THE ROMAN QUESTION
Translated From The French By H. C. Coape
D. Appleton and Company,
346 & 348 Broadway
It was in the Papal States that I studied the Roman Question. I
travelled over every part of the country; I conversed with men of all
opinions, examined things very closely, and collected my information
on the spot.
My first impressions, noted down from day to day without any especial
object, appeared, with some necessary modifications, in the Moniteur
Universel. These notes, truthful, somewhat unconnected, and so
thoroughly impartial, that it would be easy to discover in them
contradictions and inconsistencies, I was obliged to discontinue, in
consequence of the violent outcry of the Pontifical Government. I did
more. I threw them in the fire, and wrote a book instead. The present
volume is the result of a year's reflection.
I completed my study of the subject by the perusal of the most recent
works published in Italy. The learned memoir of the Marquis Pepoli,
and the admirable reply of an anonymous writer to M. de Rayneval,
supplied me with my best weapons. I have been further enlightened by
the conversation and correspondence of some illustrious Italians, whom
I would gladly name, were I not afraid of exposing them to danger.
The pressing condition of Italy has obliged me to write more rapidly
than I could have wished; and this enforced haste has given a certain
air of warmth, perhaps of intemperance, even to the most carefully
matured reflections. It was my intention to produce a memoir,—I fear
I may be charged with having written a pamphlet. Pardon me certain
vivacities of style, which I had not time to correct, and plunge
boldly into the heart of the book. You will find something there.
I fight fairly, and in good faith. I do not pretend to have judged the
foes of Italy without passion; but I have calumniated none of them.
If I have sought a publisher in Brussels, while I had an excellent one
in Paris, it is not because I feel any alarm on the score of the
regulations of our press, or the severity of our tribunals. But as the
Pope has a long arm, which might reach me in France, I have gone a
little out of the way to tell him the plain truths contained in these
May 9, 1859.
I. THE POPE AS A KING
II. NECESSITY OF THE TEMPORAL POWER
III. THE PATRIMONY OF THE TEMPORAL POWER
IV. THE SUBJECTS OF THE TEMPORAL POWER
V. OF THE PLEBEIANS
VI. THE MIDDLE CLASSES
VII. THE NOBILITY
IX. ABSOLUTE CHARACTER OF THE TEMPORAL POWER OF THE POPE
X. PIUS IX
XII. PRIESTLY GOVERNMENT
XIII. POLITICAL SEVERITY
XIV. THE IMPUNITY OF REAL CRIME
XVI. EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE
XVII. FOREIGN OCCUPATION
XVIII. WHY THE POPE WILL NEVER HAVE SOLDIERS
XIX. MATERIAL INTERESTS
THE POPE AS A KING.
The Roman Catholic Church, which I sincerely respect, consists of one
hundred and thirty-nine millions of individuals—without counting
It is governed by seventy Cardinals, or Princes of the Church, in
memory of the twelve Apostles.
The Cardinal-Bishop of Rome, who is also designated by the name of
Vicar of Jesus Christ, Holy Father, or Pope, is invested with
boundless authority over the minds of these hundred and thirty-nine
millions of Catholics.
The Cardinals are nominated by the Pope; the Pope is nominated by the
Cardinals; from the day of his election he becomes infallible, at
least in the opinion of M. de Maistre, and the best Catholics of our
This was not the opinion of Bossuet; but it has always been that of
the Popes themselves.
When the Sovereign Pontiff declares to us that the Virgin Mary was
born free from original sin, the hundred and thirty-nine millions of
Catholics are bound to believe it on his word. This is what has
This discipline of the understanding reflects infinite credit upon the
nineteenth century. If posterity does us justice, it will be grateful
to us therefor. It will see that instead of cutting one another's
throats about theological questions, we have surveyed lines of
railway, laid telegraphs, constructed steam-engines, launched ships,
pierced isthmuses, created sciences, corrected laws, repressed
factions, fed the poor, civilized barbarians, drained marshes,
cultivated waste lands, without ever having a single dispute as to the
infallibility of a man.
But the busiest age, the age which the best knows the value of time,
may be obliged for a moment to neglect its business. If, for instance,
it should remark around Rome and its Bishop a violent agitation, which
neither the trickery of diplomacy nor the pressure of armies can
suppress; if it perceive in a little corner of a peninsula a
smouldering fire, which may at any moment burst forth, and in
twenty-four hours envelope all Europe, this age, prudent from a sense
of duty, on account of the great things it has to accomplish, turns
its attention to the situation of Rome, and insists upon knowing what
it all means.
It means that the simple princes of the middle ages, Pepin the Brief,
Charlemagne, and the Countess Matilda, behaved with great liberality
to the Pope. They gave him lands and men, according to the fashion of
the times, when men, being merely the live-stock of the land, were
thrown into the bargain. If they were generous, it was not because
they thought, with M. Thiers, that the Pope could not be independent
without being a King; they had seen him in his poverty more
independent and more commanding than almost any monarch on the earth.
They enriched him from motives of friendship, calculation, gratitude,
or it might even be to disinherit their relations, as we sometimes see
in our own time. Since the days of the Countess Matilda, the Pope,
having acquired a taste for possession, has gone on rounding his
estate. He has obtained cities by capitulation, as in the case of
Bologna; he has won others at the cannon's mouth, as Rimini; while
some he has appropriated, by treachery and stealth, as Ancona. Indeed
so well have matters been managed, that in 1859 the Bishop of Rome is
the temporal sovereign of about six millions of acres, and reigns over
three millions one hundred and twenty-four thousand six hundred and
sixty-eight men, who are all crying out loudly against him.
What do they complain of? Only listen, and you will soon learn.
They say—that the authority to which, without having either asked or
accepted it, they are subject, is the most fundamentally absolute that
was ever defined by Aristotle; that the legislative, executive, and
judicial powers are united, confounded, and jumbled together in one
and the same hand, contrary to the practice of civilized states, and
to the theory of Montesquieu; that they willingly recognize the
infallibility of the Pope upon all religious questions, but that in
civil matters it appears to them less easy to tolerate; that they do
not refuse to obey, because, all things considered, man is not placed
here below to follow the bent of his own inclinations, but that they
would be glad to obey laws; that the good pleasure of any man, however
good it may be, is not so good as the Code Napoléon; that the
reigning Pope is not an evil-disposed man, but that the arbitrary
government of one man, even admitting his infallibility, can never be
anything but a bad government.
That in virtue of an ancient and hitherto ineradicable practice, the
Pope is assisted in the temporal government of his States by the
spiritual chiefs, subalterns, and spiritual employés of his Church;
that Cardinals, Bishops, Canons, Priests, forage pell-mell about the
country; that one sole and identical caste possesses the right of
administering both sacraments and provinces; of confirming little boys
and the judgments of the lower courts; of ordaining subdeacons and
arrests; of despatching parting souls and captains' commissions; that
this confusion of the spiritual and the temporal disseminates among
the higher offices a multitude of men, excellent no doubt in the sight
of God, but insupportable in that of the people; often strangers to
the country, sometimes to business, and always to those domestic ties
which are the basis of every society; without any special knowledge,
unless it be of the things of another world; without children, which
renders them indifferent to the future of the nation; without wives,
which renders them dangerous to its present; and to conclude,
unwilling to hear reason, because they believe themselves
participators in the pontifical infallibility.
That these servants of a most merciful but sometimes severe God,
simultaneously abuse both mercy and justice; that, full of indulgence
for the indifferent, for their friends, and for themselves, they treat
with extreme rigour whoever has had the misfortune to become obnoxious
to power; that they more readily pardon the wretch who cuts a man's
throat, than the imprudent citizen who blames an abuse.
That the Pope, and the Priests who assist him, not having been taught
accounts, grossly mismanage the public finances; that whereas
maladministration or malversation of the public finances might have
been tolerated a hundred years ago, when the expenses of public
worship and of the papal court were defrayed by one hundred and
thirty-nine millions of Catholics, it is a widely different affair
now, when they have to be supported by 3,124,668 individuals.
That they do not complain of paying taxes, because it is a universally
established practice, but that they wish to see their money spent upon
terrestrial objects; that the sight of basilicas, churches, and
convents built or maintained at their expense, rejoices them as
Catholics, but grieves them as citizens, because, after all, these
edifices are but imperfect substitutes for railways and roads, for the
clearing of rivers, and the erection of dykes against inundations;
that faith, hope, and charity receive more encouragement than
agriculture, commerce, and manufactures; that public simplicity is
developed to the detriment of public education.
That the law and the police are too much occupied with the salvation
of souls, and too little with the preservation of bodies; that they
prevent honest people from damning themselves by swearing, reading bad
books, or associating with Liberals, but that they don't prevent
rascals from murdering honest people; that property is as badly
protected as persons; and that it is very hard to be able to reckon
upon nothing for certain but a stall in Paradise.
That they are made to pay heavily for keeping up an army without
knowledge or discipline, an army of problematical courage and doubtful
honours, and destined never to fight except against the citizens
themselves; that it is adding insult to injury to make a man pay for
the stick he is beaten with. That they are moreover obliged to lodge
foreign armies, and especially Austrians, who, as Germans, are
To conclude, they say all this is not what the Pope promised them in
his motu proprio of the 19th of September; and it is sad to find
infallible people breaking their most sacred engagements.
I have no doubt these grievances are exaggerated. It is impossible to
believe that an entire nation can be so terribly in the right against
its masters. We will examine the facts of the case in detail before we
decide. We have not yet arrived at that point.
You have just heard the language, if not of the whole 3,124,668
people, at least of the most intelligent, the most energetic, and the
most interesting part of the nation. Take away the conservative
party,—that is to say, those who have an interest in the
government,—and the unfortunate creatures whom it has utterly
brutalized,—and there will remain none but malcontents.
The malcontents are not all of the same complexion. Some politely and
vainly ask the Holy Father to reform abuses: this is the moderate
party. Others propose to themselves a thorough reform of the
government: they are called radicals, revolutionists, or
Mazzinists—rather an injurious term. This latter category is not
precisely nice as to the measures to be resorted to. It holds, with
the Society of Jesus, that the end justifies the means. It says, if
Europe leaves it tête-à-tête with the Pope, it will begin by cutting
his throat; and if foreign potentates oppose such criminal violence,
it will fling bombs under their carriages.
The moderate party expresses itself plainly, the Mazzinists noisily.
Europe must be very stupid, not to understand the one; very deaf, not
to hear the other.
What then happens?
All the States which desire peace, public order, and civilization,
entreat the Pope to correct some abuse or other. "Have pity," they
say, "if not upon your subjects, at least upon your neighbours, and
save us from the conflagration!"
As often as this intervention is renewed, the Pope sends for his
Secretary of State. The said Secretary of State is a Cardinal who
reigns over the Holy Father in temporal matters, even as the Holy
Father reigns over a hundred and thirty nine millions of Catholics in
spiritual matters. The Pope confides to the Cardinal Minister the
source of his embarrassment, and asks him what is to be done.
The Cardinal, who is the minister of everything in the State, replies,
without a moment's hesitation, to the old sovereign:—
"In the first place, there are no abuses: in the next place,
if there were any, we must not touch them. To reform
anything is to make a concession to the malcontents. To give
way, is to prove that we are afraid. To admit fear, is to
double the strength of the enemy, to open the gates to
revolution, and to take the road to Gaeta, where the
accommodation is none of the best. Don't let us leave home.
I know the house we live in; it is not new, but it will last
longer than your Holiness—provided no attempt is made to
repair it. After us the deluge; we've got no children!"
"All very true," replies the Pope.
"But the sovereign who is entreating me to do something, is
an eldest son of the Church. He has rendered us great
services. He still protects us constantly. What would become
of us if he abandoned us?"
"Don't be alarmed," says the Cardinal. "I'll arrange the matter
diplomatically." And he sits down, and writes an invariable note, in a
diplomatically tortuous style, which may thus be summed up:—
"We want your soldiers, and not your advice, seeing that we
are infallible. If you were to show any symptom of doubting
that infallibility, and if you attempted to force anything
upon us, even our preservation, we would fold our wings
around our countenances, we would raise the palms of
martyrdom, and we should become an object of compassion to
all the Catholics in the universe. You know we have in your
country forty thousand men who are at liberty to say
everything, and whom you pay with your own money to plead
our cause. They shall preach to your subjects, that you are
tyrannizing over the Holy Father, and we shall set your
country in a blaze without appearing to touch it."
NECESSITY OF THE TEMPORAL POWER.
"For the Pontificate there is no independence but
sovereignty itself. Here is an interest of the highest
order, which ought to silence the particular interests of
nations, even as in a State the public interest silences
These are not my words, but the words of M. Thiers: they occur in his
report to the Legislative Assembly, in October 1849. I have no doubt
this Father of the temporal Church expressed the wishes of one hundred
and thirty-nine millions of Catholics. It was all Catholicity which
said to 3,124,668 Italians, by the lips of the honourable reporter:
"Devote yourselves as one man. Our chief can only be
venerable, August, and independent, so long as he reigns
despotically over you. If, in an evil hour, he were to cease
wearing a crown of gold; if you were to contest his right to
make and break laws; if you were to give up the wholesome
practice of laying at his feet that money which he disburses
for our edification and our glory, all the sovereigns of the
universe would look upon him as an inferior. Silence, then,
the noisy chattering of your individual interests."
I flatter myself that I am as fervent a Catholic as M. Thiers himself;
and were I bold enough to seek to refute him, I should do it in the
name of our common faith.
I grant you—this would be the tenor of my argument—that the Pope
ought to be independent. But could he not be so at a somewhat less
cost? Is it absolutely necessary that 3,124,668 men should sacrifice
their liberty, their security, and all that is most precious to them,
in order to secure the independence which makes us so happy and so
proud? The Apostles were certainly independent at a cheaper rate, for
they did nobody harm. The most independent of men is he who has
nothing to lose. He pursues his own path, without troubling himself
about powers and principalities, for the simple reason that the
conqueror most bent on acquisition can take nothing from him.
The greatest conquests of Catholicism were made at a time when the
Pope was not a ruler. Since he has become a king, you may measure the
territory won from the Church by inches.
The earliest Popes, who were not kings, had no budgets. Consequently
they had no annual deficits to make up. Consequently they were not
obliged to borrow millions of M. de Rothschild. Consequently they were
more independent than the crowned Popes of more recent times.
Ever since the spiritual and the temporal have been joined, like two
Siamese powers, the most August of the two has necessarily lost its
independence. Every day, or nearly so, the Sovereign Pontiff finds
himself called upon to choose between the general interests of the
Church, and the private interests of his crown. Think you he is
sufficiently estranged from the things of this world to sacrifice
heroically the earth, which is near, to the Heaven, which is remote?
Besides, we have history to help us. I might, if I chose, refer to
certain bad Popes who were capable of selling the dogma of the Holy
Trinity for half-a-dozen leagues of territory; but it would be hardly
fair to argue from bad Popes to the confusion of indifferent ones.
Think you, however, that when the Pope legalized the perjury of
Francis the First after the treaty of Madrid, he did it to make the
morality of the Holy See respected, or to stir up a war useful to his
When he organized the traffic in indulgences, and threw one-half of
Europe into heresy, was it to increase the number of Christians, or to
give a dowry to a young lady?
When, during the Thirty Years' War, he made an alliance with the
Protestants of Sweden, was it to prove the disinterestedness of the
Church, or to humble the House of Austria?
When he excommunicated Venice in 1806, was it to attach the Republic
more firmly to the Church, or to serve the rancour of Spain against
the first allies of Henry IV.?
When he suppressed the Order of the Jesuits, was it to reinforce the
army of the Church, or to please his master in France?
When he terminated his relations with the Spanish American provinces
upon their proclaiming their independence, was it in the interest of
the Church, or of Spain?
When he held excommunication suspended over the heads of such Romans
as took their money to foreign lotteries, was it to attach their
hearts to the Church, or to draw their crown-pieces into his own
M. Thiers knows all this better than I do; but he possibly thought
that when the spiritual sovereign of the Church and the temporal
sovereign of a little country, wear the same cap, the one is naturally
condemned to minister to the ambition or the necessities of the other.
We wish the chief of the Catholic religion to be independent, and we
make him pay slavish obedience to a petty Italian prince; thus
rendering the future of that religion subordinate to miserable local
interests and petty parish squabbles.
But this union of powers, which would gain by separation, compromises
not only the independence, but the dignity of the Pope. The melancholy
obligation to govern men obliges him to touch many things which he had
better leave alone. Is it not deplorable that bailiffs must seize a
debtor's property in the Pope's name?—that judges must condemn a
murderer to death in the name of the Head of the Church?—that the
executioner must cut off heads in the name of the Vicar of Christ?
There is to me something truly scandalous in the association of those
two words, Pontifical lottery! And what can the hundred and
thirty-nine millions of Catholics think, when they hear their
spiritual sovereign expressing, through his finance minister, his
satisfaction at the progress of vice as proved by the success of the
The subjects of the Pope are not scandalized at these contradictions,
simply because they are accustomed to them. They strike a foreigner, a
Catholic, a casual unit out of the hundred and thirty-nine millions;
they inspire in him an irresistible desire to defend the independence
and the dignity of the Church. But the inhabitants of Bologna or
Viterbo, of Terracina or Ancona, are more occupied with national than
with religious interests, either because they want that feeling of
self-devotion recommended by M. Thiers, or because the government of
the priests has given them a horror of Heaven. Very middling
Catholics, but excellent citizens, they everywhere demand the freedom
of their country. The Bolognese affirm that they are not necessary to
the independence of the Pope, which they say could do as well without
Bologna as it has for some time contrived to do without Avignon. Every
city repeats the same thing, and if they were all to be listened to,
the Holy Father, freed from the cares of administration, might devote
his undivided attention to the interests of the Church and the
embellishment of Rome. The Romans themselves, so they be neither
princes, nor priests, nor servants, nor beggars, declare that they
have devoted themselves long enough, and that M. Thiers may now carry
his advice elsewhere.
THE PATRIMONY OF THE TEMPORAL POWER.
The Papal States have no natural limits: they are carved out on the
map as the chance of passing events has made them, and as the
good-nature of Europe has left them. An imaginary line separates them
from Tuscany and Modena. The most southerly point enters into the
kingdom of Naples; the province of Benevento is enclosed within the
states of King Ferdinand, as formerly was the Comtat-Venaissin within
the French territory. The Pope, in his turn, shuts in that Ghetto of
democracy, the republic of San Marino.
I never cast my eyes over this poor map of Italy, capriciously rent
into unequal fragments, without one consoling reflection.
Nature, which has done everything for the Italians, has taken care to
surround their country with magnificent barriers. The Alps and the sea
protect it on all sides, isolate it, bind it together as a distinct
body, and seem to design it for an individual existence. To crown all,
no internal barrier condemns the Italians to form separate nations.
The Apennines are so easily crossed, that the people on either side
can speedily join hands. All the existing boundaries are entirely
arbitrary, traced by the brutality of the Middle Ages, or the shaky
hand of diplomacy, which undoes to-morrow what it does to-day. A
single race covers the soil; the same language is spoken from north to
south; the people are all united in a common bond by the glory of
their ancestors, and the recollections of Roman conquest, fresher and
more vivid than the hatreds of the fourteenth century.
These considerations induce me to believe that the people of Italy
will one day be independent of all others, and united among themselves
by the force of geography and history, two powers more invincible than
But I return à mes moutons, and to their shepherd, the Pope.
The kingdom possessed by a few priests, covers an extent, in round
numbers, of six millions of acres, according to the statistics
published in 1857 by Monsignor, now Cardinal, Milesi.
No country in Europe is more richly gifted, or possesses greater
advantages, whether for agriculture, manufacture, or commerce.
Traversed by the Apennines, which divide it about equally, the Papal
dominions incline gently, on one side to the Adriatic, on the other to
the Mediterranean. In each of these seas they possess an excellent
port: to the east, Ancona; to the west, Civita Vecchia. If Panurge had
had Ancona and Civita Vecchia in his Salmagundian kingdom, he would
infallibly have built himself a navy. The Phoenicians and the
Carthaginians were not so well off.
A river, tolerably well known under the name of the Tiber, waters
nearly the whole country to the west. In former days it ministered to
the wants of internal commerce. Roman historians describe it as
navigable up to Perugia. At the present time it is hardly so as far as
Rome; but if its bed were cleared out, and filth not allowed to be
thrown in, it would render greater service, and would not overflow so
often. The country on the other side is watered by small rivers,
which, with a little government assistance, might be rendered very
In the level country the land is of prodigious fertility. More than a
fourth of it will grow corn. Wheat yields a return of fifteen for one
on the best land, thirteen on middling, and nine on the worst. Fields
thrown out of cultivation become admirable natural pastures. The hemp
is of very fine quality when cultivated with care. The vine and the
mulberry thrive wherever they are planted. The finest olive-trees and
the best olives in Europe grow in the mountains. A variable, but
generally mild climate, brings to maturity the products of extreme
latitudes. Half the country is favourable to the palm and the orange.
Numerous and thriving flocks roam across the plains in winter, and
ascend to the mountains in summer. Horses, cows, and sheep live and
multiply in the open air, without need of shelter. Indian buffaloes
swarm in the marshes. Every species of produce requisite for the food
and clothing of man grows easily, and as it were joyfully, in this
privileged land. If men in the midst of it are in want of bread or
shirts, Nature has no cause to reproach herself, and Providence washes
its hands of the evil.
In all the three states raw material exists in incredible abundance.
Here are hemp, for ropemakers, spinners, and weavers; wine, for
distillers; olives, for oil and soap makers; wool, for cloth and
carpet manufacturers; hides and skins, for tanners, shoemakers, and
glovers; and silk in any quantity for manufactures of luxury. The iron
ore is of middling quality, but the island of Elba, in which the very
best is found, is near at hand. The copper and lead mines, which the
ancients worked profitably, are perhaps not exhausted. Fuel is
supplied by a million or two of acres of forest land; besides which,
there is the sea, always open for the transport of coal from
Newcastle. The volcanic soil of several provinces produces enormous
quantities of sulphur, and the alum of Tolfi is the best in the world.
The quartz of Civita Vecchia will give us kaolin for porcelain. The
quarries contain building materials, such as marble and pozzolana,
which is Roman cement almost ready-made.
In 1847, the country lands subject to the Pope were valued at about
£34,800,000 sterling. The province of Benevento was not included, and
the Minister of Commerce and Public Works admitted that the property
was not estimated at above a third of its real value. If capital
returned its proper interest, if activity and industry caused trade
and manufactures to increase the national income as ought to be the
case, it would be the Rothschilds who would borrow money of the Pope
at six per cent. interest.
But stay! I have not yet completed the catalogue of possessions. To
the present munificence of nature must be added the inheritance of the
past. The poor Pagans of great Rome left all their property to the
Pope who damns them.
They left him gigantic aqueducts, prodigious sewers, and roads which
we find still in use, after twenty centuries of traffic. They left him
the Coliseum, for his Capuchins to preach in. They left him an example
of an administration without an equal in history. But the heritage was
accepted without the responsibilities attached to it.
I will no longer conceal from you that this magnificent territory
appeared to me in the first place most unworthily cultivated. From
Civita Vecchia to Rome, a distance of some sixteen leagues,
cultivation struck me in the light of a very rare accident, to which
the soil was but little accustomed. Some pasture fields, some land in
fallow, plenty of brambles, and, at long intervals, a field with oxen
at plough, this is what the traveller will see in April. He will not
even meet with the occasional forest which he finds in the most desert
regions of Turkey. It seems as if man had swept across the land to
destroy everything, and the soil had been then taken possession of by
flocks and herds.
The country round Rome resembles the road from Civita Vecchia. The
capital is girt by a belt of uncultivated, but not unfertile land. I
used to walk in every direction, and sometimes for a long distance;
the belt seemed very wide. However, in proportion as I receded from
the city, I found the fields better cultivated. One would suppose that
at a certain distance from St. Peter's the peasants worked with
greater relish. The roads, which near Rome are detestable, became
gradually better; they were more frequented, and the people I met
seemed more cheerful. The inns became habitable, by comparison, in an
astonishing degree. Still, so long as I remained in that part of the
country towards the Mediterranean, of which Rome is the centre, and
which is more directly subject to its influence, I found that the
appearance of the land always left something to be desired. I
sometimes fancied that these honest labourers worked as if they were
afraid to make a noise, lest, by smiting the soil too deeply and too
boldly, they should wake up the dead of past ages.
But when once I had crossed the Apennines, when I was beyond the reach
of the breeze which blew over the capital, I began to inhale an
atmosphere of labour and goodwill that cheered my heart. The fields
were not only dug, but manured, and, still better, planted and sown.
The smell of manure was quite new to me. I had never met with it on
the other side of the Apennines. I was delighted at the sight of
trees. There were rows of vines twining around elms planted in fields
of hemp, wheat, or clover. In some places the vines and elms were
replaced by mulberry-trees. What mingled riches were here lavished by
nature! How bounteous is the earth! Here were mingled together, in
rich profusion, bread, wine, shirts, silk gowns, and forage for the
cattle. St. Peter's is a noble church, but, in its way, a
well-cultivated field is a beautiful sight!
I travelled slowly to Bologna; the sight of the country I passed
through, and the fruitfulness of honest human labour, made me happy. I
retraced my steps towards St. Peter's; my melancholy returned when I
found myself again amidst the desolation of the Roman Campagna.
As I reflected on what I had seen, a disquieting idea forced itself
upon me in a geometrical form. It seemed to me that the activity and
prosperity of the subjects of the Pope were in exact proportion to the
square of the distance which separated them from Rome: in other words,
that the shade of the monuments of the eternal city was noxious to the
cultivation of the country. Rabelais says the shade of monasteries is
fruitful; but he speaks in another sense.
I submitted my doubts to a venerable ecclesiastic, who hastened to
undeceive me. "The country is not uncultivated," he said; "or if it be
so, the fault is with the subjects of the Pope. This people is
indolent by nature, although 21,415 monks are always preaching
activity and industry to them!"
THE SUBJECTS OF THE TEMPORAL POWER.
On the 14th of May, 1856, M. de Rayneval, then French ambassador at
Rome, a warm friend to the cardinals, and consequently a bitter foe to
their subjects, thus described the Italian people:—
"A nation profoundly divided among themselves, animated by
ardent ambition, possessing none of the qualities which
constitute the greatness and power of others, devoid of
energy, equally wanting in military spirit and in the spirit
of association, and respecting neither the law nor social
M. de Rayneval will be canonized a hundred years hence (if the present
system continue) for having so nobly defended the oppressed.
It will not be foreign to my purpose to try my own hand at this
picture; for the subjects of the Pope are Italians like the rest, and
there is but one nation in the Italian peninsula. The difference of
climate, the vicinity of foreigners, the traces of invasions, may have
modified the type, altered the accent, and slightly varied the
language; still the Italians are the same everywhere, and the middle
class—the élite of every people—think and speak alike from Turin
to Naples. Handsome, robust, and healthy, when the neglect of
Governments has not delivered them over to the fatal malaria, the
Italians are, mentally, the most richly endowed people in Europe. M.
de Rayneval, who is not the man to flatter them, admits that they have
"intelligence, penetration, and aptitude for everything." The
cultivation of the arts is no less natural to them than is the study
of the sciences; their first steps in every path open to human
intellect are singularly rapid, and if but too many of them stop
before the end is attained, it is because their success is generally
barred by deplorable circumstances. In private as well as public
affairs, they possess a quick apprehension and sagacity carried to
suspicion. There is no race more ready at making and discussing laws;
legislation and jurisprudence have been among their chief triumphs.
The idea of law sprang up in Italy at the time of the foundation of
Rome, and it is the richest production of this marvellous soil. The
Italians still possess administrative genius in a high degree.
Administration went forth from the midst of them for the conquest of
the world, and the greatest administrators known to history, Cæsar and
Napoleon, were of Italian origin.
Thus gifted by nature, they have the sense of their high qualities,
and they at times carry it to the extent of pride. The legitimate
desire to exercise the faculties they possess, degenerates into
ambition; but their pride would not be ludicrous, nor would their
ambition appear extravagant, if their hands were free for action.
Through a long series of ages, despotic Governments have penned them
into a narrow area. The impossibility of realizing high aims, and the
want of action which perpetually stirs within them, has driven them to
paltry disputes and local quarrels. Are we to infer from this that
they are incapable of becoming a nation? I am not of that opinion.
Already they are uniting to call upon the King of Piedmont, and to
applaud the policy of Count Cavour. If this be not sufficient proof,
make an experiment. Take away the barriers which separate them; I will
answer for their soon being united. But the keepers of these barriers
are the King of Naples, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Austria, the Pope,
and the rest. Are such keepers likely to give up the keys?
I know not what are "the qualities which constitute the greatness and
power of other nations"—as, for example, the Austrian nation,—but I
know very few qualities, physical, intellectual, or moral, which the
Italians do not possess. Are they "devoid of energy," as M. de
Rayneval declares? I should rather reproach them with the opposite
excess. The absurd but resolute defence of Rome against the French
army, may surely be regarded as the act of an energetic people. We
must be extremely humble, if we admit that a French army was held in
check for two months by men wanting in energy. The assassinations
which occur in the streets of Rome, prove rather the inefficiency of
the police than the effeminacy of the citizens. I find, from an
official return, that in 1853 the Roman tribunals punished 609 crimes
against property, and 1,344 against the person. These figures do not
indicate a faultless people, but they prove little inclination for
base theft, and look rather like a diabolical energy. In the same year
the Assize Courts in France pronounced judgment upon 3,719 individuals
charged with theft, and 1,921 with crimes against the person. The
proportion is reversed. Robbers have the majority with us. And yet we
are rather an energetic people.
If the Italians are so also, there will not be much difficulty in
making soldiers of them. M. de Rayneval tells us, they are "entirely
wanting in military spirit." No doubt he echoed the opinion of some
Cardinal. Indeed! Were the Piedmontese in the Crimea, then, wanting in
the military spirit?
M. de Rayneval and the Cardinals are willing to admit the courage of
the Piedmontese, but then, they say, Piedmont is not in Italy; its
inhabitants are half Swiss, half French. Their language is not
Italian, neither are their habits, the proof of which is found in the
fact, that they have the true military and monarchical spirit, unknown
to the rest of Italy. According to this, it would be far easier to
prove that the Alsacians and the Bretons are not French; the first,
because they are the best soldiers in the empire, and because they say
Meinherr when we should say Monsieur; the second, because they
have the true monarchical spirit, and because they call butun what
we call tabac. But all the soldiers of Italy are not in Piedmont.
The King of Naples has a good army. The Grand Duke of Tuscany has a
sufficient one for his defence; the small Duchies of Modena and Parma
have a smart regiment or two. Lombardy, Venice, Modena, and one-half
of the Papal States, have given heroes to France. Napoleon remembered
it at St. Helena; it has been so written.
As for the spirit of association, I know not where it is to be found,
if not in Italy. By what is the Catholic world governed? By an
Association. What is it but an Association that wastes the revenue of
the poor Romans? Who monopolizes their corn, their hemp, their oil?
Who lays waste the forests of the State? An Association. Who take
possession of the highways, stop diligences, and lay travellers under
contribution? Five or six Associations. Who keeps up agitation at
Genoa, at Leghorn, and, above all, at Home? That secret Association
known as the Mazzinists.
I grant that the Romans have but a moderate respect for the law. But
the truth is, there is no law in the country. They have a respect for
the Code Napoléon, since they urgently ask for it. What they do not
respect is, the official caprice of their masters. I am certainly no
advocate of disorder; but when I think that a mere fancy of Cardinal
Antonelli, scribbled on a sheet of paper, has the force of law for the
present and the future, I can understand an insolent contempt of the
laws, to the extent of actual revolt.
As for social distinctions, it strikes me that the Italians respect
them even too much. When I have led you for half an hour through the
streets of Rome, you will ask yourselves to what a Roman prince can
possibly be superior. Nevertheless the Romans exhibit a sincere
respect for their princes: habit is so strong! If I were to conduct
you to the source of some of the large fortunes among my
acquaintances, you would rise with stones and sticks against the
superiority of wealth. And yet the Romans, dazzled by dollars, are
full of respect for the rich. If I were to—But I think the Italian
nation is sufficiently justified. I will but add, that if it is easily
led to evil, it is still more easily brought back to good; that it is
passionate and violent, but not ill-disposed, and that a kind act
suffices to make it forget the most justifiable enmities.
I will add in conclusion, that the Italians are not enervated by the
climate to such a degree as to dislike work. A traveller who may
happen to have seen some street porters asleep in the middle of the
day, returns home and informs Europe that these lazy people snore from
morning till night; that they have few wants, and work just enough to
keep themselves from one day to another. I shall presently show you
that the labourers of the rural districts are as industrious as our
own peasants (and that, too, in a very different temperature), as
economical, provident, and orderly, though more hospitable and more
charitable. If the lower orders in the towns have become addicted to
extravagance, idleness, and mendicity, it is because they have
discovered the impossibility, even by the most heroic efforts and the
most rigid economy, of gaining either capital or independence or
position. Let us not confound discouragement with want of courage, nor
tax a poor fellow with idleness, merely because he has had the
misfortune to be knocked down and run over by a carriage.
The Pope reigns over 3,124,668 souls, as I have already observed more
than once. This population is unequally distributed over the surface
of the country. The population in the provinces of the Adriatic is
nearly double that in the Mediterranean provinces, and more
immediately under the Sovereign's eyes.
Those pious economists who insist upon it that all is for the best
under the most sacred of governments, will not scruple to tell you:—
"Our State is one of the most populous in Europe:
therefore it must be one of the best governed. The average
population of France is 67 ½ inhabitants to the square
kilomètre; that of the States of the Church 75 7/10. It
follows from this that if the Emperor of the French were to
adopt our mode of administration, he would have 8 2/10
inhabitants more on each square kilomètre!
"The province of Ancona, which is occupied by the Austrians,
and governed by priests, has 155 inhabitants to the square
kilomètre. The Bas-Rhin, which is the fourth department of
France, has but 129, consequently it is evident that the
Bas-Rhin will continue to be relatively inferior, so long as
it is not governed by priests, and occupied by the
"The population of our happy country became increased by
one-third between the years 1816 and 1853, a space of
thirty-seven years. Such a grand result can only be
attributed to the excellent administration of the Holy
Father, and the preaching of 38,320 priests and monks, who
protect youth from the destructive influence of the
"You will observe that the English have a passion for moving
about the country. Even in the interior they change their
residence and their county with an incredible mobility; no
doubt this is because their country is unhealthy and badly
administered. In the El Dorado which we govern, no more than
178,943 individuals are known to have changed their abode
from one province to another: therefore our subjects are
all happy in their homes."
I do not deny the eloquence of these figures, and I am not one of
those who think statistics prove everybody's case. But it seems to me
very natural that a rich country, in the hands of an agricultural
people, should feed 75 inhabitants to the square kilomètre, under any
sort of government. What astonishes me is that it should feed no more;
and I promise you that when it is better governed it will feed many
The population of the States of the Church has increased by one-third
in thirty-seven years. But that of Greece has trebled between 1832 and
1853. Nevertheless Greece is in the enjoyment of a detestable
government; as I believe I have pretty correctly demonstrated
elsewhere. The increase of a population proves the vitality of a
race rather than the solicitude of an administration. I will never
believe that 770,000 children were born between 1816 and 1853 by the
intervention of the priests. I prefer to believe that the Italian race
is vigorous, moral, and marriageable, and that it does not yet despair
of the future.
Lastly, if the subjects of the Pope stay at home, instead of moving
about, it may be because communication between one place and another
is difficult, or because the authorities are close-fisted in the
matter of passports; it may be, too, because they are certain of
finding, in whatever part of the country they move to, the same
priests, the same judges, and the same taxes.
Out of the population of 3,124,668 souls, more than a million are
agricultural labourers and shepherds. The workmen number 258,872, and
the servants exceed the workmen by about 30,000. Trade, finance, and
general business occupy something under 85,000 persons.
The landed proprietors are 206,558 in number, being about
one-fifteenth of the entire population. We have a greater proportion
in France. The official statistics of the Roman State inform us that
if the national wealth were equally divided among all the proprietors,
each of the 206,558 families would possess a capital of £680 sterling.
But they have omitted to state that some of these landed proprietors
possess 50,000 acres, and others a mere heap of flints.
It is to be observed that the division of land, like all other good
things, increases in proportion to the distance from the capital. In
the province of Rome there are 1,956 landed proprietors out of 176,002
inhabitants, which is about one in ninety. In the province of
Macerata, towards the Adriatic, there are 39,611, out of 243,104, or
one proprietor to every six inhabitants, which is as much as to say
that in this province there are almost as many properties as there are
The Agro Romano, which it took Rome several centuries to conquer, is
at the present time the property of 113 families, and of 64
OF THE PLEBEIANS.
The subjects of the Holy Father are divided by birth and fortune
into three very distinct classes,—nobility, citizens, and people, or
plebeians. The Gospel has omitted to consecrate the inequality of men,
but the law of the State—that is to say, the will of the
Popes—carefully maintains it. Benedict XIV. declared it honourable
and salutary in his Bull of January 4, 1746, and Pius IX. expressed
himself in the same terms at the beginning of his Chirografo of May
If I do not reckon the clergy among the classes of society, it is
because that body is foreign to the nation by its interests, by its
privileges, and often by its origin. The Cardinals and Prelates are
not, properly speaking, the Pope's subjects, but rather his ghostly
confederates, and the partners of his omnipotence.
The distinction of class is more especially perceptible at Rome, near
the Pontifical throne. It gradually disappears, together with many
other abuses, in proportion to their distance from their source. There
are bottomless abysses between the noble Roman and the citizen of
Rome, between the citizen of Rome and the plebeian of the city. The
plebeian himself discharges a portion of the scorn expressed by the
two superior classes for himself, upon the peasants he meets at
market: it is a sort of cascade of contempt. At Rome, thanks to the
traditions of history, and the education given by the Popes, the
inferior thinks he can get out of his nothingness, and become
something, by begging the favour and support of a superior. A general
system of dependence and patronage makes the plebeian kneel before the
man of the middle class, who again kneels before the prince, who in
his turn kneels more humbly than all the others before the sovereign
At twenty leagues' distance from Rome there is very little kneeling;
beyond the Apennines none at all. When you reach Bologna you find an
almost French equality in the manners: for the simple reason that
Napoleon has left his mark there.
The absolute value of the men in each category increases according to
the square of the distance. You may feel almost certain that a Roman
noble will be less educated, less capable, and less free than a
gentleman of the Marches or of the Romagna. The middle class, with
some exceptions which I shall presently mention, is infinitely more
numerous, more enlightened, and wealthier, to the east of the
Apennines, than in and about the capital. The plebeians themselves
have more honesty and morality when they live at a respectful distance
from the Vatican.
The plebeians of the Eternal City are overgrown children badly brought
up, and perverted in various ways by their education. The Government,
which, being in the midst of them, fears them, treats them mildly. It
demands few taxes of them; it gives them shows, and sometimes bread,
the panem et circenses prescribed by the Emperors of the Decline. It
does not teach them to read, neither does it forbid them to beg. It
sends Capuchins to their homes. The Capuchin gives the wife
lottery-tickets, drinks with the husband, and brings up the children
after his kind, and sometimes in his likeness. The plebeians of Rome
are certain never to die of hunger; if they have no bread, they are
allowed to help themselves from the baker's basket; the law allows it.
All that is required of them is to be good Christians, to prostrate
themselves before the priests, to humble themselves before the rich,
and to abstain from revolutions. They are severely punished if they
refuse to take the Sacrament at Easter, or if they talk
disrespectfully of the Saints. The tribunal of the Vicariates listens
to no excuses on this head; but the police is enough as to everything
else. Crimes are forgiven them, they are encouraged in meanness; the
only offences for which there is no pardon are the cry for liberty,
revolt against an abuse, the assertion of manhood.
It is marvellous to me that with such an education there is any good
left in them at all. The worst half of the people is that which dwells
in the Monti district. If, in seeking the Convent of the Neophytes, or
the house of Lucrezia Borgia, you miss your way among those foul
narrow streets, you will find yourself in the midst of a strange
medley of thieves, sharpers, guitar-players, artists' models, beggars,
ciceroni, and ruffiani. If you speak to them, you may be sure they
will kiss your Excellency's hand, and pick your Excellency's pocket. I
do not think a worse breed is to be found in any city in Europe, not
even in London. All these people practise religion, without the
least believing in God. The police does not meddle much with them. To
be sure they are sent to prison now and then, but thanks to a
favourable word in the right quarter, or to the want of prison
accommodation, they are soon set at liberty. Even the honest workmen
their neighbours occasionally get into scrapes. They have made plenty
of money in the winter, and spent it all in the Carnival—as is the
common custom. Summer comes, the foreign visitors depart; no more work
and no more money. Moral training, which might sustain them, is wholly
wanting. The love of show, that peculiar disease of Rome, is their
bane. The wife, if she be pretty, sells herself, or the husband does
what he had better leave undone.
Judge them not too harshly. Remember, they have read nothing, they
have never been out of Rome; the example of ostentation is set them by
the Cardinals, of misconduct by the prelates, of venality by the
different functionaries, of squandering by the Finance Minister. And
above all, remember that care has been taken to root out from their
hearts, as if it were a destructive weed, that noble sentiment of
human dignity which is the principle of every virtue.
The blood which flows in Italian veins must be very generous, or so
notable a portion of the plebeians of Rome as the people of the
Trastevere, could never have preserved their manly virtues, as is
notoriously the case with them. I have met with men in this quarter of
the city, coarse, violent, sometimes ferocious, but really men; nice
as to their honour, to the extent of poniarding any one who is wanting
in respect to them. They are fully as ignorant as the people of the
Monti; they have learnt the same lessons, and witnessed the same
examples; they have the same improvidence, the same love of pleasure,
the same brutality in their passions; but they are incapable of
stooping, even to pick anything up.
A government worthy of the name would make something of this ignorant
force, first taming, and then directing it. The man who stabs his
fellow in a wineshop might prove a good soldier on a battle-field. But
we are in the capital of the Pope. The Trasteverini neither attack God
nor the Government; they meddle neither with theology nor politics; no
more is asked of them. And in token of its appreciation of their good
conduct, a paternal administration allows them to cut one another's
throats ad libitum.
Neither the people of the Trastevere nor of the Monti give the least
sign of political existence, whereat the Cardinals rub their hands,
and congratulate themselves upon having kept so many men in profound
ignorance of all their rights. I am not quite certain that the theory
is a sound one. Suppose, for example, that the democratic committees
of London and Leghorn were to send a few recruiting officers into the
Pope's capital. An honest, mild, enlightened plebeian would reflect
twice before enrolling himself. He would weigh the pros and the cons,
and balance for a long time between the vices of the government, and
the dangers of revolution. But the mob of the Monti would take fire
like a heap of straw at the mere prospect of a scramble, while the
Trastevere savages would rise to a man, if the Papal despotism were
represented to them as an attack upon their honour. It would be better
to have in these plebeians foes capable of reasoning. The Pope might
often have to reckon with them, but he need never tremble before them.
I trust the masters of the country may never more be obliged to fight
with the plebeians of Rome. They were easily carried away by the
leaders of 1848, although the name of Republic resounded for the first
time in their ears. Have they forgotten it? No. They will long
remember that magic word, which abased the great, and exalted the
humble. Moreover, the hidden Mazzinists, who agitate throughout the
city, don't collect the workmen in the quarter of the Regola to
preach submission to them.
I have said that the plebeians of the city of Rome despise the
plebeians of the country. Be assured, however, the latter are not
deserving of scorn, even in the Mediterranean provinces. In this
unhappy half of the Pontifical States, the influence of the Vatican
has not yet quite morally destroyed the population. The country people
are poor, ignorant, superstitious, rather wild, but kind, hospitable,
and generally honest. If you wish to study them more closely, go to
one of the villages in the province of Frosinone, towards the
Neapolitan frontier. Cross the plains which malaria has made dreary
solitudes, take the stony path which winds painfully up the side of
the mountain. You will come to a town of five or ten thousand souls,
which is little more than a dormitory for five or ten thousand
peasants. Viewed from a distance, this country town has an almost
grand appearance. The dome of a church, a range of monastic buildings,
the tower of a feudal castle, invest it with a certain air of
importance. A troop of women are coming down to the fountain with
copper vessels on their heads. You smile instinctively. Here is
movement and life. Enter! You are struck with a sensation of coldness,
dampness, and darkness. The streets are narrow flights of steps, which
every now and then plunge beneath low arches. The houses are closed,
and seem to have been deserted for a century. Not a human being at the
doors, or at the windows. The streets, silent and solitary.
You would imagine that the curse of heaven had fallen on the country,
but for the large placards on the house-fronts, which prove that
missionary fathers have passed through the place. "Viva Gesù! Viva
Maria! Viva il sangue di Gesù! Viva il cor di Maria! Bestemmiatori,
tacetevi per l'amor di Maria!"
These devotional sentences are like so many signboards of the public
A quarter of an hour's walk brings you to the principal square.
Half-a-dozen civil officials are seated in a circle before a café,
gaping at one another. You join them. They ask you for news of
something that happened a dozen years ago. You ask them in turn, what
epidemic has depopulated the country?
Presently some thirty market-men and women begin to display on the
pavement an assortment of fruit and vegetables. Where are the buyers
of these products of the earth? Here they come! Night is approaching.
The entire population begins to return at once from their labour in
the fields; a stalwart and sturdy population; the thew and sinew of
some fine regiments. Every one of these half-clad men, armed with
pickaxe and shovel, rose two hours before the sun this morning, and
went forth to weed a little field, or to dig round a few olive-trees.
Many of them have their little domains several miles off, and thither
they go daily, accompanied by a child and a pig. The pig is not very
fat, and the man and his child are very lean. Still they seem
light-hearted and merry. They have plucked some wild flowers by the
roadside. The boy is crowned with roses, like Lucullus at table. The
father buys a handful of vegetables, and a cake of maize, which will
furnish the family supper. They will sleep well enough on this
diet—if the fleas allow them. If you like to follow these poor people
home, they will give you a kindly welcome, and will not fail to ask
you to partake of their modest meal. Their furniture is very simple,
their conversation limited; their heads are as well furnished as their
The wife who has been awaiting the return of her lord, will open the
door to you. Of all useful animals, the wife is the one which the
Roman peasant employs most profitably. She makes the bread and the
cakes; she spins, weaves, and sews; she goes every day three miles for
wood, and one and a half for water; she carries a mule's load on her
head; she works from sunrise to sunset, without question or complaint.
Her numerous children are in themselves a precious resource: at four
years old they are able to tend sheep and cattle.
It is vain to ask these country people what is their opinion of Rome
and the government: their idea of these matters is infinitely vague
and shadowy. The Government manifests itself to them in the person of
an official, who, for the sum of three pounds sterling per month,
administers and sells justice among them. This individual is the only
gift Rome has ever conferred upon them. In return for the great
benefit of his presence, they pay taxes on a tolerably extensive
scale: so much for the house, so much for the livestock, so much for
the privilege of lighting a fire, so much on the wine, and so much on
the meat—when they are able to enjoy that luxury. They grumble,
though not very bitterly, regarding the taxes as a sort of periodical
hailstorm falling on their year's harvest. If they were to learn that
Rome had been swallowed up by an earthquake, they certainly would not
put on mourning. They would go forth to their fields as usual, they
would sell their crops for the usual price, and they would pay less
taxes. This is what all towns inhabited by peasants think of the
metropolis. Every township lives by itself, and for itself; it is an
isolated body, which has arms to work, and a belly to fill. The
cultivator of the land is everything, as was the case in the Middle
Ages. There is neither trade, nor manufactures, nor business on any
extended scale, nor movement of ideas, nor political life, nor any of
those powerful bonds which, in well-governed countries, link the
provincial towns to the capital, as the members to the heart.
If there be a capital for these poor people, it is Paradise. They
believe in it fervently, and strive to attain it with all their might.
The very peasant who grudges the State two crowns for his hearth-tax,
willingly pays two and a half to have Viva Maria scrawled over his
door. Another complains of the £3 per month paid to the Government
official, without a murmur at the thirty priests supported by the
township. There is a gentle disease which consoles them for all their
ills, called Faith. It does not restrain them from dealing a stab with
a knife, when the wine is in their brains, or rage in their hearts;
but it will always prevent them from eating meat on a Friday.
If you would see them in all the ardour of their simplicity, you must
visit the town on the day of a grand festival. Everybody, men, women,
and children are rushing to the church. A carpet of flowers is spread
along the road. Every countenance is glowing with excitement. What is
the meaning of it all? Don't you know?—It is the festival of Sant'
Antonio. A musical Mass is being performed in honour of Sant' Antonio.
A grand procession is being formed in honour of that Saint, probably
the patron of the place. There are little boys dressed up as angels,
and men arrayed in the sack-like garment of their brotherhoods: here
we have peasants of The Heart of Jesus; here, those of The Name of
Mary; and here come The Souls of Purgatory. The procession is
formed with some little confusion. The people embrace one another,
upset one another, and fight with one another—all in the name of
Sant' Antonio. But see! The statue of the worthy Saint is coming out
of the church: a wooden doll, with flaming red cheeks. Victoria! Off
go the petards! The women weep with joy—the children cry out at the
top of their shrill voices, "Viva Sant' Antonio!" At night there are
fireworks: a balloon shaped in the semblance of the Saint ascends amid
the shouts of the people, and bursts in grand style right over the
church. Verily, unless Sant' Antonio be very difficult to please, such
homage must go straight to his heart. And I should think the plebeians
of the country very exacting, if, after such an intoxicating festival,
they were to complain of wanting bread.
Let us seek a little repose on the other side of the Apennines.
Although the population may not be sufficiently sheltered by a chain,
of mountains, you will find in the towns and villages the stuff for a
noble nation. The ignorance is still very great; the blood ever
boiling, and the hand ever quick; but already we find men who reason.
If the workman of the towns be not successful, he guesses the reason;
he seeks a remedy, he looks forward, he economizes. If the tenant be
not rich, he studies with his landlord the means of becoming so.
Everywhere agriculture is making progress, and it will ere long have
no further progress to make. Man becomes better and greater by dint of
struggling with Nature. He learns his own value, he sees whither he is
tending; in cultivating his field, he cultivates himself.
I am compelled in strict truth to admit that religion loses ground a
little in these fine provinces. I vainly sought in the towns of the
Adriatic for those mural inscriptions of Viva Gesù! Viva Maria! and
so on, which had so edified me on the other side of the Apennines. At
Bologna I read sonnets at the corners of all the streets,—sonnet to
Doctor Massarenti, who cured Madame Tagliani; sonnet to young
Guadagni, on the occasion of his becoming Bachelor of Arts, etc., etc.
At Faenza, these mural inscriptions evinced a certain degree of
fanaticism, but the fanaticism of the dramatic art: Viva la Ristori!
Viva la diva Rossi! At Rimini, and at Forlì, I read Viva Verdi!
(which words had not then the political significance they have
recently attained,) Viva la Lotti! together with a long list of
dramatic and musical celebrities.
While I was visiting the holy house of Loretto, which, as all the
world knows, or ought to know, was transported by Angels, furniture
and all, from Palestine, to the neighbourhood of Ancona, a number of
pilgrims came in upon their knees, shedding tears and licking the
flags with their tongues. I thought these poor creatures belonged to
some neighbouring village, but I found out my mistake from a workman
of Ancona, who happened to be near me. "Sir," he said, "these unhappy
people must certainly belong to the other side of the Apennines, since
they still make pilgrimages. Fifty years ago we used to do the same
thing; we now think it better to work!"
THE MIDDLE CLASSES.
The middle class is, in every clime and every age, the foundation of
the strength of States. It represents not only the wealth and
independence, but the capacity and the morality of a people. Between
the aristocracy, which boasts of doing nothing, and the lower orders
who only work that they may not die of hunger, the middle class
advances boldly to a future of wealth and consideration. Sometimes the
upper class is hostile to progress, through fear of its results; too
often the lower class is indifferent to it, from ignorance of the
benefits it confers. The middle class has never ceased to tend towards
progress, with all its strength, by an irresistible impulse, and even
at the peril of its dearest interests. A great statesman who must be
judged by his doctrines, and not by the chance of circumstances, M.
Guizot, has shown us that the Roman Empire perished from the want of a
middle class in the fifth century of our era, and we ourselves know
with what impetuosity France has advanced in progress since the middle
class revolution of 1789.
The middle class has not only the privilege of bringing about useful
revolutions, it also claims the honour of repressing popular
outbreaks, and opposing itself as a barrier to the overflow of evil
It is to be desired, then, that this honourable class should become as
numerous and as powerful as possible in the country we are now
studying; because, while on the one hand it is the lawful heir of the
temporal power of the Popes, on the other, it is the natural adversary
of Mazzinist insurrection.
But the ecclesiastical caste, which sets this fatal principle of
temporal power above the highest interests of society, can conceive
nothing more prudent or efficacious than to vilify and abuse the
middle class. It obliges this class to support the heaviest share of
the budget, without being admitted to a share in the benefits. It
takes from the small proprietor not only his whole income, but a part
of his capital, while the people and the nobility are allowed all
sorts of immunities. It demands heavy concessions in exchange for the
humblest official posts. It omits no opportunity of depriving the
liberal professions of all the importance they enjoy in other
countries. It does its best to accelerate the decline of science and
art. It imagines that nothing else can be abased, without its being
This system has succeeded (according to priestly notions) tolerably
well at Home and in the Mediterranean provinces, but very badly at
Bologna, and in the Apennine provinces. In the metropolis of the
country the middle class is reduced, impoverished, and submissive; in
the second capital it is much more numerous, wealthy, and independent.
But evil passions, far more fatal to society than the rational
resistance of parties, have progressed in an inverse direction. They
predominate but little at Bologna, where the middle class is strong
enough to keep them under; they triumph at Home, where the middle
class has been destroyed. Thence it follows that Bologna is a city of
opposition, and Rome a socialist city; and that the revolution will be
moderate at Bologna, sanguinary at Rome. This is what the clerical
party has gained.
Nothing can equal the disdain with which the prelates the princes, the
foreigners of condition, and even the footmen at Rome, judge the
middle class, of mezzo ceto.
The prelate has his reasons. If he be a minister, he sees in his
offices some hundred clerks, belonging to the middle class. He knows
that these active and intelligent, but underpaid men, are for the most
part obliged to eke out a livelihood by secretly following some other
occupation: one keeps the books of a land-steward, another those of a
Jew. Whose fault is it? They well know that neither excellence of
character nor length of service are carried to the credit of the civil
functionary, and that, after having earned advancement, he will be
obliged either to ask it himself as a favour, or to employ the
intercession of his wife. It is not these poor men whom we should
despise, but the dignitaries in violet stockings who impose the burden
Should Monsignore be a judge of a superior tribunal, of the Sacra
Rota for instance, he need know nothing about the law. His secretary,
or assistant, has by dint of patient study made himself an
accomplished lawyer, as indeed a man must be who can thread his way
through the dark labyrinths of Roman legislation. But Monsignore, who
makes use of his assistant's ability for his own particular profit,
thinks he has a right to despise him, because he is ill paid, lives
humbly, and has no future to look forward to. Which of the two is in
If the same prelate be a Judge of Appeal, he will profess a most
profound contempt for advocates. I must confess they are to be pitied,
these unfortunate Princes of the Bar, who write for the blind, and
speak to the deaf, and who wear out their shoes in treading the
interminable paths of Rotal procedure. But assuredly they are not men
to be despised. They have always knowledge, often eloquence.
Marchetti, Rossi, and Lunati might no doubt have written good sermons,
if they had not preferred doing something else.
Between ourselves, I think the prelates affect to despise them, in
order that they may not have to fear them. They have condemned some of
them to exile, others to silence and want. Hear what Cardinal
Antonelli said to M. de Gramont:—
"The advocates used to be one of our sores; we are beginning to be
cured of it. If we could but get rid of the clerks in the offices, all
would go well."
Let us hope that, among modern inventions, a bureaucratic machine may
be made by which the labour of men in offices may be superseded.
The Roman princes affect to regard the middle class with contempt. The
advocate who pleads their causes, and generally gains them, belongs to
the middle class. The physician who attends them, and generally cures
them, belongs to the middle class. But as these professional men have
fixed salaries, and as salaries resemble wages, contempt is thrown
into the bargain. Still the contempt is a magnanimous sort of
contempt—that of a patron for his client. At Paris, when an advocate
pleads a prince's cause, it is the prince who is the client: at Rome,
it is the advocate.
But the individual who is visited by the most withering contempt of
the Roman princes is the farmer, or mercante di campagna; and I
don't wonder at it.
The mercante di campagna is an obscure individual, usually very
honest, very intelligent, very active, and very rich. He undertakes to
farm several thousand acres of land, pasture or arable as may be,
which the prince would never be able to farm himself, because he
neither knows how, nor has the means to do so. Upon this princely
territory the farmer lets loose, in the most disrespectful manner,
droves of bullocks, and cows, and horses, and flocks of sheep. Should
his lease permit him, he cultivates a square league or so, and sows it
with wheat. When harvest-time arrives, down from the mountains troop a
thousand or twelve hundred peasants, who overrun the prince's land in
the farmer's service. The corn is reaped, threshed in the open field,
put into sacks, and carted away. The prince sees it go by, as he
stands on his princely balcony. He learns that a man of the mezzo
ceto, a man who passes his life on horseback, has harvested on his
land so many sacks of corn, which have produced him so much money. The
mercante di campagna comes, and confirms the intelligence, and then
pays the rent agreed upon to the uttermost baioccho. Sometimes he even
pays down a year or two in advance. What prince could forgive such
aggravated insolence? It is the more atrocious, since the farmer is
polite, well-mannered, and much better educated than the prince; he
can give his daughters much larger fortunes, and could buy the entire
principality for his own son, if by chance the prince were obliged to
sell it. The cultivation of estates by means of these people is, in
the eyes of the Roman princes, an attack upon the rights of property.
Their passion for incessant work is a disturbance of the delightful
Roman tranquillity. The fortunes they acquire by personal exertion,
energy, and activity, are a reproach by inference to that stagnant
wealth which is the foundation of the State, and the admiration of the
This is not all: the mercante di campagna, who is not nobly born,
who is not a priest, who has a wife and children, thinks he has a
right to share in the management of the affairs of his country, upon
the ground that he manages his own well. He points out abuses; he
demands reforms. What audacity! The priests would cast him forth as
they would a mere advocate, were it not that his occupation is the
most necessary of all occupations, and that by turning out a man they
might starve a district.
But the insolence of these agricultural contractors goes still
further. They presume to be grand in their ideas. One of them, in
1848, under the reign of Mazzini, when the public works were suspended
for want of money, finished the bridge of Lariccia, one of the finest
constructions of our time, at his own expense. He certainly knew not
whether the Pope would ever return to Rome to repay him. He acted like
a real prince; but his audacity in assuming a part which was not
intended for his caste, merited something more than contempt.
I, who have not the honour to be a prince, have no reason to despise
the mercanti di campagna. Quite the contrary. I have solid ones for
esteeming them highly. I have found them full of intelligence,
kindness, and cordiality: middle-class men in the best sense of the
term. My sole regret is that their numbers are so few, and that their
scope of action is so limited.
If there were but two thousand of them, and the Government allowed
them to follow their own course, the Roman Campagna would soon assume
another aspect, and fever and ague take themselves off.
The foreigners who have inhabited Rome for any length of time, speak
of the middle-class as contemptuously as the princes. I once made the
same mistake as they do, so my testimony on the subject is the more
worthy of acceptation.
Perhaps the foreigners in question have lived in furnished lodgings,
and have found the landlady a little less than cruel. No doubt
adventures of this kind are of daily occurrence elsewhere than in
Rome; but is the middle-class to be held responsible for the light
conduct of some few poor and uneducated women?
Or they may have had to do with the trade of Rome, and have found it
extremely limited. This is because there is no capital, nor any
extension of public credit. They are shocked to see the shopkeepers,
during the Carnival, riding in carriages, and occupying the best boxes
at the theatres; but this foolish love of show, so hurtful to the
middle-class, is taught them by the universal example of those above
Perhaps they have sent to the chemist's for a doctor, and have fallen
upon an ignorant professor of the healing art. This is unlucky, but it
may happen anywhere. The medical body is not recruited exclusively
among the eagles of science. For one Baroni, who is an honour at once
to Rome, to Italy, and to Europe, you naturally expect to find many
blockheads. If these are more plentiful at Rome than at Paris or
Bologna, it is because the priests meddle with medical instruction, as
with everything else. I never shall forget how I laughed when I
entered the amphitheatre of Santo Spirito, to see a vine-leaf on 'the
subject' on which the professor was going to lecture to the students.
In this land of chastity, where the modest vine is entwined with every
branch of science, a doctor in surgery, attached to an hospital, once
told me he had never seen the bosom of a woman. "We have," he said,
"two degrees of Doctor to take; one theoretical, the other
practical. Between the first and the second, we practise in
the hospitals, as you see. But the prelates who control our
studies, will not allow a doctor to be present at a
confinement until he has passed his second, or practical
examination. They are afraid of our being scandalized. We
obtain our practical knowledge of midwifery by practising
upon dolls. In six months I shall have taken all my degrees,
and I may be called in to act as accoucheur to any number of
women, without ever having witnessed a single accouchement!"
The Roman artists would endow the middle-class with both fame and
money, if they were differently treated. The Italian race has not
degenerated, whatever its enemies and its masters may say: it is as
naturally capable of distinction in all the arts as ever it was. Put a
paint-brush into the hands of a child, and he will acquire the
practice of painting in no time. An apprenticeship of three or four
years enables him to gain a livelihood. The misfortune is, that they
seldom get beyond this. I think, nay, I am almost sure, they are not
less richly gifted than the pupils of Raphael; and they reach the same
point as the pupils of M. Galimard. Is it their fault? No. I accuse
but the medium into which their birth has cast them. It may be, that
if they were at Paris, they would produce masterpieces. Give them
parts to play in the world, competition, exhibitions, the support of a
government, the encouragement of a public, the counsels of an
enlightened criticism. All these benefits which we enjoy abundantly,
are wholly denied to them, and are only known to them by hearsay.
Their sole motive for work is hunger, their sole encouragement the
flying visits of foreigners. Their work is always done in a hurry;
they knock off a copy in a week, and when it is sold, they begin
If some one, more ambitious than his fellows, undertakes an original
work, whose opinion can he obtain as to its merits or demerits? The
men of the reigning class know nothing about it, and the princes very
little. The owner of the finest gallery in Rome said last year, in the
salon of an Ambassador, "I admire nothing but what you French call
chic" Prince Piombino gave the painter Gagliardi an order to paint
him a ceiling, and proposed to pay him by the day. The Government has
plenty to attend to without encouraging the arts: the four little
newspapers which circulate at remote periods amuse themselves by
puffing their particular friends in the silliest manner.
The foreigners who come and go are often men of taste, but they do not
make a public. In Paris, Munich, Düsseldorf, and London, the public
has an individuality; it is a man of a thousand heads. When it has
marked a rising artist, it notes his progress, encourages him, blames
him, urges him on, checks him. It takes such a one into its favour, is
extremely wroth with such another. It is, of course, sometimes in the
wrong; it is subject to ridiculous infatuations, and unjust revulsions
of feeling; yet it lives, and it vivifies, and it is worth working
If I wonder at anything, it is that under the present system such
artists are to be found at Home as Tenerani and Podesti, in statuary
and painting; Castellani, in gold-working; Calamatta and Mercuri, in
engraving, with some others. It is a melancholy truth, however, that
the majority of Roman artists are doomed, by the absence of
encouragement, to a monotonous and humiliating round of taskwork and
trade; occupied half their time in re-copying copies, and the
remainder in recommending their goods to the foreign purchaser.
In truth, I had myself quitted Rome with no very favourable idea of
the middle class. A few distinguished artists, a few advocates of
talent and courage, some able medical men, some wealthy and skilful
farmers, were insufficient, in my opinion, to constitute a middle
class. I regarded them as so many exceptions to a rule. And as it is
certain that there can be no nation without a middle class, I dreaded
lest I should be forced to admit that there is no Italian nation.
The middle class appeared to me to thrive no better in the
Mediterranean provinces than at Rome. Half citizen, half clown, the
people representing it are plunged in a crass ignorance. Having just
sufficient means to live without working, they lounge away their time
in homes comfortless and half-furnished, the very walls of which seem
to reek with ennui. Rumours of what is passing in Europe, which
might possibly rouse them from their torpor, are stopped at the
frontier. New ideas, which might somewhat fertilize their minds, are
intercepted by the Custom House. If they read anything, it is the
Almanack, or by way of a higher order of literature, the Giornale di
Roma, wherein the daily rides of the Pope are pompously chronicled.
The existence of these people consists, in short, of a round of
eating, drinking, sleeping, and reproducing their kind, until death
But beyond the Apennines matters are far otherwise. There, instead of
the citizen descending to the level of the peasant, it is the peasant
who rises to that of the citizen. Unremitting labour is continually
improving both the soil and man. A smuggling of ideas which daily
becomes more active, sets custom-houses and customs officers at
defiance. Patriotism is stimulated and kept alive by the presence of
the Austrians. Common sense is outraged by the weight of taxation. The
different fractions of the middle class—advocates, physicians,
merchants, farmers, artists—freely express among one another their
discontent and their hatred, their ideas and their hopes. The
Apennines, which form a barrier between them and the Pope, bring them
nearer to Europe and liberty. I have never failed, after conversing
with one of the middle class in the Legations, to inscribe in my
tablets, There is an Italian Nation!
I travelled from Bologna to Florence with a young man whom I at first
took, from the simple elegance of his dress, for an Englishman. But we
fell so naturally into conversation, and my companion expressed
himself so fluently in French, that I supposed him to be a
fellow-countryman. When, however, I discovered how thoroughly he was
versed in the state of the agriculture, manufactures, commerce, laws,
the administration, and the politics of Italy, I could no longer doubt
that he was an Italian and a Bolognese. What I chiefly admired in him
was not so much the extent and variety of his knowledge, or the
clearness and rectitude of his understanding, as the elevation of his
character, and the moderation of his language. Every word he uttered
was characterized by a profound sense of the dignity of his country, a
bitter regret at the disesteem and neglect into which that country had
fallen, and a firm hope in the justice of Europe in general and of one
great prince in particular, and a certain combination of pride,
melancholy, and sweetness which possessed an irresistible attraction
for me. He nourished no hatred either against the Pope or any other
person; he admitted the system of the priests, although utterly
intolerable to the country, to be perfectly logical in itself. His
dream was not of vengeance, but deliverance.
I learnt, some time afterwards, that my delightful travelling
companion was a man of the mezzo ceto, and that there are many more
such as he in Bologna.
But already had I inscribed in my tablets these words, thrice
repeated, dated from the Court of the Posts, Piazza del Gran' Duca,
"There is an Italian Nation! There is an Italian Nation! There is an
An Italian has said with pungent irony, "Who knows but that one of
these days a powerful microscope may detect globules of nobility in
I am too national not to applaud a good joke, and yet I must confess
these "globules of nobility" do not positively offend my reason.
There is no doubt that sons take after their fathers. The Barons of
the Middle Ages transmitted to their children a heritage of heroic
qualities. Frederick the Great obtained a race of gigantic grenadiers
by marrying men of six feet to women of five feet six. The children of
a clever man are not fools, provided their mother has not failed in
her duties; and when the Crétins of the Alps intermarry, they produce
Crétins. We know dogs are slow or fast, keen-scented or keen-sighted,
according to their breed, and we buy a two-year-old colt upon the
strength of his pedigree. Can we consistently admit nobility among
horses and dogs, and deny it among men?
Add to this, that the pride of bearing an illustrious name is a
powerful incentive to well-doing. Noblemen have duties to fulfil both
towards their ancestors and their posterity. They must walk uprightly
under the penalty of dishonouring an entire race. Tradition obliges
them to follow a path of honour and virtue, from which they cannot
stray a single step without falling. They never sign their names
without some elevated thought of an hereditary obligation.
I must admit that everything degenerates in the end, and that the
purest blood may occasionally lose its high qualities, as the most
generous wine turns to molasses or vinegar. But we have all of us met
in the world a young man of loftier and prouder bearing, more
high-minded and more courageous, than his fellows; or a woman so
beautiful and simple and chaste, that she seemed made of a finer clay
than the rest of her sex. We may be sure that both one and the other
have in their blood some globules of nobility.
These precious globules, which no microscope will ever be powerful
enough to detect, but which the intelligent observer sees with the
naked eye, are rare enough in Europe, and I am not aware of their
existence out of it. A small collection of them might be brought
together in France, in Spain, in England, in Russia, in Germany, in
Italy. Rome is one of the cities in which the fewest would be found.
And yet the Roman nobility is surrounded with a certain prestige.
Thirty-one princes or dukes; a great number of marquises, counts,
barons, and knights; a multitude of noble families without titles,
sixty of whom were inscribed in the Capitol by Benedict XIV.; a vast
extent of signiorial domains; a thousand palaces; a hundred
picture-galleries, large and small; a considerable revenue; a prodigal
display of horses, carriages, servants, and armorial bearings; some
almost royal entertainments in the course of every winter; the remains
of feudal privileges; and the respect of the lower orders: such are
the more remarkable features which distinguish the Roman nobility, and
expose it to the admiration of all the travelling cockneys of the
Ignorance, idleness, vanity, servility, and above all incapacity;
these are the pet vices which place it below all the aristocracies in
Europe. Should I meet with any exceptions on my road, I shall consider
it my duty to point them out.
The roots of the Roman nobility are very diverse. The Orsini and the
Colonna families descend from the heroes or brigands of the Middle
Ages. That of Caetani dates from 730. The houses of Massimo,
Santa-Croce, and Muti, go back to Livy in search of their founders.
Prince Massimo bears in his shield the trace of the marchings and
counter-marchings of Fabius Maximus, otherwise called Cunctator. His
motto is, Cunctando restituit. Santa-Croce boasts of being an
offshoot of Valerius Publicola. The Muti family counts Mutius Scævola
among its ancestors. This nobility, whether authentic or not, is at
all events very ancient, and is of independent origin. It has not been
hatched under the robes of the Popes.
The second category is of Pontifical origin. Its titles and fortunes
have their origin in nepotism. In the course of the seventeenth
century, Paul V., Urban VIII.; Innocent X., Alexander VII., Clement
IX., and Innocent XI. created the houses of Borghese, Barberini,
Pamphili, Chigi, Rospigliosi, and Odescalchi. They vied with one
another in aggrandising their humble families. The domains of the
Borghese house, which make a tolerably large spot on the map of
Europe, testify that Paul V. was by no means an unnatural uncle. The
Popes have kept up the practice of ennobling their relations, but the
scandal of their liberalities ceases with Pius VI., another of the
Braschi family (1775-1800).
The last batch includes the bankers, such as Torlonia and Kuspoli,
monopolists like Antonelli, millers like the Macchi, bakers like the
Dukes Grazioli, tobacconists like the Marchese Ferraiuoli, and farmers
like the Marchese Calabrini.
I add, by way of memorandum, strangers, noble or not, as may be, who
purchase an estate, get a title thrown into the bargain. A short time
ago a French petty country gentleman, who had a little money, woke up
a Roman Prince one fine morning, the equal of the Dorias, Torlonias,
and of the baker Duke Grazioli.
For they are all equal from the hour when the Holy Father has signed
their parchments. Whatever be the origin of their nobility and the
antiquity of their houses, they go arm in arm, without any disputes as
to precedence. The names of Orsini, Colonna, and Sforza, are jumbled
together in the family of a former domestique de place. The son of a
baker marries the daughter of a Lante de La Rovère, granddaughter of a
Prince Colonna, and a Princess of Savoie-Carignan. There is no fear
that the famous quarrel of the princes and dukes, which so roused the
indignation of our stately St. Simon, will ever be repeated among the
To what purpose should it be, gracious Heavens! Don't they well
know—dukes and princes—that they are all alike inferior to the
shabbiest of the cardinals? The day that a Capuchin receives the red
hat, he acquires the right to splash the mud in their faces as he
rides past in his gilded coach.
In all monarchical States, the king is the natural head of the
nobility. The strongest term that a gentleman can make use of, in
alluding to his house, is that it is as noble as the King. As noble
as the Pope would be simply ludicrous, since a swineherd, the son of
a swineherd, may be elected Pope, and receive the oath of fidelity
from all the Roman princes. They may well then consider themselves
upon an equality among themselves, these poor grandees, seeing that
they are equally looked down upon by a few priests.
They console themselves with the thought that they are superior to all
the laymen in the world. This soothing vanity, neither noisy nor
insolent, but none the less firmly rooted in their hearts, enables
them to swallow the daily affront of conscious inferiority.
I am quite aware of the points in which they are inferior to the
upstarts of the Church, but their affected superiority to other men is
less evident to me.
As to their courage. Some years have elapsed since they had the
opportunity of proving it on the field of battle.
Heaven forbids duelling. The Government inculcates the gentler
They are not wanting in a certain ostentatious and theatrical
liberality. A Piombino sent his ambassador to the conference at
Vienna, allowing £4,000 for the expenses of the mission. A Borghese
gave the mob of Rome a banquet that cost £48,000, to celebrate the
return of Pius VII. Almost all the Roman princes open their palaces,
villas, and galleries to the public. To be sure, old Sciarra used to
sell permission to copy his pictures, but he was a notorious miser,
and has found no imitators.
They practise generally the virtue of charity, in a somewhat
indiscriminate manner, from the love of patronage, from pride, habit,
and weakness, because they are ashamed to refuse. They are by no means
badly disposed, they are good—I stop at this word, lest I should go
They are not wanting in sense or intelligence. Prince Massimo is
quoted for his good sense, and the two Caetani for their puns.
Santa-Croce, though a little cracked, is no ordinary man. But what a
wretched education the Government gives them! When they are not the
children, they are the pupils of priests, whose system principally
consists in teaching them nothing. Get hold of a student of St.
Sulpice, wash him tolerably clean, have him dressed by Alfred or
Poole, and bejewelled by Castellani or Hunt and Roskel, let him learn
to thrum a guitar, and sit upon a horse, and you'll have a Roman
prince as good as the best of them.
You probably think it natural that people brought up at Rome, in the
midst of the finest works of art in the world, should take a little
interest in art, and know something about it. Pray be undeceived. This
man has never entered the Vatican except to pay visits; that one knows
nothing of his own gallery, but through the report of his
house-steward. Another had never visited the Catacombs till he became
Pope. They profess an elegant ignorance, which they think in good
taste, and which will always be fashionable in a Catholic country.
I have said enough about the heart, mind, and education of the Roman
nobility. A few words as to the fortunes of which they dispose.
I have before me a list which I believe to be authentic, as I copied
it myself in a sure quarter. It comprises the net available incomes of
the principal Roman families. I extract the most important:—
Corsini ……. £20,000
It is not to be supposed that Grazioli, for instance, has himself
alone nearly as large a gross income as Prince Borghese and his two
brothers Aldobrandini and Salviati together. But the fact is that all
the more ancient families are burdened with heavy hereditary charges,
which enormously reduce their incomes. They are obliged to keep up
chapels, churches, hospitals, and whole chapters of fat canons, while
the nobles of yesterday are not called upon to pay for either the fame
or the sins of their ancestors.
At all events the foregoing list proves the mediocrity as to wealth,
as in everything else, of the Roman nobility. Not only are they unable
to compete with the hard-working middle classes of London, Bâle, or
Amsterdam, but they are infinitely less wealthy than the nobility of
Russia or of England.
Is this because, as with us in France, an equitable law is constantly
subdividing large properties? No. The law of primogeniture is in full
vigour in the kingdom of the Pope, like every other abuse of the good
old times. They provide for their younger sons as they can, and for
their daughters as they please. It is not parental justice that ruins
families. I have even heard it said that the elder brother is not
obliged to put on mourning when the younger dies; which is a clear
saving of so much black cloth.
This being the case, why are not the Roman princes richer than they
are? It is to be accounted for by two excellent reasons,—the love of
show, and bad management.
Ostentation, the Roman disease, requires that every nobleman should
have a palace in the city, and a palace in the country: carriages,
horses, lacqueys and liveries. They can do without mattresses, linen,
and armchairs, but a gallery of pictures is indispensable. It is not
thought necessary to have a decent dinner every Sunday, but it is to
have a terraced garden for the admiration of foreigners. These
imaginary wants swallow up the income, and not unfrequently eat into
And yet I could point out half-a-dozen estates which could suffice for
the prodigalities of a sovereign, if they were managed in the English,
or even in the French fashion,—if the owner were to interfere
personally, and see with his own eyes, instead of allowing a host of
middlemen to come between him and his property, who of course enrich
themselves at his expense.
Not that the Roman princes knowingly allow their affairs to go to
ruin. They must by no means be confounded with the grands seigneurs
of old France, who laughed over the wreck of their fortunes, and
avenged themselves upon a steward by a bon mot and a kick. The Roman
prince has an office, with shelves, desks, and clerks, and devotes
some hours a day to business, examining accounts, poring over
parchments, and signing papers. But being at once incapable and
uneducated, his zeal serves but to liberate the rogues about him from
responsibility. I heard of a nobleman who had inherited an enormous
fortune, who condemned himself to the labor of a clerk at £50 a year,
who remained faithful to his desk even to extreme old age, and who,
thanks to some blunder or other in management, died insolvent.
Pity them if you please, but cast not the stone at them. They are such
as education has made them. Look at those brats of various ages from
six to ten, walking along the Corso in double file, between a couple
of Jesuits. They are embryo Roman nobles. Handsome as little Cupids,
in spite of their black coats and white neckcloths, they will all grow
up alike, under the shadow of their pedagogue's broad-brimmed hat.
Already are their minds like a well-raked garden, from which ideas
have been carefully rooted out. Their hearts are purged alike of good
and evil passions. Poor little wretches, they will not even have any
As soon as they shall have passed their last examinations, and
obtained their diplomas of ignorance, they will be dressed in the
latest London fashions, and be turned out into the public promenades.
They will pace for ever the pavement of the Corso, they will wear out
the alleys of the Pincian Hill, the Villa Borghese, and the Villa
Pamphili. They will ride, drive, and walk about, armed with a whip,
eye-glass, or cane, as may be, until they are made to marry. Regular
at Mass, assiduous at the theatre, you may see them smile, gape,
applaud, make the sign of the cross, with an equal absence of emotion.
They are almost all inscribed on the list of some religious fraternity
or other. They belong to no club, play timidly, rarely make a parade
of social irregularities, drink without enthusiasm, and never ruin
themselves by horse-racing. In short, their general conduct is beyond
all praise; and the life of dolls made to say "Papa!" and "Mama!" is
One fine day they attain their twenty-fifth year. At this age, an
American has already tried his hand at a dozen trades, made four
fortunes, and at least one bankruptcy, has gone through a couple of
campaigns, had a lawsuit, established a new religious sect, killed
half-a-dozen men with his revolver, freed a negress, and conquered an
island. An Englishman has passed some stiff examinations, been
attached to an embassy, founded a factory, converted a Catholic, gone
round the world, and read the complete works of Walter Scott. A
Frenchman has rhymed a tragedy, written for two newspapers, been
wounded in three duels, twice attempted suicide, vexed fourteen
husbands, and changed his politics nineteen times. A German has
slashed fifteen of his dearest friends, swallowed sixty hogsheads of
beer and the Philosophy of Hegel, sung eleven thousand couplets,
compromised a tavern waiting-maid, smoked a million of pipes, and been
mixed up with, at least, two revolutions.
The Roman prince has done nothing, seen nothing, learnt nothing, loved
nothing, suffered nothing. His parents or guardians open a cloister
gate, take out a young girl as inexperienced as himself, and the pair
of innocents are bidden to kneel before a priest, who gives them
permission to become parents of another generation of innocents like
Probably you expect to find them living unhappily together. Not at
all. And yet the wife is pretty. The monotonous routine of her convent
education has not so frozen her heart that she is incapable of loving;
her uncultivated mind will spontaneously develope itself when it comes
in contact with the world. She will not fail, ere long, to discover
the inferiority of her husband. The more her education has been
neglected, the greater is her chance of remaining womanly, that is to
say, intelligent, tender, and charming. In truth, the harmony of their
household is less likely to be disturbed at Rome than it would be at
Paris or Vienna.
Yes, the huge extinguisher which Heaven holds suspended over the city
of Rome, stifles even the subtle spark of passion. If Vesuvius were
here, it would have been cold for the last forty years. The Roman
princesses were not a little talked of up to the end of the thirteenth
century. Under the French rule their gallantry assumed a military
complexion. They used to go and see their admirers play billiards at
the Cafè Nuovo. But hypocrisy and morality have made immense progress
since the restoration. The few who have afforded matter for the
scandalous chronicles of Rome are sexagenarians, and their adventures
are inscribed on the tablets of history, between Austerlitz and
The young princess whom we have just seen entering upon her married
life, will begin by presenting her husband with sundry little princes
and princesses; and there is no rampart against illicit affection like
your row of little cradles.
In five or six years, when she might have leisure for evil thoughts,
she will be bound hand and foot by the exigencies of society. You
shall have a specimen of the mode in which she spends her days during
the winter season. Her morning is devoted to dressing, breakfasting,
her children, and her husband. From one to three she returns the
visits she has received, in the exact form in which they were paid to
her. The first act of politeness is to go and see your acquaintance;
the second, to leave your card in person; the third, to send the same
bit of pasteboard by a servant ad hoc. At three, all the world
drives to the Villa Borghese, where there is a general salutation of
acquaintances with the tips of the fingers. At four, up the Pincio. At
five, it files backwards and forwards along the Corso. Everybody who
is anybody is condemned to this triple promenade. If a single
woman—who is anybody—were to absent herself, it would be inferred,
as a matter of course, that she was ill, and a general inquiry as to
the nature of her complaint would be instituted.
At close of day all go home. After dinner another toilette, and out
for the evening. Every house has its particular reception-night. And a
pure and simple reception indeed it is, without play, without music,
without conversation; a mere interchange of bows and curtsies, and
cold commonplaces. At rare intervals a ball breaks the ice, and shakes
off the ennui generated by this system. Poor women! In an existence
at once so busy and so void, there is not even room for friendship.
Two who may have been friends from childhood, brought up in the same
convent, married into the same world, may meet one another daily and
at all hours, and yet may not be able to enjoy ten minutes of intimate
conversation in the whole year. The brightest, the best, is known but
by her name, her title, and her fortune. Judgments are passed on her
beauty, her toilet, and her diamonds, but nobody has the opportunity
or the leisure to penetrate into the depths of her mind. A really
distinguished woman once said to me, "I feel that I become stupid when
I enter these drawing-rooms. Vacancy seizes me at the very threshold."
Another, who had lived in France, regretted, with tears, the absence
of those charming friendships, so cheerful and so cordial, that exist
between the young married women of Paris.
When the Carnival arrives, it mingles everything without uniting
anything. In truth, one is never more solitary than in the midst of
noise and crowds. Then comes Lent; and then the grand comedy of
Easter; and after that the family departs for the country, which
means, economizing for some months in a huge half-furnished mansion.
In short, the romance of a Roman Princess is made up of a certain
number of noisy winters, and dull summers, and plenty of children. If
there be, by chance, any more exciting chapters, they are doubtless
known to the confessor.
"Ce ne sont pas là mes affaires."
You must go far from Rome to find any real nobility. Here and there in
the Mediterranean provinces some fallen family may be met with, living
poorly upon the produce of a small estate, and still looked up to with
a certain respect by its wealthier neighbours. The lower orders
respect it because it has been something once, and even because it is
nothing under the present hated government. These little provincial
aristocrats, ignorant, simple, and proud, are a sort of relic of the
Middle Ages left behind in the middle of the nineteenth century. I
only mention them to recall the fact of their existence.
But if you will accompany me over the Apennines, into the glorious
cities of the Romagna, I can show you more than one nobleman of great
name and ancient lineage, who cultivates at once his lands and his
intellect; who knows all that we know; who believes all that we
believe, and nothing more; who takes an active interest in the
misfortunes of Italy, and who, looking to free and happy Europe,
hopes, through the sympathy of nations and the justice of sovereigns,
to obtain the deliverance of his country. I met in certain palaces at
Bologna a brilliant writer, applauded on every stage in Italy; a
learned economist, quoted in the most serious reviews throughout
Europe; a controversialist, dreaded by the priests; and all these
individualities united in the single person of a Marquis of
thirty-four, who may, perhaps, one of these days play an important
part in the Italian revolution.
Permit me to open this chapter by recalling some recollections of the
A century or two ago, when old aristocracies, old royalties, and old
religions imagined themselves eternal; when Popes innocently assured
the fortunes of their nephews, and the welfare of their mistresses;
when the simplicity of Catholic countries regilt annually the
pontifical idol; when Europe contained some half-million of
individuals who deemed themselves created for mutual understanding and
amusement, without any thought of the classes beneath them, Rome was
the Paradise of foreigners, and foreigners were the Providence of
A gentleman of birth took it into his head to visit Italy, for the
sake of kissing the Pope's toe, and perhaps other local curiosities.
He managed to have a couple of years of leisure,—put three letters of
introduction into one pocket, and 50,000 crowns into the other, and
stepped into his travelling carriage.
In those days people did not go to Rome to spend a week there and away
again; for it was a month or two's journey from France. The crack of
the postilions' whips used to announce to the Eternal City in general
the arrival of a distinguished guest. Domestiques de place flocked
to the call. The luckiest of them took possession of the new comer by
entering his service. In a few days he provided his master with a
palace, furniture, footmen, carriages, and horses. The foreigner
settled himself comfortably, and then presented his letters of
introduction. His credentials being examined, the best society at once
opened its arms to him, and cried, "You are one of us!" From that
moment he was at home wherever he went. He was a guest at every house.
He danced, supped, played, and made love to the ladies. And of course,
in his turn, he opened his own palace to his liberal entertainers,
adding a new feature to the brilliancy of a Roman winter.
No foreigner failed to carry away with him some recollection of a city
so fertile in marvels. One bought pictures, another ancient marbles,
this one medals, that one books. The trade of Rome prospered by this
circulation of foreign money.
The heats of summer drove away foreigners as well as natives; but they
never went far. Naples, Florence, or Venice offered them agreeable
quarters till the return of the winter season. And they had excellent
reasons for returning to Rome, which is the only city in the world in
which one has never seen everything. Some of them so entirely forgot
their own countries, that death overtook them between the Piazza del
Popolo and the Piazza de Venizia. If any exiled themselves to their
native land, they did it in sheer self-defence, when their pockets
were empty. Rome bade them a tender adieu, piously keeping their
likeness in its memory and their money in its coffers.
The Revolution of 1793 somewhat disturbed this agreeable order of
things; but it was a mere storm between two fine summer days. Neither
the Roman aristocracy, nor its constant troop of guests, took this
brutal overthrow of their elegant pleasures in earnest. The exile of
the Pope, the French occupation, and many similar accidents, were
supported with a noble resignation, and forgotten with the readiness
of good taste. 1815 passed a sponge over some years of very foul
history. All the inscriptions which recalled the glory or the
beneficence of France were conscientiously erased. It was even
proposed to do away with the lighting of the streets, not only because
they threw too strong a light upon certain nocturnal matters, but
because they dated from the time of Miollis and De Tournon. Even now,
in 1859, the fleur-de-lis points out what is French property. A marble
table in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi promises indulgence to
those who will pray for the king of France. The French convent of the
Trinità dei Monti—that worthy claustral establishment which sold us
the picture of Daniel di Volterra and then took it back—possesses the
portraits of all the kings of France, from Pharamond to Charles X.
There you see Louis XVII. between Louis XVI. and Louis XVIII.; but in
this historical gallery there is no more mention of Napoleon or of
Louis-Philippe, than of Nana-Sahib or Marat.
A city so respectful to the past, so faithful to the worship of bygone
recollections, is the natural asylum of sovereigns fallen from their
thrones. It is to Rome that they come to foment their contusions, and
to heal the wounds of their pride. They live there agreeably,
surrounded by the few followers who have remained faithful to them. A
miniature court, assembled in their antechamber, crowns them in
private, hails them on rising with epithets of royalty, and pours
forth incense in their dressing-room. The Roman nobility, and
foreigners of distinction, live with them in an unequal intimacy,
humbling themselves in order that they may be raised; and sowing a
great deal of veneration to reap a very light crop of familiarity. The
Pope and his Cardinals, upon principle, are lavish of attentions which
they would perhaps refuse them on the throne. In short, the king who
has been the most battered and shaken by his fall, and the most
ill-used by his ungrateful subjects, has but to take refuge in Rome,
and by the double aid of a vivid imagination and a well-filled purse,
he may persuade himself that he is still reigning over an absent
The reverses of royalty which ended the eighteenth and commenced the
nineteenth centuries, sent to Rome a colony of crowned heads. The
modifications which European society has undergone have more recently
brought many less illustrious guests, not even members of the
aristocracy of their own country. It is certain that for the last
fifty years, wealth, education, and talent have shared the rights
formerly belonging to birth alone. Rome has seen foreigners arriving
in travelling carriages who were not born great,—distinguished
artists, eminent writers, diplomatists sprung from the people,
tradesmen elevated to the rank of capitalists, men of the world who
are in their place everywhere, because everywhere they know how to
live. The best society did not receive them without submitting them to
careful inquiry, in order to ascertain that they brought no dangerous
doctrines; and then it seemed to say to them: "You cannot be our
relations—be our masonic brothers!"
I have said that the Roman princes are, if not without pride, at least
without arrogance. This observation extends to the princes of the
Church. They welcome a foreigner of modest condition, provided he
speaks and thinks like themselves upon two or three capital questions,
has a profound veneration for certain time-honoured lumber, and curses
heartly certain innovations. You must show them the white paw of the
fable, if you wish them to open their doors to you.
On this point they are immovable. They will not listen to rank, to
fortune, or even to the most imperious political necessities. If
France were to send them an ambassador who failed to show them the
white paw, the ambassador of France would not get inside the doors of
the aristocratic salons. If Horace Vernet were named director of the
Academy, neither his name nor his office would open to him certain
houses where he was received as a friend previously to 1830. And why?
Because Horace Vernet was one of the public men of the Revolution of
Do not imagine, however, that paying respect to Cardinals involves
paying respect to religion, or that it is necessary to attend Mass in
order to get invited to balls. What is absolutely indispensable is, to
believe that everything at Rome is good, to regard the Papacy as an
arch, the Cardinals as so many saints, abuses as principles, and to
applaud the march of the Government, even though it stand still. It is
considered good taste to praise the virtues of the lower orders, their
simple faith, and their indifference as to political affairs, and to
despise that middle-class which is destined to bring about the next
I conversed much with some of the foreigners who live in Rome, and who
mix with its best society. One of the most distinguished and the most
agreeable of them often gave me advice which, though I have not
followed, I have not forgotten.
"My dear friend," he used to say,
"I know but two ways of writing about Rome. You must choose
for yourself. If you declaim against the priestly
government, its abuses, vices, and injustice; against the
assassinations, the uncultivated lands, the bad air, the
filthiness of the streets; against the many scandals, the
hypocrisies, the robberies, the lotteries, the Ghetto, and
all that follows as a matter of course, you will earn the
somewhat barren honour of having added the thousand and
first pamphlet to those which have appeared since the time
of Luther. All has been said that can be said against the
Popes. A man who pretends to originality should not lend his
voice to the chorus of brawling reformers. Remember, too,
that the Government of this country, though very mild and
very paternal, never forgives! Even if it wished to do so,
it cannot. It must defend its principle, which is sacred.
Don't close the gates of Rome against yourself. You will be
so glad to revisit it, and we shall be so happy to receive
you again! If you wish to support a new and original theme,
and to gain fame which will not be wholly unprofitable, dare
to declare boldly that everything is good—even that which
all agree to pronounce bad. Praise without restriction an
order of things which has been solidly maintained for
eighteen centuries. Prove that everything here is firmly
established, and that the network of pontifical institutions
is linked together by a powerful logic. Bravely resist those
aspirations after reform which may haply urge you to demand
such and such changes. Remember that you cannot disturb old
constitutions with impunity; that the displacement of a
single stone may bring down the whole edifice. How do you
know, that the particular abuse which most offends you is
not absolutely necessary to the very existence of Rome? Good
and evil mixed together form a cement more durable than the
elaborately selected materials of which modern utopias are
made. I who tell you this have been here many years, and am
quite comfortable and contented. Whither should I go if Rome
were to be turned topsy-turvy? Where should we establish our
dethroned sovereigns? Where would a home be found for Roman
Catholic worship? You have no doubt been told that some
people are dissatisfied with the administration: but what of
that? They are not of our world. You never meet them in
the good society you frequent. If the demands of the middle
class were to be complied with, everything would be
overturned. Have you any wish to see manufactories erected
round St. Peter's and turnip fields about the fountain of
Egeria? These native shopkeepers seem to imagine the country
belongs to them because they happen to be born in it. Can
one conceive a more ridiculous pretension? Let them know
that Rome is the property in copartnership of people of
birth, of people of taste, and of artists. It is a museum
confided to the guardianship of the Holy Father; a museum of
old monuments, old pictures, and old institutions. Let all
the rest of the world change, but build me a Chinese wall
round the Papal States, and never let the sound of the
railway-whistle be heard within its sacred precincts! Let us
preserve for admiring posterity at least one magnificent
specimen of absolute power, ancient art, and the Roman
This is the language of foreign inhabitants of Rome of the old
stamp,—estimable people, and sincere believers, who have gone on year
after year witnessing the ceremonies of St. Peter's, and the Fête des
Oignons in the St. John Lateran, till they have acquired an
ecclesiastical turn of thought and expression, a habit of seeing
things through the spectacles of the Sacred College, and a faith which
has no sympathy with the outer world. I do not share their opinions,
and I have never found their advice particularly useful; but they
interest me, I like them, and I sincerely pity them. Who can tell what
events they are destined to witness in their time? Who can foresee the
spectacles which the future reserves for them, and the changes that
their habits will be made to undergo by the Italian revolution?
Already their hearing is distracted by the locomotives that rush
between Rome and Frascati; already the shriek of the steam-blast daily
and nightly hisses insolently at the respectable comedy of the past
between Rome and Civita Vecchia. Steamboats, another engine of
disorder, furnish the bi-weekly means of an invasion of the most
dangerous character. Those dozens of travellers who throng the streets
and the squares are about as much like our good old foreign tourists,
as the barbarians of Attila were like the worthy Spaniard who came to
Rome on purpose to see Titus Livius.
Examine them carefully; they are of every possible condition; for now
that travelling costs next to nothing, everybody is able to afford
himself a sight of Rome. Briefless barristers, physicians without
practice, office-clerks, poor students, apprentices, and shop-boys
drop down like hail on the Eternal City, for the sake of saying that
they have taken the Communion in it. The Holy Week brings every year a
swarm of these locusts. Their entire impedimenta consist of a
carpet-bag and an umbrella, and of course they put up at a hotel. In
fact hotels have been built on purpose to receive them. When everybody
hired houses, there was no need of hotels. The 'Minerva' is the type
of the modern Roman caravansary. Your bed is charged half-a-crown per
night; you dine in a refectory with a traveller at each elbow. The
character of the travelling class which invades Rome about Easter is
illustrated by the conversation which you hear going on around you at
the table d'hôte of the 'Minerva.' The following is a specimen:—
One says triumphantly, "I have done two museums, three galleries,
and four ruins, to-day."
"I stuck to the churches," says another, "I had floored seventeen by
"The deuce you had! You keep the game alive."
"Yes, I want to have a whole day left for the suburbs."
"Oh, burn the suburbs! I've got no time to see them."
If I have a day to spare, I must devote it to buying chaplets."
"I suppose you've seen the Villa Borghese?"
"Oh yes, I consider that in the city, although it is in fact outside
"How much did they charge you for going over it?"
"I paid two—I've been robbed."
"As for that, they're all robbers."
"You're right, but the sight of Rome is worth all it costs."
Shades of the travellers of the olden time—delicate, subtle, genial
spirits—what think you of conversations such as this? Surely you must
opine that your footmen knew Rome better, and talked more to the
purpose about it.
Across the table I hear a citizen of London town narrating to a
curious audience how he has to-day seen the two great lions of
Rome,—the Coliseum, and Cardinal Antonelli. The conclusion he arrives
at is, that the first is a very fine ruin, and the second a very
A provincial dowager of the devotee class, is worth listening to. She
has toiled through the entire ceremonies of the Holy Week. She has
knelt close to the Pope, and declares his mode of giving the
Benediction the most sublime thing on earth. The good lady has spared
neither time nor money in order to carry home a choice collection of
relics. Among other objects of adoration she has a bone of St.
Perpetua, and a real bit of the real Cross. Not satisfied with these,
she is bent on obtaining the Pope's palm-branch, the very identical
palm-branch which his Holiness has carried in his own sacred hand.
This is with her a fixed idea, a positive question of salvation. The
poor old soul has not the smallest doubt, that this bit of stick will
open for her the gates of Paradise. She has made her request to a
priest, who will transmit it to a Monsignore, who will forward it to a
Cardinal. Her importunity and her simplicity will, doubtless, move
somebody. She will get the precious bough, and she is convinced that
when she arrives at home with it, all the devotees in the province
will burst with envy.
Among these batches of ridiculous travellers, you are certain to find
some ecclesiastics. Here is one from our own country. You have known
him in France. Does not he strike you as being somewhat changed? Not
in his looks, but his manner. Beneath the shadow of his own church
tower, in the midst of his own flock, he used to be the mildest, the
meekest, and most modest of parish priests. He bowed low to the Mayor,
and to the most microscopic of the authorities. At Rome, his hat seems
glued to his head. I almost think—Heaven forgive me!—it is a trifle
cocked. How jauntily his cassock is tucked up! How he struts along the
street! Is not his hand on his hip? Something very like it. The reason
of this change is as clear as the sun at noon. He is in a kingdom
governed by his own class. He inhales an atmosphere impregnated with
clerical pride and theocratic omnipotence. Phiz! It is a bottle of
champagne saluting him with the cork. By the time he has drunk all the
contents of the intoxicating beverage, he will begin to mutter between
his teeth that the French clergy does not get its deserts, and that we
are a long time in restoring to it the property taken away by the
I actually heard this argument maintained on board the steamer which
brought me back to France. The principal passengers were Prince
Souworf, Governor of the province of Riga, one of the most
distinguished men in Europe; M. de la Rochefoucauld, attached to the
French embassy; M. de Angelis, a highly educated and really
distinguished mercante di campagna; M. Oudry, engineer of the Civita
Vecchia railway: and a French ecclesiastic of a respectable age and
corpulence. This reverend personage, who was nowise disinclined to
argumentation, and who had just left a country where the priests are
never wrong, took to holding-forth after dinner upon the merits of the
Pontifical Government. I answered as well as I could, like a man
unaccustomed to public speaking. Driven to my last entrenchments, and
called upon to relate some fact which should not redound to the Pope's
credit, I chose, at hazard, a recent event then known to all Rome, as
it was speedily about to be to all Europe. My honourable interlocutor
met my statement with the most unqualified, formal, and unhesitating
denial. He accused me of impudently calumniating an innocent
administration, and of propagating lies fabricated by the enemies of
religion. His language was so sublimely authoritative, that I felt
confounded, overpowered, crushed, and, for a moment, I asked myself
whether I had not really been telling a lie.
The story I had related was that of the boy Mortara.
But I return to Rome and our travellers in the trumpery line. Those we
overheard before are already gone. But their places have been quickly
filled. They follow one another, like vapours rising from the ocean,
and they are as much like one another as one sea-wave is to its
predecessor. See them laying-in their stocks of Roman souvenirs at
the shops in the Corso and the Via Condotti. Their selections are
principally from the cheap rosaries, coarse mosaics, and gilt
jewellery, and generally those articles of which a lot may be had for
a crown-piece. They care little for what is really good in its way;
all they want is something which can be bought nowhere but at Rome,
and which will serve to their descendants as the evidence of their
visit to the Eternal City. They haggle as if they were at market, and
yet, when they get back to the 'Minerva,' they wonder they have so
little to show for their money.
If they took home nothing worse than their cheap rosaries, I should
not find fault with them; but they carry opinions and impressions.
Don't tell them of the abuses which swarm throughout the kingdom of
the Pope. They will bridle up, and answer that for their parts they
never saw a single one. As the surface of things is smooth, at least
in the best quarter of the town—the only quarter these good folks are
likely to have seen—they assume, as a matter of course, that all is
well. They have seen the Pope and the Cardinals in all their glory and
all their innocence at the Sistine Chapel; and of course it is not on
Easter Sunday, and in the eyes of the whole multitude, that Cardinal
Antonelli occupies himself with his business or his pleasures. When
Monsignore B—— dishonoured a young girl, who died of the outrage,
and then sent her affianced bridegroom to the galleys, he did not
select the Sistine Chapel as the theatre of his exploits.
You must not attempt to extract pity for the Italian nation from these
foreign pilgrims of the Holy Week. The honest souls have marked the
uncultivated waste which extends from Civita Vecchia to Rome, and they
have at once inferred that the people are idle. They have been
importuned for alms by miserable-looking objects in the streets, and
they conclude that the lower class is a class of beggars.
The cicerone who took them about, whispered some significant words in
their ears, and they are persuaded that every Italian is in the habit
of offering his wife or his daughter to foreigners. You would astonish
these profound observers immeasurably, if you were to tell them that
the Pope has three millions of subjects who in no way resemble the
Thus it happens that the flying visitor, the superficial traveller,
the communicant of the Holy Week, the guest of the 'Minerva,' is a
ready-made foe to the nation, a natural defender of the clerical
As for the permanent foreign visitors, if they be men enervated by the
climate or by pleasure, indifferent to the fate of nations, strangers
to political chicane, they will, in the natural order of events,
become converted to the ideas of the Roman aristocracy, between a
quadrille and a cup of chocolate.
If they be studious men, or men of action, sent for a specific object,
charged to unravel certain mysteries, or to support certain
principles, their conversion will be undertaken in due form.
I have seen officers, bold, frank, off-hand men, nowise suspected of
Jesuitism, who have allowed themselves to be gently carried away into
the by-paths of reaction by an invisible influence, until they have
been heard swearing, like pagans, against the enemies of the Pope.
Even our own generals, less easy to be caught, are sometimes laid hold
of. The Government cajoles them without loving them.
No effort is spared to persuade them that all is for the best. The
Roman princes, who think themselves superior to all men, treat them
upon a footing of perfect equality. The Cardinals caress them. These
men in petticoats possess marvellous seductions, and are irresistible
in the art of wheedling. The Holy Father himself converses now with
one, now with the other, and addresses each as "My dear General!" A
soldier must be very ungrateful, very badly taught, and have fallen
off sadly from the old French chivalry, if he refuses to let himself
be killed at the gates of the Vatican where his vanity has been so
Our ambassadors, too, are resident foreigners, exposed to the personal
flatteries of Roman society. Poor Count de Rayneval! He was so petted,
and cajoled, and deceived, that he ended by penning the Note of the
14th of May, 1856.
His successor, the Duke de Gramont, is not only an accomplished
gentleman, but a man of talent, with a highly cultivated mind. The
Emperor sent him from Turin to Rome, so it was to be expected that the
Pontifical Government would appear to him doubly detestable, first,
from its own defects, and then by comparison with what he had just
quitted. I had the honour of conversing with this brilliant young
diplomatist, shortly after his arrival, when the Roman people expected
a great deal of him. I found him opposed to the ideas of the Count de
Rayneval, and very far from disposed to countersign the Note of the
14th of May. Nevertheless, he was beginning to judge the
administration of the Cardinals, and the grievances of the people,
with something more than diplomatic impartiality. If I were to express
what appeared to be his opinion, in common parlance, I should say he
would have put the governors and the governed in a bag together. I
would wager that, three months afterwards, the bag would contain none
but the governed, and that he would think it only fit to be flung into
the water. Such is the influence of ecclesiastical cajoleries over
even the most gifted minds.
What can the Romans hope from our diplomacy, when they see one of the
most notorious lacqueys of the Pontifical coterie lording it at the
French Embassy? The name of the upright man I allude to is Lasagni;
his business is that of a consistorial advocate; we pay him for
deceiving us. He is known for a Nero,—that is, a fanatical
reactionist. The secretaries of the embassy despise him, and yet are
familiar with him; tell him they know he is going to lie, and yet
listen to what he says. He smirks, bends double, pockets his money and
laughs at us in his sleeve. Verily, friend Lasagni, you are quite
right! But I regret the eighteenth century—there were then such
things as canes.
ABSOLUTE CHARACTER OF THE TEMPORAL POWER OF THE POPE.
The Counsellor de Brosses, who wished no harm to the Pope, wrote in
1740:—"The Papal Government, although in fact the worst in Europe, is
at the same time the mildest."
The Count de Tournon, an honest man, an excellent economist, a
Conservative as to all existing powers, and a judge rather too much
prejudiced in favour of the Popes, said, in 1832:—
"From this concentration of the powers of pontiff, bishop,
and sovereign, naturally arises the most absolute authority
possible over temporal affairs; but the exercise of this
authority, tempered by the usages and forms of government,
is even still more so by the virtues of the Pontiffs who for
many years have filled the chair of St. Peter; so that this
most absolute of governments is exercised with extreme
mildness. The Pope is an elective sovereign; his States are
the patrimony of Catholicism, because they are the pledge of
the independence of the chief of the faithful, and the
reigning Pope is the supreme administrator, the guardian of
Finally, the Count de Rayneval, the latest and least felicitous
apologist of the Papacy, made in 1856 the following admissions:—
"Not long ago the ancient traditions of the Court of Rome
were faithfully observed. All modifications of established
usages, all improvements, even material, were viewed with an
evil eye, and seemed full of danger. Public affairs were
exclusively managed by prelates. The higher posts in the
State were by law interdicted to laymen. In practice the
different powers were often confounded. The principle of
pontifical infallibility was applied to administrative
questions. The personal decision of the Sovereign had been
known to reverse the decision of the tribunals, even in
civil matters. The Cardinal Secretary of State, first
minister in the fullest extent of the term, concentred in
his own hands all the powers of the State. Under his supreme
direction the different branches of the administration were
confided to clerks rather than ministers. These neither
formed a council, nor deliberated together upon the affairs
of the State. The public finances were administered in the
most profound secrecy. No information was communicated to
the nation as to the mode in which its revenues were spent.
Not only did the budget remain a mystery, but it was
afterwards discovered that the accounts were frequently not
made up and balanced. Lastly, municipal liberties, which are
appreciated above all others by the Italians, and which more
particularly respond to their real tendencies, had been
submitted to the most restrictive measures. But from the
day on which Pope Pius IX. ascended the throne" etc. etc.
Thus we find that the not long ago of the Count de Rayneval is an
exact date. It means, in good French, "before the election of Pius
IX.," or again, "up to the 16th of June, 1846."
Thus also M. de Brosses, if he could have returned to Rome in 1846,
would have found there, by the admission of the Count de Rayneval
himself, the worst government in Europe.
And thus the most absolute of governments, as M. de Tournon calls it,
still existed in Rome in 1846.
Up to the 16th of June, 1846, Catholicity owned the six millions of
acres of which the Roman territory consists; the Pope was the
administrator, the guardian, the steward; and the citizens of the
State seem to have been the ploughmen.
Up to this era of deliverance, a systematic despotism had deprived the
subjects of the Pope, not only of all participation in public affairs,
but of the simplest and most legitimate liberties, of the most
innocuous progress, and even—I shudder as I write it—of recourse to
the laws. The whim of one man had arbitrarily reversed the decisions
of the courts of law. And lastly, an incapable and disorderly caste
had wasted the public finances without rendering an account to any
one, occasionally even without rendering it to themselves. All these
statements must be believed, because it is the Count de Rayneval who
Before proceeding, I maintain that this state of things, now admitted
by the apologists of the Papacy, justifies all the discontent of the
subjects of the Pope, all their complaints, all their recriminations,
all their outbreaks previous to 1846.
But let me ask this question. Is it true that, since 1846, the Papal
Government has ceased to be the worst in Europe?
If you can show me a worse, I will go and announce the discovery at
Rome, and I rather fancy I shall considerably astonish the Romans.
Is the absolute authority of the Papacy limited in any way but by the
individual virtues of the Pope? No.
Does the Constitution of 1848, or the Motu Proprio of 1849, set
limits to this authority? No. The first has been torn up, the second
Has the Pope renounced his title of administrator, or irresponsible
guardian of the patrimony of Catholicism? Never.
Is the management of public affairs exclusively in the hand of
prelates? As much so as ever.
Are the higher posts in the State still by law interdicted to laymen?
Not by law, but in fact they are.
Are the different powers still confounded in practice? More so than
they ever were. The governors of cities act as judges, and the bishops
as public administrators.
Has the Pope abandoned any portion of his infallibility as to worldly
matters? None whatever.
Has he deprived himself of the right of overruling the decisions of
the Courts of Appeal? No.
Has the Cardinal Secretary of State ceased to be a reigning Minister?
He reigns as absolutely as ever; and the other ministers are more like
footmen than clerks to him. They may be seen any morning waiting in
Is there a Council of Ministers? Yes, whereat the Ministers attend to
receive the Cardinal's orders.
Are the public finances publicly administered? No.
Does the nation vote the taxes, or are they taken from the nation? The
old system still exists.
Are municipal liberties at all extended? They were greater in 1816
than they are at present.
At the present day, as in the days of the most extreme pontifical
despotism, the Pope is all in all; he has all; he can do all; he
exercises a perpetual dictatorship, without control or limit.
I own no systematic aversion to the exceptional exercise of a
dictatorship. The ancient Romans knew its value, often had recourse to
it, and derived benefit from it. When the enemy was at the gates, and
the Republic in danger, the Senate and the people, usually so
suspicious, placed all their rights in the hands of one man, and
cried, "Save us!" Some grand dictatorships are to be found in the
history of all times and all peoples. If we examine the different
stages of humanity, we shall find almost at every one a dictator. One
dictatorship created the unity of France, another its military
greatness, and a third its prosperity in peace. Benefits so important
as these, which nations cannot acquire alone, are well worth the
temporary sacrifice of every liberty. A man of genius, who is at the
same time an honest man, and who becomes invested with a boundless
authority, is almost a God upon earth.
But the duties of the dictator are in exact proportion to the extent
of his powers. A parliamentary sovereign, who walks in a narrow path
traced out by two Chambers, and who hears discussed in the morning
what he is to do in the evening, is almost innocent of the faults of
his reign. On the contrary, the less a dictator is responsible for his
actions by the terms of the Constitution, the more does he become so
in the eyes of posterity. History will reproach him for the good he
has failed to do, when he could do everything; and his omissions will
be accounted to him for crimes.
I will add, that under no circumstances should the dictatorship last
long. Not only would it be an absurdity to attempt to make it
hereditary, but the man who should think of exercising it perpetually
would be insane. A sick patient allows himself to be bound by the
surgeon who is about to save his life; but when the operation is over
he demands to be set at liberty. Nations act in a like manner. From
the day when the benefits conferred by the master cease to compensate
for the loss of liberty, the nation demands the restoration of its
rights, and a wise dictator will comply with the demand.
I have often conversed in the Papal States with enlightened and
honourable men, who rank as the heads of the middle class. They have
said to me almost unanimously:—
"If a man were to drop down from Heaven among us with
sufficient power to cut to the root of abuses, to reform the
administration, to send the priests to church and the
Austrians to Vienna, to promulgate a civil code, make the
country healthy, restore the plains to cultivation,
encourage manufactures, give freedom to commerce, construct
railways, secularize education, propagate modern ideas, and
put us into a condition to bear comparison with the most
enlightened countries in Europe, we would fall at his feet,
and obey him as we do God. You are told that we are
ungovernable. Give us but a prince capable of governing, and
you shall see whether we will haggle about the conditions of
power! Be he who he may, and come he whence he may, he shall
be absolutely free to do what he chooses, so long as there
is anything to be done. All we ask is, that when his task is
accomplished, he shall let us share the power with him. Rest
assured that even then we shall give him good measure. The
Italians are accommodating, and are not ungrateful. But ask
us not to support this everlasting, do-nothing, tormenting,
ruinous dictatorship, which a succession of decrepit old men
transmit from one to another. Nor do they even exercise it
themselves; but each in his turn, too weak to govern,
hastens to shift a burden which overpowers him, and delivers
us, bound hand and foot, to the worst of his Cardinals!"
It is too true that the Popes do not themselves exercise their
absolute power. If the White Pope, or the Holy Father, governed
personally, we might hope, with a little aid from the imagination,
that a miracle of grace would make him walk straight. He is rarely
very capable or very highly educated: but as the statue of the
Commendatore said, "He who is enlightened by Heaven wants no other
light." Unfortunately the White Pope transfers his political
functions to a Red Pope, that is to say, an omnipotent and
irresponsible Cardinal, under the name of a Secretary of State. This
one man represents the sovereign within and without,—speaks for him,
acts for him, replies to foreigners, commands his subjects, expresses
the Pope's will, and not unfrequently imposes his own upon him.
This second-hand dictator has the best reasons in the world for
abusing his power. If he could hope to succeed his master, and wear
the crown in his turn, he might set an example, or make a show, of all
the virtues. But it is impossible for a Secretary of State to be
elected Pope. Not only is custom opposed to it, but human nature
forbids it. Never will the Cardinals in conclave assembled agree among
one another to crown the man who has ruled them all during a reign.
Old Lambruschini had taken all his measures to secure his election.
There were very few Cardinals who had not promised him their voices,
and yet it was Pius IX. who ascended the throne. The illustrious
Consalvi, one of the great statesmen of our age, made the same attempt
with as little success. After such instances it is clear that Cardinal
Antonelli has no chance of attaining the tiara; and therefore no
interest in doing good.
If he could at least hope that the successor of Pius IX. would retain
him in his functions, he might observe a little caution. But it has
never yet happened that the same Secretary of State has reigned under
two Popes. Such an event never will occur, because it never has
occurred. We are in a land where the future is the very humble servant
of the past. Tradition absolutely requires that a new Pope should
disgrace the favourite of his predecessor, by way of initiating his
Papacy with a stroke of popularity.
Thus every Secretary of State is duly warned that whenever his master
takes the road heavenward, he must become lost again in the common
herd of the Sacred College. He feels, therefore, that he ought to make
the best possible use of his time.
He has, moreover, the comfortable assurance that after his disgrace,
he will not be called upon for any account of his past deeds; for the
least of the Cardinals is as inviolable as the twelve Apostles.
Surely, then, he would be a fool to refuse anything while he has the
power to take it.
This is the place to sketch, in a few pages, the portraits of the two
men,—one of whom possesses, and the other exercises, the dictatorship
over three millions of unfortunate beings.
Old age, majesty, and misfortune have a claim to the respect of all
right-minded persons: fear not that I shall be wanting in such
But truth has also its claims: it also is old, it is majestic, it is
holy, and it is sometimes cruelly ill-treated by men.
I shall not forget that the Pope is sixty-seven years of age, that he
wears a crown officially venerated by a hundred and thirty-nine
millions of Catholics, that his private life has ever been exemplary,
that he observes the most noble disinterestedness upon a throne where
selfishness has long held sway, that he spontaneously commenced his
reign by conferring benefits, that his first acts held out the fairest
hopes to Italy and to Europe, that he has suffered the lingering
torture of exile, that he exercises a precarious and dependent royalty
under the protection of two foreign armies, and that he lives under
the control of a Cardinal. But those who have fallen victims to the
efforts made to replace him on his throne, those whom the Austrians
have, at his request, shot and sabred, in order to re-establish his
authority, and even those who toil in the plague-stricken plains of
the Roman Campagna to fill his treasury, are far more to be pitied
than he is.
Giovanni-Maria, dei Conti Mastai Ferretti, born the 13th May, 1792,
and elected Pope the 16th June, 1846, under the name of Pius IX., is a
man who looks more than his actual age; he is short, obese, somewhat
pallid, and in precarious health. His benevolent and sleepy
countenance breathes good-nature and lassitude, but has nothing of an
imposing character. Gregory XVI., though ugly and pimply, is said to
have had a grand air.
Pius IX. plays his part in the gorgeous shows of the Roman Catholic
Church indifferently well. The faithful who have come from afar to see
him perform Mass, are a little surprised to see him take a pinch of
snuff in the midst of the azure-tinted clouds of incense. In his hours
of leisure he plays at billiards for exercise, by order of his
He believes in God. He is not only a good Christian, but a devotee. In
his enthusiasm for the Virgin Mary, he has invented a useless dogma,
and disfigured the Piazza di Spagna by a monument of bad taste. His
morals are pure, as they always have been, even when he was a young
priest: such instances are common enough among our clergy, but rare,
not to say miraculous, beyond the Alps.
He has nephews, who, wonderful to relate, are neither rich nor
powerful, nor even princes. And yet there is no law which prevents him
from spoiling his subjects for the benefit of his family. Gregory
XIII. gave his nephew Ludovisi £160,000 of good paper, worth so much
cash. The Borghese family bought at one stroke ninety-five farms with
the money of Paul V. A commission which met in 1640, under the
presidence of the Reverend Father Vitelleschi, General of the Jesuits,
decided, in order to put an end to such abuses, that the Popes should
confine themselves to entailing property to the amount of £16,000 a
year upon their favourite nephew and his family (with the right of
creating a second heir to the same privileges), and that the portion
of each of their nieces should not exceed £36,000.
I am aware that nepotism fell into desuetude at the commencement of
the eighteenth century; but there was nothing to prevent Pius IX. from
bringing it into fashion again, after the example of Pius VI., if he
chose; but he does not choose to do so. His relations are of the
second order of nobility, and are not rich: he has done nothing to
alter their position. His nephew, Count Mastai Ferretti, was recently
married; and the Pope's wedding present consisted of a few diamonds,
worth about £8000. Nor did this modest gift cost the nation one
baioccho. The diamonds came from the Sovereign of Turkey. Some ten
years ago the Sultan of Constantinople, the Commander of the Faithful,
presented the commander of the unfaithful with a saddle embroidered
with precious stones. The travellers in the restoring line, who used
to flock to Gaeta and Portici, carried off a great number of them in
their bags; what they left are in the casket of the young Countess
The character of this respectable old man, is made up of devotion,
simplicity, vanity, weakness, and obstinacy, with an occasional touch
of rancour. He blesses with unction, and pardons with difficulty; he
is a good priest, and an insufficient king.
His intellect, which has raised such great hopes, and caused such
cruel disappointment, is of a very ordinary capacity. I can hardly
think he is infallible in temporal matters. His education is that of
the average of cardinals in general. He talks French pretty well.
The Romans formed an exaggerated opinion of him at his accession, and
have done so ever since. In 1847, when he honestly manifested a desire
to do good, they called him a great man, whereas in point of fact he
was simply a worthy man who wished to act better than his predecessors
had done, and thereby to win some applause from Europe. In 1859, he
passes for a violent re-actionist, because events have discouraged his
good intentions: and above all, because Cardinal Antonelli, who
masters him by fear, violently draws him backwards. I consider him as
meriting neither past admiration nor present hatred. I pity him for
having loosened the rein upon his people, without possessing the
firmness requisite to restrain them seasonably. I pity still more that
infirmity of character which now allows more evil to be done in his
name than he has ever himself done good.
The failure of all his enterprises, and three or four accidents which
happened in his presence, have given rise to the popular belief that
the Vicar of Jesus Christ is what the Italians call jettatore—in
other words, that he has the evil eye. When he drives along the
Corso, the old women fall down on their knees, but they snap their
fingers at him beneath their cloaks.
The members of the Italian secret societies impute to him—though for
other reasons—all the evils which afflict their country. It is
evident that the Italian question would be greatly simplified, if
there were no Pope at Rome; but the hatred of the Mazzinists against
Pius IX. is to be condemned in all its personal aspects. They would
kill him to a certainty, if our troops were not there to defend him.
This murder would be as unjust as that of Louis XVI., and as useless.
The guillotine would deprive a good old man of his life, but it would
not put an end to the bad principle of sacerdotal monarchy.
I did not seek an audience of Pius IX.; I neither kissed his hand nor
his slipper; the only mark of attention I received from him was a few
lines of insult in the Giornale di Roma. Still, I never can hear him
accused without defending him.
Let my readers for a moment put themselves in the place of this too
illustrious and too unfortunate old man. After having been for nearly
two years the favourite of public opinion, and the lion of Europe,
he found himself obliged to quit the Quirinal palace at a moment's
notice. At Gaeta and Portici he tasted those lingering hours which
sour the spirit of the exile. A grand and time-honoured principle, of
which the legitimacy is not doubtful to him, was violated in his
person. His advisers unanimously said to him:
"It is your own fault. You have endangered the monarchy by
your ideas of progress. The immobility of governments is the
sine quâ non of the stability of thrones. You will not
doubt this, if you read again the history of your
He had had time to become converted to this belief, when the armies of
the Catholic powers once more opened for him the road to Rome.
Overjoyed at seeing the principle saved, he vowed to himself never
again to compromise it, but to reign without progress, according to
papal tradition. But these very foreign powers who had saved his
crown, were the first to impose on him the condition of advancing!
What was to be done? He was equally afraid to promise everything, and
to refuse everything. After a long hesitation, he promised in spite of
himself; then he absolved himself, for the sake of the future, from
the engagements he had made for the sake of the present.
Now he is out of humour with his people, with the French, and with
himself. He knows the nation is suffering, but he allows himself to be
persuaded that the misfortunes of the nation are indispensable to the
safety of the Church. Those about him take care that the reproaches of
his conscience shall be stifled by the recollections of 1848 and the
dread of a new revolution. He stops his eyes and his ears, and
prepares to die calmly between his furious subjects on one hand, and
his dissatisfied protectors on the other. Any man wanting in energy,
placed as he is, would behave exactly in the same manner. The fault is
not his, it is that of weakness and old-age.
But I do not undertake to obtain the acquittal of his Minister of
State, Cardinal Antonelli.
He was born in a den of thieves. His native place, Sonnino, is more
celebrated in the history of crime than all Arcadia in the annals of
virtue. This nest of vultures was hidden in the southern mountains,
towards the Neapolitan frontier. Roads, impracticable to mounted
dragoons, winding through brakes and thickets; forests, impenetrable
to the stranger; deep ravines and gloomy caverns,—all combined to
form a most desirable landscape, for the convenience of crime. The
houses of Sonnino, old, ill-built, flung pell-mell one, upon the
other, and almost uninhabitable by human beings, were, in point of
fact, little else than depots of pillage and magazines of rapine. The
population, alert and vigorous, had for many centuries practised armed
robbery and depredation, and gained its livelihood at the point of the
carbine. New-born infants inhaled contempt of the law with the
mountain air, and drew in the love of others' goods with their
mothers' milk. Almost as soon as they could walk, they assumed the
cioccie, or mocassins of untanned leather, with which they learned
to run fearlessly along the edge of the giddiest mountain precipices.
When they had acquired the art of pursuing and escaping, of taking
without being taken, the knowledge of the value of the different
coins, the arithmetic of the distribution of booty, and the principles
of the rights of nations as they are practised among the Apaches or
the Comanches, their education was deemed complete. They required no
teaching to learn how to apply the spoil, and to satisfy their
passions in the hour of victory.
In the year of grace 1806, this sensual, brutal, impious,
superstitious, ignorant, and cunning race endowed Italy with a little
mountaineer, known as Giacomo Antonelli.
Hawks do not hatch doves. This is an axiom in natural history which
has no need of demonstration. Had Giacomo Antonelli been gifted at his
birth with the simple virtues of an Arcadian shepherd, his village
would have instantly disowned him. But the influence of certain events
modified his conduct, although they failed to modify his nature. His
infancy and his childhood were subjected to two opposing influences.
If he received his earliest lessons from successful brigandage, his
next teachers were the gendarmerie. When he was hardly four years old,
the discharge of a high moral lesson shook his ears: it was the French
troops who were shooting brigands in the outskirts of Sonnino. After
the return of Pius VII. he witnessed the decapitation of a few
neighbouring relatives who had often dandled him on their knees. Under
Leo XII. it was still worse. Those wholesome correctives, the wooden
horse and the supple-jack, were permanently established in the village
square. About once a fortnight the authorities rased the house of some
brigand, after sending his family to the galleys, and paying a reward
to the informer who had denounced him. St. Peter's Gate, which adjoins
the house of the Antonellis, was ornamented with a garland of human
heads, which eloquent relics grinned dogmatically enough in their iron
cages. If the stage be a school of life, surely such a stage as this
is a rare teacher. Young Giacomo was enabled to reflect upon the
inconveniences of brigandage, even before he had tasted its sweets.
About him some men of progress had already engaged in industrial
pursuits of a less hazardous nature than robbery. His own father, who,
it was whispered, had in him the stuff of a Grasparone or a Passatore,
instead of exposing himself upon the highways, took to keeping
bullocks, he then became an Intendant, and subsequently was made a
Municipal Receiver; by which occupations he acquired more money at
considerably less risk.
The young Antonelli hesitated for some time as to the choice of a
calling. His natural vocation was that of the inhabitants of Sonnino
in general, to live in plenty, to enjoy every sort of pleasure, to
make himself at home everywhere, to be dependent upon nobody, to rule
others, and to frighten them, if necessary, but, above all, to violate
the laws with impunity. With the view of attaining so lofty an end
without exposing his life, for which he ever had a most particular
regard, he entered the great seminary of Rome.
In our land of scepticism, a young man enters the seminary with the
hope of being ordained a priest: Antonelli entered it with the
opposite intention. But in the capital of the Catholic Church, young
Levites of ordinary intelligence become magistrates, prefects,
councillors of state, and ministers, while the "dry fruit is
thought good enough for making priests."
Antonelli so distinguished himself, that (with Heaven's help) he
escaped the sacrament of Ordination. He has never said mass: he has
never confessed a penitent; I won't swear he has even confessed
himself. He gained what was of more value than all the Christian
virtues—the friendship of Gregory XVI. He became a prelate, a
magistrate, a prefect, Secretary General of the Interior, and Minister
of Finance. No one can say he has not chosen the right path. A finance
minister, if he knows anything of his business, can lay by more money
in six months than all the brigands of Sonnino in twenty years.
Under Gregory XVI. he had been a reactionist, to please his sovereign.
On the accession of Pius IX., for the same reason, he professed
liberal ideas. A red hat and a ministerial portfolio were the
recompense of his new convictions, and proved to the inhabitants of
Sonnino that liberalism itself is more lucrative than brigandage. What
a practical lesson for those mountaineers! One of themselves clothed
in purple and fine linen, actually riding in his gilt coach, passed
the barracks, and their old friends the dragoons presenting arms,
instead of firing long shots at him!
He obtained the same influence over the new Pope that he had over the
old one, thus proving that people may be got hold of without stopping
them on the highway. Pius IX., who had no secrets from him, confided
to him his wish to correct abuses, without concealing his fear of
succeeding too well. He served the Holy Father, even in his
irresolutions. As President of the Supreme Council of State, he
proposed reforms, and as Minister he postponed their adoption. Nobody
was more active than he, whether in settling or in violating the
constitution of 1848. He sent Durando to fight the Austrians, and
disavowed him after the battle.
He quitted the ministry as soon as he found there were dangers to be
encountered, but assisted the Pope in his secret opposition to his
ministers. The murder of Count Rossi gave him serious cause for
reflection. A man don't take the trouble to be born at Sonnino, in
order to let himself be assassinated: quite the contrary. He placed
the Pope—and himself—in safety, and then went to Gaeta to play the
part of Secretary of State in partibus.
From this exile dates his omnipotence over the will of the Holy
Father, his reinstatement in the esteem of the Austrians, and the
consistency in his whole conduct. Since then no more contradictions in
his political life. They who formally accused him of hesitating
between the welfare of the nation and his own personal interest are
reduced to silence. He wishes to restore the absolute power of the
Pope, in order that he may dispose of it at his ease. He prevents all
reconciliation between Pius IX. and his subjects; he summons the
cannon of Catholicism to effect the conquest of Rome. He ill-uses the
French, who are willing to die for him; he turns a deaf ear to the
liberal counsels of Napoleon III.; he designedly prolongs the exile of
his master; he draws up the promises of the Motu Proprio, while
devising means to elude them. At length, he returns to Rome, and for
ten years continues to reign over a timid old man and an enslaved
people, opposing a passive resistance to all the counsels of diplomacy
and all the demands of Europe. Clinging tenaciously to power, reckless
as to the future, misusing present opportunities, and day by day
increasing his fortune—after the manner of Sonnino.
In this year of grace 1859, he is fifty-three years of age. He
presents the appearance of a well-preserved man. His frame is slight
and robust, and his constitution is that of a mountaineer. The breadth
of his forehead, the brilliancy of his eyes, his beak-like nose, and
all the upper part of his face inspire a certain awe. His countenance,
of almost Moorish hue, is at times lit up by flashes of intellect. But
his heavy jaw, his long fang-like teeth, and his thick lips express
the grossest appetites. He gives you the idea of a minister grafted on
a savage. When he assists the Pope in the ceremonies of the Holy Week
he is magnificently disdainful and impertinent. He turns from time to
time in the direction of the diplomatic tribune, and looks without a
smile at the poor ambassadors, whom he cajoles from morning to night.
You admire the actor who bullies his public. But when at an evening
party he engages in close conversation with a handsome woman, the play
of his countenance shows the direction of his thoughts, and those of
the imaginative observer are imperceptibly carried to a roadside in a
lonely forest, in which the principal objects are prostrate
postilions, an overturned carriage, trembling females, and a select
party of the inhabitants of Sonnino!
He lives in the Vatican, immediately over the Pope. The Romans ask
punningly which is the uppermost, the Pope or Antonelli?
All classes of society hate him equally. Concini himself was not more
cordially detested. He is the only living man concerning whom an
entire people is agreed.
A Roman prince furnished me with some information respecting the
relative fortunes of the nobility. When he gave me the list he said,
"You will remark the names of two individuals, the amount of
whose property is described as unlimited. They are Torlonia
and Antonelli. They have both made large fortunes in a few
years,—the first by speculation, the second by power."
The Cardinals Altieri and Antonelli were one day disputing upon some
point in the Pope's presence. They flatly contradicted one another;
and the Pope inclined to the opinion of his Minister. "Since your
Holiness," said the noble Altieri, "accords belief to a ciociari
rather than to a Roman prince, I have nothing to do but to withdraw."
The Apostles themselves appear to entertain no very amicable feelings
towards the Secretary of State. The last time the Pope made a solemn
entry into his capital (I think it was after his journey to Bologna),
the Porta del Popolo and the Corso were according to custom hung with
draperies, behind which the old statues of St. Peter and St. Paul were
completely hidden. Accordingly the people were entertained by finding
the following dialogue appended to the corner of the street:—
Peter to Paul. "It seems to me, old fellow, that we are somewhat
Paul to Peter. "What would you have? We are no longer anything.
There is but James in the world now."
I am aware that hatred proves nothing—even the hatred of Apostles.
The French nation, which claims to be thought just, insulted the
funeral procession of Louis XIV. It also occasionally detested Henri
IV. for his economy, and Napoleon for his victories. No statesman
should be judged upon the testimony of his enemies. The only evidence
we should admit either for or against him, is his public acts. The
only witnesses to which any weight should be attributed are the
greatness and the prosperity of the country he governs.
Such an inquiry would, I fear, be ruinous to Antonelli. The nation
reproaches him with all the evils it has suffered for the last ten
years. The public wretchedness and ignorance, the decline of the arts,
the entire suppression of liberty, the ever-present curse of foreign
occupation,—all fall upon his head, because he alone is responsible
It may be alleged that he has at least served the reactionary party. I
much doubt it. What internal factions has he suppressed? Secret
societies have swarmed in Rome during his reign. What remonstrances
from without has he silenced? Europe continues to complain
unanimously, and day by day lifts up its voice a tone or two higher.
He has failed to reconcile one single party or one single power to the
Holy father. During his ten years' dictatorship, he has neither gained
the esteem of one foreigner nor the confidence of one Roman. All he
has gained is time. His pretended capacity is but slyness. To the
trickery of the present he adds the cunning of the red Indian; but he
has not that largeness of view without which it is impossible to
establish firmly the slavery of the people. No one possesses in a
greater degree than he the art of dragging on an affair, and
manoeuvring with and tiring out diplomatists; but it is not by
pleasantries of this sort that a tottering tyranny can be propped up.
Although he employs every subterfuge known to dishonest policy, I am
not quite sure that he has even the craft of a politician.
The attainment of his own end does not in fact require it. For after
all, what is his end? In what hope, with what aim, did he come down
from the mountains of Sonnino?
Do you really believe he thought of becoming the benefactor of the
nation?—or the saviour of the Papacy?—or the Don Quixote of the
Church? Not such a fool! He thought, first, of himself; secondly, of
His family is flourishing. His four brothers, Filippo, Luigi,
Gregorio, and—save the mark!—Angelo, all wore the cioccie in their
younger days; they now, one and all, wear the count's coronet. One is
governor of the bank, a capital post, and since poor Campana's
condemnation he has got the Monte di Pietà. Another is Conservator of
Rome, under a Senator especially selected for his incapacity. Another
follows openly the trape of a monopolist, with immense facilities for
either preventing or authorizing exportation, according as his own
warehouses happen to be full or empty. The youngest is the commercial
traveller, the diplomatist, the messenger of the family, Angelus
Domini. A cousin of the family, Count Dandini, reigns over the
police. This little group is perpetually at work adding to a fortune
which is invisible, impalpable, and incalculable. The house of
Antonelli is not pitied at Sonnino.
As for the Secretary of State, all who know him intimately, both men
and women, agree that he leads a pleasant life. If it were not for the
bore of making head against the diplomatists, and giving audience
every morning, he would be the happiest of mountaineers. His tastes
are simple; a scarlet silk robe, unlimited power, an enormous fortune,
a European reputation, and all the pleasures within man's reach—this
trifle satisfies the simple tastes of the Cardinal Minister. Add, by
the bye, a splendid collection of minerals, perfectly classified which
he is constantly enriching with the passion of an amateur and the
tenderness of a father.
I was saying just now that he has always escaped the sacrament of Holy
Orders. He is Cardinal Deacon. The good souls who will have it that
all goes well at Rome, dwell with fervour on the advantage he
possesses in not being a priest. If he is accused of possessing
inordinate wealth, these indulgent Christians reply, that he is not a
priest! If you charge him with having read Machiavelli to good
purpose; admitted—what then?—he is no priest! If the tongue of
scandal is over-free with his private life; still the ready reply,
that he is not a priest! If Deacons are thus privileged, what latitude
may we not claim who have not even assumed the tonsure?
This highly-blest mortal has one weakness—truly a very natural one.
He fears death. A certain fair lady, who had been honoured by his
Eminence's particular attentions, thus illustrated the fact,
"Upon meeting me at our rendezvous, he seized me like a
madman, and with trembling eagerness examined my pockets. It
was only when he had assured himself that I had no concealed
weapon about me that he seemed to remember our friendship."
One man alone has dared to threaten a life so precious to itself, and
he was an idiot. Instigated by some of the secret societies, this poor
crazed wretch concealed himself beneath the staircase of the Vatican,
and awaited the coming of the Cardinal. When the intended victim
appeared, the idiot with much difficulty drew from beneath his
waistcoat—a table-fork! Antonelli saw the terrible weapon, and
bounded backwards with a spring which an Alpine chamois-hunter might
have envied. The miserable assassin was instantly seized, bound, and
delivered over to justice. The Roman tribunals, so often lenient
towards the really guilty, had no mercy for this real innocent. He was
beheaded. The Cardinal, full of pity, fell—officially—at the Pope's
feet, and asked for a pardon which he well knew would be refused. He
pays the widow a pension: is not this the act of a clever man?
Since the day when that formidable fork glittered before his eyes, he
has taken excessive precautions. His horses are broken to gallop
furiously through the streets, at considerable public risk.
Occasionally, his carriage knocks down and runs over a little boy or
girl. With characteristic magnanimity, he sends the parents fifty
Antonelli has been compared to Mazarin. They have, in common, the fear
of death, inordinate love of money, a strong family feeling, utter
indifference to the people's welfare, contempt for mankind, and some
other accidental points of resemblance. They were born in the same
mountains, or nearly so. One obtained the influence over a woman's
heart which the other possesses over the mind of an old man. Both
governed unscrupulously, and both have merited and obtained the hatred
of their contemporaries. They have talked French comically, without
being insensible to any of the delicate niceties of the language.
Still there would be manifest injustice in placing them in the same
rank. The selfish Mazarin dictated to Europe the treaties of
Westphalia, and the Peace of the Pyrenees: he founded by diplomacy the
greatness of Louis XIV., and managed the affairs of the French
monarchy, without in any way neglecting his own.
Antonelli has made his fortune at the expense of the nation, the Pope,
and the Church. Mazarin may be compared to a skilful but rascally
tailor, who dresses his customers well, while he contrives to cabbage
sundry yards of their cloth; Antonelli, to those Jews of the Middle
Ages, who demolished the Coliseum for the sake of the old iron in the
If the Pope were merely the head of the Roman Catholic Church; if,
limiting his action to the interior of temples, he would renounce the
sway over temporal matters about which he knows nothing, his
countrymen of Rome, Ancona, and Bologna might govern themselves as
people do in London or in Paris. The administration would be lay, the
laws would be lay, the nation would provide for its own wants with its
own revenues, as is the custom in all civilized countries.
As for the general expenses of the Roman Catholic worship, which in
point of fact no more specially concern the Romans than they do the
Champenois, a voluntary contribution made by one hundred and
thirty-nine millions of men would amply provide for them. If each
individual among the faithful were to give a halfpenny per annum,
the head of the Church would have something like £300,000 to spend
upon his wax tapers and his incense, his choristers and his
sacristans, and the repairs of the basilica of St. Peter's. No Roman
Catholic would think of refusing his quota, because the Holy Father,
entirely separated from worldly interests, would not be in a position
to offend anybody. This small tax would, therefore, restore
independence to the Romans without diminishing the independence of the
Unfortunately the Pope is a king. In this capacity he must have a
Court, or something approaching to it. He selects his courtiers among
men of his own faith, his own opinions, and his own profession:
nothing can be more reasonable. These courtiers, in their turn,
dispose of the different offices of state, spiritual or temporal, just
as it may happen. Nor can the Sovereign object to this pretension as
being ridiculous. Moreover he naturally hopes to be more faithfully
served by priests than laymen; while he feels that the salaries
attached to the best-paid places are necessary to the splendour of his
Thence it follows that to preach the secularization of the government
to the Pope, is to preach to the winds. Here you have a man who would
not be a layman, who pities laymen simply because they are laymen,
regarding them as a caste inferior to his own; who has received an
anti-lay education; who thinks differently to laymen on all important
points; and you expect this man will share his power with laymen, in
an empire where he is absolute master of all and everything! You
require him to surround himself with laymen, to summon them to his
councils, and to confide to them the execution of his behests!
Supposing, however, that for some reason or other he fears you, and
wishes to humour you a little, see what he will do. He will seek in
the outer offices of his ministers some lay secretary, or assistant,
or clerk, a man without character or talent; he will employ him, and
take care that his incapacity shall be universally known and admitted.
After which, he will say to you sadly, "I have done what I could." But
if he were to speak the honest truth, he would at once say, "If you
wish to secularize anything, begin by putting laymen in my place."
It is not in 1859 that the Pope will venture to speak so haughtily.
Intimidated by the protection of France, deafened by the unanimous
complaints of his subjects, obliged to reckon with public opinion, he
declares that he has secularized everything. "Count my functionaries,"
"I have 14,576 laymen in my service. You have been told that
ecclesiastics monopolize the public service. Show me these
ecclesiastics! The Count de Rayneval looked for them, and
could find but ninety-eight; and even of those, the greater
part were not in priests' orders! Be assured we have long
since broken with the clerical régime. I myself decreed
the admissibility of laymen to all offices but one. In order
to show my sincerity, for some time I had lay ministers! I
entrusted the finances to a mere accountant, the department
of justice to an obscure little advocate, and that of war to
a man of business who had been intendant to several
Cardinals. I admit that for the moment we have no laymen in
the Ministry; but my subjects may console themselves by
reflecting that the law does not prevent me from appointing
"In the provinces, out of eighteen prefects, I appointed
three laymen. If I afterwards substituted prelates for those
three, it was because the people loudly called for the
change. Is it my fault if the people respect nothing but the
This style of defence may deceive some good easy folk; but I think if
I were Pope, or Secretary of State, or even a simple supporter of the
Pontifical administration, I should prefer telling the plain truth.
That truth is strictly logical, it is in conformity with the principle
of the Government; it emanates from the Constitution. Things are
exactly what they ought to be, if not for the welfare of the people,
at least for the greatness, security, and satisfaction of its temporal
The truth then is that all the ministers, all the prefects, all the
ambassadors, all the court dignitaries, and all the judges of the
superior tribunals, are ecclesiastics; that the Secretary of the
Brevi and the Memoriali the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the
Council of State and the Council of Finances, the Director-General of
the Police, the Director of Public Health and Prisons, the Director of
the Archives, the Attorney-General of the Fisc, the President and the
Secretary of the Cadastro the Agricultural President and Commission,
are all ecclesiastics. The public education is in the hands of
ecclesiastics, under the direction of thirteen Cardinals. All the
charitable establishments, all the funds applicable to the relief of
the poor, are the patrimony of ecclesiastical directors. Congregations
of Cardinals decide causes in their leisure hours, and the Bishops of
the kingdom are so many living tribunals.
Why seek to conceal from Europe so natural an order of things?
Let Europe rather be told what it did when it re-established a priest
on the throne of Rome.
All the offices which confer power or profit belong first to the Pope,
then to the Secretary of State, then to the Cardinals, and lastly to
the Prelates. Everybody takes his share according to the hierarchical
order; and when all are satisfied, the crumbs of power are thrown to
the nation at large; in other words, the 14,596 places which no
ecclesiastic chooses to take, particularly the distinguished office of
Guardia Campestre, a sort of rural police. Nobody need wonder at
such a distribution of places. In the government of Rome, the Pope is
everything, the Secretary of State is almost everything, the Cardinals
are something, and the priests on the road to become something. The
lay nation, which marries and gives in marriage, and peoples the
State, is nothing—never will be anything.
The word prelate has fallen from my pen; I will pause a moment to
explain its precise meaning. Among us it is a title sufficiently
respected: at Rome it is far less so. We have no prelates but our
Archbishops and Bishops. When we see one of these venerable men
driving slowly out of his palace in an old-fashioned carriage drawn by
a single pair of horses, we know, without being told it, that he has
spent three-fourths of his existence in the exercise of the most
meritorious works. He said Mass in some small village before he was
made the cure of a canton. He has preached, confessed, distributed
alms to the poor, borne the viaticum to the sick, committed the dead
to their last narrow home.
The Roman prelate is often a great hulking fellow who has just left
college, with the tonsure for his only sacrament. He is a Doctor of
something or other, he owns some property, more or less, and he enters
the Church as an amateur, to see if he can make something out of it.
The Pope gives him leave to style himself Monsignore, instead of
Signore, and to wear violet-coloured stockings. Clad in these he
starts on his road, hoping it may lead him to a Cardinal's hat. He
passes through the courts of law, or the administration, or the
domestic service of the Vatican, as the case may be. All these paths
lead in the right direction, provided the traveller pursuing them has
zeal, and professes a pious scorn for liberal ideas. The
ecclesiastical calling is by no means indispensable, but nothing can
be achieved without a good stock of retrograde ideas. The prelate who
should take the Emperor's letter to M. Edgar Ney seriously, would be,
in vulgar parlance, done for; the only course open to him would be—to
marry. At Paris, a man disappointed in ambition takes prussic acid; at
Rome, he takes a wife.
Sometimes the prelate is a cadet of a noble house, one in which the
right to a red hat is traditional. Knowing this he feels that the
moment he puts on his violet stockings, he may order his scarlet ones.
In the meanwhile he takes his degrees, and profits by the occasion to
sow his wild oats. The Cardinals shut their eyes to his conduct, so he
does but profess wholesome ideas. Do what you please, child of
princes, so your heart be but clerical!
Finally, it is not uncommon to find among the prelates some soldiers
of fortune, adventurers of the Church, who have been attracted from
their native land by the ambition of ecclesiastical greatness. This
corps of volunteers receives contingents from the whole Catholic
world. These gentlemen furnish some strange examples to the Roman
people; and I know more than one of them to whom mothers of families
would on no account confide the education of their children. It has
happened to me to have described in a novel a prelate who richly
deserved a thrashing; the good folks of Rome have named to me three or
four whom they fancied they recognized in the portrait. But it has
never yet been known that any prelate, however vicious, has given
utterance to liberal ideas. A single word from a Roman prelate's lips
in behalf of the nation would ruin him.
The Count de Rayneval has laboured hard to prove that prelates, who
have not received the sacrament of Ordination, form part of the lay
element. At this rate, a province should deem itself fortunate, and
think it has escaped priestly government, if its prefect is simply
tonsured. I cannot for the life of me see in what tonsured prelates
are more laymen than they are priests. I admit that they neither
follow the calling nor possess the virtues of the priesthood; but I
maintain that they have the ideas, the interests, the passions of the
ecclesiastical caste. They aim at the Cardinal's hat, when their
ambition does not soar to the tiara. Singular laymen, truly, and well
fitted to inspire confidence in a lay people! 'Twere better they
should become Cardinals; for then they would no longer have their
fortunes to make, and they would not be called upon to signalize their
zeal against the nation.
For that is, unhappily, the state at which things have arrived. This
same ecclesiastical caste, so strongly united by the bonds of a
learned hierarchy, reigns as over a conquered country. It regards the
middle class,—in other words, the intelligent and laborious part of
the nation,—as an irreconcilable foe. The prefects are ordered, not
to govern the provinces, but to keep them in order. The police is
kept, not to protect the citizens, but to watch them. The tribunals
have other interests to defend than those of justice. The diplomatic
body does not represent a country, but a coterie. The educating body
has the mission not to teach, but to prevent the spread of
instruction. The taxes are not a national assessment, but an official
foray for the profit of certain ecclesiastics. Examine all the
departments of the public administration: you will everywhere find the
clerical element at war with the nation, and of course everywhere
In this state of things it is idle to say to the Pope, "Fill your
principal offices with laymen." You might as well say to Austria,
"Place your fortresses under the guard of the Piedmontese." The Roman
administration is what it must be. It will remain what it is as long
as there is a Pope on the throne.
Besides, although the lay population still complains of being
systematically excluded from power, matters have reached such a point,
that an honest man of the middle class would think himself dishonoured
by accepting a high post. It would be said that he had deserted the
nation to serve the enemy.
It is admitted that the Popes have always been remarkable for a senile
indulgence and goodness. I do not pretend to deny the assertions of M.
de Brosses and M. de Tournon that this government is at once the
mildest, the worst, and the most absolute in Europe.
And yet Sixtus V., a great Pope, was a still greater executioner. That
man of God delivered over to the gallows a Pepoli of Bologna, who had
bestowed upon him a kick instead of a piece of bread when he was a
And yet Gregory XVI., in our own times, granted a dispensation of age
to a minor for the sake of having him legally executed.
And yet the punishment of the wooden horse was revived four years ago
by the mild Cardinal Antonelli.
And yet the Pontifical State is the only one in Europe in which the
barbarous practice of placing a price upon a man's head is still in
Never mind. Since, after all, the Pontifical State is that in which
the most daring crimes and the most open assassinations have the
greatest chance of being committed with perfect impunity, I will
admit, with M. de Brosses and M. de Tournon, that it is the mildest in
Europe. I am about to examine with you the application of this
mildness to political matters.
Nine years ago Pius IX. re-entered his capital, as the father of a
family his house, after having the door broken open. It is not likely
that either the Holy Father, or the companions of his exile, were
animated by very lively feelings of gratitude towards the chiefs of
the revolution which had driven them away. A priest never quite
forgets that he was once a man.
This is why two hundred and eighty-three individuals were excluded
from the general amnesty recommended by France and promised by the
Pope. It is unfortunate for these two hundred and eighty-three that
the Gospel is old, and forgiveness of injuries out of date. Perhaps
you will remind me that St. Peter cut off one of the ears of Malchus.
By the clemency of the Pope, fifty-nine of these exiles were pardoned,
during a period of nine years, if men can be said to be pardoned who
are recalled provisionally, some for a year, others for half a year,
or who are brought home only to be placed under the surveillance of
the police. A man who is forbidden to exercise the calling to which he
was bred, and whose sole privilege is that of dying of starvation in
his native land, is likely rather to regret his exile sometimes.
I was introduced to one of the fifty-nine privileged partakers of the
pontifical clemency. He is an advocate; at least he was until the day
when he obtained his pardon. He related to me the history of the
tolerably inoffensive part he had played in 1848; the hopes he had
founded on the amnesty; his despair when he found himself excluded
from it; some particulars of his life in exile, such, for instance, as
his having had recourse to giving lessons in Italian, like the
illustrious Manin, and so many others.
"I could have lived happily enough," he said,
"but one day the home-sickness laid my heart low; I felt
that I must see Italy, or die. My family took the necessary
steps, and it fortunately happened that we knew some one who
had interest with a Cardinal. The police dictated the
conditions of my return, and I accepted them without knowing
what they were. If they had told me I could not return
without cutting off my right arm, I would have cut it off.
The Pope signed my pardon, and then published my name in the
newspapers, so that none might be ignorant of his clemency.
But I am interdicted from resuming my practice at the Bar,
and a man can hardly gain a livelihood by teaching Italian
in a country where everybody speaks it."
As he concluded, the neighbouring church-bells began to sound the Ave
Maria. He turned pale, seized his hat, and rushed out of my room,
exclaiming, "I knew not it was so late! Should the police arrive at my
house before I can reach it, I am a lost man!"
His friends explained to me the cause of his sudden alarm: the poor
man is subject to the police regulation termed the Precetto.
He must always return to his abode at sunset, and he is then shut in
till the next morning. The police may force their way in at any time
during the night, for the purpose of ascertaining that he is there. He
cannot leave the city under any pretence whatever, even in broad day.
The slightest infraction of these rules exposes him to imprisonment,
or to a new exile.
The Pontifical States are full of men subject to the Precetto: some
are criminals who are watched in their homes, for want of prison
accommodation; others are suspected persons. The number of these
unfortunate beings is not given in the statistical tables, but I know,
from an official source, that in Viterbo, a town of fourteen thousand
souls, there are no less than two hundred.
The want of prison accommodation explains many things, and, among
others, the freedom of speech which exists throughout the country. If
the Government took a fancy to arrest everybody who hates it openly,
there would be neither gendarmes nor gaolers enough; above all, there
would be an insufficiency of those houses of peace, of which it has
been said, that "their protection and salubrity prolong the life of
The citizens, then, are allowed to speak freely, provided always they
do not gesticulate too violently. But we may be sure no word is ever
lost in a State watched by priests. The Government keeps an accurate
list of those who wish it ill. It revenges itself when it can, but it
never runs after vengeance. It watches its occasion; it can afford to
be patient, because it thinks itself eternal.
If the bold speaker chance to hold a modest government appointment, a
purging commission quietly cashiers him, and turns him delicately out
into the street.
Should he be a person of independent fortune, they wait till he wants
something, as, for instance, a passport. One of my good friends in
Rome has been for the last nine years trying to get leave to travel.
He is rich and energetic. The business he follows is one eminently
beneficial to the State. A journey to foreign countries would complete
his knowledge, and advance his interests. For the last nine years he
has been applying for an interview with the head of the passport
office, and has never yet received an answer to his application.
Others, who have applied for permission to travel in Piedmont, have
received for answer, "Go, but return no more." They have not been
exiled; there is no need of exercising unnecessary rigour; but on
receiving their passports, they have been compelled to sign an act of
voluntary exile. The Greeks said, "Not every one who will goes to
Corinth." The Romans have substituted Turin for Corinth.
Another of my friends, the Count X., has been, for years, carrying on
a lawsuit before the infallible tribunal of the Sacra Rota. His
cause could not have been a bad one, seeing that he lost and gained it
some seven or eight times before the same judges. It assumed a
deplorably bad complexion from the day the Count became my friend.
When once the discontented proceed from words to actions you may
indeed pity them.
A person charged with a political offence summoned before the Sacra
Consulta (for everything is holy and sacred, even justice and
injustice), must be defended by an advocate, not chosen by himself,
against witnesses whose very names are unknown to him.
In the capital (and under the eyes of the French army) the extreme
penalty of the law is rarely carried out. The government is satisfied
with quietly suppressing people, by shutting them up in a fortress for
life. The state prisons are of two sorts, healthy and unhealthy. In
the establishment coming within the second category, perpetual
seclusion is certain not to be of very long duration.
The fortress of Pagliano is one of the most wholesome. When I walked
through it there were two hundred and fifty prisoners, all political.
The people of the country told me that in 1856 these unfortunate men
had made an attempt at escape. Five or six had been shot on the roof
like so many sparrows. The remainder, according to the common law,
would be liable to the galleys for eight years; but an old ordinance
of Cardinal Lante was revived, by which, God willing, some of them may
It is, however, beyond the Apennines that the paternal character of
the Government is chiefly displayed. The French are not there, and the
Pope's reactionary police duty is performed by the Austrian army. The
law there is martial law. The prisoner is without counsel; his judges
are Austrian officers, his executioners Austrian soldiers. A man may
be beaten or shot because some gentleman in uniform happens to be in a
bad temper. A youth sends up a Bengal light,—the galleys for twenty
years. A woman prevents a smoker from lighting his cigar,—twenty
lashes. In seven years Ancona has witnessed sixty capital executions,
and Bologna a hundred and eighty. Blood flows, and the Pope washes his
hands of it. He did not sign the warrants. Every now and then the
Austrians bring him a man they have shot, just as a gamekeeper brings
his master a fox he has killed in the preserves.
Perhaps I shall be told that this government of priests is not
responsible for the crimes committed in its service.
We French have also experienced the scourge of a foreign occupation.
For some years soldiers who spoke not our language were encamped in
our departments. The king who had been forced upon us was neither a
great man nor a man of energy, nor even a very good man; and he had
left a portion of his dignity in the enemy's baggage-waggons. But
certain it is that, in 1817, Louis XVIII. would rather have come down
from his throne than have allowed his subjects to be legally shot by
Russians and Prussians.
M. de Rayneval says, "The Holy Father has never failed to mitigate the
severity of judgments."
I want to know in what way he has been enabled to mitigate these
Austrian fusillades. Perhaps he has suggested a coating of soft cotton
for the bullets.
THE IMPUNITY OF REAL CRIME.
The Roman State is the most radically Catholic in Europe, seeing that
it is governed by the Vicar of Jesus Christ himself. It is also the
most fertile in crimes of every description, and above all, of violent
crimes. So remarkable a contrast cannot escape observation. It is
pointed out daily. Conclusions unfavorable to Catholicism have even
been drawn from it; but this is a mistake. Let us not set down to
religion that which is the necessary consequence of a particular form
The Papacy has its root in Heaven, not in the country. It is not the
Italian people who ask for a Pope,—it is Heaven that chooses him, the
Sacred College that nominates him, diplomacy that maintains him, and
the French army that imposes him upon the nation. The Sovereign
Pontiff and his staff constitute a foreign body, introduced into Italy
like a thorn into a woodcutter's foot.
What is the mission of the Pontifical Government? To what end did
Europe bring Pius IX. from Gaeta to re-establish him at the Vatican?
Was it for the sake of giving three millions of men an active and
vigorous overseer? The merest brigadier of gendarmerie would have done
the work better. No; it was in order that the Head of the Church might
preside over the interests of religion from the elevation of a throne,
and that the Vicar of Jesus Christ might be surrounded with royal
splendour. The three millions of men who dwell in his States are
appointed by Europe to defray the expenses of his court. In point of
fact, we have given them to the Pope, not the Pope to them.
On this understanding, the Pope's first duty is to say Mass at St.
Peter's for 139,000,000 of Roman Catholics; his second is to make a
dignified appearance, to receive company, to wear a crown, and to take
care it does not fall off his head. But it is a matter of perfect
indifference to him that his subjects brawl, rob, or murder one
another, so long as they don't attack either his Church or his
If we examine the question of the distribution of punishments in the
Papal States from this point of view, we shall see that papal justice
never strikes at random.
The most unpardonable crimes in the eyes of the clergy are those which
are offensive to Heaven. Rome punishes sins. The tribunal of the
Vicariate sends a blasphemer to the galleys, and claps into goal the
silly fellow who refuses to take the Communion at Easter. Surely
nobody will charge the Head of the Church with neglecting his duty.
I have told you how the Pope defends and will continue to defend his
crown, and I have no fear of your charging him with weakness. If
Europe ventured to allege that he suffers the throne on which it has
placed him to be shaken, the answer would be a list of the political
exiles and the prisoners of state, present and past—the living and
But the crimes and offences of which the natives are guilty towards
one another affect the Pope and his Cardinals very remotely. What
matters it to the successors of the Apostles that a few workmen and
peasants should cut one another's throats after Sunday Vespers? There
will always be enough of them left to pay the taxes.
The people of Rome have long contracted some very bad habits. They
frequent taverns and wine-shops, and they quarrel over their liquor;
the word and the blow of other people is with them the word and the
knife. The rural population are as bad as the townspeople. Quarrels
between neighbours and relatives are submitted to the adjudication of
cold steel. Of course they would do better to go before the nearest
magistrate; but justice is slow in the States of the Church; lawsuits
cost money, and bribery is the order of the day; the judges are either
fools or knaves. So out with the knife! its decisions are swift and
sure. Giacomo is down: 'tis clear he was in the wrong. Nicolo is
unmolested: he must have been in the right. This little drama is
performed more than four times a day in the Papal States, as is proved
by the Government statistics of 1853. It is a great misfortune for the
country, and a serious danger for Europe. The school of the knife,
founded at Rome, establishes branches in foreign lands. We have seen
the holiest interests of civilization placed under the knife, and all
the honest people in the world, the Pope himself included, shuddered
at the sight.
It would cost his Holiness very little trouble to snatch the knife
from the hands of his subjects. We don't ask him to begin over again
the education of his people, which would take time, or even to
increase the attractions of civil justice, so as to substitute
litigants for assassins. All we require of him is, that he should
allow criminal justice to dispose of some few of the worst characters
who throng to these evil haunts. But this very natural remedy would be
utterly repugnant to his notions. The tavern assassin is seldom a foe
to the Government.
Not that the Pope absolutely refuses to let assassins be pursued; that
would be opposed to the practice of all civilized countries. But he
takes care that they shall always get a good start of their pursuers.
If they reach the banks of a river the pursuit ceases, lest they
should jump into the water and be drowned without confession and
absolution. If they seize hold of the skirts of a Capuchin Friar—they
are saved. If they get into a church, a convent, or a hospital—saved
again. If they do but set foot upon an ecclesiastical domain, or upon
a clerical property (of which there is to the amount of £20,000,000 in
the country), justice stands still, and lets them move on. A word from
the Pope would reform this abuse of the right of asylum, which is a
standing insult to civilization. On the contrary, he carefully
preserves it, in order to show that the privileges of the Church are
above the interests of humanity. This is both consistent and legal.
Should the police get hold of a murderer by accident, and quite
unintentionally, he is brought up for trial. Witnesses of the crime
are sought, but never found. A citizen would consider himself
dishonoured if he were to give up his comrade to the natural enemy of
the nation. The murdered man himself, if he could be brought to life,
would swear he had seen nothing of the affair. The Government is not
strong enough to force the witnesses to say what they know, or to
protect them against the consequences of their depositions. This is
why the most flagrant crime can never be proved in the courts of
Supposing even that a murderer lets himself be taken, that witnesses
give evidence against him, and that the crime be proved, even then the
tribunal hesitates to pronounce the sentence of death.
The shedding of blood—legally—saddens a people; the Government has
no fault to find with the murderer, so he is sent to the galleys. He
is pretty comfortable there; public consideration follows him; sooner
or later he is certain to be pardoned, because the Pope, utterly
indifferent to his crime, finds it more profitable, and less
expensive, to turn him loose than to keep him.
Put the worst possible case. Imagine a crime so glaring, so monstrous,
so revolting, that the judges, who happen to be the least interested
in the question, have been compelled to condemn the criminal to death.
You probably imagine that, for example's sake, he will be executed
while his crime is yet fresh in the popular recollection. Nothing of
the sort. He is cast into a dungeon and forgotten; they think it
probable he will die naturally there. In the month of July, 1858, the
prison of the small town of Viterbo contained twenty-two criminals
condemned to death, who were singing psalms while waiting for the
At length this functionary arrives; he selects one out of the lot and
decapitates him. The populace is moved to compassion. Tears are shed,
and the spectators cry out with one accord, "Poveretto!" The fact
is, his crime is ten years old. Nobody recollects what it was. He has
expiated it by ten years of penitence. Ten years ago his execution
would have conveyed a striking moral lesson.
So much for the severity of penal justice. You would laugh if I were
to speak of its leniency. The Duke Sforza Cesarini murders one of his
servants for some act of personal disrespect. For example's sake, the
Pope condemns him to a month's retirement in a convent.
Ah! if any sacrilegious hand were laid upon the holy ark; if a priest
were to be slain, a Cardinal only threatened, then would there be
neither asylum, nor galleys, nor clemency, nor delay. Thirty years ago
the murderer of a priest was hewn in pieces in the Piazza del Popolo.
More recently, as we have seen, the idiot who brandished his fork in
the face of Cardinal Antonelli, was beheaded.
It is with highway robbery as with murder. I am induced to believe
that the Pontifical court would not wage a very fierce war with the
brigands, if those gentry undertook to respect its money and
despatches. The occasional stopping of a few travellers, the clearing
out of a carriage, and even the pillaging a country house, are neither
religious nor political scourges. The brigands are not likely to scale
either Heaven or the Vatican.
Thus there is still good business to be done in this line, and
particularly beyond the Apennines, in those provinces which Austria
has disarmed and does not protect. The tribunal of Bologna faithfully
described the state of the country in a sentence of the 16th of June,
"Of late years this province has been afflicted by
innumerable crimes of all sorts: robbery, pillage, attacks
upon houses, have occurred at all hours, and in all places.
The numbers of the malefactors have been constantly
increasing, as has their audacity, encouraged by impunity."
Nothing is changed since the tribunal of Bologna spoke so forcibly.
Stories, as improbable as they are true, are daily related in the
country. The illustrious Passatore, who seized the entire population
of Forlimpopoli in the theatre, has left successors. The audacious
brigands who robbed a diligence in the very streets of Bologna, a few
paces from the Austrian barracks, have not yet wholly disappeared. In
the course of a tour of some weeks on the shores of the Adriatic, I
heard more than one disquieting report. Near Rimini the house of a
landed proprietor was besieged by a little army. In one place, all the
inmates of the goal walked off, arm-in-arm with the turnkeys; in
another a diligence came to grief just outside the walls of a city. If
any particular district was allowed to live in peace, it was because
the inhabitants subscribed and paid a ransom to the brigands. Five
times a week I used to meet the pontifical courier, escorted by an
omnibus full of gendarmes, a sight which made me shrewdly suspect the
country was not quite safe.
But if the Government is too weak or too careless to undertake an
expedition against brigandage, and to purge the country thoroughly, it
sometimes avenges its insulted authority and its stolen money. When by
chance the Judges of Instruction are sent into the field, they do not
trifle with their work. Not only do they press the prisoners to
confess their crimes, but they press them in a thumbscrew! The
tribunal of Bologna confessed this fact, with compunction, in 1856,
alluding to the measures employed as violenti e feroci.
But simple theft, innocent theft, the petty larceny of snuff-boxes and
pocket-handkerchiefs, the theft which seeks a modest alms in a
neighbour's pocket, is tolerated as paternally as mendicity. Official
statistics give the number of the beggars in Rome, I believe, somewhat
under the mark; it is a pity they fail to give the number of
pickpockets, who swarm through the city; this might easily have been
done, as their names are all known to the authorities. No attempt is
made to interfere with their operations: the foreign visitors are rich
enough to pay this small tax in favour of the national industry;
besides, it is not likely the pickpockets will ever make an attempt
upon the Pope's pocket-handkerchief.
A Frenchman once caught hold of an elegantly dressed gentleman in the
act of snatching away his watch; he took him to the nearest post, and
placed him in the charge of the sergeant. "I believe your statement,"
said the official,
"for I know the man well, and so would you, if you were not
very new to the country. He is a Lombard; but if we were to
arrest all his fellows, our prisons would never be half
large enough. Be off, my fine fellow, and take better care
for the future!"
Another foreigner was robbed in the Corso at midnight, on his return
from the theatre. All the consolation he got from the magistrate to
whom he complained was, "Sir, you were out at an hour when all honest
people should be in bed."
A traveller was stopped between Rome and Civita Vecchia, and robbed of
all the money he had about him. When he reached Palo, he laid his
complaint before the political functionary who taxes travellers for
the trouble of fumbling with their passports. The observation of this
worthy man was, "What can you expect? the people are so very poor!"
On the eve of the grand fêtes, however, all the riffraff are bound to
go to prison, lest the religious ceremonies should be disturbed by
evil-doers. They go of their own accord, as an amicable concession to
a paternal government: and if any professional thief were by chance to
absent himself, he would be politely sent for about midnight. But in
spite even of these vigilant measures, it is seldom that a Holy Week
goes by without a watch or two going astray; and to any complaint the
police would be sure to reply:
"You must not blame us; we have taken every necessary
precaution against such accidents. We have got all the
thieves who are inscribed on our books under lock and key.
For any new comers we are not responsible."
The following incident occurred while I was at Rome; it serves to
illustrate the pleasing fraternal tie which unites the magistrates
with the thieves.
A former secretary to Monsignor Vardi, by name Berti, had a gold
snuff-box, which he prized highly, it having been given him by his
master. One day, crossing the Forum, he took out his snuff-box, just
in front of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and solaced himself
with a pinch of the contents. The incautious act had been marked by
one of the pets of the police. He had hardly returned the box to his
pocket ere he was hustled by some quoit-players, and knocked down. It
is needless to add, that, when he got up, the precious snuff-box was
He mentioned the affair to a judge of his acquaintance, who at once
told him to set his mind at rest, adding,
"Pass through the Forum again to-morrow. Ask for Antonio;
anybody will point him out to you; tell him you come from
me, and mention what you have lost. He will put you in the
way of getting it back."
Berti did as he was desired; Antonio was soon found. He smiled
meaningly when the judge's name was mentioned, protested that he could
refuse him nothing, and immediately called out, "Eh! Giacomo!"
Another bandit came out of the ruins, and ran up to his chief.
"Who was on duty yesterday?" asked Antonio.
"Is he here?"
"No, he made a good day of it yesterday. He's drinking it out."
"I can do nothing for your Excellency to-day," said Antonio. "Come
here to-morrow at the same hour, and I think you'll have reason to be
Berti was punctual to the appointment. Signor Antonio, for fear of
being swindled, asked for an accurate description of the missing
article. This having been given, he at once produced the snuff-box.
"Your Excellency will please to pay me two scudi," he said; "I should
have charged you four, but that you are recommended to me by a
magistrate whom I particularly esteem."
It would appear that all the Roman magistrates are not equally
estimable; at least to judge from what happened to the Marquis de
Sesmaisons. He was robbed of half-a-dozen silver spoons and forks. He
imprudently lodged a complaint with the authorities. Being asked for
an exact description of the stolen articles, he sent the remaining
half-dozen to speak for themselves to the magistrate who had charge of
the affair. It is chronicled that he never again saw either the first
or the second half-dozen!
The malversations of public functionaries are tolerated so long as
they do not directly touch the higher powers. Officials of every
degree hold out their hands for a present. The Government rather
encourages the system than the reverse. It is just so much knocked off
The Government even overlooks embezzlement of public money, provided
the guilty party be an ecclesiastic, or well affected to the present
order of things. The errors of friends are judged en famille. If a
Prelate make a mistake, he is reprimanded, and dismissed, which means
that his situation is changed for a better one.
Monsignor N—— gets the holy house of Loretto into financial trouble.
The consequence is that Monsignor N—— is removed to Rome, and placed
at the head of the hospital of the Santo Spirito. Probably this is
done because the latter establishment is richer and more difficult to
get into financial trouble than the holy house of Loretto.
Monsignor A—— was an Auditor of the Rota, and made a bad judge. He
was made a Prefect of Bologna. He failed to give satisfaction at
Bologna, and was made a Minister, and still remains so.
If occasionally officials of a certain rank are punished, if even the
law is put in force against them with unusual vigour, rest assured the
public interest has no part in the business. The real springs of
action are to be sought elsewhere. Take as an example the Campana
affair, which created such a sensation in 1858.
This unfortunate Marquis succeeded his father and his grandfather as
Director of the Monte di Pietà, or public pawnbroking establishment.
His office placed him immediately under the control of the Finance
Minister. It was that Minister's duty to overlook his acts, and to
prevent him from going wrong.
Campana went curiosity mad. The passion of collecting, which has
proved the ruin of so many well-meaning people, drove him to his
destruction. He bought pictures, marbles, bronzes, Etruscan vases. He
heaped gallery on gallery. He bought at random everything that was
offered to him. Rome never had such a terrible buyer. He bought as
people drink, or take snuff, or smoke opium. When he had no more money
of his own left to buy with, he began to think of a loan. The coffers
of the Monte di Pietà were at hand: he would borrow of himself, upon
the security of his collection. The Finance Minister Galli offered no
difficulties. Campana was in favour at Court, esteemed by the Pope,
liked by the Cardinals; his principles were known, he had proved his
devotion to those in power. The Government never refuses its friends
anything. In short Campana was allowed to lend himself £4,000, for
which he gave security to a much larger amount.
But the order by which the Minister gave him permission to draw from
the coffers of the Monte di Pietà was so loosely drawn up, that he was
enabled to take, without any fresh authority, a trifle of something
like £106,000. This he took between the 12th of April, 1854, and the
1st of December 1856, a period of nineteen months and a half.
There was no concealment in the transaction; it certainly was
irregular, but it was not clandestine. Campana paid himself the
interest of the money he had lent himself. In 1856 he was paternally
reprimanded. He received a gentle rap over the knuckles, but there was
not the least idea of tying his hands. He stood well at Court.
The unfortunate man still went on borrowing. They had not even taken
the precaution to close his coffers against himself. Between the 1st
of December, 1856, and the 7th of November, 1857, he took a further
sum of about £103,000. But he gave grand parties; the Cardinals adored
him; testimonies of satisfaction poured in upon him from all sides.
The real truth is that a national pawnbroking establishment is of no
use to the Church, it is only required for the nation. Campana might
have borrowed the very walls of the building, without the Pontifical
Court meddling in the matter.
Unluckily for him, the time came when it answered the purpose of
Antonelli to send him to the galleys. This great statesman had three
objects to gain by such a course. Firstly, he would stop the mouth of
diplomacy, and silence the foreign press, which both charged the Pope
with tolerating an abuse. Secondly, he would humiliate one of those
laymen who take the liberty to rise in the world without wearing
violet hose. Lastly, he should be able to bestow Campana's place upon
one of his brothers, the worthy and interesting Filippo Antonelli.
He took a long time to mature his scheme, and laid his train silently
and secretly. He is not a man to take any step inconsiderately. While
Campana was going and coming, and giving dinners, and buying more
statues, in blissful ignorance of the lowering storm, the Cardinal
negotiated a loan at Rothschild's, made arrangements to cover the
deficit, and instructed the Procuratore Fiscale to draw up an
indictment for peculation.
The accusation fell like a thunderbolt upon the poor Marquis. From his
palace to his prison was but a step. As he entered there, he rubbed
his eyes, and asked himself, ingenuously enough, whether this move was
not all a horrible dream. He would have laughed at any one who had
told him he was seriously in danger. He charged with peculation! Out
upon it! Peculation meant the clandestine application by a public
officer of public funds to his private profit: whereas he had taken
nothing clandestinely, and was ruined root and branch. So he quietly
occupied himself in his prison by writing sonnets, and when an artist
came to pay him a visit, he gave him an order for a new work.
In spite of the eloquent defence made in his behalf by a young
advocate, the tribunal condemned him to twenty years' hard labour. At
this rate, the Minister who had allowed him to borrow the money should
certainly have been beheaded. But the lambs of the clergy don't eat
The advocate who had defended Campana was punished for having pleaded
too eloquently, by being forbidden to practise in Court for three
You may imagine that this cruel sentence cast a stigma upon Campana.
Not a bit of it. The people, who have often experienced his
generosity, regard him as a martyr. The middle class despises him much
less than it does many a yet unpunished functionary. His old friends
of the nobility and of the Sacred College often shake him by the hand.
I have known Cardinal Tosti, at once his gaoler and his friend, let
him have the use of his private kitchen.
Condemnations are a dishonour only in countries where the judges are
honoured. All the world knows that the pontifical magistrates are not
instruments of justice, but tools of power.
If crimes against Heaven are those which the Church forgives the
least, every man who is not even nominally a Catholic, is of course in
the eyes of the Pope a rogue and a half.
These criminals are very numerous: the geographer Balbi enumerates
some six hundred millions of them on the surface of the globe. The
Pope continues to damn them all conformably with the tradition of the
Church; but he has given up levying armies to make war upon them here
Things are improved when we daily find the Head of the Roman Catholic
Church in friendly intercourse with the foes of his religion. He
partakes of the liberality of a Mussulman Prince; he receives a
schismatic Empress as a loving father; he converses familiarly with a
Queen who has abjured Catholicism to marry a Protestant; he receives
with distinction the aristocracy of the New Jerusalem; he sends his
Majordomo to attend upon a young heretic prince travelling
incognito. I hardly know whether Gregory VII. would approve this
tolerance; nor can I tell how it is judged in the other world by the
instigators of the Crusades, or by the advisers of the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew. For my own part, I should award it unbounded praise, if I
could believe it took its source in a spirit of enlightenment and
Christian charity. I should regard it differently, if I thought it was
to be traced to calculations of policy and interest.
The difficulty is to penetrate the secret thoughts of the Sovereign
Pontiff; to find a key to the real motive of his tolerance. Natural
mildness and interested mildness resemble each other in their effects,
but differ widely in their causes. When the Pope and the Cardinals
overwhelm M. de Rothschild with assurances of their highest
consideration, are we to conclude that an Israelite is equal to a
Roman Catholic in their eyes, as he is in yours or mine? Or are we to
conclude that they deem it expedient to mask their real sentiments
because M. de Rothschild has millions to spare?
This delicate problem is not difficult to solve. We have but to seek
out a Jew in Rome who is not the possessor of millions, and to ask
him how he is considered and treated by the Popes. If the Government
really make no difference between this citizen who is a Jew, and
another who is a Catholic, I will say the Popes have become tolerant
in earnest. If, on the contrary, we find that the administration
accords this poor Jew a social position somewhere between man and the
dog, then I am bound to set down the fine speeches made to M. de
Rothschild, as proceeding from calculations of interest, and as
inferring a sacrifice of dignity.
Now mark, and judge for yourselves. There were Jews in Italy before
there were Christians in the world. Roman polytheism, which tolerated
everything except the kicks administered by Polyeucte to the statue of
Jupiter, gave a place to the God of Israel. Afterwards came the
Christians, and they were tolerated till they conspired against the
laws. They were often confounded with the Jews, because they came from
the same corner of the East. Christianity increased by means of pious
conspiracies; enrolled slaves braved their masters, and became master
in its turn. I don't blame it for practising reprisals, and cutting
the pagans' throats; but in common justice it has killed too many
Not at Rome. The Popes kept a specimen of the accursed race to bring
before God at the last judgment. The Scripture had warned the Jews
that they should live miserably till the consummation of time. The
Church, ever mindful of prophecy, undertook to keep them alive and
miserable. She made enclosures for them, as we do in our Jardin des
Plantes for rare animals. At first they were folded in the valley of
Egeria, then they were penned in the Trastevere, and finally cribbed
in the Ghetto. In the daytime they were allowed to go about the city,
that the people might see what a dirty, degraded being a man is when
he does not happen to be a Christian; but when night came they were
put under lock and key. The Ghetto used to close just as the Faithful
were on their way to damnation at the theatre.
On the occasion of certain solemnities the Municipal Council of Rome
amused the populace with Jew races.
When modern philosophy had somewhat softened Catholic manners, horses
were substituted for Jews. The Senator of the city used annually to
administer to them an official kick in the seat of honour: which token
of respect they acknowledged by a payment of 800 scudi. At every
accession of a Pope, they were obliged to range themselves under the
Arch of Titus, and to offer the new Pontiff a Bible, in return for
which he addressed to them an insulting observation. They paid a
perpetual annuity of 450 scudi to the heirs of a renegade who had
abused them. They paid the salary of a preacher charged to work at
their conversion every Saturday, and if they stayed away from the
sermon they were fined. But they paid no taxes in the strict sense of
the word, because they were not citizens. The law regarded them in the
light of travellers at an inn. The license to dwell in Rome was
provisional, and for many centuries it was renewed every year. Not
only were they without any political rights, but they were deprived of
even the most elementary civil rights. They could neither possess
property, nor engage in manufactures, nor cultivate the soil: they
lived by botching and brokage. How they lived at all surprises me.
Want, filth, and the infected atmosphere of their dens, had
impoverished their blood, made them wan and haggard, and stamped
disgrace upon their looks. Some of them scarcely retained the
semblance of humanity. They might have been taken for brutes; yet they
were notoriously intelligent, apt at business, resigned to their lot,
good-tempered, kind-hearted, devoted to their families, and
irreproachable in their general conduct.
I need not add that the Roman rabble, bettering the instruction of
Catholic monks, spurned them, reviled them, and robbed them. The law
forbade Christians to hold converse with them, but to steal anything
from them was a work of grace.
The law did not absolutely sanction the murder of a Jew; but the
tribunals regarded the murderer of a man in a different light from the
murderer of a Jew. Mark the line of pleading that follows.
"Why, Gentlemen, does the law severely punish murderers, and
sometimes go the length of inflicting upon them the penalty
of death? Because he who murders a Christian murders at once
a body and a soul. He sends before the Sovereign Judge a
being who is ill-prepared, who has not received absolution,
and who falls straight into hell—or, at the very least,
into purgatory. This is why murder—I mean the murder of a
Christian—cannot be too severely punished. But as for us
(counsel and client), what have we killed? Nothing,
Gentlemen, absolutely nothing but a wretched Jew,
predestined for damnation. You know the obstinacy of his
race, and you know that if he had been allowed a hundred
years for his conversion, he would have died like a brute,
without confession. I admit that we have advanced by some
years the maturity of celestial justice; we have hastened a
little for him an eternity of torture which sooner or later
must inevitably have been his lot. But be indulgent,
Gentlemen, towards so venial an offence, and reserve your
severity for those who attempt the life and salvation of a
This speech would be nonsense at Paris. It was sound logic at Rome,
and, thanks to it, the murderer got off with a few months'
You will ask why the Jews have not fled a hundred leagues from this
Slough of Despond. The answer is, because they were born there.
Moreover, the taxation is light, and rent is moderate. Add that, when
famine has been in the land, or the inundations of the Tiber have
spread ruin and devastation around, the scornful charity of the Popes
has flung them some bones to gnaw. Then again, travelling costs money,
and passports are not to be had for the asking in Rome.
But if, by some miracle of industry, one of these unfortunate children
of Israel has managed to accumulate a little money, his first thought
has been to place his family beyond the reach of the insults of the
Ghetto. He has realized his little fortune, and has gone to seek
liberty and consideration in some less Catholic country. This accounts
for the fact that the Ghetto was no richer at the accession of Pius
IX. than it was in the worst days of the Middle Ages.
History has made haste to write in letters of gold all the good deeds
of the reigning Pope, and, above all, the enfranchisement of the Jews.
Pius IX. has removed the gates of the Ghetto. He allows the Jews to go
about by night as well as by day, and to live where they like. He has
exempted them from the municipal kick and the 800 scudi which it cost
them. He has closed the little church where these poor people were
catechized every Saturday, against their will, and at their own
expense. His accession may be regarded, then, as an era of deliverance
for the people of Israel who have set up their tents in Rome.
Europe, which sees things from afar, naturally supposes that under so
tolerant a sway as that of Pius IX., Jews have thronged from all parts
of the world into the Papal States. But see how paradoxical a science
is that of statistics. From it we learn that in 1842, under Gregory
XVI., during the captivity of Babylon, the little kingdom of the Pope
contained 12,700 Jews. We further learn that in 1853, in the teeth of
such reforms, such a shower of benefits, such justice, and such
tolerance, the Israelites in the kingdom were reduced to 9,237. In
other words, 3,463 Jews—more than a quarter of the Jewish
population—had withdrawn from the paternal action of the Holy Father.
Either this people is very ungrateful, or we don't know the whole
state of the case.
While I was at Rome, I had secret inquiries on the subject made of two
notables of the Ghetto. When the poor people heard the object I had in
view in my inquiries, they expressed great alarm. "For Heaven's sake
don't pity us!" they cried.
"Let not the outer world learn through your book that we are
unfortunate—that the Pope shows by his acts how bitterly he
regrets the benefits conferred upon us in 1847—that the
Ghetto is closed by doors invisible, but impassable—and
that our condition is worse than ever! All you say in our
favour will turn against us, and that which you intend for
our good will do us infinite harm."
This is all the information I could obtain as to the treatment of this
persecuted people. It is little enough, but it is something. I found
that their Ghetto, in which some hidden power keeps them shut up just
as in past times, was the foulest and most neglected quarter of the
city, whence I concluded that nothing was done for them by the
municipality. I learnt that neither the Pope, nor the Cardinals, nor
the Bishops, nor the least of the Prelates, could set foot on this
accursed ground without contracting a moral stain—the custom of Rome
forbids it: and I thought of those Indian Pariahs whom a Brahmin
cannot touch without losing caste. I learnt that the lowest places in
the lowest of the public offices were inaccessible to Jews, neither
more nor less than they would be to animals. A child of Israel might
as well apply for the place of a copying-clerk at Rome as one of the
giraffes in the Jardin des Plantes for the post of a Sous-Préfet. I
ascertained that none of them are or can be landowners, a fact which
satisfies me that Pius IX. has not yet come quite to regard them as
men. If one of their tribe cultivates another man's field, it is by
smuggling himself into the occupation under a borrowed name; as though
the sweat of a Jew dishonoured the earth. Manufactures are forbidden
them, as of old; not being of the nation, they might injure the
national industry. To conclude, I have observed them myself as they
stood on the thresholds of their miserable shops, and I can assure you
they do not resemble a people freed from oppression. The seal of
pontifical reprobation is not removed from their foreheads. If, as
history pretends, they had been liberated for the last twelve years,
some sign of freedom would be perceptible on their countenances.
I am willing to admit that, at the commencement of his reign, Pius IX.
experienced a generous impulse. But this is a country in which good is
only done by immense efforts, while evil occurs naturally. I would
liken it to a waggon being drawn up a steep mountain ascent. The joint
efforts of four stout bullocks are required to drag it forward: it
runs backwards by itself.
Were I to tell you all that M. de Rothschild has done for his
co-religionists at Rome, you would be astounded. Not only are they
supported at his expense, but he never concludes a transaction with
the Pope without introducing into it a secret article or two in their
favour. And still the waggon goes backwards.
The French occupation might be beneficial to the Jews. Our officers
are not wanting in good will; but the bad will of the priests
neutralizes their efforts. By way of illustrating the operation of
these two influences, I will relate a little incident which recently
An Israelite of Rome had hired some land in defiance of the law, under
the name of a Christian. As everybody knew that the Jew was the real
farmer, he was robbed right and left in the most unscrupulous manner,
merely because he was a Jew. The poor man, foreseeing that before
rent-day he should be completely ruined, applied for leave to have a
guard sworn to protect his property. The authorities replied that
under no pretext should a Christian be sworn in the service of a
Jew. Disappointed in his application, he mentioned the fact to
some French officers, and asked for the assistance of the French
Commander-in-Chief. It was readily promised by M. de Goyon, one of the
kindest-hearted men alive, who undertook moreover to apply personally
to the Cardinal in the matter. The reply he received from his Eminence
"What you ask is nothing short of an impossibility.
Nevertheless, as the Government of the Holy Father is unable
to refuse you anything, we will do it. Not only shall your
Jew have a sworn guard, but out of our affection for you, we
will select him ourselves."
Delighted at having done a good action, the General warmly thanked the
Cardinal, and departed. Three months elapsed, and still no sworn guard
made his appearance at the Jew's farm. The poor fellow, robbed more
than ever, timidly applied again to the General, who once more took
the field in his behalf. This time, in order to make the matter sure,
he would not leave the Cardinal till he held in his own hand the
permission, duly filled up and signed. The delighted Jew shed tears of
gratitude as he read to his family the thrice-blessed name of the
guard assigned to him. The name was that of a man who had disappeared
six years back, and never been heard of since.
When the French officers next met the Jew, they asked him whether he
was pleased with his sworn guard. He dared not say that he had no
guard: the police had forbidden him to complain.
The Jews of Rome are the most unfortunate in the Papal States. The
vicinity of the Vatican is as fatal to them as to the Christians. Far
from the seat of government, beyond the Apennines, they are less poor,
less oppressed, and less despised. The Israelitish population of
Ancona is really a fine race.
It is not to be inferred from this that the agents of the Pope become
converts to tolerance by crossing the Apennines.
It is not a year since the Archbishop of Bologna confiscated the boy
Mortara for the good of the Convent of the Neophytes.
Only two years ago the Prefect of Ancona revived the old law, which
forbids Christians to converse publicly with Jews.
It is not ten years since a merchant of considerable fortune, named P.
Cadova, was deprived of his wife and children by means as remarkable
as those employed in the case of young Mortara, although the affair
created less sensation at the time.
M.P. Cadova lived at Cento, in the province of Ferrara. He had a
pretty wife, and two children. His wife was seduced by one of his
clerks, who was a Catholic. The intrigue being discovered, the clerk
was driven from the house. The faithless wife soon joined her lover at
Bologna, and took her children with her.
The Jew applied to the courts of law to assist him in taking the
children from the adulteress.
The answer he received to his application was, that his wife and
children had all three embraced Christianity, and had consequently
ceased to be his family.
The Courts further decreed that he should pay an annual income for
On this income the adulterous clerk also subsists.
Some months later Monsignore Oppiszoni, Archbishop of Bologna, himself
celebrated the marriage of M.P. Cadova's wife and M.P. Cadova's
Of course, you'll say, P. Cadova was dead. Not a bit of it. He was
alive, and as well as a broken-hearted man could be. The Church, then,
winked at a case of bigamy? Not so. In the States of the Church a
woman may be married at the same time to a Jew and a Catholic, without
being a bigamist, because in the States of the Church a Jew is not a
EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE.
All the world knows, and says over and over again, that education is
less advanced in the Papal States than in any country in Europe. It is
a source of universal regret that the nation which is, perhaps, of all
others the most intelligent by God's grace, should be the most
ignorant by the will of priests. This people has been compared to a
thorough-bred horse, reduced from racing to walking blindfolded, round
and round, grinding corn.
But people who talk thus take a partial view of the question. They
don't, or they won't, see how entirely the development of public
ignorance is in conformity with the principles of the Church, and how
favourable it is to the maintenance of priestly government.
Religions are founded, not upon knowledge, or science, but upon faith,
or, as some term it, credulity. People have agreed to describe as an
"act of faith" the operation of closing one's eyes in order to see
better. It is by walking with faith,—in other words, with one's eyes
shut,—that the gates of Paradise are reached. If we could take from
afar the census of that locality, we should find there more of the
illiterate than of the learned. A child that knows the catechism by
heart is more pleasing in the sight of Heaven than all the five
classes of the Institute. The Church will never hesitate between an
astronomer and a Capuchin friar. Knowledge is full of dangers. Not
only does it puff up the heart of man, but it often shatters by the
force of reasoning the best-constructed fables. Knowledge has made
terrible havoc in the Roman Catholic Church during the last two or
three hundred years. Who can tell how many souls have been cast into
hell through the invention of printing.
Applied to the industrial pursuits of this sublunary sphere, science
engenders riches, luxury, pleasure, health, and a thousand similar
scourges, which tend to draw us away from salvation. Science cures
even those irreligious maladies wherein religion used to recognize the
finger of God. It no longer permits the sinner to make himself a
purgatory here below. There is danger lest it should one of these days
render man's terrestrial abode so blessed, that he may conceive an
antipathy to Heaven. The Church, having the mission to conduct us to
that eternal felicity which is the sole end of human existence, is
bound to discourage our dealings with science. The utmost she can
venture to do is to let a select number of her most trustworthy
servants have free access to it, in order that the enemies of the
faith may find somebody whom they can speak to.
This is why I undertake to show you in Rome a dozen men of high
literary and scientific acquirements, to a hundred thousand who don't
know their ABC.
The Church is but the more flourishing for it, and the State by no
means the less so. The true shepherds of peoples, they who feed the
sheep for the sake of selling the wool and the skins, do not want them
to know too much. The mere fact of a man's being able to read makes
him wish to meddle with everything. The custom-house may be made to
keep him from reading dangerous books, but he'll be sure to take the
change out of the laws of the kingdom. He'll begin to inquire whether
they are good or bad, whether they accord with or contradict one
another, whether they are obeyed or broken. No sooner can he calculate
without the help of his fingers, than he'll want to look up the
figures of the Budget. But if he has reached the culminating point of
knowing how to use his pen, the sight of the smallest bit of paper
will give him a sort of political itching. He will experience an
uncontrollable desire to express his sentiments as a man and a
citizen, by voting for one representative, and against another. And,
gracious goodness! what will become of us if the refractory sheep
should get as high as the generalities of history, or the speculations
of philosophy?—if he should begin to stir important questions, to
inquire into great truths, to refute sophisms, to point out abuses, to
demand rights? The shepherd's occupation is assuredly not all roses
from the day he finds it necessary to muzzle his flock.
Sovereigns who are not Popes have nothing to fear from the progress of
enlightenment, for their interest does not lie in the fabrication of
saints, but in the making of men. In France, England, Piedmont, and
some other countries, the Governments urge, or even oblige the people
to seek instruction. This is because a power which is based on reason
has no fear of being discussed. Because the acts of a really national
administration have no reason to dread the inquiry of the nation.
Because it is not only a nobler but an easier task to govern
reflecting beings than mere brutes,—always supposing the Government
to be in the right. Because education softens men's manners,
eradicates their evil instincts, reduces the average of crime, and
simplifies the policeman's duty. Because science applied to
manufactures will, in a few years, increase a hundredfold the
prosperity of the nation, the wealth of the State, and the resources
Because the discoveries of pure science, good books, and all the
higher productions of the mind, even when they are not sources of
material profit, are an honour to a country, the splendour of an age,
and the glory of a Sovereign.
All the princes in Europe, with the single exception of the Pope,
limit their views to the things of the earth; and they do wisely.
Without raising a doubt as to a future existence in another and a
better world, they govern their subjects only with regard to this
life. They seek to obtain for them all the happiness of which man is
capable here below; they labour to render him as perfect as he can be
as long as he retains this poor "mortal coil." We should regard them
as mauvais plaisants if they were to think it their duty to make for
us the trials of Job, while showing us a future prospect of eternal
But the fact is that our emperors and kings and lay sovereigns are men
with wives and children, personally interested in the education of the
rising generation, and the future of their people. A good Pope, on the
contrary, has no other object but to gain Heaven himself, and to drag
up a hundred and thirty millions of men after him. Thus it is that his
subjects can with an ill grace ask of him those temporal advantages
which secular princes feel bound to offer their subjects
In the Papal States the schools for the lower classes are both few and
far between. The government does nothing to increase either their
number or their usefulness, the parishes being obliged to maintain
them; and even this source is sometimes cut off, for not unfrequently
the minister disallows this heading in the municipal budget, and
pockets the money himself. In addition to this, secondary teaching,
excepting in the colleges, exists but in name; and I should advise any
father who wishes his son's education to extend beyond the catechism,
to send him into Piedmont.
But on the other hand, I am bound to urge in the Pope's behalf that
the colleges are numerous, well endowed, and provided with ample means
for turning out mediocre priests. The monasteries devote themselves to
the education of little monks. They are taught from an early age to
hold a wax taper, wear a frock, cast down their eyes, and chant in
Latin. If you wish to admire the foresight of the Church, you should
see the procession of Corpus Christi day. All the convents walk in
line one after the other, and each has its live nursery of little
shavelings. Their bright Italian eyes, sparkling with intelligence,
and their handsome open countenances, form a curious contrast with the
stolid and hypocritical masks worn by their superiors. At one glance
you behold the opening flowers and the ripe fruit of religion,—the
present and the future. You think within yourselves that, in default
of a miracle, the cherubs before you will ere long be turned into
mummies. However, you console yourselves for the anticipated
metamorphosis by the reflection that the salvation of the monklings is
All the Pope's subjects would be sure of getting to Heaven if they
could all enter the cloisters; but then the world would come to an end
too soon. The Pope does his best to bring them near this state of
monastic and ecclesiastical perfection. Students are dressed like
priests, and corpses also are arrayed in a sort of religious costume.
The Brethren of the Christian Doctrine were thought dangerous because
they dressed their little boys in caps, tunics, and belts; so the Pope
forbade them to go on teaching young Rome. The Bolognese (beyond the
Apennines) founded by subscription asylums under the direction of lay
female teachers. The clergy make most praiseworthy efforts to reform
such an abuse.
There is not a law, not a regulation, not a deed nor a word of the
higher powers, which does not tend to the edification of the people,
and to urge them on heavenward.
Enter this church. A monk is preaching with fierce gesticulations. He
is not in the pulpit, but he stands about twenty paces from it, on a
plank hastily flung across trestles. Don't be afraid of his treating a
question of temporal ethics after the fashion of our worldly
preachers. He is dogmatically and furiously descanting on the
Immaculate Conception, on fasting in Lent, on avoiding meat of a
Friday, on the doctrine of the Trinity, on the special nature of
"Bethink you, my brethren, that if terrestrial fire, the
fire created by God for your daily wants and your general
use, can cause you such acute pain at the least contact with
your flesh, how much more fierce and terrible must be that
flame of hell-fire which ever devours without consuming
those who … etc. etc."
I spare you the rest.
Our sacred orators for the most part confine themselves to preaching
on such subjects as fidelity, to wives; probity, to men; obedience, to
children. They descend to a level with a lay congregation, and
endeavour to sow, each according to his powers, a little virtue on
earth. Verily, Roman eloquence cares very much for virtue! It is
greatly troubled about the things of earth! It takes the people by the
shoulders and forces them into the paths of devotion, which lead
straight to Heaven. And it does its duty, according to the teachings
of the Church.
Open one of the devotional books which are printed in the country.
Here is one selected at random, 'The Life of St. Jacintha.' It lies on
a young girl's work-table. A knitting-needle marks the place at which
the gentle reader left off this morning. Let us turn to the passage.
It is sure to be highly edifying.
"Chapter V.—She casts from her heart all natural affection
for her relations.
"Knowing from the Redeemer himself that we ought not to love
our relations more than God, and feeling herself naturally
drawn towards hers, she feared lest such a love, although
natural, if it should take root and grow in her heart, might
in the course of time surpass or impede the love she owed to
God, and render her unworthy of him. So she formed the very
generous determination of casting from herself all affection
for the persons of her blood.
"Resolved on conquering herself by this courageous
determination, and on triumphing over opposing nature
itself,—powerfully urged thereto by another word of Christ,
who said that in order to go to him we must hate our
relations, when the love we bear them stands in the
way,—she went and solemnly performed a great act of
renunciation before the altar of the most holy Sacrament.
There, flinging herself on her knees, her heart kindling
with an ardent flame of charity towards God, she offered up
to Him all the natural affections of her heart, more
especially those which she felt were the strongest within
her for the nearest and dearest of her relations. In this
heroic action she obtained the intervention of the most holy
Virgin, as may be seen by a letter in her handwriting
addressed to a regular priest, wherein she promises, by the
aid of the holy Virgin, to attach herself no more either to
her relations, or to any other earthly object. This
renunciation was so resolutely courageous and so sincere
that from that hour her brothers, sisters, nephews, and all
her kindred became to her objects of total indifference; and
she deemed herself thenceforth so much an orphan and alone
in the world, that she was enabled to see and converse with
her aforesaid relations when they came to see her at the
convent, as if they were persons utterly unknown to her.
"She had made herself in Paradise an entirely spiritual
family, selected from among the saints who had been the
greatest sinners. Her father was St. Augustin; her mother
St. Mary the Egyptian; her brother St. William the Hermit,
ex-Duke of Aquitaine; her sister St. Margaret of Cortona;
her uncle St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles; her nephews
the three children of the furnace of Babylon."
Now here is a book that you, probably, attribute to the monkish ages;
a book expressing the isolated sentiments of a mind obscured by the
gloom of the cloisters.
In order to convince you of your error, I will give you its title and
date, and the opinion concerning it expressed by the rulers of Rome.
"Life of the Virgin Saint Jacintha Mariscotti, a professed
Nun of the Third Order of the Seraphic Father St. Francis,
written by the Father Flaminius Mary Hanibal of Latara,
Brother Observant of the Order of the Minors. Rome, 1805.
Published by Antonio Fulgoni, by permission of the
"Approbation.—The book is to the glory and honour of the
Catholic Religion and the illustrious Order of St. Francis,
and to the spiritual profit of those persons who desire to
enter into the way of perfection.
"Brother Thomas Mancini, of the Order of Preachers, Master,
ex-Provincial, and Consultor of Sacred Rites.
"Imprimatur. Brother Thomas Vincent Pani, of the Order of
Preachers, Master of the Sacred Apostolical Palace."
Now here we have a woman, a writer, a censor, and a Master of the
Palace, who are ready to strangle the whole human race for the sake of
hastening its arrival in Paradise. These people are only doing their
Just look out into the street. Four men of different ages are kneeling
in the mud before a Madonna, whining out prayers. Presently, fifteen
or twenty others come upon you, chanting a canticle to the glory of
Mary. Perhaps you think they are yielding to a natural inspiration,
and freely working out their salvation. I thought so myself, till I
was told that they were paid fifteen-pence for thus edifying the
bystanders. This comedy in the open air is subsidized by the
Government. And the Government does its duty.
The streets and roads swarm with beggars. Under lay governments the
poor either receive succour in their own homes, or are admitted to
houses of public charity; they are not allowed to obstruct the public
thoroughfares, and tyrannize over the passengers. But we are in an
ecclesiastical country. On the one hand, poverty is dear to God; on
the other, alms-giving is a deed of piety. If the Pope could make one
half of his subjects hold out their hands, and the other half put a
halfpenny into each extended palm, he would effect the salvation of an
Mendicity, which lay sovereigns regard as an ugly sore in the State,
to be healed, is tended and watered as a fair flower by a clerical
government. Pray give something to yonder sham cripple; give to that
cadger who pretends to have lost an arm; and be sure you don't forget
that blind young man leaning on his father's arm! A medical man of my
acquaintance offered yesterday to restore his sight, by operating for
the cataract. The father cried aloud with indignant horror at the
proposal; the boy is a fortune to him. Drop an alms for the son into
the father's bowl; the Pope will let you into Paradise, of which he
keeps the keys.
The Romans themselves are not duped by their beggars. They are too
sharp to be taken in by these swindlers in misery. Still they put
their hands into their pockets; some from weakness or humanity, some
from ostentation, some to gain Paradise. If you doubt my assertion,
try an experiment which I once did, with considerable success. One
night, between nine and ten o'clock, I begged all along the Corso. I
was not disguised as a beggar. I was dressed as if I were on the
Boulevards at Paris. Still, between the Piazza del Popolo and the
Piazza di Venezia, I made sixty-three baiocchi (about three
shillings). If I were to try the same joke at Paris, the
sergents-de-ville would very properly think it their duty to walk me
off to the nearest police-station. The Pontifical Government
encourages mendicity by the protection of its agents, and recommends
it by the example of its friars. The Pontifical Government does its
Prostitution flourishes in Rome, and in all the large towns of the
States of the Church. The police is too paternal to refuse the
consolations of the flesh to three millions of persons out of whom
five or six thousand have taken the vow of celibacy. But in proportion
as it is indulgent to vice, it is severe in cases of scandal. It only
allows light conduct in women when they are sheltered by the
protection of a husband. It casts the cloak of Japhet over the
vices of the Romans, in order that the pleasures of one nation may not
be a scandal to others. Rather than admit the existence of the evil,
it refuses to place it under proper restraint: lay governments appear
to sanction the social evil, when they place it under the control of
the law. The clerical police is perfectly aware that its noble and
wilful blindness exposes the health of an entire people to certain
danger. But it rubs its hands at the reflection that the sinners are
punished by the very sin itself. The clerical police does its duty.
The institution of the lottery is retained by the Popes, not as a
source of revenue only. Lay governments have long since abolished it,
because in a well-organized state, where industry leads to everything,
citizens should be taught to rely upon nothing but their industry. But
in the kingdom of the Church, where industry leads to nothing, not
only is the lottery a consolation to the poor, but it forms an
integral part of the public education. The sight of a beggar suddenly
enriched, as it were by enchantment, goes far to make the ignorant
multitude believe in miracles. The miracle of the loaves and fishes
was scarcely more marvellous than the changing of tenpence into two
hundred and fifty pounds. A high prize is like a present from God; it
is money falling from Heaven. This people know that no human power can
oblige three particular numbers to come out together; so they rely on
the divine mercy alone. They apply to the Capuchin friars for lucky
numbers; they recite special prayers for so many days; they humbly
call for the inspiration of Heaven before going to bed; they see in
dreams the Madonna stuck all over with figures; they pay for masses at
the Churches; they offer the priest money if he will put three numbers
under the chalice at the moment of the consecration. Not less humbly
did the courtiers of Louis XIV. range themselves in the antechamber he
was to pass through, in the hope of obtaining a look or a favour. The
drawing of the lottery is public, as are the University lectures in
France. And, verily, it is a great and salutary lesson. The winners
learn to praise God for his bounties: the losers are punished for
having unduly coveted worldly pelf. Everybody profits—most of all the
Government, which makes £80,000 a year by it, besides the satisfaction
of having done its duty.
Yes, the holy preceptors of the nation fulfil their duty towards God,
and towards themselves. But it does not necessarily follow that they
always manage the affairs of God and of the Government well.
"On rencontre sa destinée
Souvent par les chemins qu'on prend pour l'eviter."
La Fontaine tells us this, and the Pope proves it to us. In spite of
the attention paid to religious instruction, the sermons, the good
books, the edifying spectacles, the lottery, and so many other good
things, faith is departing. The general aspect of the country does not
betray the fact, because the fear of scandal pervades all society; but
the devil loses nothing by that. Perhaps the citizens have the greater
dislike to religion, from the very fact of its reigning over them. Our
master is our enemy. God is too much the master of these people not to
be treated by them in some degree as an enemy.
The spirit of opposition is called atheism, where the Tuileries are
called the Vatican. A young ragamuffin, who drove me from Rimini to
Santa Maria, let slip a terrible expression, which I have often
thought of since: "God?"—he said, "if there be one, I dare say he's a
priest like the rest of 'em."
Reflect upon these words, reader! When I examine them closely, I start
back in terror, as before those crevices of Vesuvius, which give you a
glimpse of the abyss below.
Has the temporal power served its own interests better than it has
those of God? I doubt it. The deputation of Rome was Red in 1848. It
was Rome that chose Mazzini. It is Rome that still regrets him in the
low haunts of the Regola, on that miry bank of the Tiber, where secret
societies swarm at this moment, like gnats on the shores of the Nile.
If these deplorable fruits of a model education were pointed out to
the philosopher Gavarni, he would probably exclaim, "Bring up nations,
in order that they may hate and despise you!"
The Pope is loved and revered in all Catholic countries—except his
It is, therefore, perfectly just and natural that one hundred and
thirty-nine millions of devoted and respectful men should render him
assistance against three millions of discontented ones. It is not
enough to have given him a temporal kingdom, or to have restored that
kingdom to him when he had the misfortune to lose it; one must lend
him a permanent support, unless the expense of a fresh restoration is
to be incurred every year.
This is the principle of the foreign occupation. We are one hundred
and thirty-nine millions of Catholics, who have violently delegated to
three millions of Italians the honour of boarding and lodging our
spiritual chief. If we were not to leave a respectable army in Italy
to watch over the execution of our commands, we should be doing our
work by halves.
In strict logic, the security of the Pope should be guaranteed at the
common expense of the Catholic Powers. It seems quite natural that
each nation interested in the oppression of the Romans should furnish
its contingent of soldiers. Such a system, however, would have the
effect of turning the castle of St. Angelo into another Tower of
Babel. Besides, the affairs of this world are not all regulated
according to the principles of logic.
The only three Powers which contributed to the re-establishment of
Pius IX. were France, Austria, and Spain. The French besieged Rome;
the Austrians seized the places of the Adriatic; the Spaniards did
very little, not from the want either of goodwill or courage, but
because their allies left them nothing to do.
If a private individual may be permitted to probe the motives upon
which princes act, I would venture to suggest that the Queen of Spain
had nothing in view but the interests of the Church. Her soldiers came
to restore the Pope to his throne; they went as soon as he was
reseated on it. This was a chivalrous policy.
Napoleon III. also considered the restoration of the Pope to a
temporal throne necessary to the good of the Church. Perhaps he thinks
so still—though I couldn't swear to it. But his motives of action
were complicated. Simple President of the French Republic, heir to a
name which summoned him to the throne, resolved to exchange his
temporary magistracy for an imperial crown, he had the greatest
possible interest in proving to Europe how republics are put down. He
had already conceived the idea of playing that great part of champion
of order, which has since caused him to be received by all Sovereigns
first as a brother, and afterwards as an arbitrator. Lastly, he knew
that the restoration of the Pope would secure him a million of
Catholic votes towards his election to the imperial crown. But to
these motives of personal interest were added some others, if
possible, of a loftier character. The heir of Napoleon and of the
liberal Revolution of '89, the man who read his own name on the first
page of the civil code, the author of so many works breathing the
spirit of new ideas and the passionate love of progress, the silent
dreamer whose busy brain already teemed with the germs of all the
prosperity we have enjoyed for the last ten years, was incapable of
handing over three millions of Italians to reaction, lawlessness, and
misery. If he had firmly resolved to put down the Republic at Rome, he
was not less firm in his resolution to suppress the abuses, the
injustice, and all the traditional oppressions which drove the
Italians to revolt. In the opinion of the head of the French Republic,
the way to be again victorious over anarchy, was to deprive it of all
pretext and all cause for its existence.
He knew Rome; he had lived there. He knew, from personal experience,
in what the Papal government differed from good governments. His
natural sense of justice urged him to give the subjects of the Holy
Father, in exchange for the political autonomy of which he robbed
them, all the civil liberties and all the inoffensive rights enjoyed
in civilized States.
On the 18th of August, 1849, he addressed to M. Edgar Ney a letter,
which was, in point of fact, a memorandum addressed to the Pope.
AMNESTY, SECULARIZATION, THE CODE NAPOLEON, A LIBERAL GOVERNMENT:
these were the gifts he promised to the Romans in exchange for the
Republic, and demanded of the Pope in return for a crown. This
programme contained, in half-a-dozen words, a great lesson to the
sovereign, and a great consolation to the people.
But it is easier to introduce a Breguet spring into a watch made when
Henri IV. was king, than a single reform into the old pontifical
machine. The letter of the 18th of August was received by the friends
of the Pope as an "insult to his rights, good sense, justice, and
majesty!" Pius IX. took offence at it; the Cardinals made a joke
of it. This determination, this prudence, this justice, on the part of
a man who held them all in his hand, appeared to them immeasurably
comical. They still laugh at it. Don't name M. Edgar Ney before them,
or you'll make them laugh till their sides ache.
The Emperor of Austria never committed the indiscretion of writing
such a letter as that of the 18th of August. The fact is, the Austrian
policy in Italy differs materially from ours.
France is a body very solid, very compact, very firm, very united,
which has no fear of being encroached upon, and no desire to encroach
on others. Her political frontiers are nearly her natural limits; she
has little or nothing to conquer from her neighbours. She can,
therefore, interfere in the events of Europe for purely moral
interests, without views of conquest being attributed to her. One or
two of her leaders have suffered themselves to be carried somewhat too
far by the spirit of adventure; the nation has never had, what may be
called, geographical ambition. France does not disdain to conquer the
world by the dispersion of her ideas, but she desires nothing more.
That which constitutes the beauty of our history, to those who take an
elevated view of it, is the twofold object, pursued simultaneously by
the Sovereign and the nation, of concentrating France, and spreading
The old Austrian diplomacy has been, for the last six hundred years,
incessantly occupied in stitching together bits of material, without
ever having been able to make a coat. It does not consider either the
colour or the quality of the cloth, but always keeps the needle going.
The thread it uses is often white, and it not infrequently
breaks—when away goes the new patch! Then another has to be found.
A province is detached—two more are laid hold of. The piece gets rent
down the middle—a rag is caught up, then another, and whatever comes
to hand is sewn together in breathless haste. The effect of this
stitching monomania has been, to keep constantly changing the map of
Europe, to bring together, as chance willed it, races and religions of
every pattern, and to trouble the existence of twenty peoples, without
making the unity of a nation. Certain Machiavellic old gentlemen
sitting round a green cloth at Vienna, direct this work, measure the
material, rub their hands complacently when it stretches, snatch off
their wigs in despair when a piece is torn, and look on all sides for
another wherewith to replace it. In the Middle Ages, the sons of the
house used to be sent to visit foreign princesses: they made love to
their royal and serene highnesses in German, and always brought back
with them some shred of territory. But now that princesses receive
their dowers in hard cash, recourse is had to violent measures in
order to procure pieces of material; they are seized by soldiers; and
there are some large stains of blood upon this harlequin's cloak!
Almost all the states of Italy, the kingdom of Naples, Sardinia,
Sicily, Modena, Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla, have been in turn
stitched to the same piece as Bohemia, Transylvania, and Croatia. Rome
would have shared the same fate, if papal excommunications had not
broken the thread. In 1859 it is Venice and Milan that pay for
everybody, till it comes to the turn of Tuscany, Modena, and Massa, to
be patched on in virtue of certain reversionary rights.
What must have been the satisfaction of Austrian diplomatists when
they were enabled to throw their troops into the kingdom of the Pope,
without remonstrances from anybody! Beyond all doubt, the interests of
the Church were those which least occupied them. And as for taking any
interest in the unfortunate subjects of Pius IX., or demanding for
them any rights, or any liberties, Austria never thought of it for a
moment. The old Danaïde only saw an opportunity for pouring another
people into her ill-made and unretentive cask.
While the French army cautiously cannonaded the capital of the arts,
spared public monuments, and took Rome, so to speak, with gloved
hands, the Austrian soldiers carried the beautiful cities of the
Adriatic—à la Croate! As victors, we treated gently those we had
conquered, from motives of humanity; Austria, those she had conquered,
brutally, from motives of conquest. She regarded the fair country of
the Legations and the Marches as another Lombardy, which she would be
well disposed to keep.
We occupied Rome, and the port of Civita Vecchia; the Austrians took
for themselves all the country towards the Adriatic. We established
our quarters in the barracks assigned to us by the municipality; the
Austrians built complete fortresses, as is their practice, with the
money of the people they were oppressing. For six or seven years their
army lived at the expense of the country. They sent their regiments
naked, and when poor Italy had clothed them, others came to replace
Their army was looked upon with no very favourable eye; neither indeed
was ours: the radical party was opposed both to their presence and
ours. Some stray soldiers of both armies were killed. The French army
defended itself courteously, the Austrian army revenged itself. In
three years, from the first of January, 1850, to the 1st of January,
1853, we shot three murderers. Austria has a heavier hand: she has
executed not only criminals, but thoughtless, and even innocent
people. I have already given some terrible figures, and will spare you
From the day when the Pope condescended to return home, the French
army withdrew into the background; it hastened to restore to the
pontifical government all its powers. Austria has only restored what
it could not keep. She even still undertakes to repress political
crimes. She feels personally wronged if a cracker is let off, if a
musket is concealed: in short, she fancies herself in Lombardy.
At Rome, the French place themselves at the disposal of the Pope for
the maintenance of order and public security. Our soldiers have too
much honesty to let a murderer or a thief who is within their reach
escape. The Austrians pretend that they are not gendarmes, to arrest
malefactors; each individual soldier considers himself the agent of
the old diplomatists, charged with none but political functions:
police matters are not within his province. What is the consequence?
The Austrian army, after carefully disarming the citizens, delivers
them over to malefactors, without the means of protection.
At Bologna, a merchant of the name of Vincenzio Bedini was pointed out
to me, who had been robbed in his warehouse at six o'clock in the
evening. An Austrian sentinel was on guard at his door.
Austria has good reasons for encouraging disorders in the provinces
she occupies: the greater the frequency of crime, and the difficulty
of governing the people, the greater is the necessity for the presence
of an Austrian army. Every murder, every theft, every burglary, every
assault, tends to strike the roots of these old diplomatists more deep
into the kingdom of the Pope.
France would rejoice to be able to recall her troops. She feels that
their presence at Rome is not a normal state of things: she is herself
more shocked than anybody else at this irregularity. She has reduced,
as much as possible, the effective force of her occupying army; she
would embark her remaining regiments, were she not aware that to do so
would be to deliver the Pope over to the executioner. Mark the extent
to which she carries her disinterestedness in the affairs of Italy. In
order to place the Holy Father in a condition to defend himself alone,
she is trying to create for him a national army. The Pope possesses at
the present time four regiments of French manufacture; if they are not
very good, or rather, not to be relied upon, it is not the fault of
the French. The priestly government has itself alone to blame. Our
generals have done all in their power, not only to drill the Pope's
soldiers, but to inspire them with that military spirit which the
Cardinals carefully endeavour to stifle. Is it likely that we shall
find the Austrian army seeking to render its presence needless, and
spontaneously returning home?
And yet I must admit, with a certain shame, that the conduct of the
Austrians is more logical than ours. They entered the Pope's
dominions, meaning to stay there; they spare no pains to assure their
conquest in them. They decimate the population, in order that they may
be feared. They perpetuate disorder, in order that their permanent
presence may be required. Disorder and terror are Austria's best arms.
As for us, let us see what we have done. In the interest of France,
nothing; and I am glad of it. In the interest of the Pope, very
little. In the interest of the Italian nation, still less.
The Pope promised us the reform of some abuses, in his Motu Proprio
of Portici. It was not quite what we demanded of him; still his
promises afforded us some gratification. He returned to his capital,
to elude their fulfilment at his ease. Our soldiers awaited him with
arms in their hands. They fell at his feet as he passed them.
During nine consecutive years, the pontifical government has been
retreating step by step,—France, all the while, politely entreating
it to move on a little. Why should it follow our advice? What
necessity was there for yielding to our arguments? Our soldiers
continued to mount guard, to present arms, to fall down on one knee,
and patrol regularly round all the old abuses.
In the end, the pertinacity with which we urged our good counsels
became disagreeable to his Holiness. His retrograde court has a horror
of us; it prefers the Austrians, who crush the people, but who never
talk of liberty. The Cardinals say, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes
even aloud, that they don't want our army, that we are very much in
their way, and that they could protect themselves—with the assistance
of a few Austrian regiments.
The nation, that is the middle class, says, our good-will, of which it
has no doubt, is of little use to it; and declares it would undertake
to obtain all its rights, to secularize the government, to proclaim
the amnesty, to introduce the Code Napoléon, and to establish liberal
institutions, if we would but withdraw our soldiers. This is what it
says at Rome. At Bologna, Ferrara, and Ancona, it believes that, in
spite of everything, the Romans are glad to have us, because, although
we let evil be done, we never do it ourselves. In this we are admitted
to be better than the Austrians.
Our soldiers say nothing. Troops don't argue under arms. Let me speak
"We are not here to support the injustice and dishonesty of
a petty government that would not be tolerated for
twenty-four hours with us. If we were, we must change the
eagle on our flags for a crow. The Emperor cannot desire the
misery of a people, and the shame of his soldiers. He has
his own notions. But if, in the meantime, these poor devils
of Romans were to rise in insurrection, in the hope of
obtaining the Secularization, the Amnesty, the Code, and the
Liberal Government, which we have taught them to expect, we
should inevitably be obliged to shoot them down."
WHY THE POPE WILL NEVER HAVE SOLDIERS.
I paid a visit to a Roman Prelate well known for his devotion to the
interests of the Church, the temporal power of the Popes, and the
August person of the Holy Father.
When I was introduced to his oratory I found him reading over the
proof-sheets of a thick volume, entitled Administration of the
He threw down his pen with an air of discouragement, and showed me the
two following quotations which he had inscribed on the title-page of
"Every independent State should suffice to itself, and assure its
internal security by its own forces."—Count de Rayneval; note of
14th May, 1855.
"The troops of the Pope will always be the troops of the Pope. What
are warriors who have never made war?"—De Brosses.
After I had reflected a little upon these not very consoling passages,
the Prelate said,
"You have not been very long at Rome, and your impressions
ought to be just, because they are fresh. What do you think
of our Romans? Do the descendants of Marius appear to you a
race without courage, incapable of confronting danger? If it
be indeed true that the nation has retained nothing of its
patrimony, not even its physical courage, all our efforts to
create a national force in Rome are foredoomed to failure.
The Popes must for ever remain disarmed in the presence of
their enemies. Nothing is left for them but to entrench
themselves behind the mercenary courage of a Swiss garrison
or the respectful protection of a great Catholic power. What
becomes of independence? What becomes of sovereignty?"
"Monsignore," I replied,
"I already know the Romans too well to judge them by the
calumnies of their enemies. I daily see with what
intemperate courage this violent and hot-blooded people
gives and receives death. I know the esteem expressed by
Napoleon I. for the regiments he raised here. And we can say
between ourselves that there were many of the subjects of
the Pope in the revolutionary army which defended Rome
against the French. I am persuaded, then, that the Holy
Father has no need to go abroad to find men, and that a few
years would serve to make these men good soldiers. What is
much less evident to me is the real necessity for having a
Roman army. Does the Pope want to aggrandise himself by war?
No. Does he fear lest some enemy should invade his States?
Certainly not. He is better protected by the veneration of
Europe than by a line of fortresses. If, by a scarcely
possible eventuality, any difference were to arise between
the Holy See and an Italian Monarchy, the Pope has the means
of resistance at hand, without striking a blow; for he
counts more soldiers in Piedmont, in Tuscany, and in the Two
Sicilies, than the Neapolitans, the Tuscans, and the
Piedmontese would well know how to send against him. So much
for the exterior; and the situation is so clear, that your
Ministry of War assumes the modest and Christian title of
'the Ministry of Arms.' As for the interior, a good
gendarmerie is all you want.'
"Eh! my dear son," cried the Prelate, "we ask nothing
better. A people which is never destined to make war does
not want an army, but it ought to keep on foot the forces
necessary for the maintenance of the public peace. An army
of police and internal security is what we have been
endeavouring to create since 1849. Have we succeeded? Do we
suffice for ourselves? Are we in a position to ensure our
tranquillity by our own forces? No! no! certainly not."
"Pardon me, Monsignore, if I think you a little severe.
During the three months I have loitered as an observer in
Rome, I have had time to see the pontifical army. Your
soldiers are fine-looking men, their general appearance is
good, they have a martial air, and, as far as I can judge,
they go through their manoeuvres pretty well. It would be
difficult to recognize in them the old soldier of the Pope,
the fabulous personage whose duty it was to escort
processions, and to fire off the cannon on firework nights;
the well-to-do citizen in uniform who, if the weather looked
threatening, mounted guard with an umbrella. The Holy
Father's army would present a good appearance in any country
in the world; and there are some of your soldiers whom—at a
little distance—I should take for our own."
"Yes," he said,
"their appearance is good enough, and if factions could be
kept down by mere appearances, I should feel tolerably easy.
But I know many things respecting the army that make me very
uncomfortable—and yet I don't know all. I know there is
great difficulty in recruiting not only soldiers, but
officers; that young men of good family scorn to command,
and ploughboys to serve, in our army. I know that more than
one mother would rather see her son at the hulks than with
the regiment. I know that our soldiers, for the most part
drawn from the dregs of the people, have neither confidence
in their comrades, nor respect for their officers, nor
veneration for their colours. You would vainly look to find
among them devotion to their country, fidelity to their
sovereign, and all those high and soldierly virtues which
make a man die at his post. To the greater number the laws
of duty and honour are a dead letter. I know that the
gendarme does not always respect private property. I know
that the factions rely at least much as we ourselves do on
the support of the army. What good is it to us to have
fourteen or fifteen thousand men on foot, and to spend some
millions of scudi annually, if after such efforts and
sacrifices, foreign protection is now more necessary to us
than it was the first day?"
"Monsignore," I replied,
"you place things in the worst light, and you judge the
situation somewhat after the manner of the Prophet Jeremiah.
The Holy Father has several excellent officers, both in the
special corps and in the regiments of the line; and you have
also some good soldiers. Our officers, who are competent
men, render justice to yours, both as regards their
intelligence and their goodwill. If I am astonished at
anything, it is that the pontifical army has made so much
progress as it has in the deplorable conditions in which it
is placed. We can discuss it freely because the whole system
is under examination, and about to be reorganized by the
Head of the State. You complain that young gentlemen of good
family do not throng to the College of Cadets in the hope of
gaining an epaulette. But you forget how little the
epaulette is honoured among you. The officer has no rank in
the state. It is a settled point that a deacon shall have
precedence of a sub-deacon; but the law and custom of Rome
do not allow a Colonel to take precedence even of a man
having the simple tonsure. Pray, what position do you assign
to your Generals? What is their rank in the hierarchy?"
"Instead of having our Generals in the army, we have them at
the head of the religious orders. Imagine the sensations of
the General of the Jesuits at hearing a soldier announced by
the honourable ecclesiastical title of General!"
"Well! there's something in that."
"In order to have commanders for our troops, without at the
same time creating personages of too much importance, we
have imported three foreign Colonels, who are permitted to
perform the functions of General. They even appear in the
disguise of Generals, but they will never have the audacity
to assume the title."
"Capital! Well, now with us there is not a scamp of eighteen
who would engage in the army if he were told that he might
become a Colonel, but never a General; or even a General,
but never a Marshal of France. Who, or what, could induce a
man to rush into a career in which there is at a certain
point an impassable barrier? You regret that all your
officers are not savants. I admit that they have learnt
something. They enter the College without competition or
preliminary examination, sometimes without orthography or
arithmetic. The first inspection made by our Generals
discovers future lieutenants who cannot do a sum in
division, a French class without either a master or pupils,
and an historical class in which, after seven months of
teaching, the professor is still theologically expounding
the creation of the world. It must indeed be a powerful
spirit of emulation which can induce these young men to make
themselves capable of keeping up a conversation with French
officers. You are astonished that they allow the discipline
of their men to become somewhat relaxed. Why, discipline is
about the last thing they have been taught. In the time of
Gregory XVI. an officer refused to allow a Cardinal's
carriage to pass down a certain street. Such were his
orders. The coachman drove on, and the officer was sent to
the castle of St. Angelo, for having done his duty. A single
instance of this sort is quite enough to demoralize an army.
But the King of Naples shows the Pope his mistake. He had a
sentry mentioned in the order of the day, for giving a
bishop's coachman a cut with his sword. You are scandalized
because certain military administrators curtail the
soldiers' poor allowance of bread; but they have never been
told that peculation will be punished by dismissal."
"Well, the scheme of reorganization is in hand; you will see
a new order of things in 1859."
"I am glad to hear it, Monsignore; and I will answer for it
that a judicious, well-considered reform—slowly
progressive, of course, as everything is at Rome—will
produce excellent results in a few years. It is not in a day
that you can expect to change the face of things; but you
know the gardener is not discouraged by the certainty that
the tree he plants to-day will not produce fruit for the
next five years. The morals of your soldiers are, as you
say, none of the best: I hear it said everywhere that an
honest peasant thinks it a dishonour to wear your uniform.
When you can hold out a future to your men, you need no
longer recruit them from the dregs of the population. The
soldier will have some feeling of personal dignity when he
ceases to find himself exposed to contempt. These poor
fellows are looked down upon by everybody, even by the
servants of small families. They breathe an atmosphere of
scorn, which may be termed the malaria of honour. Relieve
them, Monsignore; they ask nothing better."
"Do you think, then, the means are to be found of giving us
an army as proud and as faithful as the French army? That
were a secret for which the Cardinal would pay a high
"I offer it to you for nothing, Monsignore. France has
always been the most military country in Europe; but in the
last century the French soldier was no better than yours.
The officers are pretty much the same, with this difference
only,—that formerly the King selected them from the
nobility, whereas now they ennoble themselves by zeal and
courage. But a hundred years ago the soldiery, properly so
called, consisted in France of what it now does with
you—the scum of the population. Picked up in low taverns,
between a heap of crown-pieces and a glass of brandy, the
soldier made himself more dreaded by the peasantry than by
the enemy. He seemed to be overpowered beneath the weight of
the scorn of the country at large, the meanness of his
present condition, and the impossibility of future
promotion; and he revenged himself by forays upon the cellar
and the farmyard. He had his place among the scourges which
desolated monarchical France. Hear what La Fontaine says,—
"La faim, les créanciers, les soldats, la corvée, Lui font
d'un malheureux la peinture achevée."
You see that your soldiers of 1858 are angels in comparison
with our soudards of the monarchy. If, with all this, you
still find them, not absolutely perfect, try the French
recipe: submit all your citizens to a conscription, in order
that your regiments may not be composed of the refuse of the
"Stop!" cried the prelate.
"I stopped you short, my son, because T perceive that you
are getting beyond the real and the possible. Primo, we
have no citizens; we have subjects. Secundo, the
conscription is a revolutionary measure, which we will not
adopt at any price; it consecrates a principle of equality
as much opposed to the ideas of the Government as to the
habits of the country. It might possibly give us a very good
army, but that army would belong to the nation, not to the
Sovereign. We will at once put away, if you please, this
"It might gain you some popularity."
"Far from it. Believe me, the subjects of the Holy Father have a deep
antipathy to the principle of the conscription. The discontent of La
Vendée and Brittany is nothing to that which it would create here."
"People become accustomed to everything, Monsignore. I have met
contingents from La Vendée and Brittany singing merrily as they went
to join their corps."
"So much the better for them. But let me tell you the only grievance
of this country against the French rule is the conscription, which the
Emperor had established among us."
"So you negative my proposal of the conscription."
"I must think no more about it?"
"Quite out of the question."
"Well, Monsignore, I'll do without it. Let us have recourse to the
system of voluntary enlistment, but with the condition that you secure
the prospects of the soldier. What bounty do you offer to recruits?"
"Twelve scudi; but for the future we mean to go as high as twenty."
"Twenty scudi is fair enough; still I'm afraid even at one
hundred and seven francs a head you won't get picked men.
Now, you will allow, Monsignore, a peasant must be badly off
indeed when a bounty of twenty scudi tempts him to put on a
uniform which is universally despised? But if you want to
attract more recruits round every barrack than there were
suitors at Penelope's gate, endow the army, offer the Roman
citizens—pardon me, I mean the Pope's subjects—such a
bounty as is really likely to tempt them. Pay them down a
small sum for the assistance of their families, and keep the
balance till their period of service has expired. Induce
them to re-engage after their discharge by promises
honourably and faithfully observed; arrange that with every
additional year of service the savings which the soldier has
left in the hands of the state shall increase. Believe me,
when the Romans know that a soldier, without assistance,
without education, without any brilliant action, or any
stroke of good fortune, by the mere faithful performance of
his duty, can, after twenty-five years' service, secure an
income of £20 or £25 a year, they will snatch at the
advantage of entering the ranks; and I warrant you, the
personal interest of each will attach them more firmly to
the Government, as the depository of their savings. When the
house of a notary is on fire you will see the most immovable
and indifferent of shopkeepers running like a cat on the
tiles, to put out the fire and save his own papers. On the
same principle, a Government will always be served with zeal
in proportion to the interest its servants have in its
"Of course," said the Prelate,
"I understand your argument perfectly. Man requires some
object in life. A hundred and twenty scudi a year is not an
unpleasant bed to lie upon after a term of military service.
At this price we should not want candidates. Even the middle
class would solicit employment in the military as much as it
now does the civil service of the state; and we should be
able to pick and choose our men. What frightens me in the
matter is the expense."
"Ah! Monsignore, you know a really good article is never to
be had cheap. The Pontifical Government has 15,000 soldiers
for £400,000. France would pay half as much again for them:
but then she would have the value of the extra cost. The men
who have completed three or four terms of service, are those
who cost the most money; and yet there is an economy in
keeping them, because every such man is worth three
conscripts. Do you then, or do you not, wish to create a
national force? Have you made up your mind on the subject?
If you do wish for it, you must pay for it, and make the
sacrifices necessary to obtain it. If, on the contrary, your
Government prefers economy to security, begin by saving the
£400,000, and sell to some foreign country the 15,000
muskets, more dangerous than useful, since you don't know
whether they are for you or against you. The question may be
summed up in two words: safety, which will cost you money;
or economy, which may cost you your existence!"
"You are proposing an army of Prætorians."
"The name is not the thing. I only promise you that if you pay your
soldiers well, they'll be faithful to you."
"The Prætorians often turned against the Emperors."
"Because the Emperors were silly enough to pay them ready money."
"But is there no motive in this world nobler than interest? And is
money the only lasting tie that binds soldiers to their standard?"
"I should not be a Frenchman, if I held such a belief. I
advised you to increase your soldiers' pay, because hitherto
your army has been recruited by money alone; and also
because money is that which it costs you the least to
obtain, and consequently that which you will the most
willingly part with. Well then, now that you have given me
the few millions I required for the purpose of attaching
your soldiers to the Pontifical Government, furnish me with
the means of raising them in their own estimation and in
that of the people. Honour them, in order that they may
become men of honour. Prove to them, by the consideration
with which you surround them, that they are not footmen, and
that they ought not to have the souls of footmen. Give them
a place in the state; throw around their uniform some of the
prestige which is now the exclusive privilege of the
"Do you know what you are asking for?"
"Nothing but what is absolutely necessary. Remember,
Monsignore, that this army, raised to act in the interior of
the Pontifical States, will serve you less frequently by the
force of its arms, than by the moral authority of its
presence. And pray what authority can it possess in the eyes
of your subjects, if the Government affect to despise it?"
"But, admitting that it obtain all the pay and all the
consideration that you claim for it, still it will remain
open to the remark of the President de Brosses, 'What are
warriors who have never in their lives made war?'"
"I admit it. The consideration accorded by all Frenchmen to
the soldier, takes its source in the idea of the dangers he
has encountered or may encounter. We behold in him a man who
has sacrificed his life beforehand, in engaging to shed
every drop of his blood at a word from his chiefs. If the
little children in our country respectfully salute the
colours—that steeple of the regiment—it is because they
think on the brave fellows who have fallen round it."
"Perhaps, then, you think we ought to send our soldiers to
make war, before employing them as guardians of the peace?"
"It is certain, Monsignore, that whenever one sees an old
Crimean soldier who has strayed into one of the Pope's
foreign regiments, the medal he wears on his breast makes
him look quite a different man from any of his comrades. The
corps of your army which the people has treated with the
greatest respect, is the Pontifical Carabineers, because it
was originally formed of Napoleon's old soldiers."
"My friend, you do not answer my question. Do you require us
to declare war against Europe for the sake of teaching our
gendarmes to keep the peace at home?"
"Monsignore, the government of his Holiness is too prudent
to go in search of adventures. We are no longer in the days
of Julius II., who donned the cuirass, and buckled on the
sword of the flesh, and sprang himself into the breach. But
why should not the Head of the Church do as Pius V., who
sent his sailors with the Spaniards and Venetians to the
battle of Lepanto? Why should you not detach a regiment or
two to Algeria? France would, perhaps, give them a place in
her army; they might join us in advancing the holy cause of
civilization. Rest assured that when those troops returned,
after five or six campaigns, to the more modest duty of
preserving the public peace, everybody would obey them
courteously. Vulgar footmen would no longer dare to make use
of such expressions as one I heard yesterday evening at the
door of a theatre,—'Stick to your soldiering, and leave
servant's work to me!' They who despise them now, would be
proud to show them respect; for nations have a tendency to
admire themselves in the persons of their armies."
"For how long?"
"For ever. Acquired glory is a capital which can never be
exhausted. And these regiments would never lose the spirit
of honour and discipline which they would bring back from
the seat of war. You know not, Monsignore, what it is to
have an idea become incarnate in a regiment. There is a
whole world of recollections, traditions, and virtues,
circulating, seen and unseen, through this band of men. It
is the moral patrimony of the corps; the veterans don't
carry it away when they retire from the service, while the
conscripts inherit it from the day of their joining the
regiment. The colonel, the officers, and the privates,
change one after the other, and yet it is the same regiment
that ever remains, because the same spirit continues to
flutter amid the folds of the same colours. Have four good
regiments of picked men, well paid, properly respected, and
that have been under fire, and they will last as long as
Rome, and Mazzini himself will not prevail against their
"So be it! And may Heaven hear you!"
"The business is half done, Monsignore, when you have heard
me. We are not far from the Vatican, where sits the real
Minister of Arms."
"He will urge another objection."
"What will it be?"
"That if he send our regiments to serve their apprenticeship
in Africa, they will bring back French ideas."
"That is an accident, impossible to prevent. But console
yourself with the reflection that it is perfectly immaterial
whether the French ideas are brought into your country by
your soldiers or by ours. Besides, this is an article which
so easily eludes the vigilance of the custom-house, that the
railways are already bringing it in daily, and you will soon
have a large stock on hand. And after all, where's the great
evil? All men who have studied us without prejudice, know
that French ideas are ideas of order and liberty, of
conservatism and progress, of labour and honesty, of culture
and industry. The country in which French ideas abound the
most is France, and France, Monsignore, is in good health."
"For my part," said a great fat Neapolitan,
"I don't care the value of a bit of orange-peel for
politics. I am willing to believe we've got a bad
government, because all the world says we have, and because
our King never dare show himself in public. All I can say
is, that my grandfather made 20,000 ducats as a
manufacturer; that my father doubled his capital in trade;
and that I bought an estate which, in my tenants' hands,
pays me six per cent. for the investment. I eat four meals a
day, I'm in vigorous health, and I weigh fourteen stone. So
when I toss off my third glass of old Capri wine at supper,
I can't for the life of me help crying, 'Long live the
A huge hog which happened to cross the street as the Neapolitan
reached his climax, gave a grunt in token of approbation.
The "hog" school is not numerous in Italy, whatever superficial
travellers may have told you on that head. The most highly-gifted
nation in Europe will not easily be persuaded that the great end of
human existence is to eat four meals a day.
But let us suppose for an instant that all the Pope's subjects are
willing to renounce all liberty,—religious, political, municipal, and
even civil,—for the sake of growing sleek and fat, without any higher
aim, and are content with the merely animal enjoyments of health and
food; do they find in their homes the means of satisfying their wants?
Can they, on that score at least, applaud their Government? Are they
as well treated as beasts in a cage? Are the people fat and thriving?
I answer, No!
In every country in the world the sources of public wealth are three
in number: agriculture, manufactures, and commerce. All governments
which do their duty, and understand their interests, emulate one
another in favouring, by wholesome administrative measures, the farm,
the workshop, and the counting-house. Wherever the nation and its
rulers are united, trade and manufactures will be found clinging round
the government, and increasing even to excess the population of the
capital cities; while agriculture works her greatest miracles in the
circuit which is the most immediately subject to the influence of
Borne is the least industrious and commercial city in the Pontifical
States, and its suburbs resemble a desert. You must travel very far to
find any industrial experiment, or any attempt at trade.
Whose fault is this? Industrial pursuits require, above all things,
liberty. Now in the States of the Church all the manufactures of any
importance constitute privileges bestowed by the government upon its
friends. Not only tobacco and salt, but sugar, glass, wax, and
stearine, are objects of privilege. Privilege here—privilege
there—privilege everywhere. An Insurance Company is established, of
course by special privilege. The very baskets used by the
cherry-vendors are the monopoly of a privileged basket-maker. The
Inspector of the Piazza Navona would seize any refractory basket
which had failed to pay its tribute to monopoly. The grocers of
Tivoli, the butchers of Frascati, all the retail dealers in the
suburbs of Rome, are privileged. The system of privileges and
monopolies is universal, and of course commerce shares the common lot.
Commerce cannot flourish without capital, facilities of credit, easy
communication, and, above all, personal safety. I have shown you what
the roads are as to safety. I have not yet shown you how wretchedly
bad and insufficient they are. Now for a few facts.
In June, 1858, I travelled through the Mediterranean provinces, taking
notes as I went along. I established the fact that in one township the
bread cost nearly three-halfpence a pound, while in another, some
twelve miles off, it was to be had for a penny. It follows that the
carriage of goods along twelve miles of road cost a farthing a pound.
At Sonnino bad wine was sold for sevenpence the litre, while the
same quantity of passable wine might be had at Pagliano, thirty miles
off, for twopence halfpenny; so the cost of carrying an article
weighing some two pounds for thirty miles was fourpence halfpenny.
Wherever governments make roads, prices naturally find their level.
I may be told that I explored remote and out-of-the-way districts. If
we approach the capital, we find the matters still worse. The nearest
villages to Rome have not roads fit for carriages from one to the
other. What would be said of the French administration, if people
could not get from Versailles to St. Germain without passing through
Paris? This, however, has been for centuries the state of things near
the Pope's capital. If you want a still more striking instance, here
it is. Bologna, the second city in the Pontifical States, is in rapid
and frequent communication with the whole world—except Rome. It
despatches seven mails a week to foreign countries—only five to Rome.
The letters from Paris arrive at Bologna some hours before those from
Rome; the letters from Vienna are in advance of those from Rome by a
day and a night. The Papal kingdom is not very extensive, but it seems
to me even too extensive, when I see distances trebled by the
carelessness of the Government and the inadequacy of the public works.
As to railways, there are two, one from Rome to Frascati, and one from
Rome to Civita Vecchia; but the Adriatic provinces, which are the most
populous, the most energetic, and the most interesting in the country,
will not hear the whistle of the locomotive and the rush of the train
for a long time to come. The nation loudly demands railways. The lay
proprietors, instead of absurdly asking fancy prices for their land,
eagerly offer it to companies. The convents alone raise barricades, as
if they thought the devil was trying to break in at their gates. The
erection of a railway station in Rome gave rise to some comical
difficulties. Our unfortunate engineers were utterly at a loss for the
means of effecting an opening. On all sides the way was blocked up by
obstructive friars. Black friars—white friars—grey friars—and brown
friars. They began with the Lazarists. The Holy Father personally came
to their rescue. "Ah, Mr. Engineer, have mercy on my poor Lazarists!
The good souls are given to prayer and meditation; and your
locomotives do make such a hideous din!" So Mr. Engineer is fain to
try the neighbouring convent. New difficulties there. The next attack
is made upon a little nunnery founded by the Princess de Bauffremont.
But I have neither time nor space for episodical details. It suffices
for our purpose to state that the construction of railways will be a
terribly long-winded affair, and that in the meantime trade languishes
for want of crossroads. The budget of public works is devoted to the
repair of churches, and the building of basilicas. Nearly
half-a-million sterling has already been sunk in the erection of a
very grey and very ugly edifice on the Ostia road. As much more
will be required to finish it, and the commerce of the country will be
none the better.
Half a million sterling! Why the entire capital of the bank of Rome is
but £400,000; and when merchants go there to have their bills
discounted, they can get no money. They are obliged to apply to
usurers and monopolists, and the governor of the bank is one. Rome has
an Exchange. I discovered its existence by mere chance, in turning
over a Roman almanack. This public establishment opens once a week,
a fact which gives some idea of the amount of business transacted
If trade and manufactures offer but small resources to the subjects of
his Holiness, they fortunately find some compensation in agriculture.
The natural fertility of the soil, and the stubborn industry of those
who cultivate it, will always suffice to keep the nation from
starvation. While it pays away a million sterling annually for foreign
manufactures, the surplus of its agricultural produce brings back some
£800,000. Hemp and corn, oil and wool, wine, silk, and cattle, form
its substantial wealth.
How do we find the Government acting in this respect? Its duties are
very simple, and may be summed up in three words,—protection,
assistance, and encouragement.
The budget is not heavily burdened under the head of encouragement.
Some proprietors and land stewards, residing in Rome, ask permission
to found an Agricultural Society. The authorities refuse. In order to
attain their object, they steal furtively into a Horticultural
Society, already established by authority. They organize themselves,
raise subscriptions, exhibit to the Romans a good collection of cattle
and distribute some gold and silver medals offered by Prince Cesarini.
Is it not curious that an exhibition of cattle, in order to be
tolerated, is obliged to smuggle itself in under the shelter of
camellias and geraniums?
Lay sovereigns not only openly favour agriculture, but they encourage
it at a heavy cost, and do not consider their money thrown away. They
are well aware that to give a couple of hundred pounds to the inventor
of a good plough, is to place a small capital out at a heavy interest.
The investment will render their kingdom more prosperous, and their
children more wealthy. But the Pope has no children. He prefers sowing
in his churches, in order to reap the harvest in Paradise.
Might he not at least assist the unfortunate peasants who furnish the
bread he eats?
An able and truthful statistician (the Marchese Pepoli) has proved
that in the township of Bologna, the rural proprietors actually pay
taxes to the amount of £6. 8s. 4d. upon every £4-worth of taxable
income. The fisc is not content with absorbing the entire revenue, but
it annually eats into the capital. What think you of such moderation?
In 1855 the vines were diseased everywhere. Lay governments vied with
each other in assisting the distressed proprietors. Cardinal Antonelli
seized the opportunity to impose a tax of £74,680 upon the vines; and
as there were no grapes that year to pay it, the amount was charged
upon the different townships. Now which has proved the heaviest
scourge—the Oidium or the Cardinal Minister? Certainly not the
Oidium, for that has disappeared. The Cardinal remains.
All the corn harvested in the Agro Romano pays a fixed duty of
twenty-two pauls per rubbio. The rubbio is worth, on an average, from
80 to 100 pauls; so that the government taxes the harvest to the
amount of at least 22 per cent. Here is a moderate tax. Why it is more
than double the tithe. So much for the assistance rendered to the
growers of corn.
Every description of agricultural produce pays a tax on export. There
are governments which give a premium to exporters: one may call that
encouraging the national industry. There are others, and they are
still more numerous, which allow a free export of the surplus produce
of the land: this is not merely to encourage, it is to assist the
labourers. The Pope levies an average tax of 22 per thousand on the
total amount of exports, 160 per thousand on the value of imports. The
Piedmontese government is satisfied with 13 per thousand on exports,
and 58 per thousand on imports. Of the two countries, I should prefer
farming in Piedmont.
Cattle are subject to vexatious taxes, which add from twenty to thirty
per cent. to their cost. They pay when at pasture; they pay nearly
twenty-three shillings per head at market; they pay on exportation.
And yet the breeding of cattle is one of the most valuable resources
of the State, and one of those which ought to be the most assisted.
The horses raised in the country pay five per cent. on their value
every time they change hands. By the time a horse has passed through
twenty different hands, the Government has pocketed as much as the
breeder. When I say the Government, I am wrong; the horse-tax is not
included in the Budget. It is an ecclesiastical prebend. Cardinal
della Dateria throws it in with general episcopal revenues.
"The good shepherd should shear, and not flay his sheep." These are
the words of an Emperor, not a Pope, of Rome.
And now I dare not ask of the Holy Father certain protective measures
which could not fail to double the revenue of his crown and the number
of his subjects.
According to the statistical returns of 1857, the territorial wealth
of the Romans is estimated at £104,400,000. The gross produce of this
capital does not reach more than £116,563. 11s. 8d., or about ten per
cent. This is little. In Poland, and some other great agricultural
countries, the land pays a net revenue of twelve per cent., which
represents at least twenty per cent. gross. The Roman soil would
produce the same if the Roman government did its duty.
The country is divided into cultivated and uncultivated lands. The
former, that is to say those planted with useful trees, enriched by
manure, regularly submitted to manual labour, and sown every year, lie
chiefly in the provinces of the Adriatic, far beyond the ken of the
Pope. In this half of the States of the Church (the most worthy of
attention, and the least known) twenty years of French occupation have
left excellent traditions. The system of primogeniture is abolished,
if not by law, at least in practice. The equality of rights among the
children of the same father necessitates the subdivision of property
so favourable to agricultural progress. There are some large landed
proprietors here, as there are everywhere; but instead of abandoning
their estates to the rapacity of an intendant, they divide them into
different occupations, which they confide to the best farmers. The
landlord supplies the land, the buildings, and the cattle, and pays
the property-tax. The tenant supplies the labour, and pays the other
taxes, and the produce is equally shared between the landlord and the
tenant. The system answers well, and the Adriatic provinces would
hardly seem deserving of pity, if it were not for the brigands, the
inundations of the Po and the Reno, and the crushing taxation I have
These taxes are lighter on the other side of the Apennines. There are
even in the neighbourhood of Rome some landowners who pay scarcely any
at all. In 1854 the Consulta di Stato valued the privileged lands at
£360,000. But we will turn to the subject of the uncultivated lands.
Towards the Mediterranean, north, east, south, and west of Rome, and
wherever the Papal benediction extends, the flat country, which covers
an immense extent, is at once uninhabited, uncultivated, and
unhealthy. Various are the modes in which experienced persons have
attempted to account for the wretched condition of this fine country.
"It is uncultivated because it is uninhabited. How can you
cultivate without men? It is uninhabited because it is
unwholesome. How can you expect men to inhabit it at the
risk of their lives? Make it healthy, and it will populate
itself, and the population will cultivate it, for there is
not a finer soil in the world."
"You are wrong. You confound cause with effect. The country
is unhealthy because it is uncultivated. The decayed
vegetable matter accumulated by centuries ferments under the
summer sun. The wind blows over it, and raises up a
provision of subtle miasma, imperceptible to the smell, and
yet destructive to life. If all these plains were ploughed
or dug up three or four times, so as to let the air and
light penetrate into the depths of the soil, the fever which
lies dormant under the rank vegetation would speedily
evaporate, and return no more. Hasten then to bring ploughs,
and your first crop will be one of health."
A third replies to the two first,
"You are both right. The country is unhealthy because it is
uncultivated, and uncultivated because it is unhealthy. The
question lies in a vicious circle, from which there is no
escape. Let us therefore leave things as they are; and when
the fever-season arrives, we can go and inhale the fresh
mountain air under the tall trees of Frascati."
The last speaker, if I am not greatly mistaken, is a Prelate. But have
a care, Monsignore! Frascati, once so renowned for the purity of its
air, now no longer deserves its reputation; and I may say the same of
Tivoli. The quarters of Rome most remarkable for healthiness, such for
instance as the Pincian, have of late become unhealthy. Fever is
gaining ground. It is equally worthy of observation that at the same
time the cultivation of the land is diminishing; and that the estates
in mortmain—that is to say, delivered into the hands of the
priesthood—have been increasing at the yearly rate of from £60,000 to
£80,000 a year. Is mortmain indeed the hand which kills?
I submitted this delicate question to a very intelligent, very
honourable, and very wealthy man, who farms several thousand acres of
Church property. He is one of the Mercanti di Campagna, mentioned in
a former chapter (Chap. VI.). The following is the substance of his
"Six-tenths of the Agro Romano are held in mortmain.
Three-tenths belong to the princely families, and the
remaining tenth to different individuals.
"I hold under a religious community. I have a three-years'
lease of the bare land. The live and dead farm-stock is my
own property. It represents an enormous capital, which is
liable to all sorts of accidents. But in our dear country
one must risk a great deal to gain a little.
"If the land, which is almost all of fine quality, were my
own, I should bring nearly the whole of it under the plough;
but I am expressly forbidden by a clause in my lease to
break up the best land, for fear of exhausting it by growing
corn. No doubt such would be the result in the course of
time, because we apply no manure; but of course the inferior
land which I am allowed to break up will be worn out much
sooner, and will in the end become almost worthless. The
monks knowing this, take care that the best land shall not
lose its quality, and oblige me to keep it in pasture for
cattle. Thus I grow little corn merely because the good
fathers will not let me grow a great deal. I cultivate first
one piece of land, then another. On my farm, as throughout
the Agro Romano, cultivation is but a passing accident; and
so long as this continues, the country will be unhealthy.
"I raise cattle, which, as you will presently see, is
sometimes a profitable pursuit, sometimes quite the
contrary. On the whole of my farm I have no shelter for my
cattle. I asked the monks to build me some sheds, offering
to pay an increased rent in proportion to outlay. The monk
who acts as the man of business of the convent, shrugged his
shoulders. 'What can you be thinking of?' he said; 'you know
we have only a life interest in the property. To comply with
your request, we must spend our income for the benefit of
our successors: and what care we for our successors? No, we
look to the present usufruct; the future is no concern of
ours—we have no children!' And the friar is right. Well, he
went on to say that I was at liberty to build at my own cost
as many sheds as I liked, which of course would belong to
the convent at the expiration of my lease. I replied that I
had no objection to erect the sheds, if the convent would
grant me a lease of reasonable length. But just then it
occurred to me very opportunely, that the canon law does not
recognize leases for more than three years, and that on the
very day when my sheds were completed, the pious fathers
might find it convenient to pick a quarrel with me. So here
the matter dropped. Although our cattle are naturally hardy
they are bound to suffer from exposure to the weather. A
hundred cows under shelter will yield the same quantity of
milk through the winter as five hundred in the open air, at
half the cost. A large portion of the hay we strew about the
pastures for the cattle, is trodden underfoot and spoilt
instead of being eaten; and if rain falls, the whole is
spoilt. Calculate the loss of milk, the cost of cartage over
a wide range of land, the damage done to the pastures by the
trampling of heavy cattle in wet weather, all caused by the
want of a few sheds, which it is impossible to have under
the present system, and you will appreciate the position of
a farmer holding under landlords who are careless as to the
future, and merely live from hand to mouth.
"There is another improvement, which I offered to make at my
own expense. I asked permission to dam up a little stream,
dig some trenches, and irrigate the fields, by which I could
have doubled the produce both in quantity and quality. You
will hardly imagine the answer I received. The monks
declared the extraordinary fertility which would result from
the irrigation, would be a sort of violence done to nature,
by which in the end the soil could not fail to be
impoverished. What could I reply to such reasoning? These
good fathers only think of nursing their income. I tax them
neither with ignorance nor bad intentions. I only regret
that the land should be in their hands."
"Pasture-farming under such conditions as these is a
terribly hazardous pursuit. A single year of drought will
suffice to ruin a breeder completely. In the years 1854-5 we
lost from twenty to forty per cent. of our cattle; in 1856-7
from seventeen to twenty per cent: and bear in mind that
every beast, before it died, had been taxed."
A champion of the Pontifical system offered to prove to me by
figures that all is for the best even in the ecclesiastical estates.
"We have our reasons," he said,
"for preferring pasture to arable land. Here is a property
consisting of a hundred rubbia (not quite three
hundred acres). If it were farmed on the proprietor's own
account, the cultivation, harvesting, threshing, and storing
would amount to the value of 13,550 days' labour. The wages,
seed, keep of horses and cattle, the interest of capital
invested in stock, cost of superintendence, wear and tear of
tools, etc., would stand him in 8,000 scudi, or 80 scudi per
rubbio. The earth returns sevenfold on the seed sown. If 100
measures of seed are sown, the return will be 700. The
average price of the measure of corn may be taken at 10
scudi. Thus the value of the crop will be 7,000 scudi,
whereas the same crop cost to raise 8,000 scudi. Here are
1,000 scudi (about £215) flung clean into the gutter; and
all for the pleasure of cultivating 100 rubbia of land. Is
it not much better to let the 100 rubbia to a
cattle-breeder, who will pay a rent of thirty or forty
shillings per rubbio? On one side we have a clear loss of
£215, and on the other a clear income of £160 or £184."
This reasoning is founded upon the calculations of Monsignore Nicolai,
a prelate of considerable ability: but it proves nothing, because
it attempts to prove too much. If the cultivation of corn be really so
ruinous an operation, it is strange that farmers should continue to
grow it merely to spite the government.
But although it is quite true that the cultivation of a rubbio of land
costs 80 scudi, it is false that the earth only yields sevenfold on
the seed sown. According to the admission of the farmers
themselves—and they are notoriously not in the habit of exaggerating
their profits—it yields thirteen-fold on the seed sown. Thirteen
measures of corn are worth thirteen times ten scudi, or 130 scudi.
Deduct 80, the cost of cultivation, and 50 remain. Multiply by 100,
the result is 5,000 scudi (about £1,070), which will be the net income
arising from the 100 rubbia cultivated in corn. The same extent of
land under pasturage will produce £160 or £180.
Consider, moreover, that it is not the net, but the gross income,
which constitutes the wealth of a country. The cultivation of 100
rubbia, before it puts 5,000 scudi into the farmer's pockets, has put
some 8,000 scudi in circulation. These eight thousand scudi are
distributed among a thousand or fifteen hundred poor creatures who are
sadly in want of them. Pasture-farming, on the contrary, is only
profitable to three persons, the landlord, the breeder, and the
herdsman. Add to this, that in substituting arable for pasture
farming, you substitute health for disease, a more important
consideration than any other.
But churchmen who hold or administer lands in mortmain, will never
consent to such a salutary resolution. It does not profit them
directly enough. As long as they have the upper hand, they will prefer
their own ease, and the certainty of their income, to the future
welfare of the people.
Pius VI., a Pope worthy to have statues erected to him, conceived the
heroic project of forcing a change upon them. He decided that 23,000
rubbia should be annually cultivated in the Agro Romano, and that all
the land should in turn be subjected to manual labour. Pius VII. did
still better. He decided that Rome, the origo mali, should be the
first to apply the remedy. He had a circuit of a mile traced round the
capital, and ordered the proprietors to cultivate it without further
question. A second, and then a third, were to succeed to the first.
The result would have been the disappearance, in a few years, of
malaria, and the gradual population of the solitudes. The purification
of the atmosphere would, too, be further promoted by planting trees
round the fields. Excellent measures these, although tinged by
despotism. Enlightened despotism repairs the errors of clumsy
despotism. But what could the will of two men avail against the
passive resistance of a caste? The laws of Pius VI. and Pius VII. were
never enforced. Cultivation, which had extended over 16,000 rubbia
under the reign of Pius VI., is reduced to an annual average of 5,000
or 6,000 under the paternal inspection of Pius IX. Not only is the
planting of young trees abandoned, but the sheep are allowed to nibble
down the tender shoots of the old ones. Besides this, speculators are
tolerated, who burn down whole forests, for the production of potash.
The estates of the Roman princes are somewhat better cultivated than
those of the Church: but they are involved in the same movement, or,
more strictly speaking, enchained in the same stagnation. The law,
which retains immense domains for ever in the hands of the same
family, and custom, which obliges the Roman nobles to spend so large a
portion of their incomes upon show, are equally obstacles to the
subdivision and to the improvement of the land.
And while the richest plains in Italy are thus lying dormant, a
vigorous, indefatigable, and heroic population cultivates with the
pickaxe the arid sides of mountains, and exhausts its strength in
attempting to extract vegetation from flints.
I have described the small mountain proprietors who form the
populations of the towns of 10,000 inhabitants towards the
Mediterranean. You have seen with what indomitable resolution they
combat the sterility of their meagre domains, without any hope of ever
becoming rich. These poor people, who spend their lives in getting
their living, would fancy themselves transported to Paradise, if
anybody were to give them a long lease of half-a-dozen acres in the
country about Rome. Their labour would then have a purpose, their
existence an aim, their family a future.
Perhaps you think they would refuse to labour in an unhealthy country.
Why, these are the very men who at present cultivate the Roman
Campagna to such extent as it is allowed to be cultivated. They it is
who, every spring, come down in large companies from their native
mountains, to break up the heavy clods with pickaxes, and complete the
work of the plough. It is they, too, who return to harvest the crop
under the fatal heat of the summer sun. They attack a field waving
with golden corn. They reap from dawn to dusk, with no food more
nourishing than bread and cheese. They sleep in the open field,
regardless of the nocturnal exhalations which float around them—and
some of them never rise again. Those who survive ten days of a harvest
more destructive than many a battle, return to their native village
with some four or five scudi in their pockets.
If these men could obtain a long lease, or merely take the land from
year to year, they would make more money, and the dangers to be
encountered would be no greater. They might be established between
Home and Montepoli, Rome and Civita Castellana, in the valley of
Ceprano, on the hills extending round the Castelli of Rome, where
they would breathe an air as wholesome as that of their own mountains;
for fever does not always spare them even there. In course of time,
the colonizing system, advancing slowly and gradually, might realize
the dream of Pius VII., and would inevitably drive before it pauperism
I dare not hope that such a miracle will ever be wrought by a Pope.
The resistance to be encountered is too great, and the power is too
inert. But if it should ever please Heaven, which has given them ten
centuries of clerical government, to accord them, by way of
compensation, ten blessed years of lay administration, we should
perhaps see the Church property placed in more active and abler hands.
Then, too, we should see the law of primogeniture and the system of
entails abolished, large estates divided, and their owners reduced, by
the force of circumstances, to the necessity of cultivating their
properties. Good laws on exportation, well enforced, would enable
spirited farmers to cultivate corn on a large scale. A network of
country roads, and main lines of railway, would convey agricultural
produce from one end of the country to the other. A national fleet
would carry it all over the world. Public works, institutions of
credit, police—But why plunge into such a sea of hopes?
Suffice it to say, that the subjects of the Pope will be as prosperous
and as happy as any people in Europe—as soon as they cease to be
governed by a Pope!
"The subjects of the Pope are necessarily poor—but then they pay
hardly any taxes. The one condition is a compensation for the other!"
This is what both you and I have often heard said. Now and then, too,
it is put forth upon the faith of some statistical return or another
of the Golden Age, that they are governed at the rate of 7s. 6d. per
This calculation is a mere fable, as I can easily prove. But supposing
it to be correct, the Romans would not be the less deserving of pity.
It is a miserable consolation to people who have nothing, to be told
that their taxes are low. For my part, I would much rather have heavy
taxes to pay, and a good deal to pay them with, like the English. What
would be thought of the Queen's government, if after having ruined
trade, manufactures, and agriculture, and exhausted all the sources of
public prosperity, it were to say to the people, "Rejoice, good
people, for henceforth your taxes will not exceed 7s. 6d. a head all
round!" The English people would answer with great reason, that they
would much prefer to pay £40 a head, and be able to make £400.
It is not this or that particular sum per head on a population which
constitutes moderate or excessive taxation; but the relation which the
sum annually taken for the service of the State bears to the revenues
of the nation. It is just to take much from him who has much;
monstrous to attempt to take anything—be it never so little—from him
who has nothing. If you examine the question from this common sense
point of view, you will agree with me that taxation at the rate of 7s.
6,d. a head, is pretty heavy for the poor Romans.
But 7s. 6,d. a head is not the rate at which they are taxed; nor
even double that amount. The Budget of Rome is £2,800,000, which is to
be assessed upon three million taxpayers.
Assessed, moreover, not according to the laws of reason, justice, and
humanity, but in such a manner that the heaviest burdens fall upon the
most useful, laborious, and interesting class of the nation, the small
And I do not allude here to the taxes paid directly to the State, and
admitted in the budget. Besides these, there are the provincial and
municipal charges, which, under the title of additional per-centage,
amount to more than double the direct taxes. The province of Bologna
pays £80,900 of property-tax, and £96,812 of provincial and municipal
charges, making together £177,712. This sum distributed over the whole
population of 370,107, brings the taxation to a fraction under 10s. a
head. But observe, that instead of being borne by the whole
population, it is borne by no more than 23,022 proprietors.
But mark a further injustice! It does not bear equally upon the
proprietors of the towns and those of the country. The former has a
great advantage over the latter. A town property in the province of
Bologna pays 2s. 3d. per cent., a country property of the same value
5s. 3d. per cent., not upon the income, but the capital.
In the towns, it is not the palaces, but the houses of the middle
class that are the most heavily rated. Take the palace of a nobleman
in Bologna, and a small house belonging to a citizen, which adjoins
it. The palace is valued at the trifling sum of £1,100, on the ground
that the apartments inhabited by the owner are not included in the
income. The actual rent of which the owner is in the receipt for the
part left off is about £280 a year: his taxes are £18 a year. The
small house adjoining is valued at £200. The rent derived from it is
£10 a year, and the taxes paid on it are £3. 7s. 6d. Thus we find the
palace paying something like 5s. 6d. per cent. on its income, and the
small house £1 7s.
The Lombards justly excite our compassion. But the proprietors of the
province of Bologna are taxed to the annual amount of £1,400 more than
those of the province of Milan.
To this crushing taxation are added heavy duties on articles of
consumption. All the necessaries of life are liable to these taxes,
such as flour, vegetables, rice, bread, etc. They are heavier than in
almost any other European city. Meat is charged at the same rate as in
Paris. Hay, straw, and wood, at still higher rates.
The town dues of Lille amount to 10s. per head on the population;
those of Florence, about the same; and those of Lyons 12s. 6d. At
Bologna they are 14s. 2d. Observe, town dues alone. We are already a
long way from the 7s. 6d. of the Golden Age!
I am bound in justice to admit that the nation has not always been so
hardly dealt with. It was not till the reign of Pius IX. that the
taxation became insupportable. The budget of Bologna was more than
doubled between 1846 and 1858.
Something might be said, if at least the money taken from the nation
were spent for the good of the nation!
But one-third of the amount raised in taxation remains in the hands of
the officials who collect it. This is incredible, but true. The cost
of collecting the revenue amounts, if I mistake not, in England, to 8
per cent.; in France, to 14 per cent.; in Piedmont, to 16 per cent.;
and in the States of the Church, to 31 per cent.
If you marvel at a system of extravagance which obliges the people to
pay £4 for every £2. 15s. 10d. required for their mis-government, here
is a fact which will enlighten you on the subject.
Last year the place of municipal receiver was put up to auction in the
city of Bologna. An offer was made by an honourable and responsible
man to collect the dues for a commission of 1-1/2 per cent. The
Government gave the preference to Count Cesare Mattei, one of the
Pope's Chamberlains, who asked two per cent. So this piece of
favouritism costs the city £800 a year.
The following is the mode in which the revenue (after the abstraction
of one-third in the course of collecting it) is disposed of.
£1,000,000 goes to pay the interest of a continually accumulating
debt, contracted by the priests, and for the priests, annually
increasing through the bad administration of the priests, and carried
by the priests to the debit of the nation.
£400,000 is devoured by a useless army, the sole duty of which has
hitherto been to present arms to the Cardinals, and to escort the
procession of the Host.
£120,000 is devoted to those establishments which of all others are
the most indispensable to an unpopular government: I mean, the
£80,000 is the cost of the administration of justice. The tribunals of
the capital absorb half the amount, because they enjoy the distinction
of being for the most part composed of prelates.
The very modest sum of £100,000 is devoted to public works. This is
chiefly spent in embellishing Rome, and repairing churches.
£60,000 goes in the encouragement of idleness in the city of Rome. A
Charity Commission, presided over by a Cardinal, distributes this sum
among a few thousand incorrigible idlers, without accounting for it to
anybody. Mendicity is all the more flourishing, as is apparent to
every one. From 1827 to 1858, the subjects of the Holy Father paid
£1,600,000 in mischievous alms, among the injurious effects of which,
the principal was to deprive labour of the hands it required. The
Cardinal who presides over the Commission takes £2,400 a year for his
£16,000 defrays poorly enough the cost of the public education, which,
moreover, is wholly in the hands of the clergy. Add this moderate sum,
and the £80,000 devoted to the administration of justice, to a part of
the £100,000 spent on public works, and you have all that can fairly
be set down as money spent in the service of the nation. The remainder
is of no use but to the Government,—in other words, to a parcel of
The Pope and the partners of his power must be indifferent financiers,
when, after spending such a pittance on the nation, they contrive to
wind up every year with a deficit. The balance of 1858 showed a
deficit of nearly half a million sterling, which does not prevent the
government from promising a surplus in the estimates of 1859.
In order to fill up the gaps in the budget, the Government has
recourse to borrowing, sometimes openly, by a loan from the house of
Rothschild, sometimes secretly, by an issue of stock.
In 1857 the Pontifical Government contracted its eleventh loan with
Rothschild's house; it was a trifle, something under £700,000.
Nevertheless there were quiet issues of stock from 1851 to 1858, to
the tune of £1,320,000. The capital of the debt for which its subjects
are liable, amounts to £14,376,150. 5s. If you will take the trouble
to divide this grand total by the figure which represents the
population, you will find that every little subject born to the Pope
comes into the world a debtor of something like £4. 10s., whereof he
will contribute to pay the interest all his life, although neither he
nor his ancestors have ever derived the least benefit from the outlay.
It is true these fourteen millions and a half (in round numbers) have
not been lost for all the world. The nephews of the Popes have
pocketed a good round sum. About a third has been swallowed up by what
is called the general interests of the Roman Catholic faith. It has
been proved that the religious wars have cost the Popes at least four
millions; and the farmers of Ancona and Forlì are still paying out of
the produce of their fields for the faggots used to burn the
Huguenots. The churches of which Rome is so proud have not been paid
for entirely by the tribute of Catholicism at large. There are certain
remnants of accounts, which were at the cost of the Roman people. The
Popes have made more than one donation to those poor religious
establishments, which possess no more than £20,000,000 worth of
property in the world. The expenses lumped together under the head of
Allocations for Public Worship add something short of £900,000
sterling to the national debt. Foreign occupation, and more
particularly the invasion of the Austrians in the north, has burdened
the inhabitants with a million sterling. Add the money squandered,
given away, stolen, and lost, together with £1,360,000 paid to bankers
for commission on loans, and you have an account of the total of the
debt, excepting perhaps a million and a half or so, of which the
unexplained and inexplicable disbursement does immortal honour to the
discretion of the ministers.
Since the restoration of Pius IX., an approach to respect for public
opinion has forced the Pontifical Government to publish some sort of
accounts. It does not render them to the nation, but to Europe,
knowing that Europe is not curious in the matter, and will be easily
satisfied. A few copies of the annual Budget are published; they are
certainly not in everybody's reach. The statement of receipts and
expenditure is prodigiously laconic. I have now before me the
estimates prepared for 1858, in four pages, the least blank of which
contains just fourteen lines. The Finance Minister sums up the
receipts and the outgoings, both ordinary and extraordinary. Under the
head of Receipts, he lumps the whole of "the direct contributions, and
the State property, 3,201,426 scudi."
Under the head of Expenditure, we read "Commerce, Fine Arts,
Agriculture, Manufactures, and Public Works, 601,764 scudi." A
tolerable lump, this.
This powerful simplification of accounts enables the Minister to
perform some capital tricks of financial sleight of hand. Supposing,
for instance, the Government wants half a million of scudi for some
mysterious purpose, nothing is easier than to bring their direct
contributions in as having paid half a million less than they really
have. What will Europe ever know about the matter?
"Speech is silver, but silence is gold."
Successive Finance Ministers at Rome have all adopted this device,
even when they are forced to speak, they have the art of not saying
the very thing the country wants to hear.
In almost all civilized countries the nation enjoys two rights which
seem perfectly just and natural. The first is that of voting the
taxes, either directly or through the medium of its deputies; the
second, that of verifying the expenditure of its own money.
In the Papal kingdom, the Pope or his Minister says to the citizens,
"Here is what you have to pay!" And he takes the money, spends it, and
never more alludes to it except in the vaguest language.
Still, in order to afford some sort of satisfaction to the conscience
of Europe, Pius IX. promised to place the finances under the control
of a sort of Chamber of Deputies. Here is the text of this promise,
which figured, with many others, in the Motu Proprio of the 12th of
"A Consulta di Stato for the Finances is established. It
will be heard on the estimates of the forthcoming year. It
will examine the balance of accounts for the previous year,
and sign the vote of credit. It will give its advice on the
establishment of new, or the reduction of old taxes; on the
better distribution of the general taxation; on the measures
to be taken for the improvement of commerce, and in general
on all that concerns the interests of the public Treasury.
"The Councillors shall be selected by Us from lists
presented by the Provincial Councils. Their number shall be
fixed in proportion to the provinces of the State. This
number may be increased within fixed limits by the addition
of some of our subjects, whom we reserve to ourselves the
right to name."
Now, allow me to dwell briefly upon the meaning of this promise, and
the results which have followed it. Who knows whether diplomacy may
not ere long be again occupied in demanding promises of the
Pope?—whether the Pope may not again think it wise to promise
mountains and marvels?—whether these new promises may not be just as
hollow and insincere as the old ones? This short paragraph deserves a
long commentary, for it is fraught with instruction.
"It is established!" said the Pope. But the Consulta di Stato of
Finances, established the 12th of September, 1849, only gave signs of
life in December, 1853. Four years afterwards! This is what I call
drawing a bill at a pretty long date. It is admitted that the nation
needs some guarantees, and that it is entitled to tender some advice,
and to exercise some control. And so the nation is requested to call
again in four years.
The members of the Consulta of the Finances are a sort of sham
deputies; very sham ones, I assure you, although the Count de
Rayneval, to suit his purpose, is pleased to call them "the
Representatives of the Nation." They represent the nation as Cardinal
Antonelli represents the Apostles.
They are elected by the Pope from a list presented by the Communal
Councils. The Communal Councillors are elected by their predecessors
of the Communal Council, who were chosen directly by the Pope from a
list of eligible citizens, each of whom must have produced a
certificate of good conduct, both religious and political. In all this
I cannot for the life of me see more than one elector—the Pope.
We'll begin this progressive election again, and start from the very
bottom—that is, the nation. The Italians have a peculiar fancy for
municipal liberties. The Pope knows this, and, as a good prince, he
resolves to accommodate them. The township or commune wishes to choose
its own councillors, of which there are ten to be elected. The Pope
names sixty electors—six electors for every councillor. And observe,
that in order to become an elector, a certificate from the parish and
the police is necessary. But they are not infallible; and, moreover,
it is just possible that in the exercise of a novel right they may
fall into some error; so the Sovereign determines to arrange the
election himself. Then, his Communal Councillors—for they are indeed
his—come and present him with a list of candidates for the
Provincial Council. The list is long, in order that the Holy Father
may have scope for his selection. For instance, in the province of
Bologna he chooses eleven names out of one hundred and fifty-six; he
must be unlucky indeed not to be able to pick out eleven men devoted
to him. These eleven Provincial Councillors, in their turn, present
four candidates, out of whom the Pope chooses one. And this is how the
nation is represented in the Financial Council.
Still, with a certain luxury of suspicion, the Holy Father adds to the
list of representatives some men of his own choice, his own caste, and
who are in habits of intimacy with him. The councillors elected by the
nation are eliminated by one-third every two years. The councillors
named directly by the Pope are irremovable.
Verily, if ever constituted body offered guarantees to power, it was
this Council of Finances. And yet, the Pope does not trust to it. He
has given the presidence to a Cardinal, the vice-presidence to a
Prelate; and still he is only half re-assured. A special regulation
places all the councillors under the supreme control of the Cardinal
President. It is he who names the commissioners, organizes the
bureaux, and makes the reports to the Pope. Without his permission no
papers or documents are communicated to the councillors. So true is it
that the reigning caste sees in every layman an enemy.
And the reigning caste is quite right. These poor lay councillors,
selected among the most timid, submissive, and devoted of the Pope's
subjects, could not forget that they were men, citizens, and Italians.
On the day after their installation they manifested a desire to begin
doing their duty, by examining the accounts of the preceding year.
They were told that these accounts were lost. They persisted in their
demands. A search was instituted. A few documents were produced; but
so incomplete that the Council was not able in six years to audit and
The advice of the Council of Finances was not taken on the new taxes
decreed between 1849 and 1853. Since 1853, that is to say, since the
Council of Finances has entered upon its functions, the Government has
contracted foreign loans, inscribed consolidated stock in the great
book of the national debt, alienated the national property, signed
postal conventions, changed the system of taxation at Benevento, and
taxed the diseased vines, without even taking the trouble to ascertain
The Government proposed some other financial measure to the Council,
and the answer was in the negative. In spite of this, the Government
measures were carried into execution. The Motu Proprio says the
Consulta di Stato shall be heard, but not that it shall be listened
Every year, at the end of the session, the Consulta addresses to the
Pope a humble petition against the gross abuses of the financial
system. The Pope remits the petition over to some Cardinals. The
Cardinals remit it over to the Greek Kalends.
The Count de Rayneval greatly admired this mechanism. The Emperor
Soulouque did more—he imitated it.
But M. Guizot tells us that "there is a degree of bad government which
no people, whether great or little, enlightened or ignorant, will
tolerate at the present day."
The Count de Rayneval, after having proved that all is for the best in
the dominions of the Pope, winds up his celebrated Note by a
desponding conclusion. According to him, the Roman Question is one
which cannot possibly be definitively solved; and the utmost that can
be effected by diplomacy is the postponement of a catastrophe.
I am not such a pessimist. It appears to me that all political
questions may be solved, and all catastrophes averted. I am sanguine
enough to believe that war is not absolutely indispensable to the
salvation of Italy and the security of Europe, and that it is possible
to extinguish a conflagration without firing guns.
You have seen the intolerable misery and the legitimate discontent of
the subjects of the Pope. You know enough of them to understand that
Europe ought without delay to bring them succour, not only from the
love of abstract justice, but in the interest of the public peace. I
have proved to you that the misfortunes which afflict these three
millions of men must be attributed neither to the weakness of the
sovereign, nor even to the perversity of minister, but are the logical
and necessary deductions from a principle. All that Europe has to do
is to protest against the consequences. The principle must either be
admitted or rejected. If you approve the temporal sovereignty of the
Pope, you are bound to applaud everything, even the conduct of
Cardinal Antonelli. If you are shocked by the offences of the
Pontifical Government, it is against the ecclesiastical monarchy that
you must seek your remedy.
Diplomacy, without staying to discuss the premises, has from time to
time protested against the deductions. In profoundly respectful
Memoranda it has implored the Pope to act inconsistently, by
administering the affairs of his States upon the principles of lay
governments. Should the Pope turn a deaf ear, the diplomatists have no
right to complain, because they recognize his character, as an
independent sovereign. Should he promise all they ask and afterwards
break his word, diplomacy is equally without a ground of complaint. Is
it not the admitted right of the Sovereign Pontiff to absolve men even
from the most solemn oaths? And finally, should he yield to the
solicitation of Europe, and enact liberal laws one day, only to let
them fall into desuetude the next, diplomatists are once more
disarmed. To violate its own laws is a special privilege of absolute
I entertain a very high respect for our diplomatists of 1859; nor were
their predecessors of 1831 wanting either in good intentions or
capacity. They addressed to Gregory XVI. a MEMORANDUM, which is a
master-piece of its kind. They extorted from the Pope a real
constitution,—a constitution which left nothing to be desired, and
which guaranteed all the moral and material interests of the Roman
nation. In a few years this same constitution had entirely
disappeared, and abuses again flowed from the ecclesiastical
principle, like a river from its source.
We renewed the experiment in 1849. The Pope granted us the Motu
Proprio of Portici, and the Romans gained nothing by it.
Shall our diplomatists repeat in 1859 this same part of dupes? A
French engineer has demonstrated that dykes erected along the banks of
rivers liable to inundation are costly, in constant need of repair,
and ineffectual; and that the only real protection against those
devastations is the construction of a dam at the source. To the
source, then, gentlemen of the diplomatic guild! Ascend straight to
the temporal power of the Papacy.
And yet I dare neither hope for, nor ask of Europe the immediate
application of this grand panacea. Gerontocracy is still too powerful,
even in the youngest governments Besides, we are now at peace, and
radical reforms are only to be effected by war. The sword alone enjoys
the privilege of deciding great questions by a single stroke.
Diplomatists, a timid army of peace, proceed but by half-measures.
There is one which was proposed in 1814 by Count Aldini, in 1831 by
Rossi, in 1855 by Count Cavour. These three statesmen, comprehending
the impossibility of limiting the authority of the Pope within the
kingdom in which it is exercised, and over the people who are
abandoned to it, advised Europe to remedy the evil by diminishing the
extent of, and reducing the population subjected to, the States of the
Nothing is more just, natural, or easy than to free the Adriatic
provinces, and to confine the despotism of the Papacy between the
Mediterranean and the Apennines. I have shown that the cities of
Ferrara, Ravenna, Bologna, Rimini, and Ancona are at once the most
impatient of the Pontifical yoke and the most worthy of liberty.
Deliver them. Here is a miracle which may be wrought by a stroke of
the pen: and the eagle's plume which signed the treaty of Paris is as
yet but freshly mended.
There would still remain to the Pope a million of subjects, and
between three and four millions of acres; neither the one nor the
other in a very high state of cultivation, I must admit; but it is
possible that the diminution of his revenue might induce him to manage
his estates and utilize his resources better than he now does. One of
two things would occur: either he would enter upon the course pursued
by good governments, and the condition of his subjects would become
endurable, or he would persist in the errors of his predecessors, and
the Mediterranean provinces would in their turn demand their
At the worst, and as a last alternative, the Pope might retain the
city of Rome, his palaces and temples, his cardinals and prelates, his
priests and monks, his princes and footmen, and Europe would
contribute to feed the little colony.
Rome, surrounded by the respect of the universe, as by a Chinese wall,
would be, so to speak, a foreign body in the midst of free and living
Italy. The country would suffer neither more nor less than does an old
soldier from the bullet which the surgeon has left in his leg.
But will the Pope and the Cardinals easily resign themselves to the
condition of mere ministers of religion? Will they willingly renounce
their political influence? Will they in a single day forget their
habits of interfering in our affairs, of aiming princes against one
another, and of discreetly stirring up citizens against their rulers?
I much doubt it.
But on the other hand, princes will avail themselves of the lawful
right of self-defence. They will read history, and they will there
find that the really strong governments are those which have kept
religious authority in their own hands; that the Senate of Rome did
not grant the priests of Carthage liberty to preach in Italy; that the
Queen of England and the Emperor of Russia are the heads of the
Anglican and Russian religions; and they will see that by right the
sovereign metropolis of the churches of France should be in Paris.
1: Preface to the Official Statistical Returns of 1853, page 64.
2: 'La Grèce Contemporaine.'
3: Etudes Statistiques sur Rome, par le Comte de Tournon.
4: A few of them did good service in the cause of liberty, and
deserved well of their country, in the glorious but unsuccessful
struggle of 1848, soon about to be renewed, and, let us hope,
under happier auspices, and with a very different result.
Duke Filippo Lante Montefeltro, Colonel in command of a corps d'
armée of the Roman Volunteers, occupied and held Treviso, whereby
he at once assured the retreat of the Roman army, after its defeat
at Cornuda on the 9th of May, 1848, by General Nugent, and
prevented the advance of the Austrians upon Venice. The President
Manin acknowledged that by his courage and patriotism he had saved
Venice, and immediately sent him the commission of a full General.
On the 16th of May, General Nugent arrived before Treviso with
16,000 men, and siege artillery. He at once summoned the place to
surrender, giving General Lante till noon on the following day for
consideration. At four the same evening, Lante sent for reply,
"Come this evening. I shall expect you at six. We are here to
fight, not to surrender!" After threatening the town for some
days, Nugent retired from before it, and joined Radetzky.
Duke Bonelli, Captain of Dragoons, was Orderly Officer to General
Durando at the capitulation of Vicenza. Prince Bartolomeo Ruspoli
served as a private soldier in the Roman Legion; he was one of
the three Commissioners who were sent to the camp of Radetzky to
treat for the capitulation of Vicenza.
Count Antonio Marescotti commanded the 1st Roman regiment of
Count Bandini, son of a Princess Giustiniani, was also Orderly
Officer to Durando.
Count Pianciani commanded the 3d regiment of Roman Volunteers.
Don Ludovico Lante (a younger brother of Filippo) was Captain in
the 1st regiment of Roman Volunteers.
Adriano Borgia quitted the Pope's Guardia Nobile for a Colonelcy
of Dragoons, in the service of the Roman Republic: he was an
Marquis Steffanoni commanded a company of young
5: The ordinary British tourist must not look for his portrait in the
witty Author's picture. It is clear that here and elsewhere the
pilgrims are all assumed to be true sons of the
6: An expression in use among collegians in France, to describe those
students who are unable to pass their examinations; tantamount to
our English plucked.
7: A man who has worn cioccie.
8: 'Tolla.' 1 vol. 12mo.
9: 'The Victories of the Church,' by the Priest Margotti. 1857.
10: 'Proemio della Statistica,' pubblicata nel 1857, dall'
Eminentissimo Cardinale Milesi.
11: H.R.H. the Prince of Wales.
12: Leo XII. (out of his excessive regard for the interests of
morality) occasionally departed from this rule. The same motive
caused him to be very fond of what the profane call "gossip." He
had a habit, too, of ascertaining by ocular demonstration, whether
any incidents of more than ordinary interest in domestic life were
passing in the palaces of his noble, or the houses of his citizen
subjects. His medium for the attainment of this end was a powerful
telescope, placed at one of his upper windows! The principal
minister to his gossiping propensities was one Captain C——, a
man of great learning, but doubtful morality, selected, of course,
for the office of scandalous chronicler, from his experiences in
what, in lay countries, the carnally-minded term "life." When,
between his telescopic observations, and the reports of the
Captain, the Sovereign Pontiff had accumulated the requisite
amount of evidence against any offending party, the mode of
procedure was sudden, swift, and sure, fully bearing out the
Author's assertion that in Rome the will of an individual is a
substitute for the law of the State. There was no nonsense about
Habeas Corpus, or jury, or recorded judgment. The supposed
delinquent was simply seized (usually in the dead of the night, to
avoid scandal), and hurried off to durance vile, to undergo, as it
was phrased prigione ed altre pene a nostro arbitrio. One day
C—— brought the Pope particulars of what was at once pronounced
by his Holiness a most flagrant case. The wife of the highly
respected and able Avocato B—— (a stout lady of fifty), who
was at the same time legal adviser to the French Embassy, was in
the habit of driving out daily in the carriage, and by the side of
the old bachelor Duke C——, Exempt of the Noble Guard. The Papal
decision on the case was instant. The act was of such frequent
occurrence, so audaciously, so unblushingly public, that public
morality demanded the strongest measures. That very night a
descent was made upon the dwelling of the unconscious Avocato.
The sanctity of the connubial chamber was invaded. The sleeping
beauty of fifty was ordered to rise, and was dragged off to—the
Convent of Repentant Females! B—— knew, and none better, what
manner of thing law was in Rome, so instead of wasting time in
reasoning with the Pope as to the legality of the case—urging the
argument that, even supposing his wife to have been of a
susceptible age and an attractive exterior, so long as he himself
made no objection to her driving out with the old Duke, nobody
else had any right to interfere—and other similar appeals to
common sense, he at once requested the interference of the French
Ambassador. This was promptly and effectively given. The
incarceration of the peccant dame was brief; and a shower of
ridicule fell upon the Pontifical head. But the Sovereigns of Rome
are accustomed to, and regardless of, such irreverent
13: Louis Veuillot, article of the 10th of September, 1849.
14: The principal market in Rome is held in this Piazza.
15: The Basilica of St. Paul without the walls.
16: The rubbio is a measure both of land and of quantity.
17: Monsignore Nicolai was a good practical agriculturist. He had a
sort of model farm, known as the Albereto Nicolai, near the
Basilica of St. Paul Without the Walls. He was an able
administrator, and a man of superior attainments; and had he only
possessed common honesty, he would have been in time a great
man—as greatness is understood in Rome. He was a Prelato di
Fiochetto, and held the post of Uditore della R.C. Apostolica,
one of the four high offices which necessarily lead to Red Hats.
Moreover, he was marked by Gregory XVI for the promotion, and had
actually ordered his scarlet apparel. But unfortunately Monsignore
Nicolai affected the good things of this life over-much. He was a
bon vivant, and a viveur. He loved money, and he was utterly
unscrupulous as to the means by which he obtained it. His career
in the direction of the Sacred College was cut short, when he was
very near its attainment, by a scandalous transaction, in which,
although he was nearly eighty years of age, he played the
principal part. He colluded with a notary, named Bachetti, to
falsify the will of one Vitelli, a wealthy contractor, inserting
in the place of the testator's two orphan nieces that of his own
natural son. The affair having been dragged to light, Gregory
XVI. deprived him of his office, and he ended his days in disgrace
and retirement. His fondness for worldly pelf clung to him in his
very last moments. A short time before he expired, he ordered some
gendarmes to be brought into his bedroom, and charged them to
watch over his property, lest anything should be stolen after he
had ceased to breathe, and before the representatives of the law
could take possession.
It is worthy of mention, as illustrating the administration of
Justice in Rome, that even with these proofs of the invalidity of
the will produced as that of Vitelli, his nieces were never able
to recover the whole of his property. They were compelled to make
terms with Grossi, the defunct Prelate's natural son, who to this
day remains in the enjoyment of one-half of Vitelli's property!
18: All the facts and figures contained in this chapter are taken from
the works of the Marchese Pepoli.
19: Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 293.