+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

really adapts itself to the Italian temperament;
and you leave the spiritual interests of the
people at his sole disposal, while you take the
material interests into your own hands. What
does he do upon this? He declares, with the
whole force of his authority and position, that
his spiritual rights and his temporal rights are
indivisible, and that respect for the one means
respect for the other. View this declaration as
a political assertion, and the absurdity of it is
beneath notice. Pronounced by the Pope, it
becomes an article of Faith. "You take your
religion from Me," says His Holiness. "That
is part of your religion." What is the answer
to this from the life of the faithfulâ??not in Rome
only, but all over the civilised globe? The
answer from hundreds of thousands of otherwise
intelligent people, having their influence on
public opinion, isâ??"Amen!"

The second of the chances in the Pope's
favour; the present dearth of commanding
ability in the civil and military administration
of the Italian Kingdom; needs no discussion
here, for it admits of no denial. To
enlarge on this part of the subject, after the events
of the late war, would be almost equivalent to
reproaching Italy with her misfortunes. God
forbid I should do that! May you yet find the
men who can lead your brave army and your
brave navy as they deserve to be led! May
you yet find the men who can hold out to the
discontented, disunited, degraded people of the
southern provinces the hand strong enough
to help them up, the hand that can rule! Here,
at least, we may hope for Italy, with some
assurance that we are not hoping in vain. The
nation that produced Cavour, the nation that
possesses Garibaldi, must surely have its
reserves of strength still left.

If you were not a northern Italian, I should
feel some difficulty in approaching the last
of the three points of view from which I look at
the Papal Obstacle standing in your way.
Fortunately for my purpose, you are not a Tuscan or
a Romanâ??for it is precisely in the radical defects
of the Tuscan and the Roman characters that I
see the last of the three chances which the
weakness of Italy still offers to the cause of the Pope.

The two striking defects of your countrymen,
so far as a stranger can see them, appear
to me to be: first, their apparent incapability
of believing in truth; secondly, their want of
moral fibre and nerve in the smaller affairs of
life. The first of these defects presents the
Italian to me in the aspect of a man who cannot
be persuaded that I am telling the truth about
the simplest matter conceivable, so long as he
sees under the surface an object which I might
gain by telling a lie. The second of these
defects shows me my Italian fellow-pilgrim
along the road of life, m the character ol a man
who, whenever he finds a stone in his path,
skirts lazily round it, and leaves it to the
traveller behind him, instead of lifting his foot and
kicking it, once for all, out of the way. These
are both (to my mind) dangerous national
failings. The first lowers the public standard of
honour, and does incalculable mischief in that
way. The second leaves your countrymen without
the invaluable check on all nuisances, abuses,
and injustices, of a public opinion to discuss,
and a public voice to resent them. There is
gain, my friend, certain gain and certain strength
here, for the cause of bad government all the
world over.

Let me illustrate what I mean, by one or two
examples, before I close my letter.

Not long ago, a certain mistake (the pure
result of hurry and carelessness) was made in
conducting the business of a certain English
Legation. Some consternation was felt when
the error was discovered, for it might have
ended in awkward results. But the caprices of
Chance are proverbial. An unforeseen turn of
circumstance placed the Legation in the lucky
position of having blundered, after all, in the right
direction: a diplomatic advantage was thus
accidentally gained, by a fortunate diplomatic error.
A friend of mine (himself in the diplomatic
service) was a few days afterwards in the
company of several Italian gentlemen; all of them
men of education and position; some of them
men of note and mark in politics. On entering
the room, my friend, to his astonishment, found
himself eagerly surrounded, and complimented
in the warmest terms on the extraordinary
capacity of his Chief. It was almost a
pleasure, your polite countrymen said, to be
overreached in such an extremely clever
manner. The Englishman, as soon as he could
make himself heard, attempted to put the matter
in its true light. It all originated, he declared,
in a mistake. The Italians smiled, and shook
their heads with the most charming courtesy
and good humour. "Cave! cave!" they
remonstrated. "You have outwitted us; but, my
dear sir, we are not downright fools. The
'mistake' has done its work. Yon may drop
the mistake!" The Englishman declared, on
his word of honour, that the true explanation
was the explanation he had given. The
Italians bowed resignedly, and left him. To
this day they are persuaded that the mistake was
made on purpose. To this day they admire my
friend as a master in the art of solemn false
assertion for diplomatic ends.

This little incident is trivial enough in itself,
I grant you; but pursue the inveterate belief
in deceit that it exhibits, into the daily affairs
of life, on the one hand, and into serious
political emergencies on the other, and tell me if
you do, or do not, see some of your domestic
scandals and some of your ministerial complications
under a new light.

Take your railroads again, as illustrating
some of those other defects in the national
character which I have ventured to point out.
In Northern Italy, the railroad is excellently
managed: in Northern Italy the railroad has
taught the people the value of time. Advance
through Tuscany, and go on to Rome, and I
hardly know which would surprise and disgust
you mostâ??the absolute laziness of the official
people in working the line, or the absolute