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A POLITICAL VIEW OF ITALY,
BY GENERAL PÉPÉ.
INTRODUCTION. The author of the following view is one of the most eminent among the members of the Italian emigration; one of those noble exiles, who, after having served the holy cause of their country with the sword, devote to it, in banishment, their studies, their pens, their thoughts, their whole lives; one of those men of upright heart and mind, who give to this age of infamous apostacy, or cowardly and fallacious neutrality, an example of fidelity, of firmness and political probity, so rare in these times, as to be heroic-I had almost said fabulous. Honourable scruples obliging the author to conceal his name, he had addressed himself to me, who wear his country in my heart's core, to be the introducer, and, as it were, the Godfather of his work. I had accepted this mission the more readily, as it gave me an opportunity of paying to the author and his country this public and sincere homage of esteem and sympathy. Those scruples no longer existing, the veil, however, is now withdrawn.
Italy is the land of my youth; she is dear to me on many accounts; and nothing which regards her, is indifferent to me. Perhaps I, more than almost any one, have been in a position to appreciate her sufferings, her efforts, her resources; and I participate in the indignation and the hopes of those who prepare, or dream of, her deliverance. In no part of the world is the violation of the rights of man more flagrant or more atrocious; and the excess of evil justifies every sort of remedy.
In delivering his thoughts to the public, the author felt great anxiety on one account: he feared lest the moment should be unfavourable; that competent minds, engrossed by the great question which now agitates the East, would refuse an audience to the advocate of Italian independence. I have combated these apprehensions, and endeavoured to overcome his doubts. There are some rights so sacred, that the vindication of them is never out of season; every moment is suitable; and though in politics there is no prescription, and time has not the force of law, it is expedient to harass the impious reign of usurpation, by incessant eternal protests.
But independently of this peremptory consideration,—the particular fact, which now turns every eye towards the East, possesses this powerful interest, only because it closely bears upon the interests of the West : sooner or later, Italy is destined, if not to take her ancient lead, at least to play a great and honourable part on the grand theatre of the West.
This is not the place to discuss the Oriental question : let me, however, be permitted to make some rapid observations on its connection with the future destiny of Italy.
When the Ottoman race, at the apogée of its power, got possession of Constantinople, Italy, then in the decline of its political existence, received the first counterblow of this great event. This, however, turned out fortunately; (for all human catastrophes have their compensation ;) while the terror of the crescent extended over the Christian world, it received from the Byzantine emigration, as an indemnity, the treasure (till then, half veiled,) of Greek letters.
Italy first received them with hospitality; from thence they departed for the conquest of France, of all Europe: to destroy the decayed mould, in which the scholastic papal feudality had petrified the Catholic world.
In these days, the parts are changed; the West has turned towards the East, and sends back in maturity the civilization it received from thence in its germ. Algeria, Egypt, Greece, the Sclavonian populations of the Ottoman empire, are already impregnated with the spirit of the West; even the capital of Islamism, irresistibly drawn by the Christian whirlpool, would long since have fallen into it, and been swallowed up, but for the intestine jealousies of the European family. Whether the Ottoman empire can live, is no longer a question; it is already dead: but its sepulture is adjourned, in order to delay the adjudication of a succession so warmly disputed. The dispute is between the heirs, who are disputing round the corpse.
The course of ages, and the successive encroachments of despotism, have modified all the relations between people and people; so that what was formerly in the shade, is now in the light, and what once was light, is now become darkness :-thus Italy, which, at the taking of Constantinople, played so grand and intellectual a part, is now reduced to be a silent and motionless spectator; it has no voice in the chapter, notwithstanding the authority of historic traditions, the interest of vicinity, or the right, which each member of the great European body has to be consulted on their common affairs.
How, then, can Italy, thus erased from the rank of sovereign nations, be again connected with the Oriental question? Let us hasten to explain, that, from the commencement, this great problem has been ill propounded by France; and that they are preparing for us the most cruel humiliations, by obstinately continuing to treat as a special and maritime question, one which is general and continental. It is not in the Dardanelles that France can solve this important problem. It is on the Alps, and the Rhine.
Whatever particular views we may have on Russia, whatever sympathy or antipathy she may inspire, -it is impossible not to recognize in her, one of the principal elements of the future constitution of the social world.
Doubtless, a great destiny is in store for her; and without pretend. ing to the tripod of the Sibyls, one may now foresee that her influence will be exercised in the East. Russia is a bridge between Europe and Asia; now, as Europe has nothing more to expect or receive from Asia, and Asia, on the contrary, has every thing to receive from Europe; Russia, as well by her intermediate position between the two worlds, as by the nature of her genius, may be regarded as the organ and director of modern civilization in the East. This is her part, whether she wills it or not,-it is imposed upon her by a superior power ; sooner or later, her mission must be accomplished.
This position granted, it assures to Russia, in spite of every thing, a great preponderance in the process which is now being adjudged at Constantinople. Already invested, under different titles, with Moldavia, Wallachia, and Servia, the West provinces of the Ottoman empire, she has only to wait awhile, to enter into possession of the rest. Constantinople cannot escape her; and does she not already reign there? The force of circumstances seems to me to command this result; to be prepared for it, we must anticipate it.
But the question is complicated; while Russia leans towards Asia, she oppresses Europe. Europe cannot witness her growing power, without imposing limits to it: but it is France who should establish and defend the continental equilibrium ; I say establish, rather than maintain, for it does not exist: I cannot give the name of equilibrium to that iniquitous and violent parcelling off of men, instituted by the Congress of Vienna,—which is, thank God! already broken in fact, in the North, the South, and all the points of the globe.
In the isolated position of France, dismantled as she is by treaties, it would be difficult I say more, impossible--for her to check Russia effectually, in a serious conflict : England, who is called our ally, is not so in reality; in the Turco-Egyptian question, she has only her commerce in view, and the smallest commercial bait would immediately detach her. Besides, England is no more a powerful ally; in contra-position to Russia, who is in her ascendant, England is in her decline, and can only lose in a general movement of emancipation. The future is preparing for her an awful catastrophe.
France has but one mode of balancing Europe and mastering Russia with the same stroke: it is, solidly to establish her frontiers on the Rhine and the Alps; to create, on one side, a Germany; on the other, an Italy. If it be the destiny of heroic Poland ever again to be formed into an independent and sovereign nation, she would arise alone, favoured by so great a shock.
Such is, in my opinion, the true solution of the Oriental question; it is nothing less than the abrogation of the ignominious treaties of 1815, and the complete remodelling of the European continent. No doubt, this plan is far different from the half measures, which the Government of July scarcely dares to venture on; or the timid protocols which it stammers forth. Nor will they ever go beyond the statu quo, till the question has been propounded in its real terms.
These general considerations may suffice to show in what manner the cause of Italian independence, pleaded in this work, is connected with the debate on the Bosphorus. "To speak accurately, it is part of a general question, treated of in a particular point of view. In the actual state of interests and ideas, there are no isolated facts, no municipal questions; and the famous adage,“ tout est en tout," was never so true.
But if Italy be not bound up with the general European interests— if she should not prove, so to speak, virtually an ally-she would not the less, therefore, deserve our solicitude and sympathy. It is fearful to reflect, that twenty-four millions of intelligent men, who, at different epochs, have done so much for the civilization of the world, should be now condemned, as the reward of their long and glorious services, to the most brutal as well as most silly of all servitudes. So little, on our parts, is required to free this unfortunate race; so distinguished in the eyes of men would be their redeemer! It would not even be a sacrifice. To do so would be no proof of devotion to their cause; it would only be the judicious exercise of French power to the advancement of French interests.
But the day is not yet arrived when these things can be felt or even seen. Egotism and baseness of heart obscure our mental visions ; when we feel nothing, we can comprehend nothing; we do but half see, and half feel.
We must let this miserable race disgracefully complete its phasis of materialism and servility. From this excess of evil some reviving good will doubtless arise, as in the physical world putrefaction produces life.
and especially on France and England.
The independence of Italy is the common interest of every free people. This independence would aid the progress of the representative system, bind Greece to the constitutional monarchies of Europe, and establish a due balance of power between the countries governed by chartered rights and those which are ruled by absolute government.
Besides this general interest, France and England have each a special advantage to reap from Italian independence.
France. An orator in the Chamber of Deputies has said, “That French blood should be shed for France alone." This axiom in politics needs explanation.
Nations have sometimes an urgent interest to induce them to shed their blood for the safety of another people. In the contest between Europe and Napoleon, we have seen England prodigal of her blood and wealth in the cause of Spain and Portugal.
The absolute monarch, Louis XVI., to consolidate the independence and liberty of the United States, did not spare French blood, either in the plains of America, or on the seas of the two hemispheres,
When immortal Florence expended her last resources in resisting Charles V., had France lent her aid, even at the price of her blood, she would have escaped the humiliations to which she was long exposed.
Had Napoleon espoused the cause of Poland, what floods of French blood would he not have spared ?
If, in 1831, the French Government had dared to protect Modina and Bologna against Austrian invasion, the troops of Francis II. would not have passed the Po, and possibly all Italy might now have been the powerful ally of France.
That nation alone, which needs no alliance, can adopt, in an unlimited sense, the maxim of the French deputy.
Is France in this position ?
The absolute princes of Europe are her enemies;-her crime, in their eyes, is, that she is less a constitutional than a democratic monarchy; that, being situated in the centre of Europe, her capital seems the rendezvous of the highest intellects; her language is spread over the Continent; her tribune is responded to on all sides; and that her people are free.
These are the crimes which monarchs who would govern without control or contradiction cannot forgive; still less can they be pardoned by an aristocracy, desirous of preserving all their distinctions and privileges.
Surrounded by such numerous and vigilant enemies, is there a Frenchman who can consider a long peace probable, even should a third restoration be possible ? and who does not believe that a restoration must be preceded by war? Who does not see, that the natural and necessary boundaries of France, Mont Cenis and the Rhine, can only be restored to her by war? Why, then, does France leave to her enemies the choice of time and circumstances for the moment of attack? What does she expect as the reward of humiliations which lower her in the eyes of strangers ? Delay! But will not this delay be more favourable to her adversaries than to herself? Their policy is fixed; their lines of defence are traced ; their contingents are determined and certain. France possesses neither settled political principles of action, nor frontiers easy to defend ; her capital is unfortified, and the heart of her kingdom unguarded and vulnerable.
But suppose the twenty-four millions who inhabit Italy restored to independence ;-by the nature of their institutions, and the sentiment of their own preservation, they become naturally the allies of France; and would the Northern Powers then dare to attack, or even menace her?
Italy has ever been to France a question of war; for the last fifty years this question has become vital. Napoleon, speaking of Joachim, King of Naples, said, that twice he had occasioned the loss of the empire ;—yet Joachim reigned over only a fourth part of the Italian population.
England. With regard to England, the political state of Italy cannot have the same influence on her, that it has on France. Nevertheless, if England would dare to protect Italian independence, the advantages she might derive from this protection would be incalculable.
What, for a long time, have been the wishes of the British Government with regard to the Continent ?-It seeks only to oppose the ambition of France and the encroachments of Russia. What, at this moment, is the desire of the people of England ?-To see liberty extended and consolidated on the Continent, that their own may be established on a broader basis.
The independence of Italy would powerfully aid the accomplishment of both these objects.
Italy once free, the liberty of the people, from the Rhine to the Alps on one side, to Cadiz and Gibraltar on the other, would no longer be in danger :-France, having once attained the limits of Savoy and