to Mr. Fish.
Rome, February 18, 1875. (Received March 13.)
Sir: The visit of General Garribaldi to the capital to take his seat as a member of the chamber of deputies has, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, assumed an importance which gives it the magnitude of a political event deserving of notice in my correspondence with the Department of State.[Page 763]
General Garribaldi, though an ardent advocate of liberal principles of government, is not the leader or representative of any political party in Italy, but he is knowu to be warmly opposed to many features of the policy of the present ministry, and the severe terms in which he had recently spoken of the cabinet led many to apprehend that on taking his seat as a deputy he would, by qualifying his oath of office, or some other irregularity, embarrass the proceedings of the chamber, and perhaps excite disturbance among the thousands who flocked to witness his entrance into the hall of the national parliament. I do not think General Garribaldi had in the least countenanced this expectation. He has never through life encouraged any appeal to popular passion, or any resistance to governments, except by legal measures, or in the way of organized and orderly attempts at revolution, and, from the moment of his arrival at Rome, he exerted himself to the utmost to restrain every manifestation of excitement and to maintain public tranquillity unbroken. But he had given no explicit assurance as to his intended course of action, and his appearance in parliament was looked forward to with no little anxiety in all quarters. His frank and full-toned giuro, in response to the oath, as pronounced to him by the proper officer, was received with loud applause by all persons, of whatever rank or party, present at the scene, and was felt as a great relief, not only by the ministerial party, but by many even of his most judicious friends, who feared that passion might betray him into some unguarded step prejudicial both to his own renown and to the best interests of his country.
He has since had satisfactory interviews with the King, with several of the ministry, and with many others of the most eminent persons in the nation, and he avows the intention of devoting his powers to plans of material improvement specially affecting the capital, instead of occupying himself with politics, and I suppose he will rarely, if at all, return to vote in the chamber of deputies.
His plans are not, so far as I know, altogether matured, but they embrace the securing of the city from inundation by canalizing or diverting the course of the Tiber, the construction of an artificial port near Fiumicino, in which the concurrence of the great capitalist and munificent patron of public improvement, Prince Alexander Torlonia, is hoped for, and measures for restoring the healthfulness of the Agro Romano, and rendering it once more habitable by man.
How far these great schemes will be countenanced by the government I cannot say, but I have no doubt they will receive the candid consideration of the ministry, and be sustained, so far as when elaborated, they shall seem expedient in themselves and feasible without involving an expenditure beyond the resources of the state.
Public opinion, I think, demands such a recognition of the patriotic course of General Garribaldi, and if his views and those of the ministry on these questions of immediate material interest can be reconciled, his influence will prove a potent support to the Italian government.
I do not, indeed, suppose that the general relations of parliamentary opposition and the ministry will be much affected by Garribaldi’s new position; but practical measures in which he and the government concur will scarcely fail to receive the support of all parties. The influence of Garribaldi in Italy, and, I may say, in Europe, detached as he is from mere party ties, is moral rather than political, and it will, I believe, be of immense value in the maintenance of social order and the discouragement of illegal combination and factious cabal.
I have, &c.,