Mr. Marsh to Mr. Seward
Sir: Immediately on the receipt of the President’s autograph letter of the 9th of January, 1863, to the King of Italy, I communicated a copy of it to the minister of foreign affairs, and asked an audience for the purpose of delivering it to his Majest. The King was then about going to Florence for an absence of several weeks, and subsequent visits to other cities prevented my reception until the 10th of May.
On that day the King received me in an entirely unceremonious manner, and the letter was presented. His Majesty spoke in the handsomest terms of his high appreciation of the President’s integrity of character, and of his own continued interest in the civil war in America, which he deplored as a great evil, not only to us but to Europe, and expressed the hope that the most energetic efforts would be made to bring it to a speedy termination.
He referred also to the expectation of a general European war, which he deemed a probable event, and said he thought such a war would end in the establishment of the principle of the independence of nationalities throughout Europe, and the promotion of the cause of rational liberty.
There is, I think, a growing impatience in all parts of the continent for the termination of a war which Europe is fast coming to think we ought not to have entered upon, or ought, with our vast superiority in population and material resources, to have conducted with such vigor as to have already brought to a close; and an intervention on the part of France and England would now be looked upon, by even our warmest political friends, with much less dissatisfaction than such a step would have excited a few months since. We are accused of injuring not only the material interests of Europe, but the cause of free government, by failing to put forth the energy which the law of self-preservation ought to inspire, and of showing, by a practical test, that popular institutions have not the strength and promptness of action which are essential to the proper discharge of the functions of government at such a crisis as this. I have no doubt that the adoption of a severe policy toward the rebellion would strengthen us effectually abroad as well as at home.
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Having accompanied Mr. Raum to the foreign office, just as I was closing this despatch I had an interview with the minister of foreign affairs, who informed me that he had received from the British government a proposal to the effect that the Italian government should publish a declaration on the subject of the treatment of federal and confederate ships-of-war in Italian ports—providing that a ship of the one party should not be allowed to sail within less than twenty-four hours after a vessel of the other should have left [Page 1160] the harbor. This proposal was declined by the Italian government upon the ground that it did not wish to commit itself to any specific line of action on the subject, or to anticipate a contingency which might never arise.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c.