James Murray Mason 01
James Murray Mason 02James Murray Mason 03

Senator James Murray Mason’s Dispatch Case – Trent Affair

Senator James Murray Mason’s Dispatch Case – James Murray Mason (1798-1871) descended from a prominent and distinguished family in Virginia. Mason became a lawyer and was elected to the U.S. House and to the Senate. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Mason became a member of the Confederate Congress, and was appointed, along with the former U.S. Senator from Louisiana, John Slidell,  as an envoy to Great Britain and France, to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition and financial support. Mason and Slidell sailed for France and Great Britain, in November of 1861, aboard the RMS Trent. On November 8, 1861, the USS San Jacinto, commanded by Union Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the Trent and removed, as contraband of war, the two Confederate diplomats.  After several weeks of tension and loose talk of war, the crisis was resolved when the Lincoln administration released the envoys and disavowed Captain Wilkes’s actions. No formal apology was ever issued, as Mason and Slidell resumed their voyage. Ultimately, the two diplomats would fail in their goal of achieving diplomatic recognition from Britain and France, for the Confederacy. The so-called Trent Affair, would constitute a landmark episode in U.S. and International diplomacy.

This case descended directly in the family, from James Murray Mason, to the most recent owner, from whom Perry Adams Antiques obtained it. The overall construction of the piece is wood, sheathed with paper and then covered with embossed and fitted leather. The inset plaque in the top is engraved, “James M. Mason, Virginia, Confederate States of America, From Alexander Collie, 1864 London.” Embossed in the leather is “James M. Mason.” The top hinged section lifts by way of the second section, and the base is fixed. The central cartouche on the first is section is embossed, gilded and marked, “Dispatch & Registered No. 3395, Writing Case, Toulmin & Gale, Sise Lane City & New Bond Street London.” When opened, the lower desk has a removable back tray for writing implements. The middle section, which is angled, folds down to make a writing desk area. The underside of the top appears to be lined with green, moire silk and leather. There is a brass and rosewood, spring-loaded locking device. The bottom is covered with what appears to be brown, moire silk, as well. The overall condition  ranges from good and fair to poor and deteriorated. There is considerable wear and missing leather.
Scottish merchant Alexander Collie, was enmeshed in trading with the Confederate States of America, during the Civil War. Collie owned Alexander Collie and Company, a shipping firm based in Manchester, England, during the war. He provided shipping, via blockade running, stores of clothing, ordinance, and medical supplies. Collie also sold, to the Confederacy, a blockade running ship, the steamer Giraffe, which was re-christened the Robert E. Lee, ultimately commanded by Lt. John Wilkinson – SOLD
Measurements closed: 7 ¼”"h x 18″” w x 12″” d
Measurements opened: 7 ¼”" h x 18″” w x 19 7/8″” d
Measurements closed: 7 ¼”"h x 18″” w x 12″” d, Measurements opened: 7 ¼”" h x 18″” w x 19 7/8″” d

Category: .