Mr. Marsh to Mr. Seward

No. 111.]

Sir:* * * * * * * *

The removal of the seat of this government to Florence is to take place on the first of May next, and the necessary alterations and constructions of public buildings for the accommodation of the different departments of the ministry and other branches of public service are now in progress at that city.

The excitement which the sudden announcement of this change produced having subsided, the measure has now become a subject of calm reflection, and is by no means regarded, even at Florence, with the favor which welcomed the first intelligence of the convention. On the contrary, while it has gained no new friends, as a wise or necessary step, the convictions of those who originally opposed it have been strengthened, and if the question were now to be tried upon its merits, I do not think the ministry could command a majority of either branch of the national legislature in its favor; that it was intended by some of the parties to the negotiation as a renunciation of the claim to Rome as the national capital would now be scarcely denied; but however that may be, the effect of it will be to renew the agitation of the Roman question, and it will soon present itself to the people in a shape more imperiously demanding a satisfactory solution than ever.

Hitherto the desire to retain the seat of government at the ancient capital of its kings has, in a great measure, stifled the voice of Piedmont on this question, and, therefore, the most powerful national influence which could be brought to bear upon it has been, to a certain extent, paralyzed. The moral strength of the nation resides in Piedmont, and the whole influence of all classes, with the exception of the clergy, throughout the old provinces, will now be directed to the accomplishment of an end to which the population of the former Sardinian kingdom has been hitherto comparatively indifferent. Jealousy of Florence and of Tuscan influence in the government will combine to rouse the spirit of other parts of Italy in the same direction, and the peninsula will be better united on this point than it has hitherto been on any other.

Happily for the interests of Italian liberty, the recent encyclical letter of Pope Pius IX is likely to frustrate the various schemes of conciliation which have been dreamed of as effectually as the madness of our own southern pro-slavery politicians has dispelled the visions of a new compromise between the spirit of slavery and the spirit of freedom in our own commonwealth.

One of the mose important measures now under discussion in the Italian parliament is the bill for the suppression of monastic corporations. It is unfortunate that the measure had not been proposed and sustained on moral rather than financial grounds; for its advocates have thus deprived themselves of their strongest argument, and at the same time furnishes their opponents with the most powerful weapons of resistance. Considered as a question of expediency in a moral point of view, independently of religious prejudice, the reasons for the [Page 141] suppression of the conventional establishments are overwhelming, and their force is much increased by numerous recent disclosures of a turpitude and depravity among the members of many monastic institutions which are happily unimaginable in countries not familiar with the history of similar establishments in former periods. Four or five monastic schools have recently been closed by the government for reasons similar to those which led to the suspension of the school of the Gynorantelli at Turin, in 1863.** ** *

The fate of the bill is doubtful, but it is thought probable that it will pass the chamber of deputies, in a modified form, and then perhaps fail altogether in the senate.

But while the political condition of Italy is in many respects unsatisfactory, there are in some directions some tokens of at least material progress. The readiness with which the proposal to anticipate the taxes for 1865 has been met by the people, is a very favorable indication of the pecuniary condition of the people; and the improved well-being of the laboring classes, and especially the great reduction in the number of mendicants, are circumstances which very forcibly strike the attention of all strangers who knew Italy fifteen years ago. The sale of the railroads and of the public domain, though at prices far below their probable value, will serve to relieve the treasury, and, in fact, the financial embarrassments of the government are among the least of its real difficulties.

The re-election of President Lincoln has, as you have heard from all quarters, been received with the greatest satisfaction by the friends and the greatest disappointment by the enemies of European liberty. The issue presents itself on the continent in two aspects; first, as a question of the abolition of domestic slavery, and, secondly, as a question of the power of popular government to maintain themselves against domestic as well as against foreign hostility. The present administration of the American government enjoys, I believe, the confidence of our European well-wishers—that is to say, of all the popular masses on this side of the Atlantic, on both points. I have no reason to doubt that most of the members of this government are friendly to us, though I regret to say that it allows the ministerial journals to indulge in a tone of malevolence and misrepresentation of fact against us, which it certainly would not permit in the case of states whose good will it valued at a high rate.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.