UNION & CONFEDERATE NAVIES
WAR OF THE REBELLION
SERIES II, VOLUME 3
Rome, November, 1863
Sir: As I expected at the date of my no. 65, I reached here on the 9th
instant, late in the afternoon.
On the 11th, at half past 1 p.m., I sought and promptly obtained an
interview with his Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Antonelli.
I at once explained to him the object of my mission to Rome and he
instantly assured me that he would obtain for me an audiance of the sovereign
His Eminence then remarked that he would not withhold from me an
expression of his unbounded admiration of the wonderful powers which we had
exhibited in the field in resistance to a war which had been prosecuted with an
energy, aided by the employment of all the recent improvements in the
instruments for the destruction of life and property, unparalleled, perhaps, in
the worlds history. He asked me
several questions with respect to President Davis, at the end of which he
observed that he certainly had created for himself a name that would rank with
those of the most illustrious statesmen of modern times.
He manifested an earnest desire for the definitive termination of
hostilities, and observed that there was nothing the government of the Holy See
could do with propriety to occasion such a result that it was not prepared to
do. I seized the utterance of this
assurance to inform him that but for the European recruits received by the
North, numbering annually something like 100,000, the Lincoln Administration; in
all likelihood, would have been compelled some time before this to have retired
from the contest, that nearly all those recruits were from Ireland, and that
Christianity had cause to weep at such a fiendish destruction of life as
occurred from the beguiling of those people from their homes to take up arms
against citizens who had never harmed or wronged them in the slightest degree.
He appeared to be touched by my statement, and intimated that an evil so
disgraceful to humanity was not beyond the reach of a salutary remedy.
His Eminence, after a short pause, took a rapid survey of the affairs of
the nations of the earth, and drew a rather somber picture of the future,
particularly of Europe. He did not
attempt to conceal his dislike of England, his want of sempathy with Russia, his
distrust of any benefits which might be expected from the congress proposed by
France. "If old
guaranties," said he, emphatically, "are of no value, new ones will be
to feeble to resist expediency when sustained by might."
This is but a short and otherwise imperfect outline of one of the most
interesting official interviews I ever enjoyed, an interview which was of
lengthened duration and marked from beginning to end with extreme cordiality and
courtesy by the destinguished functionary by whom it was accorded.
I will add, lest I may not have been sufficiently explicit on that point,
that it took place in his office in the Vatican, where he receives all the
I have the honor to be , sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, C. S.
A., Richmond, Va.
Rome, November 14, 1863
Sir: At 3 o'clock on the afternoon of yesterday I received a formal
notification that his Holiness would favor me with an audience, embracing my
private secretary, Mr. W. Grayson Mann, to-day at 12 o'clock.
I accordingly proceeded to the Vatican sufficiently early to enable me to
reach there fifteen minutes in advance of the designated hour.
In five minutes afterwards-ten minutes prior to the appointed time-a
message came from the sovereign Pontiff that he was ready to receive me, and I
was accordingly conducted into his presence.
His Holiness stated, after I had taken my stand near to his side, that he
had been so afflicted by the horrors of the war in America that many months ago
he had written to the Archbishops of New Orleans and New York to use all the
influence that they could properly employ for terminating with as little delay
as possible the deplorable state of hostilities; that from the former he had
received no answer, but that he had heard from the latter and that his
communication was not such as to inspire hopes that his ardent wishes would be
I then remarked that "it is to a sence of profound gratitude of the
Executive of the Confederate States and of my countrymen, for the earnest
manifestations which your Holiness made in the appeal referred to, that I am
indebted for the destinguished honor for which I now enjoy.
President Davis has appointed me special envoy to convey in person to
your holiness this letter, which, I trust, you will receive in a similar spirit
to that which animated its author."
Looking for a moment at the address and afterwards at the seal of the
letter, his Holiness took his scissors and cut the envelope.
Upon opening it he observed: "I see it is in English, a language
which I do not understand." I
remarked: "If it will be agreeable to your holiness, my Secretary will
translate its contents to you." He
replied: "I shall be pleased if he will do so."
The translation was rendered in a slow, solemn, and emphatic
pronunciation. During its progress,
I did not cease for an instant to carefully survey the features of the sovereign
Pontiff. A sweeter expression of
pious affection, of tender benignity, never adorned the face of mortal man.
No picture can adequitely represent him when exclusively absorbed in
Christian contemplation. Every sentence of the letter seemed to sensibly affect him.
At the conclusion of each, he would lay his hand down upon the desk and
bow his head approvingly. When the passage was reached wherein the President states, in
such sublime and affecting language, "We have offered up at the footstool
of our Father who is in Heaven prayers inspired by the same feelings which
animate your Holiness," his deep sunken orbs visibly moistened were
upturned toward that throne upon which ever sits the Prince of Peace, indicating
that his heart was pleading for our deliverance from that causeless and
merciless war which is prosecuted against us. The soul of infidelity--if, indeed, infidelity have a soul--
would have melted in view of so sacred a spectacle.
The emotion occasioned by the translation was succeded by a silence of
some time. At length his Holiness asked whether President Davis was a
Catholic. I answered in the
negative. He then asked if I was
one. I assured him that I was not.
His Holiness now stated, to use his own language, that "Lincoln
& Co." had endeavored to create an impression abroad that they were
fighting for the abolition of slavery, and that it might perhaps be judicious in
us to consent to gradual emancipation. I
replied that the subject of slavery was one over which the Government of the
Confederate States, like that of the old United States, had no control whatever;
that all ameliorations with regard to the institution must proceed from the
States themselves, which were as sovereign in their character in this regard as
were France, Austria, or any other continental power; that true philanthropy
shuddered at the thought of the liberation of the slave in the manner attempted
by "Lincoln & Co."; that such a procedure would be practically to
convert the well-cared-for civilized negro into a semibarbarian; that such of
our slaves as had been captured or decoyed off by our enemy were in an
incomparably worse condition than while they were in the service of their
masters; that they wished to return to their old homes, the love of which was
the strongest of their affections; that if, indeed, African slavery were an
evil, there was a power which, in its own good time, would doubtless remove that
evil in a more gentle manner than that of causing the earth to be deluged with
blood for its sudden overthrow.
His Holiness received these remarks with an approving expression. He then
said that I had reason to be proud of the self- sacrificing devotion of my
countrymen from the beginning to the cause for which they were contending.
"The most ample reason," I replied, "and yet, scarcely so
much as of my countrywomen, whose patriotism, whose sorrows and privations,
whose transformation in many instances from luxury to penury, were unparalleled
and could not be adequetly described by any living language.
There they had been from the beginning--there they were still more
resolute, if possible, than ever, emulating in devotion, earthly though it was
in its character, those holy female spirits who were last at the cross.
His Holiness received this statement with evident satisfaction, and then
said: "I would like to do anything that can be effectively done, or that
even promises good results, to aid in putting an end to this most terrible war,
which is harming the good of all the earth, if I knew how to proceed."
I availed myself of this declaration to inform his Holiness that it was
not the armies of Northern birth
which the South was encountering in hostile array, but that it was the armies of
European creation, occasioned by the Irish and Germans, chiefly by the former,
who were influenced to emigrate (by circulars from "Lincoln & Co."
to their numerous agents abroad) ostensibly for the purpose of securing high
wages but in reality to fill up the constantly depleted ranks of our enemy; that
those poor unfortunates were tempted by high bounties (amounting to $500, $600,
and $700) to enlist and take up arms against us; that once in the service they
were invariably placed in the most exposed points of danger in the battle field;
that in consequence therof an instance had occurred in which an almost entire
brigade had been left dead or wounded upon the ground; that but for foreign
recruits the North would most likely have broken down months ago in the absurd
attempt to overpower the South.
His Holiness expressed his utter astonishment, repeatedly throwing up his
hands, at the employment of such means against us, and the cruelty attendant
upon such unscrupulous operations.
"But, your Holiness," said I, "Lincoln & Co. are even
more wicked, if possible, in their ways than in decoying innocent Irishmen from
homes to be murdered in cold blood. Their
champions, and would your Holiness believe it unless it were authoritatively
communicated to you, their pulpit champions have boldly asserted as a sentiment:
'Greek fire for the families and cities of the rebels and hell fire for
their chiefs.' "
His Holiness was startled at this information, and immediately observed:
"Certainly no Catholic could reiterate so monstrous a sentiment."
I replied: "Assuredly not. It
finds a place exclusively in the hearts of the fiendish, vagrant, pulpit
buffoons whose number is legion and who impiously undertake to teach the
doctrines of Christ for ulterior sinister purposes."
His Holiness now observed: "I will write a letter to President
Davis, and of such a character that it may be published for general
perusal." I express my
heartfelt gratification for the assertion of this purpose.
He then remarked, half inquiringly: "You will remain here for
several months ?" I, of course, could not do otherwise than answer in the
affirmative. Turning to my
secretary, he asked several kind questions personal to himself and bestowed upon
him a handsome compliment. He then
extended his hand as a signal for the end of the audience and I retired.
Thus terminated one among the most remarkable conferences that ever a
foreign representative had with a potentate of the earth.
And such a potentate! A
potentate who weilds the conciences of 175,000,000 of the civilized race, and
who is adored by that immence number as the vice regent of Almighty God in this
How strikingly majestic the conduct of the government of the Pontifical
State in its bearing toward me when contrasted with the sneaking subterfuges to
which some of the governments of western Europe have had recourse in order to
evade intercourse with our commissioners. Here
I was openly received by appointment at court in accordance with established
usages and customs and treated from beginning to end with a consideration which
might be enveid by the envoy of the oldest member of the family of nations.
The audience was of forty minutes duration, an unusually long one.
I have written this dispatch very hurriedly and fear that it will barely
be in time for the monthly steamer which goes off from Liverpool with the mails
from the Bahama Islands next Saturday.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of State, C. S. A., Richmond, Va.
Rome, November 21, 1863
confidently trust that my Nos. 66 and 67, giving detailed accounts of my
audience with the sovereign pontiff and of my interview with the cardinal
seceratary of state, will have been in your possession some days previous to the
arrival of this. Lest, however, they may have been delayed on their way to
their destination, I will state that my reception at the Vatican was cordial in
the broadest sence of the word, and that my mission has been as successful as
the President could have possibly desired
it to be.
On the 19th I
had a second interview with Cardinal Antonelli.
I intended it to be of short duration, but he became so much interested
in the communications which I made to him that he prolonged it for nearly an
hour. He took the occasion to
inform me, at the commencement that the acting representative of the United
States had obtained an interview of him the day before to remonstrate against
the facilities afforded by the government of the holy see to "Rebels"
for entering and abiding in Rome; and that he, the cardinal, promptly replied
that he intended to take such "Rebels" under his special protection,
because it would be making exactions upon elevated humanity which it was
incapable of concientiously complying with, to expect them to take an oath of
allegiance to a country which they bitterly detested.
I may add, in this connection, that such passports as you may issue will
receive the visa of the nuncio at Paris or Brussels, and that there is now
nowhere that the nationality of a citizen of the Confederate States is not as
much respected as that of the United States except in the dark hole of the North
We have been virtually, if not practically, recognized here.
While I was in the foreign office the day before yesterday, foreign
ministers were kept waiting for a considerable length of time in the antechamber
in order that my interview might not be disturbed.
Frequently the cardinal would take my hand between his and exclaim:
"Mon cher your government has accomplished prodigies, alike in the cabinet
and in the field."
Antonelli is emphatically the State.
He is perhaps the very best informed statesman of his time.
His channels for obtaining intelligence from every quarter of the earth
are more multifarious and reliable than even those of the French.
His worst enemies accord to him abilities of the very highest order.
They say that he is utterly unscrupulous as to the means which he
employs, but that no other man could have saved the temporal power of the Pope. He is bold, courageous, resolute, and is a great admirer of
President Davis, because he is distinguished by those qualities, qualities
which, if supported by good judgement, will, in his opinion, ever win the object
to which they are devoted.
Of course I can form no conjecture when the letter of his holiness to the
President will be ready for delivery. Weeks,
perhaps months, may elapes first. With
my explanations to him upon the subject of slavery, I indulge the hope that he
will not allude, hurtfully to us, to the subject.
As soon as I receive it I will endeavor to prevail with him to have the
correspondence published in the official Journal here, or to give me permission
to bring it out in the Paris Moniteur. Its
information would be powerful upon all the Catholic governments in both
hemispheres, and I would return to Brussels and make an appeal to King Leopold
to exert himself with Great Britain, Prusia, etc., in our behalf.
Thus I am exceedingly hopeful that before spring our independence will be
generally acknowledged. Russia
alone will most probably stand aloof until we are recognized by the North, as
she has now, at least ostensibly, identify her fortunes with that distracted and
demon-like division of the old Union.
So far my mission has not found its way into the newspapers.
I wish to keep it secret in order that the publication of the letters
may, from the unexpectedness, cause a salutary sensation everywhere when it
I have reason to believe that what I have said in high places in relation
to Irish emigration to New York were words in season.
I have the honor to be sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. J. P.
S. A., Richmond,
No. 69.] Rome, December 9, 1863
Sir: The cardinal secretary of state, Antonelli, officially transmitted
to me yesterday the answer of the Pope to the President.
In the very direction of this communication there is a positive
recognition of our government.
It is addressed "to the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis,
President of ther Confederate States of America."
Thus we are acknowledged, by as high an authority as this world contains,
to be an independant power of the earth.
I congratulate you, I congratulate the President, I congratulate his
cabinet; in short, I congratulate all my true-hearted countrymen and
countrywomen, upon this benign event. The
hand of the Lord has been in it, and eternal glory and praise be to His holy and
The document is in the latin language, as are all documents prepared by
the Pope. I can not incure the risk of its capture at sea, and,
therefore, I shall retain it until I can convey it , with entire certainty, to
the President. It will adorne the
archives of our country in all coming time.
I expect to receive a copy of it in time for transmission by the steamer
which carries this (via New York) at Nassau.
I shall leave here by the 15th instant, and will proceed to Paris and
from thence to Brussels and London.
The example of the sovereign pontiff, if I am not much mistaken, will
exercise a salutary influence upon both the Catholic and Protestant governments
of western Europe. Humanity will be
aroused everywhere to the importance of its early emulation.
I have studiously endeavored to prevent the appearance of any telegraphic
or other communications in the newspapers in relation to my mission.
The nature of it, however, is generally known in official circles here,
and it has been mentioned in one or more journals. The letters, in my opinion, ought to be officially published
at Richmond, under a call for the correspondence by the one or the other branch
of Congress. In the mean time I
shall communicate to the European press, probably through the London Times, the
substance of those letters.
I regard such a procedure as of primary importance in view of the
interests of peace, and I am quite sure that the holy father would rejoice at
seeing those interests benefited in this or any other effective manner.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectively, your obedient servant,
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN,
State, C. S. A.., Richmond,
Rome, December 12, 1863
Sir: Herewith I
have the honor to transmit the copy sent to me yesterday of the orginal, in
Latin, of the letter of the sovereign pontiff to President Davis.
I have taken a duplicate of it. A
period of more than a week elapsed between the date of the letter and the
delivery of the copy.
I shall repair
to Paris immediately where, after conferring with Mr. Slidell and Mr. Mason
(from each of whom I have just received the kindest of letters), I shall proceed
to Brussels. After a stay there of
a day or two, I shall go to London. The
Christmas season will be a propitious period for exciting the sympathies of the
British public in behalf of the sublime initiative of the Pope.
The people of England are never better in heart than during the joyous
anniversary of the birth of Him whose cause was "Peace on earth, good will
Strange to say,
a recent number of the Court Journal of London contains one of the most
beautiful encomiums ever written upon the eminent purity of character of his
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN,
State, C. S. A.., Richmond, Va.
and honorable sir, greeting:
We have lately received with all kindness, as was meet, the gentlemen
sent by your Excellency to present to us your letter dated on the 23d of last
September. We have received certainly no small pleasure in learning both
from these gentlemen and from your letter the feelings of gratification and of
very warm appreciation with which you, illustrious and honorable sir, were moved
when you first had knowledge written in October of the preceding year to the
venerable brethren, John, archbishop of New York, and John, archbishop of New
Orleans, in which we again and again urged and exhorted those venerable brethren
that because of their exemplary piety and episcopal zeal they should employ
their most earnest efforts, in our name also, in order that the fatal civil war
which had arisen in the States should end, and that the people of America might
again enjoy mutual peace and concord, and love each other with mutual charity.
And it has been very gratifying to us to recognize, illustrious and honorable
sir, that you and your people are animated by the same desire for peace and
tranquility, which we had so earnestly inculcated in our aforesaid letters to
the venerable brethren above named. Oh,
that the other people also of the States and their rulers, considering seriously how cruel and how deplorable is
this intercine war, would receive and embrace the councels of peace and
tranquility. We indeed shall not
cease with most fervent prayer to beseech God, the best and highest, and to
implore Him to pour out the spirit of Christian love and peace upon all the
people of America, and to rescue them from the great calamities with which they
are afflicted. And we also
pray the same most merciful Lord that he will illumine your Excellency with the
light of His devine grace and unite you with ourselves in perfect charity.
Given at Rome
at St. Peters on the 3d December, 1863, in the eighteenth year of our
P. P. IX. Illustrious
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