Mr. Delaplaine to Mr. Fish.
Vienna, July 17, 1874. (Received August 4.)
Sir: On the first day of the present month an assembly known as the International Sanitary Conference commenced its deliberations at Vienna, under the presidency of Baron Gagern, who, upon his retirement a year ago with pension from a position then held by him in the ministry for foreign affairs, was honored with the rank of imperial and royal privy counselor, and a high decoration of merit was conferred upon him.
In this congress, which has been opened under the aegis and favoring protection of the most powerful and civilized nations, distinguished men of science have met as delegates to ascertain the practicability and determine the organization of measures adapted to check the origin, as well as to arrest the spread, of contagious diseases, especially of the cholera, and, if possible, to destroy in its germ this most destructive pestilence of modern time. The question as to the efficacy or necessity as well as to the duration of quarantines, so important to commercial and maritime nations, will receive ample consideration; and there is reason to believe that the decisions of this hygienic areopagus may be adopted as rules of international guidance, and receive enforcement by civilized powers.
It is gratifying and creditable to the spirit of the present century thus to see a congress convoked, not for political views, but for the attainment and accomplishment of plans and scientific discovery which may tend to the relief of humanity, as also to the advantage of commerce.
It is to be presumed as well as hoped that all their delegates will act in concert, imbued with a common feeling and in a common interest, and thus become entitled to the gratitude of their fellow men, while the laws promulgated will stand an enduring monument of honor to them. The emperor has, moreover, received them with special regard [Page 31] and favor; and, previously to his departure from Vienna, they were entertained by him at a state dinner in the imperial summer palace at Schönbrunn.
As no communication from the Department upon the subject of this congress has reached the legation, I was unable to answer satisfactorily a recent verbal inquiry of Baron Schwegel, in the ministry for foreign affairs, as to the cause of the absence of a delegate from the United States; and he expressed surprise, inasmuch as he stated that the invitation had been addressed to the American Government in the early part of May, through the Austro-Hungarian envoy at Washington, Baron Lederer, who had reported its acceptance and his belief that an eminent military physician would be appointed such delegate.
I was invited to a reception given last evening to the members of the conference and to the diplomatic corps, by the Baron and Baroness de Gagern; and he, after a similar inquiry, expressed much regret and disappointment, while he added that he still hoped that the American delegate might appear, who could in such case be assured of a warm welcome, although, as the conference would probably terminate its sittings within two weeks hence, at latest, the value of his co-operation and participation in its labors and deliberations would be greatly diminished.
I have, &c.,