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A POLITICAL VIEW OF ITALY,
BY GENERAL PÉPÉ.
Forces of that Power. AMONG the many misfortunes which have weighed upon Italy since the fall of the Roman empire, the most fatal, in our estimation, have been the sovereignty of the Pope, and the domination of Austria. Through the want of union among the different states in the Peninsula, Florence fell into the power of Charles V.; and the loss of liberty was the consequence of her fall, which then disappeared in that land where it had existed from time immemorial : her name and image alone survived in Genoa and Venice.
If the Austrian, which succeeded to the Spanish dominion in Italy, had had the energy and power to make itself master of the whole Peninsula, the Italians-under one yoke, all nourishing the same hatred, and having one common enemy to contend with could not long have delayed to reconquer their liberty. But to complete their ill fortune, Austria wanted either the ambition or the power necessary to complete so great a conquest : she had recourse to craft, and conducted herself in such a manner as to alarm neither the Pope, nor the other Italian Governments; and she was then sufficiently powerful to make them dread her resentment, should they combine in a league against her.
The Italians, crushed by a foreign yoke, the power of the popes, the despotism of their other governments, as well as by the aristocratic domination of Genoa and Venice, had nearly forgotten the virtue of their ancestors of the middle ages. The love of liberty was dormant, and their activity directed solely to the cultivation of the fine arts; the number of those who still shuddered to see the stranger enlarge and consolidate his dominion in their country, daily diminished.
N. S. VOL. VI.
Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, some celebrated writers appeared, who again revived in the minds of the more enlightened, the hopes of a happier future: but the astonishing and salutary French Revolution roused the Italians from the lethargy in which their sad destiny had plunged them ; it showed them, with all its consequences, the miserable position of a country, a portion of which has a powerful neighbour for its ruler.
The struggle between Austria and Italy dates from the epoch when the French displayed to them the tricoloured flag. Napoleon had driven the Austrians beyond the Alps, and there was reason to hope that it was for ever. He organized the kingdom of Italy in the Peninsula : happy for the Italians, and for himself, if all Italy had then formed one kingdom !
As soon as Napoleon was conquered, Austria threw off her mask, and showed without disguise the conduct that she had long proposed to pursue towards Italy.
Not content with Lombardy, and the Venetian states, Austria wished to extend her influence over the whole Peninsula. In 1814, she wrote to Joachim, King of Naples, -" I will protect you, but on condition that you do not grant the constitution which your people demand.” In vain did we repeat to this unfortunate prince,-“ Listen pot to the Austrian Government, their advice is fatal, and will occasion your ruin; give your people the institutions they ask, as the basis of your throne; surround it with the sympathies you will thus create all over Italy, and that throne will remain unshaken." Far from listening to our prayer, the king recalled us from our head quarters at Sinigaglia : he had even decided on summoning us before a council of war, having heard that we were not satisfied with forming vain wishes for the establishment of a constitutional government in our country.
When Napoleon escaped from Elba, and landed in France, Joachim, who had had leisure to perceive the dangerous course in which the perfidious and fallacious promises of Austria had engaged him,-proceeded to attack the troops of that power in Romagna : but as he neither proceeded nor accompanied this summons to arms, by any manifestation which could give the Italians hopes of obtaining the constitution they so much desired, he was left alone, against an enemy superior in numbers; and he lost, in this ill-combined enterprise, the crown of Naples, and the independence of Italy.
On the return of King Ferdinand to Naples, the first condition which Austria imposed on him was, not only that he should grant no constitution on this side the Phero, but that he should also abolish that which he had sworn to maintain in Sicily.
Every one knows, that, in 1821, the Austrians put an end to all liberty in Naples and Piedmont; and that, in 1831, they also abolished it in Middle Italy. But all the underhand practices which Austria had recourse to in 1821, to annihilate the constitution which the Neapolitans had given themselves, are very imperfectly known. Had the Austrian Government limited itself to sending an army to Naples, and obtaining by force what suited their politics, such a proceeding would only have been, what ever has, and ever will be
the right of the strongest. But little sure of the success of her arms, Austria, before employing them,-before playing the part of the lion, -exhausted all the wiles of the fox. She insinuated to the parliament of Naples, that, by allowing Ferdinand to leave the kingdom, they would show that he was free; that if this prince, who desired to end his days in peace, only assured them that he had willingly granted a constitution to his people, that the allied powers would then recognize the new order of government established in the Two Sicilies. But when the king was once surrounded by the princes of the Holy Alliance, Austria neglected no means of persuasion to induce him to demand the intervention of these potentates in the affairs of his kingdom. The second wife of King Ferdinand, the Princess of Partanne, was employed to represent to him, that his own interest, in common with that of all crowned heads, rendered this intervention necessary; and the ministers of the Church were charged to convince him that Heaven is not offended at royal perjury.
At the same time Austria spread abroad the report that the constitution which the Neapolitans had given themselves, admitting only one Chamber, they wished to abolish it, only that it might be replaced by another which should grant two Chambers; and she flattered some of the generals employed in the Neapolitan army with the promise of making them peers of the United Kingdom.
Thus bas Austria more than once succeeded, sometimes in preventing the introduction of a constitutional government, sometimes in overturning those which had already been proclaimed; but she cannot conceal from herself that the time approaches when she will no longer be permitted to interfere in the political movements which may arise in the heart of the Italian states. . Even now, she can neither pass the Po, nor lay siege to Alexandria or Genoa, without assuring herself beforehand of the consent, or at least the tolerance, not only of the sovereigns of France and England, but also of these men in power in either kingdom, who are obliged to consult the will of the nations of which they are at once the delegates and representatives, and in whose eyes a disgraceful peace may become insupportable. The present dispositions and opinions of the Governments, both in France and England, have quickened the activity and anxious foresight of the Austrian Cabinet, and given rise to the famous project, so often announced in the journals, of the confederation of the Italian princes under the protection of the princes of the house of Hapsburg.
But Austria knows well that the confederation of Italian princes is pot a confederation of the Italian people. She knows, for example, that if another revolution should take place in Naples, she must avoid sending thither with her own troops those of Piedmont and the other Italian states; for that would only be carrying fuel to the fire. What Austria proposés to herself by this plan of confederation, is, the appearance of acting in concert with the other Italian Governments whenever the occasion might arise, when she desires to march her troops towards the South of the Peninsula for the purpose of intervening in the quarrels which may arise between the people and their monarchs. It is in order to introduce into their pretended federal armies, along with her German contingent, not the national troops of the Italian princes,
but their mercenaries and their life-guardsmen. By this association of forces, different in name, but alike in reality, she hopes to impose on the credulity of the people, and satisfy sufficiently the diplomatie exigencies of the Cabinets of London and Paris.
Nevertheless, Austria has not yet dared openly to take measures for the realization of this project of Italian confederation. Perhaps she has discovered that the elective Chambers of France and England would give no credit to a confederation so evidently delusive;—perhaps she fears that the men who compose the contingent of the other princes may be their own life-guardsmen; and that, if they be Italians, they may be more disposed to join their fellow countrymen than to make common cause with the stranger who oppresses them all, whatever be their social position. · Neither in this, nor in our former publications,* have we sought to diminish or conceal from our fellow countrymen the real force of Austria : on the contrary, we have thought it right to give them an exact and complete idea of this force. It is not by deluding them with the belief that their adversary is feeble, that we wish to stimulate them to the great enterprise of their political regeneration ; it is rather by mere truthful reflections, and, which they will better appreciate, by developing all the resources which twenty-four million Italians would find in their country, which nature seems to have especially suited to defensive warfare ; for a war, where the multitude may contend with regular troops, the weak with the strong, and well-directed enthusiasm against long habits of discipline and warfare. But if it be impolitic on our part to conceal the difficulties we should have to encounter in fighting for our independence, it is our duty to point out to the Italians, that though the Austrian force may at first sight appear gigantic, it is fundamentally corrupted, and would indubitably yield to the least determined perseverance on the part of the Italians. Its base is undermined by the hostile disposition of Hungary; by the discontent of Bohemia and Gallicia ; by the disgust of the Tyrolese, so ill rewarded for all their sacrifices for Austria in the time of Napoleon. She is also wanting in strength, from the depressed state of her finances.
Even in 1821, when all Europe was with her, Austria would scarcely have been able to carry her arms into Naples, without the thirty-eight millions lent her by the King of France.
It may be objected, that Austria defended her provinces a long time against the arms and genius of Bonaparte. In effect, this defence was both long and obstinate, or rather, Austria five times renewed her extirpated armies.
But at that time the German states were all devoted to her, and gave, with enthusiasm, all their men and money: the sympathies of the lower classes were in her favour; Piedmont gave all the assistance in her power; and the Sicilian monarch sent a brilliant detachment of cavalry to join the Austrian army, who distinguished themselves in several encounters.
At that time Austria, assisted by the gold of England, had only to
* L'Italie Militaire, et sur les Moyens qui peuvent conduire à l'Independence Italieane.
contend with an army, which, though exceedingly brave, and commanded by a captain of great genius, was not numerous, and was unassisted by a maritime force ; for the English navy was mistress of the sea. But in a war for the independence of Italy, Austria would no more find funds in foreign nations; her own states would not again prove the same resource to her, being for the most part discontented with their administration. The blind enthusiasm and the profound convictions on the part of the people, of the excellence of their monarchy, are no more.
If, in the commencement of the struggle, the Italians do not possess the experienced soldiers of Bonaparte, they will have the advantage of numbers, and the whole Peninsula, down to Sicily, for their territory; the most advantageous positions, especially towards the South; in fine, the incalculable superiority of those stratagistic operations of which we spoke in the last chapter.
It must also be added, that the Austrian empire is composed of heterogeneous elements; language, manners, climate, and religion, are all different. The wants of one state are not those of another; and there is reason to believe, that a war of Italian independence would complete the disunion of this monstrous mass. Moreover, in these times of social progress, a government, stationary by principle, contaios the elements of speedy dissolution.
Let Austria recognize these truths; let her fear the progress of the times, as a large decayed vessel dreads the vicinity of rocks; her every act seems to reveal this fear :-she re-establishes the Jesuits-revives the Knights of Malta- creates a court nobility in Lombardy_and establishes in her own empire a bigoted censorship, hitherto unknown.
Can a government, reduced to the necessity of resuscitating her buried carcasses, and invoking their help, long hold Italy in bondage, while the other nations of modern Europe, less advanced in civilization, have already conquered their liberty ?
CHAPTER v. Should Independent Italy be separated into many States, united together by a
Federative Union, or should she be ruled by a single Government ? A great diversity of opinion exists on the question which is the object of this chapter.
Many persons even think, that it would be better to defer the examination of the subject till Italy, being free, shall enjoy the liberty to express her own wishes :--we have always entertained a contrary opinion. It is not immediately after the violent struggle she must sustain to rescue our common country from the yoke of Austria, that men's minds can be sufficiently clear and calm to appreciate the advantages or inconveniences of either system; and yet, it is at that moment a decision must be made.
We must here repeat, what we have already written elsewhere, in what manner can the Italian refugees, in a foreign land, more honourably occupy the leisure of their long exile, than in meditating on these important questions?