No. 240.
Mr. Marsh to Mr. Fish.

No. 462.]

Sir: After two weeks of consultation with leading members of both political parties, Mr. Minghetti has succeeded in forming a ministry, in which he holds the position of president of the council and minister of finance. Messrs. Vincenti, Venosta Ricolti, and Scialoja resume their portfolios as ministers of foreign affairs, war, and public instruction, respectively, and the other departments are filled by gentlemen of known ability, but not, so far as I recollect, of previous ministerial experience.

Mr. Minghetti’s first movement was to make advances to gentlemen of the opposition, and four portfolios, including the important ministry of finance, were offered to them through Mr. Dessretis, the parliamentary leader of the left. These positions were refused, and Mr. Minghetti then proceeded to form a cabinet from the right, a ministerial party.

Two reasons for the refusal of Mr. Dessretis and his friends to accept Mr. Minghette’s offers are given. One is that, in conferring with Mr. Dessretis, Mr. Minghetti said that he made these overtures to the gentlemen in question, not as representatives of the parliamentary opposition, but as able and respected statesmen. This, it is said, was not thought a sufficient concession, and a distinct recognition of the left as an element in the new ministry was insisted on. The other and more probable account of the matter is that the opposition insisted that the ministry of the interior should be given to one of its members, and that the negotiations were broken off on Mr. Minghetti’s refusal to accede to this demand.

The ministry of the interior can hardly be considered as equal in importance to either that of foreign affairs or of finance. But in the first of these departments there are now no questions of magnitude pending, and the other is an essentially unpopular ministry, and must remain so as long as there is a probability that there will be a necessity for enforcing new taxes, or for more rigorously enforcing the fair assessment and prompt collection of those due on the present burdensome system.

The ministry of the interior, being brought into more direct connection with the people, and that in a way not ordinarily offensive, and it has a larger amount of patronage and, of course, a greater amount of popular influence than any other department. The reasons which made this position especially desirable to the opposition made it equally so to the ministerial party, and the control of it was too important a point to be relinquished by either.

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Mr. Minghetti has always maintained the ministerial, or what may be called the tory, party in Parliament, but in the debates on the question which led to the overthrow of the late cabinet he acted with the opposition, and was followed by so many of his old associates that the final ballot can hardly be said to have been a party vote. He is one of the ablest parliamentary speakers in Italy, is also a man of a wide range of attainment and culture, and has few or no superiors in the country as a writer on political economy and kindred subjects. Worthy of special note are his letters on religious liberty, published in 1855. The views expressed by him in those letters were much in advance of European public opinion at that time, especially in Catholic countries; and even now, for Americans, to whom religious liberty is so much a matter of course that they have almost ceased to think on the subject, they have much both of interest and of novelty.

As a minister of finance, in a former cabinet, Mr. Minghetti was not successful, but the economical condition of Italy has changed so much since that period that a former failure affords no ground for predicting an unfortunate administration of the public exchequer by the same statesman at present.

The new ministers will repair to Florence to-morrow to take the oath of office before the King, and will enter on their duties on Saturday.

I have, &c.,