of America. They have always looked at us with a jealous eye and a contemptuous scornful sneer.

The superior intelligence, the far more comfortable condition of our people, our great increase in population, the rapid strides we have made in the wealth and power, and our unprecedented prosperity in the last 50 years, as a self-governing people under simple republican institutions, has been a continual condemnation of their favorite systems of privileged classes, hereditary legislators, royal rulers, costly governments, immense standing armies and downtrodden masses.

They foresaw that the uninterrupted progress of the great american republic in such a grand career of greatness would make it such a mighty nation that its example, and its potent influence, must be felt by all the civilized nations of the earth. They knew that a full knowledge of the United States and its superior advantages under free government and equal laws could not be kept back, and they knew also that their own people would be making comparisons and demanding reform after reform, change upon change, that must ultimately fritter away their own aristocratic distinctions, and dwindle them down into the ranks of the people.

And no matter how much the masses were elevated by wise changes, no matter how many fold their comforts and general happiness were increased, no matter how well the people were educated, or how well behaved, no matter how worthy or how capable of dignified social and intellectual intercourse, your Royal Dukes, your proud peers, your noble lords, your entailed Esquires your prim sprigs of primogeniture of all ranks have a most holy horror of themselves and their "Families" being swallowed up in the common stream of population.

Consequently when our slaveholding aristocracy rebelled against the great life giving principle of republicanism, free sufferage, and seemed able to overthrow our government: divide and subdivide us, destroy our example, and make our free institutions a miserable failure; they had the warm glad sympathy of your ruling classes and their hangers on in Europe

Your government gave them belligerent rights immediately, man-stealing slaveholders though they were. Your rich men built them war steamers, and your authorities winked when they went to sea to burn our ships and destroy our prosperous commerce.

Your freedom hating aristocracy wished to see us crippled in every possible way. Mean[?] mushroom royalty in Europe espied the oportunity, and set about pulling down a neighboring American republic to build up monarchy on its ruins while legitimacy looked on and supplied the transatlantic throne with a prince of pure blood for its occupant.

The privileged wealthy classes and moneyed men of Europe have helped our villianous rebels with hundreds of millions and vast quantities of war material. They are helping them still and mean them to succeed in splitting up the great Republic if peaceful aid can enable them do it. The governments of Great Brittian & France would have acknowledged the independence of the "Confederacy" before now and forcibly intervened to establish it if it would not have been

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founding a new nation in the middle of the nineteenth century entirely upon the infamous institution of human slavery. This they knew the masses of their people would never assent to, Especially after our president issued his emancipation proclamation, giving liberty to millions of slaves. But from the hungery avidity with which the British government seized the Affair of the Steamer Trent and the hot haste with which they hurried on preperations for war" , it is plain that they are all the while longing for the pretext to push their people into a war they think must be fatal to our republic.

Your British Tories have never forgiven the Revolution of 1776 which gavefreedom a refuge and a home in America at the expense of their empire. They have longed for revenge ever since and now after waiting so long, they think the time to strike must surely be come when we have such a terrible quarrel among ourselves. All they want is a pretext (they have the oportunity) to break with us,take sides with our rebels, and get your people to back up their intervention policy.

Well Genl. G.B McClellan is the out and outspoken proslavery candidate of our negro hating, slavery loving free state "copperheads".

If by the vengence of a just God; whom we have so long offended by our want of the true love of liberty; he should be inflicted upon us as president, his most infamous policy will be this. He will be for reestablishing slavery in all the slave states and in the district of Columbia (Washington city.) Giving the slaveholder the right to take his slaves into all the territories and everywhere else within the United States. He will be for reenacting the odiously infamous fugitive slave law and returning all slaves made free by the war back to their cruel masters.

This is the openly declared policy of him & his party. Well, I know that every friend of the north, out of the United States, is an antislavery man. An "Abolitionist". I know that if we of the north now elect a thurough proslavery president and return to our cowardly, mean, dastardly, infamous subserviency to human slavery, we shall not have a friend left in christendom, not a friend left in the world.

I know you antislavery men of Britian, will brand us as crazy fools, unprincipled knaves who deserve to be kicked out of all honest society. Mean dastard spaniels whom the brave gentleman slave driver will have a perfect right to lash to the full of his own good pleasure. I know you will consider us beneath your pitty, below your contempt and entirely unworthy any further consideration if we should elect a man-stealing president north, a fit compeer for Jeff Davis south. |

You, the people of Europe, will throw up your hands and be done defending us entirely. You must give us up for ever. Well the ruling classes of Europe, who are our bitter enemies and the warm friends of our deadly foes, will be free from all further restraint and at full liberty to aid

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the infamous confedercy very far more than they have done already. Sooner than the Confederacy shall fail they will surely drag you into a war against us whether you are willing or not, because they have now a double motive for desiring the destruction of our government and nationality.

Remember all the aid the British enemies of freedom have given our demoniac insurgents has been silently, often openly, encouraged by your legally constituted authorities.

Blockade running from & to British ports to supply our enemies with British cannon, British powder, British bomb shells, British balls. British muskets and British Bayonets seems to have been looked upon as a legitimate British business ever since this war against our government began.

Your government has allowed war vessel after war vessel to be built in British ports, armed with British guns, supplied with British ammunition and stores, man'd by British seamen, coaled with British coal and then sent out to play the pirate and plunder, burn and destroy the unarmed merchant ships of a friendly power you professed to be at peace with.

When one of these villianous vessels was expelled from a French port and forced to come out and fight one of our war vessels of equal strength, she was man'd by seamen from your royal navy because they were believed to be the best gunners. And, when after a little over an hours fight, the pirate vessel was sunk by our brave tars, with all on board, a British steamer was there to rescue the scoundrels and hurry them off to a British port for safety, notwithstanding they had broken plain English laws and set your good queen's proclamation of nutrality at open and impudent defience.

Why were not these bad men, and the many other rascals who have broken your own laws, to our great loss and serious injury, prosecuted and punished as they deserve? Simply because your ruling classes encourage them in it and your authorities connive at these acts of open hostility by British subjects, in the confident belief that we shall never again be in a condition powerful enough to call your government to account for it.

They know we have a just demand against the British government for many many millions of property destroyed by these English pirates and damage done to us by the aid and comfort Great Britian has given to our enemies.

A British built and British armed war steamer flying the rebel flag has just burnt, sunk & destroyed about forty vessels along our shores east of the Delaware Bay. She was a very swift steamer, well man'd but lightly armed. She came right in among our unsuspecting coasting vessels and destroyed all she could catch from fishing sloops up to 1500 ton ships, and was off before any of our war vessels could catch her. Your slavery-loving freedom-hating rulers will laugh in their sleeves at the slow Yankees being caught napping. But they will be called to a strict account before 10 years are over, unless they can get the British people to

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back them up in a war against us while our rebellion is in full blast.

If the combined forces of France & England can be brought against us now, in alliance with our slave lashing rebels, we shall have a terrible war here. And I firmly believe that if we of the north now elect a proslavery president and return to a full proslavery policy, it will be so, for the reasons I have stated, and because you antislavery people, you "English abolitionists" as our democratic slavery lovers spitefully call you; can then be no longer our friends.

You must then feel like having more respect for the brave chivalerous South (though it be blood thirsty, cruel despotic & proslavery) than for the cowardly, cringing, mean dastardly north, that will then have approved itself basely treacherous to the cause of human liberty and the common rights of man, infamously unfaithful to Christianity and the sacred teachings of him who said, "As ye would others should do unto you, even so do ye unto them", and totally and entirely unworthy and unfit to be associated in the family of civilized nations of the world.

If we should prove so entirely unworthy of the friendship which the common people of Europe have felt for us, you will know it about 20th November. Our northern proslavery president would take his office on the 4th of March 1865. That gives Mason and Slidell, the rebel commissioners now in Europe, over 100 days to operate in. We shall not then have a friend left in Christendom. You common people will be too much disgusted with us to say a syllable in our defence. Your royalty and aristocracy, who hate us and have dreaded our example, will be then left free to make the best bargain with our rebels that they can. Mason and Slidell will soon have it all arranged, and when the 4th of March comes and McClellan takes his seat, Jeff Davis will be quite prepared to snap his fingers at the north and be far more insolent and defient than ever. What may come then God only knows.

But you now see the danger and ruin our proslavery mad democracy & develish demogogues would rush us into. They have already plunged us into the gulf that has swallowed up all great republics before us, rebellion & civil war. And instead of helping us all out again on the only safe side, they would add a foreign war to make sure of the complete destruction of our Union and the entire dismemberment of our country. Should this unhappy fate befall us the most meloncholy reflection will be that the poor man brought this calamity and the loss of his own liberty upon us and upon himself. Strange that the poor men of the north, who would never own one hundredth share of a black baby were slavery reestablished all over the north today, are the most anxious to keep the poor negroes enslaved and forever prevent their getting free.

A fifty dollar franchise would sweep this northern proslavery party out of existence at the next election and our danger would be gone for ever. I am a republican and go for the greatest good to the greatest number. But I am not in favor of universal sufferage, because I have watched its mischievous effects for 35 years, and if ever this grand experiment of the capability of man for self-government fails, it will be universal sufferage that causes that failure. And yet it is only with universal suffrage that experiment can . . .


Caricatures of main characters in the Trent Affair. 1862

America surrenders the great commissioners - England surrenders her pretensions - Jeff Davis surrenders his great expectations

(From L to R) John Russell was Englandís Foreign secretary with the English lion Mason and Sidell, the two confederate's two commissioners were taken (Illegally) from the British mail ship The Trent.. William Seward was US Secretary of State with the American eagle Jefferson Davis was (of course) President of the Confederates

The Confederate Steam Ship Tallahassee

This is the British built ship that is referred to in the letter that caused so much damage off of the coast of Delaware



Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013648221


Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSS_Tallahassee

We have struggled to date this partially complete letter. The pages refer to the upcoming presidential election in which McClennan was standing against Lincoln and, as such, it was probably written in mid to late 1864. (We guess around September 1864. The election was to take place November 29, 1864)

We have examined all the other complete TJ letters from this period but the dates or page numbers of these make clear this partial letter does not attach to one of earlier ones.

However, we have found another two orphaned pages from a TJ letter designated as pages 11 &12 and, by examining the contents of those two sheets, we date that letter to be have been started Sept 28, 1864. These 5 pages may be part of that letter but we cannot show a connection so we show them as separate letters written at about the same time.

Unfamiliar names
[See http://www.newsinhistory.com/feature/trent-affair-crisis-during-us-civil-war-great-britain-almost-fights-united-states This is an excellent website dealing with this affair in great detail]

When the Civil War began, one of the Confederacy's strongest hopes for victory was the belief that England, fearing a devastating impact on its textile mills by the loss of Southern cotton, would officially recognize the Confederate States of America and break the Union blockade of its ports. Few people today realize that during the last seven weeks of 1861, the Confederacy came tantalizingly close to having its wildest dreams realized, as the tense diplomatic crisis known as the Trent Affair brought Great Britain and the Union dangerously close to war.

To help accomplish the support of England and Europe, two Southern officials, James Mason and John Slidell, embarked on a diplomatic mission to plead for recognition and aid from England and France. On Nov. 8, 1861, Captain Charles Wilkes of the Union warship San Jacinto intercepted the British mail steamer Trent carrying Mason and Slidell and removed the Southern diplomats and their secretaries - despite British captain Moir's insistence that the men were under the protection of the British flag. This breach of international law erupted into a diplomatic confrontation that nearly caused Great Britain to declare war on the United States.

For seven confrontational weeks it looked like war was imminent. Great Britain rushed reinforcements to Canada to bolster its defenses and prepare for a possible invasion of Maine. With the transatlantic cable not functioning (it had failed in September 1858), it took a week to ten days for messages to pass between England and the United States, and each arriving steamship was eagerly greeted for news, both official diplomatic messages as well as newspapers conveying public sentiments.

On Nov. 15 the San Jacinto arrived in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and wired Washington about the capture of the Southern diplomats. The news soon hit the Northern newspapers, and the public and Congress reacted enthusiastically and declared Captain Wilkes a hero. Initially, no one was overly concerned about any breach of international law or England's reaction.

On Dec. 26, 1861, the Lincoln government decided to release Mason and Slidell and their secretaries, acceding to the British demands. Secretary of State Seward informed Lord Lyons the next day without actually offering the formal apology the British wanted. Instead, Seward declared that Captain Wilkes had acted on his own. In the end, the British were satisfied with restoration of the Southern officials, and the Trent Affair crisis was resolved.

General G.B. McClellan [Notes from Wikipedia]

(December 3, 1826 - October 29, 1885) was a major general during the American Civil War and the Democratic Party candidate against Lincoln for President in 1864. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. He chronically overestimated the strength of enemy units and, as a result, failed to maintain the trust of Lincoln, and proved to be frustratingly derisive of, and insubordinate to, his commander-in-chief.
After he was relieved of command, McClellan became the unsuccessful Democratic Party nominee opposing Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election. The effectiveness of his campaign was damaged when he repudiated his party's anti-war platform, which promised to end the war and negotiate with the Confederacy.
Primogeniture (Notes from Wikipedia)
is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings. Historically, the term implied male primogeniture, to the exclusion of females.
The principle has applied in history to inheritance of real property (land) and inherited titles and offices, most notably monarchies.
Peer (as used in this letter)
A member of the peerage, a system of honors or nobility in various countries, still exists in England

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