Mr. Marsh to Mr. Seward.
Sir:You will have learned that a treaty for the withdrawal of the French garrison from Rome has just been concluded between the Italian government and the Emperor of France. Rumors of pending negotiations to that effect had, indeed, been some time in circulation, but they were generally regarded as but the hundredth repetition of reports which never had a solid foundation, and the Italian people were quite taken by surprise by the official confirmation of them.
The conditions of the treaty are not yet made public, but it is known that among them is a stipulation on the part of Italy to transfer the seat of government from this city to Florence. It is also believed that there is a provision for the assumption of a large part of the public debt of the pontifical government by this kingdom, and it is much feared that the Italian government has, by express promise, or by secret or implied pledge, entered into engagements which are tantamount to a renunciation of the claims of Italy upon Rome as her national capital.
I regret to say that I do not think it improbable that this apprehension is substantially well founded. The known opinions and sympathies of some Italian statesmen who are believed to have been active in effecting the conclusion of the treaty, and many other circumstances, give countenance to this view of the subject, and I have no doubt that this Italian ministry understands the Emperor Napoleon as considering the removal of the seat of government to Florence to be a virtual abandonment of the purpose of establishing it at Rome, though it is not likely that such an engagement appears on the face of the treaty, or has been in any way formally entered into.
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It is not to be denied that there is much popular dissatisfaction with the policy of this administration in many parts of Italy, and that political agitators, Romish, Bourbon, and Mazzinian, are constantly putting the question, What has Italy gained by her pretended unity? But, after all, there is no question that the belief of a community of interests, the consciousness of a national life, and the conviction that immense advantages to the whole Italian people have already resulted from the gathering of the different provinces under one political organization, are strong and rapidly growing sentiments throughout the peninsula. This, I have reason to believe, is scarcely less true of Naples than of the rest of the kingdom. Distracted as the rural districts of southern Italy are by brigandage and priestly and political intrigues, the recent progress of the city of Naples and of all the most populous parts of the adjacent provinces in material prosperity, in intelligence, in public order, and respect for law has been extremely rapid, and that population seems now hardly less attached to the new government than any others of its subjects. Ten years ago Naples and its dependent territory were socially, morally, and politically more degraded than Spain, or even Greece but they have now left; these states far behind them in the march of substantial improvement. The dynastic views of the French Emperor will find no support in Naples. The Murat faction, always insignificant, has ceased to exist, and the partisans of Francis II keep their numbers good only by the recruits who are sent them by Pius IX and their own fugitive King.
The question of the removal of the seat of government is naturally a very exciting one for Turin, and the transfer will meet with a determined and, perhaps, very formidable opposition from the people and politicians of Piedmont. Turin has been a royal capital for generations. It can hardly be said to have [Page 336] had any other existence or source of life than as a governmental residence, and all its local institutions, all its social habits, all its industrial life, have been modelled accordingly. Its growth, though slow, had been steady, but it received a sudden stimulus in 1848, then an abrupt check from the expectations of the removal of the court to Rome in 1860, and then a new and strong impulse from the rapid increase of the number of its inhabitants, and the apparent defeat or indefinite postponement of the realization of those expectations on the retirement of the Ricasoli ministry in 1862.
Since that period a very large number of new houses have been built, or rather commenced, to accommodate the excessively crowded population of the city. The mode of construction prescribed by the customs of the country and by municipal regulations is enormously costly, and a long time elapses between the laying of the foundations and the actual occupancy of the huge piles which are erected as dwellings. Hence a large capital—often borrowed for speculation in building—has been invested in houses, few of which are yet in a state to receive tenants. The proposed change of capital threatens these operations with at least a long suspension, and the enterprising constructors and their creditors with ruin, and at the same time menaces a town which is the winter residence of almost every influential family in Piedmont with the utter prostration of all its material interests.
There has, however, thus far, been no ebullition of popular feeling nor any violent expression of public dissatisfaction. All are anxiously waiting the disclosure of the terms of the treaty and the action of Parliament upon them, and in the mean time preparing for a strenuous opposition to the proposed change, which will find many powerful adversaries in other provinces as well as in this.
Parliament is summoned to meet on the 4th of October, and it is supposed it will be very soon dissolved, and the election of a new chamber ordered to assemble soon at Florence. It is also thought probable that the King, the court, and the ministers will spend the winter at that city, but that the secretaries general of the departments and the inferior personnel of the public offices, as well as the archives of the kingdom, will remain at Turin for several months longer, and that the ordinary routine of public business will go on here until perhaps another summer.
If this plan of a divided capital is adopted the diplomatic corps may be embarrassed in the choice of a residence. It being usually impossible to hire houses here for short terms, most of the foreign ministers, I unhappily among the rest, have taken apartments and offices on leases which have still at least a year to run, and we shall very probably be obliged to take apartments and keep offices open both at Florence and at Turin. The question of removal of the capital and of my own principal residence will necessarily be decided before I can hear from the department. I shall endeavor to act solely with reference to the public good; but as I shall in any case be obliged to submit to a heavy pecuniary sacrifice, I shall hope for the indulgence of the President in case I am thought to have made an erroneous decision.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.