Mr. Hay to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The Papal government seems to have committed an irreparable blunder in the allocution fulminated against Austria for the breach of the concordat. It was thought by the more zealous that this utterance of the Pope would have a powerful effect upon the court, the aristocracy, and the masses of the population in Austria; and for a few days the champions of reaction were in great glee over it. The prince and bishops came out one after another, in pastoral letters, which were nothing [Page 67]less than seditious, declaring the objectionable school and marriage laws null and void, and denouncing those who should avail themselves of their provisions as “public transgressors.” This spiritual exaltation appears now to have entirely died away. The clerical organs use much more moderate language, declaring that they never meant to attack the legal efficacy of these laws. And it is said that the reports now sent to Rome from the higher clergy, and from the apostolic nuncio himself, are of the most discouraging character. The Pope is reported to have said a few days ago that he had no idea that the pernicious sentiments of Joseph II had taken such deep root in Austria; that we must hope for better days, and pray for the passing away of the religious indifference that is so marked a characteristic of the times.
The government of the Emperor has presented a protest to the Papal government against the allocution, which is not as yet made public, but is understood to be couched in firm but courteous language. The people of Austria have responded to what they consider an unauthorized foreign dictation in a remarkably energetic and unanimous manner. In numerous municipal bodies resolutions denunciatory of the allocution have been passed. In the diocese of Gratz several of the town councils have refused to the archbishop, who has rendered himself obnoxious by his opposition to the confessional laws, the usual public receptions in his tour of confirmation. In Vienna, a large public meeting was held last week, where the allocution was read and torn in pieces by an excited orator amid general applause. An election has just been held in this city to fill the place of representative in the Landtag, or general assembly of Austria proper, left vacant by the death of the distinguished liberal, Dr. Mühlfeld. It was thought there would be a trial of strength between the clerical and liberal parties. But Dr. Giskra, minister of the interior, the liberal candidate, received every vote but one, the professors of the benedictine establishment going in a body to the polls and voting for him. In the south the warmer Italian blood of the population of Trieste has given occasion to regretable scenes of riot in the streets. Disorderly crowds have almost daily, during the past week, disturbed the peace of the city with cries of “down with the Pope!” and boisterous demonstrations against the monasteries and other religious establishments.
Even in the court and among the higher aristocracy there seems no disposition to defend the arrogant and aggressive attitude of the Papal government. By this act, which was intended to strike opposition dumb, and rescue the church from all its perils, the clerical authority has probably been more weakened in Austria than it could have been by years of liberal agitation.
Baron Meysenbug, under secretary of state, who has been since May in Rome, endeavoring to settle the differences between the two courts, is expected to return to-day, having utterly failed in his mission. He belongs to the clerical-feudal party, and was selected for this mission as a persona gratissima to his Holiness. But it is thought that this very fact, and the concessions which in his private capacity he was ready to make to the views of the Pope, prevented his presenting with any energy the views of his government, and encouraged the Papal curia in its attitude of blind resistance. It is now thought that the embassy in Rome will be abolished, and that Austria will be in future only represented there by a chargé d’affaires.
I am, sir, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.[Page ]