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Art. I.—The Roman State, from 1815 to 1850. By Luigi Carlo Farini. Translated from the Italian, by the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P. Two vols. 8vo. London: John Murray.
Luigi Carlo Farini's History of the Roman State from 1815 to 1850, is not yet complete, the narrative being only brought down to the 24th of November, 1848, when the Pope deserted his capital, to take refuge in the Neapolitan dominions. But while the writer is engaged in bringing his work to a conclusion, it may be useful to review that portion of it, full of interest and instruction, which he has laid before the public. He belongs, indeed, to a school of politicians, the prevalence of whose ideas has been one of the great stumbling-blocks in the way of Italian independence; but, though a prejudiced, he is an honest man, and, consequently, does not suppress, or even attempt disingenuously to colour those facts which make against his own theory of government. While intending, therefore, to recommend moderation, the whole tenour of his labours only serves to show how fatal the timid and unenterprizing of his party has proved to Italy.
Modern civilization is replete with anomalies, but contains none more startling than the government of a state, containing three millions of souls, by priests. Every period of Roman history, from the establishment of the papacy to the present day, is full of important political lessons; but with the more ancient results of the system, we have at present nothing to do,
U.S.—VOL. IV. B
our design being simply to direct attention to some of the fruits it has produced in our own times. Early in the present century disaffection to the papal government began to display itself throughout the states of the church, especially in the northern provinces, where people rejoiced openly when any ecclesiastic in office encountered disgrace. Nor was this at all unnatural, since the laity could not feel otherwise than indignant at being excluded from all public employment, however distinguished might be their abilities, their knowledge, their experience acquired by foreign travel, or their personal aptitude for business.
Scarcely can we, by any effort, realize to our minds here in England the state of feeling, the heart-burnings, the jealousies, the fierce enmities, the thirst for vengeance, created in the pontifical dominions through the arrogant monopoly of all place, power, and distinction by the clergy. To put an end to so disastrous a state of things, as well as to achieve the independence of Italy, the formidable secret society of the Carbonari was organized before the overthrow of Napoleon. It included persons of all classes, but was led chiefly by enthusiastic and fiery youths who have at all times been the martyrs of liberty. Being wanting, however, in prudence and reflection, they have again and again suffered themselves to be betrayed into mischievous enterprises, in supporting some cause which was not that of Italy. Thus, in 1815, they fought gallantly under the banners of Murat against the Austrians, not considering that, had that dashing adventurer triumphed, one of his first acts would have been the extirpation of their sect.
To counterbalance the Carbonari, other associations, with different principles, as the Sanfedists and the Centurions, have sprung into existence. In these the sacerdotal spirit has been predominant. Having for their object the checking of civilization, they have encouraged and cherished the darkest and most ruthless bigotry, the priests of the sect denouncing liberalism from the pulpit, while the lay members have gone about with daggers to intimidate the partisans of freedom. Nor has their zeal in all cases confined itself to menaces. The poniard, at first, perhaps, flourished by way of bravado, has at length been employed in earnest: and numerous murders, sometimes characterized by remarkable atrocity, have polluted the cause of the church. In city and country, political assassinations have been frequent, and the Carbonari, hunted down by the Sanfedists and Centurions, have, in their turn, had recourse to the same weapons and the same policy, and sought to assuage their party animosities with blood.
Reasoning calmly and at our ease, under the protection of a
better state of things, we often refuse to do justice to the oppressed and persecuted people of the Roman states. Let us, however, not persevere in condemning without examining their grievances. Nowhere in Christendom, notwithstanding the general corruption of governments and the servility and baseness of populations, has there ever existed so rich a harvest of abuses. Priests and friars, white, black, and grey, cowled and barefoot, have appropriated to themselves every existing source of honour or profit; priests exclusively direct education; priests manage the finances, and refuse to have their accounts audited; priests are ambassadors and secretaries of state, and a priest is minister at war. From this it happens, as Farini observes, that a pontifical soldier has come to be an object of universal ridicule and contempt, synonymous with ragamuffin, cheat, and poltroon. The consequences were everywhere seen throughout the late struggle. Nothing was effected by the papal troops, who dispersed like vapour before the anger of the populace; and as to presenting themselves in the face of a foreign enemy of the state, this was an act of heroism of which they never once dreamed.
Such being their character, it is very natural to inquire, why they were kept on foot at all, especially as his Holiness placed so little confidence in them, that he thought it necessary to surround himself by mercenaries from Switzerland, who, in his day of trial, displayed their wonted fidelity, and more than once proved their readiness to make a rampart around his person with their breasts. But from the events even of civil wars little instruction is to be derived, unless we scrutinize the sources of confusion, and ascertain what are the circumstances which occasion and justify popular commotions. We return, therefore, to the abuses which have at all times literally swarmed in the territories of the church, and made them a byword and a reproach to the civilization of Christendom.
We cannot conceal from ourselves, however, while dwelling on the flagrant vices of the papal government, that connected with it there is a problem never yet solved by statesman or philosopher: namely, whether the system we denounce be the cause or the effect of the national degradation. A people pious and virtuous, enlightened and brave, would never yield submission to an authority so inexpressibly odious. It follows, therefore, that the Roman people are themselves degraded and corrupt, though it may, upon investigation, be found that the papal system, not without merit at the outset, degenerated by imperceptible degrees, and at the same time undermined and overthrew the morality and virtue of the people. However this may be decided, certain it is, that through the influence of priestly sway, the inhabitants of the territories of the church have been reduced to the lowest level of vice and effeminacy, poverty, ignorance, and cowardice.
Nor could any other result have been expected. Assuming the duration of such a government as a fact, nothing could have happened but what has actually taken place. There was no care for the cultivation of the people—these are the very words of Farini—no anxiety for the public prosperity. Rome was a cess-pool of corruption, of exemptions, and of privileges; a clergy made up of fools and knaves, in power; the laity slaves, the treasury plundered by gangs of tax-farmers and spies; all the business of government consisted in prying into and punishing the notions, the expectations, and the imprudences of the liberals.*
As far back as the reign of Pius VII. internecine war may be said to have been declared between the Pontiff and the liberal party. Pius having no other arms wherewith to combat these enemies, overwhelmed them with imprecations and anathemas. His successor, Leo XII., yielding to the predilections of the priest, encouraged and protected the monastic orders, confided education exclusively to ecclesiastics, set them over all institutions of charity and beneficence, confirmed and extended the clerical privileges and jurisdiction, and to gratify their malignity oppressed and persecuted the Jews. By way of expressing his contempt, he disabled them from holding real property, and granted them a limited period to sell what they possessed; he revived to their detriment many offensive and barbarous customs of the middle ages; placed them under the surveillance of the Inquisition, and confined them to the Ghetti with lofty walls and gates.
The provinces of Marritana and Campagna being infested with savage bands of assassins, Leo sent thither the notorious Cardinal Pallota, who committed so many excesses and exhibited so strange a specimen of mad government that he was soon recalled to be replaced by Benvenuti, who bought off the murderers, or quieted them by bestowing on them pensions for life. But the worst feature of the system showed itself under Cardinal Rivarola, at Ravenna. This wretch, surrounding himself with spies, gendarmes, and informers, commenced secret inquisitions, and forbade citizens, under pain of what punishment he might choose to inflict, to go out at night without a lantern, as the Turkish Pachas once did in Egypt, and the late ferocious Khan at Bokhara. He imprisoned arbitrarily persons of every age, class, and condition, and on the 31st of August, 1825,
* Roman State, vol. i. p. 17.