« AnteriorContinuar »
matter of anointing escaped torture and execution, except such as slipped through them by the operation of that far more merciful executor, the plague. One of these unfortunates, at the place of execution, a few minutes before his death, said that he could reveal an excellent specific against the plague. Strange as it may seem, this man, who was about to be hung for composing ointments for the dissemination of the plague, was eagerly listened to, and his receipt was taken down at the gallows, and was afterwards extensively used, under the name of Hanged-man's Ointment.' The receipt has been preserved. It consists of sundry harmless ingredients, such as olive oil, rosemary, vinegar, etc.
The history, or at least the name, of the Colonna Infame,' is probably familiar to our readers. It was raised on the site of the shop occupied by the unfortunate barber, Giacomo Mora, and remained there till the year 1778. It bore sundry long inscriptions declaring the facts which it was designed to commemorate, and was always regarded by the populace with abhorrence and execration. In one sense it most justly deserved its name; for it perpetuated from generation to generation the gross ignorance, puerile superstition and dreadful cruelty of the population of Milan and its rulers in the seventeenth century. At length, after it had existed 148 years, the authorities of Milan began to comprehend that this was its true signification; and it was contrived that its neighbours should present a petition for its removal, on the ground of its being in such a state of dilapidation as to render it unsafe. On this pretence it was taken down, after having for a century and a half, ‘like a tall bully, lifted its head, and lied'—not more grossly than a certain other colonna infame, some half century its junior, which is still suffered to proclaim its lying tale, and perpetuate the infamous' bigotry and folly of its builders.
Ripamonti's third book is devoted to recording the sayings and doings of Cardinal Frederick Borromeo, during the plague, and his opinions respecting it. The cardinal appears to have applied himself without shrinking to the duties which his position imposed upon him; and the observations and opinions, which the historian has handed down to us as his, are those of a sensible, and, for the period, well-informed man. Among various anecdotes which the cardinal has preserved in his manuscript account of the plague, and which Ripamonti has extracted in his third book, is one, which evidently suggested to Manzoni the incident of Renzo's secking safety on one of the dead-carts. Speaking of the 'untori,' and of their execution, the cardinal says:
"One of them, caught in the fact of anointing, and about to be carried off at once to the gallows, happening to see a dead-cart passing, with the monatti' standing on a heap of pestiferous corpses on it, ran, and with a spring threw himself into the midst of the pestilen
A Seasonable Miracle.
tial mass of bodies, as if that were a secure asylum, where none dare to lay hands on him. But assailed by a shower of missiles he was killed by them, and carried off on the same cart forthwith to the burial trench."
The fourth book of his history is devoted by the historiographer to recording the measures taken by the board of health during the period of plague, both as regards the regulations adopted for the city in general, as well as the special government of the lazzaretto. Much good sense, and also much absurdity may be found in this record. Both are entertaining and instructive. The fifth book, with which the worthy canon closes his history, contains a parallel between the principal great contagious pestilences, which are recorded to have smitten various nations, and that which he has been relating. This is rather too superficially done. A more careful and detailed comparison of the recorded facts of the most noted of these calamities, might have made it a very interesting part of the work.
He begins with saying, "that the plague at Milan, and that recorded by Thucydides to have ravaged Athens, were as like one as two eggs.' They supposed that an enemy had poisoned their wells. And we added to the horrors of our position, by the belief that the plague was spread by the arts of wicked men. They carried through their city the image of the false Isis. And we bore through our's the body of Saint Charles."
Does the reader agree with us in thinking, that here, among other passages, our good canon's heterodoxy peeps out a little? If we are not much mistaken, he attributed as much virtue to the Athenian specific as to that of the Milanese.
Towards the end of September, when the heat had ceased, the Dominican fathers announced to the city, that the bells of their convent had suddenly began ringing of themselves in the night, and that a superhuman voice had been heard to pronounce the words: 'I will have mercy on my people, O mother.' From that time the plague began gradually to diminish, and great riches flowed in to the treasury of the Dominican's Madonna, who had so evidently been the cause of the blessing. The corporation voted her a splendid silver lamp. By the beginning of 1631, the city was nearly free from contagion, and on the 2nd of February was officially announced entirely so.
The same basis of statistical calculations which led Signor Cusani to the conclusion we have mentioned regarding the population of Milan, has enabled him to fix the amount of mortality during the pestilence, with great apparent probability of accuracy, at 86,000. The survivors would then be about 64,000. An amount of mortality amply sufficient to prostrate for many a year the energies of the most vigorous and flourishing community.
ART. IV.-1. De l'Origine et des Mœurs des Sicks. Par M. BENET. Paris: 1841.
2. Le Journal des Débats, for 1844.
3. Journal of a March from Delhi to Peshâwur, and from thence to Cabul, including Travels in the Punjab. By Lieut. WILLIAM BARR, Bengal Horse Artillery. London: 1844. Madden
4. Delhi Gazette, for 1843-4.
5. Agra Ukhbar, for 1843-4.
ONE of the most important questions connected with our Indian empire, which yet remain to be determined is, What is to be done with the Punjab?' The inquiry will be prosecuted in a very different spirit by two classes of individuals both equally likely to engage in it: first, persons who have resided in an official capacity in India, and ought therefore while there to have rendered themselves familiar with its relations, internal and external; second, politicians and statesmen who, without having resided beyond the limits of the mother country, have applied themselves diligently to the understanding of its entire political system. These, for the most part, accustom themselves to take comprehensive views of Eastern affairs, as they are included within the general scheme of our policy, but without descending to that network of minor relations which constitutes, nevertheless, the principal characteristic of the subject; those, on the contrary, become immersed and entangled in these relations, and seldom rise to the level of general views. It sometimes happens, moreover, that persons whose business it is to follow out certain investigations, neglect to do so while the opportunity is within their reach; and afterwards when they come to be interrogated on the point, and compelled to supply evidence of their own neglect, grow confused and angry, and seek to set up a show of mystery to conceal the nakedness of their memories, and the barrenness of their understandings. This reflection will often be forced on those who endeavour to obtain clear views of what ought to be done or left undone in the present juncture, from men who should be masters of Indian politics.
Another element of difficulty in topics of this kind is introduced by party spirit. When Lord Palmerston was in the Foreign Office the principle which regulated all our external relations was simple and intelligible: it was the resolution neither to do nor to suffer injustice, to sacrifice no right of our own, and not to invade
Destinies of the Punjab.
unprovoked the rights of others. At present it is hard to say upon what principle we act. With moderation in our mouths, and repudiating the doctrine of conquest and aggrandisement, we grasp at every thing, but, for want of knowing how to take or hold, generally fail in our attempts. Meanwhile the theories set afloat by the expounders of ministerial wisdom are extremely odd. The object to be aimed at, they say, is peace, but in order to secure it we are to submit to all those insults and injuries which victors usually heap upon the vanquished. To us, therefore, under Tory domination, peace brings nothing but the fruits of an unsuccessful war. And this effect is produced equally in all parts of the world, in India from a demoralised and feeble enemy, no less than in Europe from a powerful and well-appointed one. The fallacy which lurks in this view of public affairs ought, however, to be obvious. There is an old adage amongst us which says: short reckonings make long friends; and this is equally true in politics as in the economy of private life. Between nations as between individuals, if the object be to preserve peace, resentments ought not to be hoarded up, but upon the heels of every affront, of every aggression, of every the minutest offence, representations and complaints should immediately follow. In this way misunderstandings will be cleared up as soon as they occur, and petty grievances will not be suffered to accumulate, until by their number they become great. Again, your enemies or neighbours, for they mean the same thing, perceiving you to be always on your guard, and always ready to right yourself, will be the less inclined to take liberties with you; and thus your standing on punctilios, and showing what is termed a disposition to wrangle about the merest trifles, will operate beneficially upon your relations with foreigners, will preserve that peace which a which a yielding and conceding policy would speedily endanger. However, the question we have just now to consider, though lying within the precincts of the pacific category, is so peculiar a modification of it that it requires to be considered on special grounds. We must not regard the subject as a thesis on which it may be permitted to speculate ingeniously without much caring at what results we arrive. On the contrary, it is a matter to be treated conscientiously as one which touches nearly the happiness of many millions of men, and involves, more or less directly, the interests and glory of this great empire. The cutting of the Gordian knot rests not indeed with us, but it is our duty nevertheless to argue precisely as though it did, since to influence public opinion is to aid in creating that power which ultimately controls both governors and governments.
In arguing on the destinies of the Punjab we are always met first by the remark that, whatever may be the vices or offences of
the Lahore state, it is not for our interest to enter upon a war which must end in its dissolution and annexation to our empire. But wherefore? The reason is pre-eminently Machiavellian: because it is politic to maintain within the natural limits of our own dominions a state necessarily inimical to us, whose existence may keep awake our vigilance and maintain, at the same time, the discipline and courage of our Sipahis. But this policy is too subtle and recondite for practice, and appears better suited to the closet than the cabinet. For, to come at once to the Sipahis, such a state would only afford them exercise by bringing its forces into contact with them. But in the case of any Indian state, now existing, to do that, would be at once to compass its own destruction, since none of them could survive a contest with us. In this point of view, therefore, they are perfectly useless. It is somewhat remarkable, however, that they who put forward this strange doctrine are among the most violent oppugners of the conquest of Sinde; and that too, as they pretend, on moral grounds. But if in politics there be any thing immoral, it is surely the maxim that we should systematically uphold on our frontiers, or even within the heart of our territories, small states apparently independent, upon which we may from time to time flesh our swords. No account can, in this system, be made of the inhabitants of such state, or, if regard be at all had to them, it must be to render them as demoralised and miserable as possible, since to do otherwise would be to endanger our own interests. In the affairs of Sinde, for example, if we choose to contemplate the matter from a higher level than that afforded by party spirit, our Indian government had three questions to consider: first, whether we had a just cause of quarrel with the Amirs; second, whether it was for our interest, supposing the quarrel to be just, to pursue it to extremities; third, whether, in case of success, we could secure to the Sindians a bet ter government than that of which we deprive them. These questions being answered in the affirmative, nothing remained but the mere consideration of temporary expediency into which it is not necessary that we should now enter.
The same position again reproduces itself in our relations with the Punjab. If it be innocent towards us, nothing that can possibly take place within its own frontier would, perhaps, justify our interfering with its internal arrangements. But, if it have supplied us with a casus belli, our only remaining inquiry must be whether the independence of the Punjab, or its annexation, be the more desirable to us. Now of what possible service to us can the Lahore government be, especially in its present temper and state of distraction? In war it could not furnish us assistance, or, if it did, the troops which it supplied, instead of an advantage would