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Italy page 6


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The affairs of Italy were the subject of warm debates in our Parliament in the session of 1849. Lord Palmerston was assailed by the Conservatives for having given any countenance to the Sicilian insurrection, and for having sent Lord Minto to Italy on a mission of conciliation, which they considered an unwarrantable meddling in the affairs of foreign countries. His assailants, he said, belonged to a school which maintained "the right divine to govern wrong," and they therefore stigmatised the Sicilians as rebels. But the Sicilians had had a constitution for centuries, and their ancient and indisputable rights were confirmed in 1812. As to Lord Minto, he interfered at the instance of the King of Naples himself. The treaty of Vienna recognised the title of the King as King of the Two Sicilies; "but the recognition of a title was one thing, the overturning of a constitution another."

In the House of Lords the Earl of Aberdeen, Foreign Secretary in the late Government, strongly censured our foreign policy with regard to Northern Italy. He spoke with delight of the brilliant victories and rare generosity of Radetzky, and warmly eulogised the administration of the Austrian dominions in Italy. Lord Brougham spoke strongly on the same side with Lord Aberdeen, indignantly condemning the Italian policy of the Government. On the 20th of July he moved a set of resolutions on the subject, in which he also praised Austria, as being just and moderate, while Sardinia was aggressive and faithless. He spoke of " the terrible tyranny established by those firebrands of revolution, Mazzini and Garibaldi." He considered that an eternal debt of gratitude was due to General Oudinot, for conducting the siege in such a manner as to avoid any waste of blood, and to preserve the treasures of art, of which that city was the repository. With reference to Southern Italy, he protested against the conduct, not only of our regular diplomatic body, but of " that mongrel sort of monster - half nautical, half political - diplomatic vice-admirals, speculative ship captains, observers of rebellions, and sympathisers therewith; " the officers alluded to being Lord Napier, Sir William Parker, and Captain Codrington.. The Earl of Carlisle, in reply to Lord Brougham, ably defended the conduct of our diplomatists and officers throughout the Sicilian contest, and repelled the sarcasms with which they were assailed. He vindicated the foreign policy of Lord Palmerston, and called upon the House to reject "the illogical and unmeaning" resolutions of Lord Brougham. Lord Minto, also, at great length defended the course he had taken. The Marquis of Lansdowne, while willing to rest the defence of the Government upon the able speech of Lord Carlisle, made some remarks in answer to the charge of partiality brought by the Earl of Aberdeen against Lord Minto, after which the House divided, when the resolutions of Lord Brougham were rejected by a majority of 12.

On another occasion Lord Beaumont, a Roman Catholic peer, professing to speak the sentiments of millions of Roman Catholics, delivered a remarkable speech on the Papacy, and the French occupation of Rome. He said, " An attempt was made to separate the spiritual and temporal powers, by a mode of all others the most impracticable - the appointment of lay councillors with a sacerdotal government. The Pope adhered to his original resolution, not to concede the slightest abridgment of his secular jurisdiction. Laymen were allowed to assemble and debate, but not initiate. On the granting of this phantom of a constitution, a general revolution broke out in Italy. The Roman people demanded the same liberty that had been granted to the Neapolitans. The cardinals opposed the demand; but ultimately concessions were made with the determination that when a fitting opportunity came, every step taken in advance should be retraced, the supremacy of the clergy restored in all its vigour, and the laity deprived of the privileges conceded to them. On the advice of foreign courts, Pope Pius then called to his councils a man not deserving his confidence (Count Rossi), a man who had been exiled from Rome, who had been branded as a rebel, who had been excommunicated as a Churchman, who had abandoned the Catholic religion and professed another, who had forsaken his own country, and had become the inhabitant and citizen of another country (France), and who had been employed as the ambassador of that country to that which it considered a foreign state. The advice of this man turned out as unwelcome to the Pope, as it was adverse to the views of the cardinals. To relieve the finances of his country he saw no means but a mortgage of church property; and with that view he was entering the capital, when he fell by the hand of an assassin, and thus brought unmerited disgrace on those who opposed him solely as a minister. This was an event completely isolated - a monstrous crime - an event deplored by those who afterwards succeeded him in power, both for the sake of M. Rossi himself, with whom they were on habits of intimacy, and as an obstacle to the success of the cause in which they were embarked. Indeed, the first step taken by Mamiani, when he gained power, was to arrest the assassin, the Pope's Government having never taken any step in that direction. The moment M. Rossi fell, the cardinals endeavoured to retrace the steps taken. Their plans were discovered in time; the people went in indignation to the Vatican, and implored the Pope to renew the oath to stand by the constitutional form of Government then existing, but to disband his Swiss troops, pledging their lives that not a hair of his head should be injured. He declined to do this, and accepted the advice to quit Rome. His retreat would have been opposed only by prayers; but he fled in disguise, and so betrayed a strange want of confidence in his subjects. Attempts were made to reconcile the Pontiff to his people - attempts rejected by the Pope in the harshest manner imaginable. A scheme was devised by Austria for the intervention of Spain and Naples only, Austria and France looking on. Whilst each power was looking to its own interest, the Roman Republic was proclaimed by universal suffrage of the people. Though the real republicans at Rome might not be very numerous, there was no doubt that the number was very great of those who wished the secular power to be taken from the clergy. The country was profoundly tranquil, peace and reform anxiously expected by the Roman provinces, when the French suddenly sent an expedition from Toulon to Civita Vecchia, where they published a proclamation that deceived the Roman people, and procured for themselves a friendly reception; but as soon as it became known in Rome itself that they came to restore the Pope in full ecclesiastical ascendancy, all Rome was against them; and it was impossible for them now to attain that end without destroying liberty, and establishing a pure despotism in its stead."

In the House of Commons, on the 21st of July, Mr. Bernai Osborne raised a discussion on the affairs of Hungary, and was followed by Mr. Roebuck, Colonel Thompson, and Lord Claude Hamilton: the latter denounced the conduct of Kossuth as " infamous." This debate is memorable chiefly on account of Lord Palmerston's great speech on the causes of the revolutions of 1848. In reply to the eulogiums upon the Austrian Government, the noble lord stated that Austria, in the opinion of a great part of the Continent, had been identified with obstruction to progress, resistance to improvement, political and social; and it was in that capacity she won the affections of the Tories. He regarded the conduct of such men as an example of " antiquated imbecility." He firmly believed that in the war between Austria and Hungary there were enlisted on the side of Hungary the hearts and souls of the whole people of that country. He took the question then being fought for on the plains of Hungary to be this, whether that country should maintain its separate nationality as a distinct kingdom with a constitution of its own, or be incorporated in the Empire as an Austrian province. If Hungary succeeded, Austria would cease to be a first-rate European power. If Hungary were entirely crushed, Austria in that battle would have crushed her own right arm. Every field that was laid waste was an Austrian resource destroyed. Every Hungarian that perished upon the field was an Austrian soldier deducted from the defensive forces of the Empire. "It is quite true," continued the noble lord, "that it may be said, " Your opinions are but opinions; and you express them against our opinions, who have at our command large armies to back them - what are opinions against armies?' Sir, my answer is, opinions are stronger than armies. I say, then, that it is our duty not to remain passive spectators of events that in their immediate consequences affect other countries, but in their remote and certain consequences are sure to come back with disastrous effect upon ourselves; that so far as the courtesies of international intercourse will permit us to do so, it is our duty - especially when our opinion is asked, as it has been on many occasions on which we have been blamed for giving it - to state our opinions, founded on the experience of this country - an experience that might be, and ought to have been, an example to less fortunate countries. We are not entitled to interpose in any manner that will commit this country to embark in those hostilities. All we can justly do is to take advantage of any opportunities that may present themselves, in which the counsels of friendship and peace may be offered to the contending parties.... Sir, to suppose that any Government of England can wish to excite revolutionary movements in any part of the world - to suppose that England can have any other wish or desire than to confirm and maintain peace between nations, and tranquillity and harmony between Governments and subjects - shows really a degree of ignorance and folly which I never cup- posed any public man could have been guilty of - which may do very well for a newspaper article, but which it astonishes me to find is made the subject of a speech in Parliament." The noble lord sat down amidst much cheering. Lord Dudley Stuart said that he looked upon the speech which had been delivered by Mr. Osborne, followed up as it had been by Mr. Roebuck and Lord Palmerston, as one of the most important events of the session.

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Pictures for Italy page 6

Piedmontese troops
Piedmontese troops >>>>
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi >>>>
The Royal palace Milan
The Royal palace Milan >>>>

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