If he could at least hope that the successor of Pius IX. would retain him in his functions, he might observe a little caution. But it has never yet happened that the same Secretary of State has reigned under two Popes. Such an event never will occur, because it never has occurred. We are in a land where the future is the very humble servant of the past. Tradition absolutely requires that a new Pope should disgrace the favourite of his predecessor, by way of initiating his Papacy with a stroke of popularity.
Thus every Secretary of State is duly warned that whenever his master takes the road heavenward, he must become lost again in the common herd of the Sacred College. He feels, therefore, that he ought to make the best possible use of his time.
He has, moreover, the comfortable assurance that after his disgrace, he will not be called upon for any account of his past deeds; for the least of the Cardinals is as inviolable as the twelve Apostles. Surely, then, he would be a fool to refuse anything while he has the power to take it.
This is the place to sketch, in a few pages, the portraits of the two men,—one of whom possesses, and the other exercises, the dictatorship over three millions of unfortunate beings.
Old age, majesty, and misfortune have a claim to the respect of all right-minded persons: fear not that I shall be wanting in such respect.
But truth has also its claims: it also is old, it is majestic, it is holy, and it is sometimes cruelly ill-treated by men.
I shall not forget that the Pope is sixty-seven years of age, that he wears a crown officially venerated by a hundred and thirty-nine millions of Catholics, that his private life has ever been exemplary, that he observes the most noble disinterestedness upon a throne where selfishness has long held sway, that he spontaneously commenced his reign by conferring benefits, that his first acts held out the fairest hopes to Italy and to Europe, that he has suffered the lingering torture of exile, that he exercises a precarious and dependent royalty under the protection of two foreign armies, and that he lives under the control of a Cardinal. But those who have fallen victims to the efforts made to replace him on his throne, those whom the Austrians have, at his request, shot and sabred, in order to re-establish his authority, and even those who toil in the plague-stricken plains of the Roman Campagna to fill his treasury, are far more to be pitied than he is.
Giovanni-Maria, dei Conti Mastai Ferretti, born the 13th May, 1792, and elected Pope the 16th June, 1846, under the name of Pius IX., is a man who looks more than his actual age; he is short, obese, somewhat pallid, and in precarious health. His benevolent and sleepy countenance breathes good-nature and lassitude, but has nothing of an imposing character. Gregory XVI., though ugly and pimply, is said to have had a grand air.