Mr. Marsh to Mr. Hunter.


No. 118]

Sir: Two days since a telegraphic message, forwarded to this city for transmission to Constantinople, brought us the first announcement of the fearful crime to which the Chief Magistrate of the Union has fallen a victim. The want of direct intelligence and the brevity of the telegram led many to suspect that it was a false rumor, invented for purposes of speculation, but it was confirmed by later messages, and the post of this morning brings us many of the [Page 443] details of the assassination, as well as a notice of your appointment as Acting Secretary of State.

Upon the reception of the first message members of the Italian senate and chamber of deputies, which were then there in session, called at my house for information as to the truth of the report. This, in consequence of the accidental failure of telegrams to and from Mr. Adams, I was unable to give but knowing, as I do, the character of the enemies with whom the late President had to contend, and remembering the threats of which he was often the object, I have long thought such an event probable, and did not hesitate to say that I so considered it.

You will receive from nearer sources abundant evidence of the reprobation and horror which this enormous offence against humanity has excited throughout Europe; and I am happy to say that the most eminent friends of Italian liberty are not behind the foremost in condemnation of the crime, and in regret for the sudden removal of a public officer who, at the moment of his death, enjoyed the reverence of the civilized world in a higher degree than any other man of our times.

The minister of foreign affairs has requested me to assure my government of the special regret and sympathy of the King of Italy, and of the present administration of the kingdom, and most of the foreign ministers at this court have expressed to me similar sentiments. The senate and the chamber of deputies have passed appropriate resolutions on the occasion, but as these will be officially communicated to the government, through the Italian minister at Washington, I forbear to transmit them. * * * * *

Great interest is naturally felt and expressed respecting the probable policy of Mr. Lincoln’s successor, and the effect of the President’s death on the political interests of the United States. It has been a great satisfaction to me to be able to testify, from personal acquaintance with the present incumbent of the presidential office, to the purity and elevation of his character, and to his soundness, ability, and integrity as a statesman, and at the same time to profess a confidence in the stability of our institutions which excludes all fear, either of a dangerous shock to them or of a temporary derangement of their normal functions from even so calamitous an event as this.

It would be ungracious at this moment to inquire jealously into the sincerity of the official expressions of European regret, or into the probable effects of Mr. Lincoln’s death on the policy of foreign powers toward us. Happily the progress of our arms has secured us from all visible danger of European intervention; and if there are governments which, in earlier stages of the rebellion, might have availed themselves of such a conjuncture as this for evil ends, it is now too late to make it an occasion of successful wrong-doing by any European state to the people of the United States.

We are yet without definite information as to the condition of the Secretary of State, and of his son and assistant, but the telegraphic intelligence seems favorable to the life and complete restoration of both of them.

The great wisdom and ability with which Mr. Seward has conducted the foreign relations of the United States are universally acknowledged, and are, indeed, so deeply felt that his decease at this moment would be regarded by Europe as a loss to his country hardly less than that of the President himself, and I most earnestly trust both that his life may be saved, and that he may be spared the heavy affliction of the loss of a distinguished son.

I am, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. W. Hunter,
Acting Secretary of State.