Mr. King to Mr. Seward
Sir: * * * * * * * *
Two events have occurred in Rome, since my last despatch, of more than ordinary interest. The retirement of Monsignor de Merode from the papal cabinet, and the commencement of the evacuation of the papal territory by the French troops. The explanation given by the press of M. de Merode’s withdrawal vary according to the political bias of the parties making them. Those who wish to attach but little consequence to the change attribute it to M. de Merode’s failing health, while a much larger party see in it an important step in advance, and think that it augurs favorably for the reconciliation of Rome and Italy. M. de Merode was understood to reflect the sentiments of the ultramontane party, in church and state, and a marked antagonism existed between himself and Cardinal Antonelli, which threatened at times to disturb the harmony of the papal council. Now, however, that M. de Merode has retired, the influence of the distinguished secretary of state has become all paramount, and will, it is confidently hoped, be wisely and faithfully employed.
The evacuation of the French troops, in pursuance of the treaty between the Emperor of France and the King of Italy, commenced on Monday last, two batteries of artillery having left Rome that day to embark on French transports now lying at Civita Vecchia. Other bodies of troops will follow at brief intervals, and there seems no reason to doubt that the whole movement will be completed within the period stipulated, to wit, two years from September 15, 1864. To replace the soldiers thus withdrawn by Napoleon, the papal government is recruiting and organizing a considerable force; and the belief gains currency that, before the final evacuation of the French, an arrangement will be entered into between the Pope and Victor Emanuel which will secure to the Holy See all the protection it needs.
The cholera still lingers at different points along the Mediterranean coast, and, within the past few days, has been quite fatal in Naples. Thus far the pontifical states have escaped, comparatively unscathed, though it is hardly to be expected they will go entirely free. Meanwhile very rigid quarantine regulations are enforced all along the frontier, and the result is that, as yet, but few Americans or other foreigners have come to Rome. Should the sanitary condition of the Italian peninsula improve, however, there is every prospect of a large influx of Americans during the coming winter.
Within the current week I have enjoyed two interviews with the cardinal secretary of state, and conversed at some length on topics connected with American affairs. His eminence expressed his sincere gratification at the rapid progress towards peace and union which our country was making, and spoke in terms of very warm praise of President Johnson’s plan of reconstruction, and of the merciful and magnanimous course which had been pursued towards the vanquished rebels. * * * * * *[Page 164]
The Pope, I am happy to say, is in the enjoyment of excellent health and spirits. He passed, Thursday, along the whole length of the Corso on foot, meeting everywhere, from the crowds who thronged that thoroughfare, unequivocal demonstrations of affection and respect.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.