If they be studious men, or men of action, sent for a specific object, charged to unravel certain mysteries, or to support certain principles, their conversion will be undertaken in due form.
I have seen officers, bold, frank, off-hand men, nowise suspected of Jesuitism, who have allowed themselves to be gently carried away into the by-paths of reaction by an invisible influence, until they have been heard swearing, like pagans, against the enemies of the Pope. Even our own generals, less easy to be caught, are sometimes laid hold of. The Government cajoles them without loving them.
No effort is spared to persuade them that all is for the best. The Roman princes, who think themselves superior to all men, treat them upon a footing of perfect equality. The Cardinals caress them. These men in petticoats possess marvellous seductions, and are irresistible in the art of wheedling. The Holy Father himself converses now with one, now with the other, and addresses each as “My dear General!” A soldier must be very ungrateful, very badly taught, and have fallen off sadly from the old French chivalry, if he refuses to let himself be killed at the gates of the Vatican where his vanity has been so charmingly tickled.
Our ambassadors, too, are resident foreigners, exposed to the personal flatteries of Roman society. Poor Count de Rayneval! He was so petted, and cajoled, and deceived, that he ended by penning the Note of the 14th of May, 1856.
His successor, the Duke de Gramont, is not only an accomplished gentleman, but a man of talent, with a highly cultivated mind. The Emperor sent him from Turin to Rome, so it was to be expected that the Pontifical Government would appear to him doubly detestable, first, from its own defects, and then by comparison with what he had just quitted. I had the honour of conversing with this brilliant young diplomatist, shortly after his arrival, when the Roman people expected a great deal of him. I found him opposed to the ideas of the Count de Rayneval, and very far from disposed to countersign the Note of the 14th of May. Nevertheless, he was beginning to judge the administration of the Cardinals, and the grievances of the people, with something more than diplomatic impartiality. If I were to express what appeared to be his opinion, in common parlance, I should say he would have put the governors and the governed in a bag together. I would wager that, three months afterwards, the bag would contain none but the governed, and that he would think it only fit to be flung into the water. Such is the influence of ecclesiastical cajoleries over even the most gifted minds.
What can the Romans hope from our diplomacy, when they see one of the most notorious lacqueys of the Pontifical coterie lording it at the French Embassy? The name of the upright man I allude to is Lasagni; his business is that of a consistorial advocate; we pay him for deceiving us. He is known for a Nero,—that is, a fanatical reactionist. The secretaries of the embassy despise him, and yet are familiar with him; tell him they know he is going to lie, and yet listen to what he says. He smirks, bends double, pockets his money and laughs at us in his sleeve. Verily, friend Lasagni, you are quite right! But I regret the eighteenth century—there were then such things as canes.