Mr. King to Mr. Seward

No. 31]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of despatch No. 21, of December 16, from the State Department, in reply to mine of November 12, and conveying instructions as to the disposition to be made of sundry volumes in the archives of the United States legation in Rome.

The intelligence of the capture of Savannah by the federal forces, under command of General Sherman, reached us on Monday last, and was received with the utmost enthusiasm by the Americans in Rome. I attended a state dinner at the Austrian ambassador’s on the same day, and had the pleasure of receiving from various members of the diplomatic corps their hearty congratulations upon the favorable complexion of the news. The Russian chargé d’affaires, Baron Meyendorf, and the newly appointed minister from Venezuela, Signor Pullido, were especially earnest in their felicitations. Baron Meyendorf remarked that Russia sympathized deeply with the United States in this hour of our national trouble, and that not only the Emperor but the people of Russia had been inexpressibly touched by the warm and generous welcome extended to the Russian fleet, during its visit last year to different ports in the United States. I cordially assented to the hope which he expressed that the relations between our two governments might become more and more kindly and fraternal as the years rolled on. The Venezuelian minister was even more emphatic in the expression of his good wishes. He said that for years past the predominance of the pro-slavery interests in the councils of the great American republic had exerted a baneful influence upon the new-born governments of the south American states; that in their early struggles and later development they had met with little sympathy from the quarter to which they had naturally looked for encouragement, as well as example, but that now, happily, all was changed, and from the United States of North America, under their present rulers, they had met with the kindest recognition; therefore it was, he added, that the progress of the federal arms and the impending overthrow of the slaveholders rebellion was hailed with delight by the people and states of South America, as it held out to them the bright promise that the system of free government and republican institutions, inaugurated and vindicated by the people of the United States, was to be the common heritage and proud boast of the entire western continent.

The telegraphic despatches yesterday gave us the substance of the note addressed by the State Department to the government of Brazil in reference to the capture of the Florida in the harbor of Bahia. I thought it a good occasion to converse with the Chevalier de Figuereido, the Brazilian chargé d’affaires, on the subject, and was glad to find that he was equally pleased with the spirit and tenor of the communication, as calculated to allay all ill feeling between the two governments, and to satisfy the authorities and people of Brazil that the United States would do justice in the premises.

I had an official interview yesterday morning with the cardinal secretary of state; he too expressed his satisfaction with the action of our government in the [Page 152] matter of the Florida, and remarked that it would quiet the angry spirit which had been at first aroused in Brazil by the conduct of the American consul at Bahia and the captain of the Wachusett. Reverting to our home affairs, the cardinal observed that the recent signal successes of the federal arms seemed to promise an early end to the war, which he most earnestly desired, and the re-establishment of the Union. He thought that the great difficulty now would be to arrange the terms of peace and the re-admission into the Union of the seceded States, as the violent passions excited by such a war as had afflicted our country for the past four years were not easily allayed. I remarked to his eminence that there was no angry spirit, no feeling of revenge, towards the people of the southern States among their brethren at the north; that we believed they had been misinformed and misled by a few ambitious and unscrupulous men, and that they would be welcomed back into the Union with open arms and in a forgiving temper, the moment they submitted themselves to the authority of the federal government.

I availed myself of the opportunity to mention to the cardinal a rumor which has been in circulation in Rome, that the Pope had written a second letter to Jefferson Davis, in the sense of encouraging him to persevere in his work of rebellion, and giving him the benefit of a papal recognition. The cardinal without any hesitation pronounced the report untrue. The Pope had written no second letter, he said, though he himself had addressed one, general in its terms and pacific in its spirit, to the southern “commissioners” who had addressed a circular to all the courts of Europe. This, the cardinal remarked, simply engaged the good offices of the Pope to bring about peace, whenever a fitting opportunity should offer itself for the exercise of his moral influence. Beyond this I do not think that the papal government will be in any more haste to interfere in our affairs than France or England.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.