Thus gifted by nature, they have the sense of their high qualities, and they at times carry it to the extent of pride. The legitimate desire to exercise the faculties they possess, degenerates into ambition; but their pride would not be ludicrous, nor would their ambition appear extravagant, if their hands were free for action. Through a long series of ages, despotic Governments have penned them into a narrow area. The impossibility of realizing high aims, and the want of action which perpetually stirs within them, has driven them to paltry disputes and local quarrels. Are we to infer from this that they are incapable of becoming a nation? I am not of that opinion. Already they are uniting to call upon the King of Piedmont, and to applaud the policy of Count Cavour. If this be not sufficient proof, make an experiment. Take away the barriers which separate them; I will answer for their soon being united. But the keepers of these barriers are the King of Naples, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Austria, the Pope, and the rest. Are such keepers likely to give up the keys?
I know not what are “the qualities which constitute the greatness and power of other nations”—as, for example, the Austrian nation,—but I know very few qualities, physical, intellectual, or moral, which the Italians do not possess. Are they “devoid of energy,” as M. de Rayneval declares? I should rather reproach them with the opposite excess. The absurd but resolute defence of Rome against the French army, may surely be regarded as the act of an energetic people. We must be extremely humble, if we admit that a French army was held in check for two months by men wanting in energy. The assassinations which occur in the streets of Rome, prove rather the inefficiency of the police than the effeminacy of the citizens. I find, from an official return, that in 1853 the Roman tribunals punished 609 crimes against property, and 1,344 against the person. These figures do not indicate a faultless people, but they prove little inclination for base theft, and look rather like a diabolical energy. In the same year the Assize Courts in France pronounced judgment upon 3,719 individuals charged with theft, and 1,921 with crimes against the person. The proportion is reversed. Robbers have the majority with us. And yet we are rather an energetic people.
If the Italians are so also, there will not be much difficulty in making soldiers of them. M. de Rayneval tells us, they are “entirely wanting in military spirit.” No doubt he echoed the opinion of some Cardinal. Indeed! Were the Piedmontese in the Crimea, then, wanting in the military spirit?