One would think that the mere mode of conveyance is a very harmless affair. What is it to the Pontifical Government whether the peasant of the Alban hills, or the citizen of Bologna, or the merchant of Ancona, visit Rome on foot, or in his waggon, or by rail? Is he not the same man? Will his ride convert him into a heretic, or shake his faith in Peter's successor? or will the laying down of a few miles of railroad weaken the foundations of that Church which boasts that she is founded on a rock, and that the gates of hell themselves shall not prevail against her? Or if it be said that it is not the mode of the journey, but the length of the journey, what difference can it make whether the man travel twenty miles or two hundred miles? The stability of the Church cannot be seriously endangered by a few miles less or more. Is the Pope's system of so peculiar a kind, that though it is possible for the man who walks twenty miles on foot to believe in it, it is wholly impossible for the man who rides two hundred miles by rail to do so? We know of no Roman doctor who has attempted to fix the precise number of miles which a good Catholic may travel from home without endangering his salvation. One would think that all this is plain enough; that there is no element of danger here; and yet the sharper instincts of the papacy have discovered that herein lies danger, and great danger, to its power. If the influence of Rome is to be preserved, it is not enough that the Bible be put out of existence, that the missionary be banished, and that the art of printing, and all means of diffusing ideas, be proscribed and exterminated: the very right of moving over the earth must be taken from man. Even motion must be placed under anathema.
We have a saying that knowledge is power. I would say that motion is liberty. The serfdom of the middle ages was in good degree maintained by binding man to the soil. Astriction to the soil was at once the foundation and the symbol of that serfdom. The baron became the master of the body of the man; he became also the master of his mental ideas. But when the serf acquired the power of locomotion, he laid the foundation of his emancipation; and from that hour feudalism began to crumble. As the serfs' power of motion enlarged, their liberty enlarged. As formerly they had known slavery by its symbol immovability, so now they tasted freedom by its symbol motion. The serf travelled beyond the valley in which he was born; he saw new objects; he met his fellow-men; and learned to think. At last motion was perfected; the steam-engine hissed past him, and he felt that now he was completely unchained. I do not give this as a theory of the rise and progress of modern liberty; but unquestionably there is a close and intimate connection between motion and liberty.
The Popes are shrewd enough to see this connection; and herein lies their opposition to railroads. They have attempted, and still do attempt, to perpetuate papal serfdom, by tying their subjects to their paternal acres and their native town. Were my reader living in London or in Edinburgh, and wished to visit Chelsea or Portobello, how would he proceed? Go to the railway station and buy a ticket, and his journey is made. But were the country under the Pontifical Government, he would find it impossible to manage the matter quite so expeditiously. He must first present himself at the office of the prefect of police. He must state where he wishes to go to; what business he has there; how long he intends remaining. He must give his name, his age, his residence, and a certificate, if required, from his parish priest; and then, should the object of his journey be approved of, a description of his person will be taken down, a passport will be made out, for which he must pay some six or eight pauls; and after this process has been gone through, but not sooner, he may set out on his little journey. Very few of those who live in Rome were ever more than outside its walls. Even the nobles have the utmost difficulty in getting so far as Civita Vecchia; very few of them ever saw the sea. The Popes know that ideas as well as merchandise travel by rail; and that if the Romans are allowed to go from home, and to see new objects, new faces, and to hear new ideas, a process will be commenced which will ultimately, and at no distant day, undermine the papacy. But among men of ordinary intelligence there will be but one opinion regarding a system that sees an enemy not only in the Bible, but in the most necessary and useful arts,—in the steam-ship, in the railroad, in the electric telegraph; in short, in all the improvements and usages of civilized life. Such a system assuredly has perdition written upon its forehead.
The late Pope Gregory XVI. would not allow even an iron bridge to be thrown across the Tiber. The Romans solicited this, to get rid of a ferry-boat by which the Tiber is crossed at the point in question; but no; an iron bridge there could not be. And why? Ah, said Gregory, if we have an iron bridge in Rome, we shall next have an iron road; and if we have an iron road, "adio," the papacy will take its departure, and that by steam.
But the Pope had another reason for withholding his sanction from the iron bridge; and as that reason shows how some wretched crotchet, springing from their miserable system, is sure to start up on all occasions, and defeat the most needed improvement, I shall here state what it was. At the point where it was wished to have the bridge erected, the Tiber flows between two populous regions of the city. There is in consequence a considerable concourse, and the passengers are carried over, as I have said, in a ferry-boat, for which a couple of baiocchi is paid by each person to the ferryman. The money thus collected forms part of the revenues of a certain church in Rome, where the priests who receive it sing masses for the souls in purgatory. If you abolish the ferry-boat, it was argued, you will abolish the penny; and if you abolish the penny, what is to become of the poor souls in purgatory? and for the sake of the souls, the living were forced to do without the bridge.
I need scarcely say that there is no gas in Rome. And sure I am, if there be a dark spot in all the universe,—a place above all others needing light of all kinds, moral, mental, and physical,—it is this dark dungeon termed Rome. It has a few oil-lamps, swung on cords, at most respectable distances from one another; and you see their hazy, sickly, dying gleam far above you, making themselves visible, but nothing besides; and after sunset, Rome is plunged in darkness, affording ample opportunity for assassinations, robberies, and evil deeds of all kinds. I know not how many companies have been formed to light Rome with gas. An attempt was made to light in this way the Eternal City during the pontificate of Gregory XVI. A deputation went to the Vatican, and told the Pope that they would light his capital with gas. "Gas!" exclaimed Gregory, who had an owl-like dread of light of all kinds; "there shan't be gas in Rome while I am in Rome." Gregory is not in Rome now; Pio Nono is in the Vatican: but the same oil-lamps which lighted the Rome of Gregory XVI. still flourish in the Rome of Pio Nono.
All have heard of the Pontine Marshes,—a chain of swamps which run along the foot of the Volscian Mountains, and are the birthplace of the malaria,—a white vapour, which creeps snake-like over the country, and smites with deadly fever whoever is so foolhardy as to sleep on the Campagna during its continuance. These marshes, I understand, are increasing; and the malaria is increasing in consequence. That fatal vapour now comes every summer to the gates of Rome: it covers a certain quarter of the city, which, I was told, is uninhabitable during its continuance; and if nothing be done to lessen the malaria at its source, it will, some century or half century after this, envelope in its pestilential folds the whole of the Eternal City, and the traveller will gaze with awe on the blackened ruins of Rome, as he does on those of Babylon on the plain of Chaldea: so, I say, will he see the heaps of Rome on the wasted bosom of the Campagna deserted by man, and become the dwelling-place of the dragons and satyrs of the wilderness. But matters are not come to this yet. An English company (for every attempted improvement in Rome has originated with English skill and capital) was formed some years ago, to drain the Pontine Marshes. They went to the Vatican; and Sir Humphrey Davy being then in Rome, they induced him to accompany them, in the hope that his high scientific authority would have some weight with the Pontiff. They stated their object, which was to drain the Pontine Marshes. They assured the Pontiff it was practicable to a very large extent; and they pointed out its manifold advantages, as regarded the health of the country, and other things. "Drain the Pontine Marshes!" exclaimed Pope Gregory, in a tone of surprise and horror at this new project of these everlastingly scheming English heretics,—"Drain the Pontine Marshes! God made the Pontine Marshes; and if He had intended them to be drained, He would have drained them himself."
The barrenness that afflicts all countries which are the seat of a false religion is a public testimony of the Divine indignation against idolatry. For the sin of man the earth was originally cursed: and wherever wicked systems exist, there a manifest curse rests upon the earth. The Mohammedan apostacy and the Roman apostacy are now seated in the midst of wildernesses. And, to make the fact more striking, these lands, which are deserts now, were anciently the best cultivated on the globe. There stood the proudest of earth's cities,—there the arts flourished,—and there men were free after the measure of ancient freedom. All this is at an end long since. Ruins, silence, and a sickly and sinking population, are the mournful spectacles which greet the eye of the traveller in Papal and Mohammedan countries. Thus God bears outward testimony against the Papal and Mohammedan systems. He has cursed the ground for their sakes; not in the way of miracle,—not by sending an angel to smite it, or by raining brimstone upon it, as he did on Sodom: the angel that has smitten the dominions of the Pope and of the False Prophet,—the brimstone and fire which have been rained upon them,—are the wicked systems which have there grown up, and by which Government has been rendered blind, infatuated, and tyrannical, and man stupid, indolent, and vicious. But the laws the Almighty has established, according to which idolatry necessarily and uniformly blights the earth and the men who live upon it, only show that his indignation against these evil systems is unchangeable and eternal, and will pursue them till they perish. Of this the state of the plain around Rome, the Agro Romano, forms a terrible example.
I have endeavoured in former chapters to exhibit a picture of the frightful desolation of this once magnificent plain. He that set his mark on the brow of the first murderer has set his mark on this plain, where so much blood has been shed. "Now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength." But God has cursed this plain through the instrumentality of this evil system the Papacy, and I shall show you how.
I have already shown that there is not, and cannot be, anything like trade in Rome, beyond what is necessary to repair the consumpt of articles in daily use. In the absence of trade there is a proportionate amount of idleness; and that idleness, in its turn, breeds beggary, vagabondism, and crime. The French Prefect, Mr Whiteside tells us, published a statistical account of Rome; and how many paupers does he say there are in it? Why, not fewer than thirty thousand. Thirty thousand paupers in one city, and that city, in its usual state, of but about a hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants! Subtract the priests, the English residents, and the French soldiers, and every third man is a beggar. I was fortunate enough one evening to meet, in a certain shop in Rome, an intelligent Roman, willing to talk with me on the state of the country. The shopkeeper, as soon as he found the turn the conversation had taken, discreetly stepped out, and left it all to ourselves. "I never in all my life," I remarked, "saw a city in which I found so many beggars. The people seem to have nothing to do, and nothing to eat. There are here some hundred thousand of you cooped up within these old walls, and one half the population do nothing all day long but whine at the heels of English travellers, or hang on at the doors of the convents, waiting their one meal a-day. Why is this? Outside the walls is a magnificent plain, which, were it cultivated, would feed ten Romes, instead of one. Why don't you take picks, or spades, or ploughs,—anything you can lay hands on,—and go out to that plain, and dig it, and plant it, and sow it, and reap it, and eat and drink, and be merry?" "Ah! so we would," said he. "Then, why don't you?" "We dare not," he replied. "Dare not! Dare not till the earth God has given you?" "It is the Church's," he said. "But come now," said he, "and I will explain how it comes to be so." He went on to say, that one portion of the Campagna was gifted to the convents in Rome, another portion was gifted to the nunneries, another to the hospitals, and another to the pontifical families,—that is, to the sons and daughters, or, as they more politely speak in Rome, the nephews and nieces, of the Popes. These were the owners of the great Roman plain; and in their hands almost every acre of it was locked up, inaccessible to the plough, and inaccessible to the people. Even in our country it is found that corporations make the worst possible landlords, and that lands in the possession of such bodies are always less productive than estates managed in the ordinary way. But what sort of farming are we to expect from such corporations as we find in the city of Rome? What skill or capital have a brotherhood of lazy monks, to enable them to cultivate their lands? What enterprise or interest have a sisterhood of nuns to farm their property? They know they shall have their lifetime of it, and that is all they care for. Accordingly, they let their lands for grazing, on payment of a mere trifle of annual rent; and so the Campagna lies unploughed and unsown. A tract of land extending from Civita Vecchia to well nigh the gates of Rome,—which would make a Scotch dukedom or a German principality,—belonging to the San Spirito, does little more, I was told, than pay its working. The land labours under an eternal entail, which binds it over to perpetual sterility. It is God's, i.e. it is the Church's; and no one,—no, not even the Pope,—dare alienate a single acre of it. No Pope would set his face to such a piece of reformation, well knowing that every brotherhood and sisterhood in Rome would rise in arms against him. And even though he should screw his courage to such an encounter, he is met by the canon law. The Pope who shall dare to secularize a foot-breadth of land which has been gifted to the Church is by that law accursed. Here, then, is the price which the Romans pay for the Papacy. Outside the walls of the city lie the estates of the Church, depastured at certain seasons by a few herds, tended by men clad in skins, and looking as savage as the animals they tend; while inside the walls are some hundred thousand Romans, enduring from one year's end to another all the miseries of a partial famine. Nor is there the least hope that matters will mend so long as the Papacy lasts. For while the Papacy is in Italy, the Campagna, once so populous and rich, will be what it now is,—a desert.
And the Papal States, lapsed into more than primeval sterility, overrun by brigandage and beggary, are the picture of what Britain would be under the Papacy. Let the Roman Church get the upper hand in this country, and, be assured, the first thing it will do will be to demand back every acre of land that once belonged to it. Before the Reformation, half the lands of England, and a third of the lands of Scotland, were in the possession of the Church. She keeps a chart of them to this hour: she knows every foot-breadth of British soil that at any time belonged to her: she holds its present possessors to be robbers and sacrilegious men; and the first moment she has the power, she will compel them to disgorge what she holds to be ill-gotten wealth, and endow her with the broad acres she once possessed. Nor will she stop here. By haunting death-beds,—by putting in motion the machinery of the confessional,—by the threat of purgatory in this case, and the lure of paradise in that,—she will speedily add to her former ample domain. And what will our country then become? We shall have Mother Church for landlord; and while she feasts daily at her sumptuous board, we shall have what the Romans now have,—the crumbs. We shall have monks and nuns for our farmers; and under their management, farewell to the smiling fields, the golden harvests, and the opulent cities, of Scotland and England. Our country will again become what it was before the Reformation,—a land of moors, and swamps, and forests, with a few patches of indifferent cultivation around our convents and abbacies. Vagabondism, lay and sacerdotal, will flourish once more in Britain; trade and commerce will be put down, as savouring of independence and intelligence; indolence and beggary will be sanctified; and troops of friars, with wallets on their backs, impudence on their brows, and profanity and filthiness on their tongues, will scour the country, demanding that every threshold and every purse shall be open to them. This result will come as surely as to-morrow will come, provided we permit the Papacy to raise its head once more among us.
Let no one imagine that this terrible wreck of man, and of all his interests,—of civilization, of industry, of trade and commerce,—has happened of chance, and that there is no connection between this deplorable state of matters and the system which has prevailed in Italy. On the contrary, it is the direct, the necessary, and the uniform result of that system. The barbarian hates art because he does not understand its uses, and dreads its power. But the hatred the Pope bears to the useful arts is not that of the barbarian. It is the intelligent, the consistent hatred of a man who knows what he is about. It is the hatred of a man who comprehends both the character of his own system, and the tendency of modern improvements, and who sees right well, that if these improvements are introduced, the Papacy must fall. Self-preservation is the first law of systems, as of individuals; and the Papacy, feeling the antagonism between itself and these things, ever has and ever will resist them. It cannot tolerate them though it would. Speculatists and sentimentalists may talk as they please; but the destruction of that system is the first requisite to the regeneration of Italy.
Such, then, is the condition of Italy at this day. Were we to find a state of things like this in the centre of Africa, or in some barbarous region thousands and thousands of miles away from European literature, arts, and influences, where the plough and the loom had yet to be invented, it would by no means surprise us. But to find a state of matters like this in the centre of Europe,—in Italy, once the head of civilization and influence, the birthplace of modern art and letters,—is certainly wonderful. But the wonder is completed when we reflect that this state of things obtains under a Government claiming to be guided by a higher than mortal sagacity,—a Government which says that it never did, and never can, err,—a Government that is supernatural and infallible. Supernatural and infallible! Why, I say, go out into the street,—stop the first old woman you meet,—carry her to Rome,—put a three-storied cap on her head,—enthrone her on the high altar in St Peter's,—burn incense before her, and call her infallible,—I say that old woman will be a more enlightened ruler that Pio Nono. The old Scotch woman or English woman would beat the old Roman woman hollow.
The facts I have stated are sad enough; but the more harrowing picture of the working of the papal system has yet to be shown.
JUSTICE AND LIBERTY IN THE PAPAL STATES.
Justice the Pillar of the State—Claim implied in being God's Vicar, namely, that the Pope governs the World as God would govern it, were He personally present in it—No Civil Code in the Papal States—Citizens have no Rights save as Church Members—No Lay Judges—The Pontifical Government simply the Embodiment of the Papacy—Courts of Justice visited—Papal Tribunals—The Rota—Signatura—Cassation—Exceptional Tribunals—Apostolical Chamber—House of Peter—Justice bought and sold at Rome—POLITICAL JUSTICE—Gregorian Code—Case of Pietro Leoni—Accession of Pius IX.—His Popularity at first—Re-action—Case of Colonel Calendrelli—The Three Citizens of Macarata—The Hundred Young Men of Faenza—Butchery at Sinigaglia—Horrible Executions at Ancona—Estimated Number of Political Prisoners 30,000—Pope's Prisons described—Horrible Treatment of Prisoners—The Sbirri—The Spies—Domiciliary Restraint—Expulsions from Rome—Imprisonment without reason assigned—Manner in which Apprehensions are made—Condemnations without Evidence or Trial—Misery of Rome—The Pope's Jubilee.
We turn now to the JUSTICE of the Papal States. Alas! if in the preceding chapters on Trade we were discoursing on what does not exist, we are now emphatically to speak of what is but a shadow, a mockery. To say that in the Papal States Justice is not,—that it is a negation,—is only to state half the truth. Were that all, thankful indeed would the Romans be. But, alas! in the seat of Justice there sits a stern, irresponsible, lawless power, before which virtue is confounded and dumb, and wickedness only can stand erect.
On the importance of justice to the welfare of society I need not enlarge. It is the main pillar of the State. But where are you to look for justice,—justice in its unmixed, eternal purity,—if not at Rome? Rome is the seat of the Vicar of God. Ponder, I pray you, all that this title imports. The Vicar of God is just God on earth; and the government of God's Vicar is just the government of God. It is the possession and exercise of the same authority, the same attributes, the same moral infallibility, and the same moral omnipotence, in the government of mankind, which God possesses and exercises in the government of the universe. The government of the Pope is a model set up on the earth, before kings and nations, of God's righteous and holy government in the heavens. As I, the Vicar of Christ, govern men, so would Christ himself, were he here in the Vatican, govern them. If the claim advanced by the Pope, when he takes to himself the title of God's Vicar, amounts to anything, it amounts to this,—to all this, and nothing less than this.
The case being so, where, I ask, are you entitled to look for justice, if not at Rome? This is her throne: here she sits, or should, according to the theory of the popedom, high above the disturbing and blinding passions of earth, serenely calm and inexorably true, weighing all actions in her awful scales, and giving forth those solemn awards which find their response in the universal reason and conscience of mankind. If so, what mean these dungeons? Why these trials shrouded in secrecy? Why this clanking of chains, and that cry which has gone up to heaven, and which pleads for justice there? Come near, I pray you, and look at the Pope's justice; enter his tribunals, and see the working of his courts; listen to the evidence which is there received, and the sentences which are there pronounced; visit his dungeons and galleys; and then tell me what you think of the administration of this man who styles himself God's Vicar.
Let me first of all give prominence to the fact that in the Papal States there is no civil code. It is a purely spiritually governed region. The Church sustains herself as judge in all causes, and holds her law as sufficiently comprehensive in its principles, and sufficiently flexible and practical in its special provisions, to determine all questions that can arise, of whatever nature,—whether relating to the body or the soul of man, to his property or his conscience. By what is strictly and purely church law are all things here adjudicated, for other law there is none. That law is the decretals and bulls of the popes. Only think of such a code! The Roman jurisprudence amounts to many hundreds of volumes, and its precedents range over many centuries, so that the most plodding lawyer and the most industrious judge may well despair of ever being able to tell exactly what the law says on any particular case, or of being able to find a clue to the true interpretation, granting that he sincerely wishes to do so, through the inextricable labyrinth of decisions by which he is to be guided. This law was made by the Church and for the Church, and gives to the citizen, as such, no right or privilege of any kind. Whatever rights the Roman possesses, he possesses solely in his character of Church member; he has a right to absolution when he confesses; a right to the undisturbed possession of his goods when he takes the sacrament; but he has no rights in his character of citizen; and when he falls out of communion with the Church, he falls at the same time from all rights whatever. He is beyond the pale of the Church, and beyond the pale of the law. Our freethinkers, who are so ready to fraternise with the Romanists, would do well to consider how they would like this sort of regimen.
Let me, in the second place, give prominence to the fact, that in the Papal States there are no lay judges. There all are "anointed prelates." This applies to all the tribunals, from the highest to the lowest. In short, the whole machinery of the Government is priestly. Its head is a priest,—the Pope; its Prime Minister is a priest; its Chancellor of the Exchequer is a priest; its Secretary at War is a priest; all are priests. These functionaries cannot be impeached. However gross their blunders, or glaring their malversations, they are secure from censure; because to punish them would be to say that they had erred, and to say that they had erred would be to impeach the infallibility of the Pontifical Government. A treasurer who enriches himself and robs the exchequer may be promoted to the cardinalate, but cannot be censured. The highest mark of displeasure on which the popes have ventured in such cases has been, to appoint to a dignity with a very inadequate salary. The Government of the Papal States, both in its law and in its administration, being strictly sacerdotal, the great fairness of the test we are now applying to the Papacy is undeniable. It would be very unfair to try the religion of Britain by the government of Britain, or to charge on Christianity the errors, the injustice, and the oppression which our rulers may commit, because our religion is one thing, and our Government is another. But it is not so in the Papal States. There the Church is the Government. The papal Government is simply the embodiment of the papal religion. And I cannot conceive a fairer, a more accurate, or a more comprehensive test of the genius and tendency of a religion, than simply the condition of that country where the making of the law, the administration of the law, the control of all persons, the regulation of all affairs, and the adjudication of all questions, are done by that religion; and where, with no one impediment to obstruct it, and with every conceivable advantage to aid it, it can exhibit all its principles and accomplish all its objects. If that religion be true, the condition of such country ought to be the most blessed on the face of the earth.
One day I visited the courts of justice, which are on Mount Citorio. We ascended a spacious staircase (I say we, for Mr Stewart, the intelligent and obliging companion of my wanderings in Rome, was with me), and entered a hall crowded with a number of shabby-looking people. We turned off into a side-room, not larger than one's library, where the court was sitting. Behind a table slightly raised, and covered with green cloth, sat two priests as judges. A counsel sat with them, to assist occasionally. On the wall at their back hung a painting of Pont. Max. Pius IX.; and on the table stood a crucifix. The judges wore the round cap of the Jesuits. I saw men in coarse bombazeen gowns, which I took for macers: these, I soon discovered, were the advocates. They were clownish-looking men, with great lumpish hands, and an unmistakeably cowed look. They addressed the court in short occasional speeches in Latin; for it is one of the privileges of the Roman people to have their suits argued in a tongue they don't understand. There were some half-dozen people lounging in the place. There was an air of unconcern and meanness on the court, and all its practitioners and attendants; but, being infallible, it can dispense with the appearance of dignity. I asked Mr Stewart to conduct me to the criminal court, which was sitting in another apartment under the same roof. He showed me the door within which the assize is held, but told me at the same time, that neither myself nor any one in Rome could cross that threshold,—the judge, the prisoner, his advocate, the public prosecutor, and the guard, being the only exceptions. Let me now describe the machinery by which justice, as it is called, is administered.
The judges, I have said, are prelates; and as in Rome the administration of justice is a low occupation compared with the Church, priests which are incapable, or which have sinned against their order, are placed on the tribunals. A prelate who has a knowledge of jurisprudence is a phenomenon; hence the judges do not themselves examine the merits of causes, but cause them to be investigated by a private auditor, whom they select from the practising counsel. According to the report of this individual, the members of the tribunal pronounce their judgment, no matter what objections may be pled, or arguments offered, to the contrary. This system gives rise, as may well be conceived, to innumerable acts of partiality and injustice.
There is a tribunal of appeal for the Romagnias, another for the Marshes, and a third for the Capitol. Besides these, there are tribunals of the third class throughout the States. The tribunal of appeal for the Capitol is the ROMAN ROTA. Before this court our own Henry, and the other kings of Europe, carried their causes, in those days when the Pope was really a grand authority, and ruled Christendom. Having now little business as regards monarchs and the international quarrels of kingdoms, it has been converted into a tribunal for private suits. It still shrouds itself in its mediaeval secresy, which, if it robs its decisions of public confidence, at least screens the ignorance of its judges from public contempt. There are, besides, the tribunals of the Signatura and of Cassation, in which partiality examines, incompetence pronounces judgment, delays exhaust the patience and the money of the suitors, and the decent veil of a dead language wraps up the illegality.
Besides these, there are the exceptional tribunals, which are very numerous. Among them the chief is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, so extensive, that it is sufficient that some very trifling interest of a priest, or of some charity fund, or even of a Jew or a recent convert, is concerned, to transfer the cause to the bar of the privileged tribunal. The jurisdiction of the exceptional tribunal is exercised in the provinces by the vicar-general of the bishop; and in Rome the suits are laid before the private auditors of the cardinal-vicar, and of the bishop in partibus, his assistant. The auditors pronounce judgment in the name of the cardinal or the bishop, who signs it without any examination on his part. The suits which concern the public finances are decided by the exceptional tribunal, and a tribunal called the "Plena Camera" (full chamber); and any private person who might chance to gain his cause is condemned, as an invariable maxim, to pay the costs. Exceptional tribunals are to be found in very many parochial places, especially in those parishes near Rome where the judges are named by, and are removable at the will of, the baron. It can easily be imagined what sort of a chance any one may have who should have a suit with the baron. Besides all these, we must not omit the Reverend Apostolical Chamber, always on the brink of bankruptcy, which has been in the habit of exacting contributions, that they may sell to speculators the revenues of succeeding years. Thus private families, invested with iniquitous privileges, extort money from the unfortunate labourers, by royal authority and the help of the bailiff.
There is another tribunal which should be styled monstrous, rather than by the milder term of exceptional; this is the "Fabbrica di S. Petro" (house of St Peter.) To this was granted, by the caprice of the Pope, the right to claim from the immediate or distant heirs of any testator, even at remote epochs, the sum of unpaid legacies for pious purposes. The Cardinal Arch-Priest and the Commons, who represent the pretended creditor, are judges between themselves and the presumed debtor. They search the archives; they open and they close testamentary documents not ever published; they arbitrarily burden the estates of the citizens with mortgages or charges; and they commence their proceedings where other tribunals leave off,—that is, by an execution and seizure, under the pretence of securing the credits not yet determined upon. To the commissaries of this strange tribunal in the provinces is awarded the fifth of the sum claimed. Whosoever desires to settle the question by a compromise is not permitted to attempt it, unless he shall first have satisfied this fifth, and paid the expenses, besides the fees of the fiscal advocate. If any one should have the rare luck to gain his suit, as, for instance, by producing the receipt in full, he must nevertheless pay a sum for the judgment absolving him.
The presidents of the tribunals—the minor judges, comprising the private auditors of the Vicar of Rome—have the power of legitimatizing all contracts for persons affected by legal incapacity. This is generally done without examination, and merely in consideration of the fee which they receive. It would take a long chapter to narrate the sums which have been, by a single stroke of the pen, wrongfully taken from poor widows and orphans. Incapacity for the management of one's affairs is sometimes pronounced by the tribunal, but very frequently is decreed by the prelate-auditor of the Pope, without any judicial formality. Thus any citizen may at any moment find himself deprived of the direction of his private affairs and business.
Such is the machinery employed for dispensing justice by a man who professes to be the infallible fountain of equity, and the world's teacher as regards the eternal maxims of justice. Justice! The word is a delusion,—a lie. It is a term which designates a tyranny worse than any under which the populations of Asia groan.
It would be wearisome to adduce individual cases, even were I able to do so. But, indeed, the vast corruption of the civil justice of the Papal States must be evident from what I have said. A law so inextricable!—judges so incompetent, who decide without examining!—tribunals which sit in darkness! Why, justice is not dispensed in Rome; it is bought and sold; it is simply a piece of merchandise; and if you wish to obtain it, you cannot, but by going to the market, where it is openly put up for sale, and buying it with your money. Mr Whiteside, a most competent witness in this case, who spent two winters in Rome, and made it his special business to investigate the Roman jurisprudence, both in its theory and in its practice, tells us in effect, in his able work on Italy, that if you are so unfortunate as to have a suit in the Roman courts, the decision will have little or no reference to the merits of the cause, but will depend on whether you or your opponent is willing to approach the judgment-seat with the largest bribe. Such, in substance, is Mr Whiteside's testimony; and precisely similar was the evidence of every one whom I met in Rome who had had any dealings with the papal tribunals.
But I turn to the political justice of the Papal States,—a department even more important in the present state of Italy, and where the specific acts are better known. Let us look first at the tribunal set up in Rome for the trial of all crimes against the State. And let the reader bear in mind, that offences against the Church are crimes against the State, for there the Church is the State. A secret, summary, and atrocious tribunal it is, differing in no essential particular from that sanguinary tribunal in Paris where Robespierre passed sentence, and the guillotine executed it. The Gregorian Code enacts, that in cases of sedition or treason, the trial may take place by a commission nominated by the Pope's Secretary; that the trial shall be secret; that the prisoner shall not be confronted with the witnesses, or know their names; that he may be examined in prison and by torture. The accused, according to this barbarous code, has no means of proving his innocence, or defending his life, beyond the hasty observations on the evidence which his advocate, who is appointed in all cases by the tribunal, may be able to make on the spur of the moment. This tribunal is simply the Inquisition; and yet it is by this tribunal that the Pope, who professes to be the first minister of justice on earth, governs his kingdom. No man is safe at Rome. However innocent, his liberty and life hang by a single thread, which the Government, by the help of such a tribunal as this, may snap at any moment.
This is the established, the legal course of papal justice. Let the reader lift his eyes, and survey, if he have courage, the wide weltering mass of misery and despair which the Papal States present. We cannot bring all into view; we must permit a few only to speak for the rest. Here they come from a region of doom, to tell to the free people of Britain, if they will hear them, the dread secrets of their prison-house; and, we may add, to warn them, "lest they also come into this place of torment." I shall first of all take a case that occurred before the Revolution, lest any one should affirm of the cases that are to follow, that the Pontifical Government had been exascerbated by the insurrection, and hurried into measures of more than usual severity. This case I give on the authority of Mr Whiteside, who, being curious to see a political process in the Roman law, after some trouble procured the following, which, having been compiled under the orders of Pius IX., may be relied on as strictly accurate. Pietro Leoni had acted as official attorney to the poor. Well, in 1831, under the pontificate of Gregory XVI., he was arrested on a charge of being a member of a political club. He was brought to trial, acquitted, set free, but deprived of his office, though why I cannot say, unless it was for the crime of being innocent. To sustain an aged father, a wife and children, Pietro had to work harder than ever. In 1836 he was again arrested,—suddenly, without being told for what,—hurried to the Castle of St Angelo, in the dungeons of which he had to undergo a rigorous examination, from which nothing could be elicited. He was not released, however, but kept there, till witnesses could be found or hired. At length a certain vine-dresser came forward to accuse Leoni. One day, said the vine-dresser, Pietro Leoni, whom he had never seen till then, came to his door, and, after a short conversation with him, in the presence of his sons, handed him a manuscript relating to a reform society, of which, he said, he had been a member for years. The vine-dresser buried this document at the bottom of a tree in his garden. The spot was searched, but nothing was found; his strange story was contradicted by his wife and sons; and the Pontifical Government could not for very shame condemn him on such evidence; but neither did they let him go. A full year passed over him in the dungeons of St Angelo. At last three additional witnesses—(their names never were known)—were produced against him. And what did they depose? Why, that they had heard some one say that he had heard Pietro Leoni say, that he (Leoni) was a member of a secret society; and on this hearsay evidence did the Pontifical Government condemn the poor attorney to a life-long slavery in the galleys. We find him ten long years thereafter still in the dungeons of the Castle of St Angelo, and writing the Pope in a strain which one would think might have moved a heart of stone. The petition is printed in the process. It begins,—
"Most holy father, divest yourself of the splendours of royalty, and, dressed in the garb of a private citizen, cause yourself to be conducted into these subterranean prisons, where there is buried, not an enemy of his country, not a violator of the laws, but an innocent citizen, whom a secret enemy has calumniated, and who has had the courage to sustain his innocence in presence of a judge prejudiced or corrupted.... Command this living tomb to be opened, and ask an unhappy man the cause of his misfortunes."
And concludes thus,—
"But, holy father, neither the prolonged imprisonment of ten years, nor separation from my family, nor the total ruin of my earthly prospects, should ever reduce me to the baseness of admitting a crime which I did not commit. And I call God to witness that I am innocent of the accusation brought against me; and that the true cause of my unjust condemnation was, and is, a private pique and personal enmity.... Listen, therefore, to justice,—to the humble entreaties of an aged father,—a desolate wife,—unhappy children,—who exist in misery, and who with tears of anguish implore your mercy."
Did the heart of Gregory relent? Did he hasten to the prison, and beg his prisoner to come forth? Ah, no: the petition was received, flung aside, and forgotten; and Pietro Leoni continued to lie in the dungeons of St Angelo till death came to the Vatican, and Gregory went to his account, and the prison-doors of St Angelo were opened, as a matter of course, not of right, on the accession of a new Pope. No wonder that Lambruschini and Marini, the chief actors in the atrocities committed under Gregory, resisted that amnesty by which Pietro Leoni, and hundreds more, were raised from the grave, as it were, to proclaim their villanies. I give this case because it occurred before the Revolution, and is a fair sample, as a Roman advocate assured Mr Whiteside, of the calm, every-day working of the Pontifical Government under Gregory XVI. I come now to relate other cases, if possible more affecting, which came under my own cognizance, more or less, while in Rome.
But let me first glance at the rejoicings that filled Rome on the accession of Pius IX. A bright but perfidious gleam heralded the night, which has since settled down so darkly on the Papal States. The scene I describe in the words of Mr Stewart, who was an eye-witness of it:—"I was at Rome when Pope Pius IX. made his formal triumphal entrance into the city by the Porta del Popolo, where was a magnificent arch entering to the Corso. The arch was erected specially for the occasion, and executed with much artistic skill. Banners were waving in profusion along the Corso, bearing, some of them, very far-fetched epithets; while every balcony and window was studded with gay and admiring citizens, all alike eager in demonstrating their attachment to the Holy Father. Nothing, in fact, could exceed the gaiety of the scene: all and sundry seemed bent on the one idea of displaying their loyalty. What with garlands of flowers, white handkerchiefs, and vivas, the feelings were worked up to such a pitch, that the young nobles, when the state carriage arrived at the Piazza Colonna, actually unyoked the horses, and scampered off with carriage and Pope, to the Quirinal Palace, nearly a mile. This ebullition of feeling was undoubtedly the result of the general amnesty, and the bright expectations then cherished of a new era for Italy." Such an ebullition may appear absurd, and even childish, to us, who have been so long accustomed to liberty; but we must bear in mind that the Romans had groaned in fetters for centuries, and these, as they believed, had now been struck off for ever. "Was there," asked Mr Whiteside of a sculptor in Rome, "really affecting yourself, any practical oppression under old Gregory?" The artist started. "No man," said he, "could count on one hour's security or happiness: I knew not but there might be a spy behind that block of marble: the pleasure of life was spoiled. I had three friends, who, supping in a garden near this spot, were suddenly arrested, flung into prison, and lay there, though innocent, till released by Pio Nono." As regards the amnesty of Pio Nono, which so intoxicated the Romans, it is common for popes to make political capital of the errors and crimes of their predecessors; and as regards his reforming policy, which deluded others besides the Italians, it was a very transparent dodge to restore the papacy to its old supremacy. The Cobra di Capella relaxed its folds on Italy for a moment, to coil itself more firmly round the rest of the world. Of this none are now better aware than the Romans.
The re-action,—the flight,—the Republic,—the bombardment,—the return to the Vatican on a path deluged with his subjects' blood,—all I pass over. But how shall I describe or group the horrors that have darkened and desolated the Papal States from that hour to this? What has their history been since, but one terrible tale of apprehensions, proscriptions, banishments, imprisonments, and executions, the full recital of which would make the ear of him that hears it to tingle? Nero and Caligula were monsters of crime; but their capricious tyranny, while it fell heavily on individuals, left the great body of the empire comparatively untouched. But the tyranny of the Pope penetrates every home, and crushes every person and thing. There was not under Nero a tenth part of the misery in Rome which there is now. Were the acts of Nero and of Pio to be fully written, I have not a doubt,—I am certain,—that the government of the imperial despot would be seen to be liberty itself, compared with the measureless, remorseless, inappeasable, wide-wasting tyranny of the sacerdotal one. The diadem was light indeed, compared with the tiara. The little finger of the Popes is thicker than the loins of the Caesars. The sights I saw, and the facts I heard, actually poisoned my enjoyment of Rome. What pleasure could I take in statues and monuments, when I saw the wretched beings that lived beside them, and marked the faces on which despair was painted, the forms that grief had bowed to the very dust, the dead men who wandered in the streets and about the old ruins, as if they sought, but could not find, their graves? Ah! there is not, there never was, on earth a tyranny like the Papacy. But let me come to particulars.
I shall first narrate the story of Colonel Calendrelli. It was told me by our own consul in Rome, Mr Freeborn, who knew intimately the colonel, and deeply interested himself in his case. Colonel Calendrelli was treasurer at war during the Republic. The Republic came to an end; the Pontifical Government returned; and Colonel Calendrelli, being unable to get away along with the other agents and friends of the Republic, was, of course, apprehended by the restored Government. It was necessary to find some pretext on which to condemn the colonel; and what, does the reader think, was the charge preferred against Colonel Calendrelli? Why, it was this, that the colonel had embezzled the public funds to the amount of twenty scudi. Twenty scudi! How much is that? Only five pounds sterling! That Colonel Calendrelli, a gentleman, a scholar, a man on whose honesty a breath had never been blown, should risk character and liberty for five pounds sterling! Why, the Pontifical Government should have made it five hundred or five thousand pounds, if they wished to have the accusation believed. Well, then, on the charge of defrauding the public treasury to the extent of twenty Roman scudi was Colonel Calendrelli brought to trial, and condemned! Condemned to what? To the galleys. Nor does that bring fully out the iniquity of the sentence. Our consul in Rome assured me that he had investigated the case, from his friendship for the colonel, and that the matter stood thus:—The colonel had engaged a man to do a piece of work, for which he was to receive five pounds as wages. The work was done, the wages were paid, the man's receipt was tendered, and the witnesses in whose presence the money had been paid bore their testimony to the fact. All these proofs were before Mr Freeborn. Nay, more; the papal tribunal that tried the case was told that all these witnesses and documents were ready to be produced. And yet, in the teeth of this evidence, completely establishing the innocence of Colonel Calendrelli, which, indeed, no one doubted, was the colonel condemned to the galleys; and when I was in Rome, he was working as a galley-slave on the high-road near Civita Vecchia, chained to another galley-slave. This is a sample of the pontifical justice. Take another case.
The tragedy I am now to relate was consummated during my stay in the Eternal City. In the town of Macerata, to the east of Rome, it happened one day that a priest was fired at as he was passing along the street at dusk. He was not shot, happily;—the ball, missing the priest, sank deep in a door on the other side of the way. This happened under the Republic; and the police either could not or would not discover the perpetrator of the deed. The thing was the talk of the town for a day or so, and was then forgotten for ever, as every one thought. But no. The Republic came to an end; back came the pontifical police to Macerata; and then the affair of the priest was brought up. The prefect had not been installed in his office many days till a person presented himself before him, and said, "I am the man who shot at the priest." "You!" exclaimed the prefect. "Yes; and I was hired to shoot him by——," naming three young men of the town, who had been the most active supporters of the Republic. These were precisely the three young men, of all others in Macerata, whom it was most for the interest of the Papacy to get rid of. That very day these three young men were apprehended. They were at last brought to trial; and will it be believed, that on the solitary and uncorroborated testimony of a man who, according to his own confession, was a hired assassin,—and surely I do the man no injustice if I suppose that, if he was willing for money to commit murder, he might be willing for money, or some priestly consideration, to commit perjury,—on the single and unsupported evidence, I say, of this man, a hired assassin according to his own confession, were these three young men condemned? And to what? To death!—and while I was in Rome they were actually guillotined! I saw their sentence placarded on the Piazza Colonna on the morning after my arrival in Rome. This writing of doom was the first thing I read in that city. It bore the names of the accused, the alleged crime, and an abstract of the evidence, or, I should say, volunteered statement, of the would-be assassin. It had the terrible guillotine at the top, and the fisherman's ring at the bottom; and though I had known nothing more of the case than the Government account of it, as contained in that paper, I would have said that it was enough to cover any Government with eternal infamy. Indeed, I don't believe that there is a Government under the sun, save the Pope's, that would have done an atrocity like it. I had some talk with our consul, Mr Freeborn, about that case too, and he assured me that, bad as these cases were, they were not worse than scores, aye, hundreds, that to his knowledge had been perpetrated in Rome, and all over the Papal States, since the return of the Pontifical Government. He added, that if Mr Gladstone would come to Rome, and visit the prisons, and examine the state of the country generally, he would have a more harrowing tale to unfold than that with which he had recently thrilled the British public on the subject of Naples: that in Naples there was still something like trade, but in Rome there was nothing but downright grinding misery.
There are few tales in any history more harrowing than the following. The events were posterior to my visit to Rome, and were published at the time in the American Crusader. It happened that several papal proconsuls were slain in the city of Faenza: all of them had served under Gregory XVI., in the galleys, as felons and forgers. Being favoured by the papal power, they tried to deserve it by becoming the tyrants of the unhappy population. When the gloomy news of their tragical end reached the Holy Father, the answer returned to the governor of that city, as to what he should do in such a case, as the true perpetrators could not be found, was, "Arrest all the young men of Faenza!" and more than a hundred youths were immediately snatched away from the bosom of their families, handcuffed and chained, thrown into the city prisons, and distributed afterwards among the gangs of malefactors, whose lives had been a continual series of robberies and murders! Thirty of these unfortunate victims were marched off to Rome, where they were locked up in a dungeon. Innocent as well as unconscious of the crime of which they were accused, they supplicated the President of the Sacred Consulta,—who is an anointed prelate,—asking only for justice; not for mercy and forgiveness, but for a regular trial. All was useless; the archbishop had neither ear nor heart, and the petition was forgotten. Thinking that, after all, even at Rome, and even among the high dignitaries of the Church of Sodom and Gomorrah, there might be found a man of human feeling, they wrote a second petition, which was this time addressed to a different personage of the Church, his Excellency Mgr. Mertel, Minister of Grace and Justice!
The prisoners asserted to the high papal functionary the illegality of their arrest,—their sufferings without any imputation of guilt,—the painful condition of their families, increased still more by the famine which now desolates the Roman States, and the want of their support. The supplicants were brought before Mgr. Mertel, who, feigning pity and interest for the sufferers (attention, reader!) offered them the choice of ten years in the chain-gang, or to be transported to the United States, the refugium peccatorum! They protested; but of what benefit is a legal and natural protest to thirty poor defenceless and guiltless young men, loaded with chains by a papal bureaucrat, surrounded by fifty ruffians armed to the teeth?
On the night of the 5th of May 1853, the sepulchral silence of the subterranean prisons of St Angelo was interrupted by the rattling of keys and muskets. The thirty young citizens of Faenza were called out of their dens, and one by one, bending under his fetters, was escorted to a steamer waiting on the muddy Tiber to carry them to a distant land! The beautiful moon of Italy, as some call it, was shining benevolently over Rome and her iniquities; the streets, deserted by the people, were trodden by French patrols; all was silent as the grave itself; and not a friend was there to bid them adieu; not a relative to speak a consoling word to the departing; and none to acquaint the unfortunates who remained behind with their terrible calamity! This was their parting from Rome, at three o'clock, after midnight! But let us follow the victims of papal fury over the wide waters. Cast into the steerage, always handcuffed, the vessel rolling in a heavy and tempestuous sea, these wretched young men remained eighty hours in a painful position, till they reached Leghorn, where they were conducted to the quarantine, as though affected with leprosy and plague, and thence embarked for New York, where they arrived totally destitute of clothes and means of subsistence.
The autumn of 1852 will be long remembered in the Papal States, from the occurrence of numerous tragedies of a like deplorable character. Sixty-five citizens of Sinigaglia had been apprehended on the charge of being concerned in the political disturbances of 1848,—an accusation on which the Pope himself might have been apprehended. These citizens, however, had not been so prudent as to turn when the Pope did. In the August of 1852 they were all brought to trial before the Sacra Consulta of Rome, with the exception of thirteen who had made their escape. Twenty-eight of these persons were condemned to the galleys for life, and twenty-four were sentenced to be shot. These unhappy men displayed great unconcern at their execution,—some singing the Marseillaise, others crying Viva Mazzini. The Swiss troops, not the Austrian soldiers, were made the executioners in this case.
The Sinigaglia trials were followed by similar prosecutions at Ancona, Jesi, Pesaro, and Funa, where unhappy groupes of citizens, indicted for political offences, waited the tender mercies which the "Holy Father" dispenses to his figli by the hands of Swiss and Austrian carabiniers. Let us state the result at Ancona.
The executions took place on the 25th of October 1852, and they may be reckoned amongst the most appalling ever witnessed. The sentence was officially published at Rome after the execution, and contained, as usual, simply the names of the judges and the prisoners, a summary of the evidence unsupported by the names of any witnesses, and the penalty awarded—death. The victims were nine in number. The sacerdotal Government gave them a priest as well as a scaffold, but only one would accept the insulting mockery. The others, being hopelessly recusant, were allowed to intoxicate themselves with rum. "The shooting of them was entrusted to a detachment of Roman artillerymen, armed with short carbines, old-fashioned weapons, many of which missed fire, so that at the first discharge some of the prisoners did not fall, but ran off, with the soldiers pursuing and firing at them repeatedly; others crawled about; and one wretch, after being considered dead, made a violent exertion to get up, rendering a final coup de grace necessary." The writer who recorded these accounts added, that other executions were to follow, and that, if these wholesale slaughters were necessary, they ought, in the dominions of a pontifical sovereign, to be conducted with more delicacy, that is, in a more summary fashion. In truth, such executions are a departure from the approved pontifical method of killing,—which is not by fusillades and in open day, but in silence and night, by the help of the rack and the dungeon.
I cannot go into any minute detail of the imprisonments, banishments, and massacres by which the Pope has signalized his return to his palace and the chair of Peter. But I may state a few facts, from which some idea of their number may be gathered. When Pio Nono fled from Rome to Gaeta, what was the amount of its population? Not less than a hundred and sixty thousand. I conversed with a distinguished literary Englishman who chanced to visit Rome at the time I speak of, and who assured me that there could not be fewer than two hundred thousand in Rome then, for Italians had flocked thither from every country under heaven, expecting a new era for their city and nation. But I shall give the Pope the benefit of the smaller number. When he fled, there were, I shall suppose, only a hundred and sixty thousand human beings in his city of Rome. Take the same Rome six months after his return, and how many do you find in it? According to the most credible accounts, the population of the Eternal City had dwindled down to little above a hundred thousand. Here are sixty thousand human beings lacking in this one city. What has become of them? Where have they gone to? I shall suppose that some were fortunate enough to escape to Malta, some to Belgium, some to England, and others to America. I shall suppose that twenty thousand contrived to get away. And let me here do justice to Mr Freeborn, the British consul, who saved much blood by issuing British passports to these unhappy men when the French entered Rome. Twenty thousand, I shall suppose, made good their flight. But thirty thousand and upwards are still lacking. Where are your subjects, Pio Nono? Were we to put this interrogatory to the Pope, he would reply, I doubt not, as did another celebrated personage in history, "Am I my brother's keeper?" But ah! might not the same response as of old be made to this disclaimer, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground?" Again we say, Where are your subjects, Pio Nono? Ask any Roman, and he will tell you where these men are. Ask our own consul, Mr Freeborn, and he will tell you where they are. They are, those of them that have not been shot, rotting at this hour at the bottom of the Pope's dungeons. That is where they are.
There is a singular unanimity in Rome amongst all parties, as to the number of political prisoners now under confinement. This I had many opportunities of testing. I met a Roman one evening in a book-shop, and, after a rather lengthened conversation, I said to him, "Can you tell me how many prisoners there are at present in the Roman States?" "No," he replied, "I cannot." "But," I rejoined, "have you no idea of their number?" He solemnly said, "God only knows." I pressed him yet farther, when he stated, that the common estimate, which he believed to be not above the truth, rather under, was, that there were not fewer than thirty thousand political prisoners in the various fortresses and dungeons of the Papal States. Thirty thousand was the estimate of Mr Freeborn. Thirty thousand was the estimate of Mr Stewart, who, mingling with the Romans, knew well the prevailing opinion. Of course, precise accuracy is unattainable in such a case. No one ever counted these prisoners. No list of them is kept,—none that is open to the public eye at least; but it is well known, that there is scarce a family in Rome which does not mourn some of its members lost to it, and scarce an individual who has not an acquaintance in prison; and I have little doubt that the Roman estimate is not far from the truth, and that it is just as likely to be below as above it. When I was in Rome, all the jails in the city were crowded. The cells in the Castle of St Angelo,—those subterranean dungeons where day never dawned, and where the captive's groan can never reach a human ear,—were filled. All the great fortresses throughout the country,—the vast ranges of galley-prisons at Civita Vecchia, the fortress of Ancona, the castle of Bologna, the fortress of Ferrara, and hundreds of minor prisons over the country,—all were filled,—filled, do I say! they were crowded,—crowded to suffocation with choking, despairing victims. In the midst of this congeries of dungeons, surrounded by clanking chains and weeping captives, stands the chair of the "Holy Father."
Let us take a look into these prisons, as described to me by reputable and well-informed parties in Rome. These prisons are of three classes. The first class consists of cells of from seven to eight feet square. The space is little more than a man's height when he stands erect, and a man's length when he stretches himself on the floor, and can contain only that amount of atmospheric air necessary for the consumption of one person. These cells are now made to receive two prisoners, who are compelled to divide betwixt them the air adequate for only one. The second class consists of cells constructed to hold ten persons each. In the present great demand for prison-room these are held to afford ample accommodation for a little crowd of twenty persons. Their one window is so high in the wall, that the wretched men who are shut in here are obliged to mount by turns on each other's shoulders, to obtain a breath of air. Last of all comes the common prison. It is a spacious place, containing from forty to fifty persons, who lie day and night on straw too foul for a stable. It matters not what the means of the prisoner may be; he must wear the prison dress, and live on the prison diet. The jailor is empowered, should the slightest provocation be offered, to flog the prisoner, or to load his limbs so heavily with irons, that he scarce can move. And who are they who tenant these places? Violators of the law,—brigands, murderers? No! Those who have been dragged thither are the very elite of the Roman population. There many of them lie for years, without being brought to trial; and if they thus escape the scaffold, they perish more slowly, but not less surely, and much more miserably, by the pestilential air, the unwholesome food, and the horrible treatment of the jail. Nor is this the worst of it. I was told by those in Rome who had the best opportunities of knowing, but whose names I do not here choose to mention, that the sufferings of the prisoners had been much aggravated,—indeed, made unendurable,—by the expedient of the Government which confines malefactors and desperadoes along with them. These characters are permitted to have their own way in the prisons; they lord it over the rest, compel them to do the most disgusting offices, and attempt even outrages on their person, which propriety leaves without a name. Their sufferings are indescribable. The consequence of this accumulation of horrors,—foul air, insufficient food, and the fearful society with which the walls and chains of their prison compel them to mingle,—is, that a great many of the prisoners have died, some have sought to terminate their woe by suicide, while others have been carried raving to a madhouse. Mr Freeborn assured me that several of his Roman acquaintances had been carried to these places sane men, as well as innocent men, and, after a short confinement, they had been brought out maniacs and madmen. He would have preferred to have seen them shot at once. It is a prelate who has charge of these prisons.
I have described the higher machinery which the Pope employs,—the tribunals,—judges,—the secret process,—the tyrannous Gregorian Code; let me next bring into view the inferior machinery of the Pontifical Government. The Roman sbirri have an European reputation. One must be no ordinary villain,—he must be, in short, a perfected and finished scoundrel,—to merit a place in this honourable corps. The sbirri are chiefly from the kingdom of Naples. They dress in plain clothes, go in twos and threes, are easily distinguished, and are permitted to carry larger walking-sticks than the Romans, whom the French commandant has forbidden to come abroad with any but the merest twig. Some of these spies wear spurs, the better to deceive and to succeed in their fiendish work. No disguise, however, can conceal the sbirro. His look, so unmistakeably villanous, proclaims the spy. These fellows will not be defeated in their purposes. They carry, it is said, articles of conviction, that is, political papers, on their person, which they use, in lack of other material, to compass the ruin of their victim. They can stop any one they please on the street, compel him to produce his papers, and, when they choose not to be satisfied with them, march him off to prison. When they visit a house where they have resolved to make a seizure, they search it; and if they do not find what may criminate the man, they drop the papers they have brought with them, and swear that they found them in the house. What can solemn protestations do against armed ruffians, backed by hireling judges, who, like Impaccianti and Belli, have been taken from the bagnio and the galleys, thrust into orders, and elevated to the bench, to do the work of their patrons? Such must show that they deserve promotion. The people loathe and dread the sbirri, knowing that whatever they do in their official capacity is done well, and speedily followed up by those in authority.
But there is a class in the service of the Pontifical Government yet more wicked and dangerous. What! exclaims the reader, more wicked and dangerous than the sbirri! Yes, the sbirri profess to be only what they are,—the base tools of a tyrannical Government, which seems to thirst insatiably for vengeance; but there exists an invisible power, which the citizen feels to be ever at his side, listening to his every word, penetrating his inmost thought, and ready at any moment to effect his destruction. At noonday, at midnight, in society, in private, he feels that its eye is upon him. He can neither see it nor avoid it. Would he flee from it, he but throws himself into its jaws. I refer to a class of vile and abandoned men, entirely at the service of the Government, whose position in society, agreeable manners, flexibility of disposition, and thorough knowledge of affairs, which they study for base ends, and handle most adroitly in conversation, enable them to penetrate the secret feelings of all classes. They now condemn and now applaud the conduct of Government, as the subject and circumstances require, and all to extract an unfriendly sentiment against those in authority, if such there be in the mind of the man with whom they are conversing. If they succeed, the person is immediately denounced; an arrest follows, or domiciliary restraint. The numbers that have found their way to prison and to the galleys through this secret and mysterious agency are incredible. Nor can any man imagine to himself the dreadful state of Rome under this terrible espionage. The Roman feels that the air around him is full of eyes and ears; he dare not speak; he dreads even to think; he knows that a thought or a look may convey him to prison.
The oppression is not of equal intensity in all cases. Some are subjected only to domiciliary restraint. In this predicament are many respectably connected young men. They are told to consider themselves as prisoners in their own houses, and not to appear beyond the threshold, but at the penalty of exchanging their homes for the common jail. Others, again, whose apparent delinquency has been less, are allowed the freedom of the open air during certain specified hours. At the expiry of this time they must withdraw to their houses: Ave Maria is in many cases the retiring hour.
Another tyrannical proceeding on the part of the Government, which was productive of wide-spread misery, was the compelling hundreds of people, from the labourer to the man in business, to leave Rome for their place of birth. These measures, which would have been oppressive under any circumstances, were rendered still more oppressive by the shortness of the notice given to those on whom this sentence of expulsion fell. Some had twenty-four hours, and others thirty-six, to prepare for their departure. The labourer might plead that he had no money, and must beg his way with wife and children. The man in business might justly represent that to eject him in this summary fashion was just to ruin him; for his business could not be properly wound up; it must be sacrificed. But no appeal was sustained; no remonstrance was listened to. The stern mandate must be obeyed, though the poor man should die on the road. Go he must, or be conveyed in irons. And, as regards those who were fortunate enough to reach their native villages, alas! their sufferings did then but begin. These villages, in most cases, did not need them, and could afford no opening in the line of business or of labour in which they had been trained. They were houseless and workless in their native place; and, if they did not die of a broken heart, which many of them did, they went "into the country," as they say in Italy,—that is, they became brigands, or are at this hour dragging out the remainder of their lives in poverty and wretchedness.
How atrociously, too, have many of the Romans been carried from their business to prison. Against these men neither proof nor witness existed; but a spy had denounced them, or they had fallen under the suspicions of the Government, and there they are in the dungeon. Their families might starve, their business might go to the dogs, but the vengeance of the Government must be satiated. Such persons are confined for a longer or shorter period, according to the view taken of their character or associates; and if nothing be elicited by the secret ordeal of examination, the prison-door is opened, and the prisoner is requested to go home. No apology is offered; no redress is obtained.
Such cases, I was told, were numerous. One such came to my knowledge through Mr Stewart. An acquaintance of his, a druggist, was one day dragged summarily from his business, and lodged in jail, where he was detained a whole month, although to this hour he has not been told what he had done, or said, or thought amiss. During the Constitution this man had been called in, in his scientific capacity simply, to superintend an electric telegraph which ran, if I mistake not, betwixt the Capitol and St Peter's. But beyond this he had taken no political action and expressed no political sentiment whatever. He knew well that this would avail him nothing; and glad he was to escape from incarceration with the remark, meno male, alias, it might have been worse.
They say that the Inquisition was an affair of the sixteenth century; that its fires are cold; its racks and screws are rusted; and that it would be just as impossible to bring back the Inquisition as to bring back the centuries in which it flourished. That is fine talking; and there are simpletons who believe it. But look at Rome. What is the Government of the Papal States, but just the Government of the Inquisition? There there are midnight apprehensions, secret trials, familiars, torture by flogging, by loading with irons, and other yet more refined modes of cruelty,—in short, all the machinery of the Holy Office. The canon law, whose full blessing Italy now enjoys, is the Inquisition; for wherever the one comes, there the other will follow it. Let me describe the secresy and terror with which apprehensions are made at Rome. The forms of the Inquisition are closely followed herein. The deed is one of darkness, and the darkest hours of the twenty-four, namely, from twelve till two of the morning, are taken for its perpetration. At midnight half a dozen sbirri proceed to the house of the unhappy man marked out for arrest. Two take their place at the door, two at the windows, and two at the back-door, to make all sure. They knock gently at the door. If it is opened, well; if not, they knock a second time. If still it is not opened, it is driven in by force. The sbirri rush in; they seize the man; they drag him from his bed; there is no time for parting adieus with his family; they hurry him through the streets to prison. That very night, or the next, his trial is proceeded with,—that is, when it is intended that there shall be further proceedings; for many, as we have said, are imprisoned for long months, without either accusation or trial. But what a mockery is the trial! The prisoner is never confronted with his accuser, or with the impeaching witnesses. He is allowed no opportunity of disproving the charge; sometimes he is not even informed what that charge is. He has no means of defending his life. He has no doubt an advocate to defend him; but the advocate is always nominated by the court, and is usually taken from the partizans of the Government; and nothing would astonish him more than that he should succeed in bringing off his prisoner. And even when he honestly wishes to serve him, what can he do? He has no exculpatory witnesses; he has had no time to expiscate facts; the evidence for the prosecution is handed to him in court; and he can make only such observations as occur at the moment, knowing all the while that the prisoner's fate is already determined on. Sometimes the prisoner, I was told, is not even produced in court, but remains in his cell while his liberty and life are hanging in the balance. At day-break his prison-door opens, and the jailor enters, holding in his hand a little slip of paper. Ah! well does the prisoner know what that is. He snatches it hastily from the jailor's hands, hurries with it to his grated window, through which the day is breaking, holds it up with trembling hands, and reads his doom. He is banished, it may be, or he is sentenced to the galleys; or, more wretched still, he is doomed to the scaffold. Unhappy man! 'twas but last eve that he laid him down in the midst of his little ones, not dreaming of the black cloud that hung above his dwelling; and now by next dawn he is in the Pope's dungeons, parted from all he loves, most probably for ever, and within a few hours of the galleys or the scaffold.
I saw these men taken out of Rome morning by morning,—that is, such of them as were banished. They passed under the windows of my own apartment in the Via Babuino. I have seen as many as twenty-four led away of a morning. They were put by half-dozens into carts, to which they were tied by twos, and chained together, as if they had been brigands. Thus they moved on to the Flaminian gate, each cart escorted by a couple of mounted gendarmes. The spectacle, alas! was too common to find spectators; not a Roman followed it, or showed that he was conscious of it, save by a mournful look at the melancholy cavalcade from his window, knowing that what was their lot to-day might be his to-morrow. And what the appearance and apparent profession of these men? Those I saw had much the air of intelligent and respectable artizans; for I believe it is this class that are now bearing the brunt of the papal tyranny. The higher classes were swept off before, and the rage of the Government is now venting itself in a lower and wider sphere. An intelligent Scotchman, who had charge of the one iron-shop in the Corso, informed me that now all the tolerably skilled workmen had been so weeded out of the city by the Pope, that it was scarce possible to find hands to do the little work that requires to be done in Rome. If there be among my readers a mechanic who has been indifferent to the question between this country and the Papacy, as one the settlement of which could not affect his interests either way, I tell him he never made a greater mistake all his life. If the Papacy succeed, his interests will be the very first to suffer, in the ruin of trade. Nor will that suffice; if a skilled man, he will be held to be a dangerous man; and, having taken from him his bread, the Papacy will next take from him his liberty, as she is now doing to his brethren in Rome.
And what becomes of the families of these unhappy men? This is the most painful part of the business. Their livelihood is gone; and nothing remains but to go out into the street and beg,—to beg, alas! from beggars. It is not unfrequent in Rome to find families in competence this week, and literally soliciting alms the next. You may see matrons deeply veiled, that they may not be known by their acquaintances, hanging on at the doors of hotels, in the hope of receiving the charity of English travellers. Shame on the tyranny that has reduced the Roman matrons to this! Nor is even this the worst. Deprived of their protectors, moral ruin sometimes comes in the wake of the physical privations and sufferings by which these families are overtaken. Thus the misery of Rome is widening every day. Ah! could I bring before my readers the picture of that doomed city;—could I show them Rome as it sits cowering beneath the shadow of this terrible tyranny;—could I make them see the cloud that day and night hangs above it;—could I paint the sorrow that darkens every face; the suspicion and fear that sadden the Roman's every word and look;—could I tell the number of the broken hearts and the desolate hearths which these old walls enclose;—ah, there is not one among my readers who would not give me his tears as plenteously as ever the clouds of heaven gave their rain. And he who styles himself God's Vicar sees all this misery! Sees it, do I say! he is the author of it. It is to uphold his miserable throne that these prisons are filled, and that these widows and orphans cry in the streets. And yet he tells us that his reign is a model of Christ's reign. 'Tis a fearful blasphemy. When did Christ build dungeons, or gather sbirri about him, or send men to the galleys and the scaffold? Is that the account which we have of his ministry? No; it is very different. "The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." A few months ago, when the Pope proclaimed his newest invented dogma,—the Immaculate Conception,—he gave, in honour of the occasion, a grand jubilee to the Roman Catholic world. We all know what a jubilee is. There is a vast treasury above, filled with the merits of Pio Nono and of such as he, out of which those who have not enough for their own salvation may supplement their deficiencies. At the Pope's girdle hangs the key of this treasury; and when he chooses to open it, straightway down there comes a shower of celestial blessings. Well, the Pope told his children throughout the world that he meant to unlock this treasury; and bade his children be ready to receive with open arms and open hearts, this vast beneficence of his. Ah! Pio Nono, this is not the jubilee we wish. Draw your bolts; break the fetters of your thirty thousand captives; open your dungeons, and give back the fathers, the husbands, the sons, the brothers, which you have torn from their families. Put off your robe, quit your palace, take the Bible in your hand, and go round the world preaching the gospel, as your Master did. Do this, and we shall have had a jubilee such as the world has not seen for many a long year. But ah! you but mock us,—bitterly, cruelly mock us,—when you deny us blessings which it is in your power to give, and offer us those which are not yours to bestow. But it is a mockery which will return, and at no distant day, in sevenfold vengeance upon, we say not Pio Nono, but the papal system. Untie the fetters of these men; make them free for but a few hours; and with what terrible emphasis will they demand back the friends whom the Papacy has buried in dungeons or murdered on the open scaffold! They will seek their lost sons and brothers with an eye that will not pity, and a hand that will not spare.