Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward
Sir: The corps legislatif was opened by the Emperor on the 15th instant with customary impressiveness. I enclose a copy of his Majesty’s discourse. He treated the discovery of Columbus with conspicuous reserve. As in a family of children the infant is apt to engross the parental attention, so, out of the large family of American States, the youngest born was the only one that cost his Majesty a remark. This silence in regard to the United States was natural. There has been, and from the nature of things there must continue to be while our war lasts, so much of menace in our attitude towards Mexico that the Emperor could hardly have pursued a course more consistent with his own dignity, or more satisfactory to his subjects on this occasion, than by observing an expressive silence. The tone of the discourse was eminently tranquillizing, and is greatly admired for the skill with which it disposed of several very delicate questions of foreign policy. The only feature of it that has provoked criticism is that which treats of the convention of the 15th September, 1864, and his language in that connexion is discussed, apparently, rather with the view of extracting interpretations and admissions from the official press, than from anything exceptionable in the tenor of the speech. The various allusions to his Galican ecclesiastical policy were received by his audience with strong marks of approbation. There was one paragraph of the speech to which I attach a larger meaning than perhaps it deserves. It was this:[Page 366]
“The convention of the 15th of September, disentangled from passionate interpretations, consecrates two great principles—the firm establishment of the new kingdom of Italy and the independence of the Holy See. The provisional and precarious state of affairs which excited so much alarm will soon terminate. It is no longer the scattered members of the Italian nation seeking to connect themselves by feeble links to a small state situated at the foot of the Alps; it is a great country which rises above local prejudices, despising the ebullitions of unreflecting agitations, which boldly transfers its capital to the centre of the Peninsula, and places it in the midst of the Appenines, as in an impregnable citadel. By this act of patriotism Italy definitely constitutes herself, and at the same time reconciles herself with Catholicity.”
I have not been able to resist the suspicion that this language, coupled with the silence of the Italian and French press for some months about Venetia, imports some sort of a transaction in esse or in posse for a termination of the boundary quarrels between Italy, Austria and Rome, by common sacrifices, and by the adoption of the Appennines as one of the natural boundaries of Italy. The habitually practical character of the Emperor’s statesmanship, and the almost equal necessity of these three powers to arrange their differences by some less expensive agency than the sword, may, however, have led me to attach more importance to these expressions than they really deserve.
What is said about the return of the army from Mexico is doubtless correct, so far as the wish and intention of the government is concerned, though it does not correspond with information which reached me a few days since of orders having been recently issued for more troops to be in readiness to leave for Mexico upon short notice.
The speech is received with great favor by the liberal press, while the domestic policy which is foreshadowed appears to have given universal satisfaction.
I am, sir, with great respect, your very obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c.,&c.,&c.
P. S.—I have no mail from Washington later than the 24th of January. I expect the Canada’s mail through the despatch agency to-morrow morning.
5 p. m.—The Blue, or rather the Yellow Book, has just come in, but too late for this post.