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Edmond François Valentin About
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about The Roman Question.

I submitted my doubts to a venerable ecclesiastic, who hastened to undeceive me.  “The country is not uncultivated,” he said; “or if it be so, the fault is with the subjects of the Pope.  This people is indolent by nature, although 21,415 monks are always preaching activity and industry to them!”

CHAPTER IV.

The subjects of the temporal power.

On the 14th of May, 1856, M. de Rayneval, then French ambassador at Rome, a warm friend to the cardinals, and consequently a bitter foe to their subjects, thus described the Italian people:—­

“A nation profoundly divided among themselves, animated by ardent ambition, possessing none of the qualities which constitute the greatness and power of others, devoid of energy, equally wanting in military spirit and in the spirit of association, and respecting neither the law nor social distinctions.”

M. de Rayneval will be canonized a hundred years hence (if the present system continue) for having so nobly defended the oppressed.

It will not be foreign to my purpose to try my own hand at this picture; for the subjects of the Pope are Italians like the rest, and there is but one nation in the Italian peninsula.  The difference of climate, the vicinity of foreigners, the traces of invasions, may have modified the type, altered the accent, and slightly varied the language; still the Italians are the same everywhere, and the middle class—­the elite of every people—­think and speak alike from Turin to Naples.  Handsome, robust, and healthy, when the neglect of Governments has not delivered them over to the fatal malaria, the Italians are, mentally, the most richly endowed people in Europe.  M. de Rayneval, who is not the man to flatter them, admits that they have “intelligence, penetration, and aptitude for everything.”  The cultivation of the arts is no less natural to them than is the study of the sciences; their first steps in every path open to human intellect are singularly rapid, and if but too many of them stop before the end is attained, it is because their success is generally barred by deplorable circumstances.  In private as well as public affairs, they possess a quick apprehension and sagacity carried to suspicion.  There is no race more ready at making and discussing laws; legislation and jurisprudence have been among their chief triumphs.  The idea of law sprang up in Italy at the time of the foundation of Rome, and it is the richest production of this marvellous soil.  The Italians still possess administrative genius in a high degree.  Administration went forth from the midst of them for the conquest of the world, and the greatest administrators known to history, Caesar and Napoleon, were of Italian origin.

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