Now he is out of humour with his people, with the French, and with himself. He knows the nation is suffering, but he allows himself to be persuaded that the misfortunes of the nation are indispensable to the safety of the Church. Those about him take care that the reproaches of his conscience shall be stifled by the recollections of 1848 and the dread of a new revolution. He stops his eyes and his ears, and prepares to die calmly between his furious subjects on one hand, and his dissatisfied protectors on the other. Any man wanting in energy, placed as he is, would behave exactly in the same manner. The fault is not his, it is that of weakness and old-age.
But I do not undertake to obtain the acquittal of his Minister of State, Cardinal Antonelli.
He was born in a den of thieves. His native place, Sonnino, is more celebrated in the history of crime than all Arcadia in the annals of virtue. This nest of vultures was hidden in the southern mountains, towards the Neapolitan frontier. Roads, impracticable to mounted dragoons, winding through brakes and thickets; forests, impenetrable to the stranger; deep ravines and gloomy caverns,—all combined to form a most desirable landscape, for the convenience of crime. The houses of Sonnino, old, ill-built, flung pell-mell one, upon the other, and almost uninhabitable by human beings, were, in point of fact, little else than depots of pillage and magazines of rapine. The population, alert and vigorous, had for many centuries practised armed robbery and depredation, and gained its livelihood at the point of the carbine. New-born infants inhaled contempt of the law with the mountain air, and drew in the love of others’ goods with their mothers’ milk. Almost as soon as they could walk, they assumed the cioccie, or mocassins of untanned leather, with which they learned to run fearlessly along the edge of the giddiest mountain precipices. When they had acquired the art of pursuing and escaping, of taking without being taken, the knowledge of the value of the different coins, the arithmetic of the distribution of booty, and the principles of the rights of nations as they are practised among the Apaches or the Comanches, their education was deemed complete. They required no teaching to learn how to apply the spoil, and to satisfy their passions in the hour of victory.