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months, or even weeks, the essential characteristics of a government, and the entire destinies of a people. To take a single but notable instance; one specially connected with the subject-matter of several of these Essays-Austria, but yesterday an absolute despotism, is to-day a constitutional monarchy; she is now bound to Hungary by the ties of a free and equal union, instead of oppressing the Hungarian people and trampling on their rights; she is carrying out the liberal legislation of her representative assemblies, instead of doing the work dictated to her by retrograde ministers and priests; she has quitted Italy, and officially acknowledged her newly-formed kingdom, instead of ruling two Italian provinces with a leaden hand, while thwarting to the utmost the formation of Italy's constitutional monarchy.
Thus Austria and Italy are no longer the respective representatives of bigoted despotism and of national aspirations. They now possess in common that constitutional freedom which wisely seeks to bring the prerogatives of the sovereign into harmony with the rights of the people; which strives to unite together, as necessary parts of a well-ordered government, the principle of law and the principle of liberty. That these two countries, (lately so bitter in their hostility to each other,) may go forward and prosper in their new career, is the heartfelt desire of all who believe that the adoption by them of a system based upon order and liberty, will not only bestow upon both Italy and Austria internal prosperity and freedom, but will also draw them together by the enduring ties of common interests and constant intercourse, not more productive of material welfare than of peace and good-will.
Although these great changes, effected with marvellous rapidity, have thus transformed the whole condition of these countries, still it by no means follows that it is either useless or uninteresting to recall the progressive steps by which those changes have been brought about. Rather is it well to study them; for by so doing a clearer knowledge will be gained of the past, and fresh light be obtained for guidance both in the present and the future. Special benefit will be conferred upon Austrian and Italian alike by such study; for it will bring out, in strong relief, the contrast presented by the unspeakable perils and misery brought upon Austria in the past by the blind and unyielding policy of despotism, as compared with the brighter prospects to-day held out to her by constitutional freedom; it will not less surely afford great encouragement to the citizens of Italy to persevere unto the end in working out their country's union and regeneration. That work has, in a few short years, made marvellous progress, despite innumerable difficulties - difficulties which to-day are kept alive, chiefly, if not wholly, by the hostility of those who wield the Papal Temporal Power, which is still upheld (as during many years past) by foreign bayonets.*
* That Austria and Italy are to-day numbered amongst the free and constitutional powers of Europe, is a matter for sincere congratulation : not, however, on that account are their errors to be passed over in silence. Therefore it is that their respective Parliaments must be censured for subjecting to taxation the bona fide foreign holders of their state bonds. If such holders were exempted, doubtless facilities would be given for the perpetration of frauds which would deprive the treasury of its dues. Nor can it be denied that the taxation referred to will aid in establishing an equilibrium between receipts and expenditure, thereby benefiting in the end foreign bondholders, by giving greater security and value to their investments in the public funds of Austria and Italy. Still the income-tax in question is unjustifiable, being in fact a diminution of the rate of interest promised to the foreign purchaser when the loans were brought out on the foreign money markets of Europe. Such proceedings cast a slur on the good faith of Austria and Italy. The writer, therefore, while cordially sympathising with both countries in their noble · work of national regeneration, freedom, and progress, cannot hesitate to blame the parliaments of Vienna and Florence for thus unjustly subjecting to taxation the foreign holders of their state bonds.
Some additions have been made, some abbreviations effected, and some inaccuracies corrected, in the Essays reprinted in this volume. These alterations have not, however, weakened, in any appreciable degree, the general conclusions of the writer, or the facts and arguments on which they repose. If in some cases he has added proofs, recently obtained, tending to strengthen his previous opinions, he has not hesitated, in other cases, to admit that events have led him to change or modify his views.
But whatever may be the defects of these Essays, (and doubtless they are many,) the writer, in dealing with the subjects of which they treat, has earnestly sought to arrive at TRUTH alone; not without some hope that he may perchance, while so engaged, have done something to aid others also in their search after that “pearl of great price.”
J. W. PROBYN.