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The Cardinal de Bernis had begun life as a man of wit and pleasure, the elegant and courtly abbé of that their palmy time. He was a poet, in his early period, light and amatory, in the later, serious and religious. We fear that the gay and graceful stanzas of his youth found more readers than the solemn couplets, the Religion vengée, written when the deeds of the French Revolution could not but awaken solemn thoughts in a cardinal of the age of Louis XV. In allusion to his first style, Voltaire had called him Babet le Boutiquier, from a vender of flowers at one of the theatres ; while Frederick II., probably with the bitterness of personal dislike, had written :
Évitez de Bernis la stérile abondance.
In those florid days, it is said that Cardinal Fleury reproved the gay abbé for his dissipation : Vous n'avez rien à espérer, tant que je vivrai.'
Monseigneur, j'attendrai,' replied Bernis with a respectful bow; and till Fleury's death he did live in poverty, which he supported with such gaiety as to increase his social popularity. Preferments at length showered upon him; to what interest he was supposed to owe his red hat, will presently appear. De Bernis had shown great talents for business in certain negotiations at Venice, and had some aspirationsnot towards the Papacy—but to the office of Cardinal Secretary of State. He had latterly been out of favour with the court 8 living in retirement in his diocese of Alby in the south of France, and winning approbation there by his decorous manners and liberal charities. We may add that, during his later residence at Rome, as representative of France, his palace was famous throughout Europe, not only for the splendour and the taste with which it received all the talent, the wit, the distinction of the world in perfect social ease, but at the same time for the dignified decency which became a prince of the Church.
This remarkable Conclave had met on the 15th of February, thirteen days after the death of Clement XIII. A desperate
He died at Rome, in 1794, above seventy years old. * It was just before his disgrace that he receired his cardinal's hat. C'est 11 parapluie que le roi a bien voulu me donner contre le mauvais temps.'
attempt had been made by the Italian zealots to precipitate the election, while it was almost in their own power, before the electors usually residing in Spain or even in France could arrive. The Cardinal Chigi wanted only two voices to secure his election. The French and Spanish ambassadors protested with the utmost vehemence against this proceeding. They even threatened, according to our author, that France, Spain, Portugal, and Naples would withdraw their allegiance from the Papal See. The more moderate cardinals, from base timidity, or, according to M. Crétineau Joly, a mistimed though excusable desire for conciliation (he says nothing of the flagrant injustice of depriving their colleagues of their right of suffrage), refused to proceed further till the Conclave was full. Early in March arrived De Bernis—but he was only the ostensible head of the anti-Jesuit party; he was but their manager within the Conclave. It had been hoped that, by his fascinating manners and his knowledge of the world, he might deal on more equal terms with the subtle Italian cardinals ; but in fact he was to move only as directed by persons more entirely in the confidence of the cabinets of Versailles and Madrid.
The majority of the Sacred College (says M. Joly) was no doubt adverse to the wishes of the Bourbons: endeavours were made to modify it according to their views, first by corruption, afterwards by violence. The Marquis d'Aubeterre, Thomas Azpuru (Archbishop of Valentia), Nicholas d'Azara, and Count Kaunitz undertook to play this part. They had accomplices in the Conclave. They wrote, they received communications, both officious and official (officieuses et officielles), from the Cardinal de Bernis and the Cardinal Orsini. The ministers of Louis XV. and of Charles III. sent instructions from Paris and Madrid. It is in this autograph correspondence, of which no one suspected the existence, that the proofs are to be sought of the inveterate hatred (acharnement) against the Jesuits. This hatred degraded ambassadors, confessors, the ministers of the most Christian King and of the Catholic King, into intriguers of the lowest class.-P. 212.
* By a series of accidents (proceeds our author) which can only have an attraction for the curious, but no historical interest whatever, these autograph documents relating to the Conclave
of 1799 have fallen into my hands. With all respect to M. Crétineau Joly, the manner by which he has obtained these documents, if they are as important as he supposes, must be of very great historical interest. On that question must depend their genuineness, their authenticity, their fulness, their freedom from interpolation, and from the suppression of inconvenient passages; in short, their whole historical value and credibility. Through whose hands have they passed ? are they entirely free from party manipulation ? are they the whole, unbroken correspondence ? how far do they agree with the other authentic documents cited from the French archives by Count St. Priest, and by other earlier and later writers ? We are rather too well versed in this kind of inquiry to receive with full trust extracts from documents even when presented to us by the most honest writers--writers absolutely without prepossession or partiality. With no impeachment on the integrity of M. Crétineau Joly, he would scarcely wish us to rank him in that class. Without some satisfaction for these doubts, we cannot rightly appreciate the luminous discovery by the aid of which it is possible to follow, step by step, minute by minute, the plot which great criminals and men of extraordinary improvidence organized, out of hatred to the Jesuits, against the dignity of the Church. ... Nor are dissolute and imbecile kings, governed by their mistresses and by their diplomates, the only actors on this scene; cardinals and prelates throw themselves into the fray. It is this conspiracy which it is necessary to reveal to the Catholic world without any timid disguise, but still without passion; for justice to all is the true and only charity of history.
--A sublime sentiment, which our author, somewhat whimsically, closes with this sentence from S. François de Sales : «C'est charité que de crier au loup quand il est entre les brebis, voire où qu'il soit.' If charity consists in crying wolf,' M. Joly is a model of this cardinal virtue. Then comes the usual quotation from Cardinal Baronius, who first struck out the happy thought of raising an argument for the uninterrupted authority of the Apostolic See from the flagrant, total, and acknowledged interruption of all apostolic virtues during
certain periods of the Papal history. Nothing but the manifest favour of God could have restored the Papacy, after it had sunk, in the days of Theodora and Marozia, to such utter degradation.
Let us accompany, under our author's guidance, the Cardinal de Bernis (in the month of March) into the Conclave. He was anxiously awaited by Cardinal Orsini, who conducted the Neapolitan interest, and had almost stood alone in counteracting the march which the Zelanti had endeavoured to steal upon
the assembly. The first act of Bernis was in violation, we fear not unusual, of the fundamental laws of the Conclave—to establish a regular correspondence with the ambassador of the French court, the Marquis d'Aubeterre. D'Aubeterre had already come to something like an understanding with the Austrian ambassador, Count Kaunitz. The instructions of Maria Theresa to that minister were to support the Jesuits, but Kaunitz looked to the rising sun. Her son and heir was himself at Rome, and the prince's philosophism must be flattered, rather than the antiquated prejudices of the Empress Queen. Roda, the Spanish ambassador, as well as D'Aubeterre, took care that his opinions should be known within the Conclave. The conduct of Joseph II. and his visit to the Conclave are described with some point by Count St. Priest : “He affected the most supercilious indifference as to the question of the Jesuits, and even the election of the Pope. He inquired for the Cardinal York. The grandson of James II. presented himself. Joseph saluted the last of the Stuarts with marked attention, and asked to see his cell. “ It is very small for your highness.” In truth Whitehall was much larger.'—St. Priest,
But we must examine the Conclave more closely. We find the following names, distributed into four classes by the Spaniards.
Eleven were by them considered good:
Six very bad, pessimi ; a glorious title, says our author, in the
Nine (M. Crétineau gives but eight) were nothing (nada), or
The Spanish Cardinals, De Solis and De la Cerda—the French, Bernis and De Luynes—and the Neapolitan, Orsini, are reckoned in none of these categories.'
Cardinal de Bernis was furnished, besides this surveillance of D'Aubeterre, with instructions from his court. There seem to be two such documents : one of an earlier date, printed by Count St. Priest, composed before the vacancy, and intended for whatever cardinals might eventually be entrusted with the
There is some confusion about these lists: here are 48 names, yet Bernis says that the Conclave consisted of only 45 or 46 cardinals, and it appears that 16 (onethird of the whole) formed an Exclusive.