Mr. King to Mr. Seward.
Sir: Several weeks have elapsed since the receipt of despatch No. 55, from the State Department, apprising me that Congress had declined to make any-further appropriation for the support of the American legation at Rome, from and after the close of the present fiscal year. In the daily expectation that I would receive instructions as to the course to be pursued under the circumstances, I have refrained from calling on Cardinal Antonelli, for I was somewhat at a loss how to explain to his Eminence the sudden and unlooked-for withdrawal of the American minister from the Papal court; or on what terms to take my leave of the Holy Father himself and his accomplished secretary of state. I am still without the desired instructions, and earnestly request that if not already despatched, they may be transmitted to me at the earliest convenient opportunity.
The intelligence of the closing of the American mission has of course become public, and has elicited very strong expressions of regret from the American artists resident in Rome and transient American visitors here, as well as from my colleagues of the diplomatic corps and various functionaries of the Papal court. I am given to understand that the Pope himself feels hurt by this hasty and apparently groundless action of Congress, and thinks it an unkind and ungenerous return for the good will he has always manifested towards the American government and people.
On Friday last, Mr. J. C. Hooker, acting secretary of legation, having occasion to call on Monsignor Pacca, at the Vatican, on some matters of business, availed himself of the opportunity to pay his respects to Cardinal Antonelli. His Eminence at once introduced the subject of American Protestant worship in Rome. The season, he remarked, was nearly over and the time at hand for closing the American chapel. Should it be reopened in the autumn, it could only be under the roof of the American minister or else in the building assigned many years ago for Protestant worship, immediately outside the Porta del Popolo. The Scotch, the Cardinal added, had been holding their religious services in a building opposite the one just mentioned, but complaints had been made in regard to it, and he should inform Mr. Odo Russell that the Scotch must remove to the building occupied by the other Protestants. Baron Arnim, the Prussian minister, the Cardinal said, had applied to him to know if other religious services than their own would be permitted in the chapel connected with the Prussian legation, and the reply was that they might hold as many and what services they pleased; the Papal government did not enter into that question; it was enough for them to know that the services were under Prussian protection. In other words, the rule laid down and intended to be enforced by the Papal government in regard to Protestant worship in Rome is briefly this: that no questions are asked and no interference attempted as to such worship, provided that it be celebrated under the roof of a minister duly accredited to the Papal court. If there be no minister or no chapel connected with the mission, the American Protestants desirous of holding religious services according to the forms prescribed by their own church must do so in the building heretofore set apart for Protestant worship, outside the gates of Rome. This building, it seems proper to add, has been thus occupied by the English since 1823; adjoins the Porta del Popolo, and faces the entrance to the Villa Borghese; is large, convenient, easy of access, and can accommodate a numerous congregation, and is within five or ten minutes’ walk of the principal hotels, lodging houses, and quarters of the city most frequented by American visitors. I have given the substance of the Cardinal’s conversation, that there might be no misunderstanding [Page 708] as to the views of the Papal government relative to the toleration of Protestant worship within their jurisdiction. The rule is simple and obvious. It results therefrom that it is not his Holiness the Pope, but the American Congress who, by closing the mission here, have driven American Protestant worship outside the gates of Rome. So long as the United States had a representative at the Papal court, and a chapel connected with the United States legation, no interference whatever was thought of or attempted with American Protestant worship in this Catholic city. It owes its suppression in Rome to the suppression of the American legation, to Congress and not to the Pope. It is this fact which renders it all the more difficult for me to announce to his Holiness that the United States withdraws its representative at the Papal court and breaks off all diplomatic intercourse with the Papal government on the alleged but erroneous grounds that the Pope refuses to permit Protestant worship within the walls of Rome.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.