And the reigning caste is quite right. These poor lay councillors, selected among the most timid, submissive, and devoted of the Pope’s subjects, could not forget that they were men, citizens, and Italians. On the day after their installation they manifested a desire to begin doing their duty, by examining the accounts of the preceding year. They were told that these accounts were lost. They persisted in their demands. A search was instituted. A few documents were produced; but so incomplete that the Council was not able in six years to audit and pass them.
The advice of the Council of Finances was not taken on the new taxes decreed between 1849 and 1853. Since 1853, that is to say, since the Council of Finances has entered upon its functions, the Government has contracted foreign loans, inscribed consolidated stock in the great book of the national debt, alienated the national property, signed postal conventions, changed the system of taxation at Benevento, and taxed the diseased vines, without even taking the trouble to ascertain its opinion.
The Government proposed some other financial measure to the Council, and the answer was in the negative. In spite of this, the Government measures were carried into execution. The Motu Proprio says the Consulta di Stato shall be heard, but not that it shall be listened to.
Every year, at the end of the session, the Consulta addresses to the Pope a humble petition against the gross abuses of the financial system. The Pope remits the petition over to some Cardinals. The Cardinals remit it over to the Greek Kalends.
The Count de Rayneval greatly admired this mechanism. The Emperor Soulouque did more—he imitated it.
But M. Guizot tells us that “there is a degree of bad government which no people, whether great or little, enlightened or ignorant, will tolerate at the present day."
The Count de Rayneval, after having proved that all is for the best in the dominions of the Pope, winds up his celebrated Note by a desponding conclusion. According to him, the Roman Question is one which cannot possibly be definitively solved; and the utmost that can be effected by diplomacy is the postponement of a catastrophe.
I am not such a pessimist. It appears to me that all political questions may be solved, and all catastrophes averted. I am sanguine enough to believe that war is not absolutely indispensable to the salvation of Italy and the security of Europe, and that it is possible to extinguish a conflagration without firing guns.