Special Correspondence of The Tribune.][No. XXVII.
It is said you cannot thoroughly know anything till you have both summered and wintered it; but more than one Summer and Winter of experience seems to be needed for Rome. How I fretted last Winter, during the three months’ rain and the sepulchral chill, and far worse than sepulchral odors which accompanied it! I thought it was the invariable Roman Winter, and that I should never be able to stay here another such, so took my room only by the month, thinking to fly so soon as the rain set in. And lo! it has never rained at all; but there has been glorious Sun and Moon, unstained by cloud, always, and these last days have been as warm as May—the days of the Carnival, for I have just come in from seeing the Moccoletti.
The Republican Carnival has not been as splendid as the Papal; the absence of Dukes and Princes being felt in the way of coaches and rich dresses; there are also fewer foreigners than usual, many having feared to assist at this most peaceful of revolutions. But, if less splendid, it was not less gay; the costumes were many and fanciful—flowers, smiles and fun abundant.
This is the first time of my seeing the true Moccoletti; last year in one of the first triumphs of Democracy, they did not blow out the lights, thus turning it into an illumination. The effect of the swarms of lights, little and large, thus in motion all over the fronts of the houses and up and down the Corso was exceedingly pretty and fairy-like, but that did not make up for the loss of that wild, innocent gayety of which this people alone is capable after childhood, and which never shines out so much as on this occasion. It is astonishing the variety of tones, the lively satire and taunt of which the words Senza Moccolo—senza mo, are susceptible from their tongues. It is the best parody on the life of the “respectable” world that can be imagined. A ragamuffin with a little piece of candle, not even lighted, thrusts it in your face with an air of far greater superiority than he can wear who, dressed in gold and velvet, erect in his carriage, holds aloft his light on a tall pole. In vain his security; while he looks down on the crowd to taunt the wretches senza mo, a weak female hand from a chamber window blots out his pretensions by one flirt of an old handkerchief.
Many handsome women, otherwise dressed in white, wore the red liberty cap, and the noble thought somewhat coarse Roman outline beneath this brilliant red, by the changeful glow of million lights, made a fine effect. Men looked too vulgar in the liberty cap.
How I mourn that my little companion E. never saw these things that would have given him such store of enchanting reminiscences for all his after years. I miss him always on such occasions; formerly it was through him that I enjoyed them.—He had the child’s heart, had the susceptible fancy, and, naturally, a fine discerning sense for whatever is individual or peculiar.
I missed him much at the Fair of St. Eustachio. This, like the Carnival, was last year entirely spoiled by constant rain. I never saw it at all before. It comes in the first days, or rather nights, of January. All the quarter of St. Eustachio is turned into one toy-shop, the stalls are set out in the street and brightly lighted up. These are full of cheap toys—prices varying from half a cent up to twenty cents; the dolls, which are dressed as husband and wife, or sometimes grouped in families, are the most grotesque rag-babies that can be imagined. Among the toys are great quantities of whistles, tin trumpets and little tamborines; of these every man, woman and child has bought one and is using it to make a noise. This extempore concert begins about ten o’clock and lasts till midnight; the delight of the numerous children that form part of the orchestra, the good-humored familiarity without the least touch of rudeness in the crowd, the lively effect of the light upon the toys, and the jumping, shouting figures that exhibit them, make this the pleasantest Saturnalia. Had you only been there, E. to guide me by the hand, blowing the trumpet for both, and spying out a hundred queer things in nooks that entirely escape me!
The Roman still plays amid his serious affairs, and very serious have they been this past Winter. The Roman legions went out singing and dancing to fight in Lombardy, and they fought no less bravely for that.
When I wrote last, the Pope had fled, guided, he says, “by the hand of Providence”—Italy deems by the hand of Austria—to Gaeta. He had already soiled his white robes, and defamed himself forever, by heaping benedictions on the King of Naples and the bands of mercenaries whom he employs to murder his subjects on the least sign of restlessness in their most painful position. Most cowardly had been the conduct of his making promises he never meant to keep, stealing away by night in the coach of a foreign diplomatist, protesting that what he had done was null because he had acted under fear, as if such a protest could avail to one who boasts himself representative of Christ and his apostles, guardian of the legacy of the martyrs. He selected a band of most incapable men to face the danger he had feared for himself; most of these followed his example and fled. Rome sought an interview with him, to see if reconciliation were possible; he refused to receive her messengers. His wicked advisers calculated upon great confusion and distress as inevitable on the dilemma; but, for once, the hope of the bad heart was doomed to immediate disappointment. Rome coolly said, “If you desert me—if you will not hear me—I must act for myself.” She threw herself into the arms of a few men who had courage and calmness for this crisis; they bade her think upon what was to be done, meanwhile avoiding every excess that could give a color to calumny and revenge; the people, with admirable good sense, comprehended and followed up this advice. Never was Rome so truly tranquil, so nearly free from gross ill as this Winter. A few words of brotherly admonition have been more powerful than all the spies, dungeons and scaffolds of Gregory.
“The hand of the Omnipotent works for us,” observed an old man whom I saw in the street selling cigars the evening before the opening of the Constitutional Assembly. He was struck by the radiant beauty of the night. The old people observe that there never has been such a Winter since that of the establishment by the French of the Republic.
May the omens speed well! A host of enemies without are ready to levy war against this long-suffering people, to rivet anew their chains. Still there is now an obvious tide throughout Europe toward a better order of things, and a wave of it may bear Italy onward to the shore.
The revolution, like all genuine ones, has been instinctive, its results unexpected and surprising to the greater part of those who achieved them. The waters that had flowed so secretly beneath the crust of habit that many never heard their murmur, unless in dreams, have suddenly burst to light in full and beautiful jets; all rush to drink the pure and living draught.
As in the time of Jesus, the multitude has been long enslaved beneath a cumbrous ritual, their minds designedly darkened by those who should have enlightened them, brutified, corrupted amid monstrous contradictions and abuses; yet the moment they hear a word correspondent to the original nature, “Yes, it is true,” they cry. “It is spoken with authority. Yes, it ought to be so. Priests ought to be better and wiser than other men; if they were they would not need pomp and temporal power to command respect. Yes, it is true; we ought not to lie; we ought not try to impose upon one another. We should rather our children would work honestly for their bread than get it by cheating, begging, or the prostitution of their mothers. It would be better to act worthily and kindly, probably would please God more than the kissing of reliques. We have long darkly felt that these things were so; now we know it.”
The unreality of relation between the people and the hierarchy was obvious instantly upon the flight of Pio. He made an immense mistake then, and he made it because neither he nor his Cardinals were aware of the unreality. They did not know that great as is the force of habit, truth only is imperishable. The people had abhorred Gregory, had adored Pio, upon whom they looked as a savior, as a liberator; finding themselves deceived, a mourning-veil had overshadowed their love; still, had Pio remained here, and had the courage to show himself on agitating occasions, his position as Pope before whom they had been bred to bow, his aspect, which had once seemed to them full of blessing and promise, like that of an angel, would have still retained power. Probably the temporal dominion of the Papacy would not have been broken up. He fled; the people felt contempt for his want of force and truth. He wrote to reproach them with ingratitude; they were indignant. What had they to be grateful for? A Constitution to which he had not kept true an instant; the institution of the National Guard, which he had begun to neutralize; benedictions, followed by such actions as the desertion of the poorer volunteers in the war for Italian independence. Still the people were not quite alienated from Pio. They felt sure that his heart was, in substance, good and kindly, though the habits of the priest and the arts of his counselors had led him so egregiously to falsify its dictates and forget the vocation with which he had been called. Many hoped he would see his mistake and return to be at one with the people, among the more ignorant, there was a superstitious notion that he would return in the night of 5th January. There were many bets that he would be found in the palace of the Quirinal the morning of the 6th. All these lingering feelings were finally extinguished by the advice of excommunication. As this may not have reached America, I subjoin a translation. Here I was obliged to make use of a manuscript copy; all the printed ones were at once destroyed. It is probably the last document of the kind the world will see:
To our most Beloved Subjects.
From this pacific abode to which it has pleased Divine Providence to conduct us, and whence we can freely manifest our sentiments and our will, we have waited for testimonies of remorse from our misguided children for the sacrileges and misdeed committed against persons attached to our service, among whom some have been slain, others outraged in the most barbarous manner, as well as for those against our residence and our person. But we have seen nothing except a sterile invitation to return to our capital, but unaccompanied by a word of condemnation for those crimes or the least guaranty for our security against the frauds and violences of that same company of furious men which still tyrannizes with a barbarous despotism over Rome and the States of the Church. We also waited expecting that the protests and orders we have uttered would recall to the duties of fidelity and subjection those who have despised and trampled upon them in the very capital our States. But, instead of this, a new and more monstrous act of undisguised felony and of actual rebellion by them audaciously committed, has filled the measure of our affliction, and excited at the same time our just indignation, as it will afflict the Church Universal. We speak of that act, in every respect detestable, by which has been pretended to intimate the convocation of a so-called General National Assembly of the Roman States, by a decree of the 29th December past to establish new political forms for the Pontifical dominion. Adding this iniquity to iniquity, the authors and favorers of the demagogical anarchy strive to destroy the temporal authority of the Roman Pontiff over the dominions of Holy Church, however irrefragibly established through the most ancient and solid rights, and venerated, recognized and sustained by all the nations, supposing and making others believe that his sovereign power can be subject to controversy or depend on the caprices of the factions. We shall spare our dignity the humiliation of dwelling on all that is monstrous contained in that act, abominable through the absurdity of its origin, no less than the illegality of its form and the impiety of its scope; but it appertains to the apostolic authority, with which however unworthy, we are invested, and to the responsibility which binds us by the most sacred oaths in the sight of the Omnipotent, not only to protest in the most energetic and efficacious manner against that same act, but to condemn it in the face of the Universe as an enormous and sacrilegious crime against our independence and sovereignty, meriting the chastisements threatened by divine and human laws. We are persuaded that on receiving the impudent invitation, you remain full of holy indignation, and will have rejected far from you a so guilty and shameful provocation, nothwithstanding, so that none of you may say that he has been deluded by fallacious seductions, and by the preachers of subversive doctrines, or ignorant or what is contriving by the foes of all order, all law, all right, true liberty and your happiness, we to-day again raise and spread abroad our voice so that you may be more certain of the absoluteness with which we prohibit men of whatever class and condition from taking any part in the meetings, which those persons may dare to call for the semination of individuals to be sent to the condemned Assembly. At the same time we recall to you how this absolute prohibition is sanctioned by the decrees of our Predecessors and of the Councils, especially of the Sacred Council General of Trent, Sect. XXII, Chap. II, in which the Church has fulminated many times her censures, and especially the greater excommunication, as incurred without fail by any declaration of whomsoever may dare to become guilty of whatsoever attempt against the temporal sovereignty of the Supreme Pontiff, such as we declare to have been already unhappily incurred by all those who have given aid to the above named act and others preceding, intended to prejudice the same sovereignty, and in other modes and under false pretexts have perturbed, violated and usurped our authority. Yet, though we feel ourselves obliged by conscience to guard the sacred deposit of the patrimony of the Spouse of Jesus Christ confided to our care by use of the sword of such severity given to us for that purpose, we cannot therefore forget that we are on earth the representative of him who in exercise of his justice does not forget mercy. Raising, therefore, our hands to Heaven, while we to it recommend a cause which is indeed more its than ours, and while anew we declare ourselves ready, with the aid of its powerful grace to drink even to the dregs, for the defence and glory of the Catholic Church, the cup of persecution which He first wished to drink for the salvation of the same, we shall not desist from supplication Him benignly to hear the fervent prayers which day and night we unceasingly offer for the salvation of the misguided. No day certainly could be more joyful for us than that in which it shall be granted to see return into the fold of the Lord those our sons from whom now we derive so much bitterness and so great tribulations. The hope of enjoying soon the happiness of such a day is strengthened in us by the reflection that universal are the prayers which, united to ours, ascend to the throne of Divine Mercy from the lips and heart of the faithful throughout the Catholic world, urging it continually to change the hearts of sinners and reconduct them into the paths of truth and of justice.
Gaeta, 6th January 1849.
Its silliness, its bigotry, it ungenerous tone excited a simultaneous movement in the population. The procession which carried it, mumbling chants, for deposit in places provided for lowest uses, and then taking from the doors of the batters’ shops the cardinals’ hats, threw them into the Tiber, was a real and general expression of popular disgust. From that hour the power of the Scarlet Hierarchy fell to rise no more. No authority can survive a universal movement of derision. From that hour tongues and pens were loosed, the leaven of Machiavellism which still polluted the productions of the more liberal disappeared, and people talked as they felt, just as those of us who do not will to be slaves can in America.
“Jesus,” cried an orator, “bade them feed his lambs. If they have done so, it has been to rob their fleece and drink their blood.”
“Why,” said another, “have we been so long deaf to the saying that the temporal dominion of the Church was like a thorn in the wound of Italy, which shall never be healed till that thorn is extracted?”
And the, without passion, all felt that the temporal dominion was in fact accomplished of itself, and that it only remained to organize another form of government. *
“Things and Thoughts in Europe . . . XXVII.” New-York Daily Tribune, 31 March 1849, p. 1.