September 22, 1863.
My dearest Mother: Here in this capital the great interest just now is about the new Mexican emperor. The Archduke Maximilian is next brother to the Emperor of Austria, and about thirty years of age. He has been a kind of Lord High Admiral, an office which, in the present condition of the imperial navy, may be supposed to be not a very onerous occupation. He was Governor-General of Lombardy until that kingdom was ceded to Victor Emmanuel, and he is considered a somewhat restless and ambitious youth. He has literary pretensions, too, and has printed, without publishing, several volumes of travels in various parts of the world. The matter is not yet decided. It is, I believe, unquestionable that the archduke is most desirous to go forth on the adventure. It is equally certain that the step is exceedingly unpopular in Austria. That a prince of the house of Hapsburg should become the satrap of the Bonaparte dynasty, and should sit on an American throne which could not exist a moment but for French bayonets and French ships, is most galling to all classes of Austrians. The intrigue is a most embarrassing one to the government. If the fatal gift is refused, Louis Napoleon of course takes it highly in dudgeon. If it is accepted, Austria takes a kind of millstone around her neck in the shape of gratitude for something she didn't want, and some day she will be expected to pay for it in something she had rather not give. The deputation of the so-called notables is expected here this week, and then the conditions will be laid down on which Maximilian will consent to live in the bed of roses of Montezuma and Iturbide. I still entertain a faint hope that the negotiations may be protracted, and that something may interrupt them before they are concluded. The matter is a very serious and menacing one to us.
Fortunately our President is as honest and upright a man as ever lived, and there is no Minister of Foreign Affairs living to compare in ability with Seward. I think he will steer us clear of war, and a foreign war is the only thing which can save the rebellion from extermination. No paper published of late has given me such unalloyed pleasure as the President's letter to the Illinois Republican Committee. The transparent honesty and unsophisticated manliness of his character breathe through every line. Happy the people who can have so homely and honest a chief, when others live under Louis Napoleons and Jeff Davises!
Good-by, my dearest mother. All send best love to father and yourself and all the family, and I remain
Ever your affectionate son,
J. L. M.
SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 341-2