Mr. Marsh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have conversed with Mr. Barbolani, secretary general of the ministry of foreign affairs, who has been some time in that branch of the Italian public service, and with other persons conversant with the state of things at Tunis, in relation to the subject of Mr. Heap’s dispatch, a copy of which accompanied a late instruction of yours.
Mr. Barbolani said that his government had been very cautious in offering advice to the Bey of that regency, and he did not appear to be aware that any European government had gone so far in the way of remonstrance against the severities lately and still practiced by the Bey’s administration as Mr. Heap’s information would lead one to suppose.
The statement of facts by Mr. Heap and his predecessor is certainly not exaggerated, but the Italian government expects little good in that quarter from moral means, and its interests, and those of its subjects, have not yet called for the employment of material force.
There are 5,000 or 6,000 Italians residing in the basylik, and the commercial relations of Tunis with Italy are more important than with any other Christian state. On the other hand, our commerce with that country is insignificant, and we can hardly be said to have any other political relations with the Bey’s government than are implied in its recognition of our consular agents. It does not seem probable that a government so remote as ours could accomplish much for the cause of humanity in Tunis, by resorting to measures which European powers have found ineffectual, or which they have not thought it expedient to adopt, and no information which I have obtained leads me to suppose that the desired end would be advanced by any special action on the part of the American government.
There would, however, be little risk in authorizing Mr. Heap to unite with the European consuls, at Tunis, in any general moral measures which their governments may instruct them to adopt.
You will pardon me for suggesting that Mr. Cerruti, by official residence on the Barbary coast, and by long service in the ministry of foreign affairs at this court, is better qualified to advise on this subject than any person known to me here, and as his intelligence and good faith are altogether to be relied on, I have no doubt he can give you valuable information on the subject.
General Menabrea told me yesterday that he should write fully to Mr. Cerruti on the subject of the Italian naval expedition to South America, and I infer from his remarks that this government would gladly accept the good offices of our own with that of Uruguay. I think it probable that Mr. Cerruti will suggest this to you, and, in any event, I have no doubt an offer to that effect from you would be received as a gratifying evidence of amicable sentiments towards Italy. * *
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.[Page 70]