William Henry Trescot

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William Henry Trescot
William Henry Trescot2.jpg
5th United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
June 8, 1860 – December 20, 1860
Preceded byJohn Appleton
Succeeded byFrederick W. Seward
Personal details
Born(1822-11-10)November 10, 1822
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedMay 4, 1898(1898-05-04) (aged 75)
Pendleton, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
ProfessionLawyer, Politician

William Henry Trescot (November 10, 1822 – May 4, 1898) was an American diplomatist born in Charleston, South Carolina, on the November 10, 1822. He graduated at College of Charleston in 1840, studied law at Harvard University, and was admitted to the bar in 1843.[1] He was married to Eliza Natalie Cuthbert, whose family had land originally granted by King George II.[2]

From 1852 to 1854 he was secretary of the U.S. legation in London. In June 1860 he was appointed assistant secretary of state, and he was acting secretary of state in June–October, during General Lewis Cass's absence from Washington, and for a few days in December after Cass's resignation. His position was important, as the only South Carolinian holding anything like official rank, because of his intimacy with President James Buchanan, and his close relations with the secession leaders in South Carolina.[1]

William Henry Trescot

He opposed the reinforcement of Fort Sumter, used his influence to prevent any attack on the fort by South Carolina before the meeting of the state's convention called to consider the question of secession, and became the special agent of South Carolina in Washington after his resignation from his position as United States Assistant Secretary of State in December. He returned to Charleston in February 1861; was a member of the state legislature in 1862–1866, and served as colonel on the staff of General Roswell S. Ripley during the Civil War; and later returned to Washington.[1]

He was counsel for the United States before the Halifax Fisheries Commission in 1877; was commissioner for the revision of the treaty with China in 1880; was minister to Chile in 1881 and 1882; in 1882 with General Ulysses S. Grant negotiated a commercial treaty with Mexico; and in 1889-1890 was a delegate to the Pan-American Congress in Washington. He died at Pendleton, South Carolina, his country place, on 4 May 1898.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Trescot, William Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 253.
  2. ^ Hunt, Galliard (April 1908). "Narrative and letter of William Henry Trescot concerning the negotiations between South Carolina and President Buchanan in December, 1860". The American Historical Review. 13 (3): 528. doi:10.2307/1834428. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
John Appleton
United States Assistant Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Frederick W. Seward