No. 48.
Mr. Goodloe to Mr. Evarts.

No. 58.]

Sir: Immediately upon the accession of the liberal party to power, in June of last year, Baron d’Anethan, the minister of Belgium to the Holy See, came home on an indefinite leave of absence. It was stated freely, and by many believed, that diplomatic relations with Rome had been permanently broken off. The long-continued absence of the minister, who has not yet returned to his post, gave strength to the report, but those who knew that a secretary remained in charge of the legation, and the representative of the Pope was still in Brussels, awaited an official announcement before concluding that diplomatic relations between Belgium and Rome had entirely ceased.

There has been the greatest excitement in Belgium concerning this question, and in political and church circles party-spirit has been at its height. The agitation has reached the masses, and this, together with a proposed liberal common-school law, has provoked a discussion which in bitterness and intensity Belgium has been a stranger to for many years.

The people are all Catholics in religion, but the Liberals have proclaimed a total separation of church and state, andon that issue stand before the country.

The Catholic or clerical party, to which the clergy of every degree belong, assail the Liberals as infidels and enemies to the peace and independence of their country; that their course tends toward French Republicanism, and if successful will result in degradation for the church and consequent ungodliness among the people. So intense is the feeling among the clergy that the unbridled utterances of many of the bishops are by some of the more charitable Liberals in all sincerity attributed to mild lunacy.

I do not know that the Liberals are any more choice in their language toward their opponents, and a disinterested party having only the mutual denunciations, charges, and abuse to judge from, might well conclude that the extreme men of both sides had temporarily lost their heads. Newspapers abound in party crimination, and public addresses [Page 91] are more noticeable for force of language than strength of argument. And still it can be truly said that worse is yet to come.

The school bill will call forth the deepest passions of the Catholics in opposition, and an equally determined spirit to pass it upon the part of the Liberals. As the Liberals have a majority in both chambers, and the bill has been favorably reported, it is conceded that it will in course of legislation become a law, I shall, however, reserve for another dispatch the main features of this bill and of the debate thereon when it shall have taken place.

In the recent budget of the minister of foreign affairs was included the salary of the minister to the Vatican, and for your more perfect understanding of the question in all its bearings, I send you herewith almost the entire debate in the chamber of representatives. There are only a very few sentences omitted.

The course of the minister of foreign affairs, in even asking for a temporary retention of the Belgian legation at Rome, caused great surprise and no inconsiderable chagrin to many of his party followers, So well known were his views in opposition to a continuance of the mission that his accession to power was considered as an equivalent to its suppression. It will be observed that Mr. Frére Orban himself, in his remarks before the Chamber, was fully alive to his apparent self-contradiction, and without attempting a full explanation or asking for present justification, requested the votes of his party friends and a suspension of their judgment. I was in the chamber when the vote was taken, and there was a scarcely perceptible “no” in opposition. All the Catholics were for it, of course, and preserved a prudent reserve throughout the debate. However, the total withdrawal of the Belgian legation from Rome has only been postponed for a short while. It will be done a little later, but none the less surely. It is one of the certainties of the future, and has only given place to the more important school bill.

The ministry doubtless had aroused as much opposition by the proposed changes in the school law as they cared at one time to encounter, and the lesser trouble was temporarily smoothed over. For diplomatic relations to cease between Belgium and Rome after the school bill becomes a law will not only be easily brought about, but will scarcely attract public attention. The present Pope was nuncio at this court during the reign of Leopold I, and is said to be anxious that diplomatic relations should be kept up between Belgium and the Vatican, and many say that the King would be greatly gratified could such an arrangement be effected.

The success of the Liberal party in carrying such legislation as is proposed must be regarded as one of the significant signs of the times. The strict lines of party division have been drawn beyond the classes entitled to suffrage, and some of the most intense partisans of either side are to be found among those who as yet supply the want of a ballot with loud noise and coarse abuse of their opponents. The bitterness of the controversy has taken almost an entirely religious turn, and has passed from the political into business and social circles. It is common for men to refuse to purchase articles of a political opponent 5 in many places invitations to a social party are issued only to one side, and lam told that even many of the common people will not “drink” in the saloon of an opponent, albeit neither rum-seller nor rum-drinker has any voice whatever in public affairs. It is common to hear the expression that for thirty-five years never has Belgium experienced such political excitement. And the end is not yet. * * *

I have, &c.,