to Mr. Evarts.
Berlin, June 17, 1878. (Received July 3.)
Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 19, I have the honor to report that the political situation has not materially changed during the past week. The proposal to dissolve the Parliament was unanimously accepted by the imperial council on the 11th, and the new elections have been ordered to take place on the 30th of July. All parties are actively engaged in preparations; but very little publicity as yet has been given to the latter. The recovery of the Emperor from his wounds continues to be unusually rapid.
I was received by Prince Bismarck on the afternoon of the 8th instant [Page 222] He at once invited me to walk with him in the large gardens in the rear of his residence, and afterward showed me through the halls and chambers of his new palace, adjoining the old ministry of foreign affairs, in which he has hitherto lived. The former were being furnished in great haste. The prince and his family took possession of the palace on the 11th, and on the 13th the members of the European congress held their first meeting in the chief hall. My interview with the prince lasted for nearly an hour and a half. As it occurred at the end of a very long cabinet meeting, he seemed to find a relief in conversing freely upon horticulture, the habits of animals, and other topics suggested by the garden and grounds. I purposely made no allusion to political matters. The prince appears to have entirely recovered from his recent illness and looks exceedingly robust and cheerful.
The meeting of the congress absorbs the greater portion of the public interest at present. The special embassies are all on hand, that of Turkey being the last to arrive. Except the formal exchange of calls, there has been little intercourse between them and the other foreign legations here. The official hospitalities they have received have been made exclusive, on the ground that it was necessary to allow the heads of the embassies opportunity for better personal acquaintance. The proceedings are conducted under the strictest obligations of secrecy; yet certain facts have already found their way into the general diplomatic circle and cannot be kept much longer from the public knowledge. Although the outline of an understanding between England and Russia, published nearly two weeks ago in the London Globe, was admitted to be substantially correct, it was also known here that the attitude of Austria remained quite uncertain, and her order to mobilize 100,000 troops created some uneasiness.
Since the first session of the congress on the 13th, the aspect of affairs has somewhat changed. It is now reported that the basis of the understanding published in the Globe was antecedent to Count Schouvaloff’s visit to St. Petersburg; that it has not as a whole been formally accepted; and consequently that England goes into the congress untrammeled by at least some of its stipulations. Lord Beaconsfield, after the congress was organized, made a strong, carefully-considered speech of less than fifteen minutes in length, in which he offered to withdraw the British fleet at once from before Constantinople, provided Russia would withdraw her army. Count Schouvaloff was evidently unprepared for this proposition, and could only answer that he must first consult his government. He intimated, also, that if the Russian troops were suddenly removed a revolution in Constantinople might ensue, leaving Turkey without a government to be represented in the congress. The physical condition of Prince Gortchacow exposes Russia to a disadvantage at this crisis. I called yesterday to renew my former personal acquaintance with him, but found that he was again confined to his bed. Lord Beaconsfield, although showing marked signs of his age, appears to have husbanded his vigor for the occasion, and thus far to have made the greatest impression upon the congress. So far as I can ascertain, the intentions of Austria have not been categorically declared. I learn, further, from the chief representative of one of the powers, that while it is already seen that certain points will excite sharp discussion and be difficult of settlement, the feeling of all is that peace will be preserved.
The congress meets again to-day, and will probably hold several sessions this week. As the Government of the United States occupies the attitude of an impartial spectator, I may be able to give some particulars [Page 223] of the temper of the different powers, which, for obvious reasons, would scarcely find their way into the European press. I shall certainly neglect nothing which may have a possible interest for the Department of State.
I have, &c.,