Mason, James Murray, 1798–1871, U.S. Senator and Confederate diplomat, b. Georgetown, D.C.; grandson of George Mason. He began to practice law in Winchester, Va., in 1820. Mason served in the Virginia legislature (1826–27, 1828–31), in the House of Representatives (1837–39), and in the U.S. Senate (1847–61). A staunch supporter of Southern rights, he drafted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and advocated secession. Jefferson Davis appointed him Confederate commissioner to England in Aug., 1861. Along with John Slidell, Mason was seized aboard the British ship Trent by Capt. Charles Wilkes, commanding the U.S. warship San Jacinto, and was held prisoner at Fort Warren, Boston, until Jan., 1862 (see Trent Affair). After his release he went on to England, but he was never officially recognized by the British government.
See biography by his daughter, Virginia Mason (1903).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.