Mr. Kreismann to Mr. Seward

No. 12.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch No. 1, dated July 31, 1863, approving of proceedings as detailed in my despatch No. 6, continuing the numbers where they ended last year, when the legation was left in my care, dated July 7, 1863.

The congress of German princes, as convoked by the Emperor of Austria, is now assembled at Frankfort amidst displays and scenes which call back to memory the glorious times of the old German empire. All the sovereigns have come except the King of Prussia, who, after having first declined the invitation of the Emperor of Austria, has now refused another of all the princes assembled, and which was carried to him by the King of Saxony in person.

The following are the leading features of the project of reform, as laid before the princes by the Emperor of Austria.

The executive power of the confederation to be intrusted to a directory of [Page 1024] five members. Austria, Prussia, and Bavaria would each appoint a member, the two others to be appointed by the other German states.

The defensive character of the confederation, as existing at present, to remain intact.

To the directory which would be presided over by Austria would be added, as a purely federal organ, a federal council, corresponding to the diet as at present existing, also presided over by Austria.

An assembly of delegates would be formed, consisting of 300 delegates, two-thirds of which would be selected by the elective chambers of the various states, and the remaining third by the upper chambers. Seventy-five members would be sent by Austria, and seventy-five by Prussia, the remainder by the other states. This assembly would be in office for three years. It would be the legislative assembly of the confederation; it would fix the federal financial estimates, (budget,) trace the fundamental lines for the special legislation of the German states, in so far as it concerns the press, the right of assemblage, the privilege of domicile, the execution of judicial sentences, emigration, and all federal affairs constitutionally placed under the competency of the confederation.

A simple majority would suffice for the decisions of the directory, as also of the federal council, and of the assembly of delegates.

At the close of the sessions of the assembly all the sovereigns would meet to examine and determine upon the resolutions adopted.

The project also comprises the establishment of supreme federal judicial tribunal.

The whole is very elaborate and detailed, and I beg leave to append it in full, in the original text, as a matter for reference.

Of course it is open to many objections, and does not fully respond to the just wishes of the German people; still it is more than it was supposed Austria would offer, and may well be taken as a starting point for further development. The non-participation of the King of Prussia may prove fatal to the deliberations, although indications now are that the project, with certain modifications, will be adopted by the sovereigns, the whole then to be referred for final detailed arrangements to conferences of ministers from the various states, in which it is expected Prussia will participate, and, when perfected, an assembly of delegates is to be called, to whom it will be submitted as the new articles of the federal diet.

The principal objection on the part of Prussia is to the Austrian preponderance, which runs through the whole project, and so far the objections are entirely justified, and meet the approval of the Prussian people and all the liberals in Germany. The latter are just now represented by an informal meeting of members of the chambers of the various German states, to the number of three hundred, also assembled at Frankfort. This body, in a series of resolutions, declares, the inadequacy of the projected reforms, but still does not entirely reject them, and insists upon placing Austria and Prussia on a footing of impartial equality, as a condition necessary to any projected measures of reform. It also claims that no reforms will satisfy and be accepted by the German people unless they include a German Parliament, directly chosen by the people.

This is the condition of affairs as developed so far. I shall keep you advised of the further and final progress thereof.

In the matter of the acceptance of the crown of Mexico by the Archduke Maximilian the liberal papers in Austria continue to oppose in emphatic terms, while French and Catholic influence are active in urging the young duke to accept. A visit of the duke to the Emperor and Empress of France, at Biarritz, has been arranged. On his way there the duke will stop at Gaeken, to see his father-in-law, the King of Belgium. These events, it is believed, will settle the matter, and result in the duke’s acceptance of the crown.

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The King of Prussia is now at Baden-Baden, but will return early in September. His health has greatly improved.

The Polish question remains “statu quo.” I am inclined to believe that Russian diplomacy has carried the day. It will not come to a European war, and Russia will be left free to suppress the insurrection.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c.