Mr. Marsh to Mr. Seward

No. 123.]

Sir: Although I am not officially informed that you have so far recovered as to be able to resume the discharge of your functions as chief of the State Department, I infer from the newspaper accounts that you are again at your post, and I accordingly address this despatch to you. I beg you, sir, to accept for yourself and our common country my sincere congratulations on your return to duties which, if less arduous than heretofore, are still of a character to demand the utmost powers of an intellect which has been exerted with such commanding ability and such signal success in the direction of our foreign affairs during the eventful administration which has lately closed.

The transfer of the official capital of the kingdom of Italy to Florence is now substantially effected, though some public offices still remain at Turin. The work of reorganization is, however, not completed, and it will be some months before the engine of state is again in regular operation. The King has gone to Piedmont for the summer, and the minister of foreign affairs is at present at Turin.

I have left a draught of the proposed treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and Italy at the Foreign Office for examination, and shall proceed with the discussion of its provisions as soon as the ministry is ready to enter upon it.

By the letter of my instructions I am authorized to negotiate a treaty or treaties. I suppose this expression would include a consular convention as well as an ordinary commercial treaty, but I am not clear as to the expediency of concluding a separate convention for this purpose. A consular convention much resembling ours with France was negotiated between that power and Italy in 1862. Great Britain has no consular convention with this kingdom, and the British government has contented itself with inserting in the treaty of commerce and navigation of 1863 a general clause securing to the consuls of the two countries respectively the powers, privileges, and exemptions granted by each to consuls of the most favored nations.

As I view the question, the principal motive for negotiating an independent convention for defining the power and privileges of consuls would be to limit the exemption of consular officers from liability to attendance in courts as witnesses. To invest consular pupils, or vice-consuls who may be American citizens, or commercial representatives of insignificant powers, with privileges which may occasion great inconvenience to American legal tribunals, as we appear to [Page 149] have done in our convention with France, seems to me a subordination of the judicial authority to mere commercial interests, which is inconsistent with the dignity properly belonging to what American and English law regards as so exalted a department, and I should propose to exempt only consuls general and consuls, citizens of the states they represent and not engaged in commerce, from compulsory attendance in courts of justice.

You have certainly better means than I can have of judging of the intentions of the French Emperor with regard to Mexico and the United States, but I cannot help attaching some importance to the tone of the Italian ministerial press, and of all the Italian journals in the French interest, in regard to this question. They are evidently still aiming to prepare the public mind for a call from France for a contingent to the French army of occupation in Mexico, and for a possible rupture with the United States. How far these journals speak from ministerial inspiration, and how far from French suggestion, it is hard to say.** *

The negotiations with Rome will be resumed as soon as the preliminary elections are over; and. if the present ministry remains in power new concessions will be offered, provided it suits the policy of France to require them. Many suppose the settlement of the Roman question to be especially desired at this moment by Napoleon in order that both his troops and those of Italy be less embarrassed in their Mexican movements, but I shall be much disappointed if a Gallo-Italic transatlantic war does not end in a Gallo-Italic revolution at home.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.