« PreviousContinue »
compeers, they wisely embraced the national cause which the other Italian rulers hated and betrayed ; they recognised Italy's demands for freedom and independence, and sustained them with honesty and courage in the name of constitutional liberty; they have had the wisdom to understand and in some degree to direct the onward movement of their
and country, lending to it their willing aid instead of repressing it by violence or treachery. Brave and honest, faithful to the rights and liberties of their people, they have been rewarded by that people's gratitude and love, thus winning for themselves the leadership of one of the noblest works of national regeneration that the world has ever seen.
This they have done, not by the possession of great genius, but by a certain tact and instinctive knowledge of the times they live in and the people whom they rule, united to unswerving honesty of purpose and hereditary courage. Yet the princes of the house of Savoy will do well to remember that such good qualities are much enhanced when united to the virtues of private life, and also that they may be further improved and turned to ever better account by continued study and self-instruction. No slight benefit is conferred on a country when those in high places set a good example to the nation not only in the discharge of public duties, but also in those of a more private character, in a well-ordered court and household. Whereas the contrary is hurtful alike to the ruler and the people, injures the family which occupies the highest position in the realm and society at large, gives their enemies a handle against them, and discourages their friends.
It is important also, in Italy's position, that her princes should make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the principles of military science and of constitutional law, subjects which demand close and persevering application. Assuredly courage on the battle-field is admirable, and seems an hereditary appanage of Savoy's royal house, but the possession of that quality alone is not sufficient for conducting a campaign skilfully, or even for winning a victory; such success is the result, in no slight degree of a thorough knowledge of the art of war, which must be acquired by careful and accurate study. Without it Prussian generals would not have planned, nor would Prussian princes have exécuted, their brilliant campaign of 1866. The generals and princes of Italy cannot do better than imitate such an example, and in this matter the house of Savoy would do well to follow in the steps of the house of Hohenzollern.
Fidelity to the rights and liberties of the nation, and an ever honest support given to them, cannot be too highly praised; but princes who desire really to understand the principles of constitutional rule, and practise them well, should study carefully the history of those countries which have grown and prospered under the régime of limited monarchy. Such study, united to the daily acquisition of knowledge concerning the condition of their own land and people, is a sure means of becoming thoroughly acquainted with the varied duties of constitutional rule, and the best means of fulfilling them. There is no greater mistake than that of supposing that the chief of a constitutional government is a mere roi fainéant that any puppet will do for such a place. On the contrary, he has, within the limits of his power, an ample field for the exercise of the highest intelligence. Of this it would be difficult to find a better proof, both as regards its results to the country governed as well as to the royal family itself, than that offered by Leopold I., king of the Belgians, one of the ablest and most enlightened men of the present century. On the other hand, Spain is a terrible example into how pitiable a condition a fine country, and a people by no means destitute of good qualities, may be brought, when the sovereign is ignorant of the real principles of constitutional rule, or untrue to them ; when a willing ear is or has been too often lent to unworthy favourites; when the court, instead of setting a good example to the nation, is immoral and corrupt, containing within it those who pander to royal passions, and whose evil influence outweighs that of faithful and upright counsellors, who alone are alike loyal and patriotic; when the difficulties arising from party contests, instead of being overcome by the healthy action of public opinion, operating through constitutional channels, are aggravated a hundredfold by military pronunciamentos, which place the country at the mercy first of one and then of another military adventurer, whose pompous titles are too often won upon the sorry field of civil discord; when the ruler falls under the influence of priests, ever (in all ages and countries) striving after temporal supremacy—ever opposed to perfect religious freedom-ever seeking to impose or maintain some burden upon the members of other communions—ever disfiguring by ecclesiastical fancies and systems the divine and simple precepts of holiness and love which appeal in the name of God to the conscience of man.
How immense, on the contrary, are the benefits resulting to a nation constitutionally governed—when its ruler and royal family rightly understand and practise constitutional principles; when its sovereign unites to the faithful discharge of public duties the example of a pure and consistent private life; when favouritism and bigotry find no favour near the throne; when every effort is made to offer in the highest quarters a good example to the nation-may be seen to-day, not only in the general condition of England, despite all her faults, but also in the merited respect and love with which the nation looks up to its Queen, in its deep-rooted attachment to the national laws and liberties, in the feeling of loyalty and the love of freedom which are blended together in the hearts of its people.
It is well, then, for Italy and her princes that they should meditate upon these things—well that they should study the examples of England and of Belgium-well, also, that they should take warning by that of Spain-for it is the high privilege of Italy's royal family to head a work of national regeneration
rarely, if ever, surpassed in the loftiness of its aima work which fixes on the members of that family, and on their country, the eyes of all men-of enemies gloating over every defect and error, of friends rejoicing in every progress made, and in every virtue called into life and action. Those, then, to whom so glorious a mission has been given should ever bear in mind how much their personal influence and example can do in its fulfilment-how much they can help forward, even by their daily life and conduct, that great cause of which they are the acknowledged chiefs. Influenced by such truths, may all the members of the house of Savoy seek faithfully to fulfil even the least of the many duties, private as well as public, which belong to their high station : thus shall they win ever more and more the love and esteem of their country, in whose triumph their honesty and courage have had so large a share. So shall Italy's new-born freedom be consolidated and secured, its roots strike deep into her soil, its blessings spread to every class of her gifted, but hitherto misgoverned and neglected people; so shall the structure of her laws and liberties bind in ever close union the nation's freedom and the sovereign's rights, establish order and liberty in the place of mingled despotism and anarchy, thereby bearing rich fruit to those of our own day, and richer still to generations yet unborn.