Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Fish.
Berlin, October 27, 1873. (Received November 14.)
Sir: I annex to this letter an authentic copy, in its original Italian, of the letter of the Pope to the Emperor William, of August 7, of this year. The effect of the correspondence has been only to increase the popularity and European reputation of the Emperor, and to depress the influence of the clerical party, thus confirming the accounts which I have always given you that the ultramontane political influence can never become vitally dangerous in this empire. The Catholic clergy are obviously beginning to regret having commenced with the state a contest in which it is not possible for them to gain the advantage. The intelligent Catholics themselves, for the most part, support the government, and so have received from the ultramontanes the nick name of State Catholics. This controversy has nothing new about it, unless it be that the Emperor, whom the Pope arraigns, is a Protestant. I need not remind you that in the last century Charles III, King of Spain, made this very question the test in his selection of his ministers, and the Spanish language has a word to designate it, Regalismo, the authority of the state, as opposed to papal interference. The matter was pushed so far at that time, that the King of Spain, aided by the courts of France and Portugal, obtained the total abolition of the order of Jesuits, as it was supposed, forever. I interpret the assumption in our age of a power which was given up by the Roman See a hundred years ago as evidence of a consciousness of the decline of papal authority, and as a desperate attempt to recover it. The attitude of the Emperor William is not only approved by many of the most enlightened Catholics in his own dominions, but also by the majority of the influential Catholics in Austria. Two and a half centuries ago the house of Austria, possessed of the crown of the Holy Empire, was very near extirpating from Germany the Protestant faith. And now the descendant of the principal Protestant prince of that day has obtained not the crown of the old Holy Roman Empire, as it was called, but of the German Empire, and is welcomed at Vienna by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, with the most marked manifestations of friendship, among them the honorary command of a regiment in the Austro-Hungarian army.
The general result of all is, that Europe, alike Catholic and Protestant, is sick of the boundless pretensions of the Roman See, and is seeking how to avoid papal influence on the external and internal political relations of the state.
The special results for the moment in Germany are a confirmation of opposition to those pretensions, which will manifest itself in the elections for the next legislature of Prussia and in the approaching elections for the German Diet. In foreign affairs the result is a union of the eastern powers in favor of peace; that is to say, in favor of leaving the unity of Italy undisturbed, so that the temporal power of the Pope is as likely to be restored as that of the King of Naples.
I am, &c.,