John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

Joseph Bonaparte online

. (page 6 of 19)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 6 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


brigands, the Neapolitan troops, emboldened by
the presence and protection of the French army,
displayed very commendable courage.

While engaged in these warlike operations,
through his able generals, Joseph was much
occupied with the employment, more congenial
to him, of conducting the interior administra-
tion. It was his first endeavor to eradicate
every vestige of the old despotism of feudalism
a system perhaps necessary in its day, but
which time had outgrown. The whole pohti-



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 117



Success of the new Measures.



cal edifice was laid upon the foundation of the
absolute equality of rights of all the citizens a
principle until then unknown in Naples. There-
had been no gradations in society. There were
a few families of extreme opulence, enjoying:
rank and exclusive privileges, and then came
the almost beggared masses, with no incentives
to exertion. The enervating climate induced
indolence. Life could be maintained with but
little clothing, and but little food. The cities
and villages swarmed with half-clad multitudes,
vegetating in a joyless existence.

Joseph gave his earnest attention to rousing
the multitude from this apathy. He thought
that one of the most important means to awaken
a love of industry was to make these poor peo-
ple, as far as possible, landed proprietors. The
man who owns land, though the portion may
be small, is almost resistlessly impelled to cul-
tivate it. His ambition being thus roused, his
intellectual and social condition becomes amel-
iorated, and he is prepared to take part, as a
citizen, in the administration of affairs. A new
division of territory was created into provinces
and districts, in which the prominent men, who
were imbued with the spirit of reform, were
appointed to the administration of local inter



118 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



Ancient Corruptions.



ests. Still many of the old nobility struggled
hard to maintain their feudal power. But res-
olutely Joseph proceeded in laying the foun*
dations of a national representation, derived
from popular election, which should be the or-
gan of the whole nation, to make known to the
King the wishes and necessities of the people.

This was an immense stride in the direction
of a popular government It endangered the
feudal privilege, which upheld the throne and
the castle, in other lands. Hence it was that
the throne and the castle combined to over-
throw institutions so republican in their ten-
dencies.

The whole system of administration had
been awfully corrupt Justice was almost un-
known. All the tribunals were concentrated
in the city of Naples. There were tens of
thousands of prisoners, very many for political
offenses, awaiting trial. In the provinces of
Calabria Joseph appointed judicial commissions
to attend to these cases. In three months about
five thousand prisoners had a hearing. Many
of them had been detained over twenty years.
Not a few were incarcerated through malicious
accusations. Those guilty of some slight of-
fense were imprisoned with assassins, all alike



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 119

Prisou Reform. Financial Reform.

exposed to the damp of dungeons and infected
air.

A system of very effective prison reform
was immediately established by Joseph. The
prisoners were placed in apartments large and
well-ventilated. They were separated in ac-
cordance with the nature of the offenses of
which they were accused. Distinct prisons
were appropriated to females. Hospitals were
established for the sick of both sexes, with every
necessary arrangement for the restoration of
health.

A thorough reform was introduced into the
finances. Under the old regime, all had been
confusion and oppression. The only object of
the Government seemed to be to get all it could.
In the country the people often were compel-
led to pay their lords not only money, but also
very onerous personal services. This was all
remedied by the adoption of an impartial sys-
tem of taxation. And it was found that the
new imposts, honestly collected, were far less
oppressive to the people, and more in amount.

The overthrow of the feudal system placed
at the disposal of the State a vast amount of
land which had been uncultivated. This was
divided among a large number of people, who



120 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



Encouragement to Education.



paid for it an annual sum into the treasury.
Thus the welfare of these individuals was great-
ly promoted, and the resources of the State in
creased.

And now Joseph turned his attention to
public instruction. The last Government had
been opposed to education. It had entered into
open warfare against the sciences, prohibiting
the introduction of the most important foreign
publications. Joseph immediately established
schools for primary instruction all over the
realm. Normal schools were organized for the
education of teachers. In the smallest hamlets
teachers were provided to instruct the children
in the elements of the Christian religion, and
school -mistresses, who. in addition to the same
lessons, were to teach the young girls the duties
proper to their sex.

This impulse to education spread rapidly
through all the provinces. The free school*
established in Naples were soon so crowded
that it became necessary to add to their num.
ber. The university at Naples, frowned upon
by the former Government, had fallen into
deep decline. Nineteen chairs of professors
were vacant. Others were occupied, but their
duties quite neglected. The university vras



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 121



Opposition to Reform.



reorganized in accordance with the enlighten-
ment of modern times. New professorships
were endowed in the place of those which had
become useless. Especial efforts were made
to secure learned men for those chairs from
the kingdom of Naples. But education was
at so low an ebb that it was necessary to ob-
tain several professors from abroad. Every-
where a thirst for knowledge seemed to mani-
fest itself.

These reforms were exceedingly popular
with the great majority of the Neapolitans,
But there were not wanting those who opposed
them. There were those of the privileged
class who had been enriched by the ignorance
and debasement of the people. These men
began gradually to develop their opposition.
Joseph had endeavored to employ Neapolitans
as much as possible in the Government. He
employed Frenchmen in the military and civil
service only where he could find no Neapoli-
tans equal to the post. Some of the Neapoli-
tans, jealous of French influence, while also
secretly clinging to ancient abuses, began cau-
tiously the attempt to retard these reforms.
Joseph listened patiently to their objections in
cabinet council, and then said*



122 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



The Fine Arts.



" I have carefully followed a discussion
which relates so intimately to the public wel-
fare. I had hoped to hear reasons. I have
heard only passions. I look in vain for any
indications of love of country in the objections
to the proposed laws. I must say that I see
only the spirit of party."

He then examined, one by one, the objec-
tions which had been brought forward, and
added, " Do you think, gentlemen, that I arn
willing to sustain these exclusive privileges?
We have not destroyed these Gothic institu-
tions, the remnants of barbarism, in order to
reconstruct them under other forms. And
can any of you cherish the thought that this
resistance, which ought to surprise me, can in-
duce me to retrograde toward institutions con-
demned by the spirit of the age ? No ; too
long have the people groaned under the weight
of intolerable abuses. They shall be delivered
from them. If obstacles arise, be assured that
I shall know how to remove them."

The fine arts were also languishing, with
every thing else, under the execrable regime
of the Bourbons of Naples. But the taste for
the fine arts survived their decay. The new
Government instituted schools of art under



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 123



Monasteries.



the direction of the most skillful masters.
Painting, drawing, sculpture, engraving, all re-
ceived a new impulse.

There were difficulties to be encountered in
this attempt to regenerate an utterly depraved
state more than can now be easily imagined.
He who should attempt to erect a modern man-
sion upon the ruins of the Castle of Heidelberg
would find more difficulty in removing the old
foundations than in rearing the new structure.
Thus Joseph found ancient abuses, hallowed
by time, and oppressive institutions interwoven
with the very life of the people, which it was
necessary utterly to abolish or greatly to modi-
fy. The monastic institution was one of these.
The land was filled with gloomy monasteries,
crowded with idle, useless, and often dissolute
monks. There had been in past ages seasons
of persecution, in which the refuge of these
sanctuaries was needed, but the spirit of the
age no longer required them. They had ren-
dered signal service in times of barbarism, but
it was no longer needful for religion to hide in
the obscurity of the cloister.

"Altars," said Joseph, "are now erected in
the interior of families. The regular clergy
respond to the wants of the people. The love



124 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



Debate in the Council.



of the arts and of the sciences, widely dif-
fused, and the colonial, 'commercial, and mili-
tary spirit constrain all the Governments of
Europe to direct to important objects the gen-
ius, activity, and pecuniary resources of their
nations. The support of considerable land
and sea forces involves the necessity of great
reforms in other departments of the general
economy of the State. The first duty of peo-
ples and princes is to place themselves in a
condition of defense against the aggressions of
their enemies. Still we do not forget that we
ought to reconcile these principles with the
respect with which we should cherish those
celebrated places which, in barbaric ages, pre-
served the sacred fire of reason, and which be-
came the de*pot of human knowledge."

The debates upon this subject in the Coun-
cil of State were long and animated. The
peasantry, ignorant and superstitious, clung to
their old prejudices, and could not easily throw
aside the shackles of ages. Many of these re-
ligious communities were wealthy, the recipi-
ents of immense sums bequeathed to them by
the dying. There was no legal right, no right
but that of revolution and the absolute neces-
sities of the State, for wresting this property



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 125



Reform of Monastic Institutions.



from them. But it was manifest to every in-
telligent mind that the Neapolitan kingdom
could never emerge from the stagnation of
semi-barbarism without the entire overthrow
of many, and the radical reform of the remain-
der of these institutions.

At length a law, very carefully matured,
was enacted, suppressing a large number of
these religious orders, and introducing essen-
tial changes into those which were permitted
to survive. The possessions of those which
were abolished, generally consisting of large
tracts of land, reverted to the State, and were
sold at auction in small farms. The money
thus raised helped replenish the bankrupt
treasury. The poor monks, expelled from
their cells, with no habits of industry, and no
means of obtaining a support, received a life
pension, amounting to a little more than one
hundred dollars a year.

The three abbeys of Mount Cassin, Cava,
and Monte Verging contained very consider-
able libraries, and were the depots of impor-
tant records and manuscripts. These were in-
trusted to the keeping of a select number of
the most intelligent monks. It was their duty
to arrange and catalogue the books and manu



126 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



Ecclesiastical Reforms.



scripts, and to search out those works which
could throw light upon the sciences, the arts,
and the past history of the realm. They re-
tained the buildings, the necessary furniture,
and received a small additional stipend.

There were some passes through the mount-
ains which were perilous in the winter season.
Upon these bleak eminences houses of refuge
were erected, to shelter travellers and to help
them on their way. In each of these twenty-
five monks were placed. Their labors were
arduous, as often all the necessaries of life had
to be brought upon their backs from the plains
below. They received a frugal but comfort-
able support.

The salaries of the hard-working clergy
were increased. The vases and ornaments
from the suppressed convents were distributed
among those poorer parishes which were in a
state of destitution. The furniture of the con-
vents was transferred to the civil and military
hospitals. The pictures, bas-reliefs, statuary,
and other objects of art were collected for the
national museum which the King wished to
establish. The mendicant friars, who had suf-
ficient education, were intrusted with the in*
atruction of the children.



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 127



New Public Works.



The number of priests under the old r6-
gime had increased to a degree entirely dis-
proportioned to the wants of the community.
They were consequently wretchedly poor. A
fixed salary was assigned to the rectors, that
they might live respectably, and the ordina-
tions in each diocese were so regulated that
there should be but one priest for about one
thousand souls.

It is not to be supposed that such changes
could be effected without much friction. Not
only bigotry opposed them, but there was a
deep-seated, though unintelligent religious sen-
timent, which remonstrated against them. The
advocates of the old regime availed themselves,
in every possible way, of this sentiment, while
the British fleet, continually hovering around
the coasts, and occasionally landing men at
unguarded points, contributed much toward
keeping the spirit of insurrection alive, and
preventing the tranquillity of the country.

New public works were commenced in the
capital, to employ the idle and starving multi-
tudes there. The country roads, so long in-
fested with robbers, were in a wretched condi-
tion. The entire stagnation of all internal com-
merce had left them unused and almost im-



128 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



New Public Works.



passable. The old roads were repaired, and
new ones vigorously opened. The inhabitants
of the provinces, and even the soldiers who
could be conveniently spared, were employed
in these enterprises. The soldiers, receiving
slight additional pay, cheerfully contributed
their labors. French officers of engineers, of
established ability, superintended these nation-
al works.

King Joseph was but the agent of his bi oth-
er Napoleon. Though himself a man of supe-
rior ability, and imbued with an ardent spirit
of humanity, in these great enterprises he was
carrying out the designs with which the im-
perial mind of his brother was inspired. Thus
the kingdom of Naples, in a few months, under
the reign of Joseph, made more progress than
had been accomplished in scores of years un-
der the dominion of the Neapolitan Bourbons.

On the 8th of May, 1806, Joseph wrote
to Napoleon : " My previous letters have an-
nounced to your Majesty that perfect order is
restored in the Calabrias. I am not less pleased
with the inhabitants of Apulia. They are
more enlightened, less passionate, but equally
zealous with the Calabrians to withdraw their
country from the debasement into which it is



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 129



Report of Joseph to the Emperor.



plunged. I am particularly satisfied with the
priests, the nobles, and the landed proprietors.

"I now fully recognize the justice of the
principles which I have so often heard from
the lips of your Majesty. And I confess that
experience has proved to me how true it is
that it is necessary to see to every thing one's
self; that not a moment of time must ever be
lost ; that we can not rely upon the activity
of any person, and that every thing is possible,
with a determined will on the part of the chief.
I say to myself, ten times a day, the Emperor
was right

" I have established in each province a
president, or prefect, who is entirely independ-
ent of the military commandant. I have de-
creed the formation in each province of a
legion whose organization I will soon send to
your Majesty. It is not paid. It is command-
ed by those men who are the most opulent,
the most respectable, and the most attached to
the present order of things. In each province
I form a company of gendarmerie, composed
of Frenchmen and Neapolitans. It is with
some pride that I see that all the measures
which your Majesty has prescribed to me I

have adopted in advance.
69



130 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



Letter from Napoleon.



" Whatever I may say, your Majesty can
form no conception of the state of oppression,
barbarism, and debasement which existed in
this realm. And I can assure your Majesty
that the Neapolitan officers returning to their
homes become well pleased in witnessing the
spirit which animates their fellow-citizens. I
derive much advantage from the knowledge I
have of the language, the manners, and cus-
toms of the country. The inhabitants of the
mountains and of the villages resemble closely
those of Corsica. And I do not think that I
can be mistaken when I assure your Majesty
that the people regard themselves as happy in
being governed by a man who is so nearly re-
lated to your Majesty, and who bears a name
which your Majesty rendered illustrious before
he became an emperor, and which has for them
the advantage of being Italian."

On the 22d of June, 1806, Napoleon wrote
to Joseph, " My BROTHER the Court of Eome
is entirely surrendered to folly. It refuses to
recognize you, and I know not what sort of a
treaty it wishes to make with me* It thinks
that I can not unite profound respect for the
spiritual authority of the Pope, and at the same
time repel his temporal pretensions. It forgets



1806.J JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES. 131



Letter from Meneval.



that Saint Louis, whose piety is well known,
was almost always at war with the Pope, and
that Charles V., who was a very Christian
prince, held Home besieged for a long time,
and seized it, with every Roman state."

On the 28th of February, 1806, M. de Me-
neval, the Emperor's secretary, had written to
Joseph, "The Emperor works prodigiously.
He holds three or four councils every day, from
eight o'clock in the morning, when he rises,
until two or three o'clock in the morning,
when he goes to bed."

Napoleon well knew the fickle, unreliable,
Jebased character of the Italian populace. He
was sure that Joseph, in the kindness of his
heart, was too confiding and unsuspicious. He
wrote reiteratedly upon this subject : " Put it
in your calculations," said he, " that sooner or
later you will have an insurrection. It is an
event which always happens in a conquered
country. You can never sustain yourself by
opinion in such a city as Naples, Be sure that
you will have a riot or an insurrection. I
earnestly desire to aid you by my experience
in such matters. Shoot pitilessly the lazzaroni
who plunge the dagger. I am greatly sur-
prised that you do not shoot the spies of the



132 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



Letter from Napoleon.



King of Naples. Your administration is too
feeble. I can not conceive why you do not
execute the laws. Every spy should be shot.
Every lazzaroni who plies the dagger should
be shot. You attach too much importance to
a populace whom two or three battalions and
a few pieces of artillery will bring to reason.
They will never be submissive until they rise
in insurrection, and you make a severe exam-
ple. The villages which revolt should be sur-
rendered to pillage. It is not only the right
of war, but policy requires it. Your govern-
ment, my brother, is not sufficiently vigorous.
You fear too much to indispose people. You
are too amiable, and have too much confidence
in the Neapolitans. This system of mildness
will not avail you. Be sure of that. I truly
desire that the mob of Naples should revolt.
Until you make an example, you will not be
master. With every conquered people a re-
volt is a necessity. I should regard a revolt
in Naples as the father of a family regards the
small-pox for his children. Provided it does
not weaken the invalid too much, it is a salu-
tary crisis."

Such were the precautions which Napoleon
was continually sending to Joseph. His amia-



1806.] JOSEPH KING OF NAPLES



Letter from Joseph to his Wife.



ble brother did not sufficiently heed them. He
fancied that the most ignorant, fanatical, and
debased of men could be held in control by
kind words and kind deeds alone. But he
awoke fearfully to the delusion when a savage
insurrection broke out among the peasants and
the brigands of the Calabrias, and swept the
provinces with flarne and blood Then scenes
of woe ensued which can never be described.
It became necessary to resort to the severest
acts of punishment Much, if not all of this,
might have been saved had the firm govern-
ment which Napoleon recommended been es-
tablished at the beginning. It is cruelty, not
kindness, to leave the mob to feel that they
can inaugurate their reign of terror with im-
punity.

The following extracts from a letter which
Joseph wrote his wife, dated Naples, March
22d, 1806, throw interesting light upon the
characters of both the King and the Emperor.

"I repeat it, the Emperor ought not to re-
main alone in Paris. Providence has made
me expressly to serve as his safeguard. Lov-
ing repose, and yet able to support activity;
despising grandeurs, and yet able to bear their
burden with success, whatever may have been



1S4 JOSEPH BONAPAKTE. [1806.



Letter from Joseph to his Wife.



the slight differences between him and me, I
can truly say that he is the man of all the
world whom I love the best. I do not know
if a climate and shores very much resembling
those which I inhabited with him, have given
back to me all my first love for the friend of
my childhood ; but I can truly say that I often
find myself weeping over the affections of
twenty years' standing as over those of but a
few months.

"If you can not come to me immediately,
send Ze'naide. 1 I would give all the empires
of the world for one caress of my tall Ze'naide,
or for one kiss of my little Lolotte. As for
you, you know very well that I love you as
their mother, and as I love my wife. If I can
unite a dispersed family and live in the bosom
of my own, I shall be content ; and I will sur-
render myself to fulfill all the missions which
the Emperor may assign to me, provided they
can be temporary, and that I may cherish the
hope of dying in a country in which I have al-
ways wished to live."

' Zenaide and Lolotte (Charlotte), the two daughters of
Joseph.



1806.] THE CROWN A BURDEN 135

Jena and Auerstadt, Death at Fax.



CHAPTER V.

THE CROWN A BURDEN.

THE close of the year 1806 was rendered
memorable by the victories of Jena and
Auerstadt, and the occupation of Prussia by
the armies of Napoleon. The war was wan-
tonly provoked by Prussia. Napoleon wrote
to Joseph from St. Cloud, on the 13th of Sep-
tember :

" Prussia makes me a thousand protestations.
That does not prevent me from taking my pre-
cautions. In a few days she will disarm, or
she will be crushed. Austria protests her wish
to remain neutral. Russia knows not what she
wishes. Her remote position renders her pow-
erless. Thus, in a few words, you have the
present aspect of affairs."

A few days after he wrote again to Joseph
from St. Cloud: "My BROTHER, I have just
received the tidings that Mr. Fox is dead. Un-
der present circumstances, ne is a man who dies
regretted by two nations. The horizon is some-



136 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1806.



England's New Alliance.



what clouded in Europe. It is possible that I
may soon come to blows with the King of
Prussia. If matters are not soon arranged, the
Prussians will be so beaten in the first encoun-
ters, that every thing will be finished in a few
days."

Napoleon cautioned his brother against
making the contents of his letters known to
others, saying, " I repeat to you, that if this let-
ter is read by others than yourself, you injure
your own affairs. I am accustomed to think
three or four months in advance of what I do,
and I make arrangements for the worst."

England, Russia, and Prussia entered into a
new alliance to crush the Empire in France.


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 6 of 19)