Page images



If it were known how painful it is to a man driven from his country by an unhappy revolution, to recur to events which have subjected that country to a foreign yoke, and deprived him of all the comforts of life, even this work might meet with some benevolent readers. However, so many calumnies have been circulated, so many facts grossly perverted, that a true Italian can no longer remain silent. Were the reputation of the individuals, who brought about the Piedmontese revolution the only question, probably this silence would not now be broken. They would rather make a painful sacrifice to their country's good ; for the publication of this work may indeed prove prejudicial to the public welfare. The enemies of liberty will gather from it some information which they will not fail to turn to account in the struggle which they have sworn to maintain against the dearest interests of society. But, on the other hand, if we should suffer the history of our revolution to rest on the authority of those works which have appeared on the subject,' there would remain an unfavorable impression of it in Europe, whilst Italians might fall into a state of discouragement, fatal to their country.

I write in a foreign tongue, because I should be read by foreigners. I am indifferent about elegant writing; provided I do not distort facts. I have indeed been so situated as to see and discover the real motives of many events; and possessing besides

I know of three only: “Thirty Days' Revolution in Piedmont, by an EyeWitness,' printed at Lyons; 'An Historical Summary of the Revolutions of the Kingdoms of Naples and Piedmont in 1820 and 1821, by Count D ***; • History of the Revolution of Piedmont, by M. Alphonse de Beauchamp,' printed at Paris.


that probity and courage which would not conceal any thing from fear or party spirit, I am convinced that whatever I'advance will bear that character of truth which cannot be mistaken. I am aware that I ought to have put my name to this work : the objections might not excuse me with a severe judge, but would find favor with those who have experienced exile and proscription.

To convey a just idea of the causes which brought about the Piedmontese revolution, and point out its true character, we must go back to the memorable period when the fall of the French Empire restored to Piedmont its political existence, together with its Princes.

There is not a Piedmontese heart that did not cherish the remembrance of the 20th of May, 1814 ;-never did Turin witness a more affecting scene : the people pressing around their Kingthe young impatient to catch a sight of his features, his old servants and veteran soldiers anxious to recognise them--whilst shouts of joy expressed the general delight ! Nobility and citizens, townsmen and countrymen, we were then all united in one sentiment; free from dissensions, Piedmont formed but one family, of which Victor Emmanuel was the beloved father.

This good Prince was however surrounded by unskilful counsellors, who advised him to re-establish the monarchy of his forefathers on its ancient bases. We saw re-constructed an edifice whose decline may be dated from the death of Charles Emmanuel III. We go backwards fifty years. Those salutary institutions originating

with the constituent assembly, and respected by the enlightened despotism of Bonaparte, disappear, and there remains to us of the French administration only that which prevents us from knowing its value; for it must not be imagined that on returning under our ancient system of government, we preserved its advantages. Every system has its advantages; and that which it was in contemplation to re-establish in Piedmont possessed two, which might have served as some recompense for what we lost : a considerable saving in the administration, which conduced to the keeping taxation on a moderate footing; and the police being in the hands of magistrates of a more elevated class. Add to this, the appointment of municipal bodies, renewable from among themselves, and appointing their own president; and the privileges enjoyed by several provinces and most towns, which privileges might in fact be considered as some protection to such as enjoyed none.' But Piedmont, it should seem, was doomed to suffer all the inconveniences of the ancient monarchy, rendered more palpable by association

! It is sufficiently clear, I think, that in the case in question the towns and villages having no privileges are generally under the control of Government, to obviate the effects of an invidious comparison.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

with those new institutions, which, considered separately, render a monarchy more absolute in reality, and afford to arbitrary power the means of exerting its energies promptly and without the impediments arising from judicial forms. Thus had we, in the first instance, under the name of Royal Carbineers, soldiers of police invested with inquisitorial power, and subsequently a ministry of police, supported by a train of inspectors, sub-inspectors, &c. This junto formed a powerful hierarchy in the state: one single head controlled its movements, it disposed of the public agents at its pleasure, and the municipal Syndics appointed by Government were obliged to submit to its caprices.'

To complete our misfortunes, there appeared in Piedmont individuals who had belonged to the French administration, and who sought to introduce its forms without distinction into our ancient government: hence arose two parties in every public office, who never agreed together. Meantime the expenditure increased in an alarming degree, from the multiplication of agents for, although they were ever talking of the reign of Charles Emmanuel III., yet they cared not to practise that strict economy which constituted its prosperity: but let it not be imagined that these expenses were incurred to benefit the nation. The only expenditure which was required to be augmented, was precisely that in which prejudice upheld the ancient order of things with the greatest ob. stinacy and success. The magistrates disdainfully rejected all improvements. But, more docile than their predecessors with regard to the privilege of registering the royal edicts and patents, and in nowise inheriting the knowlege and austerity of our ancient senators, they lost the public esteem, from their antiquated maxims, as well as their insatiable cupidity.

What was most insupportable in the Government was, the little respect paid by the Prince to the right of property. The assignments (délégations) will be long remembered in Piedmont; and foreigners hardly comprehend us when we speak of them. How, in fact, can it be conceived, that a debtor can obtain from

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

· It must not be forgotten, that every police officer could order arbitrary arrests, of which the victims were most commonly withdrawn from the ordinary judicial procedure by a Royal Ordinance, declaring that there should be a discretional decision on their case: In via economica. We have witnessed some acts of authority, or rather of violence, the recital of which would be shocking; in Nice they will be long remembered. At the same time it is but right to say, ihat arbitrary arrests were by no means so frequent as might reasonably have been feared under such a system; which is to be ascribed in the first place to the natural goodness of the king, and next 10 the circumstance that neither his favorite nor police minister were men of bad character. But it is not the less true that any Piedmontese might be thrown into a prison during the pleasure of Government.

[ocr errors]

his Sovereign a delay in the payment of his debt without the consent of his creditor ; that a person selling with a limited power of redemption, should be allowed to avail himself of that power after the expiration of the term stipulated ; that a proprietor become bankrupt, should find in the Government open and legal protectior, whilst his creditors are denied justice,and obliged to enter into arrangements which leave the debtor at his ease, and themselves in the greatest difficulty ?

Most of these favors fell amongst the nobility ; but all who had friends or patrons at court might look to them. A more odious patronage never existed. The Piedmontese 'nobility suffered for it in the estimation of the people; and, although the majority of them would have blushed to solicit such favors, they were nevertheless doomed to reap the bitter fruits of the public indignation. Victor Emmanuel, whose heart was upright, seemed to perceive this dissatisfaction of his subjects, in spite of all attempts to conceal it from him. He was desirous of checking this injustice, and caused an ordinance to be drawn up, restraining his own authority from so unjust an interference in the transactions of his subjects. The nation looked up to the King with gratitude ; but, shall I be credited ?-I should not dare to state the fact, but that thousands can attest its veracity-in spite of this act of Royal authority, new private patents, contravening the public ordinance, again struck terror into a number of families. This weakness of the King would be unaccountable, were I not to add that several of the older Magistrates thought it wrong in the Sovereign to set bounds to his authority, and dared to call this act of justice a dangerous innovation.

In this light did the Magistrates consider royalty. The Minister of Police also regarded it in a manner that proved prejudicial to the State. He beheld the whole strength of royalty in the carbineers, from whom he had formed his militia at an enormous expense ; and this militia imbibed from him such a spirit of independence, that no harmony subsisted between them and the king's officers of justice, so that the corps never rendered the services expected from them.

The King, who was an excellent man, was neither a statesman nor a man of business; he could not be so. The second son of Victor Amadeus III., he was not educated for the throne, but

'The Government even deprived a man of the management of his estate without any inquiry. I shall cite an instance well-known in Piedmont. The Chevalier Curtius de Prié, rightful owner of an unentailed estate, found himself on a sudden interdicted by a Royal patent. Whatever he could say or prove as to having no debts, and in spite of his demand of inquiry, all complaints were fruitless—and he remained deprived of his civil rights at the will of the King.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

his youth was spent in camps, where he shared the dangers of the soldier. He was possessed of good sense, an ardent love of justice; but withal had a strong attachment to ancient opinions, yet without obstinacy. To render his people happy was his fixed desire. He had a friend, an honest blunt man, in the Count de Roburent; but the Count was no more of a statesman than himself, and his great intimacy only served to prevent any of the Ministers from having any influence on the King. Thus it was that no branch of the Government seemed to be administered in a manner suitable to the wants of the community.'

I have already spoken of the Police. As to the Finances, the Marquis de Brignoles had re-established them, although with too much of parade, having employed so many agents that he soon found them an embarrassment. But from the time of his entering on the administration, he had in vain pointed out to the King the necessity of placing the expenditure on a more economical footing : * conferences had been multiplied, commis

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

It would be a painful task to recount all the acts of Government, adverse to the good of the State ; but I cannot omit the Royal edict which restricted the leases of land within very narrow limits. The proprietor found himself thereby prevented from disposing of his estate, according to his convenience, whilst capital was diverted from agriculture; insomuch that Piedmont will long, feel the effects of this strange act of public administration. What shall I say of the winter of 1817, when the corn of Piedmont was stopped on the frontier of Savoy, whilst the Savoyards were suffering famine? for all the remonstrances against the cruel obstinacy of the Minister of the interior, were without effect. But, not to dwell on this distressing theme, I will hasten to state, that the real situation of poor, and neglected Savoy, was concealed from the King. I will not reproach his heart; on the contrary, I take pleasure in acknowledging, that Victor Emmanuel had occasionally thoughts of great wisdom; for instance, that of indemnifying the Savoyard and Niccan officers who followed their colors in 1792, on the invasion of those provinces by the French army, and lost their property, as being inscribed on the list of the emigrants. I will however appeal to these noble victims of fidelity to their sense of duty, whether the operation of the law which directed those indemnifications has been found to correspond with the wisdom of its principle. The same thing occurred in regard to the liquidation of the public debl: the Government promised to pay every thing, even to debts in a manner forgotten by the creditor. Claims poured in from all quarters, so that there was knowing how to act; at length it was determined to do away with a great number, on quite contradictory grounds; and a law, founded on the most equitable of all principles, came in the end to be applied with the most shameful disregard to justice.

2 There was indeed one way of avoiding a rigid reform, viz. by increasing the taxes: but such an expedient was repugnant to the feelings of the King, and was moreover impracticable. The land-tax was, in fact, so op. pressive, that it became necessary to diminish it; and the indirect taxes, which were in many instances injudicious, admitted of improvement, iodeed, but not of augmentation.


« PreviousContinue »