Pilgrimage from the Alps to the Tiber - Or The Influence of Romanism on Trade, Justice, and Knowledge
by James Aitken Wylie
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And with the fall of our religion and liberty will come all the demoralizing and pauperizing effects which have followed the Papacy in Italy. Mind will be systematically cramped and crushed; and everything that could stimulate thought, or inspire a love for independence, or recall the memory of a former liberty, will be proscribed. We cannot have the Papacy and open tribunals. We cannot have the Papacy and free trade: our factories will be closed, as well as our schools and churches; our forges silenced, as well as our printing presses. Motion even will be forbidden; or, should our railways be spared, they will convey, in lack of merchandise, bulls, palls, dead men's bones, and other such precious stuff. Our electric telegraph will be used for the pious purpose of transmitting absolutions and pardons, and our express trains for carrying the host to some dying penitent. The passport system will very speedily cure our people of their propensity to travel; and, instead of gadding about, and learning things which they ought not, they will be told to stay at home and count their beads. The Index will effectually purge our libraries, and give us but tens where we have now thousands. Alas for the great masters of British literature and song! The censorship will make fine work with our periodic literature, pruning the exuberance and taming the boldness of many a now free pen. Our clubs, from Parliament downwards, will have their labours diminished, by having their sphere contracted to matters only on which the Church has not spoken; and our thinkers will be taught to think aright, by being taught not to think at all. We must contract a liking for consecrated wafers and holy water; and provide a confessor for ourselves, our wives, and daughters. We must eat only fish on Friday, and keep the Church's holidays, however we may spend the Sabbath. We must vote at the bidding of the priest; and, above all, take ghostly direction as regards our last will and testament. The Papacy will overhaul all our political rights, all our social privileges, all our domestic and private affairs; and will alter or abrogate as it may find it for our and the Church's good. In short, it will dig a grave, in which to bury all our privileges and rights together, rolling to that grave's mouth the great stone of Infallibility.

Nor let us commit the error of under-estimating the foe, or of thinking, in an age when intelligence and liberty are so diffused, that it is impossible that we can be overcome by such a system as the Papacy. We have not, like the early Christians, to oppose a rude, unwieldy, and gross paganism; we are called to confront an idolatry, subtle, refined, perfected. We encounter error wielding the artillery of truth. We wrestle with the powers of darkness clothed in the armour of light. We are called to combat the instincts of the wolf and tiger in the form of the messenger of peace,—the Satanic principle in the angelic costume. Have we considered the infinite degradation of defeat? Have we thought of the prison-house where we will be compelled to grind for our conqueror's sport,—the chains and stakes which await ourselves and our posterity? And, even should our lives be spared, they will be spared to what?—to see freedom banished, knowledge extinguished, science put under anathema, the world rolled backwards, and the universe become a vast whispering gallery, to re-echo only the accents of papal blasphemy.

This atrocious and perfidious system is at this hour triumphant on the Continent of Europe. Britain only stands erect. How long she may do so is known only to God; but of this I am assured, that if we shall be able to keep our own, it will be, not by entering into any compromise, but by assuming an attitude of determined defiance to the papal system. There must be no truckling to foreign despots and foreign priests: the bold Protestant policy of the country must be maintained. In this way alone can we escape the immense hazards which at present threaten us. And what a warning do the nations of the Continent hold out to us! They teach how easily liberty may be lost, but how infinite the sacrifices it takes to recover it. A moment's weakness may cost an age of suffering. If we let go the liberty we at present enjoy, none of us will live to see it regained. Look at the past history of the Papacy, and mark how it has retained its vulpine instincts in every age, and transmitted from father to son, and from generation to generation, its inextinguishable hatred of man and of man's liberties. Look at it in the Low Countries, and see it overwhelming them under an inundation of armies and scaffolds. Look at it in Spain, and see it extinguishing, amid the fires of innumerable autos da fe, the genius, the chivalry, and the power of that great nation. Look at it in France, whose history it has converted into an ever-recurring cycle of revolutions, massacres, and tyrannies. Look at it in the blood-written annals of the Waldensian valleys, against which it launched crusade after crusade, ravaging their soil with fire and sword, and ceasing its rage only when nothing remained but the crimson stains of its fearful cruelty. And now, after creating this wide wreck,—after glutting the axe,—after flooding the scaffold, and deluging the earth itself with human blood,—it turns to you, ye men of England and Scotland! It menaces you across the narrow channel that divides your country from the Continent, and dares to set its foul print on your free shore! Will you permit it? Will you tamely sit still till it has put its foot on your neck, and its fetter on your arm? Oh! if you do, the Bruce who conquered at Bannockburn will disown you! The Knox who achieved a yet more glorious victory will disown you! Cranmer, and all the martyrs whose blood cries to heaven against it, while their happy spirits look down from their thrones of light to watch the part you are prepared to play in this great struggle, will disown you! Your children yet unborn, whose faith you will thus surrender, and whose liberty you will thus betray, will curse your very names. But I know you will not. You are men, and will die as men, if die you must, nobly fighting for your faith and your liberties. You will not wait till you are drawn out and slaughtered as sheep, as you assuredly will be if you permit this system to become dominant. But if you are prepared to die, rather than to live the slaves of a detestable and ferocious tyranny like this, I know that you shall not die; for I firmly believe, from the aspects of Providence, and the revelations of the Divine Word, that, menacing as the Papacy at present looks, its grave is dug, and that even now it totters on the brink of that burning abyss into which it is destined to be cast; and if we do but unite, and strike a blow worthy of our cause, we shall achieve our liberties, and not only these, but the liberties of nations that stretch their arms in chains to us, under God their last hope, and the liberties of generations unborn, who shall arise and call us blessed.




[1] See the Antiquity of the Waldenses treated of at length in Leger's "Histoire de l'Eglise Vaudoise;" and Dr Gilly's "Waldensian Researches."

[2] The author would soften his strictures on this head by a reference to the truly interesting volume on the "Ladies of the Reformation," by his talented friend the Rev. James Anderson.

[3] I have before me a list of prices current (Prezzo Corrente Legale de generi venduti nella piazza di Roma dal di 28 Febbraro al di 5 Marzo 1852), from which it appears, that sculpture, paintings, tallow, bones, skins, rags, and pozzolano, comprise all the exports from the Papal States. What a beggarly list, compared with the natural riches of the country! In fact, vessels return oftener without than with lading from that shore.

[4] It was so when the author was in Rome. The enterprising company of Fox & Henderson have since succeeded in overcoming the pontifical scruples, and bringing gas into the Eternal City; Cardinal Antonelli remarking, that he would accept of their light in return for the light he had sent to England.

[5] As illustrative of our subject, we may here quote what Mr Whiteside, M.P., in his interesting volumes, "Italy in the Nineteenth Century," says of the estimation in which all concerned with the administration of justice are held at Rome:—

"The profession of the law is considered by the higher classes to be a base pursuit: no man of family would degrade himself by engaging in it. A younger son of the poorest noble would famish rather than earn his livelihood in an employment considered vile. The advocate is seldom if ever admitted into high society in Rome; nor can the princes (so called) or nobles comprehend the position of a barrister in England. They would as soon permit a facchino as an advocate to enter their palaces; and they have been known to ask with disdain (when accidentally apprised that a younger son of an English nobleman had embraced the profession of the law), what could induce his family to suffer the degradation? Priests, bishops, and cardinals, the poor nobles or their impoverished descendants, will become,—advocates or judges, never. The solution of this apparent inconsistency is to be found in the fact, that in most despotic countries the profession of the law is contemptible. In Rome it is particularly so, because no person places confidence in the administration of the law, the salaries of the judges are small, the remuneration of the advocate miserable, and all the great offices grasped by the ecclesiastics. Pure justice not existing, everybody concerned in the administration of what is substituted for it is despised, often most unjustly, as being a participator in the imposture."

[6] See book vii., chap. x.

[7] Monsignor Marini, who was head of the police under Gregory XVI., and the infamous tool in all the arrests and cruelties of Lambruschini, was made a cardinal by the present Pope. All Rome said, let the next cardinal be the public executioner. Talent, certainly, has fair play at Rome, when a policeman, and even the hangman, may aspire to the chair of Peter.


The following statistics of the wealth of the clergy in the Roman States are taken from the American Crusader:—

"The clergy in the Roman States realize from the funds a clear income of two millions two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. From the cattle they have another income of one hundred thousand dollars; from the canons, three hundred thousand dollars; from the public debt another income of one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; from the priests' individual estates, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; from the portions assigned by law to nuns, five hundred thousand dollars; from the celebration of masses, two millions one hundred and fifty thousand dollars; from taxes on baptisms, forty-five thousand dollars; from the tax on the Sacrament of Confirmation, eighteen thousand dollars; from the celebration of marriages, twenty-five thousand dollars; from the attestations of births, nine thousand dollars; from other attestations, such as births, marriages, deaths, &c. &c., nine thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars; from funerals, six hundred thousand dollars; from the gifts to begging-orders, one million eight hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars; from the gifts for motives of benevolence or festivities, or maintenance of altars and lights, or for celebrating mass for the souls in purgatory, two hundred thousand dollars; from the tithes exacted in several parts of the Roman States according to the ancient rigour, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars; from preaching and panegyrics, according to the regular taxes, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars; from seminaries for entrance taxes and other rights belonging to the students, besides the boarding, fifteen thousand dollars; from the chancery for ecclesiastical provisions, for matrimonial licenses, for sanatives, &c. &c., fifty thousand dollars; from benedictions during Easter, thirty thousand dollars; from offerings to the miraculous images of Virgin Marys and Saints, seventy-five thousand dollars; from triduums for the sick, or for prayers, five hundred thousand dollars; from benedictions to fields, cattle, nuptial-beds, &c. &c., nine thousand dollars.

"All these incomes, which amount to ten million five hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars, are realized and enjoyed by the secular and regular clergy, composed in all of sixty thousand individuals, including nuns, without mentioning the incomes allowed them from foreign countries, for the chancery and other cosmopolite congregations.

"It is further to be observed, that in this calculation are not comprised the portions which the Romans call passatore, which the laity pay to the clergy; such as purchase, permutation, resignation, and ordination taxes; patents for confessions, preaching, holy oils, privileged altars, professors' chairs, and the like, which will make up another amount of a million of dollars; nor those other taxes called pretatico, which are paid by the Jews to the parish priest for permission to dwell without the Jews' quarter; nor those for the ringing of bells for dying persons, or those who are in agony; nor those which cripples pay for receiving in Rome the visit of the wooden child of the celestial altar, who must always go out in a carriage, accompanied by friars called minori observanti, Franciscan friars, whose incomes they collect and govern. The value of charitable edifices (which are not registered, being exempt from all dative) is not comprised either; and the same exemption is extended to churches; although all these buildings cost the inhabitants of the State several millions of expense for provisional possession, and displays of ceremonies and feasts which are celebrated in them."


A distinguished English gentleman, who has spent many years as a resident or in travelling in various papal countries in Europe, in a recent speech in London has presented some deeply interesting facts concerning vice and crime in Papal and Protestant countries. He possessed himself of the Government returns of every Romanist Government on the Continent. We have condensed and will state its results.

In England, four persons for a million, on the average, are committed for murder per year. In Ireland there are nineteen to the million. In Belgium, a Catholic country, there are eighteen murders to the million. In France there are thirty-one. Passing into Austria, we find thirty-six. In Bavaria, also Catholic, sixty-eight to the million; or, if homicides are struck out, there will be thirty. Going into Italy, where Catholic influence is the strongest of any country on earth, and taking first the kingdom of Sardinia, we find twenty murders to the million. In the Venetian and Milanese provinces there is the enormous result of forty-five to the million. In Tuscany, forty-two, though that land is claimed as a kind of earthly paradise; and in the Papal States not less than one hundred murders for the million of people. There are ninety in Sicily; and in Naples the result is more appalling still, where public documents show there are two hundred murders per year to the million of people!

The above facts are all drawn from the civil and criminal records of the respective countries named. Now, taking the whole of these countries together, we have seventy-five cases of murder for every million of people. In Protestant countries,—England, for example,—we have but four for every million. Aside from various other demoralizing influences of Popery, the fact now to be named beyond doubt operates with great power in cheapening human life in Catholic countries. The Protestant criminal believes he is sending his victim, if not a Christian, at once to a miserable eternity; and this awful consideration gives a terrible aspect to the crime of murder. But the Papist only sends his victim to purgatory, whence he can be rescued by the masses the priest can be hired to say for his soul; or his own bloody hand and heart will not hinder him from doing that office himself. We think the above facts in regard to vice and crime in the two great departments of Christendom worthy the most serious pondering of every friend of morality and virtue.

[9] Martinus Scriblerus says, that "the Pope's band, though the finest in the world, would not divert the English from burning his Holiness in effigy on the streets of London on a Guy Fawkes' day;" nor, I may add, the Romans from burning him in person on the streets of Rome any day, were the French away.

[10] For much of the information contained in this chapter I am indebted to my intelligent friend Mr Stewart.

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