Page images

the province in question belonging to the latter and weaker power.

If, on the other hand, the question of right be examined, it must be remembered that the possession of Venetia by Austria has its origin in the iniquitous act committed at Campo Formio in 1797 by the first Napoleon, at that time the republican general of revolutionary France. The Congress of Vienna but re-enacted the selfsame injustice when it permitted Austria to seize again upon Venetia in 1815. Moreover it must not be forgotten that the Austrian and English generals, when they sought in 1813 to raise Italy against Napoleon, actually declared in their proclamations to the Italian people, that the allies wished only to deliver Italy “from the iron yoke of Bonaparte, and to restore her to herself.” Assuredly, then, Venetians and Italians have good reason to protest; assuredly right is on their side-right as clear as ever appealed to the tribunal of public opinion.

Treaties and right of possession forsooth! Is this indeed the moment (1865) for Austria and her friends to make use of like arguments ? Where are the treaties which bound Holstein and Schleswig to Denmark? The possession of those provinces by the Danish monarchy is numbered, not by tens, but by hundreds of years. Are these ancient title-deeds of Denmark to the possession of the Duchies of the Elbe inferior to those of Austria touching Venice, which had their origin in an act of modern injustice committed by the republican general of a revolutionary power? Is the manner in which the Danish government has treated the Duchies alleged against Denmark ? Certainly that government has not been without its faults; but any one who reflects upon what the government of Vienna has done, and still continues to do, in Hungary and Italy, can see nothing but a cruel mockery in the idea of Austria's sending an army to deliver Schleswig and Holstein from Danish rule. Those who wish to know how that great German power acts in its non-German provinces, let them make themselves acquainted with the trial known as the “procès Saint-Georges,” which took place in Venetia in the summer of 1862; or with the cause which led to the imprisonment of those Venetian ladies, Mesdames Labia, Calvi, and Montalban. Before playing the liberator on the banks of the Eider, would not Austria do well to renounce her work of oppression on the banks of the Mincio ? The fact is that, so long as she insists upon holding Venetia, so long will she be relatively weak,

[ocr errors]

* In the summer of 1862 the police arrested at Verona a traveller going to Turin, and seized upon him a paper attributed to the famous secret Venetian committee. The names of 40 persons were on the list, 35 being those of respectable citizens, nobles, men of business, and lawyers, the other five were simple miscreants. Englishmen will hardly believe the truth of this affair, but it is simply this, that the traveller seized was no other than one of the Austrian police, disguised for the purpose, and the paper a forgery. The accused were tried, not before a civil, but a military tribunal. The spirit in which the proceedings were carried on may be judged by the shameful means used to begin them. After several months of trial and captivity, the accusation broke down in the case of all but five, two of whom were finally acquitted on a second trial before the superior military tribunal, and three condemned to 10, 12, and 16 years in irons; they left for the fortress of Lubiana in February 1864. Such was this famous case known as the “procès

so long will her policy be vacillating and inconsistent. It is only by disencumbering herself of such a dead weight as Venice, and by coming to terms with Hungary, as she seems inclined to do at present, that Austria can become truly constitutional and really strong. Argument, right, and interest, even that of Austria herself, plead in favour of a plan which shall separate Venetia from the government of Vienna. Such separation is the only reasonable method that can be employed for putting an end to the actual suffering, and even the material decay of Venice. With regard to the proposal of Austria, that this Italian province should send representatives to the Reichsrath of Vienna, it will ever receive the same refusal as would be given by the people of Innspruck to a proposal on the part of the Italian government to send representatives to the parliament of Florence. As for the writer, having himself seen Milan rejoicing in her freedom, and Venice mourning in grief and misery, he cannot but express

Saint-Georges," of which fuller details are given in a publication entitled “ La Venetie en 1864,” published in Paris, by L. Hachette et Cie. But it was upon the spot, in Venetia itself, that the author of the publication referred to informed himself of this and other facts, which prove how deplorable is the state of this Italian province, and how oppressive is the rule of its foreign taskmasters. The gentler sex also come in for a share of the delights of Austrian rule. The Countess Labia, having gone to mass in St Mark's dressed in mourning on the 6th of June, the anniversary of Cavour's death, was arrested. She refused to pay the fine imposed for this high crime and misdemeanour, and was therefore punished with imprisonment. Madame Calvi and the Countess of Montalban have undergone the same punishment after a trial which seems to have formed a pendant to the one described above as originating in the seizure of one of the Austrian police disguised as a traveller.

his ardent desire that the hour of deliverance may speedily come to the ancient city of the Doges—that hour when her people, freed from a foreign yoke, shall celebrate with boundless joy the union of Venice to Italy.

The principal features of the contrast offered by the actual condition (1865) of these two Italian cities (Milan and Venice) have now been laid before the reader. In the former of these two capitals is to be seen a contented and prosperous population earnestly labouring to develop all that constitutes their moral and material welfare. The increase of commerce, the construction of new houses, hotels, streets, and public buildings; the formation of several new societies for carrying out useful public undertakings,-all attest present prosperity as well as confidence in the future. Schools are multiplied, and pupils flock to them ; benefit societies, whose object is at once appreciated by the working classes, spring up in various parts. Such are the sure signs of real progress. The municipality of Milan, freely elected, displays the most praiseworthy activity, in accordance with the desire of its constituents. Political elections are carried on in perfect freedom, accompanied with the utmost order. Complete liberty is allowed to the press as well as to public meetings. At the same time it would be difficult to find a city where the general security is greater, where the police and administration are better. Its inhabitants are ready to make all the sacrifices demanded by their country's necessities. Their devotion to the great national work,

to-day being carried on throughout Italy, and their attachment to her honest king, knows no limits. Such is the actual condition of the Lombard capital, which Austria found so difficult to govern and so impossible to satisfy. Never has constitutional liberty gained a more complete or striking victory.

But Venice! Not only are the signs of prosperity wanting, but at every step are to be seen the saddest proofs of decay. Palaces are falling into ruin, commerce diminishes year by year, as does also the number of vessels entering and leaving the port; primary education hardly exists, beggary and theft continually increase. The population is united in a common hatred against the foreign government which rules. In vain does that government offer to Venice a participation in the new Austrian system, inaugurated by the patent of February 1861; she will have none of it; she only asks that the foreigner should quit her territory. So long as he remains there the Venetians will never cease to show their abhorrence of the government of the Emperor Francis Joseph, and their attachment to that of King Victor Emmanuel. Neither the menaces nor the offers of Austria will ever produce any effect on the unanimous resolution of the Venetians. Seized upon by an act of crying injustice, held down by force, plunged in misery, Venice is at once a shame and a weakness to Austria. So long as this union, which violates every principle of justice, is maintained, so long will it continue to bear the same bitter fruit. Let us suppose for a moment that the war of 1859


« PreviousContinue »