Mr. King to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The withdrawal of the French garrison from Rome may now be considered an accomplished fact. To-day the Papal flag replaces the French tricolor on the castle of St. Angelo, and ere the week closes not a French soldier, it is confidently asserted, will remain in the Papal dominions. His Holiness will thus be left face to face with his own subjects, and with the adjacent unfriendly kingdom of Italy; and all Europe is watching with intense interest, the march of events in the ancient mistress of the world. Speculation seems idle when almost any hour may precipitate the crisis. I am satisfied that the Italian government, with the governments of Europe generally, desires a peaceful solution of the pending questions between Rome and Italy; but whether the population can be controlled and kept within bounds of order, when the French contingent shall be finally withdrawn, involves another and more difficult problem. There are not a few of the Papal as well as the popular party who, though for opposite reasons, hope to see a violent collision between the authorities and the people; but the mass, I think, of reflecting men and substantial citizens deprecate a resort to violence, for if the spirit of revolution be once let loose in Rome, none can say to what lengths it might not proceed, under the strong impulse of many years of imagined if net real wrongs, oppression and persecution.
Meantime, the Holy Father shows signs of yielding. On Friday last, the French officers called upon him in a body, to take their leave, and the Count de Montebello, general commanding, addressed the Pope a few parting words. To these his Holiness responded substantially as follows:
General: This is not the first time that you come to offer me your good wishes, and I receive them now with the same affection as in the past.
When the French flag came to Rome it was hailed by the acclamations of the Catholic world and of all truly Christian souls; who knows if its return (or withdrawal) now will be hailed with the same sentiments? They tell me, and they write home, that I ought to have confidence; but has not an august personage again said of late that “Italy was made but not completed?” The revolution, does it not talk of planting its flag upon the capitol? but the Tarpeian rock is not far off !
I hear that the Emperor has been ill and disturbed in mind. Should one of you see him, say to him that I pray God to restore him health and calm, and that he may imbue himself with the thought, that it is not enough to call himself the eldest son of the Church, but that he must justify this title by his acts.
The revolution thunders at my gates, but like St. Augustine at Hippo, I pray God that I may die sooner than assist in my own ruin.”
This emphatic language made a deep impression upon those to whom it was addressed. It declares in no ambiguous terms the Pope’s fixed resolve to adhere to his resolution and abide the event. The illusion to St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, is founded upon the crowning incident in the life of that Roman sage and saint. When besieged by the “Barbarians” in his city of Hippo, (Africa,) he prayed that he might die sooner than be witness to his own overthrow; and in answer to his prayers, death came to his relief. So prays Pio Nono now !
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This morning’s mail from the east brought me despatches from our consuls at Alexandria and Malta in reference to John H. Surratt. I do not forward them, inasmuch as both Mr. Hale and Mr. Winthrop inform me that they have themselves reported their action in the premises to the State Department. They both suggest that a ship of war should be sent immediately to Alexandria for the criminal. I had already anticipated this request, and am hourly expecting the United States corvette Swatara at Civita Vecchia, in consequence of my telegram to Admiral Goldsborough. I hope too to receive, within a day or two, definite instructions from the State Department which will authorize the prompt despatch of the Swatara to Alexandria to receive Surratt and convey him to America.
I learn this moment that Tonello and Morizo, the two envoys from Victor Emanuel to his Holiness the Pope, are just arrived in Rome.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.