Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward

No. 87.]

Sir:* * * * * * * * * * * *

There has been for a period of two or three months a remarkable lull in the European atmosphere. In this empire an indisposition on the part of the government [Page 6] depart from the circle of its domestic cares and duties is more and more apparent. The Reichsrath is occupied—in committees chiefly—with projects for retrenchment and economy, and it is supposed that the budget for 1866 may possibly be laid before the Chambers previously to the final disposition of the estimates for 1865.

Projects exist of assembling the diets in Hungary, and hopes are entertained even of obtaining deputations from that kingdom to the Reichsrath before the expiration of the term for which the present assembly was chosen, but the projects would seem to be premature and the hopes over-sanguine.

At present matters remain in much the same condition as that which has existed for the last two years. The passive opposition of Hungary to any plans for merging its separate existence in the constitutional empire still continues.

The close political intimacy between Austria and Prussia seems unbroken, so far as can be judged from any outward signs, and this combination, which a few years ago would have been an impossibility, has already become one of the commonplaces of European politics. Yet there is no doubt that a vague feeling of uneasiness on the subject exists both in Germany and in the rest of Europe.

Prussia and Austria combined are an enormous military force, capable of neutralizing any manifestation in the centre of Europe, to which it should be hostile. External movements against the Rhine or against Venetia, rising in Poland or Hungary, would be utterly futile so long as this alliance remains.

Whether the Schleswig-Holstein matter is to cement the compact, or whether, on the contrary, it is to fall asunder as soon as a decision of that question is reached, must soon be seen.

There is much impatience felt here as to the masterly Prussian procrastination through which the interim still continues. The diplomatic correspondence between the two powers has not yet been published, nor has it yet come to an end, but the general opinion would seem to be that a present scheme for annexing the duchies to Prussia does not exist. It is observable, however, that while the liberal party is loud in denouncing all such projects, and in calling for the installation of the prince of Augustenburg as rightful sovereign of the duchies, the more ministerially inclined appear almost indifferent as to the possibility of annexation, and are lukewarm in regard to Augustenburg. But the matter cannot be protracted much longer, and a decision as to the sovereignty must soon be made.

In regard to our own affairs, I should say that a decided change in what is called the public opinion of Europe is manifesting itself. In this empire we have never had to combat with the malice, the calumny, and the treacherous and perfidious “neutrality” by which some other nations have succeeded in injuring us almost as much as by direct hostilities.

We have not often been brought into actual contact with the government on exciting questions, but its attitude towards us has been uniformly loyal, frank and unequivocal. The sovereign of the country has, on more than one occasion, done me the honor to express in energetic language his admiration of the steadiness, the courage, and the vast resources by which the United States government had maintained its authority, and his sympathy with our military successes; and certainly not a word has ever emanated from the imperial royal Foreign Office, or from any statesman or public speaker, that could offend the dignity or wound the susceptibility of the American people, engaged as it is in a life and death contest with the demon of slavery.

The tone of the journalism in this capital in regard to our affairs has been, in general, respectful, friendly, and intelligent, while articles have been occasionally published manifesting a thorough acquaintance with the subject, and much breadth and depth of reflection as to the consequences of our great revolution. At present the opinion seems to have pervaded every channel of public thought in Europe that the war is drawing to a close, that the cause of the confederacy is lost, and [Page 7] that the united republic is to rise superior to all the powers of domestic treason and foreign malice, and to be more conspicuous and formidable than ever.

I shall not endeavor to analyze the materials of which this opinion is compounded. I only state it as a fact, and as a new one. The very opposite opinion has been until lately the prevailing one; and those who have maintained the certainty of the continued existence of our undivided commonwealth, and the ultimate extinction both of the mutiny and of slavery, have been met with a smile of incredulity. For my own part, as I have never faltered for one instant since the beginning of the war in my faith that Jefferson Davis and his fellow conspirators had undertaken an impossible task, and that a government founded like ours, on the broad basis of the popular will, and a widely extended suffrage, was immovable and impregnable, I do not feel any more encouraged now that the whole European world accepts than I was disturbed when it denounced and ridiculed such convictions.

On the contrary, I should say that Europe in its impatience is again going too fast. Four years ago it was in a great hurry for the United States government to abdicate, and for the American nation to get itself decently buried without further delay. Now it is equally hasty in giving short shrift to the rebellion, and in expecting by every day’s steamer to hear that it had given up the ghost. Especially an importance which seems inexplicable has been attributed to certain reported negotiations which it was supposed were at once to bring the war to a close. As if the very term negotiation were not in itself an absurdity and a recognition of the rebellion, and as if the United States government were about to make itself an accomplice in one of the darkest crimes ever recorded by history, by proposing to compound the gigantic felony with the chief criminals.

Certainly there seem unequivocal symptoms of a coming counter revolution by the people of the slaveholding States against the oligarchs. The palingenesis of Missouri, of Maryland, and (as it now seems probable) of Tennessee, makes the heart of every loyal American and every hater of slavery leap for joy, and it would seem to require only a wider expansion of the movement—to expect which in the early future seems not over sanguine—to cause the whole commonwealth of the United States to be born again into a newer and a higher life.

But we cannot disguise from ourselves that we have a long road to travel before the end of this war is reached. Rebellion still maintains great armies in the field, and defies the lawful government from its intrenched capital.

Until those true peace negotiators, our great generals and admirals and our magnificient armies and fleets, have destroyed the military power of the rebellion, we can hardly dare to hope for an effective counter revolution in the insurgent States.

The European public is, however, already busy with speculations as to the series of events likely to follow the reconstruction of the Union, prominent among which, of course, are tremendous military movements by the combined veteran armies of the loyal and of the lately insurgent sections.

The invasion of Canada and of Mexico without an instant’s delay, the sweeping off from the American continent of every vestige of European dominion, from Behrings Straits to the Isthmus, the revolutionizing of Ireland—a war with France and England, and I know not what besides—these are the phantoms made to dance about to appal the souls of fearful politicians. It is superfluous to say that such tricks to inveigle the rulers of Europe into rendering assistance at the last moment to the sinking rebellion are to shallow to have a chance of success.

I have the honor to remain your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward &c., &c., &c.