Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Last week (September 22, 1860)

LAST WEEK.

DE MORTUIS.

A few months back if you had numbered up the rulers of Italy, you would have found the list to stand thus—

The Emperor of Austria.
The Pope.
The King of Sardinia.
The King of the Two Sicilies.
The Grand Duke of Tuscany.
The Duke of Modena.
The Duchess of Parma—for her Son.

Four of them, in racing phrase, have been scratched—the four last. The Emperor of Austria has been beaten in one great battle after another, and has lost that fair province of Lombardy which was one of the brightest jewels of the Imperial crown. He still holds Venetia by force of arms; but not the Venetians. Venice is an Austrian barrack, but every one of its inhabitants who could pull a trigger, and make his escape, has fled from the city, as from an accursed place. The Pope is still at the Vatican, thanks to the presence of the French regiments, but without the walls his authority is only supported by a rabble of foreign mercenaries under the command of an Algerine General. In all probability, by the time these lines are published, his authority there will be at an end, save in that unfortunate province which with cruel raillery is known as the Patrimony of St. Peter. This province contains not quite half a million of inhabitants, divided thus:—Rome and Comarca, 326,509; Civita Vecchia, 20,701; Viterbo, 125,324. Elsewhere within the Pontifical States, fervet opus, the work of the deliverer is proceeding fast. A week ago the Sardinians entered the Pontifical States in force, and took Pesaro. Although it seems likely that General Lamoricière may make a brief stand, he is opposed to a power which, with reference to any force of which he can dispose, is irresistible. Victor Emmanuel already speaks in the tone of what our French neighbours would call the “master of the situation.” He tells the deputation from Umbria and the Marches that he is prepared to rid Central Italy of one continual cause of trouble and discord—to wit, the Pope. “I intend,” he adds, “to respect the seat of the Chief of the Church, to whom I am ever ready to give, in accordance with the allied and friendly Powers, all the guarantees of independence and security which his misguided advisers have in vain hoped to obtain for him from the fanaticism of the wicked sect which conspires against my authority, and against the liberties of the nation.” Pretty strong language this, considering that His Holiness is the object of the rebuke! In a very few days, from the Alps to Reggio there will be a single King of Italy, who, in addition to his dominions on the mainland, will rule over the two noble islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Venetia, and the Patrimony of St. Peter, are the only two blots upon this fair picture. What next? The men of impulse and enthusiasm are of opinion that the time has come for completing the work. Politicians of a more thoughtful and forecasting turn of mind would have Victor Emmanuel throw down his bâton in the lists, and declare that for the time enough is done. Let him consolidate his work. Before the Lombard campaign of last year a calculation was made by the French military authorities as to the amount of force which would be necessary in order that Italy, when single-handed, might maintain a combat with Austria upon an even balance of chances. The result of their calculations was, 200,000 disciplined troops, 20,000 of them cavalry; 500 pieces of field artillery; 200 siege guns; and these field guns would require at the least 50,000 draught horses. The Frenchmen said that the indispensable and preliminary condition of raising and maintaining such a force was ten years of independence. In a struggle between an established Government and a nation, as M. de Sismondi fairly enough says, the former has many advantages, such as rapidity of information, soldiers, arsenals, fortresses, finances, credit, and rapidity of communication. The Lombard campaign was essentially a duel between Austria and France. The result proves nothing as far as the chances of a contest between Austria and unaided Italy are concerned. The friends of Italian independence look with apprehension to the next move in this great game.

Since Garibaldi landed in Sicily well nigh every telegram from southern Italy, has been the record of a miracle. At the trumpet’s blast, the walls of fenced cities have fallen down. Armies have melted away—fleets have been as though they were not. Dominion has passed away like a dream from the last of the Neapolitan Bourbons. Francis II. ran away from his capital, with a bad joke upon his lips. “Your and our Don Peppino is at the gates,” was his Sicilian Majesty’s sublime remark to the national guards just before his departure. The royal jest was not very dignified, but it contained a good deal of truth. Had Garibaldi entered Naples at one end with a carpet-bag in his hand, the king must have quitted it at the other. Precisely the same thing might have been said of every Italian ruler, save in so far as Austrian and French bayonets kept him in his place. There has been a general idea in England that the Italian governments were bad, but no one who has not lived in Italy some time between 1819 and 1859, knows how bad they were—how cruel and oppressive to the people. But of all these governments the Pope’s was the worst—it was the very worst in Europe. Now that Garibaldi has purged the Two Sicilies of the Bourbons, we may cease to speak, or to write of the atrocities they committed during the last forty years of their rule. De mortuis—speak good, or say nothing of the dead. But the Pope is still alive as a ruler, and as some weak-minded individuals may still have qualms of conscience as to the propriety of expunging his name from the list of European princes, we would say a few words about his doings, and the doings of his predecessors. In the Papal States, until 1859, with the exception of the rich country immediately about Bologna, the soil was out of cultivation; the roads were infested with brigands. There was no commerce. As Massimo D’Azeglio wrote,—“That part of Italy, placed on two seas, on the high road to the East, rich in minerals, with a most fertile soil, inhabited by a population on whom Providence has bountifully bestowed quickness, foresight, energy, strength and boldness; has two such harbours as Ancona and Civita Vecchia empty.” There was universal misery—the want of food, of clothing, of shelter. The prisons were full of state prisoners who had in any way given umbrage to the priests. There were spies at every corner; and every confessional contained a spy, who could extract from a man’s nearest relation, revelations, or suggestions which were worked to his destruction. With regard to the prisoners, sometimes their very existence was forgotten. If ever the person accused was brought to trial—we speak of political offenders—he was never confronted with the witnesses who appeared against him—the names were never revealed to him. The court which had pre-determined his ruin, assigned to him a nominal defender—his most dangerous adversary. Torture was used to extract confession, as may be seen in an edict published by Cardinal Antonelli, on the 30th of July, 1855. Besides what was done by the immediate agents of the Pope, Austria took a great share of bloody work off his hands. Papal subjects were taken in batches before the Austrian courts-martial, and dealt with according to the amenities of Austrian military law. It has been clearly established, and the English Consul at Ferrara at the time knew the facts, that in the beginning of the year 1853, political prisoners of the Pope were tortured by the Austrian jailors. They were beaten, they were starved; they were bent in the form of hoops; they were informed that a firing party was waiting for them; they were kept without sleep, and in the middle of the night their keepers would come in and shake a hook and a halter before their eyes. The country was governed by foreigners,—Spaniards, Frenchmen, Germans. The collection of the common taxes cost 31 per cent; of the revenue derived from salt and tobacco, 46 per cent.; from the lotto, 62 per cent. In nine years’ time, between 1848—57, 1,000,000l. was paid to foreign troops for keeping down, and—occasion arising—butchering the Pope’s subjects. From 1814 to 1857, the sum of the papal revenues had amounted to 75,500,000l.: all of which has been wrung from the wretched inhabitants of the country, being other than priests, and the owners and holders of ecclesiastical property. There is no commerce—no trade, no manufactures in this unfortunate country; and as taxation scarcely touches the principal landed proprietors, the condition of less considerable persons may be imagined. The river Po threatens continually to overflow.

The acknowledged project of the French Ruler is to reduce the Pope to the condition of the Ecclesiastical Emperor of Japan—leaving Victor Emmanuel to be the actual Sovereign of Italy. What his real projects may be he scarcely knows himself. At the present moment it is clear that the presence of the French troops in Rome, and in the Patrimony of St. Peter’s, constitutes the chief—nay, the only obstacle to the liberation of Italy from Reggio to the Mincio. It is a fearful stab in the back from a sovereign who claims to be the Liberator of Italy. So long as the Pope is at Rome, Rome will be the centre of ecclesiastical intrigues extending throughout the Peninsula. So long as the Pope is at Rome, there will always be a pretext for foreign interference. So long as the Pope is at Rome, the spell of Italy’s long slavery is not wholly dissolved. The possession of Rome, in a moral sense, would be worth three successful battles to the Italian cause. As a temporal prince, the Pope has been found wanting, and should be numbered with things which have been, and which must be no more. When this end is achieved, we may have done with the subject; as we have done with the atrocities of the Bourbon at Naples and in Sicily. Happy will that moment be when the Pope and his successors can say with truth to their assailants—“De mortuis.

ERIN GO BRAGH.

There is nothing so long-lived as an idea. Stone and marble decay—other monuments of human greatness are the inheritance of the moth and the worm, but convictions survive the assaults of Time, and of Time’s unwearied agents. A state of things was, therefore it is; it is not, therefore it should be. Circumstances may change—the billows of one moment may be the scattered spray of the next, but certain minds are so constituted that they cannot bend to the evidence of facts. We need not seek far for instances; but the singular pertinacity with which some of our Irish fellow subjects still assert that Ireland is the most oppressed and injured country under heaven, is a curious proof of indifference to the realities of life. At the present moment there is not one spot upon the earth’s surface where there is more real liberty than in Ireland—where men can more freely go where they like, write what they like, do what they like, and say what they like; but, for all that, the Irish are still a persecuted, the English a persecuting people. Until he played fast and loose with the Pope’s interests, Louis Napoleon was a demigod in the eyes of these poor Celtic sufferers. Now, Louis Napoleon would have sent the editor and the whole staff of The Nation to Cayenne, with very little ceremony or trial, within twenty-four hours after publication of one of the usual numbers of that interesting newspaper. If any Frenchman ventured to whisper to his neighbours in a corner one quarter of what any Irishman shouts out from the house-tops in the way of sedition and treason, the tranquillity of many French families would be seriously compromised. If a party of Frenchmen had come over here to present Lord Clyde with a sword on his return from India, and had done so not without some insinuations as to the superiority of England over France in all the martial virtues, and had interlarded their complimentary address with denunciations of the French Government, what kind of welcome would they have received on their return to their native country? Daniel O’Connell had much truth on his side when he was struggling for Catholic emancipation, and many true pictures he drew of Irish misery when speaking of the Irish peasant of his day. All this is changed, but the Irish cuckoo still gives forth her monotonous note when all occasion for it is gone. Tom Moore has a great deal to answer for. He it was who first invested mourning Ireland with the garb of poetry. The notion was that of a beautiful young woman, with pale skin and dark hair, rather tall, imperfectly clad, sitting by a waterfall, and playing on a harp in most mournful fashion. Sometimes the young lady was a widow, sometimes a lovely but sorrowful virgin. In either case ruthless oppressors had burned her modest house to the ground, and butchered all her nearest relatives without any show of justice. Who that had a man’s heart within him would not be willing to take a young lady’s part under these distressing circumstances? Imagine your own wife, your sister, or your daughter, sitting in tears by the waterfall in question, and playing on a little harp a series of airs in minor keys, and surely you would be sorry for her. It is a great pity when a nation selects such a type as this as emblematic of their aspirations and condition. Irishmen have walked about the world with their hands in their pockets in a state of sorrow for this pale young woman; and then voted her to be nothing more nor less than their native land. On the whole it seems probable that if you could induce a people to adopt some bird, beast, or fish, as their national symbol, they would gradually conform their methods of thought and aspirations to what might be supposed to be the thoughts and aspirations of the animal selected as their model or example. An Englishman likes to act in a taurine manner because he is John Bull. A stunted French corporal quivers with emotion under trying circumstances when he reflects that he is bound to emulate the actions of an eagle.

Passing from mere animal to human types, a citizen of the United States will think himself justified in adopting very astute measures for the furtherance of his private fortunes by reference to an imaginary Uncle Jonathan—a sallow, hard-featured man—with an eternal wink. Thus it is with our Irish fellow-subjects. Nothing can knock this pestilent harp and pale young woman out of their heads. Ireland is still a weeping female, and England a cruel husband who, under the improved state of the law, should be committed for six months to prison with hard labour, and be bound over to keep the peace.

How Marshal MacMahon, who, despite of his Irish descent is a Frenchman to the backbone, must have been puzzled with this sword, and still more with the address with which it was accompanied! Never since the days of Brian Boroimhe was there ever such an Irish sword as this. It was made of Irish steel, and ornamented with Irish tracery copied expressly from specimens in the Irish Academy at Dublin. The hilt was of bog-oak, ornamented with Irish amethysts, beryls, and precious stones. On one side is the figure of a harper striking his harp; then there is a round tower, a sunburst, and of course shamrocks in great profusion. On the other side of the scabbard there is the figure of an Irish gallowglass drawing his sword, and a carved cross after the model of the ancient stone crosses of Ireland. Indeed, beyond a shillelagh and a pig—or, as it is called in Ireland, a “slip,”—we know not what other emblem could be selected as illustrative of Irish life. To be sure, there might have been a sample of a waxy potato on one side of the scabbard, and a mealy specimen of the same admirable esculent upon the other, and the sword would have been perfectly well decorated. It would not be fair, however, to omit all mention of the inscription, which is in Irish and French characters. For the convenience of the general reader we confine ourselves to the French version:

L’Irelande opprimée au brave soldat Patrice Maurice de MacMahon, Maréchal de France, Duc de Magenta, descendant de ses anciens Rois.

The slight shown to the English language is so painful to one’s feelings that it is really not to be spoken or thought about. Imagine a French deputation to come over to England for the purpose of presenting a beautifully bound copy of the Chancery Reports to the present Master of the Rolls on the ground that he is a descendant of a refugee family who escaped from the tyranny of Louis XIV. after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes—and on the fly-leaf let the inscription be seen—

Oppressed France to the keen-witted judge, The Right Honourable Sir John Romilly, Knt., Master of the Rolls, the descendant of former French fugitives from former French tyrants.

Only let the experiment be tried, and let the deputation set their feet again for five minutes on French soil, and we should speedily see on which side of the narrow seas Liberty has fixed her abiding place.

MURDER WILL OUT.

It would have been of most dangerous consequence to the community if two such murders as those which have recently been perpetrated at Road, and at Stepney, had passed undetected. To say that the murderer does not take the chance of impunity into account, is to say that which is directly contrary to the experience of all persons who have been engaged in the detection and punishment of crime. Save in those cases where murder is the result of a certain outburst of passion or jealousy, the murderer calculates his chances of escape as coolly as a chess-player would take into account the probabilities of a game. The wretched young shoemaker who slew his sweetheart the other day on account of a lover’s quarrel, of course cared but little whether he was taken or not. Life to his distempered fancy was a burden of which he was anxious to rid himself, and he walked red-handed through the public streets after the commission of the crime, without making any effort to save himself. The Irish Ribbon murderer, however, took chances into account. As soon as the probabilities of his escape from the hands of the police fell to zero, he gave up the contest in despair. The ordinary burglar has ceased to murder, as well as to rob the premises into which he has made his way, for he well knows that he will soon feel the tap of the policeman on his shoulder, with a hint that he is “wanted” for that last business in which he was engaged, and he has no desire to run the risk of forfeiting his life for the higher offence. Well-nigh all the great murders—the causes célèbres of blood in our day—have been most deliberately planned, and carried out with every circumstance of cool premeditation. Think of Rush and his attack upon Mr. Jermy’s house; the murderer had made his preparations just as a soldier would who was about to attack a hostile fort. Think of Palmer, and his purchases of strychnine. This fellow walked about London all day—and whilst dabbling in horse business, contrived to slip into the chemist’s shop where he bought the deadly poison, and went down by train with his victim’s life in his pocket. When the Mannings invited their friend down-stairs to wash his hands in the back kitchen, his grave was already dug in the scullery. They had worked at it for days and nights beforehand. It is not reasonable to suppose that where murderers use so much forethought upon all the details of their crime, they do not take the chances of impunity into account. All their precautions are indeed directed to securing for themselves as many chances of impunity as possible.

The Road murder is still vested in impenetrable mystery. Sir George Lewis, no doubt, exercised a most wise discretion in declining to make the mystery a pretext for the issue of a special commission, which was to take evidence in the matter according to some fashion not in use amongst our criminal lawyers. If the administration of the criminal law can be improved, let these improvements be at once introduced for the benefit of all. Let us not hear of exceptional proceedings in any case simply because it is surrounded with mystery, and because public feeling is much excited upon it. This is just one of the instances in which persons accused, or suspected, require all the protection which the forms of law can throw around them, unless we wish to revive the days of the Star Chamber, and of High Commissions. There is happily one person whose assistance can almost always be depended upon in the detection of murder, and that is—the murderer himself. That wretched sot Manning, when at the little inn at Jersey, would turn the conversation every evening in the tap-room upon the subject of the murder in which he had been engaged, until at last suspicion fell upon him, and he was taken. It is hard for a murderer not to do too much or too little. It is difficult to walk about with such a burden at your heart, and to look your fellows in the face as if it was not there!

What an instance of this we have in this man Mullins, if it should, after all, turn out that he is the murderer of Mrs. Elmsley. There was no reason why he should speak. He had only to hold his tongue, and apparently he was safe, if he had also taken common precautions to place any articles which he had abstracted from the house in proper places for concealment. All circumstances as they stand at present tell fearfully against him. He leads the police to an outhouse in which, according to his own statement, he had seen the man Emms deposit a packet at a certain hour. He points out the very spot in which the packet was deposited, when the police had begun to flag in their researches. He states an hour at which he saw Emms place the packet there; at that hour it is proved that Emms was in his bed. The packet, when opened, did actually contain various articles which must have been taken from Mrs. Elmsley’s house after the murder. It was tied with an end of waxed string, and with the very same kind of waxed string were tied the very shoes which he had on his feet at the time the search was made. No doubt, now that suspicion—or something more—is fixed upon a particular man, many suggestions will be made, and many points will be inquired into, which will effectually allay all doubts as to his guilt or innocence. On the whole, it seems more probable that it was less the desire to obtain the reward, than a nervous anxiety to see the responsibility of the crime fixed upon another man, which induced Mullins to give to the police that information which has told with such fearful effect against himself.

LA GLOIRE.

The transcendant importance of the subject must be an excuse for adding a few words to the statements which we made last week about the new iron French ship of war. When we say of iron, it is meant that she is protected all over with an iron cuirass, which renders her impenetrable to shot or shell. For a long time the French naval authorities had maintained a strict silence upon the subject. Indeed, they had done something more, for they had actually taken pains to cast discredit upon the efforts of their own engineers. They have now thrown off the mask with a witness, and brag of their triumph in terms which can leave no doubt that, to their own apprehension, the vessel is a most complete and assured triumph of the naval engineer’s art. Let us take this matter seriously into account; for, if true, it means nothing less than the necessity for an entire re-construction of the British navy. Here are a few notes of her dimensions and performances. La Gloire is 250 feet long, by 51 wide. At the height of six feet above the water, she has a battery of thirty-four guns of the most powerful kind. On the forecastle she has two long-range pieces; on the quarter-deck an iron redoubt, to protect the commander during action. Her speed has reached 13 1-10 knots over measured ground. On a ten hours’ trip, her average rate was 12 31-100 knots, with all fires lighted; with half-fires, 11 knots. She pitches gently in a sea, and rolls with regularity. A proof that our neighbours are in dire earnest in this matter is, that they are actually constructing six or seven ships upon the same model. The hesitation of the English Admiralty to engage in experiments of so costly a kind is intelligible enough; but a time arrives at last when an improvement of this sort in marine architecture ceases to be an experiment. Our people say that they have instituted experiments at the various ports as to the degree of resistance which iron plates can offer to a well-directed fire, and that the results have not been such as to encourage them to follow in the steps of France. But is it so clear that one of these iron-cuirassed vessels would ever be exposed to such a fire as that which is experimentally directed against these masses of iron plates? May not their resistance be enough for all practical purposes, although they cannot withstand these crucial tests? If La Gloire is a mistake, of course there is no harm done; but if she be really a success, the dominion of the seas is no longer ours until we are prepared to avail ourselves of these new improvements in naval architecture.