Mr. King to Mr. Hunter

No. 41.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the circular from the State Department, under date of May 16, enclosing two copies of the President’s proclamation of May 10, relative to insurgent cruisers, one of which I am directed to communicate, without delay, to the government to which I am accredited. In accordance with these instructions, I this morning presented to the cardinal secretary of state a copy of the proclamation in question, with a brief explanation of its contents.

I availed myself of the opportunity to converse with his eminence on the subject of American affairs. He rejoiced, he said, to see that the war was entirely over, and that the questions remaining to be disposed of were of trifling importance compared with the great one which had been so effectually settled. Alluding to the capture of Jefferson Davis, the cardinal expressed the hope that the government might find it consistent with its views of duty to spare the life which he had forfeited to the outraged laws of his country. I remarked to his eminence that of one thing at least he might rest assured—that no feeling of vengeance would dictate the course pursued, and that fewer victims would fall at the close of our great civil war than in any other similar struggle recorded in history.

The cardinal adverted to our existing relations with England and France, and the causes which might disturb them. Of these he seemed to think that Mexico was the most prominent. I assured his eminence that the American government would not permit any “filibustering” expedition to be fitted out in the United States, with a view to upset Maximilian and expel his French protectors from Mexico. At the same time I expressed the belief that the Austrian archduke could not maintain his authority there without foreign help, and when that was withdrawn—as it shortly must be—he would probably follow in their footsteps. The cardinal coincided in this opinion, and added that when consulted on the subject by Maximilian, upwards of a year ago, he had cautioned the Austrian prince against undertaking the enterprise. All that his eminence said, indeed, confirmed the view taken in my last despatch, as to the feeling now entertained by the papal court towards Maximilian and his projected empire on the western continent.

I mentioned to the cardinal that, within a few days past, Bishop Lynch, of Charleston, South Carolina, a reputed confederate agent, had applied to me, through a friend, to know upon what conditions he would be allowed to return to South Carolina and resume his clerical functions. The cardinal remarked, in reply, that the bishop had never been received or recognized in any way as an accredited representative of Jefferson Davis, and that, like every other good Catholic, resident in the United States, it was his bounden duty to honor, respect, and obey the constituted authorities of the government under whose protection he lived.

The envoy of Victor Emanuel, M. Vegezzi, is expected to return to Rome on Monday next. This is another step forward in the pending negotiations between the Pope and the King of Italy; but no prediction can yet be safely hazarded as to the final result.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. W. Hunter, Acting Secretary of State.