The Romans formed an exaggerated opinion of him at his accession, and have done so ever since. In 1847, when he honestly manifested a desire to do good, they called him a great man, whereas in point of fact he was simply a worthy man who wished to act better than his predecessors had done, and thereby to win some applause from Europe. In 1859, he passes for a violent re-actionist, because events have discouraged his good intentions: and above all, because Cardinal Antonelli, who masters him by fear, violently draws him backwards. I consider him as meriting neither past admiration nor present hatred. I pity him for having loosened the rein upon his people, without possessing the firmness requisite to restrain them seasonably. I pity still more that infirmity of character which now allows more evil to be done in his name than he has ever himself done good.
The failure of all his enterprises, and three or four accidents which happened in his presence, have given rise to the popular belief that the Vicar of Jesus Christ is what the Italians call jettatore—in other words, that he has the evil eye. When he drives along the Corso, the old women fall down on their knees, but they snap their fingers at him beneath their cloaks.
The members of the Italian secret societies impute to him—though for other reasons—all the evils which afflict their country. It is evident that the Italian question would be greatly simplified, if there were no Pope at Rome; but the hatred of the Mazzinists against Pius IX. is to be condemned in all its personal aspects. They would kill him to a certainty, if our troops were not there to defend him. This murder would be as unjust as that of Louis XVI., and as useless. The guillotine would deprive a good old man of his life, but it would not put an end to the bad principle of sacerdotal monarchy.
I did not seek an audience of Pius IX.; I neither kissed his hand nor his slipper; the only mark of attention I received from him was a few lines of insult in the Giornale di Roma. Still, I never can hear him accused without defending him.
Let my readers for a moment put themselves in the place of this too illustrious and too unfortunate old man. After having been for nearly two years the favourite of public opinion, and the lion of Europe, he found himself obliged to quit the Quirinal palace at a moment’s notice. At Gaeta and Portici he tasted those lingering hours which sour the spirit of the exile. A grand and time-honoured principle, of which the legitimacy is not doubtful to him, was violated in his person. His advisers unanimously said to him:
“It is your own fault. You have endangered the monarchy by your ideas of progress. The immobility of governments is the sine qua non of the stability of thrones. You will not doubt this, if you read again the history of your predecessors.”
He had had time to become converted to this belief,