A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Two Sicilies
When the United States declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily were independent and sovereign states. After 1734 they shared the same ruler and were governed by the Bourbon royal family. After Napoleon’s rise to power, the Italian peninsula was invaded by the French in 1799. The Bourbons fled to the island of Sicily. Under Napoleon, the Kingdom of Naples was ruled first by Napoleon’s brother Joseph and then Napoleon’s brother-in-law Joachim Murat.
Despite the fall of Napoleon in 1814, Murat struck a deal with the Austrians and thus retained his position. Yet, as the Congress of Vienna began that year, Murat doubted that the Austrians would stand by their pledge to allow him to remain on the throne. Ever the opportunist, Murat reconciled with Napoleon and thus benefitted from Napoleon’s return to power. On March 15, 1815, in the attempt to maintain power, Murat called the Italians together in a war of national independence. The surge of patriotism that he expected failed to materialize, and though Murat invaded the peninsula as far north as the Po region, he was eventually defeated by early May 1815. On May 22, 1815, he renounced the throne of the Kingdom of Naples and rule by the Bourbons was restored in the kingdom. When Ferdinand of Bourbon regained his throne in Naples, he decided to consolidate his holdings and out of the two kingdoms of Naples and Sicily he created the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies on December 18, 1815.
The King of Naples recognized the United States in 1796 and diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1832. During the process of the Risorgimento (1860-61), the monarchy in Naples and Sicily was toppled and incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II.
Kingdom of Naples (after 1816, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) Recognition of the United States, 1796.
The Kingdom of Naples recognized the United States when it accepted the credentials of U.S. consular agent John S. M. Matthiew, who was appointed to the position of U.S. Consul in Naples on May 20, 1796.
U.S. Consular Agents
The first U.S. consular agent appointed to what became the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was John S. M. Matthiew on May 20, 1796, who was assigned to Naples. Frederick Degan was assigned as consul on March 20, 1805, during Congressional recess. He was confirmed by Congress on January 17, 1806. He was succeeded by Alexander Hammett, appointed on April 7, 1809 and confirmed on June 21, 1809. Hammett was appointed specifically to the King of the Two Sicilies on April 20, 1816.
The first Consul of the United States for the island of Sicily was Joseph Barnes, who was appointed on February 10, 1802. On January 17, 1806, Abraham Gibbs and John Broadbent were commissioned as Consuls at the Sicilian cities of Palermo and Messina, respectively.
The first representative from the Two Sicilies in the United States was Count Ferdinando Lucchesi. On May 30, 1826, his exequatur as Consul General of the Two Sicilies at Washington, D.C. was signed by U.S. President John Quincy Adams.
Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1832.
Although the first diplomatic interaction between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies occurred with the reception of U.S. Special Minister Plenipotentiary to Naples William Pinkney in 1816, this did not result in the establishment of full diplomatic relations at the time. Pinkney was commissioned on April 23, 1816, with the mission to negotiate a treaty to pay reparations to U.S. merchants for items lost during the reign of Murat. Pinkney’s mission was unsuccessful, and in October 1816 he departed for his post at St. Petersburg, Russia.
Full diplomatic relations were established when the first U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies John Nelson presented his credentials to the King of the Two Sicilies on January 25, 1832. The first U.S. Minister Resident at Naples was Robert Dale Owen, who presented his credentials on September 20, 1854.
On December 7, 1846, the Chevalier Rocco Martuscelli presented his credentials as the Chargé d’Affairs at Washington of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. From then until 1861 the Government of the Two Sicilies was almost continuously represented in the United States by a Chargé d’Affaires. The last of these representatives was Giuseppe Anfora dei Duchi di Liccignano, Consul General, who acted as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim from September 24, 1860, to December 15, 1861.
Cessation of Relations, 1861.
During the course of the Risorgimento, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ceased to exist, thanks to the work of Giuseppe Garibaldi who, in 1860, overthrew the Bourbon monarchs and proclaimed a dictatorship on behalf of Victor Emmanuel II (the King of Piedmont-Sardinia).
The U.S. closed its mission in Naples in November 1860. When the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in early 1861, Sicily and Naples were part of the newly constituted nation, and U.S. diplomatic representatives were located in Turin.
Treaties and Agreements
Claims Convention, 1832.
This convention, also known as the Convention to Terminate the Reclamations of the Government of the Untied States for the Depredations Inflicted upon American Commerce by Murat During the Years 1809, 1810, 1811, and 1812, 1832, was signed on October 14, 1832 in Naples by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires near the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies John Nelson Esq. and the Minister Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Prince D. Antonio Maria Statella. The objective of this treaty was to allow U.S. merchants to be “indemnified for losses inflicted upon them by Murat, by the depredations, seizures, confiscations and destruction of their Vessels [sic] and cargoes, during the years 1809, 1810, 1811, and 1812.” This treaty was deemed obsolete when the Two Sicilies was consolidated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Arrangement Providing for the Reception in One Payment of the Balance of the Indemnity Remaining Under the Convention of October 14, 1832.
This agreement, concluded in Washington, D.C., by U.S. Secretary of State John Forsyth and the Sicilian Majesty’s Consul-General at the United States the Chevalier Dominico Mobelli on December 26, 1835, arranged for the payment of the remainder of monies owed to the United States by the 1832 agreement. This sum, 1,500,000 Neapolitan ducats, was to be paid to the United States Government on February 8, 1836.
Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, 1845.
Negotiated by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies William H. Polk and Giustino Fortunato, Minister Secretary of State of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Michael Gravina and Requesenez, Minister Secretary of State of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and Antonio Spinelli, Member of the General Consulat and Surintendant-General of the Archives of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was concluded on December 1, 1845, in Naples. The treaty was superseded by the convention of October 1, 1855.
Convention Relative to Rights of Neutrals at Sea, 1855.
Concluded on January 13, 1855, in Naples between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, this convention inscribed principles of the right of neutrals at sea, which was viewed as being “indispensable conditions of all freedom of navigation and maritime trade.” The convention was signed by U.S. Minister Resident at Naples Robert Dale Owen and Louis Carafa della Spina, who was charged with the Foreign Affairs portfolio for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. This treaty was superseded by the 1871 treaty with Italy.
Convention of Amity, Commerce, Navigation, and Extradition, 1855.
The Convention of Amity, Commerce, Navigation, and Extradition signed between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies on October 1, 1855, was signed in Naples by U.S. Minister Resident to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Robert Dale Owen, Louis Carafa della Spina, charged provisionally with the Portfolio of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Michael Gravina e Requesnez, late his Minister Secretary of State, and Joseph Marius Arpino, Advocate-General of the Grand Court of Accounts. There was a separate declaration attached to this convention which stipulated that all red and white wines exported from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the United States would not pay other or higher duties that that paid on wines by most favored nations. In reciprocation, U.S. cotton imported into the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies would not be taxed other or higher duties than those of Egypt, Bengal, or other most favored nations. This treaty became obsolete when the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Key Diplomatic Events
Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, 1861.
The aftermath of the Franco-Austrian War brought about a series of plebiscites in the northern Italian states. By going to the ballot box, the states voted to join Piedmont-Sardinia, with the ultimate goal of unifying the entire peninsula. It should be noted that Piedmont-Sardinia was one of the more powerful states in the peninsula, as well as having one of the most liberal political systems. Garibaldi’s march to “liberate” the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1860 brought the southern peninsula into the fold, and the new Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed on March 17, 1861, with the royal family of Piedmont-Sardinia as the new ruling monarchs of Italy.
U.S. Recognition of Italian Independence, 1861.
The United States officially recognized the Kingdom of Italy when it accepted the credentials of Chevalier Joseph Bertinatti as Minister Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Italy on April 11, 1861.
Issues Relevant to U.S. Foreign Diplomacy
One of the main issues of contention in the early nineteenth century between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was the question of Neapolitan compensation to U.S. merchants for ships and goods seized or confiscated in Neapolitan waters during the period 1809-1812. Such policies were implemented by Murat at the behest of Napoleon. The quest for compensation was, in fact, the original motivation behind the United States Government accrediting William Pinkney as a Special Minister Plenipotentiary to Naples in 1816.
- Denis Mack Smith, Modern Italy: A Political History, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
- William Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols, and Agreements between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776-1909, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1910.
- Howard R. Marraro, Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Volume I: 1816-1850, (New York: S.F. Vanni (Ragusa), 1951.
- Pietro Orsi, Cavour and the Making of Modern Italy, 1810-1861, (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1914).