The Autobiography of a Journalist, Volume I
Stillman, William James

Part 5 out of 5

the Brownings, the father and sister of the poet. We lived in the same
section of Paris, near the Hotel des Invalides, and much of our time
was passed with them. "Old Mr. Browning" we have always called him,
though the qualification of "old," by which we distinguished him from
his son Robert, seemed a misnomer, for he had the perpetual juvenility
of a blessed child. If to live in the world as if not of it indicates
a saintly nature, then Robert Browning the elder was a saint: a
serene, untroubled soul, conscious of no moral or theological problem
to disturb his serenity, and as gentle as a gentle woman,--a man in
whom, it seemed to me, no moral conflict could ever have arisen to
cloud his frank acceptance of life as he found it come to him. He had,
many years before we knew him, inherited an estate in Jamaica, but on
learning that to work it to profit he must become a slave owner he
renounced the heritage. And, knowing him as we knew him, it is easy to
see that he would renounce it cheerfully and without any hesitation.
A man of a rougher and more energetic type might have tried the
experiment, or questioned the judgment, at least have regretted his
own integrity, but Browning could have done neither. The way was
clear, and the decision must have been as quick as that of a child
to reject a thing it abhorred. His unworldliness had not a flaw. So
beautiful a life can never have become distinguished in the struggles
and antagonisms which make the career of the man of the world, or even
the man of letters, as letters are now written; for he was a man, and
the only one I ever knew, of whom one would say that he applied in the
divine sense the maxim of Christ, "Resist not evil,"--he simply, and
by the necessity of his own nature, ignored it.

He had a curious facility in drawing heads of quaint and always varied
character, which character he could not foresee when he began the
drawing. They were always in profile, and he began at one extremity
and ran his pencil round to the other, always bringing out an
individuality, but without any intention as to what that should be;
and he named it, when it was done, according to the type it offered,
generally in character, with a trace of caricature, and, for the most
part, subjects from the courts of law,--a judge or a puzzled juror, a
disappointed or a triumphant client, etc., etc. He would draw a dozen
or twenty in an evening, all different and all unforeseen, as much to
him as to us, and he was as much amused as we were when it turned out
more than usually funny. His chief amusement was hunting through the
bookstalls along the quays, and I have, amongst my old books, an early
life of Raphael, which he gave me, with his name on the fly leaf.

Of Miss Browning, who still lives, I will not speak; but what she told
me of the poet's mother may, I think, be told without indiscretion.
She had the extraordinary power over animals of which we hear
sometimes, but of which I have never known a case so perfect as hers.
She would lure the butterflies in the garden to her, and the domestic
animals obeyed her as if they reasoned. Robert had been given a
pure-blooded bulldog of a rare breed, which tolerated no interference
from any person except him or his mother, and which would allow no
familiarity with her on the part of strangers; so that when a neighbor
came in he was not permitted to shake hands with her, for the dog at
once showed his teeth. Not even her husband was allowed to take the
slightest liberty with her in the dog's presence, and when Robert was
more familiar with her than the dog thought proper he showed his teeth
to him. They one day put him to a severe test, Robert putting his arm
around his mother's neck as they sat side by side at the table. The
dog went round behind them, and, putting his feet upon the chair,
lifted Robert's arm off her shoulder with his nose, giving an
intimation that he would not permit any liberty of that kind even from
him. They had a favorite cat, to which the dog had the usual antipathy
of dogs, and one day he chased her under a cupboard, and, unable to
reach her, kept her there besieged and unable to escape, till Mrs.
Browning intervened and gave the dog a lecture, in which she told him
of their attachment for the cat, and charged him never to molest her
more. If the creature had understood speech he could not have obeyed
better; for from that time he was never known to molest the cat, and
she, taking her revenge for past tyranny, bore herself most insolently
with him, and when she scratched him over the head he only whimpered
and turned away, as if to avoid temptation. An injury to one of his
feet made an operation necessary, and the family surgeon was called
in to perform it, but found him so savage that he could not touch the
foot or approach him. Mrs. Browning came and talked to him in her
way, and the dog submitted at once, without a whimper, to the painful
operation. She had been long dead when I knew the family.

We had planned to go together--the elder Browning, Robert and Mrs.
Browning, Miss Browning, my wife, and myself--to pass the summer at
Fontainebleau, and we were awaiting the arrival of Robert and his wife
from Florence when the news came of Mrs. Browning's illness, followed
not much later by that of her death. The intrusion even of a friend
was too much for this catastrophe, and we saw little more of the
Brownings until years after, when other and many changes of fortune
had come over us, and we met again in Italy.

Out of a quiet and happy life in Normandy I was aroused by the
complications of our Civil War. An intimate friend living in Paris,
the late Colonel W.B. Greene, a graduate of West Point, had applied
for the command of a regiment of Massachusetts troops, and offered me
a position on his staff if he got it and I would come. We agreed to go
together, but his impatience carried him away, and he sailed without
giving me notice. I followed by the next steamer, and, leaving my wife
with my parents, I went on to Washington and to Greene's headquarters.
I was too late for Greene, and I could not pass the medical
examination, which was then very rigid, for all the North was
volunteering. "Go home," said Greene; "we have already buried all the
men like you. We have not seen the enemy yet, and we have buried six
per cent. of the regiment. It is no place for you." But I had no
choice; there were 800,000 men enlisted, and further enlistments were
countermanded. I tried to get some position with Burnside,--who was
fitting out an expedition to North Carolina,--even as cook; for I
could not pass for the rank and file, and Burnside, as a friend of my
friends in Rhode Island, might, I thought, help me. He replied that
he had already nine applications for every post at his disposal. As a
last resource, I went up into the Adirondacks to raise a company of
sharpshooters. My backwoodsmen were all ready to go, but they wanted
special rifles and special organization, for they meant to go to
"shoot secesh," not to be regular infantry. Their ambition was not
reconcilable with the plans of the military authorities, so that
the company was never raised, and I then turned to my plan for the

I suppose that there are few now living who knew by personal
investigation and remember clearly the condition of the country at
that epoch. We had suffered the defeat of Bull Run, and the country at
large was in a state of flaming patriotism; but sober people had many
doubts whether the government was strong enough to carry through the
plans of the President, and he also had, I was told by some one who
knew him, been very uncertain whether the population at large would
respond, even when he made the first call for 75,000 volunteers.
Persons in positions of great influence were of the opinion that
the North had no right to coerce the South. General Scott, the
commander-in-chief, urged separation peacefully, and Horace Greeley,
the most influential member of the press in the country, opposed
coercion, while the mass of the Democratic party were either on the
fence or openly in favor of the South, and this opposition of
the Democrats was probably what gave Lincoln the most serious
consideration. Some of the most earnest and patriotic people I knew
had grave doubts if the Northern people had any conception of the work
they had undertaken, and if they would be constant when they came to
realize it.

While I was in Washington I saw Lincoln and some of those around him,
and my opinion is that, but for his faith in the Supreme Providence
and in the destiny of our Republic, his courage, and with it the whole
scheme of defense, would have broken down. Future generations will not
understand the difficulties before him,--perhaps he himself did not.
The administration of Buchanan had prepared for the secession, and
Buchanan as minister to England had already established the opinion
of the governing class in that country in the certainty of impending
separation,--a fact which should be remembered when we judge the
attitude of England; the fleet had been dispersed to the ends of the
earth, and the officers of the army were mainly Southerners. The
support of New York and Massachusetts was of the gravest importance.
The former was largely under the influence of Seward, and he was
inclined by nature to conciliation; in the latter State, General
Butler, a Democrat, and of seriously questioned loyalty, had an
influence which might easily become the dominant one and carry the
State over to the Democratic opposition, which was in the country at
large distinctly opposed to coercion. The government and the ruling
class in England were clearly hostile to the North, and the position
on that side was menacing.

Had the South then been content with separation on the lines of "Mason
and Dixon's line," I am convinced that it would have taken place
without a struggle, if the position could have been defined without
bloodshed. But this was what the most sagacious of the Southern
leaders did not desire. It became evident that the majority in the
South did not desire separation, and the leaders knew that a peaceful
separation would be followed by reconstruction on something like the
old lines, for the South could not stand alone industrially; so that
they had not concealed their determination to invade the Middle and
Western States, and carry them forcibly over to the new Confederacy,
"leaving out New England." It was generally known that Pennsylvania
and New Jersey were Democratic and lukewarm for the old Union, and
that Ohio and the West would not resist if there were a successful
beginning of a movement and a military invasion. So far as the
sentiments of the politicians were concerned, the South had a very
correct idea of the probabilities of the situation; what they were
utterly ignorant of was the spirit of the masses in the North, which
they thought to coerce easily. There they were mistaken, and there
Lincoln saw his strength, and that saved the country; for, with the
firing on Fort Sumter and the open insult to the flag, the Northern
masses took fire, and the conflagration burned out the roots of
sympathy for the South. Butler was given a command in the field;
others of the same class were given commands, and the dangerous
demagogue class was enlisted for the war.

When I landed, the entire able-bodied population of the North was
seeking to enlist, and the troops were pouring by thousands into
Washington, and only the most uncertain and prudent of the Northern
leaders doubted of victory, though no one dreamed what it would cost.
And, looking at the corruption of American politics to-day, the
venality and the indifference to the true interests of the nation of
most of the men who control the political life at its most important
centres, and the general tendency of our politics, it needs a serene
and far-reaching faith in human progress to enable a citizen of the
United States, who believes in a political ideal, to regard the
sacrifices then made as having been profitable. I see things
dispassionately and as an old man removed from the chance of personal
gains or losses, and, but for a faith in human progress being the
result of an eternal and inevitable law, I should say that the blood
of that war had been wasted. It is a painful conviction to die
with,--but I expect to die with it,--that generations and unparalleled
disasters must pass before my country reaches the goal its founders
believed to be its destiny.

Having exhausted every appliance to open a way into the army, I made
my appeal to Dr. Nott, and received by return of the Washington post
my commission as consul at Rome, as I have told in a previous chapter.
I went on to Cambridge to get information and advice, and, at
Lowell's, met Howells for the first time. We could, each of us, offer
condolence for the other's disappointment; for Howells had asked for
Dresden and was appointed to Venice, while I had asked for Venice,
intending to write the history of Venetian art. But Rome had always
been given to an artist; and, though there was no salary, but fees
only, it seemed to have been a much-sought-for position, and I

Leaving my wife at home, for her confinement, I sailed for England,
_en route_ for Italy, just when the capture of Mason and Slidell had
thrown the country into a new agitation; for it was foreseen that
England would not submit to this disrespect to her flag, though the
step was in strict accordance with her own precedents. Seward and
the more prudent part of the public were in favor of releasing the
prisoners at once, and before any demand could be made by the English
government; but it was said that Lincoln and the West were in favor of
holding them, and letting England do her worst. It is possible that he
thought that a foreign enemy would decide all the wavering minds, and
possibly open the way to a pacification between the North and South.
I left New York before we had heard of the reception of the news
in England, and found the agitation there intense. The consul at
Liverpool told me that he could not go into the Exchange for the
insults offered him there, and American merchants were insulted on the
street. In London, at the restaurants where I dined, the conversation
turned altogether on the incident, and the language was most violent.

As I was in the service of the government I waited on Mr. Adams, the
minister, and remained in London until the question was settled, in
daily communication with him. He thought the danger of war still
great, as Lincoln had not decided to accept the ultimatum, and the
English ministry was, in Adams's opinion, desirous of having a _casus
belli_, or at least a justification for recognizing the Southern
Confederacy. That war had not already become inevitable he considered
due entirely to the attitude of the Queen, who resisted any measure
calculated to precipitate a hostile solution, and had refused her
assent to a dispatch demanding the release of the envoys, and worded
in such peremptory terms that Lincoln could not have hesitated to
repel it at any cost,--an outcome which, in the opinion of Mr. Adams,
was what Palmerston, Gladstone, and Lord John Russell wanted. But, on
the insistence of the Queen, the offensive passage was struck out, and
peace was preserved, though at that moment the reply of our government
had not been received, and Adams did not consider that, even in
its modified form, the demand of the English ministry might not be
rejected. As the crisis was still undecided, I waited until the
solution was definite. The favorable reply came by the next steamer.
To the peace-loving heart of the Queen mainly, and next to the tact
and diplomatic ability of Mr. Adams, the world owes that the war most
disastrous possible for the civilization of the west was avoided. Put
at rest with regard to this danger, I continued my journey and entered
upon my functions as representative of my government at Rome.

I have since heard various versions of this crisis and its solution,
but the above is, I believe, substantially the truth. I have heard
that the English dispatch was referred to the French Minister
of Foreign Affairs, and that he advised against it; but this is
impossible. The Emperor of France was more determined even than
Palmerston to destroy the United States, if possible, as his Mexican
enterprise showed, and we knew from other sources that he was pressing
the English government to recognize the belligerency of the South.
Day by day I heard from Mr. Adams of the position, and he said to
me emphatically that he did not consider the declaration of war
impossible until he received the reply of Lincoln to the English
ultimatum; and it is impossible that such a transaction as that of
the consultation with the French government should have taken place
without Adams knowing of it, for his information from the surroundings
of the Queen was minute and incessant. He said to me, without the
slightest qualification, that the preservation of peace was due solely
to the insistence of the Queen, strengthened by the advice of Prince
Albert, on the demand for the release of the envoys being made in
terms which should not offend the _amour propre_ of the North.



The convenient road from London to Rome, when I went there as consul,
was via Paris to Marseilles, and thence by sea to Civita Vecchia.
It was December when I left London, and the journey from Paris to
Marseilles, in a third-class carriage, took twenty-six hours. The Mont
Cenis tunnel had not been opened yet, and the voyage by diligence was
tedious, costly, and at that season uncomfortable on account of the
cold. I arrived at Rome shortly before Christmas, when the city was
astir with the preparations for the great ceremonies which were then
the principal attraction for foreigners there, but the number of
visitors was very small compared with that which now gathers to their
diminished religious and spectacular interest. The foreign quarter was
limited to that immediately about the Piazza di Spagna, and only the
artist folk lived in the remoter quarters, where they found cheap and
commodious apartments in the palaces of fallen nobility, glad to let
their upper stories; and there were few or no new houses.

Rome was given up to art and religion; it was still decaying,
picturesque, pathetic, and majestic. Where now we find the prosperous
and hideous new quarters,--the Via Nazionale, and the expanse of
structures to the east of it, the region between the Coliseum and the
Lateran, the 20 Settembre, Via Veneto, and the vicinity where were the
Ludovisi gardens, and now are long streets of ugly houses, with the
entirely new quarter of the Prati, were then expanses of vineyards and
gardens, and we used to cross the Tiber by a ferry to visit the farm
of Cincinnatus, now buried under twenty feet of rubbish, on which are
built the palaces of the Prati, huge, ugly barracks; and even the
Campagna has lost much of its desolate beauty. Down the Tiber, where
the ghastly embankment walls in the yellow stream, there was then a
picturesque riverbank, with a delightful foreground in every rood of
it. Where now is the Piazza delle Terme and the great railway station,
we used to go to get studies of the ruins of the baths of Diocletian,
one of the most picturesque objects of the region.

Political or social life there was none, and the foreign element,
whether the regular or the transitory, was divided by its
nationalities, and cut off absolutely from the Roman. Only the English
and American mingled to any extent, the foreign Catholics finding
their way, with such Protestants as gave hope of conversion, into the
clerical world, which, from all that I could see of it, offered little
attraction to the fugitive visitors. Wide-eyed, hurried Americans
came, saw, and bought a picture, and went away again; English
sightseers came for Christmas or Easter, and bought a few old masters;
but the mass of those who stayed for long were invalids, who settled
down and tried to keep as much in the sun as possible, for the
universal belief then was that to live out of the sunshine was to
contract mortal malaria. It was the most unreal world I have ever
lived in, whether we use the word unreal in the sense of shadowy or

Rome was in fact at that time a spectacle never before or since
seen in the world. Ruled by an absolute government, theocratic and
therefore considering its authority beyond all human attack, but
besieged on all sides by an invading liberalism, which had already
captured all its outposts and undermined its position at the centre,
it, still defiant, refused to make a single concession to the spirit
of the epoch, and bade defiance to diplomacy and insurrection alike.
All its former allies from north and south were in refuge within the
walls of the city, the King of Naples and all his court offering the
daily spectacle of a parade of their downfall as they drove through
the streets. Rome itself was a huge cloister in which the only
animation was in the processions of priests and students of the
theological seminaries, or the more melancholy funerals in which the
hooded and gowned friars added gloom to the mystery of our common
lot,--no industry except those of jewelry and art and that of
ecclesiastical apparatus. The principal revenues were the charity of
the outside world,--St. Peter's pence. Government was not by law,
but by the arbitrary decisions of the most incompetent of officials,
enforced by the bayonets of a foreign army, the soldiers of which
despised the population, and lived in the most complete separation
from it. The Pope himself had little affection for his French
protectorate, which urged, and sometimes effected, certain
improvements which he regarded as innovations and invasions.

I had, soon after my arrival, a case before the lower tribunal which
showed how the administration of justice was regarded. Having a
relapse into the malady that had followed my breakdown in Switzerland,
which was exaggerated by the heat of Rome, I was ordered by my
physician to Ariccia to recruit, and I left my apartment, which was
also the consulate, and took quarters at the little Ariccian inn which
was the resort of the artists at that date.

As I could not absent myself from the office longer than ten days at
a time without permission of the government at Washington, I had to
return _pro forma_ at that term, when, to my surprise, I found my
apartment in possession of a stranger. I intimated his dislodging, to
which he replied that he had taken the rooms and paid his rent and
would not go. At that time there was a temporary occupation--merely
nominal, however--of the legation by ex-Governor Randall of Wisconsin.
The minister had taken an apartment where he could mount the arms of
the Republic, and had then gone off on his European tour, leaving me
in occupation of the post as charge d'affaires and in care of his
rooms. As I had thus another place to sleep in, I evacuated the
consular quarters not unwillingly, removing all my effects except a
set of silver spoons which my mother had given me on my leaving home,
and which were heirlooms. The spoons were being cleaned, the landlady
said, and would be ready the next day. I called for them again, and
was again deferred, when I went at once to the tribunal and made a
claim for my spoons. On statement of the case, the judge gave an order
for the immediate and unconditional delivery of the plate; but when I
went to get them at the tribunal, he said it was lucky for me that I
came when I did, as the landlady had come in the afternoon and applied
for an order against me to pay another month's rent (always paid in
advance), and that if she had come first he should have been obliged
to give it to her. I explained that I had been driven out of the
apartment by another occupant; but that, he said, made no difference,
the first applicant for justice would alone have been heard.

Not long after, a similar case called for my more or less official
recognition. My colleague the consul at Florence had come for a visit
to Rome, and had taken a cab to make the rounds of the sights, and,
making his visit to the church of Ara Coeli, he of course left the cab
at the foot of the stairs. He found little which interested him in the
church, and, returning sooner than the cabman expected, he found no
cab there. In the course of the day he went to the police court and
asked for a punishment for the cabman for having deserted him on
his round. The cabman was summoned and fined accordingly; but the
magistrate remarked to my friend when he came to give evidence that
it was fortunate for him that he complained first, for the cabman had
come later in the day and asked for his fare for the night which he
had passed at the foot of the stairs waiting for the return of the
_forestiero_; and he added that if the cabman had come first, my
friend would have been obliged to pay the claim. It was simple and
expeditious, first come being first served, but hardly good civil

At the time of the expedition of Garibaldi which ended at Aspromonte,
the excitement in the city was intense, and the panic on the part of
the ecclesiastical population so great that they mainly took refuge in
the convents and villages of the mountain country. I had occasion to
see the Pope at that time, and found him in profound despondency,
evidently persuaded that Garibaldi would come to Rome. He said to me
that he was convinced that the great day of tribulation prophesied for
the church had come, and it would have its fifty years of oppression,
after which it would arise again more glorious than ever; but there
was no question that in his mind the French garrison was not for the
moment an efficient protection. The Italian party in the city was very
small, but active, and in those days especially so. The priests were
insulted and menaced whenever it was possible to reach them covertly,
and finally one was stabbed in a crowd. Many arrests were made, and
amongst those arrested was an exile who had ventured into the city to
visit his friends. He was put on trial for the stabbing, and, though
he proved an alibi, he was condemned to death, for "some example must
be made," they said. There was not the slightest evidence against him
except that he was an exile who had no right to be in the city, and
he was executed. Every day the police had to obliterate rebellious
inscriptions from the walls, and a constant correspondence was kept up
with the patriots in Florence. To belong to the order of Freemasons
was punishable by death, but a lodge was in full activity, and when
Lincoln was assassinated it sent me, for his widow, a letter of
condolence. It was given me by Castellani, who, not being initiated,
had received it from a brother known to him. About the same time, the
revolutionary committee decided to contribute a stone from the _agger_
of Servius Tullius to the Washington monument at Washington, and got
out one of the largest, had it dressed and appropriately inscribed,
and forwarded it to Leghorn for shipment to America, the bill of
lading being sent to me for transmission.

The police regulations were extremely severe against heresy, but
brigandage was common, and the darker streets were unsafe at night to
strangers. People were not infrequently robbed in their own doorways,
and there was a recognized system of violent robbery known as "doorway
robbing." The streets were very badly lighted, and the entrance halls
on the ground floor were scarcely ever lighted, so that we always
carried wax tapers to light ourselves up to our rooms, or to visit our
friends. Incautious foreigners, ignorant of this need for precaution,
entering the dark passages, were sometimes seized by robbers hidden
behind the door, gagged, and stripped of all valuables without a
possibility of assistance unless a friend happened to enter the house
at the moment, for the police were never seen about the streets at
night. I had, in the second year of my residence, a very narrow escape
from capture by brigands, which might have been a serious matter.
I was making, with my wife and son, our _villeggiatura_ at Porto
d'Anzio, then a miserable fishing village, but, except Civita Vecchia,
the only convenient seaside locality in the States of the Church where
one could find lodgings. With an American lady friend staying with us,
we planned to make an excursion by boat to the Punta d'Astura, where
are the ruins of a villa of Cicero; but when half way there we were
driven back by a passing shower. On the same day a party of Roman
sportsmen, out quail shooting, were "held up" in the ruins and obliged
to pay a ransom of five thousand scudi. The brigands of the kingdom
of Naples were constantly given refuge and sustenance on our side
the frontier, and on a visit to Olevano, in the Sabine hills, I was
witness of a band of over two hundred taking refuge from the Italian
troops in the Papal territory, and being furnished with provisions and
refreshments as at a festa. Artists out sketching were never molested,
not because the Papal influence protected us, but because the brigands
knew their poverty, and had a tinge of sympathy with the arts.

The ecclesiastical authorities were so severe on heresy that a friend
of mine, who had married an English lady who remained a Protestant,
was brought before the Inquisition (the "Holy Office") and put under
the severest pressure to compel his wife to abstain from attending
the English church outside the Porta del Popolo. He escaped ulterior
consequences only by appealing to the French authorities, he being a
surgeon in the service of the French garrison. For common morality
there was little care. The sexual relations were flagrantly loose,
and the scandal even of some of the great dignitaries was widespread.
Antonelli's amours were the subject of common gossip, and most of
the parish priests were in undisguised marital relations with their
housekeepers; nor was this considered as at all to their discredit by
the population at large. One of the leading Liberals, permitted to
remain in the city on account of the importance of his industry,
one of the great goldsmiths' works, told me that the Liberals never
permitted the priests to frequent their houses, as they invariably
conspired to corrupt the newly married women, unmarried girls being
unmolested. In the lower circles of the bourgeoisie it was a matter of
common knowledge that the husbands openly made a traffic of the virtue
of their wives; and in my personal acquaintance amongst the artists,
I knew of a number of cases in which the artist had the wife as a
mistress for a fixed compensation to the husband.

For this kind of immorality the police had no eyes, and, admitting
enormous exaggeration in the common report of the conduct of the
younger priesthood and the students of the theological schools (and
there is no smoke without some fire), the conditions of morality
amongst the younger Italian clergy was a gross scandal. Houses of
ill-fame were notorious, and it used to be said that when Pius IX. was
urged by the French authorities to put them under control and license
he replied that "every house was a brothel, and it was useless to
license any." There was another saying which I heard often, that "if
you wanted to go to a brothel you must go in the daytime, for at night
they were full of priests." How far this was justified I do not know,
but I remember that two American acquaintances went one night to one
of the best recognized houses of the kind, a place of the most common
notoriety on the Corso, and they were told at the door that there was
no room,--"every place was occupied."

Let me not be charged with making of this state of things an
accusation against the Catholic religion. The English, Irish, and
American students, who were those with whom I principally came in
contact, were ardent and enthusiastic devotees, as earnest in their
religious observances as any of the most devoted members of any other
church I have known. Indeed, it is my personal experience that so far
as regards the younger men, I have never found so many animated by the
true apostolical spirit as amongst the students of theology of British
and American birth whom I then knew at Rome. At the head of all the
Catholics of all nations whom I have ever known are the English, in
respect of sincere and ardent devotion to their church, with the
minimum of animosity towards other creeds, and the most healthy
morality. With the great majority of Italian ecclesiastics, on the
contrary, religion is a mere formality, and its influence on the life
is inconsiderable and unconsidered. It was, therefore, not because it
was a Catholic city that the morality of Rome was so low, but because
the energies of the hierarchy were so occupied with the difficulties
of the position of a government of priests unused to civil
administration and by their own education disqualified for it, that
the ordinary functions of government were impossible to it. The
situation was made still worse by the Italian constitutional
indifference to questions of common morality. As the government of the
church lies in the hands of the Italian clergy, it will be forever
impossible for a government organized on the principles of the Papal
temporal power to be other than that which has been suppressed by
Italy. To the majority of the higher Italian ecclesiastics, the church
has become merely a political instrument, into the management of which
the spiritual interests of the people do not enter, and the efforts of
the Catholics of other countries to bring about a reform will never
succeed while the power is in the hands of the Italian clergy, which
it will be as long as the Papacy is an Italian institution; and as the
Pope is Pope merely because he is the Bishop of Rome, it is difficult
to see how the situation can be made different.

Pius IX. was personally a most sincere and devout, though worldly,
man, and it is difficult to believe that any other than a devotee
could now be elected to the Holy See, for even the most corrupt civil
or ecclesiastical intellect must see the importance of a reputation
for sanctity in the Pontiff, while, as the influence of the Papacy is
no longer of vital importance to the government of any country in the
world (though doubtless of considerable utility to several), there is
little political importance in the personality of the Pontiff, and
slight motive for foreign governments to exercise influence on the
election. If removed from Italy and established in a seat surrounded
by a population like that of the masses in France (out of Paris and
the large cities), amenable to purely spiritual influences, the church
would revert to its normal functions and abandon politics,--a result
never to be hoped for while it remains Italian. I have no sympathy
with its creed, or any other of the creeds, for I conceive no
healthy conformity of belief possible to men and women differing in
intellectual and spiritual capacities; but I have seen good work done
by the Catholic church in many quarters, and I have many and admirable
Catholic friends, and, to be frank, I do not believe that the creed
makes much difference in the religion.

As to Pius IX., I am convinced that he was not only a devout man, but
an excellent and admirable man, as men go, a genuine believer in the
divine direction of his pontificate, and incapacitated for civil
government simply because no one could carry on a civil government on
ecclesiastical principles. He loved his people, and, personally and
generally, was beloved by them; but the progress of liberalism and
democracy had driven out of the Papal States, or into a mute and
inflexible opposition, all the most active and potent intellects
amongst them, and the clergy without them could not administer the
government; so that, wishing to do good to his subjects, he could not
improve their political condition without inviting those elements of
liberalism which he considered the inexorable enemies of the church,
which was to him the highest interest of humanity, He reposed his
faith on the abilities of clerics who knew nothing of human nature
or practical politics, but comprehended only a paternal control,
absolute, and to be enforced by the rod, actual or figurative; or on
those of civilian devotees and fanatics less intelligent even than the
clerical functionaries.

As I was, for the greater part of my term, in charge of the legation
interests and duties, I saw Pius IX. often and liked him much. One day
when I was having an audience in his little room, the windows of
which looked west, there came up a great thunder storm, with frequent
flashes of lightning, at each of which he crossed himself and devoutly
said a prayer. His conversation convinced me that he felt profoundly
convinced of his divinely appointed function as the vicegerent of God
on earth, and his sincerity inspired me with great respect for the
man; but, naturally, with little for his intellect. His _bonhomie_ was
remarkable, and he had a keen sense of humor, which led him to make
sarcastic, and often telling remarks, on men and things, in which he
was sometimes the reverse of diplomatic. He had, for my advantage,
many jibes at our past ministers, of some of whom he had diverting
memories, and especially of Major Cass,--of whom he always spoke as
"quel Cass," who had curious habits of night wandering and adventure
seeking, or, as Pius put it, "could not be quiet of nights." Either he
or his predecessor, I forget which, had insisted on putting his horse
through a ride round the parapet of the Pincian balustrade, where a
slip or a yielding stone meant death to the rider, which might have
been of no importance, but to the horse also, which would have been a
pity. And the old man liked a sly thrust at any of us who had made a

While thus in charge of the diplomatic relations of my government
without its recognition, the Department sent out a chaplain, an
ex-chaplain of the House of Representatives, who, having served his
time in that capacity, was entitled to a vacation in Europe, and came
with recommendations to me. Protestant worship was forbidden within
the walls of Rome, but to induce the English Protestants to come to
Rome and spend their money there, they were allowed to worship in a
sort of warehouse outside the Porta del Popolo. This was repugnant
to our democratic ways, and the new chaplain insisted on having his
chapel inside the walls. So I "put on cheek" and hired in the name
of the legation an apartment with a huge reception room close to the
Piazza di Spagna, put up the arms of the United States of America,
and opened the reception room for public worship as the chapel of the
legation,--the first instance in recorded time of Protestant worship
in the Papal city. The sequel was amusing, for as Sunday was my only
holiday, and I always spent it on the Campagna, the chaplain cut me
dead for not attending his services and keeping Sunday.

I expected some admonitory allusion to this achievement when next
I saw the Pope, but no notice was ever taken of it either by the
superior or the lower authorities, and so far as I know the church of
my planting flourished as long as the city remained under the Papal
rule, but with no more of my watering. The Pope was, I am persuaded,
quite indifferent to it, for, devout and unquestioning believer in
his own divine authority as he was, he was not a bigot, and not of
a persecuting disposition, but he was only a part of an immense and
intricate machine, over the movements of which neither he nor any
other Pope could have much control. He had every possible disposition
to be that ideal ruler, a benevolent despot, but even in that little
realm the details of government were impossible of control by the most
competent head of a government; they were necessarily left to the
incompetent, bigoted, and zealous administrators chosen by the
secondary chiefs of the departments, all the most conservative of men,
with a reverence for the abuses and usages of the old regime. It was
personal government down to the lowest grade of responsibility. The
Pope presided and bore the responsibility of the proceedings, but
Antonelli was the real ruler of the States of the Church.

And Antonelli was the very impersonation of unscrupulous and malignant
intellect, subtle with all the Italian subtlety, and unscrupulous as
any of the brigands from the community in which he had his origin. He
was in those days a cardinal of the order of deacons, and only in his
later career a priest, which fact is sometimes made the excuse for his
frank and notorious disregard of the rule of chastity, nor did he seem
to be concerned that his amours were the common gossip of Rome. I was
one day in his anteroom waiting for an audience when a lady came to
visit him, and when she was announced he flew to receive her with the
ardor of a boy in love, and with such open and passionate expressions
of affection as could be seen only in a southern nature. But he
had none of the slowness of action or decision which we attribute
sometimes to the languor of tropical natures. In business, as in love,
he lost no time, and never was at a loss for his expedient, but came
at once to a decision, and gave it on the spot. When the cruise of the
Alabama gave rise to diplomatic correspondence, and our government
protested against her receiving such treatment from neutrals as would
facilitate her career, I was, amongst my colleagues under similar
obligations, charged to protest against her being admitted to the
privileges of a national man-of-war in the port of Civita Vecchia.
Antonelli replied to my communication of the protest that she would be
admitted to the port with the same privileges as a man-of-war of any
other nation, and the reply was given with almost explosive promptness
and vivacity. But until a request for relaxation of the passport
regulations in favor of Southerners was made by some one professing to
speak on behalf of our own government, which was in my second year,
he never permitted the least bending of them, and only in important
cases, where strong personal influence was brought to bear, issued
passports of the Foreign Office for Southern Americans to leave the

Antonelli had a face which gave one an idea of the expression "beaute
du Diable," for a more perfect type of Satanic intelligence and
malignity than it showed at times I cannot conceive. If I had been a
figure painter, I should certainly have painted him as Mephistopheles,
as he appeared in the audience room in his close-fitting purple
costume with scarlet trimmings, his long coat-tails flying behind him
when he moved like the fringe of a flame. He was the most curious
contrast to the Pope, with his humorous and kindly manner, that it is
possible to conceive, for the Cardinal was nothing if not sardonic and
serious. The very slightest trace of humor would have transformed him

Unique as was the government, so was the position of a consul. It had
something of the exterritoriality of the same position in the Turkish
empire. The arms of my government over my door were a protection
against legal process, and I imagine that my predecessor had so
employed it, for when I had my first clothes made the tailor refused
to send them to the consulate till they were paid for. I had a right
to carry arms and shoot anywhere in the territory of the Pope, and I
had an absolute control over the passports, i.e. over the movements of
my fellow citizens, for no one who had come to Rome with the passport
of the United States of America could leave it without my visa, and I
could sequestrate the passport whenever I saw fit. But on the part of
my own government the consideration afforded was the minimum of its
kind. I had no salary, and my compensation was in fees, viz. those on
passports and the few invoices of goods sent to America, with such
notarial business as might arise. The late consul had resigned, and
gone home to fight for the Confederate cause, leaving the consulate
in the hands of a French secretary, an old and needy teacher of his
native language whenever he could find a pupil. He was satisfied with
the pittance my own means allowed me to give him, and he wrote, in a
much better French than mine would have been, the dispatches to the
Vatican. I could talk French fluently if not correctly, and that
sufficed. Before leaving Washington, I had received a hint from a
friend in the Department of State that the fewer dispatches I troubled
them with the higher would be my favor in the department, so that,
with the exception of my quarterly accounts, I had little official
writing to do; but when I came to Rome again in 1882, I was told by my
successor of that date that my file of dispatches to the department
was the only one which existed in the consular archives of the Papal
occupation of Rome.

Rome was in those days the Lotophagitis of our century, whose
population lived in an artificial peace, a sort of dreamland--artists
who, whether German, French, English, Americans, or Russians, were
more or less imbued with the feeling of the old art, and who found
their _clientele_ in people who believed, as I have heard some say,
that _any_ picture painted in Rome was better than any picture painted
elsewhere! There was, therefore, a continual exportation of copies,
good and bad, of the old masters and a few landscapes for the
remembering of localities, but the quality of the art was of trifling
importance to the buyers--it was "done in Rome," and that sufficed as
merit. The Cafe Greco, haunt of the race of artists since Salvator
Rosa, was in its original and charming, if rude, simplicity, and there
came all the artists to take their after-dinner cup. Old John
Gibson, though not the oldest of the habitues, was the chief of our
Anglo-American community; Randolph Rogers, Mosier, Reinhart, Story,
and two or three other sculptors, whose names I have forgotten, and
two or three American landscape painters, of whom Tilton was chief at
the time of my arrival, had the monopoly of American patronage, and
every wealthy American who came conceived it his duty to patronize
American art, while our government had the tradition of always sending
an artist to Rome as consul.

Charlotte Cushman, a famous actress of her day, was the nucleus of a
little clique of women sculptors, Miss Stebbins, Harriet Hosmer,
and one or two others of lesser fame. Accordingly, she made war on
sculptors of the other sex in all the curious ways of womanly malice,
in order to the exclusive reaping by her protegees of the golden
harvest. I had known her years before, when she was still on the stage
and I the dramatic and art critic of the New York "Evening Post," and,
as our relations had then been cordial, it was natural that she should
"take me up" on my arrival. Her hospitality was large--dinners,
musical evenings, etc., and she had a "salon," to all which I was a
welcome guest, and the cordiality lasted until she thought it time to
make use of me. She then proposed to me to undertake the demolition
of the fictitious reputations of the leading American sculptors,
especially Story, Mosier, and Rogers, and, when I replied that I had
then the intention of returning to the occupation of a landscape
painter, and that in that position, as well as in that of consul
and in a manner the protector of all my countrymen, it would be
inconsistent with the position to publish criticisms on my fellow
artists, the thermometer of her regard fell at once, and I had instant
evidence that I was out of her list of friends.

Her coolness was changed to active hostility by another case of
conflicting interests. The recognition of passports issued before
the rebellion having been interdicted by the government, the consuls
received an order to cancel all such as had been issued prior to the
order, and to issue new ones only on the oath of allegiance being
taken by the recipient. There was also a charge of five dollars for
the passport, which was to be renewed after a year. Charlotte was,
amongst her other qualities, avaricious, and though wealthy and
ostentatious she rebelled at expenditure which did not show, and when
it came time for her to leave Rome for the summer, and her passport
came for visa, I stopped it and notified her to take out a new one.
She refused, and confiding in the friendly personal relations which
had existed between her and Seward, she wrote to the department
protesting against my action and making formal complaint of my
discourtesy. Seward replied that I was obeying my orders and that the
passport must be taken and paid for. From that day war was open and
malignant. Of course I was interdicted from responding in any way to
her attacks, but I found them of no great importance; though when I
was sent to Crete, four years later, she had influence enough to get
her nephew appointed consul in succession.

In the years when Miss Cushman was on the stage I had understood her
pretty well, and, though she had done what was possible to give me a
good impression of her, I do not think I was ever much persuaded of
her goodness or surprised at the enmity she showed when I came into
collision with her interests. I think she possessed an utterly selfish
nature, was not at all scrupulous in the attainment of her purposes,
and was, in effect, that most dangerous member of society, a
strong-willed and large-brained woman without a vestige of principle.
She had a diabolical magnetism which in her best part, Meg Merrilies,
had a sensuous attraction I have never known so powerful in another
woman. Her Queen Katherine was a failure, and she could not play the
part of a refined woman, but into that of Meg Merrilies, an adaptation
of her own of Sir Walter Scott's novel, she put her whole nature--it
was her very self as far as she would let herself be seen.

When I had a studio in New York I had as next-door neighbor an artist
who was scene painter to the company in which Charlotte used to play
at the old Park Theatre, and the stories he told me of her in that
connection were terrible. My friend had never dared to speak of her
openly, and only did so to me with a caution that if what he told me
got to Miss Cushman's ears she was quite capable of silencing him
in the most effective manner. I am of opinion that he judged her
correctly, for she must have been a tiger when her passions were
aroused, capable of anything, and I was careful never to give her more
serious cause of offense than the doing of my official duty. Over
those whom she chose to fascinate, she had an extraordinary power, and
I have known young women who were so completely under her control as
to be unable to escape from it when they found out her real nature
except by flight.

If she had been beautiful she might have set the social world
topsy-turvy. I think she was the cleverest woman I ever knew. Her tact
was extraordinary, and she never failed to impress the visitors to
Rome with her sincerity and benevolence, though she really possessed
neither of those qualities. She was an immense illustration of a maxim
of Dante Rossetti to the effect that artists had nothing to do with
morality. She was always on the stage--in the most familiar act and in
the presence of strangers she never lost sight of the footlights,
and the best acting I ever saw her in was in private and in the
representation of some comedy or tragedy of her own interests. She
played with a marvelous power one part, and all others were but
variations of that or failures--it was not art which dominated her,
but the simulation of nature, and that her own, which is not the same
thing as art, as we all ought to know.

Between herself and the sculptor Rogers, who was, in his way, as
clever as she, there was an implacable war, veiled by the ordinary
forms of civility, which both were careful never to break over. Miss
Cushman had begun her career as a singer, but, her voice failing,
she had to be content to remain on the stage of the theatre; but she
always retained a certain dramatic quality of voice, and, within a
very limited register, she sang with great power and pathos. Two of
her favorite songs were Kingsley's "The Sands of Dee" and the "Three
Fishermen," which, as she sang them, rarely failed to affect those who
heard them for the first time to tears. Rogers was an admirable mimic
and sang those songs with such a close rendering of the voice and
manner (for Miss Cushman's voice was rather that of a man than one
belonging to her own sex), with just a touch of burlesque, that he
brought out roars of laughter; and when the two cordial enemies met in
society somebody was sure to ask Rogers to sing "The Sands of Dee,"
which he did with good will, and Miss Cushman was obliged, to her
intense anger, to applaud the caricature of her best performance. It
was cruel, but he was merciless, and spared no exaggeration of her
voice, her dramatic manner, and a way she had of sprawling over the
piano, producing an ensemble which made it impossible to hear her
again in the same songs without a disposition to laugh.

An incident occurred at this time which made Miss Cushman's position
in regard to the quarrel with the consulate still more difficult. It
was not long after the advent of the famous horse-tamer John S. Rarey,
of whom she had been a pupil in America when he first came out. A
person professing to be Rarey was touring Europe and teaching his
manner of breaking horses, beginning at Copenhagen and following the
seashore to Naples, whence he came to Rome and was received with great
enthusiasm by Miss Cushman, for at that time, and while the war was
in its critical stage, American lions were very rare in Rome. The
horse-tamer was, on her authority, made the guest of the American
community, breakfasted, dined, and feted, and a large subscription
was made for a class in horse-breaking. At this juncture I heard of
a performance of the _soi-disant_ Rarey at Naples, in which he had
nearly killed a beautiful young mare, and, knowing that the system of
Rarey did not include cruelty, I began to doubt the identity of the
tamer. I called for the passport with which he had come, and which
was, as usual, deposited at the police office, and discovered that it
was issued by a "vice-consul _pro tempore_" at Dresden, an officer not
recognized by our regulations, bad and loose as they were, and a
man whose name, moreover, was not on the consular list, though the
passport was on a regular form. I at once wrote to the police,
requesting them to cause the said John S. Rarey to prove his identity.

The summons to the police office brought him to the consulate the next
morning before I was out of bed (the office and my bedroom constituted
the headquarters of the government of the United States of America
at Rome), with a petition to me to request the police to delay the
examination until the next day, as he had two friends who would
identify him, but who were that day (it was Sunday) at Tivoli for the
day. As an escape was impossible, and he was in a nervous trepidation
which, it was clear to see, was awful funk, I wrote the note desired;
and, before the day was out, he had gone to my English colleague, the
amiable Severn, and confessed that he was an impostor, a Canadian, and
asked for English protection. Severn replied that without my consent
he could do nothing for him; he had come with an American passport
and must abide by it, unless I gave him up. He was wilted, in such
a fright as I never saw a man in before or since, and he had good
reason, for the penalty of coming to Rome with a false passport was
imprisonment in St. Angelo. Meanwhile Miss Cushman had gone into
heroics over the insult I was offering so distinguished a man as to
suspect his identity, and all her clique were united in abusing me;
but on Monday the impostor slipped out of Rome by the connivance of
Severn, the police, and myself, after I had attached the amount of the
subscriptions for his class, which were still lying at the bankers',
and pledged him to abstain in future from any similar impersonation.
As Miss Cushman had stood sponsor for him, she having been a pupil of
the real Rarey, his confession was a mortification which she
visited on my head, but as it disarmed her I was tranquil over the

I was continually at war with the Confederate Americans, galled to
extreme bitterness by the right I had of compelling them to take the
oath of allegiance before renewing their passports. Amongst them was a
very beautiful woman, a Virginian, and the wife of a commodore in the
navy of the United States of America, then on service in the Potomac.
She refused to take the oath, and insulted me in the grossest manner
and in public, as an insulter of ladies, _etc., etc_. But all the
influence she could bring to bear could not get her passport from the
police without my visa; and at last, despairing of escape from Rome,
she came to make her peace, meeting me at the bank, but unwilling to
accept the degradation of coming to the consulate. "You are not going
to make me come to your dirty little consulate, are you?" she said; to
which I replied, "Oh, no; my secretary shall administer the oath to
you in your bedroom, if you choose;" but, in the end, she had to take
the oath and sign it, as did many of her compatriots. Amongst the
Southerners who came under my administration was the wife of General
Winfield Scott, commander-in-chief of our army, who actually died
under my care, without a friend or relative near her.

This social warfare, the consequence of my official position, had the
effect of giving me occupation and excitement, and I was sustained
cordially by the loyal Americans in Rome, so that the position, though
unremunerative, was rather pleasant than otherwise. In the course of
the summer after my arrival, ex-Governor Randall of Wisconsin came as
minister, his appointment being intended to "keep the place warm" for
General Rufus King, a personal friend of Seward, to whom the place
was promised whenever he should be tired of fighting, or qualified by
glory for future political contests. Randall was a mere party hack;
he knew nothing of diplomacy or good manners, or of any language but
Western American. I took for him the house on the Pincian now known as
the House of the Four Winds, a magnificent situation for the summer.
He saw the sights, generally in a carriage, with a paper of fruit
on the front seat and me as cicerone; was presented at the Vatican,
presented me as charge d'affaires, and, having his leave of absence in
his pocket, departed for a tour of Europe, bequeathing to me the honor
of paying his bills, rent, etc., down to the washing bill, to be
settled on his return, and never appeared again. I was left to pay out
of my empty pocket; and I never heard from him, though, a long time
after, I succeeded in recovering from the Treasury the amount of those
bills I had paid for Randall for which I could show vouchers; those
for which I had none I had to put to account of profit and loss, which
was, as long as I was in Rome, largely to the loss account, drafts on
my brother making up the deficiency. I was also, until it suspended
publication, Roman correspondent of John Bright's paper, which I think
was called the "Star."

After an interregnum of some months came another bed-warmer for
General King, this one a New York politician, also a friend of
Seward's, an ancient politician, who had recently married a young wife
desirous of a stay in some European capital, and, if possible, at the
expense of the government. These at least were gentlefolk, and paid
their bills without doing anything to scandalize the Romans. They
spent the winter and went home, and finally came General King.

Finding that my fees and sales of pictures (for I had taken up my
painting again and had sold a few small pictures) amounted to about
six hundred dollars a year, and were slowly increasing, I decided to
go home and bring my wife and child out. I had been absent more than a
year, and several months after being in Rome had the news of the birth
of a son. It was near being my death, for, on the evening of receiving
the news, I had gone to make a call on an English lady who lived in
the Villa Negroni, where the railway station now is, and close by the
prison where all the political offenders were kept, and which was
guarded by French soldiers. I was in a vein of profound meditation on
the news I had just received, and absorbed to that extent that I
kept on my course along the sidewalk in front of the prison, walking
towards the sentry, and did not hear his challenge till it had been
repeated three times, when I heard his rifle rattle as it came down to
the take aim, and suddenly became conscious that I had heard a sound,
the meaning of which must be "_Qui vive_?" I sung out lustily, "_Ami_"
and was told that if I was a friend the other side of the road was my

I had discovered that the consular agent left by my predecessor at
Civita Vecchia was engaged in a system of espionage on behalf of the
Papal authorities, and had been issuing American passports to spies
whom they were employing in Italian territory, and I at once dismissed
him and informed the Italian government through Mr. Marsh, our
minister to Italy, and received a letter of thanks from that
government. From Washington a new consular agent was sent, and,
putting him in charge of the consulate, I started for home, going by
way of Turin, to see Mr. Marsh, and by diligence over Mont Cenis.
Subsequent events brought me much in contact with that admirable
diplomat and scholar, at that time the one bright feature of our
diplomatic service on the Continent. Our government received great
credit for sending such a man abroad to represent us, but the chance
of it was in the fact that he was closely related to Senator Edmunds
of Vermont, whose influence with the administration was sufficient to
secure any single nomination he insisted on, and who did insist on
the maintenance of Marsh in the diplomatic service. As Marsh had been
conspicuous in the advocacy of the Italian cause during the unitary
movement, he was designated by the circumstances for the American
legation to Italy, in which he honored his appointment as few of our
representatives at that epoch had done.

In fact, with the exception of Adams, at London, and Marsh, at Turin,
we had hardly a representative abroad, either consular or diplomatic,
who was a credit to the country. As the war continued, the importance
of being respected in Europe became more evident, and a change took
place; but the few men of respectable standing who were in foreign
countries representing the United States of America were appointed on
account of political pressure, and not on their merits. My colleague
at Venice, Howells, one of Mr. Lincoln's most fortunate appointments,
owed his position, not to his literary abilities, which were then
unknown to the country at large, but to his having written a campaign
life of Lincoln, a service which was always considered by the
successful candidate as entitling the biographer to some appointment.
A term of consular service was and is still considered the reward for
campaign services, personal or vicarious, and at the next change of
administration the consul was superseded by another, equally crude,
and with all to learn in his business.

What the character of the Americans as well as of the government,
as such, has suffered of derogation abroad from this political
huckstering with public offices, no one can know who was not much
abroad in the years preceding our war. Marsh was honored and beloved
at Rome by both King and people, as was Adams by the Court of St.
James, but the dead weight which the standing disrepute of our
diplomacy imposed on both those distinguished men can hardly now be
estimated. My predecessors at Rome, and the ministers before my time,
had left a bad odor behind them. One of them was notorious for his
devotion to a form of dissipation much and scandalously known at
Naples during the reign of the Bourbons as a springtime sport, and
which has since been the occasion of a noted crusade in England led by
Mr. Stead. Of a minister of the United States of America found drunk
in the streets of Berlin by the police, and a charge d'affaires who,
in an outbreak at Constantinople, hoisted the flag over a brothel he
frequented, the memory is perhaps too old to have reached men born
much later than I, but for the twenty years of my first knowledge of
European matters our representation abroad was a disgrace to America.

I landed in New York the day after the battle of Gettysburg, and for
the first time in the history of our trouble I felt assured as to the
end, for I perceived that the attempt at invasion by the Confederacy
showed that the government of it felt its affairs to be in a desperate
condition, and the determination on the part of the North was
evidently unshaken. From that time I never felt any anxiety as to
the final result. I found my brother at the head of the construction
department of the revenue service, his friend Salmon P. Chase being
Secretary of the Treasury. He was desirous to keep me at home to
assist him, with which desire I was ready to conform, but the
opposition of his wife was so bitter that he had to decide against my
staying, and, taking my wife and boy, I returned to Rome. My brother
was already attacked by the malady of which, two years later, he died.

Arriving in Rome, and resuming the direction of the consulate, I found
to my dismay that General King had appointed as secretary of legation
a local American banker, a "Copperhead," who had in the name of the
government, but without authority, requested the Roman Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to dispense with the visa on the passports of all
American visitors, and Antonelli was, of course, too glad to be
relieved of the embarrassment which had been often caused him by the
regulation, which all the Southerners had asked to be relieved from.
Thus I found that the principal resource of the consulate was gone. As
the home government had given the strongest orders to protest against
any such exception being made of American passports, I, of course,
protested, but was informed that the rule had been taken at the
request of my own government; and, though Antonelli knew perfectly
that Hooker had no authority to enter into any negotiations with him
on any subject, and that he had no official position, it suited him
to accept the contrary, and my remonstrances to the minister, General
King, had no effect. I then laid the matter before the Department
of State at Washington, but, as General King was the close personal
friend of Seward, who was quite indifferent to diplomatic scandals
away from England, no attention was paid to my complaints, and I gave
up the consulate to Brown, the consular agent at Civita Vecchia, to
get what he could from it, and devoted myself entirely to painting,
by which, with a little writing, I made enough to live in the simple
manner which I was accustomed to.

Released from all obligations to remain at the consulate, I spent the
most of my time in sketching on the Campagna. Of all the landscape I
have ever seen, in the Alps, Sicily, Greece, the American forests and
lakes, or semi-tropical Florida, nothing has impressed me as did the
Roman Campagna in its then condition of decay and neglect. The beauty
of line of its mountain framework is still there, and passages here
and there are untouched, but the improvements of progress have
intruded in so many points that, as a whole, the solemn and poetic
aspect of those days is irretrievably lost. I used to sit out in the
most lonely passages painting into the twilight until I could no
longer distinguish my colors, and then tramp back to Rome at my
fastest, to get in before the gates closed for the night. If it was
not the rapture of art, it was the passion of poetic nature.

As fortune would have it, there was in Rome that winter Mr. George
G. Fogg, the minister of the United States of America at Berne, a
personal friend of Lincoln, and chairman of the Young Men's National
Committee, which arranged the convention that nominated him. On
Lincoln's election Fogg was offered his choice of the diplomatic
appointments, and selected Berne, the most modest position he could
take. He came to pass the Christmas holidays at Rome, and of course I
laid my case before him. He in turn put it before his late colleagues
in the House, and the committee on foreign affairs made a strong
representation at the Department of State; and, when Seward refused to
recall King, or take any measures to correct the injustice done me,
they struck out from the consular and diplomatic appropriation bill
the appropriation for the legation at Rome, which meant the abolition
of the legation, and I was a little later transferred to Crete, a
salaried post, where there was supposed to be nothing to do but make
my quarterly report.

My commission must have been one of the very last Lincoln signed, for
he was assassinated before it reached me. I was spending the evening
at the quarters of one of my best Roman friends, Mr. John A. King (a
cousin of, but not a sympathizer with, the general), when the news
came of the murder of Lincoln and the attempt on Seward, and very
vivid still is the recollection of the horror and grief we all felt.
But we also felt that the President's work was done, and that his
fame was set securely in history, beyond the chance of any political
blunder to damage it. Could he ever have devised a better death
in view of his future influence and honor? I learned from one of
Lincoln's Illinois friends, whom I later saw in Rome, that the
appointment in Crete was intended by the President as the recognition
of the injustice with which Seward had treated my case. My experience
of Seward's way of looking at public appointments and public
interests, when crossed by his personal relations, certainly went to
confirm the apprehensions of Mr. Fogg and his friends that Seward's
personal following would stand between him and the best interests of
the state. As Fogg used to put it, "He won't steal, himself, but he
don't care how much his friends steal." But my misfortune brought
about the abolition of what had always been a scandal and a job--the
legation of the United States of America to the Pope.


Back to Full Books