And yet I must admit, with a certain shame, that the conduct of the Austrians is more logical than ours. They entered the Pope’s dominions, meaning to stay there; they spare no pains to assure their conquest in them. They decimate the population, in order that they may be feared. They perpetuate disorder, in order that their permanent presence may be required. Disorder and terror are Austria’s best arms.
As for us, let us see what we have done. In the interest of France, nothing; and I am glad of it. In the interest of the Pope, very little. In the interest of the Italian nation, still less.
The Pope promised us the reform of some abuses, in his Motu Proprio of Portici. It was not quite what we demanded of him; still his promises afforded us some gratification. He returned to his capital, to elude their fulfilment at his ease. Our soldiers awaited him with arms in their hands. They fell at his feet as he passed them.
During nine consecutive years, the pontifical government has been retreating step by step,—France, all the while, politely entreating it to move on a little. Why should it follow our advice? What necessity was there for yielding to our arguments? Our soldiers continued to mount guard, to present arms, to fall down on one knee, and patrol regularly round all the old abuses.
In the end, the pertinacity with which we urged our good counsels became disagreeable to his Holiness. His retrograde court has a horror of us; it prefers the Austrians, who crush the people, but who never talk of liberty. The Cardinals say, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes even aloud, that they don’t want our army, that we are very much in their way, and that they could protect themselves—with the assistance of a few Austrian regiments.
The nation, that is the middle class, says, our good-will, of which it has no doubt, is of little use to it; and declares it would undertake to obtain all its rights, to secularize the government, to proclaim the amnesty, to introduce the Code Napoleon, and to establish liberal institutions, if we would but withdraw our soldiers. This is what it says at Rome. At Bologna, Ferrara, and Ancona, it believes that, in spite of everything, the Romans are glad to have us, because, although we let evil be done, we never do it ourselves. In this we are admitted to be better than the Austrians.
Our soldiers say nothing. Troops don’t argue under arms. Let me speak for them.
“We are not here to support the injustice and dishonesty of a petty government that would not be tolerated for twenty-four hours with us. If we were, we must change the eagle on our flags for a crow. The Emperor cannot desire the misery of a people, and the shame of his soldiers. He has his own notions. But if, in the meantime, these poor devils of Romans were to rise in insurrection, in the hope of obtaining the Secularization, the Amnesty, the Code, and the Liberal Government, which we have taught them to expect, we should inevitably be obliged to shoot them down.”