Mr. Seward to Mr. Marsh

No. 79.]

Sir: Your despatch of July 11 (No. 75) has been received. The information it contained has been communicated to the Secretary of the Navy, and I have the pleasure of approving the protest you have addressed to the minister of foreign affairs concerning the designs of the insurgents to abuse the Italian ports for the purpose of making war therefrom against the United States. The high sense of justice which the King of Italy has hitherto manifested, not to speak of the friendship which exists between the Italian nation and the American people, induces a confident expectation, on the part of the President, that his Majesty’s government will not tolerate the execution of the unlawful designs you have brought to its notice.

The statement you have given me of a decline of confidence in the success of this government in suppressing the insurrection, which is exhibited in Europe, has been carefully considered, in connexion with similar information which was contained as well in a former despatch of your own, as in the communications of others of our representatives on that continent. I freely confess that the fact is regarded with sincere and profound regret. It cannot be admitted, however, that this unfavorable opinion is sustained by the argument upon which, according to your statement, it is built; much less that it is sustainable independently of that reasoning. I think I have had occasion to say, heretofore, that insurrections are generally strong, vigorous, and energetic in their beginnings, while well-established governments may be expected to gain strength, vigor, and energy as the struggle for self-defence, to which they are summoned, advances.

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Eight hundred days are not yet elapsed since this popular government, all unused to military action, and destitute of its machinery and appliances, was obliged to accept civil war on land and sea. An insurrection, occupying near half of the Union, seized upon the principal military force, the most important navy yards, forts, and arsenals, and employed their guns against the government itself. Every two days of the intervening period witnessed the bringing of a new and effective ship-of-war, with a hundred seamen and marines, into the naval service, as well as the gathering into camps of two thousand soldiers, practically, all of whom were volunteers. The achievements of our land and naval forces have been equally brilliant and effective. Our marches and sieges have, I think, seldom been excelled. Certainly the area of the government’s authority has been so continually enlarged, that the rebellion has retired within a compass altogether too small to maintain an independent state. We have regained the most important of our seaports, while we hold all others in close siege; and we are now traversing, unchecked, all the great rivers and lakes of the country from their outlets to their sources.

Now, at the close of two years of war, what are the respective conditions of the belligerent parties? We are bringing out new and effective ships, and increasing our naval marine, more rapidly than before, and we are gathering into camps a force adequate to repair all the waste of the war. Our national credit is stronger than it was when the war began, and is equal to that which almost any other government holds, though in a state of profound peace. Can those who forebode our downfall show us where the forces and the material and the credit of the insurgents lie concealed? To us it seems as if they are nearing the point of exhaustion.

It is, under the circumstances, eminently to be desired that the confidence of foreign nations in the success of the government should not be lost. It is to be regretted that there may be nations whose forbearance from interfering with us would give way with their respect for our strength and power. If, however, we are destined now to encounter foreign complications, let us be thankful that they have been delayed so long. We shall be found, when they come, with an army, a navy, and a treasury not only adequate, as we think, to self-defence, but also befitting the continent and the cause we shall then be defending against nations whom we have never wronged, and who are quite as deeply interested in our friendship, as we, unhappily, are in their forbearance towards ourselves.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


George P. Marsh, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Turin.