Sidor som bilder
[blocks in formation]

mestic prosperity and external respectability of the Republic. Industry will now be made to flourish under the same free principles, which have fostered it in this country. The physical force of Switzerland will become attached to institutions so liberal and equal as those under consideration, and the inhabitants of the Alps will thus be rendered more capable of defending their mountain-passes against foreign aggression, and of making a stand, if need be, for the liberties of Europe.


Italy.-- Retrospect.-Capabilities of Italy.-Napoleon.-Foreign Interferences.-Interferences.-Romagna.--Conduct of Austria.-France.-Conclusion.

'Italy is crushed, but her heart still beats with the love of liberty, virtue, and glory; she is chained and covered with blood, but she still knows her strength, and her future destiny; she is insulted by those for whom she has opened the way to every improvement, but she feels that she is formed to take the lead again; and Europe will know no repose till the nation, which, in the dark ages, lighted the torch of civilization with that of liberty, shall be enabled herself to enjoy the light which she created.' These are the words of one of the most justly preeminent historians and publicists of modern Europe, who honors, in other languages and lands, the country of his ancestors; and he describes, in phraseology as true as it is energetic, the actual condition of Italy and the Italians.* * Sismondi's History of the Italian Republics, p 299.



After having outstripped every other country of modern times in the rapidity of its recovery from the disastrous effects of the general irruption of the Barbarians into the heart of the Roman Empire, - after redeeming, in fact, Christian Europe from the ignorance and brutality of the middle age, and becoming once again the seat of arts, literature, and refinement, — Italy became a second time the prey of the Germans, Franks, and Goths, by reason of circumstances not dissimilar to those, which enabled ancient Rome to impose her, yoke upon the republics of ancient Greece. When Charles VIII invaded Italy in the fifteenth century, avowedly to assert the claims of the House of Anjou to the throne of Naples, he found a people not less brave than his own followers, nor less familiar with the art of war, although abounding in the moveable wealth and the luxuries of life, which as yet were imperfectly known to France. But the Italians were divided among themselves; their physical energies were not centralized and combined, so as to be made to act efficaciously upon a given point; the glorious Republics, which had rendered the name of Liberty once more dear upon earth, had mostly fallen into the hands of individual chiefs or particular families; and meanwhile in France, as also in Germany and Spain, the monarchical principle had risen triumphant upon the weakness of the feudal system, so as to impart unity and concentrated activity to the great States in the neighborhood of Italy. Of course, the French, having once crossed the barrier Alps, rushed from Milan to Naples almost unopposed by the inhabitants, and in a single campaign unfolded to the world the feebleness and the riches of the whole country. Neither Spain nor Germany could fail to be attracted by the example of successful invasion. Gonzalo de Cordoba soon

[blocks in formation]

came, to gain the title of Great Captain by recovering Naples from the French in fayor of the House of Aragon. The French and their bands of Swiss mercenaries reappeared again under Louis XII and Francis I, but not before Maximilian had marched his Austrians into the territory of Venice, and Ferdinand of Spain had seized upon Naples for his own account. Italy was now become the battle-field of the nations, which contended for the privilege of robbing her of independence and prosperity. The French and Swiss in the Milanese, the French and Spaniards in Naples, - and French, Spaniards, Swiss, and Germans in the States of Venice, if more or less hostile to each other, were of accord in their hostility to the Italians, their common prey. It was not strange, therefore, that when the sceptres of Spain and Germany were both held by Charles V, he should acquire a fixed ascendancy in Italy, or that, after his abdication, the fairest portions of it continued to be the possessions either of the Austrian or Castilian branch of his House,

For the three centuries following that epoch, the history of Italy is the history of the transalpine nations, which had despoiled her of Naples and Lombardy. Except the free village of San Marino, the fortified summit of a mountain in Romagna, nothing remained of the once powerful Italian Republics, but Venice, Genoa, and Lucca, each of these being governed by a narrow aristocracy. Piedmont, Tuscany, Rome, and several of the smaller States, were, it is true, more or less in the hands of Italian rulers; but the Peninsula was essentially subject to the control of Spain and Austria. Well might Filicaja exclaim:

Italia, oh Italia, hapless thou,
Who didst the fatal gift of beauty gain,
A dowry fraught with never ending pain,
A seal of sorrow stamped upon thy brow!-

But if the French, by their successive invasions of Italy under Charles, Louis, and Francis, inflicted on Italy the calamities of barbarian domination, –

Vanquished or victor, still by Goths enslaved; if they introduced the transalpine spoiler into the Peninsula, and so led to its long humiliation; yet they also were the first to open upon the Italians the dawn of recovered independence. It was, indeed, reserved for an Italian, raised by his genius to the leading-staff of conquering France, to redeem the name and fame of his country.

The less refined and cultivated races of the North have been accustomed to think and speak scornfully of the modern Italians, as corrupt, degenerate, buried in luxury and sloth, — without reflecting that their social faults, such as they are, have been imposed upon them by the combined power of 'leagued oppressors' beyond the Alps; and that their national virtues are all their own, their transcendant genius, the birthright as it were of the clime, their exuberance of intellectual riches, — their force of moral impulsion, whether for good or for evil passions, alike unequalled in the brilliancy and intensity of its exhibitions. If surpassing excellence in the fine arts, - in painting, music, sculpture, - be chiefly characteristic of them at the present time, it is the vice of their position, not of their genius. Not merely in science and letters, but even in the knowledge of that sterner art of arms, which the northern nations would seem disposed to arrogate to themselves as the distinctive property of mind, there is enough to show that it needs only national institutions to restore the national glory of Italy; for such names as Parma, Spinola, Montecuculi, and Napoleon, guiding on their conquerors to victory, beam forth on the page of history with no borrowed lustre of greatness.

[blocks in formation]

Although Napoleon did not confer independence or republican institutions upon Italy, yet the political changes, wrought by him in the condition of the country, were eminently salutary. In the Kingdom of Italy, a name cherished of the people was revived, and equal rights, publicity of judicial administration, freedom of thought, and a career of national distinction, — these at least were gained by the Lombards, even if the boon of an independent Republic was withdrawn. The residue of the nation, whether as incorporated with France, or as left to constitute the Kingdom of Naples, participated in all the benefits of internal government, which the French had gained by the Revolution, and which, notwithstanding the imperial and imperious rule of Napoleon, were, for Italy as for France, an immense stride in the career of social and political improvement. But the Allies, who drove Napoleon from his throne, have painfully reconstructed the fabric of despotism, which the arms of the French had demolished, rendering the condition of the Italians of the present generation thus much worse, in that they possess the knowledge as well as memory of better institutions, and are of course the more prone to writhe under the hated yoke of Austria.

Left to themselves, the Italians would at each and every crisis of their fortunes, have worked out for themselves institutions parallel in advancement with those of the freeest in Europe. Our brief retrospect has indicated this for the period prior to the year 1814 ; and every subsequent year has afforded new proofs of the fact. Various efforts of the Italians, to regain independence, have drawn the attention of the world during the last twenty years ; and the same general description applies to them all without exception.

[blocks in formation]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »