No. 38.
Mr. Partridge to Mr. Fish.

No. 113.]

Sir: On the 3d instant, the first session of the XVth legislature was closed, and the second session opened by a speech from the Emperor, a copy of which and translation (resumé) is hereunto annexed.

It will be seen that this speech announces no new programme of the ministry, but merely declares that peaceful relations are maintained with all foreign powers, and recalls some of the measures adopted during the session just closed.

The electoral law has not yet been acted upon, and most of the bills presented during the late go over to the present session.

Nothing is said about a matter which has, perhaps, more than anything else, attracted the attention of the public, and even entered largely into the discussions of the chambers. This is the “Ecclesiastical question,” or the discussion which has arisen upon the attempts of three or four of the principal bishops (Rio, Pará, Pernambuco, &c.) to excommunicate all members of the Masonic orders. Very many, perhaps a majority, of the most prominent political men in Brazil are members of that order. The Viscount de Rio Branco, president of the council, is Grand Master, and many members of the present government belong to it.

As the excommunication prohibits all such persons from participating in any of the sacraments or public acts of their religion, marriage, membership in the charitable orders, baptism, &c., these acts of those prelates have created a very great excitement; and as these decrees have been published without asking or receiving the “placet” of the government, as required by their constitution, those who are affected have accused the bishops of its infringement; and the opponents of the clerical party, in the legislature, in journals and in private, declare that this question of masonry is only a pretext with those bishops who have not heretofore disturbed them on that account; but now, under its cover, attempt to establish the supremacy of their church regulations over the civil laws of the empire.

The discussion has been warm, and it is said that the Emperor is even anxious as to the extent and the result which it threatens.

In this connection may be noticed, also, the reply of the bishop of Rio Grande do Sul to an inquiry, in respectful language, addressed to him by the provincial assembly, as to the number of Jesuits employed in his diocese. His answer was that they had no right to address such inquiries to him, as the matter was exclusively of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and discipline.

I regret I am unable to state that the yellow fever has disappeared. Some few cases are still reported; the weather continues warm, and the city in an unhealthy condition.

The reports of the coffee-crop, now gathering, are that it will be unusually small.

I have, &c.,

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Resumé of the speech of the Emperor of Brazil, from the throne, at the opening of the assembly, May 3, 1873.

Thanks the assembly for their sympathy at the death of his step-mother.

Prevailing epidemic is lessening and the sufferings from it and from inundations were relieved by private charities and by acts of the government.

Good relations maintained with all foreign powers.

Treaties of extradition with Portugal, Great Britain, and Italy ratified; and a postal convention with Peru.

Public tranquillity nowhere disturbed, but life and property sometimes insecure in the interior; this will be remedied by increased intercommunication and measures for elevation of the people.

A continued increase of receipts during 1871–’72, and this prosperity permits the reduction of many taxes.

Increase of pay to the army and navy and civil service had become necessary. The administration will be improved by a diminution of its employés and the increase of remuneration.

A plan on a more extensive and perfect scale will be proposed for popular education.

The interests of Brazil demand immigration, professional schools, roads, and telegraphs. Upon these measures will depend a favorable issue of those changes which are to be worked in the organization of labor and interior administration.

Any sacrifices involved by these measures will he more than compensated by the improvement of the people and increase of wealth.

Prolongation of the Pernambuco, &c., railroads is in progress, and many such enterprises are begun without charge to the state.

The province of Rio Grande do Sul has right to assistance for its development by railroads and for measures to protect its frontier with Paraguay.

The Transatlantic Cable Company between Brazil and Europe will also construct a submarine line between the northern and southern parts of the empire.

Two projects of most recognized utility are the reform of the national guard and the new electoral law already proposed; and to these may be added promotion in the navy, recruiting, courts of second instance, and the creation of a new province. This last will comprehend the fertile valley of San Francisco, which has hitherto been deprived of the influx and advantages of civilization.

The electoral reform will secure the first condition of our form of government, the genuine expression of popular will.

Having confidence in your patriotism and in the future greatness of Brazil, I declare the first session of the present legislature closed and the second session opened.