Mr. King to Mr. Seward
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of despatch No. 26, from the State Department, under date of March 7, in reply to mine of February 11, and expressing satisfaction with the contents thereof.
The imposing ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter Sunday passed off this year with unwonted eclat. The weather was uncommonly fine, the concourse of visitors from all parts of the civilized world unprecedented, and the health of the Sovereign Pontiff so good as to admit of his officiating in person on the days appointed. To the Americans in Rome our Easter was a scene of special rejoicing, for the eve of Paschal Sunday brought us the glorious tidings of the defeat of Lee, the capture of Richmond, and, as we trust and believe, the final overthrow of the wicked and wanton rebellion. The intelligence was received with the sincerest gratitude and delight, and almost all the members of the diplomatic corps at the papal court offered me their hearty congratulations on this happy issue out of our national difficulties.
The Franco-Italian treaty continues to excite lively discussions in the diplomatic and political circles of Europe. It is not easy, in the midst of the varying opinions expressed and the conflicting rumors circulated, to predict with confidence the results of that convention. The chief interest hinges upon the future status of the Pope, and the probabilities of his leaving or remaining in Rome, in the event of the withdrawal of the French troops. I had a long conversation with the French ambassader, Count Sartiges, on this topic a day or two since. The count expressed the belief that matters were approaching a crisis; that the Pope was pressed by conflicting counsels, one party (the ultra-montane) urging him to abandon Rome, and the other opposing such a step as suicidal; that the issue was with the Holy Father himself, who thus far, at least, was strongly disinclined to leave the Vatican. That in his, the count’s judgment, the departure of the Pope from Rome would be the signal for a general convulsion in Italy, if not throughout Europe, and that the peace of the world might depend upon the Pope’s remaining in the imperial city, where he thought his person would always be secure and his authority respected. Count Sartiges further informed me that the Pope had addressed an autograph letter to Victor Emanuel, with a view to bring about a conference touching the questions of church and state, in issue between the papal and Italian governments, and that within a few days an accredited representative had arrived in Rome from Victor Emanuel, charged with a reply to the papal missive. He regarded this, he added, as a very important step in the right direction, for that would be the happiest possible solution of the problem, which, leaving the spiritual power of the Holy [Page 156] Father unquestioned, should sustain his temporal authority by Italian bayonets. I have given quite fully the substance of the French ambassador’s remarks, as I thought them very significant and based upon intimate knowledge of the facts.
Passing from Italian topics we conversed briefly about American affairs. The count said that he regarded the last news as entirely conclusive and the war as substantially at an end. His apprehension then was that some trouble might grow up between the United States and Maximilian. He did not fear any hostile or aggressive action on the part of our government, certainly not—he said, so long as the State department continues to be managed by the same able statesman, who had presided over it during the past four years; but there was danger that forty or fifty thousand desperate or adventurous men, thrown out of active service by the return of peace, might, at any moment, cross over from the southwest into Mexico, while there never would be wanting a Juarist chief to issue a pronunciamento and give to the movement the color of a revolution. I assured the count that peace once restored, the aim and policy of our government and people would be to cultivate friendly relations with all mankind, and that so long as our rights were respected and fair treatment extended to us we should be the last power to resort to war.
I cannot close this despatch without tendering to our honored President and his faithful cabinet my heartfelt congratulations upon the glorious successes which have crowned the Union arms and cause. “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory!”
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.