Besides, although the lay population still complains of being systematically excluded from power, matters have reached such a point, that an honest man of the middle class would think himself dishonoured by accepting a high post. It would be said that he had deserted the nation to serve the enemy.
It is admitted that the Popes have always been remarkable for a senile indulgence and goodness. I do not pretend to deny the assertions of M. de Brosses and M. de Tournon that this government is at once the mildest, the worst, and the most absolute in Europe.
And yet Sixtus V., a great Pope, was a still greater executioner. That man of God delivered over to the gallows a Pepoli of Bologna, who had bestowed upon him a kick instead of a piece of bread when he was a mendicant friar.
And yet Gregory XVI., in our own times, granted a dispensation of age to a minor for the sake of having him legally executed.
And yet the punishment of the wooden horse was revived four years ago by the mild Cardinal Antonelli.
And yet the Pontifical State is the only one in Europe in which the barbarous practice of placing a price upon a man’s head is still in use.
Never mind. Since, after all, the Pontifical State is that in which the most daring crimes and the most open assassinations have the greatest chance of being committed with perfect impunity, I will admit, with M. de Brosses and M. de Tournon, that it is the mildest in Europe. I am about to examine with you the application of this mildness to political matters.
Nine years ago Pius IX. re-entered his capital, as the father of a family his house, after having the door broken open. It is not likely that either the Holy Father, or the companions of his exile, were animated by very lively feelings of gratitude towards the chiefs of the revolution which had driven them away. A priest never quite forgets that he was once a man.
This is why two hundred and eighty-three individuals were excluded from the general amnesty recommended by France and promised by the Pope. It is unfortunate for these two hundred and eighty-three that the Gospel is old, and forgiveness of injuries out of date. Perhaps you will remind me that St. Peter cut off one of the ears of Malchus.
By the clemency of the Pope, fifty-nine of these exiles were pardoned, during a period of nine years, if men can be said to be pardoned who are recalled provisionally, some for a year, others for half a year, or who are brought home only to be placed under the surveillance of the police. A man who is forbidden to exercise the calling to which he was bred, and whose sole privilege is that of dying of starvation in his native land, is likely rather to regret his exile sometimes.
I was introduced to one of the fifty-nine privileged partakers of the pontifical clemency. He is an advocate; at least he was until the day when he obtained his pardon. He related to me the history of the tolerably inoffensive part he had played in 1848; the hopes he had founded on the amnesty; his despair when he found himself excluded from it; some particulars of his life in exile, such, for instance, as his having had recourse to giving lessons in Italian, like the illustrious Manin, and so many others.