Praesidi foederatarum Americas regionum

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by DoyleDH, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    In December 1863 Pope Pius IX wrote a letter to Jefferson Davis, of the Confederacy, and he addressed it to: “Illustri at Honorabili Viro, Jefferson Davis, Praesidi foederatarum Americas regionum.” This was translated by Ambrose Dudley Mann, the Confederate envoy to the Vatican as “the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.” Mann claimed it was tantamount to international recognition by a powerful European sovereign. Most historians have focused on Mann's misinterpretation of what was a form of diplomatic courtesy. Having seen the original Latin version, I want to focus on the deliberate mistranslation.
    Can you Latin experts tell me: what is the correct or best translation of this in English?
    Many thanks
    --Don Doyle, McCausland Professor of History, U of South Carolina
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Your original Latin version contains a couple of small errors. It should read:
    Illustri et honorabili viro, Jefferson Davis, Praesidi foederatarum Americae regionum

    A literal translation would be: "To the distinguished and honorable man, Jefferson Davis, leader of the (con)federated territories of America". It looks to me like a pretty decent rendering of "President of the Confederate States of America". Could you explain why historians believe this to be a case of deliberate mistranslation?
  3. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    Thank you. The errors could have been my own typos. Historians and even CSA officials thought Mann incorrectly interpreted the salutation as tantamount to international recognition, rather than a diplomatic courtesy. I believe Mann mistranslated "foederatarum Americae regionum" to read "Confederate States of America" in order to support this interpretation. He held on to the original for months and meanwhile wrote repeatedly to Richmond that the pope had recognized the Confederacy.
    Back to your translation: what do you make of the pope's use of lower case? What are the rules on capitalizing the names of nation states?
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Actually, I wasn't really paying attention to the case. I don't know how the original letter was capitalized. Maybe you can dig up images of the letter sent to Jefferson Davis; otherwise all of the Pope's correspondence appears to be published in several volumes (but I don't see the one for the relevant time period on-line).

    On the Vatican website you can look up letters written by more recent Popes, although these days they seem to write to world leaders in more familiar modern languages, not in Latin. But here are two examples from Pius XII:

    • EPISTULA DATA DILECTO FILIO ILLUSTRI ET HONORABILI VIRO ALOISIO EINAUDI ITALORUM REIPUBLICAE PRAESIDI [letter given to the cherished son, the distinguished and honorable man Luigi Einaudi, leader of the Republic of the Italians] (February 11, 1954)
    • EPISTULA ILLUSTRI ET HONORABILI VIRO LIN SAN SINENSIS REIPUBLICAE GUBERNANDAE PRAESIDI [letter to the distinguished and honorable man Lin Sen, leader of the government of the Chinese republic] (April 20, 1943)
    These have pretty much the same wording as the letter to J. Davis.
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The strange thing is that the pope rendered "states" by "regiones". What word did he use to refer to the (Northern) United "States" of America?
  6. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    I believe the capitalization I gave is accurate. I will get an image of it and check to be sure.

    Can anyone take a stab at another translation of "Confederate States of America" into Latin. The pope too a month to compose this letter and he was advised by a shrewd secretary of state. I believe his usage was deliberate if ambiguous.
  7. CapnPrep Senior Member

    According to Vicipaedia: Civitates Confoederatae Americae. And apparently the Vatican uses Status for the "USA", but the article doesn't say how long that practice has been in effect, and indeed here is a 1939 letter from Pius XII that addresses FDR as Foederatarum Americae Civitatum Praeses.
    It looks like he used provinciae, status, and regiones, but I don't have enough patience with Google Books snippet view to figure out whether there was some distinction or which one predominated. It would be useful to consult the full Latin text of the letter to Jefferson Davis, since it contains references to the "States" and "the other people also of the States and their rulers" (according to this translation). There is also mention of other letters to the Archbishops of New York and of New Orleans; those texts would also be revealing.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  8. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    Many thanks. I have a request in for an image of the original Latin version. The translation refers to "the people of America" and it uses the word "States" but I notice there is no other reference to a nation by official name, and I suspect that is deliberate. The reference to "intestine war" as Judah P. Benjamin pointed out, implies a war within one nation instead of between two.
    When I get an image of the letter, I would like to post it and get some of your responses. This is an interesting story of translation and diplomacy interacting. Meanwhile, many thanks to all of you for your expert help on this.
  9. Tochka Senior Member

    Ave atque vale!

    “Illustri at Honorabili Viro, ....”

    I wonder if the "at" might actually have been meant to be "atque" (or "ac"?) rather than "et"?
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    All of the papal letters I've seen use the formula illustris et honorabilis. See in particular the facsimile I linked to above in #7. And I've just come across a letter written by Pius IX to President Pierce (1853), that uses the same phrase twice.
  11. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    I now have an image of the letter and the envelope on which the pope addressed the "Praesidi foederatarum Americae regionum" (forgive my earlier typos).
    The forum will not let me upload the pdf file as it is too large, so I am going to post it here:

    There are images of the envelope, the letter, and then two translations, only slightly different, which were entered into the Confederate records.
    The CSA envoy, Ambrose Dudley Mann, (whose son was supposed to know Latin as well as Italian and probably did all the translations) told Jefferson Davis in his cover letter when he sent the Latin version:
    “This letter will grace the archives of the Executive Office in all coming time,” he told Davis. “It will live forever in story as the production of the first potentate who formally recognized your official position and accorded to one of the diplomatic representatives of the Confederate States an audience in an established court palace, like that of St. James or the Tuileries.”
    What he did not know is that it would be in the archives of the USA.
    I believe this is a wonderful illustration of the Italian expression, tradurre/tradire, and the source of a long-standing legend about the pope recognizing the Confederacy.
    Thanks for your help with this.

    Also: what does "Viro" mean? (I had that as Piro, probably my mistake)
    -- Don
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  12. Tochka Senior Member

    Sounds like you've got an excellent case for "et"! :)
    And the photocopy bears it out!
  13. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Thanks for finding and posting the images! It's always fascinating to see original documents like this.
    It means "man" (dative singular of vir). The NYT also read it as "Piro" in 1876. :p

    We can now answer some of our earlier questions about this letter. Pius IX uses regiones to refer to the States, and more specifically istae regiones (which corresponds to something like "those territories/states over there, where you are"):

    • fatale civile bellum in istis regionibus exortum "the fatal civil war [that had] arisen in the States"
    • alii quoque istarum regionum populi "other groups of people also of those States"
    These quotations make it clear that istae regiones refers collectively to all of the states, i.e. the Union and the CSA together.

    A letter (January 28, 1864) from J. P. Benjamin to John Slidell mentions an English translation of the letter "made in the Department of the Pope's letters". So maybe the archives contain that translation, and one by Mann (maybe we can try to figure out which is which). The most striking difference between the two is the reference to "internecine war" in one vs. "intestine war" in the other. The Latin text clearly has intestinum bellum "internal war".

    That is the only possible instance of "deliberate mistranslation" I can see for now. I know you're particularly interested in the form of address on the envelope. In my opinion it really does say "President of the CSA", and Confederate officials apparently accepted that, too. But they attached less significance to this than Mann did, after having read the actual contents of the letter. (J. P. Benjamin to Dudley Mann, February 1, 1864)

    To be absolutely sure about the translation of the Praesidi business, it would be useful to know how Pius IX referred to Presidents of the United States before and after the war, and even better how he referred to Lincoln during the war.
  14. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    I take your point about the translation of the address on the envelope, and if the pope was addressing him as "President" of some entity, whatever he named it, with or without capitalization, it certainly could be taken, especially by an eager diplomat like Mann, to be a gesture of recognition or at least respect. The salutation in the letter itself, referring to the leader of a rebellion as "honorable" was, not insignificant. I know from other evidence that the pope expressed sympathy toward the South. He told Mann and Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, who served as CSA envoy later, that he considered the South a separate nation and wished the war would stop, but he implied that they would have to establish some plan for emancipating the slaves. Lynch's answer was to work up a pamphlet showing how slavery was compatible with Catholic charity and how the leading Catholics of the South, himself included, were slaveholders.
    The major contradiction to Mann's claim of recognition was in the body of the letter, as Benjamin points out. The pope refers to an "intestine war" (a common and rather graphic expression used in English in this period; I don't think "internecine" violates that meaning) and civil wars take place within not between nations. He, or Antonelli his secretary of state, was cagey, but the address on the envelope probably did not seem very smart later when it appeared US was going to survive.

    thanks again to all of you for your generous and expert help.
  15. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The two words simply mean different things. An internecine war is not necessarily intestine, and an intestine war is not necessarily internecine. Internecine has picked up (by false association with intern-) the meaning of "within a group", but I don't know if this was already the case in the 19th century. Either way, I would say that English internecine is an inappropriate/incorrect translation of Latin intestinum.
  16. DoyleDH Member

    English USA
    OK, but the pope referred to the war as a civil war and an intestine war and that clearly means a war within a nation, and that seemed to cancel Mann's translation/interpretation of the address on the envelope. Benjamin had it right, in other words.
    The pope's letter, by the way, was used as propaganda material in Ireland and across Europe to discourage Catholic immigrants from enlisting with the Union. The Irish and other European immigrants who saw the letter in broadsides at the docks of Ireland and northern Europe may not have been parsing the translation and content with quite the care we have given it here!
  17. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    There are several relevant points in Pius' terminology.

    Praeses is a general term referring to anyone in a position of rule.

    Lewis and Short under praeses II B quote the Institutions of Gaius: 'the term praeses is a general one, as may be seen by the fact that both the proconsuls and legates of Caesar and all those ruling provinces, even though they are senators, are given the appellation praeses'.

    It could be read as 'President' by someone who wishes to find that sense, but it enables the Pope to claim that he said nothing more committal than 'leader'.

    He says foederatarum instead of confoederatarum.
    Here again, the term could be read as meaning 'confederated', but does not commit His Holiness to anything more than 'allied'.

    He says regionum (territories) instead of civitatum (states).

    Lewis and Short, under regio, II b 1 b (a), give:

    A portion of country of indefinite extent; a territory, province, district, region; esp. freq. in plur., lands, territories

    Also, the absence of articles in Latin means that the Pope was not necessarily referring to any specific group of territories: he was not necessarily saying 'the' territories (let alone 'the states').

    Giving the whole phrase its minimalist reading, which the Vatican would no doubt have insisted on in the event of any official claim of recognition, we have:

    Praesidi foederatarum Americae regionum : Leader of allied territories in America.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012

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