Mr. Hay to Mr. Seward.

Sir: The Austrian houses of congress continue their labors of reconstruction with great industry and persistence. The house of lords has been busily engaged during the past week in considering the laws passed some time ago by the house of representatives for the revision of the constitution of February, for the establishment of a permanent judicial system, and for the defining of civil rights. The deliberations upon these subjects are now almost concluded. The peers have shown an unexpected disposition to accept the results of the labors of the lower house, and to pass, with very unimportant amendments, the bills submitted by that assembly. The lords spiritual have shown greater anxiety on behalf of the prerogatives of the Grown than the Crown itself displays, and the great leaders of the centralist party have made a dignified demonstration of dissent from the prevailing tendency to a diffusion of powers. The Polish members have also, on one or two occasions, held out a vague threat of Pauslavistic combinations. But on the whole the debates have, as yet, been much less heated than was expected, and there is every prospect that when the peers are called to consider the laws on marriage and schools, which most decidedly contravene the provisions of the concordat, they will exhibit the same spirit of acquiescence with the popular branch of the legislature.

This action of the upper house is highly gratifying to liberal people. It had been feared that the feudal and ecclesiastical elements in this body would resist to the uttermost the confirmation of the recent liberal legislation of the house of representatives. It was to this general apprehension, extending even to the highest official circles, that was attributed the appointment by the Emperor last week, at the beginning of these debates, of 20 new peers; men, for the most part, of decided liberal antecedents; some of them distinguished in commerce, in science, and in civil service; some from the highest aristocracy, but all known to be devoted to the government in its present liberal attitude. So far the creation of this score of new lords has not been shown to have been necessary to secure a working majority, but the large vote by which all the liberal government measures have been recently carried cannot but have a great and beneficial moral effect.

The law providing for freedom of assembly is soon to go into effect, and political organizations are already preparing to avail themselves of it.

The great interest which the people of the empire are beginning to take in their internal affairs has almost entirely diverted their minds from those schemes [Page 564] of diplomatic combination that were so long a fruitful source of disorder and calamity to Austria. It has been recently asserted in English journals that a treaty had been made between Austria and France for common action in the eastern question. This report is denied here with an energy which indicates how clearly the imperial government feels the necessity of along period of independence and repose.

I am, sir, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.