Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the poor, and to exercise justice and mercy within the extent of his jurisdiction. In these useful functions he was assisted by three learned strangers; the two collaterals and the judge of criminal appeals: their frequent trials of robberies, rapes, and murders are attested by the laws; and the weakness of these laws connives at the licentiousmess of private feuds and armed associations for mutual defence. But the senator was confined to the administration of justice: the Capitol, the treasury, and the government of the city and its territory were intrusted to the three conservators, who were changed four times in each year: the militia of the thirteen regions assembled under the banners of their respective chiefs, or caporioni; and the first of these was distinguished by the name and dignity of the prior. The popular legislature consisted of the secret and the common councils of the Romans. The former was composed of the magistrates and their immediate predecessors, with some fiscal and legal officers, and three classes of thirteen, twenty-six, and forty counsellors; amounting in the whole to about one hundred and twenty persons. In the common council all male citizens had a right to vote; and the value of their privilege was enhanced by the care with which any foreigners were prevented from usurping the title and character of Romans. The tumult of a democracy was checked by wise and jealous precautions: except the magistrates, none could propose a question; none were permitted to speak, except from an open pulpit or tribunal; all disorderly acclamations were suppressed; the sense of the majority was decided by a secret ballot; and their decrees were promulgated in the venerable name of the Roman senate and people. It would not be easy to assign a period in which this theory of government has been reduced to accurate and constant practice, since the establishment of order has been gradually connected with the decay of liberty. But in the year one thousand five hundred and eighty the ancient statutes were collected, methodised in three books, and adapted to present use, under the pontificate, and with the approbation, of Gregory the Thirteenth : * this civil and criminal code is the modern law of the city; and, if the popular assemblies have been abolished, a foreign senator, with the three conservators, still resides in the palace of the Capitol.” The policy of the Caesars has been repeated by the

* Statuta alma Urbis Roma, Auctoritate S. D. N. Gregorii XIII. Pont. Max., a Senati Populoque Rom. reformata et edita. Roma, 1580, in folio. The obsolete, repugnant statutes of antiquity were confounded in five books, and Lucas Paetus, a lawyer and antiquarian, was appointed to act as the modern Tribonian. Yet I regret the old code, with the rugged crust of freedom and barbarism.

* In my time (1765), and in M. Grosley's (Observations sur l'Italie, tom. ii. p. 361), the senator of Rome was M. Bielke, a noble Swede, and a proselyte to the Catholic faith. The pope's right to appoint the senator and the conservator is implied, rather than affirmed, in the statutes.

popes; and the bishop of Rome affected to maintain the form of a republic, while he reigned with the absolute powers of a temporal, as well as spiritual, monarch. It is an obvious truth that the times must be suited to extraorconspirac, dinary characters, and that the genius of Cromwell or Retz ... might now expire in obscurity. The political enthusiasm of "*** Rienzi had exalted him to a throne; the same enthusiasm, in the next century, conducted his imitator to the gallows. The birth of Stephen Porcaro was noble, his reputation spotless: his tongue was armed with eloquence, his mind was enlightened with learning; and he aspired, beyond the aim of vulgar ambition, to free his country and immortalise his name. The dominion of priests is most odious to a liberal spirit: every scruple was removed by the recent knowledge of the fable and forgery of Constantine's donation, Petrarch was now the oracle of the Italians; and as often as Porcaro revolved the ode which describes the patriot and hero of Rome, he applied to himself the visions of the prophetic bard. His first trial of the popular feelings was at the funeral of Eugenius the Fourth : in an elaborate speech he called the Romans to liberty and arms; and they listened with apparent pleasure till Porcaro was interrupted and answered by a grave advocate, who pleaded for the church and state. By every law the seditious orator was guilty of treason; but the benevolence of the new pontiff, who viewed his character with pity and esteem, attempted by an honourable office to convert the patriot into a friend. The inflexible Roman returned from Anagni with an increase of reputation and zeal; and, on the first opportunity, the games of the place Navona, he tried to inflame the casual dispute of some boys and mechanics into a general rising of the people. Yet the humane Nicholas was still averse to accept the forfeit of his life; and the traitor was removed from the scene of temptation to Bologna, with a liberal allowance for his support, and the easy obligation of presenting himself each day before the governor of the city. But Porcaro had learned from the younger Brutus that with tyrants no faith or gratitude should be observed: the exile declaimed against the arbitrary sentence; a party and a conspiracy was gradually formed; his nephew, a daring youth, assembled a band of volunteers; and on the appointed evening a feast was prepared at his house for the friends of the republic. Their leader, who had escaped from Bologna, appeared among them in a robe of purple and gold: his voice, his countenance, his gestures, bespoke the man who had devoted his life or death to the glorious cause. In a studied oration he expatiated on the motives and the means of their enterprise; the name and liberties of Rome; the sloth and pride of their ecclesiastical tyrants; the active or passive consent of their fellow-citizens; three hundred soldiers and four hundred exiles, long exercised in arms or in wrongs; the licence of revenge to edge their swords, and a million of ducats to reward their victory. It would be easy (he said) on the next day, the festival of the Epiphany, to seize the pope and his cardinals before the doors or at the altar of St. Peter's; to lead them in chains under the walls of St. Angelo; to extort, by the threat of their instant death, a surrender of the castle; to ascend the vacant Capitol; to ring the alarm-bell; and to restore in a popular assembly the ancient republic of Rome. While he triumphed, he was already betrayed. The senator, with a strong guard, invested the house: the nephew of Porcaro cut his way through the crowd; but the unfortunate Stephen was drawn from a chest, lamenting that his enemies had anticipated by three hours the execution of his design. After such manifest and repeated guilt even the mercy of Nicholas was silent. Porcaro, and nine of his accomplices, were hanged without the benefit of the sacraments; and, amidst the fears and invectives of the papal court, the Romans pitied, and almost applauded, these martyrs of their country.” But their applause was mute, their pity ineffectual, their liberty for ever extinct; and, if they have since risen in a vacancy of the throne or a scarcity of bread, such accidental tumults may be found in the bosom of the most abject servitude. But the independence of the nobles, which was fomented by discord, survived the freedom of the commons, which must be founded Last als. in union. A privilege of rapine and oppression was long ...” maintained by the barons of Rome: their houses were a *. fortress and a sanctuary; and the ferocious train of banditti and criminals, whom they protected from the law, repaid the hospitality with the service of their swords and daggers. The private interest of the pontiffs, or their nephews, sometimes involved them in these domestic feuds. Under the reign of Sixtus the Fourth, Rome was distracted by the battles and sieges of the rival houses: after the conflagration of his palace, the protonotary Colonna was tortured and beheaded; and Savelli, his captive friend, was murdered on the spot for refusing to join in the acclamations of the victorious Ursini.”

* Besides the curious, though concise, narrative of Machiavel (Istoria Fiorentuma, l. vi. Opere, tom. i. p. 210, 211, edit. Londra, 1747, in 4to.), the Porcarian conspiracy is related in the Diary of Stephen Infessura (Rer. Ital. tom. iii. P. ii. p. 1134, i135), and in a separate tract by Leo Baptista Alberti (Rer. Ital. tom. xxv. p. 609-614). It is amusing to compare the style and sentiments of the courtier and citizen. Facinua profecto quo . . . . neque periculo horribilius, neque audacià detostabilius, neque crudelitate tetrius, a quoquam perditissimo uspiam excogitatum sit . . . . Perdette la vita quell' huomo da bene, e amatore dello bene e libertà di Roma.

* The disorders of Rome, which were much inflamed by the partiality of Sixtus IV.

But the popes no longer trembled in the Vatican : they had strength to command, if they had resolution to claim, the obedience of their subjects; and the strangers who observed these partial disorders admired the easy taxes and wise administration of the ecclesiastical state.” The spiritual thunders of the Vatican depend on the force of The popes opinion; and if that opinion be supplanted by reason or ol.” passion, the sound may idly waste itself in the air; and the *...** helpless priest is exposed to the brutal violence of a noble or a **** plebeian adversary. But after their return from Avignon, the keys of St. Peter were guarded by the sword of St. Paul. Rome was commanded by an impregnable citadel: the use of cannon is a powerful engine against popular seditions: a regular force of cavalry and infantry was enlisted under the banners of the pope: his ample revenues supplied the resources of war; and, from the extent of his domain, he could bring down on a rebellious city an army of hostile neighbours and loyal subjects.” Since the union of the duchies of Ferrara and Urbino, the ecclesiastical state extends from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, and from the confines of Naples to the banks of the Po; and as early as the sixteenth century the greater part of that spacious and fruitful country acknowledged the lawful claims and temporal sovereignty of the Roman pontiffs. Their claims were readily deduced from the genuine or fabulous donations of the darker ages: the successive steps of their final settlement would engage us too far in the transactions of Italy, and even of Europe; the crimes of Alexander the Sixth, the martial operations of Julius the Second, and the liberal policy of Leo the Tenth, a theme which has been adorned by the pens of the noblest historians of the times.”

are exposed in the Diaries of two spectators, Stephen Infessura and an anonymous citizen. See the troubles of the year 1484, and the death of the protonotary Colonna, in tom. iii. P. ii. p. 1083, 1158. * Est toute la terre de l'église troublée pour cette partialité (des Colonnes et des Ursins), comme nous dirions Luce et Grammont, ou en Hollande Houc et Caballan; et quand ce ne seroit ce différend la terre de l'église seroit la plus heureuse habitation pour les sujets qui soit dans tout le monde (car ils ne payent ni tailles ni guères autres choses), et seroient toujours bien conduits (car toujours les papes sont sages et bien conseillés); mais très souvent en advient de grands et cruels meurtres et pilleries. * By the economy of Sixtus V. the revenue of the ecclesiastical state was raised to two millions and a half of Roman crowns (Vita, tom. ii. p. 291-296); and so regular was the military establishment, that in one month Clement VIII. could invade the duchy of Ferrara with three thousand horse and twenty thousand foot (tom. iii. p. 64). Since that time (A.D. 1597), the papal arms are happily rusted, but the revenue must have gained some nominal increase." * More especially by Guicciardini and Machiavel; in the general history of the

* On the financial measures of Sixtus W see Ranke, Die Römischen Pāpste, i. p. 459,-M.

In the first period of their conquests, till the expedition of Charles the Eighth, the popes might successfully wrestle with the adjacent princes and states, whose military force was equal or inferior to their own. But as soon as the monarchs of France, Germany, and Spain contended with gigantic arms for the dominion of Italy, they supplied with art the deficiency of strength, and concealed, in a labyrinth of wars and treaties, their aspiring views and the immortal hope of chasing the barbarians beyond the Alps. The nice balance of the Vatican was often subverted by the soldiers of the North and West, who were united under the standard of Charles the Fifth : the feeble and fluctuating policy of Clement the Seventh exposed his person and dominions to the conqueror; and Rome was abandoned seven months to a lawless army, more cruel and rapacious than the Goths and Vandals.” After this severe lesson the popes contracted their ambition, which was almost satisfied, resumed the character of a common parent, and abstained from all offensive hostilities, except in an hasty quarrel, when the vicar of Christ and the Turkish sultan were armed at the same time against the kingdom of Naples.” The French and Germans at length withdrew from the field of battle: Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the sea-coast of Tuscany, were firmly possessed by the Spaniards; and it became their interest to maintain the peace and dependence of Italy, which continued almost without disturbance from the middle of the sixteenth to the opening of the eighteenth century. The Vatican was swayed and protected by the religious policy of the Catholic king: his prejudice and interest disposed him in every dispute to support the prince against the people; and instead of the encouragement, the aid, and the asylum which they obtained from the adjacent states, the friends of liberty or the enemies of law were enclosed on all sides within the iron circle of despotism. The long habits of obedience and education subdued the turbulent spirit of the nobles and commons of Rome. The barons

former; in the Florentine history, the ‘Prince,' and the political discourses of the latter. These, with their worthy successors, Fra-Paolo and Davila, were justly esteemed the first historians of modern languages, till, in the present age, Scotland arose to dispute the prize with Italy herself.

• In the history of the Gothic siege I have compared the barbarians with the subjects of Charles V., (vol. iv. p. 108, 109)—an anticipation which, like that of the Tartar conquests, I indulged with the less scruple, as I could scarcely hope to reach the conclusion of my work.

9. The ambitious and feeble hostilities of the Caraffa pope, Paul IV., may be seen in Thuanus (1. xvi-xviii) and Giannone (tom. iv. p. 149–163). Those Catholic bigots, Philip II. and the duke of Alva, presumed to separate the Roman prince from the vicar of Christ; yet the holy character, which would have sanctified his victory, was decently applied to protect his defeat."

• But compare Ranke, Die Römischen Pāpste, i. p. 289.-M.

« ForrigeFortsett »