Things and Thoughts in Europe . . . XXXV


Sympathy of America with the Combatants of Liberty in Europe—Mr. Walsh and American Apostasy and Meanness—State of Italy—Affecting Incident at Rome—Things in Tuscany—Liberalism in Piedmont—Socialism—Peaceful Revolution.[No. XXXV.

Special Correspondent of The Tribune.FLORENCE, NOV. 18, 1849.

  The reception to-day of some “Tribunes” wants my blunted purpose to write. Amid the pains and disappointments with which the past months have been overflowing, it is refreshing to read how cordially America sympathized. She did not hug herself in selfish content with her more prosperous fortune; she glowed at the hope of relief for the suffering nations of Europe; she deeply mourned its overthrow; she is indignant at the treachery that consummated it. I love my country for the spirit she has shown; it proves that the lust of gold, her peculiar temptation, has not yet cankered her noble heart.

  And for the first time in my life I rejoice in the downfall of a fellow. I received from the family of Mr. Walsh kindness while in Paris, liked them, as I believe all Americans do, but I am glad to see punished in so signal an example a meanness and weakness too common to Americans abroad. Too often I have had occasion to blush at their apostasy, their ingratitude to the principles, the institutions which have made them all of good they are. They disdain the “people,” forgetting that if they have risen to peculiar privileges it was owing to freedom which kept the career open to talent, they stand cap in hand to the dignities of the old world and quote with contemptible delight opinions backed only by inherited rank. It is very painful to see how stupidly they abase themselves, apparently unhappy till they can present their breasts for a ribbon, forgetful that the same implies readiness of the forehead for the rod of the absolving priest, or of the back for the knout. The position of an American is so glorious, if he has simple good sense and manly dignity to uphold it, that it is lamentable indeed to see it thus forfeited on everyday occasions, but so signal a display as Mr. Walsh made in the late terrible conflict, covers his country with shame if it is not as signally reprobated. American is the star of hope to the enslaved nations, bitter indeed were the night of the world if that star were hid from its sight by foul vapors.

  I have begun to write, yet little do I feel inclined, my mind, wearied with intense excitement of hope and fear, now for months past continually suffering from sympathy with the generous who suffer, needs repose. I take long walks into the country, I gaze on the beauty of nature, and seek thus to strengthen myself in the faith that the Power who delighted in these creations will not suffer his highest ardent, aspiring, loving men, to live and die in vain, that immortal flowers bloom on the grave of all martyrs, and phenix births rise from each noble sacrifice. I look again upon art, and solace myself in its calm. Yet it is sad to think that the cloud which darkened even the soul of Michel Angelo is not lifted yet.

  The state of Italy grows worse every day. You are aware that the Milanese answered the amnesty of Radetzky by hisses, and on that occasion he applied the bastinado to many persons, men and women; more than four hundred have suffered it in Parma. A new conscription is to plunge the Lombardy in yet deeper affliction. In the kingdom of Naples, it is asserted, there are thirty thousand in the prisons, and new arrests are constantly made. In Rome, a few Neapolitan refugees, who were foolish enough to believe the French would yield them some protection, have been given back to King Bomba. The situation of the French in Rome is most humiliating, the object of contempt to all parties. New arrests are constantly made there—the prelates tracking out their prey; now they are beginning on those who had received the amnesty from Pio IX. It seems he cannot rest, till he has recanted every good thing he ever did. Alas! how those purple men of sin must sneer as they see such men as De Tocqueville and Odilon Barrot cast down from the place where they have sacrificed the fair fame they had acquired by years of action on the side of liberality, of humanity. How the Jesuits smile, with thin lips and eyes down-dropped, and think how much better Ignatius knew the world than Jesus of Nazareth.

  By the way, an affecting incident took place at Rome, in the Church of St. Ignatius, where they had solemnized the usual November service in honor of the dead. As the service concluded, a deep voice sounded from the crown the words “Peace be with the souls of those who perished for their country,” and at the same time a shower of roses and myrtles was thrown upon the cat[?]falk, while the crowd responded a fervent “Peace, Peace, Amen.” Every effort by the authorities to discover the speaker was in vain. Be it observed, in this connection, that all the French assurances of bringing to justice the slayer of Rossi seem to have ended in nothing. Have they, perhaps, discovered that he was in part an emissary of the Cardinals, as so many said at the time? I myself supposed it an act of popular vengeance, but many Romans thought it a trap of the Cardinals to ensnare Pope and People, as was the farce of conspiracy in July 1847.

  Here in Tuscany the Government is become very unpopular; the Florentines regret their mean and cowardly abandonment of the liberal cause now it has led to the expensive maintenance of a large body of Austrians. It seems that only the rabble of boys in the streets, and the ladies of England associate with the Austrians. It is painful to see what a quantity of valuable objects the Austrian soldiers have to sell. Their depredations must have been very great. They have watches, many splendid women’s jewels, chains, rings, brooches. It makes me sick when I think of the circumstances under which these came into their hands. The peasants of Tuscany so much under the influence of the priests, and who were really influenced to wish Leopold back, are enraged now that they are so heavily taxed. The priests here preach against Liberty; they quote the example of Jesus. He never, they say, rebelled against Cæsar, the only liberty he wished defended was liberty of the Church. This happened in a church of Florence, last week. The Pope’s Nuncio wished to get the “Statuto” prosecuted for impiety, because it spoke well of Gioberti and Father Ventura. There is a partial liberty of the press, but it must every day be limited more and more by the action of Government. In Piedmont is still a struggle for Freedom; many refugees are there; the people shows itself undaunted by the great calamities past, and still anxious to throw what weight is left it on the liberal side. If it can keep or better this position, it will be a great thing for Italy in that new conflict which cannot be far distant, for the present state of things is one that cannot endure above two or three years, if so long—and aid the political education of the people, meanwhile, everyone eagerly seeking for what is printed in Piedmont. The King would, probably, be with Austria if he dared, but the Liberal party, though ill-organized at present, is earnest and powerful, and it will not be easy for him to evade it. The priesthood are in feverish struggle to crook back their flocks from the green field into the fold, but their seal is indiscreet, not worthy the Jesuit skill of its directors. A little Socialist work, “Christ before a Council of War,” was published in Genoa; the clergy preached against it—prosecuted it at law, but could not get it condemned, and lead to its being extensively read. Probably many pairs of eyes close sealed before, were thus opened in a direction that may lead to the redress of the frightful social ills of Europe, by a peaceful though radical revolution instead of a bloody conflict. The Kings may find their thrones rather trembling than tumbling, the priests may see the consecrated wafer turn into bread to sustain the perishing millions even in their astonished hands. God grant it. Here lie my hopes now. I believed before I came to Europe in what is called Socialism, as the inevitable sequence to the tendencies and wants of the era, but I did not think these vast changes in modes of government, education, and daily life would be effected as rapidly as I now think they will, because they must. The world can no longer stand without them.

  Thus far had I written when an opportunity offering to send my letter, I break off now, knowing I shall every day become more ready and more worthy to resume upon the theme last opened with love to my country. O Lucifer, son of the morning, fall not this time from thy chariot, but herald in at last the long looked for, wept for, bled and starved for day of Peace and Good Will to men.    *

“Things and Thoughts in Europe.” New-York Daily Tribune, 9 January 1850, p. 1.