Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

wane.

however, the house of Aragon was thus humbled, the original author of its calamities shared no better fate. Deposed and imprisoned by the strangers whom he had been the first to invite into Italy, Ludovico Sforza exhibited a pitiable spectacle of late, but we should hope sincere repentance.

Family-ambition in the Pontiff, Alexander VI., who had united himself to the French interest, now began to be displayed in the advancement of his son Cæsar Borgia, who had lost his title of cardinal in that of Duke of Valentinois. The attempts of this unrelenting tyrant to subdue the feudatories of the church, and with the addition of some of the neighbouring territories to establish a separate kingdom, are detailed at considerable length in the volumes before us. Alexander's death was a fatal blow to these ambitious projects, and from that period the power of Borgia began to

M. SIMONDE, following the majority of the Italian hist makes no scruple of attributing to Cæsar Borgia the execrable crime of his brother's assassination :- but, as this charge rests on vague conjecture, for no clue to the perpetrators of the murder was ever discovered, it seems unjust to load a man, in the absence of all positive proof, with a deed of so foul a character, M. de S., however, asserts the fact in the most direct manner : It was soon discovered that the murderer was his own brother, Cæsar Borgia.' Whatever was the infamy of this man's life, and the massacre of Sinigaglia shews him to have been capable of any enormity, we repeat that it is not just on suspicion only to accuse him of so black a crime, to which, moreover, he does not appear to have had any adequate incitement.

Although the Venetians had taken little part in the wars which the ambition of the French monarchs had excited in Italy, the valour of these proud republicans found an ample field for its display in opposing the Ottoman arms. The following is a fine anecdote of Italian bravery:

« The two fleets manœuvred for several days in the presence of each other: but, as often as Grimani (the Venetian admiral) appeared disposed to make any attack, the Turks retired into Porto-Longo. In the Ottoman fleet was a vessel of a prodigious size, being of 4000 tons burthen *, which towered above the rest like a citadel. It was commanded by Barach Raiz. On the 12th of August, 1499, this ship appeared before Chiarenta, rather separated from the rest, and was immediately attacked by the two gallies of Andrea Loredano and Darmier; which being attached to it by grappling-irons, the crews boarded the enemy. The combat

* This must undoubtedly be a very exaggerated statement. Rev.

was

was bloody, and undisturbed by the rest of the feets ; in consequence, according to some, of their being prevented from approaching by a calm; or, according to general belief, from the jealousy of Grimani towards Andrea Loredano, whom he wished to see perish. More than a thousand soldiers defended the Turkish ship; and the battle was yet undecided, when one of the three vessels, catching fire, quickly communicated it to the two others, which it was impossible to separate:- all three were therefore consumed in the midst of the hostile fleets. When Loredano beheld his vessel deprived of every resource, some one begged him to cast himself for safety into the sea : but in answer he seized the flag of St. Mark, which was floating over the deck, and exclaimed,

“ Under this banner I was born, I have lived, and I will die;" — and, as he spoke, he plunged into the flames. The Turkish boats crowded round the combatants, and took up those of their own men who had thrown themselves into the water : but the Venetians, abandoned by their countrymen, perished almost entirely.' (Vol. xiii. p. 224.)

We cannot follow the writer in his detail of all the various revolutions which the states of Italy experienced from their own dissensions, or the aggression of their ambitious neighbours; and it is only to those more important events in which the interests of Europe were concerned, and in which the politicians of Italy frequently acted so striking a part, that our limits will allow us to direct the attention of our readers. Among the most prominent of these transactions, which form as it were the land-marks of succeeding politicians, the League of Cambray may be mentioned.

· The League concluded at Cambray between the great powers of Europe, of which the object was the attack and spoliation of the Venetians, was, after the Crusades, the first enterprize pursued in concert and with one common design by all civilized states. For the first time the lords of the nations assembled to divide among themselves the territories of an independent state ; for the first time they revived, by the assistance of pedantic learning, their worn-out pretensions; and for the first time they called to their aid the imprescriptible rights of legitimacy. The Crusades had exhibited a confederation of the European nations, founded on religious zeal and enthusiasm :- the League of Cambray displayed another confederation of the same powers, without any other principle than the personal and passing interest of the strong despoiling the weak; and without any other sanction than the longexploded pretensions of those who regarded their own titles as imperishable. To this assembly we may assign the origin of that system of public law, which for three centuries, and down to our own days, has governed Europe. It took its commencement in the most crying injustice; and the science of diplomacy, which arose in some degree with the sixteenth century, served but too frequently afterward to afford a pretext for rapacity and bad faith.

• It is not hither that we are willing to direct our search for ideas of public and international rights. Society requires a better security: it requires a system of legislation, capable of controlling communities in their mutual relations, in the same manner as municipal law is the rule among citizens of the same nation. Our desires easily persuade us that what we wish has existed. Whenever we experience the enormous abuses of power, we repiningly compare the present times, which witness the triumph of injustice, with those past ages which our imagination paints, when wars were undertaken only in order to carry into execution those rights which had already been established by treaty; and when conquest itself afforded no pretensions to possession unless sanctioned by a lawful title. In vain, however, do we endeavour to discover in history the epoch at which justice supplied the place of force, and the power of treaties and imprescriptible rights vanquished violence itself.

• There are three foundations, all absolutely different, on which public right is said to rest. The principles of these are directly contradictory; so that, until one of these principles has adopted by all nations in concert, each sovereign will find means to accommodate his own cause to one system or the other; and it will always be as impossible as it hitherto has been to draw just conclusions from any fact, or from any consequence. These three bases are, -imprescriptible legitimacy - the right of treaties, – and national convenience. For the first time, at the League of Cambray, these principles were opposed to one another. The Emperor, and the King of France, avowedly took up arms for the recovery of their imprescriptible rights, the one to the territories of Venice, the other to the duchy of Milan. The Venetians, in their defence, relied on the public right of treaties which secured to them all their possessions on terra firma. The Pope, after having already recovered what he called his imprescriptible rights, had no other pretence in the second year of the war than national convenience, - the independence of Italy, from which he wished to chace the Barbarians,

- the sovereignty of a people over their own territory, - and the wellbeing of a nation which cannot be bound, unless by the primitive and perhaps fabulous contract of its first inhabitants with their sovereigns, not by treaties which have been imposed on them by force. (Vol. xiii. p. 420.)

It was reserved for our own times to produce a parallel instance of shocking injustice and insatiable ambition. The dismemberment of Poland, and the amalgamation of a brave and high spirited race with the more numerous and powerful slaves of the neighbouring kingdoms, was an act of public atrocity which has cast an eternal stain on the characters of the spoilers.

The mode of conducting the war against Venice was consistent with the motives in which it originated. Sanguinary

and

and unrelenting as the contests had hitherto been which the fields of Italy had witnessed, they now began to assume a still more ferocious aspect; and the superhuman barbarity of the conquerors was evidently hastening to that dreadful consummation of which Rome was soon afterward the scene, when she suffered the unspeakable enormities which the worst passions of the worst men inflamed to madness can so dreadfully inflict. From this period, and indeed before, scarcely a town was taken, after having offered the slightest resistance, without the fire and the sword being allotted as the portion of its devoted inhabitants. Let the advocates of war turn to scenes like these, and then let them endeavour to palliate such iniquities as suitable to the nature of man, and consistent with the mild and merciful doctrines of Christianity.

Although M. DE SISMONDI generally displays in his reflections much depth of thought and justness of sentiment, yet some passages in his works do not in our opinion inculcate a very sound philosophy. We shall offer a few remarks on the following sentences :

· History is far from teaching men perfect confidence; it shews us that, if virtues are necessary to the existence of nations, they alone are not sufficient to secure them; that the wisest constitution is still the work of man; and that, like man's other works, it contains in itself numberless seeds of ruin ;- that even in the bosom of liberty, of public virtue, and of patriotism, the excesses of ambition will appear; excesses which have been seen to hurry a nation to an abuse of its power, and to that exhaustion which is the consequence of such abuse; -- that in short we only fulfil our destiny; and that the numerous causes over which we have no control, and which we comprehend under the name of chance because they do not depend on ourselves, can render useless all our efforts.' (Vol. xii. p.6.)

Scarcely any doctrine is more false or more injurious than that which teaches us that man is the creature of destiny; and it is so completely opposed to sound reason, so fully refuted by the evidence of history, and so dangerous to the best interests of mankind, that it seems strange that a writer of M. DE Sismondi's abilities should give it any countenance.

No instance has occurred of a country whose degradation and fall have not been owing to its own folly or wickedness. It is luxury, immorality, and the subjection of slavish minds, which bave dragged nations to the dust :—for, when private interests become more powerful than public principle, when riches are preferred to honesty and pleasures to virtue, it does not require the arm of an invisible destiny to overthrow a state. The justice of Providence has placed the

means

means of happiness in our own power; and when we abuse or neglect them, it may soothe our consciences to impůle our misfortunes to the hand of fate, but in fact we ourselves are alone blameable. Were this doctrine true, vice would become no reproach and virtue no praise, for who can charge us with actions which do not depend on ourselves ?'_ M. DE S. has made an application of this reasoning to the English nation; which, according to him, has had the chances very much in its favour.

How many chances,' says he'has England escaped of losing that happiness which she now enjoys, and of falling, perhaps lower than Italy! What might have been her fortune if the reign of Mary had been long, or if she had left children by Philip II. ;if Elizabeth had espoused one of the numerous Catholic princes who sued for her hand ; if Charles I. had not been so imprudent, or Charles II. so vile, or James II. so wrong-headed ? How often has she owed her safety to the winds and the tempest which dispersed the fleets of her enemies, when they might have destroyed her own? How often has the extravagance of those who sought her destruction availed her more than her own prudence ? How often has she been succoured by a happy destiny, when her safety has been no longer in her own hands? (Vol. xii. p. 7.)

It is not in presumption, nor in pride, that we repel this character of our country: it is because we are confident that it is both ungenerous and unjust. The spirit of English freedom is not to be quenched by any reign, however extended, of humiliating bigotry. It is not a Philip, a Charles, or a James, who can chain down the energies of

“ men who their duties know, And know their rights, and knowing dare maintain.” Englishmen have long enjoyed, and, by God's blessing and their own bold wisdom, will long continue to enjoy, the freedom and the happiness which they claim as men; not. looking for support to the blind partiality of destiny, but to the firm and constant exercise of the powers with which Heaven has endowed them. Nor is it to the storm and the hurricane that the arm of British valour is indebted for success and triumph:— in the stoutness of its own strength, and in the gallantry of the heart that guides it, we may place a surer faith. When England once ceases to rely on her own powers for her own preservation, then,

“ Unwise in her glory, and great in her fall,” her name shall be added to the scroll of empires which have been.

We

« ZurückWeiter »