No. 123.
Mr. Morton to Mr. Frelinghusen.

No. 283.]

Sir: On the first day of the new year it was my painful duty to send you the following telegram, informing the Department of the unexpected death of Mr. Gambetta:

Frelinghuysen, Secretary, Washington:

The death of Leon Gambetta has caused a profound sensation in France. In his death the Government and people of the United States have lost a devoted friend, whose great admiration for our country and its institutions was expressed on all occasions. His death is to the members of this legation a great loss and personal sorrow.


It is not my province to give an estimate of Mr. Gambetta’s political career. His life has already been the subject of many valuable articles, and his character has been vindicated by so many men of distinction and in such eloquent language that it would be out of place for me to attempt anything of the kind. I may be allowed, however, to refer again to the feelings this eminent French citizen entertained for our country. He was, in the most emphatic sense of the word, an admirer of our institutions, a friend of our people, a friend of all Americans, and, I may be permitted to add, a warm personal friend. From the moment when he began to rise in eminence he sought for information touching American affairs, and kept himself in close and cordial relations with our representatives in France. He was pleased to see our leading men, and no topic of conversation was more attractive to him than the organization of our complex political machinery, the discipline [Page 262] and management of parties, and the method and forms of our elections. The harmonious working of our double system of Government was to him a subject of wonder, and no term could express too strongly his approval of the authority given to our Supreme Court to pass upon the constitutionality of laws. This was a point to which he frequently reverted.

Before he became president of the Chamber he had formed the project of visiting the United States. Mr. Washburne was to meet him and accompany him on his tour. How much this visit would have increased his enlightened sympathies for our country!

During his short term at the foreign office my personal relations with him became frequent. They were of the most agreeable character, and at the same time practical. * * * He met every question squarely, decided with great promptitude, and always with a friendly disposition; at least such was my experience with him. The very day he left the foreign office I saw him there early in the morning, and he showed me, among the last papers he had signed, two letters, recommending in warm terms that satisfaction be given to us in relation to the prohibition of American pork and to the disability of American corporations.

* * * * * * *

I have, &c.,