Mr. Marsh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I received last evening a note from the ministry of foreign affairs, a translation of which is hereunto annexed.
As the ministry has been several times changed since August, 1861, it is, perhaps, not strange that my note to Baron Ricasoli, dated on the 26th of that month, proposing the negotiation of a convention between the United States and, the kingdom of Italy for the recognition of the principles of maritime law declared by the congress of Paris, should not be known to the members of the present cabinet, but it is remarkable that the government of France, after having [Page 329] communicated to that of Italy our proposal of adhesion in terms implying that the adhesion had been accepted, should not have informed the Italian government that the proposed convention was not consummated.
The minister of foreign affairs receiving only on Saturdays, I had an interview with the secretary general this morning, referred him to my note of August 26, 1861, which I found was familiar to officers who have been longer in the department than Mr. Cerruti, explained to him the reasons why our adhesion must be given, the form of a convention, and stated the causes of the failure of the regulations at London and Paris in 1861.
Mr. Cerruti informed me that the proper action to be pursued by his government towards vessels under the confederate flag had been discussed by the diplomatic council, upon the supposition that the adhesion of the United States to the principles adopted by the congress of Paris had been formally given and accepted, and he added that the failure of the negotiations for that purpose gave the question a new aspect in some respects, and would, perhaps, somewhat modify the conclusions at which the council had arrived.
The point raised by my note of July 11, 1861, was then discussed, and I. learned that the government had consulted some of the ablest Italian jurists on the subject. The question of the probability of nationalizing and investing with an official character as a ship-of-war a foreign-built vessel never brought within the territorial jurisdiction of the states by which it was commissioned was, as Mr. Cerruti informed me, considered a matter of much delicacy and difficulty; but though I do not expect that this government will fully concede the grounds I assumed, I was assured that such order would be given to the local authorities as would substantially answer the purpose I had in view, in case a confederate cruiser should enter an Italian port. I ought to add that Mr. Cerruti expressed the continued spmpathy of his government for our cause, and I have no doubt of the entire sincerity of these assurances.
The conduct of this government is the more entitled to a generous appreciation by us because the cutting off the supply of cotton is a severe injury to Italian industry, especially at a moment when both vine culture and silk husbandry are suffering such ruinous consequences from the maladies of the grape and the silk worm; and apprehensions are entertained of serious disturbances from the expected suspension of large cotton factories near Genoa, which would throw many hundreds of laborers out of employment.
We have this morning a very brief telegraphic despatch, with news to the 9th of this month, to the effect that Vicksburg has surrendered, and that Lee has been defeated in Pennsylvania.
I beg leave to offer my congratulations to the government on these auspicious events.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of Slate, &c., &c., &c.