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John Slidell ( 1793 – July 29, 1871 ) was an Americanmarker politician, lawyer and businessman. Originally a native of New Yorkmarker, Slidell moved to Louisianamarker 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). He died at age 78.

Merchant, lawyer, politician

Slidell was in the mercantile business in New York before he relocated to New Orleansmarker. 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. He served as minister plenipotentiary to Mexico from 1845-1846.

Prior to the Mexican-American War, Slidell was sent to Mexicomarker, by President James Knox Polk, to negotiate an agreement whereby the Rio Grande Rivermarker would be the southern border of Texasmarker. He also was instructed to offer, among other alternatives, a maximum of $30 million for Californiamarker by Polk and his administration. 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 defend against Mexican attack. The Mexican government rejected Slidell's mission. After Mexican forces attacked at Matamoros the United Statesmarker 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 Carolinamarker, in April 1860, Slidell plotted with "Fire-Eaters" such as William Lowndes Yancey of Alabamamarker to stymie the nomination of the popular Northern Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinoismarker.

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 Francemarker in September, 1861, he ran the blockade from Charleston, South Carolina, with James Murray Mason of Virginiamarker. They then set sail from Havanamarker 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 Courtmarker. 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 Japanmarker in 1853.

Later life

Slidell moved to Paris, Francemarker, after the Civil War. He died in Cowesmarker, Isle of Wightmarker, Englandmarker. 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 Slidellmarker in St. Tammany Parishmarker, Louisianamarker was named in his honor by his son-in-law Baron Frederick Emile d'Erlanger; the village of Slidell, Texasmarker is also named after him.


  1. Matilde d'Erlanger Slidell
  2. The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, p. 97

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