Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward
Sir: Prussia has consented to a cessation of hostilities for five days, upon certain conditions, which it is supposed at the ministry of foreign affairs will be acceded to by Austria. If they are, peace will probably be made upon the basis of excluding Austria from the confederation and of subordinating the smaller states of northern Germany to Prussia.
M. Drouyn de Lhuys, with whom I have talked upon the subject this morning, says that in justification of the purpose of Prussia to exclude Austria may be stated the great disproportion of people of other races than the German in Austria, through whom Austria exerted an undue influence in the confederation. As to the proposed absorption of the smaller states by Prussia, that would be only to make law what was already practically the fact. Those states had joined Prussia at the first threat of war because their sympathies and interests were with Prussia.
Prince Napoleon has gone to Italy, charged by the Emperor to use his influence with that government in promoting the contemplated arrangement. No difficulty is anticipated here from that quarter, provided Prussia can be satisfied.
Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys persists in feeling confident that France will not be involved in the quarrel, and that the changes likely to occur in Europe are logical and will prove advantageous.
In reply to a question which I addressed him about the Papal question, he said that it was for the interest of Italy, in every point of view, to keep the capital of the church where it is; and he for his own part did not doubt that it would be kept there. I construed his language and manner to signify that nothing would be allowed to occur which would deprive the Pope of his freedom to choose between Rome and any other capital for his residence. His excellency intimated that some stipulation would be taken from the King of Italy on that subject before peace is declared.
I have not remarked upon the change which the counsels of the Emperor seem to have undergone during the past week towards the belligerents. This day week it seemed to be the tendency of this government to strike hands with Austria. Prussia, however, showed herself so irresistible, and her enemies on the other hand so weak, that the idea of associating the fortunes of his empire more intimately with those of Austria was suddenly abandoned. I think it is [Page 334] now pretty well determined by this court to allow Mr. de Bismark to execute the programme which he had traced out for Prussia before the war commenced. Austria, however, seems disposed to try her fortunes once more in the field, and if she should have a substantial success (which is, by the way, not anticipated by this government) the attitude of the belligerents to each other and to foreign powers might be materially changed.
I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.