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churches) considered as branches of business, and
even taken, as it were, upon lease ?

Beggary, in the form in which it is met with in
most of the towns of Italy, does not increase chris-
tian affection, but leads, through its excess, to hard-
ness of heart ; otherwise it would not be possible
that persons afflicted with the most grievous diseases
could be left to wallow in their misery on the same
spot for years together. And just as false as that
this beggary encourages charity is the assertion,
that mendicity and distress were ever done away
with by means of alms given to street-beggars.

A people that piques itself so much on its sense
of beauty ought not to be wholly regardless of the
aesthetic side of the matter, and by no means to put
forward every where that which is disgusting. Just
in front of the king's palace here a fellow stations
himself, who exhibited a large tumour, the sight of
which made me spring aside in disgust. Of christian
charity (I will not deny it) I felt in these moments


not a single spark, but far more inclination to lay
my cane about the shoulders of the impudent

In another part of his book, Rotondo says, that
in London 20,000 infants are annually exposed. I
know not who can have told him so wholly false
and incredible a story, and hope that my state-
ments relative to Italian foundlings may not con-
tain similar errors. From Florence I have received
the following supplementary information : At the
end of 1838, the foundling hospital there (for about
I of Tuscany) supported 7600 children, 3400 of
whom, according to one computation, were illegiti-
mate, the others born in wedlock. The number of
the children annually exposed amounts to about
1200. The mortality, formerly as high as 80 per
cent., has decreased since the pay for nursing has
been raised, that is to say, since the expenses have
been greatly augmented. In Naples there were
exposed in the year



of whom died 1471










Christian love is as mistakenly applied in the case
of foundling hospitals as in that of street-beggary.
Instead of repeating my oft-expressed sentiments on
this subject, I shall merely quote the defence set up
by a lady. " But for the founding hospital," said
she, " a girl who has had a child could not conceal


the loss of her chastity, and so could not get a hus-
band." This idea, that governments ought, by
pubhc institutions, to provide a concealment for
unchastity, that an innocent bridegroom may be
the more easily duped, was to me new and unex-
pected. Setting aside that, in this manner, bad
means are employed for an assumed good end, and
that lying is almost made the foundation of matri-
mony, the principal object is not attained, because
there, where such lying and such concealment are
impracticable, the mother far more frequently, and
in virtue of right and nature, marries the father of
her child, and then it has incomparably better
attendance than in those great privileged institu-
tions for wholesale murder, called foundling hos-


Sicily — Constitution — Administration.

Naples, August 1st.
No person of understanding and natural unso-
phisticated feeling can listen without deep sympa-
thy to the complaints of the Irish, when descanting
on what their beloved country might be and what it
is. The grief of the Sicilians and their friends
must be still greater, if possible : for on the tragic
back-ground to the picture of the present we see, at


the same time, what Sicily once was, how highly
cultivated the country, how extensive the intellec-
tual development, how active the industry. And
though men, in their supine indifference, would pass
these over in silence, the very stones would pro-
claim them in giant characters : Te saxa loquuntur.

Whence this deplorable falling off? Once the
granary of Rome, now frequently suffering want
itself; deserts, instead of cultivated fields; naked,
parched tracts, instead of luxuriant groves ; and
prostrate columns and temples, as the only objects
of attention, inquiry, and admiration : while the
present exhibits nothing but dark shadows brooding
over the whole, to render the picture still more
gloomy and awful by the contrast.

Whence this deplorable falling off, since Sicily
has not, like Asia Minor, been ruled for a series of
ages, and crushed to the ground by savage hordes ;
since the Mohamedan crescent has but transiently
touched this christian country ; since intellectual
cultivation was roused from a short slumber so
early as the 12th and 13th century, and among its
rulers there were some capable, like Frederick II.,
to direct generations into new tracks ; since the
constitution never lost its significance, (as in Naples)
and the sea afforded protection from so many an-
noyances and dangers to which the continent was
exposed ?

The riddle becomes still more difficult of solu-


tion when we fix our eyes upon the last fifty years,
and compare the fortunes of Sicily with those of
Naples. The latter suffered from revolutions, wars,
military contributions, stagnation of trade, sacrifices
for foreign objects, &c. Sicily, on the other hand,
was protected from these evils, benefited by the
presence of the court, of which it had been so long
deprived, gained large sums by a free trade, and
the presence of the English raised the prices of its
productions, the value of its land, &c.

Notwithstanding its sufferings, Naples has been
an essential gainer in various respects, by the modi-
fication of many unseasonable laws, a more free
and rapid circulation of money, the sale of the
crown-lands and the possessions of the convents, &c.;
while, in Sicily, after the conclusion of peace, many
things were left on a much worse footing than in

Some deny the existence of any evils in Sicily,
and call all complaints unfounded, because some in-
dividual improvements have taken place (for in-
stance, in roads and harbours) and the population
has here and there increased. Others deny all ad-
vances, because not only are these counterbalanced
on deducting the retrograde steps, but a general
deterioration is manifest. Without entering into
these fractional calculations of plus and minus, it is
sufficient in this introduction to ray communica-
tions to declare this truth : that the state of Sicily


aod the relations of the country to Naples are ex-
tremely defective, because the feeling, the convic-
tion, of this defectiveness is as lively as it is general
in Sicily ; and because the two principal divisions
of the kingdom manifest a mutual aversion, hatred,
contempt, which, without speedy and efficacious
remedy and amendment, must dissolve and destroy
even the healthiest state.

Whose fault is this ? Each portion of the
kingdom throws the blame on the other, the Neapo-
htans on the Sicilians, the Sicihans on the Neapoli-
tans, the government on the people, the people on
the king and his ministers. The philosopher may
know a priori^ the historian may conclude before-
hand from numberless facts, that all are to blame,
but in what greater or less degree is to be ascer-
tained only from an examination of details.

There are two questions which I shall not an-
swer in this place, but merely propose, because
they can be repeated at each individual subject,
and serve for a sort of guide or touchstone. Has
Sicily gained or lost more from having lain beyond
the reach of the great political movements of the
latest times, and escaped the sufferings, the efforts,
the training, the purgatory, to which almost all
other nations have been exposed ? Has Naples de-
rived from all these circumstances the advantage of
a real regeneration of rulers and of people ; or are
the former still proceeding at random as they did


before, and is the latter just what it was in the
groundwork of character and disposition ?

As many a medical school reduces all diseases
and all remedies to a few principal forms, so the
present time refers the diseases and the remedies of
the social system chiefly to the forms of the consti-
tution. Let us, then, first turn to this. Ever
since the middle ages there has subsisted in Sicily a
constitution essentially founded on the three well-
known estates, nobility, clergy, and towns. This
natural, commendable, primitive form, soon sickened
of the usual diseases.

In the first place, namely, the kings mostly saw
in it only a bar to their arbitrary authority, or to their
enlightened good-will ; and they found means to
reduce the activity and the influence of the states
almost to nothing. But where,

Secondly, this influence still manifested itself, it
was generally but partial and pernicious, owing to
the vast preponderance of the first two estates, and
the inadequate, defective representation of the third
estate. By far the greatest part of the landed pro-
perty was in the hands of the nobility and clergy,
and, moreover, almost entirely withdrawn from the
operation of any beneficial movement by ecclesias-
tical laws, feoffments of trust, majorats, entails, &c.
The first-born were the principal heirs, and, never-
theless, very frequently exhausted their property by
senseless profusion and recklessly running in debt.

VOL. II. o


They rarely resided in the country, and still more
rarely took upon themselves the management of
their estates. Even the younger sons of the no-
bility scarcely ever embraced a really productive
profession, but became, with few exceptions, advo-
cates, soldiers, or monks.

About the end of the 18th century, then, the
constitution was wholly inactive, or in a pernicious
activity, and the views of the government coincided
in no respect with those of the nobility and the
clergy. The former wished to introduce the new
military, financial, and administrative system ; the
latter to keep up all privileges, the ancient feudal
and ecclesiastical system, the immoveability of
landed property, the strict dependence of the people,
&c. Opinions might differ as to the advantages of
the one or the other system ; but certainly it was
impossible to let both subsist together in their full
extent, or to combine them with one another.

After the removal of the court to Sicily, these in-
tentions manifested themselves more and more de-
cidedly, and it was regarded by the aristocracy as
its greatest and most dangei'ous enemy. As the
English, then in Sicily, were also frequently dis-
satisfied with the court, the grandees solicited their
aid against the king and the governnient : they
imagined that a constitution modelled after that of
England must give them, in opposition to the
king, a far greater power, the power of the upper


house. The English favoured this idea, partly
from preference of their own constitution, partly
because they hoped in this way to conciliate not
only the nobility, but all the inhabitants of Sicily.
The latter, in fact, rejoiced at the prospect of
emerging from their previous nullity ; they hoped
(small as the beginning was) to open for themselves
a more influential career ; and all, in short, were
satisfied that a complete political separation from
Naples should once more be pronounced.

Thus, with the co-operation of Lord AVilliam
Bentinck, was framed the constitution of 1812,
with an elective lower house, and an upper house
composed of barons and bishops.

In the same proportion, however, as all the other
estates hoped to gain, the king and the queen con-
ceived that they themselves should lose. The
former, in displeasure, resigned the government to
his son on the 16th of January, 1812, and the
queen fell out so seriously with the English, that
she quitted Sicily, and proceeded, by way of Con-
stantinople, to Vienna. This evident dissatisfaction,
this complete retirement of the king and queen, was
extremely injurious to the infant, unconsolidated
constitution. Misunderstandings and intrigues daily
sprang up ; among the appai-ently harmonious dis-
cord arose, and the great difficulty of habituating
themselves to an entirely new system of social rela-
tions was not less felt by the Sicilians than by



Other nations. The nobility conceived that, in the
third estate, or in the second chamber, a far more
formidable enemy than the king was growing up
against them ; and, while some of the leaders of the
upper house loudly recommended judicious com-
pliance, others saw in the unconditional rejection of
every proposal the only means of salvation. Many
liberals were not less discordant, hot-headed, and
inexperienced : and thus an arena for passions of
every kind was opened to pamphleteers and news-

Scarcely a single resolution of the lower house
(for instance on feoffments of trust, taxes on feudal
property, agriculture, corn trade, the government
of towns, &c.) received the confirmation of the upper
house. As then the general improvements and ad-
vantages which had been so ardently expected were
not realized, the people became indifferent to the
new constitution, and many in superior stations lost
their confidence in it ; while but very few recom-
mended perseverance, moderation, and patience, and
argued that it was wrong to hope to reap in a few
weeks that harvest which would require years to
grow and to ripen.

This state of things in Sicily, as well as that in
other countries of Europe, enable us to compre-
hend how the king, after his restoration in De-
cember, 1816, could abolish both the old and the
new Sicilian constitution without resistance, nay,


even without much contradiction. But we must
not forget that at the same time important pro-
mises were given, that in Sicily none but Sicilians
should receive appointments, and that the highest
offices should be divided between them and the
Neapolitans in proportion to the population. At
court and in the army only, no strict separation was
to take place. The feudal system should continue
to be abolished, and new taxes should not be im-
posed without the consent of the parliament. The
viceroy of Sicily should be a member of the royal
family, or a distinguished personage.

Though these promises seemed to favour Sicily
in various respects, yet many scruples arose in the
very first moment. Does the appointment of the
higher officers according to the population (|: to f ),
afford the Sicilians a sufficient guarantee that their
national wishes and aims will ever be accomplished .''
What is the meaning of " The feudal system is
abolished ?''' Where, after the abrogation of the
old and the new constitution, is a parliament to be
found ? How will it be formed ? Will one be called ?
Why is it not said that the distinguished personage
who is to be appointed viceroy of Sicily must al-
ways be a Sicilian ? &c.

It is certain that, for some years, nothing whatever
was done for the formation of a constitution ; and
by this equalization with Naples the Sicilians
deemed their rights invaded, and felt their national


pride hurt. But this was not all : the system of
administration, instead of diminishing this discon-
tent, only created new subjects of dissatisfaction,
and manifested opposite wishes and tendencies. The
Neapolitan government, namely, retained in the
kingdom of Naples many institutions given by the
French, in an arbitrary manner, it is true, but yet
for the promotion of greater civil liberty and
equality ; and these institutions it purposed to in-
troduce in Sicily. This excited great discontent in
the first and second estates, which were anxious to
preserve all the old feudal prerogatives ; and much
as the tenor of the laws might please the friends of
innovation, still they sided in many points with the
opponents of the government. An outcry was
raised that the latter, (notwithstanding its loudly
declared enmity to every thing French,) partici-
pated in, nay, outdid, the Gallic rage for centrali-
zation, and meant, as it were by right of conquest,
to place Sicily in every respect on the same footing
as Naples. Why not leave untouched the institu-
tions which had subsisted for ages in Sicily, as no-
thing was more dreaded there than a subordination
to Naples ? Wherefore this equalization, this inter-
ference of the authorities in everything whatever,
this restrictive superintendence over the communes,
this imposition of new burdens before the removal
of the old, at a time when the country was suffer-


ing from the derangement of trade, and the prices
of all produce were falling ?

Such were the views and dispositions at the mo-
ment when the revolution of the year 1820 broke
out in Naples. It showed that, in Sicily, under
grievances of the same kind, very different opi-
nions prevailed as to the means by which they were
to be remedied and how they were to be prevented
for the future. On one grand point only all were
agreed — that Sicily had full right to a constitution,
and that government ought not by an arbitrary re-
solution to deprive country and people of this in-
estimable good. Very few thought of a restoration
of the old constitution ; while to most such an ultra-
conservative predilection for what was acknowledged
to be faulty appeared extremely irrational. Some
members of the first estates felt that it was neces-
sary to concede something, at least, to the wants
and wishes of the time, and would now have been
willing to accept the constitution of 1812, which
they had before detested ; but many were no longer
satisfied with this, though the hberals by no means
coincided in their plans. A party, namely, (pre-
dominant in Palermo,) insisted on the perfect in-
dependence of Sicily, and rejected the Spanish con-
stitution not solely on account of its defects, but
because it was forced upon them by Naples, and
changed the ancient, independent, separate king-
dom into a mere province, of the same cut and


fashion as all other provinces. A second party,
(predominant in Messina) demanded, on the con-
trary, the adoption of the Spanish constitution,
partly out of opposition to Palermo, partly because
they would rather enter into connection with Naples
than remain dependent on the Sicilian barons.

After the victory of the Austrians at Rieti, and
the return of the king to Naples, all these plans fell
to the ground, and not a syllable has since been
said about a separate state and a constitution.
For the introduction of the Neapolitan municipal
and district regulations was regarded by the Sici-
lians as an abridgment or an annihilation of greater
rights ; and there is nothing but a law of the 19th
of December, 1838, by which the feudal system is
again abolished, that belongs in part to that politi-
cal sphere. What had been several times pre-
scribed, but hitherto mostly evaded, was at length
to be carried into execution on a large scale. In
the preamble to that law it is said: "Agriculture
cannot flourish without such an unconditional pro-
perty in land that any third person may be forbid-
den to set foot upon it. Land acquires value only
where there are many wealthy cultivators, whom at-
tachment to the property binds to the soil. The
extensive, bare, desert, uncultivated tracts, which
are to be found in Sicily, (notwithstanding its na-
tural fertility and the favourable climate,) cannot
be improved so long as there are several masters of
the same soil."


Agreeably to this view, new ordinances follow,
which favour more speedy and suitable divisions of
common properties. The very extensive posses-
sions of those churches of which the king is patron
were to be treated according to the general direc-
tions and let. Though this law cannot yet have
come into full operation in the space of a few
months, and has on one side to encounter great
difficulties, still it prepares the way for essential
improvements, and will gain the merited approba-
tion which is always awarded to similar measures,
though opposed at the outset.

After the constitution of Sicily had been abo-
lished, the inhabitants retained only a separate ad-
ministration, independent of the Neapolitan autho-
rities, over which they watched with redoubled vi-
gilance, insomuch that every trifling alteration which
has been made for years appeared to them an in-
dication of greater danger. This apprehension was
not unnatural, and it has been fulfilled. For the
sake of brevity, I pass over the former regulations
and communicate only the principal clauses of the
law of 1837, by which the Sicihan administration
is completely blended with the Neapolitan. It is
therein said : The separation up to this time of the
administration has not been productive of the ex-
pected benefits, whereas it is to be presumed that
an opposite system will operate most advanta-
geously for jurisprudence, finances, public opinion,

o 5


the rallying of all around the throne, &c. In future,
therefore, the king will fill all temporal and spiri-
tual offices in all parts of his dominions at pleasure
with Neapolitans or Sicilians ; and, upon the
whole, give as many appointments to the former in
Sicily as to the latter in Naples, Moreover, there
shall not be separate ministers or ministries either
in Sicily or in Naples, for either country ; on the
contrary, all business shall be transacted by the minis-
ters of state appointed for the whole kingdom, and
commands shall he sent by them to Sicily, and reports
addressed to them from Sicily. It will be sufficient
to assign to the viceroy in Palernio certain subordi-
nate assistants for the different branches of the ad-

Whether such an administration of the whole
kingdom from a single centre is to be preferred to
several more localized administrations, is not to be
decided generally and a priori. Every system,
namely, has in general its light and its dark side, and
the preponderance of arguments will turn this way
or that, according to country, manners, sentiments,
wishes, &;c.

It is certain that the majority of the Sicilians re-
gard the new regulation as a new loss, dread the
partiality and the ignorance of the remote autho-
rities^ call the pretended simplification of business a
double scribbling in which a deal of time is wasted,
and deem the boasted removal of Sicilians to Naples,


held forth as a bait, no gain but an essential loss.
The officers, it is said, will hereby be transformed
into slaves, and compelled to part from country,
property, relatives, friends, whenever a minister
takes it into his head to send them arbitrarily now
to one place and then to another.

In those countries where not merely the remove-
ability, but the arbitrary removeability of all officers
is defended, these notions of the Sicilians will be
called antiquated, or even silly or absurd. But have
they not their natural, noble, human side, and is it
not rather a mere superstition of the present day
that the more one undermines and extirpates the
natural, the noble, and the human ; the more one
converts the public officer into a will-less wheel of
the compHcated machine — the more perfect is the
supreme direction of the government and on the
better fooling are the social relations of humanity.?
Truly wise and just governments do not grasp at
such abstractions ; but know how to reconcile the
general welfare, in this point also, with the wishes
and comfort of individuals.


Sicily -Population — Exemption from forced Levies of Soldiers
— Gendarmerie — Police.

Naples, August 2nd.
Ox looking over my last letter, I find in it more
shade than light ; and besides we shall yet have to


travel through other dark countries. I should hke,
therefore, to seek up and to introduce some lighter

The population has certainly increased of late
years, perhaps more than in Naples ; it now amounts
to about two millions. Such an increase, however,
as I have already observed is not always a proof
of increasing prosperity ; and many will shake their
heads when they learn that in this population are
numbered 127 princes, 78 dukes, 130 marquesses,
inimmerable counts, 28,000 monks, and 18,000
nuns.* Proportionately great (partly through ac-

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Online LibraryFriedrich von RaumerItaly and the Italians (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 22)