Senator John Slidell of Louisiana


John Slidell (1793-1871) was a United States senator and a Confederate diplomat, best remembered for his involvement in the Trent affair, which in 1861 nearly brought war between the United States and Great Britain. Slidell was born in New York City into a wealthy merchant family and graduated from Columbia College. He worked for a time in Europe and then as a lawyer in New York. In 1819 he moved to New Orleans, where he married Marie Mathilde Deslonde, from a distinguished French family. Slidell served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1843 to 1845 and in the Senate from 1853 to 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was chosen to represent the Confederacy in France. He was on his way to Europe on the British mail steamer Trent when the ship was intercepted by U.S. naval forces. Slidell and fellow passenger James Mason were detained for a time at Fort Warren in Boston harbor, but eventually allowed to continue their journey. Slidell worked to build the Confederate navy by purchasing ships in France and acquired French loans using cotton as collateral, but he was never able to achieve his chief goal, formal recognition by a European power of the Confederacy as an independent state. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016