OF all great prophecies ever made to a credulous world, the most futile and woful was uttered toward the end of the eighteenth century by Aurelio Bertola.
Having visited many countries, in various capacities, — at times a monk, at times a soldier, at times a man of letters and “philosopher,” — flitting at times between the lecture-rooms of two renowned universities, but always an optimistic phrase-maker, he, first of all men, published what he called, A Philosophy of History, and, as the culmination of his work, summed up the condition of humanity on this wise: “The political system of Europe has virtually arrived at perfection. An equilibrium has been attained which henceforth preserves peoples from subjugation, Few reforms are now needed and these will be accomplished peaceably. Europe has no need to fear a revolution.” 1
And this in 1787! — the year in which the French Assembly of Notables opened the greatest era of revolution and war in human history, — an era which has now lasted over a century and which still continues ; which, between that year and this, has seen every people on the European continent subjugated by foes foreign or domestic, every continental dynasty overturned or humiliated, and an infinite number of liberties crushed, or reforms wrested, by conspirators or soldiers; an era which, not only to every European nation, but to America, Asia, and Africa, has brought deluge after deluge of blood; which is blackened by thousands of battlefields, and, among these, by Marengo, Austerlitz, and Borodino, by Leipzig and Waterloo, by the Alma and Inkerman, by Magenta and Solferino, by Antietam and Gettysburg, by Sadowa and Plevna, by Gravelotte and Sedan; by the naval slaughters of the Nile, Trafalgar, Navarino, and Sinope; by the Japanese annihilation of Chinese and Russian armies and navies; by the storming of Badajoz, of the Malakoff, and of Düppel; by the sieges of Genoa, of Saragossa, of Sebastopol, of Paris, and of Port Arthur; with thousands of vast and bloody encounters besides, costing millions of lives; by a ghastly series of massacres, extending from those in the name of liberty, in 1792, to those in the name of the throne and altar, in 1815, and from those of the Commune, in 1871, to those throughout Russia, in 1906; by scaffolds innumerable, and by the remodeling of every European nation, save Great Britain, — some of them twice or thrice.
The world at large, which loves those who prophesy smooth things, took this utterance of Bertola complacently. To the warning of a very different tenor, given by Lord Chesterfield, it gave no heed.
Most of all was this optimistic prophecy enjoyed by Italians; for, of all great peoples, they had most reason to long for a future better than their past. During more than a thousand years Italy had been trodden by foreign rulers and soldiers, — Germans, Saracens, Frenchmen, and Spaniards. She had been torn also by feuds between countless tyrants of her own ; between her city republics; between classes, between demagogues — all howling for “liberty” or “religion;” so that, despite her vast achievements in literature, science, and art, her people had sunk more and more into superstition and skepticism. Their main reliance was apparently upon such helpers as St. Januarius at Naples, the Bambino at Rome, St. Anthony and his pigs at Padua, Buddha — transformed into a Christian saint —at Palermo, and ten thousand fetiches besides. Faith in anything worth believing was mainly gone. The mediæval city liberties had long been a vague remembrance. The utterances of Dante and Michael Angelo were, to the vast mass, as if they had never been.2
Their lay rulers were, mainly, frivolous and sensual, their priestly rulers mostly bigoted and cruel, their nobility given to futilities, their people groveling below these, — ignorant beyond belief.
But, shortly after Bertola wrote, the French Revolution made itself felt in Italy.
It raised many hopes, and, in 1796, came an apostle from whom Italians expected much: — Bonaparte, — an Italian who never spoke French until out of his boyhood; and, knowing this, Italy saw some reason for believing in him. Bringing his army over the Alps, he promised to the Italian people an end of the miseries which had been accumulating since the destruction of their municipal liberties, more than two hundred and fifty years before. He pledged to them the fulfillment of their wildest dreams, — liberty, fraternity, prosperity, glory. Some of these promises he redeemed, for he brought better ideas of liberty and justice; roads along which better ideas could travel ; a system of taxation, which, though taking more money out of the country than it had ever yet paid, was better than any it had ever known before. He reduced some fifteen petty despotisms to three, cast out Bourbon, Papal, and Hapsburg administration, gave better laws, scared off Jesuits, discouraged monks, shot bandits, restored vigor to states which had seemed mere carcasses, and, best of all, gave an impulse to the idea of Italy as a nation.3
But at his downfall Italy, of all countries with which he had dealt, was left the most abject and distraught. Liberty he had never given them ; he had played with Italian rights as suited his interest or fancy: had distributed the whole Italian territory as his private estate; had, more than once, thrown its liberties to the worst enemies Italians had ever known. While affecting veneration for the Republic of Venice and admiration for the men who represented it, he had tossed it over to Austria as a mere bagatelle, at the Treaty of Campo Formio, just ten years after Bertola’s prophecy. He had carved out of Italian territories a kingdom for himself, with principalities and dukedoms for his family, his satraps, and his courtiers, much as any ordinary brigand might have distributed the plunder of a petty village. Works of art. which were to Italians the proudest trophies of their past, he had sent to the contemptible Directory, at Paris. He had left the bones of Italian youth scattered on hundreds of battlefields, from Madrid to Moscow.4
Hence it was that, when, after his treachery in Italy, his infamy in Spain, and his folly in Russia, his throne tottered and fell, the Italians began listening to the Hapsburgs and Bourbons, and the race of princelings who returned in their train after the Peace of Vienna. In the anxiety of these old enslavers to recover Italian territory, their pledges were as splendid as any Napoleon had made; and especially alluring were their promises of liberties, constitutions, and reasonable government. But they, too, as soon as they were established, forgot all these fine pretenses, and the old despotism of the days before the French Revolution settled down upon the country more heavily than ever. Throughout the whole peninsula the influence of Austria now became supreme. The highest conceptions then applied to Italian development were those of the Austrian Emperor Francis, typical of which was his announcement to sundry delegates of the University of Padua, that he required of them not enlightened scholars but obedient subjects. Typical of his practice was his command to the jailers of Spielberg to shorten the diet of his Italian prisoners and to make them feel every day — more and more — the bitter results of their patriotism.
Acting through him was Metternich, the great apostle of reaction, whose contempt for Italian independence was expressed in his famous utterance, “Italy is simply a geographical expression.” Back of both was the Holy Alliance, — especially Russia and Austria. Romanoffs, Hapsburgs, and, for a time, Hohenzollerns, united in the effort to quench instantly in Italy every spark of freedom, every beginning of constitutional government,—the Bourbons, in France, Spain, and Naples, applauding and helping them.
At the northern extremity of the peninsula, in Lombardy and Venice, Austria had established a kingdom peculiarly her own; honest in a way, but brutally stupid. All traces of earlier independence and liberties were uprooted. The reforms of Napoleon were, as far as possible, brought to naught, and from Milan, especially, radiated the new gospel of Hapsburg despotism; its apostles the hierarchy of the Church, and its disciples the whole army of place-holders and pelfseekers.
Adjoining this territory on the northwest was the realm of the House of Savoy, to which had been recently attached the Republic of Genoa. Everything like constitutional liberty was blotted out from this territory also. As regards education, the Church, and especially the Jesuits, were given complete control; but in one thing this Piedmontese kingdom was vastly superior to any other part of Italy: it had a peasantry, hardworking, honest, and conscientious; a nobility, which, though often narrow-minded and even bigoted, was conscientious and patriotic; a monarchy differing in its whole spirit from that of the Hapsburgs and Bourbons; for, though the royal house had been, and, indeed, remained for some years after its restoration by the Treaty of Vienna, bigoted and despotic, it was straightforward and truthful, and, therefore, was respected by its subjects as Bourbons and Hapsburgs had not been for ages.5
Going southward, the next main division was Tuscany, — ruled by a branch of the House of Hapsburg, — but this branch the best in all Hapsburg history. Its people were hard-working and generally contented; its beauty, its fertility, and the glories of the arts there developed had made it, for several generations, the most attractive part of the peninsula. Its rulers, indeed, resisted everything like constitutional government, but they devoted themselves to the welfare of their subjects paternally.
Neighboring Tuscany were a number of small states, like Parma, Lucca, and Modena, governed by petty despots, as a rule Austrian by birth or education, and among these, worst of all, the Duke of Modena, Francis IV. Even in that bad age he was despised and abhorred for his cruel cunning. No blacker stain rests upon the history of any modern man than his treacherous murder of Ciro Menotti and the patriots who had trusted in the ducal promises.
Next southward, among the main divisions, came the States of the Church, ruled from the early years of the nineteenth century by men of little force; one of them, indeed, Pius VII, beautiful in character and ennobled by adversity; others, like Pius VIII and Gregory XVI, narrow and intolerant. As to moral and religious traits they were, indeed, forced by the spirit of their time far above the level of such pontiffs as Sixtus IV and Alexander VI, but as to ability they were infinitely below such as Sixtus V, and Benedict XIV, and Leo XIII. None of them were strong enough to make headway against the political absurdities that had been so long developing throughout their dominions. To each and all of them anything like constitutional government was unthinkable. None knew any way of governing save by despotism, and just as little could any one of them think of conceding any effective part in administration to laymen. All rule must be entrusted to priests, — and these, the Monsignori, — mostly young ecclesiastics, who had won their way by family connection, or old ecclesiastics, cynical and sluggish; some, indeed, well intentioned, but, for the most part, giving the cities they ruled governments as degrading as any that modern civilization has known, — save, possibly, those to be seen in our own day in some of our American municipalities. To the whole Napoleonic tradition of public works they were, as a rule, invincibly opposed. When railways came, these functionaries, from the Pope downward, mainly abhorred them : for they saw but too well what Buckle afterward stated, that better systems of internal communication bring in new ideas. So bad was their government, in all its practical details, that even Austria remonstrated, and even Metternich complained, “The Papal Government cannot govern.”
Last of all came, at the southern end of the peninsula, the Kingdom of Naples, or, as it was known after the Peace of Vienna, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In no part of Europe was the whole life of the people so degraded. The Roman states were possibly more wretchedly administered, but the popes who ruled them had been, since the Renaissance period, at least decent men. Not so the Bourbons who ruled at Naples. Throughout their entire dominion crime was rampant and murder almost as easy and carelessly treated as it is to-day in many of the states of our American Republic. The ignorance of the country was beyond that of any other which called itself civilized, save Russia. The court was the lowest, as regarded morality, in Europe ; the palace, under the lead of the Hapsburg Queen Mary Caroline, hardly better than a brothel ; the vileness of the Neapolitan populace proverbial.
The same city mobs which had committed every sort of cruelty, a few years before, in the name of liberty, had, at the return of the Bourbons, with the connivance of the Queen and under the lead of the Cardinal Archbishop Ruffo, committed even worse crimes in the name of religion. Noble and thoughtful men, here and there in Naples, as in every part of Italy, strove to better this condition of things, but, by doing so, immediately fell under the ban of the court, lost all chance of promotion, and were fortunate if they escaped imprisonment or even death ; on the other hand, spendthrifts and rakes, being considered not likely to conspire against the government, received all honors. The Neapolitan Bourbons also, like the popes, discouraged all public improvements of a sort likely to promote the circulation of ideas; and, several years after the middle of the nineteenth century, when Great Britain and Northern Europe generally were already enjoying extensive railway systems, there was hardly a mile of railway in the whole peninsula south of Genoa.6
To maintain this state of things, popular education was, throughout Italy, systematically discouraged. In Naples and Rome there was virtually no provision for the education of the people at large, and even in Turin, the capital of the most enlightened of all the Italian states, Piedmont, there were, as late as 1846, only fifteen hundred children in the public schools, in which to-day there are over thirty thousand. How dense popular ignorance thus became may be judged from an official report published as late as 1873, with a careful map giving the percentages of popular education in all parts of Italy, In the most enlightened regions the number of those who could neither read nor write was from forty to fifty per cent, but, in the greater portion of the country the number of illiterates far exceeded this, until, in the States of the Pope, it reached from seventy-five to eighty-five per cent, and, in nearly the whole of Naples and Sicily, above eightyfive per cent. Such was the intellectual condition of the people after they had been cared for by the Church during nearly two thousand years.7
The higher education had been reduced by the same influences as nearly to nothing as public opinion would permit. The utterance of Kaiser Franz to the Pavia professors was carried out to the letter. The Jesuits, who had been expelled by Clement XIV, and by various sovereigns of Europe, half a century before, were, in 1816, readmitted by Pius VII, and speedily secured control of higher schools and universities. These institutions had been among the greatest glories of Italy. They had, indeed, been interfered with by the Church, at former periods, in various ways, notably in the days when Vesalius, shielded by Venice, taught anatomy at Padua, and Galileo tried to teach astronomy and physics at Pisa and Florence. Under control of local governments, not especially in fear of the Church or of revolution, there was then some liberty. But all higher teaching was now more and more alloyed with Jesuitism and directed by the bishops and the Vatican. Sundry studies — Latin, mathematics, scraps of Greek, a little rhetoric, and concoctions of a snitable philosophy — were taught with skill. Manners also were attended to: as late as 1883, an Italian marquis at Milan informed the present writer that he sent his sons to the Jesuits “because they teach a young man how to enter a room.”But studies which taught men to think, and, above all, history, political economy, and the like, were reduced to nothing. History, indeed, was apparently taught, but it was absurdly and comically distorted to meet the needs of theology and ecclesiasticism. Research in science, in spite of the great achievements in this field by Italians, was more and more discouraged, and the reading of Dante and other great writers who might suggest ideas of Italian nationality, was, in many places, forbidden.
In the Kingdom of Naples all this was at the worst. The university continued to exist and strong men occasionally arose in it, but, as a rule, its best professors were humiliated, and finally, for utterances which, in these days, would be thought harmless, imprisoned or set at work in the chain-gang. To keep out the higher thought and scholarship, there was issued a Neapolitan edition of the Roman Index.
In Tuscany it was better ; for in that state lingered traditions of culture which could not be put down by papal fulminations or even by Austrian armies.
In the Papal States the repression of thought was carried out logically. At the University of Bologna, once a great centre of enlightenment, the dangers of research or publication of thought were warded off most carefully: any book, before it could be printed, must run the gauntlet of no less than seven censorships;8 it must have the approval, first, of the literary censor, secondly, of the ecclesiastical censor, thirdly, of the political censor, fourthly, of the Inquisition, fifthly, of the archbishop, sixthly, of the police, and, seventhly, a second verification by the Inquisition.
Rome, too, as the spiritual centre of Italy and of the world, continued to issue the Index, which forbade the reading of nearly every book which represented any triumph of modern thought, and among them those of Galileo, supporting the movement of the earth around the sun, and of Grotius, supporting arbitration. Even as late as the latter half of the eighteenth century, when Beccaria, a deeply religious churchman, wrote his great work, On Crimes and Punishments, reasonable and mild to a fault, but taking ground against torture in procedure and penalty, that, too, was placed upon the Index of books forbidden to Christians, and to this decision infallibility was guaranteed by a Bull signed by a reigning pontiff. As regarded the Italian people at large, most things which reminded them of anything higher than futilities seemed forbidden. Typical was the fact that when the opera “ I’Puritani " was given, the word “loyalty” was substituted for the word “ liberty,” and a singer who happened to forget this was imprisoned. The word “Italy” was as much hated as the word “liberty,” and school children were at times punished for using it.
Nor was this all. The action of the various governments was not merely negative but positive. Patriotism and even the principles of morality underlying it were to be extirpated. For this purpose there were prepared political catechisms, and these were forced upon the schools in the name of religion. One of these, issued from Milan, in 1834, by the Austrian government, entitled. Duties of Subjects Toward their Sovereign, contained things like the following : —
“Question: How should subjects behave toward their sovereign ?”
“ Answer : Subjects should behave like faithful slaves (servi) toward their master.”
“Question: Why should subjects behave like slaves (servi) ?”
“Answer: Because the sovereign is their master and has as much power over their possessions as over their lives.”
“Question: How does God punish soldiers who forsake their lawful sovereign ? ”
“Answer: By sickness, want and eternal damnation.”9
Most famous of all these catechisms was that prepared by Monaldo Leopardi, — father of the famous Liberal who afterward wrought so powerfully for free thought in Italy. This catechism was enforced especially in the Kingdom of Naples, being republished by Archbishop Apuzzo of Sorrento, the tutor chosen by King Ferdinand II for his son Francis II, better known as “King Bomba.” The Neapolitan edition was entitled, A Philosophical Catechism, directed to Princes, Bishops, Magistrates, Teachers of Youth and to all Men of Good Will, and it remains one of the most precious monuments of the counter-revolutionary reaction. Its main effort was nothing less than an attempt to root out from the mind of a whole people all that the modern world knows as patriotism, right, justice, and civic morality.
The first chapter is entitled, “Philosophy,” and, after a diatribe against modern philosophers in general, it winds up with the following touching question by “The Disciple:” “Do all such persons wear beards and moustaches ? ” to which “The Master” answers that, while wearing beard and moustache is not necessarily evil, it is to be regarded with suspicion.
The third chapter is entitled, “Liberty.” The first part of the dialogue runs as follows: —
“Disciple: Is it true that all men are born free?”
“Master: It is not true, and this lie regarding liberty is only one more piece of deceit that modern philosophers use in order to seduce people and upset the world.”
The fifth chapter is devoted to “The Rights of Man,” and in it occurs the following:—
“Disciple: Is it true that the supreme power resides in the people?”
“Master: It is not true. It would be absurd to affirm that by the disposition of Nature the people can control or moderate themselves.”
The disciple then asks: “May it not be, as the liberal philosophers say, that the sovereignty resides in the people but may be exercised through their representatives ?”
The master shows that this idea is utterly delusive, that the people cannot delegate a power which they have not.
Chapter seven treats of the constitution, and, in its defiance of political morality, is, perhaps, the boldest in the book. It is clear that, in some of the answers to the questions of the disciple, the archbishop was not unmindful of the famous perjuries of various kings of Naples, and, especially, of his royal master, in swearing to constitutions and then openly violating them. During the dialogue occur the following questions and answers:—
“Disciple: Can the people establish the fundamental laws of the State ?”
“Master: They cannot, because the constitution and fundamental laws of a state are a limitation of sovereignty, and sovereignty cannot receive any bounds or measures except from itself.”
“Disciple: But, if the people, in the act of choosing the sovereign, have imposed upon him conditions and agreements, are not these conditions and agreements the constitution and fundamental law of the State ?”
“Master: They are not so, because the people, which was made for submission and not for command, cannot impose any law upon that sovereignty, which receives its power not from the people but from God.”
“Disciple: Is not a prince, who, in assuming the sovereignty of a state, has accepted and sanctioned a constitution or fundamental laws of that state and has promised and sworn to observe them, obliged to maintain his promise and to observe that constitution and that law?”
“Master: He is obliged to observe them in so far as they do not infringe the foundations of sovereignty, and in so far as they are not opposed to the universal good of the state.”
“Disciple: Who, then, is to judge when a constitution infringes on the rights of the sovereignty or injures the people ? ”
“Master: The sovereign has to judge, because in him exists the supreme power established by God in the state.”
Chapter eight is devoted to “Government,” and begins as follows: —
“Disciple: What is the best of all governments for a state?”
“Master: The best government for any state is that under which it is at the present moment legitimately ruled.”
“Disciple: But, considering things in the abstract, what is the best of all governments ? ”
“Master: Hereditary monarchy, that is to say, that in which the sovereignty resides in the monarch alone and passes from him to his descendant.”
Chapter nine is devoted to “Legitimacy,” but, though it is, in some respects, the most subtle of the book, it is one of the most inconclusive. The archbishop evidently labors under difficulties. In view of the fact that the Church had sanctioned the usurpation of Napoleon in France, against the Bourbons, and of other rulers of the Napoleonic period, elsewhere, against the old ruling houses, nothing was possible here save to raise a cloud and escape in it.
But the charge of obscurity cannot be brought against the tenth chapter, which is entitled “Revolution.” The archbishop adopts a view as clear as the day and shows the courage of his convictions. Being asked by the disciple whether the people have not the right to resist, “when the prince loads his subjects with enormous taxes and wastes the treasure of the state,” the master answers: “The people have not the right to judge regarding the needs and expenses of the monarchy; the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of St. Paul declares to the people, ‘Pay tribute,’ but does not declare to the people, ‘Examine the accounts of the king.’”
After arguments in this strain through thirteen chapters, the disciple says, “Then, according to your judgment, for the good of a state it would be well to favor ignorance rather than education ?” to which the master, after various platitudes, answers as follows: —
“I have already said to you that it is necessary to follow a middle course. . . . For servants and ploughmen, a proper moderation consists in knowing the catechism and prayers to be said aloud, and nothing more; in other classes, moderation consists in knowing how to read, write and cast accounts a little, and nothing more; for other classes, moderation consists in studying that which regards the proper profession of each,” etc.
Reading this, one ceases to wonder that the official map, issued shortly after this system had ended, showed that, throughout the whole extent of the combined kingdom of Naples and Sicily, the proportion of persons unable to read or write was over eighty-five in every hundred.
Later occurs an especially curious question: —
“Disciple: Tell me, do you believe that the newly invented savings banks are the carnal brothers of general instruction, and that philosophy is preparing, by means of them, to accomplish the diffusion of property and goods?”
“Master: Although few suspect it as yet, I am absolutely certain of it.”
The fourteenth chapter is entitled “Our Country,” and it reveals a desperate effort to root out from the Italian mind everything like patriotism.
The master tells his disciple that, if similar degrees of the thermometer make men fellow-citizens, then the Romans and the Tartars are of the same country ; that, as to similarity of language, the people at the two ends of Italy hardly understand one another, and that, if similarity of appellation gives fellow-citizenship, and all those are fellow-citizens who are called Italians, — “Then, because your name is Bartholomew, you are a fellow-citizen of all the Bartholomews throughout the world.”
The book is at times witty and shrewd, and has in it, here and there, suggestions which look like wisdom. There is in it much historical allusion, but, of course, as in most cases where ecclesiastics write for the supposed benefit of religion, the author manipulates history to suit bis necessities.
As to Italian independence, he insists that in three quarters of Italy, Italian independence is already established, and that those who deny it are, to use his own words, “simpletons who are looking round for their hats when their hats are upon their heads.”He defends the rights of Austria in Lombardy and Venice as sacrosanct, and winds up by declaring that, the “independence of Italy . . . is simply a cabalistic word, used by thieves and scoundrels.”
In this work culminated an effort long and earnest. To its earlier stage belongs the History of France for the Use of Youth, with maps, A. M. D. G, published to uphold the French Bourbons, in 1820, by the Jesuit Father Loriquet. Father Loriquet’s effort had been simply to efface all knowledge of the Napoleonic Empire from the French mind, and his history, therefore, made Louis XVII the immediate successor of Louis XVI, and Louis XVIII the immediate successor of Louis XVII, virtually leaving out Napoleon as ruler, mentioning him as little as possible and always under the name “ Bonaparte.”
Exquisitely naïve, also, was this Jesuit historian’s attempt to discredit “Bonaparte” by falsified history. Perhaps of all the innumerable Jesuit attempts to manufacture history to suit ecclesiastical purposes, the most comical was the account given by Father Loriquet of the Battle of Waterloo. In the crisis of the battle, which the world knows by heart, he represents the Old Guard as a mass of madmen, firing upon one another while the British look upon them with horror.
The final effort of Archbishop Apuzzo to save the Neapolitan Bourbons turned out to be as futile as the effort of Father Loriquet to save the French Bourbons. Each book became a laughing-stock and was suppressed as far as possible by the reactionary governments in whose supposed interest it was written. Lake some similar attempts in our own day to further ecclesiastical interests, each recoiled fatally upon those who prepared it.10
Tomaintain the system thus supported, stood Austria, the agent of the Holy Alliance, and, whenever there seemed special danger of any movement for independence or constitutional government, international congresses were called, as at Troppau, in 1820, at Laybach, in 1821, at Verona, in 1822; and the Bourbons in France showed their sympathy by sending an army to put down constitutional government in Spain.
Was any concession to more reasonable ideas made in any Italian state, large or small, Metternich’s emissaries were speedily upon the spot, using bribes, threats, or pressure. Austrian, Papal, or Neapolitan spies swarmed in churches, cafés, and throughout private society; they wrought steadily, at the post-office and in the confessional, to discover every man’s political ideas. No family so high or so low as to be exempt from police interference. The slightest suspicion led to arrest, the pettiest utterances against despotic methods led to the chain-gang or to long, solitary imprisonment, and anything like effective resistance brought the best and bravest to the scaffold.
Such was the system which the great powers, assembled at Vienna, — Great Britain now and then halting and, at last, ashamed, — had developed in the most beautiful territory and for the most gifted people in the world. But one thing European rulers had left out of their calculations, — the great body of thoughtful and patriotic Italian men and women. Over all this misery and shame they brooded in every city and hamlet, in castles, in shops, in professors’ chairs, — even in sacristies. To them Dante, Michael Angelo, and the long line of their inspired countrymen had spoken. More and more these men and women dreamed of independence, of unity, of liberty. These were, indeed, troubled dreams, always fitful, often absurd, sometimes criminal, but they were unceasing and foreshadowed much.
But all this the men who profited, or supposed they profited, by the existing state of things, could not or would not see or hear. When have men, profiting by unreason and wrong, ever, in any country, really seen their own true interests ? The ruling classes in Italy were as blind to their own interests, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as were sundry great American political leaders regarding slavery, in the middle of the same century, and as are sundry great American financial leaders in our own time. Both those and these have been and are really the most dangerous fomenters of revolution, sure to bring disaster upon their country and punishment upon themselves and their children.
The first main effort to realize something better in the Italy of that period was seen at Naples in 1820. The Bourbon king, Ferdinand I, was finally forced to grant a constitution, and this he again and again swore to maintain. Pathetic, at the time, were his profuse public thanks to God for permitting him to aid so great and good an action, — and to the leading revolutionists for showing him his duty. Especially dramatic was his oath in the chapel of his palace, when, with tears in his eyes, he, in the presence of a great as sembly, swore to maintain the constitution and invoked the curse of Heaven upon his head if his oath should be broken.
The Holy Alliance took up the matter at once, and the three sovereigns of Austria, Prussia, and Russia wrote letters to King Ferdinand, identical in character, pointing out his duty to violate this oath. A little later he went to meet these advisers at Laybach, there took back his oath, thence returned with an Austrian army, abolished the constitution, and sent the men to whom he had rendered such profuse thanks for advocating it, to dungeons, galleys, and scaffolds.11
In the next year came a revolution at the other end of Italy, in Piedmont. Its population was far more sound and moral than that of Naples; its rulers, of the House of Savoy, far higher in character than the Bourbons. Deeply religious, even bigoted, many of them had been. Against their fearful persecution of the Waldenses, Milton had testified, nearly two hundred years before, in verses that have echoed through human hearts from his day to ours.12 The governmental creed of these rulers was absolutism ; but, at least, they were brave and true, and this was destined to count for much — indeed, for everything — in the history which followed.
The demand of the Piedmontese revolution was for a constitution, but against this the Holy Alliance was so firmly set that, feeling unable to grapple with the difficulty, the King, Victor Emmanuel I, abdicated, giving over the succession to his brother, Charles Felix. As this brother was living in retirement at Modena, a regency was given to his nephew, and heir presumptive, Charles Albert, who, after much wavering, reluctantly promised a constitution. Against this constitution, Austria and the Alliance took ground at once: the regent’s uncle, King Charles Felix, was made to repudiate the concessions of the young regent, to banish him to Tuscany with bitter reproach and insult, and at least to pretend to favor an intrigue for transferring the right of succession to the vilest and most despotic branch of the family, that of the murderer, Duke Francis of Modena.
Austria now pursued at Turin the same policy as at Naples. She sent an army which supported Charles Felix in annulling the constitution, in restoring absolutism, in sending constitutionalists to dungeons and scaffolds.
These examples served as powerful deterrents to every open effort for liberty, and there now came ten years of slumber, with dreams more feverish than before. No great demonstrations took place, but everywhere was seen and felt an active and even poisonous ferment of liberty. An early symptom of this was the secret society of the Coal Burners: the Carbonari. With ceremonies somewhat resembling those of Masonry and with fanatical vows against tyranny, this society spread throughout all the Italianspeaking peoples, and embraced vast numbers of devotees of freedom, from the highest classes to the lowest. Even Louis Bonaparte, who afterward became Napoleon III, was, in his youth, one of those who swore fidelity to it. Its fanaticism knew no limit; outrages and assassinations were everywhere, and this provoked successive rulers at Naples and elsewhere to oppose it with every sort of cruelty. Torture was freely used to detect it, and, in the Austro-Italian dominions, any connection with it was punished by death. Every expedient was tried, and a rival organization, in behalf of absolutism, the Sanfedisti, with vows and secret ceremonies equally fanatical, was created to ferret it out and fight it. The natural result followed. Absolutism pointed to these societies as its justification, and by their excesses general European public opinion was first made cool toward Italian liberty and, finally, hostile. These associations rapidly deteriorated and, in various regions, became a banditti, glorying in outrage and murder, as do “the gangs” in some of our great. American cities of to-day. Typical was one of these bands — the Decisi — whose leader, an unfrocked priest, being brought to trial and asked how many persons he had himself murdered, answered, “Who knows! Sixty or seventy, perhaps.”13
Supported by the public opinion thus caused. Austria and her subordinate despotisms went further. Great numbers of thoughtful and serious men were seized and condemned, among them the heads of some of the most eminent Italian families at Milan, who were arrested and dragged to Austrian dungeons or scaffolds. Notable was the case of Silvio Pellico, a gentle, religious soul, known widely and favorably as a man of letters. Arrested for a petty infraction of rules, at Venice, he was kept, for nearly twenty years, in an Austrian dungeon, during part of the time chained to a fellow-prisoner who was suffering from a repulsive disease. His final account of his prison life, entitled My Prisons, with his simple recitals of sufferings and consolations, ran through Christendom, touching all hearts and inflaming all with a hatred of Austrian tyranny. Throughout Italy matters grew worse and worse, until even the most determined reactionaries, largely responsible by their theories or their acts for this state of things, found it necessary to express their horror and to throw blame on others. Chateaubriand, committed though he was to Bourbon despotism and the Church; Metternich, yet more devoted to Hapsburg despotism and reaction; and even Joseph de Maistre, hating liberty and devoted to the most extreme theories of papal authority, denounced governments responsible for this cruelty and folly.14
And yet the surface of things was charming: as free from forebodings as was the surface of society in the American Republic in 1860, when drifting toward the abyss of Civil War which swallowed nearly a million of the best lives our country had to give. Italy at large was immoral, superstitious, and happy. From the whole world pleasure-seekers were attracted by its “fatal gift of beau ty,” scholars by its monuments of former greatness, devotees by its pomps and ceremonies at the capital of Christendom.
But beneath this surface the political disease grew more and more virulent. In 1830 broke out the second stage of revolution in France, and in three days the French Bourbon monarchy was lost forever. Revolutions rapidly followed, in Italy. The murderer, Duke Francis IV, was driven out of Modena; Maria Louisa, the worthless widow of Napoleon, fled from her Duchy of Parma; a provisional government declared the Pope’s temporal power ended in Bologna; rebellion was seething in Naples; and, most ominous of all, Charles Albert, with his tendencies to constitutionalism, succeeded to the throne in Piedmont.
Again came intervention by Austria. Every worthy effort for freedom was suppressed, every worthless sovereign was replaced; constitutionalists were again sent to dungeons and scaffolds. More than this, France, under pretext of jealousy of Austria, sent troops to Ancona, in the Papal States, and thus began a policy of French intervention to match Austrian intervention, — the policy of supplying “ bayonets for the popes to sit upon.” Beyond supplying this doubtful seat, the powers could really do nothing. Austria and France, whatever their cruelties and absurdities might be, had at least developed and observed decent rules in ordinary administration. Though they hanged lovers of liberty, they did not systematically foster sloth, poverty, and knavery; but the various governments throughout Italy, with the exception of those in Piedmont and Tuscany, seemed utterly given over to vicious administration, and among the worst, in this respect, was the Papal Kingdom. Under all save a few of the greatest popes it had been, and continued to be, a scandal to Christendom. All really important offices were filled by cardinals and Monsignori, and, while a few of these were statesmen, the vast majority were sluggish reactionaries. Against this state of things, as leading to revolution, Austria and France protested again and again; but all to no purpose; the Vatican would go on after the old, bad way, and, finally, it received its reward.
Still another government which gave constant trouble to the great powers banded against constitutional freedom, was Piedmont. Its new king, Charles Albert, was, indeed, strongly religious and inclined to the old ways, but more and more it was seen that he hated foreign intervention and that, to put an end to it, he might accept the aid of constitutionalists; but Austrian pressure was put upon him and, to all appearance, his patriotism ended.
So began a new period of eighteen years, hardly less sluggish than the old,
—its hero Mazzini. He was one of the noblest of human beings. Hardly out of his boyhood, he launched every sort of brilliant and cogent attack against the oppressors of his country. Imprisoned in the fortress of Savona, he pondered over the great problem even more deeply, and, on his release, wrote a letter to King Charles Albert, urging him to head the movement for independence and liberty. This letter became a vast force in arousing a national spirit. Private letters and published articles rapidly followed from his pen, each a powerful blow at tyranny. In 1834 he created a new weapon. He had entered fully into the work of the Carbonari, had risked his life with them again and again, but having now ceased to believe in their system he founded the society of “Young Italy.”
His activity seemed preternatural. He appeared to be in all parts of Europe at once, and did his work under every sort of disguise and stratagem. His power over the Italian youth was amazing: obedient to his call they rose in cities, villages, regiments, everywhere, — going to death joyfully. From London, where, after 1837, he made his headquarters, he inspired every kind of Italian conspiracy and revolt; but gradually it dawned upon him, as upon thinking friends of Italy everywhere, that these costly sacrifices of the most precious lives were not adequately repaid. From a practical point of view they availed little. His right to sit in his English retreat and send the flower of the Italian youth to be shot or hanged began to be widely questioned. His ideal was an Italian republic, but there were so few republicans! Republican government to him meant freedom, but even the simplest students of history could remember that the old Roman republic, and every one of the mediæval Italian republics, had resulted in the tyranny of illiterate mobs, always followed by the tyranny of single despots as a lesser evil. Men had learned the truth that a single despot, can be made in some degree responsible to public opinion, but that a mob cannot.
The uprisings inspired by Mazzini, notably that of the Bandiera brothers, were mercilessly trodden down in blood. Nor did more quiet efforts fare better. Tuscany tried to give moderate freedom of the press, but Austria intervened and forced the Grand Duke to appoint ministers who ended it.
Yet forces were at work, more powerful by far than Austria and the Holy Alliance. Political activity being checked, genius and talent had long been mainly directed to literature, and the spectacle of Italy in the hands of her oppressors made this literature patriotic. There had come the poetry of Alfieri, Niccolini, Rossetti, and Giusti; the philosophy of Rosmini; the prison reminiscences of Silvio Pellico ; the romances of D’Azeglio, Guerazzi, and, above all, the Promessi Sposi of Manzoni, the most perfect historical novel ever written. These were not all revolutionary by intention; some, like the writings of Pellico and Manzoni, were deeply and pathetically religious, even inculcating submission to wrong; but all served to create Italian ideals, to stimulate Italian patriotism, and to give more and more life to the idea, so hated by Austria and the Holy Alliance,—the idea of Italy as a nation.
The patriotic thought, thus gradually evolved as a vast elemental force, was now brought to bear upon events by three great books.
First of these was the Moral and Civil Primacy of the Italians, by Vincenzo Gioberti. This was a glorification of Italy as a nation, displaying eloquently her greatness in the past and the possibility of her greatness in the future, and urging a confederation of the existing Italian states, with the Pope as perpetual president. Though in three large volumes, it was read and pondered by every thinking Italian, man or woman.
Closely following this was a treatise of a very different sort, by Cesare Balbo, entitled The Hopes of Italy. Though hardly more than a pamphlet, and though it gave up the idea of an Italian kingdom as chimerical, it pictured constitutional liberty and Italian independence with a clearness and strength which brought conviction to all patriotic hearts.
The third of these works was a small treatise by Massimo d’Azeglio, entitled, The Latest Cases in the Romagna. Of all the three writers, d’ Azeglio was the most fascinating as a personality: a genius in sculpture, in poetry, and in statesmanship, who had traveled quietly through various governments of Italy and who reported what he saw with amazing lucidity and force. The latest cruelties of the papal subordinates in suppressing the uprisings in the Romagna had aroused him, and he made the world see and understand them. His work was not at all declamatory or hysterical; perhaps its most striking feature was its evidence of selfconstraint; it was plain, simple, straightforward, and clear as crystal, but with a quiet and restrained eloquence which at times carried all before it. Other writers of genius or talent followed these, — among them, Durando, Capponi, and their compeers, — each aiding to undermine the whole existing régime.
The votaries of science also wrought for the same ideals. The Science Congress at Genoa, in 1846, inevitably discussed Italian independence, freedom, and progress. The Agricultural Congress at Casale, in 1847, took the same direction, and to it came a letter from King Charles Albert, which set all hearts throbbing with patriotic emotion. For it contained these words: “If Providence sends us a war for Italian independence, I will mount my horse with my sons and will place myself at the head of my army. . . . What a glorious day will be that in which we can raise the cry of war for the Independence of Italy!”
Meantime, in 1846, an event of vast importance had occurred. There had come to the papal throne Pius IX. His nature was deeply religious, kindly, given to charitable effort, and his aversion to cruelty was, doubtless, a main cause of his desire to break away from the methods of his predecessors. His manner was most winning and he held wonderful sway over devout imaginations, for, in great religious functions and ceremonies he was supremely impressive, and his blessing, chanted forth from the balcony of St. Peter’s, with his dramatic action in bestowing it, appealed to the deepest feelings even of those who differed most from him. But, as a sovereign, he was the last of men to carry out Gioberti’s great programme, — to preside over an Italian confederation, or, indeed, to govern his own states. As a statesman he failed utterly, — beaten, in all attempts at reform, by the Monsignori, thwarted in all his good intentions by Jesuits and other intriguers, more or less religious. The times called for a Hildebrand, or an Innocent III, or a Sixtus V, and, instead of any one of these, there had come this shrewd, kindly, handsome bishop, vacillating, fitful, superstitious, dreaded most by those who loved him best.
At first he mildly opposed Austria and appointed a quasi-constitutional ministry, but he could not rise above the old tradition, and in this new ministry there was no layman.
In January, 1848, a new constitutional movement began throughout Italy. Revolution broke out in Sicily, and Ferdinand II granted a constitution. This movement extended rapidly to all parts of Europe. The Grand Duke of Tuscany promised a constitution, the Pope showed an intention to grant reforms, and even called a new ministry in which, for a wonder, there were three laymen. An occurrence at one of the early meetings of this ministry threw a curious light on the character of Pope Pius. Presiding over this body, his eye happened to light upon the comet then appearing in the Roman sky. Rushing to the window and opening it, he fell on his knees and called on his ministers — among them such men as Mezzofanti and Marco Minghetti — to kneel also and to implore the Almighty to turn away the calamities of which the comet was the forerunner. The pontiff might well be pardoned this superstition, for everywhere throughout Europe were signs of coming political catastrophes. Under popular pressure various reforms were granted in Piedmont, among them more liberty to the press, — a condition of things under which the Piedmontese could at last discuss public questions to some purpose.15 And now, for the first time, Europe hears of Camillo Cavour. While as writer in newspapers and reviews he had long been known and prized by many statesmen and economists in Italy, and by a few thinkers in England and France, Europe and the people at large in Italy as yet knew him not. But it happened that, just as this time, Genoa, true to its old republican traditions, though incorporated into the Kingdom of Piedmont, began to be restive and to demand loudly various reforms of a petty sort, — among these, the banishment of the Jesuits and the creation of a national guard. This subject being brought up for discussion in a meeting of publicists and journalists, at Turin, Cavour rises and compresses the needs of Piedmont and of Italy into a single sentence. Casting aside all petty demands for changes in detail, he insists that the king be asked “to transfer the discussion from the perilous arena of irregular commotions, to the arena of legal, pacific, solemn deliberation.” The audience and the country, thinking upon this utterance, soon recognized its demand for a constitution, with a free parliament, as wholly to the purpose, — as the solution of the first great Italian problem, — and during the great discussions which followed in the press, Cavour led triumphantly. His advice was at last followed, and, on February 7, 1848, King Charles Albert promised a constitution which, a few days later, took shape in a royal statute, the “Statuto.” Thus began a great new epoch in which Cavour was to be the leader, and, to this day, the anniversary of this grant is celebrated throughout Italy as the date most significant for her Independence, Unity, and Freedom since the Fall of the Roman Empire.
(To be continued.)
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold.”
- See Cantu : Histoire des Italiens, vol. xi, p. 23 ; also vol. x, p. 449.↩
- For a most striking and convincing revelation of the complete moral and religious debasement of Italian life during the “Ages of Faith,” see From St. Francis to Dante, by G. G. Coulton, London, 1906. This little book, a translation of all that is of primary interest in the Chronicle of the Franciscan Salimbene, is one of the most valuable contributions to Mediæval History and to sane religious thought published during the last twenty years.↩
- For a remarkable summary of Bonaparte’s methods on arriving in Italy, see A. Sorel : L’ Europe et la Revolution Française, vol. v, pp. 198 and following.↩
- For a very good example of the beneficial side of the Napoleonic system in Italy, see Colletta : History of Naples, English translation, book viii, chap. i.↩
- For an admirable short statement regarding the good and evil in Bonaparte’s dealings with Italy, see Lemmi : Le Origini del Risorgimento Italiano (1789-1815), Milan, 1906, cap. iv and v.↩
- Of all who have ever unveiled the cynical treatment of Italy by Napoleon, and especially that masterpiece of treachery, the Treaty of Campo Formio, none has ever surpassed Lanfrey, in his Histoire de Napolion. See, especially, vol. i, chap. ix. The number of Italian soldiers forced into the Napoleonic wars between 1796 and 1814, Lemmi gives as 358,000, and the number of lives lost, as 120,000. The losses were especially fearful in the insane Spanish and Russian campaigns, which touched no conceivable interest of Italy.↩
- For a careful delineation of the despotism of the House of Savoy during the early years of the eighteenth century, see Stillman, The Union of Italy, chaps, i, ii, and iii ; and, for some better features, Cantu, Histoire des Italiens, vols. x and xi.↩
- The statement regarding railways is based upon observations made in Italy by the present writer in 1856, when things were little if any better. For the character of the Italian governments at the outbreak of the French Revolution and afterward, see Sorel : L’ Europe et la Revolution Franæaise, vol. i, chap. iv ; and especially for the Neapolitan Court, see pp. 386 and following. For the cruelties during the reaction, see Colletta, book v. chap. 1, and book viii, chap. i, and especially Sorel as above, vol. v, pp. 421 and following. Also Lemmi : Le Origini del Risorgimento Italiano.↩
- For the condition of general education in Italy before the establishment of the Italian Kingdom, see L’Italia Economica, vol. ii (Tavole), Roma, 1873, — map entitled, “ Numero degli Analfabeti.” For various striking facts showing the studied neglect of education in the period before Cavour came, see F. X. Kraus, in Weltgeschichte in Karacterbildern (Cavour), Mainz, 1892, final chapters. For very interesting comparisons between the educational system above referred to and that of the present time, see King and Okey, Italy To-day, chap. xii (London, 1901). For exact statements regarding education in Turin in 1905-06, I am indebted to Professor Dr. Peroni, of the university in that city, formerly a Member of Parliament.↩
- For striking examples of this debasement of higher education in Italy, see F. X. Kraus, a Catholic author, as above, and, especially Minghetti’s Memoirs, cited on p. 15. For a special Neapolitan Index, see the edition in the A. D. W. Collection, published at Naples, in 1853. For the system repressing publication at Bologna, see Minghetti, cited in Kraus, Weltgeschichte in Karacterbildern (Cavour), p. 18.↩
- See Probyn, Italy, and F. X. Kraus, in the Weltgeschichte in Karacterbildern, as above.↩
- The original of the Catechismo Filosofico was written by Monaldo Leopardi, the reactionary father of the liberal historian and philosopher, Giacomo Leopardi, and published in 1832, and again in 1837. A careful comparison of these two early editions with the reprint above referred to, published at Naples in 1861 by the liberal enemies of the Bourbons, shows that they are substantially alike. It is of this later edition that I have a copy, for which I am indebted to the Reverend Father Casoli, of Sorrento. For an opportunity to examine the earlier editions of the book and various works bearing upon them, I am indebted to H. N. Gay, Esq., Fellow of Harvard University, now residing at Rome. The work is ascribed by various leading writers on Italian history, such as Montarolo in his Opere Anonime, 1884, p. 12, King, in his Italian Unity, vol. i, p. 367, Gladstone, and others, to Apuzzo, as they evidently had known only the Neapolitan edition.↩
- For a more extended presentation of the questions and answers of this catechism, see a paper entitled “ A Catechism of the Revolutionary Reaction,” by A. D. White, in the Proceedings of the American Historical Association, vol. iv, p, 69.↩
- A copy of the famous History of France, by Father Loriquet, published at Lyons, 1821, may be found in the A. D. W. Library, For his amazing account of the Battle of Waterloo, see vol. ii, p. 375.↩
- For a careful account of this period by a Catholic historian, see Cantu, Histoire des Italiens, tome xi, livre 17. See also Probyn. History of Italy from 1815 to 1878, p. 26.↩
- The poem referred to is Milton’s sonnet “ On the Late Massacre in Piedmont,” beginning with the words :↩
- For a very full account of the origin and rites of the Carbonari, see Johnston, The Napoleonic Empire in Southern Italy, and The Rise of the Secret Societies, London, 1904, vol. ii, chap. ii ; for the fall of the Carbonari, see ibid., chap. v ; and for an example of a Carbonaro discourse, Appendix, p. 153. The same Appendix contains various interesting things relating to the revolutionary period, and, among these, the treaty of the Holy Alliance.↩
- For an account of the severities exercised in Northern Italy toward the Carbonari, see An Epoch of my Life ; the Memoirs of Count John Arrivabene, London, 1862. For pictures of the cruel struggle in Southern Italy see Settembrini : Ricordanze della mia Vita, Napoli, 1886. As to the easy-going life of the time, see Silvagni : La Corte e la Società Romana nel XVIII e XIX Secoli, English translation by MacLaughlin. For the better side of Italian scientific and literary development under the old régime in Italy, see Cantu, Histoire des Italiens, vols. x, xi, xii; also, for a very interesting short statement, see H. D. Sedgwick, Short History of Italy, Boston, 1905, chapters xxxii and xxxiii.↩
- For Pope Pius’s fear of the comet, see the Deutsche, Rundschau, August, 1893, p. 210, citing Minghetti’s “ Mei Ricordi.” The statement regarding his dramatic power in the great ceremonies at St. Peter’s is based upon the personal recollections of the present writer.↩