to Mr. Evarts.
Rome, December 10, 1878. (Received December 30.)
Sir: The liberal Italian ministry, which came into power with so large a majority in 1876, and, after modifications, had still retained the control of the Chamber of Deputies, was defeated last evening in the lower house by a majority of about 70 votes on a resolution of confidence and approval. It is announced that the cabinet advised a dissolution of the Parliament and a new election, and, in the alternative, offered the resignation of the ministers. The decision of the King is not yet known and probably may be delayed for some days.
The question most prominent in the discussions which have terminated in this result was whether the ministry may and ought to dissolve political meetings and prohibit political associations for purposes apparently seditious, or merely to punish the members of such assemblies by ordinary criminal procedure for disturbance of the public peace or other infractions of law. The views of the ministry as to lightening the burdens of the poorer classes by the gradual abolition of the grist-tax, and as to the extension of the right of suffrage, had also weight with very many deputies, and personal considerations and private jealousies were not without influence on the result. The abolition of the grist-tax would reduce the revenue by at least eighty millions of francs, and the extension of the suffrage is opposed by many liberals, in the belief that the new class of voters to whom it would be given would be controlled by the clericals and the socialists.
The opponents of the ministry also took advantage of the present state of anxiety and alarm in regard to seditious and treasonale combinations by representing the unusually numerous illegal violences, including the attempt on the life of the King by which the public peace has been lately disturbed, as prompted by an internationalist conspiracy, which the laxity of the ministry has permitted to be organized and for whose crimes it is consequently responsible. The public has thus far little evidence of the existence of such a conspiracy as is alleged, and no proof of its connection with the crimes in question, and it is difficult to believe that this ministry has shown greater apathy in regard to the prevention and punishment of crime than has been manifested by its, predecessors or indeed by the Italian people at large.
I have, &c.,