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France; Southern Europe; the Pre-revolutionary Age. page 2

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In the last half of the 17th century the Spanish sovereigns of the Hapsburg house merely plundered their Italian dominions by ruthless taxation. In 1647 an impost on fruit, almost the only food of the poor left untouched by fiscal greed, caused an insurrection headed by the famous Tommaso or 'Mas Aniello, who was assassinated at the instance of the viceroy. In Sicily, the populace rose at Palermo, but the movement was soon quelled. Early in the 18th century the duke of Savoy (king of Sicily) became "king of Sardinia," taking that island in exchange for Sicily, received by him, as we have seen, under the Peace of Utrecht. The ruler of Savoy, Piedmont, and Sardinia was the one independent, strong, Italian sovereign, and much was done for the state under the liberal and enlightened despot Victor Amadeus II., who reigned until 1730, and distinguished himself by depriving the Jesuits of all control over public education. The republic of Genoa, ever obliged to defend her freedom and independence against aggressive neighbours, lost Corsica by revolt in 1730, and finally, after recovering it by French arms from the patriot Paoli, ceded the island to France in 1768. In the Papal States, or central Italy, during this period, we note a general decline of industry, prosperity, and intellectual life. The Popes were all Italians, generally members of great families. Innocent XI. (1676-1689) was an able, honest man, of austere life, an opponent of luxury, and of nepotism and simony in the Church. In conflict with the Gallican (French) Church, under Louis XIV., Papal infallibility received a severe blow in 1682. A convocation of clergy in Paris, summoned by the king, adopted a declaration drawn up by the eloquent Bossuet, bishop of Meaux. The "Four Articles" maintained that the Pope, in secular matters, has no power over kings and princes, and cannot loose subjects from their allegiance; that the Pope is subject to the decrees of a General Council; that the Pope's authority in France is regulated by fixed canons and by the laws and customs of the kingdom and Church; and that, in matters of faith, the Pope's decision is not unalterable. The king then issued a decree confirming these statements. In 1713 Clement XI. (1700-1721) issued his famous "bull" Unigenitus against the Jansenists, the strong opponents of the Jesuits' teaching on moral points, the document being accepted by the French bishops, but resisted by a large body of the clergy and the laity. In France, at this time, infidelity of the Voltairean school was yearly rising, with considerable effect on political affairs at a later day. Benedict XIV., who was Pope from 1740 to 1758, is distinguished as, not the greatest, but the best and wisest of all the men who have filled the Papal chair. Learned; cultured in literature and art; in the best sense an accomplished man of the world; able and conscientious in the discharge of all his duties; liberal-minded, moderate, and observant of the spirit of the age; sincerely pious, forbearing towards others, strict with himself, this admirable and delightful man, an honour to human nature, commanded the high esteem of Protestant and Catholic sovereigns, and was beloved by all who came within reach of his benign influence. He died after painful illness, cheerful and lively to the last. Clement XIII. (1758-1769), led by the Jesuits, strongly maintained the most arrogant Papal claims, in defiance of the Bourbon princes who ruled in France, Spain, and most of Italy. His successor, Clement XIV. (1769-1775), was a man of opposite character, liberal by disposition and training, and in 1773 he deprived the Papacy of an able body of strenuous defenders by a "Brief" which abolished the Society of Jesus. The last Pope of the period was Pius VI. (1775-1799), who lived to see the confiscation of Church-property, the suppression of religious orders, the occupation of Rome by French troops, and the proclamation of a "Roman Republic." He died a prisoner on The war of the Austrian Succession, ended in 1748 by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, left Italy in peace for more than 40 years, with most of the territory in the hands of the Bourbons, ruling in Naples and Sicily, Parma, Modena, and Genoa; while the House of Savoy held Sardinia and Piedmont, and the Austrians retained Milan and Tuscany. The sovereigns were absolute, generally in their own selfish interest, with a very honourable exception in Peter Leopold, grand-duke of Tuscany from 1765 until his succession to the empire as Leopold II. in 1790. This enlightened reformer restricted priestly power, and made an end of the Inquisition. The financial administration and the criminal law were much changed for the better. He left a noble monument of his beneficent rule in the fertile Val di Chiana, a tract 50 miles in length between two mountain-ranges, and bounded by the rivers Arno and Paglia. Under his direction, this district was changed by skilful engineering from a malarious swamp into a region of bounteous production.

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