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Italy page 3

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Ferdinand II. was then king, the last of a line of bigoted tyrants. His government was regarded with abhorrence by his subjects, and with strong disapproval by Europe. Some years before an eminent English statesman, Mr. Gladstone, had visited Naples. He was led to make inquiry into the relations maintained by the government with those of its subjects who were supposed to be disaffected. He gave to the world the result of his researches in letters addressed to Lord Aberdeen. He showed that there were probably twenty thousand persons held in prison by the Neapolitan government for political reasons; that men were habitually arrested without any offence being charged, simply because the government desired to have them out of the way; that unoffending citizens were imprisoned for years, without trial, among the vilest criminals, often in heavy irons, which were never for a moment removed; that the dungeons were dark, airless, crowded, inexpressibly filthy, and often so low-roofed that the prisoners could not stand erect; that the doctors refused to enter these loathsome cells, and caused such prisoners as required medical care to be brought out to them; that the police habitually inflicted torture; that trial was a mockery of justice; that prisoners who had the rare good fortune to be acquitted were liberated only if the government pleased.

These revelations brought upon Naples the reprobation of the civilized world, and left her, in an age of revolution, without a friend. Lord Palmerston sent copies of Mr. Gladstone's letters to the British ministers at all European courts. The Neapolitan government felt so acutely the damage done to its reputation that it caused a reply to be prepared, which, as Mr. Gladstone showed, virtually admitted the substantial accuracy of his statements.

The great events which had come to pass in northern and central Italy sent their thrilling influences among the people of the south. An insurrection broke out in Sicily. General Garibaldi summoned about him two thousand men, old soldiers of liberty, and sailed from Genoa, to strengthen and direct the movement. His battle-cry was to be, "Italy and Victor Emanuel." The king's government was not a little embarrassed by this invasion in the king's name of the territory of a friendly power. Cavour, who had just returned to office, pronounced it the most difficult conjuncture in which he had ever been placed. He could not, without the sanction of France, give encouragement to the conquest of Naples. But the people of the north felt deeply the wrongs of their brethren in the south, and would not suffer any effort for their deliverance to be thwarted. The government officially disapproved of Garibaldi's expedition, but stood prepared to accept the advantages which its success would offer. After a little the king himself wrote to Garibaldi, begging him to desist. The general replied, with many loyal and dutiful assurances, that he was called for and urged on by the people of Naples; that he endeavoured in vain to restrain them; that the king must, on this occasion, permit him to be disobedient. But when it became evident that marvellous success was to crown the patriot efforts, Cavour's difficulty vanished. It was necessary that Sardinia should assume the leadership of a great national movement. Otherwise the unity of Italy would have been endangered.

Garibaldi quickly possessed himself of Sicily. He crossed over to the mainland and began his advance to Naples. His march was a triumphal progress. The troops of the king retired as he drew near; the rejoicing people hailed him as their deliverer. They gave expression to their rapture by illuminations. They brought gifts of fruit and wine to the soldiers. They embraced, with Italian demonstrativeness, the rugged and travel-stained heroes. Garibaldi pressed forward rapidly, and in three weeks he entered Naples. The king and queen fled on his approach. The people received him with enthusiasm, such as the ancient city had probably never witnessed before.

A portion of the Neapolitan army made a stand on the Volturno, where Garibaldi inflicted upon it final defeat. Garibaldi became for a time dictator, and governed Naples. The people were asked to declare their wishes in regard to their political future. They voted, by vast majorities, in favour of union with Sardinia. The king, in accepting the new trust, summoned the people to concord and self-denial. "All parties,"he said, "must bow before the majesty of the Italian nation, which God uplifts." Garibaldi did not remain in the kingdom which he had won. He cherished against Count Cavour a bitter antipathy, and sought to have him dismissed from office. He intimated in the official gazette of Naples his determination never to be reconciled with the man who had sold an Italian province. He felt that he was not in harmony with the political conditions which surrounded him. In three months he had overthrown a despotic government, and added a population of nine million to the free kingdom of Italy. And now his work was done. Unostentatiously he quitted the land which he had saved, and returned in poverty to his little island of Caprera.

The foundations of Italian unity had been laid by the judicious interference of Sardinia in the strifes of the great European powers. A judicious repetition of the same strategy was once more to yield results of the highest value to the national cause. In course of years it became obvious that questions had arisen between Austria and Prussia which could not be solved otherwise than by the sword. Austria's extremity was Italy's opportunity. A treaty was arranged by which Prussia bound herself not to make peace with Austria until Venetia should be gained for Italy. King Victor Emanuel engaged, on his part, to attack Austria on land with eighty thousand men, and at sea with all his naval force. On both elements he was unsuccessful: the Austrians defeated his army and his fleet. But better fortune crowned the arms of Prussia. Two clays after the battle of Sadowa, it was announced that Austria had ceded Venetia to France, thus, it may be supposed, lessening in some slight degree the humiliation which her final expulsion from Italy involved. The Emperor Napoleon gracefully handed his acquisition to the Italian government. It had always been his purpose, he intimated, to restore Italy to herself, so that she should be free from the Alps to the Adriatic, and this programme was now all but completed.

The sole remaining obstacle was the pope. The holy father still bore rule over the city of Home and a considerable portion of those unfortunate regions which the church claimed to possess as the patrimony of St. Peter. To north and south lay the now united states which made up free Italy. Wedged in between was a population of half a million of Italians longing to be united with their countrymen, enduring impatiently a government which they believed, with reason, to be the worst in Europe. This was a condition whose continuance was impossible. Italy could not tolerate, in the very heart of the kingdom, an alien state with a blindly despotic government and a discontented population. Moreover, Rome was the inevitable capital of united Italy. A few months before his death, Count Cavour "thought it his duty to proclaim this truth to the country with all the solemnity in his power."

But the tottering throne of the pope was still upheld by French bayonets, and the "eldest son" of the church gave ominous warning to the Italians that his filial duty was to be inflexibly discharged. The King of Italy was firmly bound by a convention with France, not only to abstain from making any attack upon the territory of the holy father, but also to resist any such attack if made by others. And when the Italian government manifested some disposition to forget that agreement, the Emperor Napoleon sternly intimated that France was prepared to insist upon its fulfilment. But events proved stronger than the Emperor Napoleon. The impatience of the Italian people became irrepressible.

Insurrection burst out in Rome. Garibaldi gathered around him a band of unlicensed liberators, most of whom fell into the hands of the French and Papal troops. The Italian question became again a cause of European anxiety. Queen Victoria expressed to Parliament her hope that the emperor would, by the early withdrawal of his troops, remove any possible ground of misunderstanding between himself and the King of Italy. A week or two later the French quitted Rome, but next day the French government intimated angrily that "France would never submit to such a violence on her honour and on Catholicity" as the occupation of Papal territory by the Italians.

Three unquiet years passed, bringing vast changes. The Emperor Napoleon was a prisoner in the hands of the Prussians; his armies, shamefully defeated, had found refuge in surrender; the King of Prussia was setting out on his triumphal march to Paris; the church was bereaved of her "eldest son." Undutiful Italy did not neglect the opportunity. Her troops forced an entrance into Rome. The Popish world shrieked loudly. The Empress of France exclaimed, " Rather the Prussians in Paris than the Italians in Rome." The Archbishop of Paris foretold approaching desolation. "Revolution," he said, "will overwhelm the world, and God will know how to create a new order out of its chaos." The holy father did not cease to lavish innocuous curses upon the disturbers of his tranquillity. But neither prophecy nor malediction shook the steady purpose of the Italian people. The subjects of the pope joyfully united themselves with their countrymen, and the liberation of Italy was at length a completed work.

But long before these crowning successes which raised Italy from a mere "geographical expression" to a rank among the great powers of Europe, the statesman whose wisdom prepared the restoration of her national life had passed away. During the months which followed the annexation of Naples, the work which fell to Count Cavour was overwhelmingly great. In the following May, worn out by anxiety and toil, he was struck down by congestion of the brain. For a week he hung between life and death. When it became known that he was dying, the people of Turin crowded around his palace, eager to have tidings of the man they loved, dismayed by the sudden calamity about to fall upon the nation. Near the close the king had come to visit him, and when about to leave said that he would return to-morrow. "I will not be here tomorrow," said the dying statesman. And so it proved. Next morning, about sunrise, he died.

Cavour was not permitted to witness the completion of the work to which he had devoted his life; but he knew that what he had done made its completion sure. The rapture of the final triumph was reserved for others, but the higher glory of having rendered unparalleled service was his.

The desire vainly cherished by so many generations of Italians was at length fully satisfied. For centuries Italy had been parcelled out in fragments, each the pleasure-ground of a paltry despot. These enfeebling separations were now cancelled, and she stood before the world a great and united nation, in the full enjoyment of constitutional liberty, with a population equal to that of Great Britain, and an area equal to that of Great Britain and Ireland. Every natural advantage seemed to be hers, - a fertile soil; a genial climate; an ample sea-board, and easy communication with all the world; unity of feeling among her people, growing out of the prosecution of a common aim; a history full of ennobling memories, fitted to rouse men to worthy deeds. It remains for a later time than the present to show in what measure the Italians are able to avail themselves of their great opportunities; but the history of their few years of national life is full of promise.

Liberty and unity work no miracles. The degradation which it has taken centuries to inflict may well require the life-time of two or three generations to cancel. Priestly influences had been studiously hostile to education, and the expelled despots bequeathed to free Italy the care of a fearfully ignorant population. In 1864, eighty Italians in every hundred were unable to read or write; and in 1870, sixty-four in every hundred of the young men who came up for military service were similarly uninstructed. The Italian government applied with becoming energy a remedy to evils which were justly deemed incompatible with the stability of free institutions. A parliamentary grant, which has now swelled to nearly one million sterling, was voted for public instruction. No time was Lost in adding to this grant the greater portion of the revenues enjoyed by the monastic establishments. Of these there were two thousand four hundred, inhabited by nearly thirty thousand idle and unprofitable men and women. The act of 1866 dissolved all these institutions; and after providing for life-interests on a scale (The pensions given to the various grades of "religious persons" ranged from ten pounds up to twenty pounds annually) which could not be considered inappropriate to persons who had undertaken vows of poverty and self-denial, the property was devoted to the education of the people.

The industrial progress of free Italy has been rapid. Only two-thirds of her available soil are yet cultivated at all, and her cultivation is often barbaric and wasteful; but she is making such progress that her exports, which in 1868 were only twenty-two million sterling, had risen in 1886 to forty million. She taught England, centuries ago, the weaving of silk, and she still continues to send abroad large quantities of this article, both raw and manufactured. She supplies hemp, oranges, spirits, brimstone, and after satisfying her own liberal consumption of olives and olive oil, she has still a large surplus of these articles for shipment. The growing prosperity of her people is expressed, in the increase of their power to consume the productions of foreign countries. Her imports, which in 1868 were thirty-four million sterling, were in 1886 fifty-six million. She imports grain, her own production being still insufficient, cotton and woollen manufactures, coal and iron. A liberal commercial policy gives reason to expect that her intercourse with other nations will continue to increase.

The modern Italian has inherited none of the aggressiveness of the ancient Roman. Her own concerns -have been so absorbing that Italy has not been tempted to occupy herself with those of her neighbours. Her inclination as well as her interest is altogether pacific. She has not, however, been able to deny herself the dignity of a large and costly warlike establishment. She has under arms in time of peace two hundred thousand men, and she maintains a powerful and expensive fleet of ironclad and other vessels. Nay, so enterprising is she in this profitless direction that she anticipated England in the development of artillery, and possessed a gun of one hundred tons while our most powerful implement was a gun of only eighty-one tons.

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