« AnteriorContinuar »
Though the soil of Italy became a bone of contention among foreign and domestic princes and for 1400 years was without national unity, its people still held a commanding position in many respects. The church passed from being an organization to propagate religious faith and moral principles to one whose main aim was power and mastery. The weapons of the church were not merely interdicts and excommunications, but the Popes did not hesitate to equip armies and fight bloody battles. Through the theory of land titles the churches and monastic societies became possessed of a large proportion of all the best lands in Europe. To the revenue derived from these was added a great variety of contributions from all classes of people for supposed services, in the collection of which the priesthood became very expert. Schemes to gather money were never wanting, and the sale of indulgences and the confiscations of the Inquisition show to what depths of iniquity the professed heads of the Christian religion could descend. Most of the people of Italy have been poor, ignorant and sorely oppressed during most of the time since the fall of the western empire, yet there have always been bright spots somewhere. The ancient spirit of liberty and law has always lived in the breasts of some of the sons of the peninsula, and from time to time has found expression in the institutions of her cities. The learning and arts of the Greeks and Romans have never been entirely lost. Ravenna, Venice, Milan, Genoa, Naples, Florence, Pisa, Verona, Mantua, Bologna, Parma, Pavia, Siena and scores of other cities, including old Rome itself, have at times exhibited regard for justice and the blessings of peaceful industry and beneficial enterprise. Not their wealth, but their inability to make wise and just disposition and distribution of it and their jealousy of rivals have proved their ruin. The church lost its hold on the consciences of men when its main aims became the gathering of wealth and the increase of power. Though the Italian cities severally were able to accomplish brilliant results, the ancient capacity for organization, which characterized Rome, was lacking. Confederacies like that of the Lombard cities might successfully resist a foreign aggressor for a time, but no system was developed which effectually provided either for continued coöperation against outside foes or for the determination of controversies between the different cities and their citizens arising from conflicting interests. Faction soon became strife, and the utterly senseless quarrels of Guelphs and Ghibellines covered the streets of the cities with the blood of rival parties and armed city against city and state against state. Conflicting claims of Pope and Emperor to power added to the turmoil and intensified the hatred of factions. Factional strife as usual resulted in the evolution of tyrants, from whom the people hoped at least for order. Then came the age of mercenary soldiers hired by petty tyrants to fight their wars, of intrigue and deception, for which the statesmen of the Italian states gained unenviable notoriety.
The fifteenth century found Italy divided into five states, the kingdom of Naples, the duchy of Milan, the Popes dominions, and the republics of Venice and Florence. The last named cities held high rank in commerce and domestic industries. This was a period of power for the Pope and of Venetian dominance on the sea. Then followed that struggle for dominion in Italy between the kings of Austria, France and Spain, with its varying combinations, always resulting in the domination of foreign rulers over more or less of the country, which lasted till recent times. Local dukes and princes were for the most part dependents on the rulers of one or another of these great kingdoms.
Italy became the field of contest between Republican France and despotic Austria in 1796, and as a result of Napoleon's successes temporary republics were established. Later Napoleon established his authority and ruled through his representatives, but the congress of Vienna in 1815 undid all his work and again divided Italy into petty states.
Victor Emanuel, whose ancestors had enjoyed more or less power in Savoy, Burgundy and Lombardy from the tenth century, was accorded the kingdom of Sardinia, including Piedmont and Genoa. Austria held Venice and Milan, the Pope the states of the church, and the Bourbon prince Ferdinand Naples and Sicily. Austrian influence dominated, and despotism in all its odiousness returned. In 1820 revolts occurred, which were soon suppressed by the combined forces of Austria, Great Britain and Bourbon France. Trials of leaders and persons obnoxious to the rulers by courts organized to convict followed, and the hand of despotism put many patriots to death as traitors. In 1830, following the uprising in Paris, there were outbreaks in some of the cities, which were soon suppressed. The desire for Italian unity and freedom spread not less rapidly for the iron rule of the princes. The advocates of a republic, though forced to act in secrecy, continued their agitation and contrived to hold meetings ostensibly for other purposes. The scientific congress professing to be devoted to scientific research was in fact a cover for republican gatherings. On the accession of Pius IX to the papacy he proclaimed a general amnesty for political offenses and sided with the liberals. In 1847 constitutions were granted in Rome, Piedmont and Tuscany. Austria and Naples refused to make concessions, and in 1848 a demonstration at Milan by the liberals was made the occasion of the slaughter of many citizens in the streets. Uprisings at Naples forced the allowance of a constitution in 1848. In response to the popular demand the king of Sardinia made war for the liberation of the Austrian provinces, but without success. Opposition to the war by the Pope caused an uprising at Rome, which resulted in the temporary establishment of a republic. The Pope was resorted to power by the French in 1849. The dukes of Parma, Modena and Tuscany, who had been scared from their dominions, returned under Austrian protection, and the old order of things was restored. In 1859 France came to the aid of Sardinia, and as a result of a brief campaign Sardinia gained Tuscany, Modena and Prama, but at the price of the concession to France of Savoy and Nice. This was soon followed by a revolution in the south of Italy. Under the lead of Garibaldi Sicily was soon overrun, and crossing to the main land Naples was taken. In 1861 this kingdom voted to be annexed to that of Sardinia, and Victor Emanuel was proclaimed King of Italy. As a result of the AustroPrussian war, in which the Italians took part with the Prus
sians, Venice was restored to Italy. The French revolution of 1870 resulted in the withdrawal of French support from the Pope, and on the twentieth of September 1870 Victor Emanuel entered Rome and made it his capital, the Pope retaining the Vatican with its dependencies. In these recent wars for the liberation of Italy the republicans have been the popular leaders, and republican enthusiasm has given the energy which has resulted in the establishment of the present limited monarchy. The constitution is essentially that granted by Charles Albert. The crown is hereditary in the male line of the house of Savoy. Legislative power is in the king and parliament, and the king on his accession is bound to take an oath in the presence of both chambers, that he will obey the constitution. His style is “by God's grace and through the will of the nation King of Italy”: thus recognizing the concurrence of divine and popular will. The executive powers of government are exercised through a ministry responsible to parliament, composed of nine members namely, Foreign Affairs; Interior; Public Instruction; Finance; War; Marine; Grace; Justice and Worship; Public Works; and Agriculture, Industry and Commerce: The Senate consists of the princes of the royal family and an undefined number of persons forty years of age or over, appointed by the king from the archbishops, bishops, ministers, high officials, admirals, generals and other persons of wealth or distinction. There must be an election of members of the chamber of deputies at least once in five years. All males twenty-one years of age or over, who pay taxes to the amount of twenty lire and can read and write, are allowed to vote. There are 508 members of the chamber of deputies. In 1865 the whole kingdom was divided into sixty-nine provinces and eight thousand five hundred and forty-five communes, but many changes have been subsequently made in the arrangement. In each province there is a prefect appointed by the king and a council chosen by the same electors, which elects its own president and has supervision of provincial affairs. In each commune there is also a council having charge of the local affairs with power of local taxation. The Italian government is still essentially aristocratic, but the difficulties with which
Italian statesmen have been confronted were very great. No other country included so large a percentage of beggars and idle poor. Brigandage and lawlessness, extreme ignorance, religious bigotry and general incapacity for public affairs, prevailed in many localities. Though Italian cities are still seats of learning and culture and the homes of men of a very high order of intelligence, morals and education, Rome, Naples and other cities contain great masses of depraved men and women, from whom little that is good need be hoped for at once.
In the matter of education though the government exhibits most commendable solicitude, Italy is still far behind most European states. Each commune is bound by law to afford primary education and attendance is made compulsory, but there are still very many places where schools are not maintained for all, and many children who do not attend. There are seventeen national universities and numerous special schools of high order. The judicial system has at its head five courts of cassation, at Rome, Turin, Florence, Naples and Palermo. Below these are twenty-three courts of appeals in the principal cities. The number of courts of assize varies at the pleasure of the king. Trials of criminal cases are by jury, and the death penalty is no longer inflicted. There are one hundred and sixty-two civil and correctional tribunals, and 1813 praetors having jurisdiction in civil causes involving less than 1500 lire and also in criminal cases. It is a part of their duty to effect compromises of litigation without trial. There are also special judges, styled conciliatori, to aid in bringing about settlements, and about one-fourth the causes are said to be disposed of in this manner. The principles of the Roman law still afford the basis of the modern system of Italy, though changed in many particulars.