Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

MINISTER TO THE PAPAL STATES. .

MARCH 21, 1848.

The motion to strike from the Appropriation Bill the item for a mission to the Papal States, being under consideration in the Senate, Mr. Dix said:

I voted yesterday against the amendment of the Senator from Indiana, proposing a resident minister to the Papal States. I did so, because it was brought forward in opposition to the proposition of the Senator from Missouri, to send out a minister plenipotentiary. If this motion to strike out fails, and the Senator from Indiana moves his amendment again, I shall vote for it; and in stating my reasons, as I propose to do now, without waiting for his motion, I hope it will not be considered out of place if I present some statistical details in relation to the condition of the Papal States.

I desire, in the first place, to say, that I do not regard this as a political mission, unless the term political be understood in its largest sense.

Much less do I consider it a religious mission, as the honorable Senator from North Carolina. would have us regard it. I consider the Pope, to all intents, as a temporal sovereign. He has been so for the last eleven hundred years. I believe the first territorial possession of the Pope was conferred upon him by Pepin, the father and predecessor of Charlemagne, in the eighth century. It consisted of the Duchy of Rome, or, at that time, more properly called the Exarchate of Ravenna, and was wrested by the King of France from the Lombards, who had overrun northern and central Italy. It extended 1 Mr. Hannegan.

8 Mr. Badger.

2 Mr. Benton.

from the present frontier of Naples, on the Mediterranean, to the mouth of the Tiber, including the Southern Campagna and the Pontine Marshes, and running back to the Sabine and Volscian hills. In the twelfth century, the Countess Matilda, of Tuscany, bequeathed her possessions to the Pope. They embraced the patrimony of St. Peter, on the Mediterranean, extending from the mouth of the Tiber to the present frontier of Tuscany, and the march of Ancona on the Adriatic, with the adjoining district of Spoleto. Large accessions were subsequently made by conquest, Umbria, Romagna, Perugia, Orvieto, Citta di Castello, Bologna, Ravenna, and other cities and districts of country. In the seventeenth century, the Duke of Urbino abdicated in favor of the Pope ; and at a still later period, some further additions were made by arms. Thus, the territorial possessions of the Pope are held, like those of other sovereigns, by succession, donation, and conquest. I consider the territorial possessions of the Church as much the dominions of the Pope as the territorial possessions of Spain are the dominions of her Most Catholic Majesty; and I see no more reason to decline diplomatic relations in the first case than in the last, unless there is, in other respects, a propriety in doing so.

It is true, there is a peculiarity in the form of the Papal government, from the fact that the temporal head of the State is also the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church. The Senator from North Carolina very justly remarked, that his chief ministers were ecclesiastics. As is well known, the most important political body in the Roman States is the Sacred College of the Cardinals, who are the princes of the Church. They are seventy in number, — the same in number as the disciples sent out by the Great Founder of the Christian faith to preach the gospel to the world. Six are cardinal bishops, fifty cardinal priests, and fourteen cardinal deacons. I believe the number has been invariable for two hundred and fifty years, though it is not always full. All vacancies are filled by the Pope, who is chosen by the cardinals from their own body. The government is, therefore, an unlimited elective monarchy, or, if you please, a hierarchy, of which the Pope is the head.

The government is administered, under the direction of the Pope, by the Secretary of State, who is a cardinal. He is aided by several departments, bureaus, or boards, the chief of which is the Camera Apostolica, corresponding with our Treasury Department. It is under the charge of the Chamberlain, who is assisted by a number of cardinals and subordinates of different grades. There is also the Buon Governo, charged with the municipal police of the States; the Sacra Consulta, to which is intrusted the civil and political administration of the provinces; and the Sacra Ruota, the great court of appeals in judicial proceedings. There are several more of these boards, of which I do not remember the names or the functions ; but they are all under the direction of cardinals. The Chamberlain is the only one of these executive officers who is appointed for life; and the reason for the distinction is, that he administers the government on the death of the Pope for nine days, when a new election takes place; and during that period he has the privilege of coining money in his own name.

The Secretary of State, who is the Prime Minister and the confidential adviser of the Pope, besides having the general direction of the administrative functions of the government, presides especially over the Sacra Consulta, or the department for the provinces, — to give it a name suited to its functions.

There is another class of official dignitaries of high rank under the Papal government, — the prelates. They are

always of noble birth, but not always in holy orders. There are some two or three hundred of these dignitaries employed in various departments of the government, civil or ecclesiastical. The post of prelate often opens the way to higher preferment, and is next in importance to a membership

[ocr errors]

of the Sacred College. These are the great officers of the

. government.

Mr. BadGER. Will the Senator allow me to ask him, — for my recollection is not very accurate, and I am taking a great deal of interest in what he is saying, and listening to bim with much pleasure,- whether I understand him correctly as saying that these prelates are not always in holy orders? Are they not either in holy orders or else undergoing an ecclesiastical apprenticeship, which inyolves the design to take holy orders ?

I said they were not always in holy orders, and I believe I am not mistaken. They usually, if not uniformly, occupy posts under the government. Some of them are governors of provinces, under the denomination of delegates ; and many of them are employed in the executive departments. Some of them become cardinals; but I should not consider it accurate to say of them as a body that they were undergoing an ecclesiastical apprenticeship.

Let me now turn to the political divisions of the Papal States.

The Papal dominions are divided into twenty provinces. The first is the Comarca of Rome. The other nineteen are divided into legations and delegations. The former are six in number, and have each a cardinal to preside over them. The latter are thirteen in number, with prelates as their presiding officers. Each province is divided into communes, with peculiarities of local government.

In the provinces, the legations and delegations have a council, (Congregazione di Governo,) consisting of the Gonfaloniere, or mayor, of the chief town, and from two to five councillors, according to the magnitude and importance of the province. They are named by the Pope, and hold their office for five years. The councillors have no vote; but when they differ in opinion from the presiding officer of the province, their reasons are reduced to writing and sent to the Secretary of State.

Some of the delegations are divided into districts, with governors subordinate to the delegate. Each district is

[ocr errors]

again divided into communes, with their ancient magistrates and councils. These councils are close corporations, the members of which are self-elected, subject to the veto of the delegate, and retain their seats for life. A Gonfaloniere, or mayor, elected from their own body by themselves, presides over them.

Of these communes there are some eight or nine hundred, if I remember accurately, with similar forms of administration.

Thus it will be seent hat the whole government is as far removed as possible from popular influence. It is from the centre to the extremities founded and administered upon the principles of a close corporation ; and this is its chief peculiarity.

The administration of justice partakes of the nature of the political organization. It is founded on the basis of the Corpus juris civilis and the Corpus juris canonici, — the civil and canon law. All criminal proceedings are conducted with closed doors, and the testimony taken in writing. The accused is entitled to the aid of an advocate, called the avvocato de poveri, (the advocate of the poor,) who is appointed by the Pope and paid by the government. Imprisonment is the chief punishment for crime ; fines are rarely imposed; there is no such thing as liberation on bail; and the whole administration of criminal justice is so dilatory that there are always a very large number of persons imprisoned and awaiting their trial.

In all I have said, it will be readily seen how much the present head of the Papal States has to reform, — in the frame of the government, in its administration, and in criminal jurisprudence. There is no participation by the people in the administration of public affairs. In Tuscany, Napoleon introduced publicity in criminal proceedings, and it has survived all succeeding changes of the government.

In Rome it is excluded. Whether it was introduced there by Napoleon after the deposition of the Pope and the establishment of the kingdom of Italy, I do not remember, but I have no doubt that it was.

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »