« PreviousContinue »
remaining years of the seventeenth century. In 1700 Clement XI. (Albani) ascended the Papal throne. The close of this century was the proposed limit of Mr. Ranke's labours; but he has subjoined a chapter or two on the later history, which we could have wished had been more full and complete. The eighteenth century might have afforded ample matter for another volume.
We conclude our article with some few remarks (chiefly from Mr. Ranke) on the state of the city and of the Roman territory during this period. In the seventeenth century the Popes gradually became men of peace; the energies of foreign reconquest had died away; the quiet maintenance of their power and dignity contented their subdued ambition; they had shrunk into the sovereigns of Rome, and their pride seemed now to be to embellish their capital, and to make Rome, as it had been the seat first of civil, then of spiritual government, now the centre of European art. Modern Rome is almost entirely the growth of this century. St. Peter's was finished under Paul V.; considerable additions were made to the older churches, the Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore ; and most of the other sacred edifices which at present attract the stranger by their interior splendour, and, we must add, in general offend him by their deviations from the great principles of architecture, bear evident signs of this age; for with the impulse of reviving Catholicism, the creative powers, the grandeur of conception, and the boldness of execution, in Catholic art, either altogether failed, or gave place to the love of tasteless ornament and unharmonized extravagance. Even in St. Peter's, in Forsyth's bitter language, “a wretched plasterer came down from Como to break the sacred unity of Michael Angelo's (or rather Bramante's] master idea. The modern ecclesiastical architecture of Rome seems to indicate the residence of a wealthy hierarchy reposing in peaceful dignity and luxuriating in costly building, but having departed from the pure and simple nobleness of classical antiquity, the passion of the preceding age, without going back to the harmonious
richness, the infinite variety, yet unity of impression, which is found in the genuine Catholic Christian art, the Gothic, or German style. The palaces of Rome, on the whole, are much finer than the modern churches. They indicate the residence of an opulent and splendid aristocracy; and such, partly composed of the older houses, partly of the descendants of the Papal families, was the nobility of Rome. But, with the exception of the Colonnas, the names of the older Roman aristocracy are little connected with the palaces, libraries, and galleries, still less with that which adds so much to the beauty of the modern city, the rich splendour of the numberless villas of Rome. In the middle of the seventeenth century,' says Mr. Ranke, there were reckoned to be in Rome about fifty families 300, thirty-five 200, sixteen 100 years old; all below this were considered of vulgar and low birth. Many of them were either settled or had possessions in the Campagna. Most of this old nobility, however, were tempted to become holders of Luoghi di Monte. The sudden reduction of the interest brought them into difficulties, and they were gradually obliged to alienate their estates to the wealthier papal families, who thus became the non-resident holders of vast landed property.'
Mr. Ranke considers these large estates, held by a few proprietors (exactly the latifundia of old Rome), as one great cause of the deterioration of agriculture in the Campagna. From the peculiar nature of these lands, they required the constant and unremitting care of resident farmers, interested in their productiveness. The system of small farms, with, as far as might be, a proprietary interest in the soil, could alone successfully conduct the agriculture of the Roman territory. Mr. Ranke concurs with many writers in attributing the extension of the malaria to the destruction of the woods. Gregory XIII. destroyed those in the valleys with a view of promoting and extending agriculture; Sixtus V. those on the mountains, in order to lay open the haunts of the banditti. Since
that period, however, the malaria has constantly encroached more and more, on districts before either partially visited, or not at all. Under these fatal influences the produce of the Campagna diminished yearly.
The interference of the government, and the injudicious remedy applied to the growing evil, completed the work of desolation. Urban VIII. adopted the fatal measure of prohibiting the exportation of corn, cattle, and oil, not merely from the territory at large, but from one district to another; and he gave almost unlimited authority to the prefect. This magistrate was empowered to assess the price of corn according to the harvest, and in proportion to that price to compel the bakers to regulate the price and weight of bread.
The prefect became immediately an enormous and uncontrolled monopolist; and it is from this time that the complaints of the ruin of the papal territories commence. In our former article we extracted a passage from the Venetian despatches, expressive of the somewhat jealous admiration, with which the native of that state in elder days surveyed the unexampled richness and fertility of Romagna. “In our journey to Rome and back' (writes the Venetian ambassador in 1621), “we have remarked the great poverty of the peasantry and the common people, the diminished prosperity, not to say the very limited means, of all other classes. This is the effect of the system of government, and the wretched state of commerce. Bologna and Ferrara maintain a certain degree of splendour in their palaces and their nobility. Ancona is not without commerce with Ragusa and Turkey. All the other cities are far gone to decay. The Cardinal Sacchetti, in a memorial to Alexander VII., described the sufferings of the Roman peasants and lower classes as worse than those of the Israelites in Egypt :-People not conquered by the sword, but either bestowed on, or of their own free will subjected to the Roman See, are more inhumanly treated than slaves in Syria or Africa!'
How singular the contrast between the Campagna of Rome and the haciendus of Rome's faithful servants in South America !
Here, is Romanism subduing ferocious or indolent savages to the arts and the happiness of civilized life, changing the wild forest or unwholesome swamp into rich corn land; there, close at home, turning a paradise into a desert !—so completely does even the same form of Christianity differ in its effects, according to the circumstances of time and place, and the state of society. In one case, we see it devoting itself with singlemindedness to the welfare of the lowest of mankind; in the other, as blind to its interests as to higher obligations, in that very place where, in many respects, it had concentrated its strongest zeal and profoundest piety, neglecting the most solemn, the most Christian duty, the happiness of the people committed to its charge. Even Roman Catholics could not but allow that.what they conscientiously considered the best religion, produced the worst government in Europe.
CLEMENT XIV. AND THE JESUITS.
We must confess that something like profane curiosity arrested our attention, and compelled us, as it were, to a more careful examination of this book. Its author had previously published a History of the Company of Jesus, in six volumes; and with that patience which belongs to our craft, we had perused them from the beginning to the end. M. Crétineau Joly is so awfully impressed, not only with the greatness of the Jesuit order, but with the absolute identification of their cause and that of true religion, almost with their impeccability, that he can scarcely be offended if we pronounce his work, in our opinion, far below the dignity of his theme. That theme would indeed test the powers of the most consummate writer. The historian of the Jesuits should possess a high and generous sympathy with their self-devotion to what they esteemed the cause of their Master, their all-embracing activity, their romantic spirit of adventure in the wildest regions; but no less must he show a severe sagacity in discerning the human motives, the worldly policy, the corporate, which absorbed the personal ambition; he must feel admiration of the force which could compel multitudes, lustre after lustre, century after century, to annihilate the individual, and become obedient, mechanically-moving wheels of that enormous religious steamengine, which was to supply the whole world with precepts, doctrines, knowledge, principles of action, all of one pattern,
1 Clément XIV. et les Jésuites. Par J. Crétineau Joly. Paris, 1817.