Mr. King to Mr. Hunter

No. 39]

Sir: I duly received a copy of the circular from the State Department under date of April 17, directing all officers and others subject to its orders to wear crape upon the left arm for the period of six months in honor to the memory of our late illustrious Chief Magistrate. Anticipating in this respect the wishes of the department, I had already caused the United States legation rooms here to be suitably draped, and, in common with all loyal Americans now in Rome, had assumed the customary badge of mourning, which will be worn during the time prescribed. It is a melancholy satisfaction to know that the grief we feel at the bereavement the republic has sustained meets with general and earnest sympathy in all parts of the Old World, and that in Europe, as in America, enlightened public opinion has already inscribed among the most illustrious names on the roll of fame that of our martyred President.

The intelligence from home, to the 29th of April, bringing details of Johnston’s surrender, seems to remove all doubt as to the complete and final overthrow of the slaveholders’ rebellion. The four years ordeal through which our country has passed has proved indeed a fiery one, but, thank God, it has been bravely, unflinchingly, and triumphantly encountered. The latest advices as to the steadily improving condition of the honorable the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary of State have given wide-spread satisfaction. We cherish the hope that a few weeks will restore them to their wonted health, and once more insure to the country the benefit of their counsels and services.

In my despatch of May 6 I mentioned the recent visit to Rome of M. Vegezzi, an accredited agent from King Victor Emanuel, and spoke of the current rumors and conflicting hopes as to the progress and probable issue of his mission. The subject excites very general and lively interest in political circles, and forms one of the chief topics of conversation. It is not supposed that much has yet been accomplished towards effecting a complete reconciliation or establishing cordial relations between the Pope and the King of Italy, but at least a step has been taken in the right direction, and this of itself affords great encouragement to the friends of Italian unity. There can be no question, in my judgment that the Holy Father is sincerely anxious to bring about such a result, and is prepared to make liberal concessions in furtherance of so desirable an object. The advisers of Victor Emanuel and the body of the Italian Pope, in the papal as in the royal dominions, look forward hopefully for the same end. But, as I mentioned in a previous despatch, a very strong body in the church are wholly opposed to it, as are the radical or Mazzinian party among the people, though for very opposite reasons. It seems, indeed, to be a contest between extremes and means, the result of which is still very doubtful. The counsels of the French Emperor, I have reasons to think, are all in the sense of peace and unity between church and state in Italy, and everything seems to indicate his settled purpose to carry out the Franco-Italian treaty, and withdraw his troops from Rome at the time fixed upon. This, however, as I [Page 159] have before remarked, is contingent upon the maintenance of peace and public order here; for the Emperor will not permit the person or authority of the Pope to be molested or assailed for the want of adequate protection.

I called yesterday upon the cardinal secretary of state to communicate to him the latest tidings received from America. He fully concurred with me in regarding the intelligence as decisive, and the war as practically at an end, and he freely avowed his satisfaction at the auspicious result.

The cardinal inquired particularly as to the state of Mr. Seward’s health, and again expressed for himself and the Holy Father their earnest hopes for his speedy recovery, and their sincere condolence with the American people in the loss of their lamented President.

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


Hon. William Hunter, Acting Secretary of State.