While I was visiting the holy house of Loretto, which, as all the world knows, or ought to know, was transported by Angels, furniture and all, from Palestine, to the neighbourhood of Ancona, a number of pilgrims came in upon their knees, shedding tears and licking the flags with their tongues. I thought these poor creatures belonged to some neighbouring village, but I found out my mistake from a workman of Ancona, who happened to be near me. “Sir,” he said, “these unhappy people must certainly belong to the other side of the Apennines, since they still make pilgrimages. Fifty years ago we used to do the same thing; we now think it better to work!”
THE MIDDLE CLASSES.
The middle class is, in every clime and every age, the foundation of the strength of States. It represents not only the wealth and independence, but the capacity and the morality of a people. Between the aristocracy, which boasts of doing nothing, and the lower orders who only work that they may not die of hunger, the middle class advances boldly to a future of wealth and consideration. Sometimes the upper class is hostile to progress, through fear of its results; too often the lower class is indifferent to it, from ignorance of the benefits it confers. The middle class has never ceased to tend towards progress, with all its strength, by an irresistible impulse, and even at the peril of its dearest interests. A great statesman who must be judged by his doctrines, and not by the chance of circumstances, M. Guizot, has shown us that the Roman Empire perished from the want of a middle class in the fifth century of our era, and we ourselves know with what impetuosity France has advanced in progress since the middle class revolution of 1789.
The middle class has not only the privilege of bringing about useful revolutions, it also claims the honour of repressing popular outbreaks, and opposing itself as a barrier to the overflow of evil passions.
It is to be desired, then, that this honourable class should become as numerous and as powerful as possible in the country we are now studying; because, while on the one hand it is the lawful heir of the temporal power of the Popes, on the other, it is the natural adversary of Mazzinist insurrection.
But the ecclesiastical caste, which sets this fatal principle of temporal power above the highest interests of society, can conceive nothing more prudent or efficacious than to vilify and abuse the middle class. It obliges this class to support the heaviest share of the budget, without being admitted to a share in the benefits. It takes from the small proprietor not only his whole income, but a part of his capital, while the people and the nobility are allowed all sorts of immunities. It demands heavy concessions in exchange for the humblest official posts. It omits no opportunity of depriving the liberal professions of all the importance they enjoy in other countries. It does its best to accelerate the decline of science and art. It imagines that nothing else can be abased, without its being proportionately elevated.