No. 533.
Mr. Cushing to Mr. Fish.

No. 379.]

Sir: The papal nuncio, Monsignor Simeoni, archbishop of Chalcedonia in partibus, arrived here on the 1st instant, and on the 3d was officially presented to the King.

This event is regarded by the friends of the government as an advantage gained by them against the Carlists, and as an additional step toward the reconstitution of public authority as personified by D. Alfonso.

The discourses of reception on both sides were prepared with much discretion, and do not indicate what concessions on the part of Spain, if any, will be requisite to replace her in her old relation with the See of Rome; but the question, of course, pre-occupies public attention. I received, on the 3d instant, copy of a circular, purporting to be addressed, in the name of the puncio, to the members of the diplomatic body, inviting us to an official call on the 6th or 7th instant. Copy and translation are annexed. This act is in accordance with diplomatic usage, according to which a nuncio, like an ambassador, instead of first calling on the other foreign ministers, as is customary among envoys extraordinary and ministers resident, fixes a day on which he will be ready to receive their calls.

In the same spirit he has precedence even of ambassadors eo nomine.

This point, among others of the same class, was discussed at the Congress of Vienna, where, whilst all the Catholic powers admitted this precedence as matter of traditional and established right, the powers of Protestant confession, like Great Britain, or of the Greek, like Russia, without admitting this precedence of the Pope’s diplomatic representative as an absolute right, yet conceded it as a matter of courtesy. (Martens, Guide Dipl., i, 237.) The force of this rule was admitted by Lord Palmerston so late as 1849, (Calvo, t. i, 562, note,) and it has been continued until now to be observed in Europe, notwithstanding that the Pope has ceased to be a temporal power.

Although at the present time the claim of the nuncio to precedence might admit of question, not precisely on the score of religious difference, but on the ground of the discontinuance of political and diplomatic relations between the Pope and all the non Catholic, and some [Page 1116] even of the Catholic powers, and that therefore the existing representation of the Papal See is purely ecclesiastical, yet it did not seem to me worth while to raise the question on the part of the United States, seeing that we, having no state church, have no occasion to be influenced by that matter, any more than by the forms of government, in our intercourse with foreign powers. Indeed, the recent introduction of non-Christian powers—China, Turkey, and Japan—into the circle of the European and America powers, has effectually served to deprive religious differences of their previous formal authority as the international regulator of diplomatic intercourse among the states of Christendom. I should not have hesitated, therefore, if standing alone, to conform to the precedent set by the congress of Vienna, as still constituting a rule of diplomatic usage and courtesy in this behalf. Nevertheless, it seemed to me convenient to explore the question. I did so; and found that the ministers of Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Sweden and Norway, had concluded to act on the rule of Vienna, although two of them at least, Great Britain and Sweden, have state confessions adverse to that of the Papal See. But, indeed, as these two governments were signatories of the regulation of Vienna, (Du Clercq ii, 179,) it was almost a matter of course on their part to accord precedence to the nuncio on this occasion. And thus my scruples on the subject, if any had existed, would have been removed. I therefore called on the nuncio this afternoon, according to invitation, and it happened by accident, not previous arrangement, that the Baron d’lttersum, representing The Netherlands; and myself representing the United States—that is, the only two governments here which are neutral and purely tolerant in the matter of religious confessions—were not only the first to call, but found ourselves together in the reception-room of the nuncio. This casual concurrence in action was quite agreeable to me. In our two cases, at least, (whatever may be said of some others,) the course adopted has been strictly logical, and in accordance with diplomatic precedent and usage, and with the religious attitude of our respective governments. Independently of which, there is a consideration which overrides all others, and which also covers the case of the ministers of Great Britain and of Sweden and Norway.

The nuncio is the ambassador of the Pope, though with a special title. Ambassadors, legates, and nuncios are classed together in the regulation of Vienna, on the very theory of personal representativeness. Now, since the time when the barrier between the Christian and the non-Christian powers was broken down by Sir Henry Pottinger and myself in the matter of China, and by the conferences of Paris in the matter of Turkey, (to say nothing of Japan,) it is not to be doubted that if the Ottoman Sultan, who is the religious head of Islam as well as Emperor of Turkey, should send one of his pachas here commissioned as ambassador, we should accord to him the honors of that rank. A fortiori, we may do so as respects the nuncio. In tine, we might eliminate from the problem the element of religion, and then the case would be that of a personage recognized as an ambassador by the court at which we are accredited, and as such entitled at that court, by practice and precedent, to the consideration of an ambassador.

On those premises but one question could be plausibly made, to wit, whether, as before suggested, in the existing state of things, the Pope, by losing his temporal power, has lost the traditional and pre-established right to send an ambassador. As to that point, it is difficult to see what authority the United States have to control in this respect the action of the various powers, including Spain, which chose to continue diplomatic [Page 1117] relations with the Papal See. I learn that, on special instructions, Russia holds aloof; but it is understood that the German chargé d’affaires will call in the absence of the minister. Count Hatzfeldt, and that the Italian chargé d’affaires would have called if invited. The nuncio, as is common with the superior Catholic clergy, is a highly educated and gentlemanly man of the world, about sixty years of age, passing readily, during the half hour of my being in his company, from Italian speech with members of his suite to French with Mr. d’Ittersum and to Spanish with me, and either leading or following gracefully, as the turn of conversation might require, in remarks on the affairs of the United States, of The Netherlands, and of Spain. I add, that all the foreign ministers (except of course myself) appeared in full uniform; thus, in accordance with European usage, expressly recognizing the sovereign representative character of the nuncio.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 379.—Translation.]

Mr. Poggioli to Mr. Cushing.

Monseñor Giovanni Simeoni, archbishop of Chalcedonia, has presented to-day to His Catholic Majesty his letters of credence in quality of nuncio of the Holy See; and it will be extremely agreeable to him to receive Messieurs the members of the diplomatic corps at the palace of the apostolic nunciatura the 6th and 7th instant, from 2 to 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

The undersigned, secretary of the nunciatura, has the honor to communicate this to his excellency the minister plenipotentiary of the United States, and embraces with pleasure this occasion to signify to him sentiments of respectful consideration.