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John Slidell

In office
December 5, 1853 – February 4, 1861
Preceded by Pierre Soulé
Succeeded by William P. Kellogg

Born 1793
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died July 26, 1871
Cowes, Isle of Wight, England
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mathilde Deslonde Slidell
Children Alfred
Alma mater Columbia College
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Merchant

John Slidell ( 1793 – July 29, 1871 ) was an American politician, lawyer and businessman. Originally a native of New York, Slidell moved to Louisiana as a young man and became a staunch defender of southern rights as a U.S. Representative and Senator.


Early life

He was born to the merchant John Slidell and the former Margery Mackenzie, a Scot. He graduated from Columbia University (then "College") in 1810. In 1835, Slidell married the former Mathilde Deslonde, and they had three children, Alfred Slidell, Marie Rosine (later comtess de St. Roman), and Marguerite Mathilde (later baronness Frederic Emile d'Erlanger).[1] He died at age 78.

Merchant, lawyer, politician

Slidell was in the mercantile business in New York before he relocated to New Orleans. He practiced law in New Orleans from 1819-1843. He was the district attorney in New Orleans from 1829-1833. He also served in the state's House of Representatives. Though he lost an election to the United States House in 1828, he was elected in 1842 and served a term and a half from 1843-1845, as a Democrat.[2] He served as minister plenipotentiary to Mexico from 1845-1846.

Prior to the Mexican-American War, Slidell was sent to Mexico, by President James Knox Polk, to negotiate an agreement whereby the Rio Grande River would be the southern border of Texas. He also was instructed to offer, among other alternatives, a maximum of $30 million for California by Polk and his administration.[3] Slidell hinted to Polk that the Mexican reluctance to negotiate might require a show of military force by the United States. Under the guidance of General Zachary Taylor, U.S. troops were stationed at the U.S./Mexico border, ready to defend against Mexican attack. The Mexican government rejected Slidell's mission. After Mexican forces attacked at Matamoros the United States declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846.

Slidell was elected to the Senate in 1853 and cast his lot with other pro-Southern congressmen to repeal the Missouri Compromise, acquire Cuba, and admit Kansas. In the 1860 campaign Slidell supported Democratic presidential candidate John C. Breckinridge, but remained a pro-Union moderate until Abraham Lincoln's election pushed the Southern states into seceding. At the Democratic Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, in April 1860, Slidell plotted with "Fire-Eaters" such as William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama to stymie the nomination of the popular Northern Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois.

Civil War

Mathilde Deslonde Slidell

Siding with the South during the American Civil War, Slidell accepted a diplomatic appointment to represent the Confederacy in France. John Slidell was one of the two CSA diplomats involved in the Trent Affair in November, 1861. After having been appointed the Confederate States of America's commissioner to France in September, 1861, he ran the blockade from Charleston, South Carolina, with James Murray Mason of Virginia. They then set sail from Havana on the British mail boat steamer RMS Trent, but were intercepted by the U.S. Navy while en route and taken into captivity at Fort Warren in Boston. After the resolution of the Trent Affair, the two diplomats set sail for Europe on January 1, 1862.

John Slidell was a brother of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, a naval officer who commanded the USS Somers on which a unique event occurred in 1842 off the coast of Africa during the Blockade of Africa. In that incident, three crewmen were hanged after being convicted of mutiny at sea. Mackenzie reversed the order of his middle and last names to honor a maternal uncle.

Another brother, Thomas Slidell, was chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He was also the brother-in-law of the American naval Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who was married to Slidell's sister, Jane. Perry is remembered for opening United States trade with Japan in 1853.

Later life

Slidell moved to Paris, France, after the Civil War. He died in Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. He is interred in the Saint-Roman family private cemetery near Paris. He, Judah P. Benjamin and A. Dudley Mann were among the high-ranking Confederate officials buried abroad.


The city of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana was named in his honor by his son-in-law Baron Frederick Emile d'Erlanger; the village of Slidell, Texas is also named after him.[4]


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Edward D. White, Sr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1843 – November 10, 1845
Succeeded by
Emile La Sére
United States Senate
Preceded by
Pierre Soulé
United States Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
December 5, 1853 – February 4, 1861
Served alongside: Judah P. Benjamin
Succeeded by
William P. Kellogg(1)
Notes and references
1. Because of Louisiana's secession, the Senate seat was vacant for seven years before Kellogg succeeded Slidell.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN SLIDELL (1793-1871), American political leader and diplomatist, was born in New York City in 1793. He graduated from Columbia College in 1810, engaged in business for a short time, then studied law, and became one of the leaders of the bar at New Orleans, Louisiana, where he settled permanently in 1825. He was a member of the national House of Representatives as a state's rights Democrat from 1843 to 1845, when he resigned and was sent by President Polk on a secret mission to Mexico, with power to adjust the difficulties growing out of the annexation of Texas to the United States, and to acquire by purchase both New Mexico (including the present Arizona,) and Upper California. He was not, however, received by the Mexican government. From 1853 to 1861 he was a representative of Louisiana in the United States Senate, and was an influential working member of important committees, though he seldom took part in debate. During this period he was intimately associated with James Buchanan, and is supposed to have had an important part in bringing about Buchanan's nomination for the presidency in 1856. When Louisiana seceded in 1861, Slidell withdrew from the Senate, and late in 1861 was sent by the Confederate Government as commissioner to France. With James M. Mason (q.v.), the Confederate commissioner to England, he was taken from the British steamer "Trent" by Captain Charles Wilkes of the United States navy, and was imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston harbour. In January 1862, at the demand of England, the Confederate commissioners were released, and Slidell proceeded to France. His mission there was to secure the recognition of the Confederate States; in this he was unsuccessful, but he was able to keep France sympathetic, and to help to secure supplies for the Confederate army and navy. After the war he remained 'abroad, settling in England, and his daughter married a French nobleman. He died in London on the 29th of July 1871.

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