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Joseph Bonaparte by  John S. C. Abbott
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[93] THE peace of Amiens was of short duration. In May, 1803—but fourteen months after the signing of the treaty—England again renewed hostilities without even a declaration of war. This was the signal for new scenes of blood and woe. Napoleon now resolved to assail his implacable foe by carrying his armies into the heart of England. Enormous preparations were made upon the French coast to transport a resistless force across the Channel. Joseph Bonaparte was placed in command of a regiment of the line, which had recently returned, with great renown, from the fields of Italy.

In the midst of these preparations, which excited fearful apprehensions in England, the British Government succeeded in organizing another coalition with Austria and Russia, to fall upon France in the rear. The armies of [94] these gigantic Northern powers commenced their march toward the Rhine. Napoleon broke up the camp of Boulogne and advanced to meet them. The immortal campaigns of Ulm and Austerlitz were the result. Incredible as it may seem, England represented this as an unprovoked invasion of Germany by Napoleon. This incessant assault of the Allies upon France was a great grief to the Emperor. In the midst of all the distractions which preceded this triumphant march, he wrote to his Minister of Finance:

"I am distressed beyond measure at the necessities of my situation, which, by compelling me to live in camps, and engage in distant expeditions, withdraw my attention from what would otherwise be the chief object of my anxiety, and the first wish of my heart—a good and solid organization of all which concerns the interests of banks, manufactures, and commerce."

While Napoleon was absent upon this campaign, Joseph was left in Paris, to attend to the administration of home affairs. This he did, much to the satisfaction of Napoleon, and with great honor to himself. Napoleon was now [95] Emperor of France, and the Senate and the people had declared Joseph and his children heirs of the throne, on failure of Napoleon's issue.

A gigantic conspiracy was formed in England by Count d'Artois, subsequently Charles X., and other French emigrants, for the assassination of Napoleon. The plan was for a hundred resolute men, led by the desperate George Cadoudal, to waylay Napoleon when passing, as was his wont, with merely a small guard of ten outriders, from the Tuileries to Malmaison. The conspirators flattered themselves that this would be considered war, not assassination. The Bourbons were then to raise their banner in France, and the emigrants, lingering upon The frontiers, were to rush into the empire with the Allied armies, and re-establish the throne of the old regime. The Princes of Condé grandfather, son, and grandson, were then in the service and pay of Great Britain, fighting against their native land, and, by the laws of France traitors, exposed to the penalty of death. The grandson, the Duke d'Enghien, was on the French frontier, in the duchy of Baden, waiting for the signal to enter France arms in hand:

[96] It was supposed that he was actively engaged in the conspiracy for the assassination, as he was known frequently to enter France by night and in disguise. But it afterward appeared that these journeys were to visit a young lady to whom the duke was much attached.

Napoleon, supposing that the duke was involved in the conspiracy, and indignant in view of these repeated plots, in which the Bourbons seemed to regard him but as a wild beast whom they could shoot down at their pleasure, resolved to teach them that he was not thus to be assailed with impunity. A detachment of soldiers was sent across the border, who arrested the duke in his bed, brought him to Vincennes, where he was tried by court-martial, condemned as a traitor waging war against his native country, and, by a series of accidents, was shot before Napoleon had time to extend that pardon which he intended to grant. The friends of Napoleon do not severely censure him for this deed. His enemies call it wanton murder. Joseph thus speaks of this event:



"The catastrophe of the Duke d'Enghien requires of me some details too honorable to [99] the memory of Napoleon for me to pass them by in silence. Upon the arrival of the duke at Vincennes, I was in my home at Mortfontaine. I was sent for to Malmaison. Scarcely had I arrived at the gate when Josephine came to meet me, very much agitated, to announce the event of the day. Napoleon had consulted Cambaceres and Berthier, who were in favor of the prisoner; but she greatly feared the influence of Talleyrand, who had already made the tour of the park with Napoleon.

"'Your brother,' said she, 'has called for you several times. Hasten to interrupt this long interview; that lame man makes me tremble.'

"When I arrived at the door of the saloon, the First Consul took leave of M. de Talleyrand, and called me. He expressed his astonishment at the great diversity of opinion of the two last persons whom he had consulted, and demanded mine. I recalled to him his political principles, which were to govern all the factions by taking part with none. I recalled to him the circumstance of his entry into the artillery in consequence of the encouragement which the Prince of Conde had given me to commence a military career. I still remembered the qua- [100] train of the verses composed by the abbé Simon:

"'Conde! quel nom, l'univers le vdnere;

A ce pays it est cher a jamais;

Mars l'honore pendant la guerre,

Et Minerve pendant la paix."

"Little did we then think that we should ever be deliberating upon the fate of his grandson. Tears moistened the eyes of Napoleon. With a nervous gesture, which always with him accompanied a generous thought, he said, 'His pardon is in my heart, since it is in my power to pardon him. But that is not enough for me. I wish that the grandson of Condé should serve in our armies. I feel myself sufficiently strong for that.'

"With these impressions I returned to Mortfontaine. The family were at the dinner-table. I took a seat by the side of Madame de Stael, who had at her left M. Mathieu de Montmorency. Madame de Stael, with the assurance which I gave her of the intention of the First Consul to pardon a descendant of the great Condé, exclaimed in characteristic language,

"Conde! what a name! the universe reveres it;

To this country it is ever dear;

Mars honors it during war,

And Minerva during peace."

[101] "'Ah! that is right; if it were not so, we should not see here M. Mathieu de Montmorency.'

"But another nobleman present, who had not emigrated, said to me, on the contrary: 'Will it then be permitted to the Bourbons to conspire with impunity? The First Consul is deceived if he think that the nobles who have not emigrated, and particularly the historic nobility, take any deep interest in the Bourbons.' Several others present expressed the same views.

"The next day, upon my return to Malmaison, I found Napoleon very indignant against Count Real; whose motives he accused, reproaching him with having employed in his government certain men too much compromised in the great excesses of the Revolution. The Duke d'Enghien had been condemned and executed even before the announcement of his trial had been communicated to Napoleon.

"Subsequently he was convinced of the innocence of Real, and of the strange fatality which had caused him for a moment to appear culpable in his eyes. In the mean time, resuming self control, he said to me, 'Another opportunity has been lost. It would have been admirable to have had, as aid-de-camp, [102] the grandson of the great Condé. But of that there can be no more question. The blow is irremediable. Yes; I was sufficiently strong to allow a descendant of the great Condé to serve in our armies. But we must seek consolation. Undoubtedly, if I had been assassinated by the agents of the family, he would have been the first to have shown himself in France, arms in his hands. I must take the responsibility of the deed. To cast it upon others, even with truth, would have too much the appearance of cowardice, for me to be willing to do it.'

"Napoleon," continues Joseph, "has never appeared with greater éclat than under these sad and calamitous circumstances. I only learned, several years afterward, in the United States, from Count Real himself, the details of that which passed at the time of the death of the Duke d'Enghien. It was at New York, in the year 1825, at Washington Hall, where we met, by an arrangement with M. Le Ray de Chaumont, the proprietor of some lands, a portion of which he had sold to me and to M. Real, that he informed me how a simple emotion of impatience on his part had very involuntarily the effect of preventing the kindly [103] feeling which the First Consul cherished in favor of the Duke d'Enghien.

"M. Real, one of the four counsellors of state charged with the police of France, had charge of the arrondissement of Paris and of Vincennes. A dispatch was sent to him in the night, informing him of the condemnation of the prince. The police clerk, attending in the chamber which opened into his apartment, had already awoke him twice for reasons of but little importance, which had quite annoyed M. Real. The third dispatch was therefore placed upon his chimney, and did not meet his eye until a late hour in the morning.

"Opening it, he hastened to Malmaison, where he was preceded by an officer of the gendarmerie, who brought information of the condemnation and execution of the prince. The commission had judged, from the silence of the Government, that he was not to be pardoned. I need not dwell upon the regret, the impatience, the indignation of Napoleon."

The crown of Lombardy was, about this time, offered to Joseph, which he declined, as he did not wish to separate himself from France. The kingdom of Naples was now influenced by England to make an attack upon [104] Napoleon. The King of Naples supposed that France could be easily vanquished, with England, Russia, Austria, and Naples making a simultaneous attack upon her. But the great victory of Austerlitz, which compelled Austria and Russia to withdraw from the coalition, struck the perfidious King of Naples with dismay. France had done him no wrong, and the only apology the Neapolitan Court had for commencing hostilities was, that if the French were permitted to dethrone the Bourbons and to choose their own rulers, the Neapolitan might claim the same privilege.

A few days after the battle of Austerlitz Joseph received orders from his brother to hasten to the Italian Peninsula, and take command of the Army of Italy, and march upon Naples. The King of Naples had, in addition to his own troops, fourteen thousand Russians and several thousand English auxiliaries. Joseph placed himself at the head of forty thousand French troops, and in February, 1806, entered the kingdom of Naples. The Neapolitans could make no effectual resistance. Joseph soon arrived before Capua, a fortified town about fifteen miles north of the metropolis of the kingdom. Eight thousand of the [105] Neapolitan troops took refuge in the citadel, and made some show of resistance. They soon, however, were compelled to surrender.

The Neapolitan Court was in a state of consternation. The English precipitately embarked in their ships and fled to Sicily. The Russians escaped to Corfu. The Court, having emptied the public coffers, and even the vaults of the bank, took refuge in Palermo, on the island of Sicily. The prince royal, with a few troops of the Neapolitan army, who adhered to the old monarchy, retreated two or three hundred miles south, to the mountains of Calabria. On the 15th of February, Joseph, at the head of his troops, marched triumphantly into Naples. He not only encountered no resistance, but the population, regarding him as a liberator, received him with acclamations of joy.

On the 30th of March, 1806, Napoleon issued a decree, declaring Joseph king of Naples. The decret  was as follows:

"Napoleon, by the grace of God and the constitutions, Emperor of the French and King of Italy, to all those to whom these presents come, salutation.

"The interests of our people, the honor of [106] our crown, and the tranquillity of the Continent of Europe requiring that we should assure, in a stable and definite manner, the lot of the people of Naples and of Sicily, who have fallen into our power by the right of conquest, and who constitute a part of the grand empire, we declare that we recognize, as King of Naples and of Sicily, our well beloved brother, Joseph Napoleon, Grand Elector of France. This crown will be hereditary, by order of primogeniture, in his descendants masculine, legitimate, and natural," etc.

The former Government of Naples was detested by the whole people. The warmest advocates of the Allies have never yet ventured to utter a word in its defense. Even the grandees of the realm were heartily glad to be rid of their dissolute, contemptible, and tyrannical queen, who regarded the inhabitants of the kingdom but as her slaves, and the wealth of the kingdom but as her personal dowry, to be squandered for the gratification of herself and her favorites. With great energy Joseph immediately commenced a reform in all the administrative departments. He carefully sought out Neapolitan citizens of integrity, intelligence, and influence, to occupy the important [107] public stations. Accompanied by a guard of chosen men, he made a tour of the country; thus informing himself, by personal observation, of the character of the inhabitants, and of the wants and capabilities of the kingdom. It was indeed a gloomy prospect of indolence and poverty which presented itself to his eye, though the climate was enchanting, with its genial temperature, its brilliant skies, and its fertile soil. The landscape combined all the elements of sublimity and of beauty, with towering mountains and lovely meadows, streams and lakes watering the interior, and harbors inviting the commerce of the world. But the condition of the populace was wretched in the extreme. The Government, despotic and corrupt, seized all the earnings of the people, and consigned nearly the whole population to penury and rags. King Ferdinand and his dissolute queen, Louisa, made an effort to rouse the people to resist the French. Their efforts were, however, entirely in vain. Joseph issued the following proclamation to the Neapolitans, which they read with great satisfaction:

"People of the kingdom of Naples; the Emperor of the French, King of Italy, wishing [108] to save you from the calamities of war, had signed, with your Court, a treaty of neutrality. He believed that in that way he could secure your tranquillity, in the midst of the vast conflagration with which the third coalition has menaced Europe. But the Court of Naples has zealously allied itself with our enemies, and has opened its states to the Russians and to the English.

"The Emperor of the French, whose justice equals his power, wishes to give a signal example, commanded by the honor of his crown, by the interests of his people, and by the necessity of re-establishing in Europe the respect which is due to public faith.

"The army which I command is on the march to punish this perfidy. But you, the people, have nothing to fear. It is not against you that our arms are directed. The altars, the ministers of your religion, your laws, your property, will be respected. The French soldiers will be your brothers. If, contrary to the benevolent intentions of his majesty, the Court which excites you will sacrifice you, the French army is so powerful that all the forces promised to your princes, even if they were on your territory, could not defend it. Peo- [109] ple! have no solicitude. This war will be for you the epoch of a solid peace, and of durable prosperity."

Ferdinand, upon retiring to the island of Sicily, had swept the continental coast of every vessel and even boat. Joseph thus found it quite impossible to transport his troops across the strait of Messina to pursue the fugitive king. He, however, made a very thorough survey of the continental kingdom, and having planned many measures of internal improvement of vast magnitude, which were subsequently executed, he returned to Naples. He was here received with congratulations by all classes of his subjects.

The clergy, led by Cardinal Ruffo, and even the nobility, vied with each other in their expressions of satisfaction in a change of dynasty. The great majority of the most intelligent people in the kingdom were weary of the corrupt Court which, swaying the sceptre of feudal despotism, had consigned Naples to indolence, dilapidation, and penury. Joseph immediately selected the most distinguished Neapolitans as members of his council. He made every effort to introduce into his kingdom all the benefits which the French Revolution had [110] brought to France, while he carefully sought to avoid the evils which accompanied that great popular movement.

Though Joseph soon found himself firmly seated on the throne, war still lingered along the coasts, and in the more remote parts of his kingdom. The fortress of Gaeta, almost impregnable, was still held by a garrison of Ferdinand's troops. Marauding bands of Neapolitans, lured by love of plunder, infested and pillaged the unprotected districts. The English fleet was hovering along the coast, watching for opportunities of assault. It landed an army at the Gulf of St. Euphemia, and discomfited a small division of Joseph's troops. Thus the kingdom was in a general state of disorder wherever the influence of Joseph was not sensibly felt.

But the wise and energetic measures he adopted removed one after another of these evils. He found but little difficulty in persuading all those who co-operated with him in the government, both French and Neapolitans, that the interests of each individual class of the community were dependent upon the elevation and improvement of the whole country; and it is a remarkable fact that the principle [111] noblemen in Naples were among the first to appreciate and adopt the great ideas of reform which Joseph introduced. Influenced by his arguments, they, of their own accord, relinquished their feudal privileges, and adopted those principles of equal rights upon which the empire of Napoleon was founded, and which gave it its almost omnipotent hold upon popular affections. Even the ecclesiastics, men of commanding character and intelligence, who had been introduced into the Council of State, voted for the suppression of monastic orders, and for the use of their funds to place the credit of the kingdom upon a solid basis.

Reform was thus extended, wisely and efficiently, through all the departments of Government. And though the masses of the people, being illiterate peasants, incapable of any intelligent administration of public airs, had but little voice in the Government, every thing was done for their welfare that enlightened patriotism could suggest. All writers, friends and foes, agree alike in their testimony to the wise measures adopted by Joseph. He founded colleges for the instruction of young men, and many other institutions of a high character for male and female education. Splendid [112] roads were constructed from one extremity of the kingdom to the other; manufactories of various kinds were established and encouraged; the arts were rewarded; agriculture received a new impulse; the army was efficiently organized and brought under salutary discipline; a topographical bureau was created, the whole kingdom carefully surveyed, and a fine map constructed. The mouldering ramparts of the city were rebuilt, and new fortresses reared.

Naples had for ages been filled with a miserable idle population, called lazzaroni. They infested the streets and the squares, and were devoured by vermin, and half-covered with rags. With no incitement to industry, indeed with hardly the possibility of obtaining any work, they had fallen into the most abject state of vice and despair. These men, in large numbers, were collected, comfortably clothed, well fed, well paid, and were employed in constructing a new and splendid avenue to the metropolis. Made happy by industry, and inspired by its sure reward, they became contented and useful subjects.

The Ministry of the Interior was confided to Count Miot. It was his duty to devote all [113] his energies to promote the interests of agriculture, commerce, manufactures, the arts, the sciences, public instruction, and all liberal institutions. The country had been filled with brigands, rioting in violence, robbery, and murder. To repress their excesses, Joseph established a military commission with each army corps, whose duty it was to judge and execute, without appeal, the brigands taken with arms In their bands.

The English fleet commanded the Mediterranean. The Neapolitan troops, under the command of Ferdinand, had fled to Calabria, and, under the protection of the English fleet, had crossed the straits of Messina to the island of Sicily. The British squadron then swept the coasts of Calabria, applying the torch to all the public property which could not be carried away. While these scenes were transpiring, Napoleon wrote to Joseph almost daily, giving him very minute directions. He wrote to him on the 12th of January, 1806: "Speak seriously to M— and to L—, and say that you will have no robberies. M— robbed much in the Venetian country. I have recalled S— to Paris for that reason. He is a bad man. Maintain severe discipline."

[114] Again he wrote on the 19th: "It is my intention that the Bourbons should cease to reign at Naples. I wish to place upon that throne a prince of my family; you first, if that is agreeable to you; another, if that is not agreeable to you. The country ought to furnish food, clothing, horses, and every thing that is necessary for your army; so that it shall cost me nothing."

Again, on the 27th, Napoleon wrote from Paris: "I have only to congratulate myself with all that you did while you remained in Paris. Receive my thanks, and, as a testimony of my satisfaction, my portrait upon a snuff-box, which I will forward by the first officer I send to you Tolerate no robbers. I have just received a letter from the Queen of Naples. I shall not reply. After the violation of the treaty, I can no longer trust her promises."

Again, on the 3rd of February, 1806, he writes: "Believe in my friendship. Do not listen to those who wish to keep you out of fire, loin du feu. It is necessary that you should establish your reputation, if there should be opportunity. Place yourself conspicuously. As to real danger, it is everywhere in war."

The Prince-royal of Naples wrote a letter to [115] Joseph, with the hope of regaining his crown. He stated that the King and Queen had abdicated in favor of their son. Joseph replied that he could not listen to the appeal; that he could only execute the orders which he received, and that the application was too late.

The city of Gaeta was one of the strongest positions in Europe. The troops of Ferdinand maintained a siege there for many months. They were very efficiently aided by the British fleet, which brought them continual re-enforcements and supplies. Its capture was considered one of the most brilliant achievements in modern warfare. There was now not a spot upon the Continent of Europe where a flag floated in avowed hostility to France. Ferdinand of Naples, with a small army, had fled to the island of Sicily, where, for a short time, he was protected by the British fleet.

In the mean time King Joseph was devoting himself untiringly and with great wisdom to the development of the new institutions of reform, and of equal rights for all, which everywhere accompanied the French banners. Marshal Massena was sent to the provinces of Calabria to put a stop to brigandage. The brigands were merciless. Severe reprisals became nec- [116] essary. The British fleet, under Sir Sidney Smith, hovered along the shores of the gulfs of Salerno and of Naples, striving to rouse and encourage resistance to the new Government.

There was a renowned bandit, named Michael Pozza, who, from his energy and atrocities, had acquired the sobriquet of Fra Diavolo, or brother of the devil. His bands, widely scattered, were at times concentrated, and waged fierce battle. Gradually French discipline gained upon them. Large numbers of Neapolitans, hating the old regime, and glad to be rid of it, enlisted in defense of the new institutions. The robbers were at length cut to pieces. Fra Diavolo escaped to the mountains, where he was taken and shot. In this warfare with the brigands, the Neapolitan troops, emboldened by the presence and protection of the French army, displayed very commendable courage.

While engaged in these warlike operations, through his able generals, Joseph was much occupied with the employment, more congenial to him, of conducting the interior administration. It was his first endeavor to eradicate every vestige of the old despotism of feudalism—a system perhaps necessary in its day, but which time had outgrown. The whole politi- [117] cal edifice was laid upon the foundation of the absolute equality of rights of all the citizens—a principle until then unknown in Naples. There had been no gradations in society. There were a few families of extreme opulence, enjoying rank and exclusive privileges, and then came the almost beggared masses, with no incentives to exertion. The enervating climate induced indolence. Life could be maintained with but little clothing, and but little food. The cities and villages swarmed with half-clad multitudes, vegetating in a joyless existence.

Joseph gave his earnest attention to rousing the multitude from this apathy. He thought that one of the most important means to awaken a love of industry was to make these poor people, as far as possible, landed proprietors. The man who owns land, though the portion may be small, is almost resistlessly impelled to cultivate it. His ambition being thus roused, his intellectual and social condition becomes ameliorated, and he is prepared to take part, as a citizen, in the administration of affairs. A new division of territory was created into provinces and districts, in which the prominent men, who were imbued with the spirit of reform, were appointed to the administration of local inter- [118] ests. Still many of the old nobility struggled hard to maintain their feudal power. But resolutely Joseph proceeded in laying the foundations of a national representation, derived from popular election, which should be the organ of the whole nation, to make known to the King the wishes and necessities of the people.

This was an immense stride in the direction of a popular government. It endangered the feudal privilege, which upheld the throne and the castle, in other lands. Hence it was that the throne and the castle combined to overthrow institutions so republican in their tendencies.

The whole system of administration had been awfully corrupt. Justice was almost unknown. All the tribunals were concentrated in the city of Naples. There were tens of thousands of prisoners, very many for political offenses, awaiting trial. In the provinces of Calabria Joseph appointed judicial commissions to attend to these cases. In three months about five thousand prisoners had a hearing. Many of them had been detained over twenty years. Not a few were incarcerated through malicious accusations. Those guilty of some slight offense were imprisoned with assassins, all alike [119] exposed to the damp of dungeons and infected air.

A system of very effective prison reform was immediately established by Joseph. The prisoners were placed in apartments large and well-ventilated. They were separated in accordance with the nature of the offenses of which they were accused. Distinct prisons were appropriated to females. Hospitals were established for the sick of both sexes, with every necessary arrangement for the restoration of health.

A thorough reform was introduced into the finances. Under the old regime, all had been confusion and oppression. The only object of the Government seemed to be to get all it could. In the country the people often were compelled to pay their lords not only money, but also very onerous personal services. This was all remedied by the adoption of an impartial system of taxation. And it was found that the new imposts, honestly collected, were far less oppressive to the people, and more in amount.

The overthrow of the feudal system placed at the disposal of the State a vast amount of land which had been uncultivated. This was divided among a large number of people, who [120] paid for it an annual sum into the treasury. Thus the welfare of these individuals was greatly promoted, and the resources of the State in creased.

And now Joseph turned his attention to public instruction. The last Government had been opposed to education. It had entered into open warfare against the sciences, prohibiting the introduction of the most important foreign publications. Joseph immediately established schools for primary instruction all over the realm. Normal schools were organized for the education of teachers. In the smallest hamlets teachers were provided to instruct the children in the elements of the Christian religion, and schoolmistresses, who, in addition to the same lessons, were to teach the young girls the duties proper to their sex.

This impulse to education spread rapidly through all the provinces. The free schools established in Naples were soon so crowded that it became necessary to add to their number. The university at Naples, frowned upon by the former Government, had fallen into deep decline. Nineteen chairs of professors were vacant. Others were occupied, but their duties quite neglected. The university was [121] reorganized in accordance with the enlightenment of modern times. New professorships were endowed in the place of those which had become useless. Especial efforts were made to secure learned men for those chairs from the kingdom of Naples. But education was at so low an ebb that it was necessary to obtain several professors from abroad. Everywhere a thirst for knowledge seemed to manifest itself.

These reforms were exceedingly popular with the great majority of the Neapolitans. But there were not wanting those who opposed them. There were those of the privileged class who had been enriched by the ignorance and debasement of the people. These men began gradually to develop their opposition. Joseph had endeavored to employ Neapolitans as much as possible in the Government. He employed Frenchmen in the military and civil service only where he could find no Neapolitans equal to the post. Some of the Neapolitans, jealous of French influence, while also secretly clinging to ancient abuses, began cautiously the attempt to retard these reforms. Joseph listened patiently to their objections in cabinet council, and then said:

[122] "I have carefully followed a discussion which relates so intimately to the public welfare. I had hoped to hear reasons. I have heard only passions. I look in vain for any indications of love of country in the objections to the proposed laws. I must say that I see only the spirit of party."

He then examined, one by one, the objections which had been brought forward, and added, "Do you think, gentlemen, that I am willing to sustain these exclusive privileges? We have not destroyed these Gothic institutions, the remnants of barbarism, in order to reconstruct them under other forms. And can any of you cherish the thought that this resistance, which ought to surprise me, can induce me to retrograde toward institutions condemned by the spirit of the age? No; too long have the people groaned under the weight of intolerable abuses. They shall be delivered from them. If obstacles arise, he assured that I shall know how to remove them."

The fine arts were also languishing, with every thing else, under the execrable regime of the Bourbons of Naples. But the taste for the fine arts survived their decay. The new Government instituted schools of art under [123] the direction of the most skillful masters. Painting, drawing, sculpture, engraving, all received a new impulse.

There were difficulties to be encountered in this attempt to regenerate an utterly depraved state more than can now be easily imagined. He who should attempt to erect a modern mansion upon the ruins of the Castle of Heidelberg would find more difficulty in removing the old foundations than in rearing the new structure. Thus Joseph found ancient abuses, hallowed by time, and oppressive institutions interwoven with the very life of the people, which it was necessary utterly to abolish or greatly to modify. The monastic institution was one of these. The land was filled with gloomy monasteries, crowded with idle, useless, and often dissolute monks. There had been in past ages seasons of persecution, in which the refuge of these sanctuaries was needed, but the spirit of the age no longer required them. They had rendered signal service in times of barbarism, but it was no longer needful for religion to hide in the obscurity of the cloister.

"Altars," said Joseph, "are now erected in the interior of families. The regular clergy respond to the wants of the people. The love [124] of the arts and of the sciences, widely diffused, and the colonial, commercial, and military spirit constrain all the Governments of Europe to direct to important objects the genius, activity, and pecuniary resources of their nations. The support of considerable land and sea forces involves the necessity of great reforms in other departments of the general economy of the State. The first duty of peoples and princes is to place themselves in a condition of defense against the aggressions of their enemies. Still we do not forget that we ought to reconcile these principles with the respect with which we should cherish those celebrated places which, in barbaric ages, pre-served the sacred fire of reason, and which be-came the depot of human knowledge."

The debates upon this subject in the Council of State were long and animated. The peasantry, ignorant and superstitious, clung to their old prejudices, and could not easily throw aside the shackles of ages. Many of these religious communities were wealthy, the recipients of immense sums bequeathed to them by the dying. There was no legal right, no right but that of revolution and the absolute necessities of the State, for wresting this property [125] from them. But it was manifest to every intelligent mind that the Neapolitan kingdom could never emerge from the stagnation of semi-barbarism without the entire overthrow of many, and the radical reform of the remainder of these institutions.

At length a law, very carefully matured, was enacted, suppressing a large number of these religious orders, and introducing essential changes into those which were permitted to survive. The possessions of those which were abolished, generally consisting of large tracts of land, reverted to the State, and were sold at auction in small farms. The money thus raised helped replenish the bankrupt treasury. The poor monks, expelled from their cells, with no habits of industry, and no means of obtaining a support, received a life pension, amounting to a little more than one hundred dollars a year.

The three abbeys of Mount Cassin, Cava, and Monte Verging contained very considerable libraries, and were the dépots of important records and manuscripts. These were intrusted to the keeping of a select number of the most intelligent monks. It was their duty to arrange and catalogue the books and manu- [126] scripts, and to search out those works which could throw light upon the sciences, the arts, and the past history of the realm. They retained the buildings, the necessary furniture, and received a small additional stipend.

There were some passes through the mountains which were perilous in the winter season. Upon these bleak eminences houses of refuge were erected, to shelter travellers and to help them on their way. In each of these twenty five monks were placed. Their labors were arduous, as often all the necessaries of life had to be brought upon their backs from the plains below. They received a frugal but comfortable support.

The salaries of the hard-working clergy were increased. The vases and ornaments from the suppressed convents were distributed among those poorer parishes which were in a state of destitution. The furniture of the convents was transferred to the civil and military hospitals. The pictures, bas-reliefs, statuary, and other objects of art were collected for the national museum which the King wished to establish. The mendicant friars, who had sufficient education, were intrusted with the instruction of the children.

[127] The number of priests under the old regime had increased to a degree entirely disproportioned to the wants of the community. They were consequently wretchedly poor. A fixed salary was assigned to the rectors, that they might live respectably, and the ordinations in each diocese were so regulated that there should be but one priest for about one thousand souls.

It is not to be supposed that such changes could be effected without much friction. Not only bigotry opposed them, but there was a deep-seated, though unintelligent religious sentiment, which remonstrated against them. The advocates of the old regime availed themselves, in every possible way, of this sentiment, while the British fleet, continually hovering around the coasts, and occasionally landing men at unguarded points, contributed much toward keeping the spirit of insurrection alive, and preventing the tranquillity of the country.

New public works were commenced in the capital, to employ the idle and starving multitudes there. The country roads, so long infested with robbers, were in a wretched condition. The entire stagnation of all internal commerce had left them unused and almost [128] impassable. The old roads were repaired, and new ones vigorously opened. The inhabitants of the provinces, and even the soldiers who could be conveniently spared, were employed in these enterprises. The soldiers, receiving slight additional pay, cheerfully contributed their labors. French officers of engineers, of established ability, superintended these national works.

King Joseph was but the agent of his brother Napoleon. Though himself a man of superior ability, and imbued with an ardent spirit of humanity, in these great enterprises he was carrying out the designs with which the imperial mind of his brother was inspired. Thus the kingdom of Naples, in a few months, under the reign of Joseph, made more progress than had been accomplished in scores of years under the dominion of the Neapolitan Bourbons.

On the 8th of May, 1806, Joseph wrote to Napoleon:

"My previous letters have announced to your Majesty that perfect order is restored in the Calabrias. I am not less pleased with the inhabitants of Apulia. They are more enlightened, less passionate, but equally zealous with the Calabrians to withdraw their country from the debasement into which it is [129] plunged. I am particularly satisfied with the priests, the nobles, and the landed proprietors.

"I now fully recognize the justice of the principles which I have so often heard from the lips of your Majesty. And I confess that experience has proved to me how true it is that it is necessary to see to every thing one's self; that not a moment of time must ever be lost; that we can not rely upon the activity of any person, and that every thing is possible, with a determined will on the part of the chief. I say to myself, ten times a day, the Emperor was right.

"I have established in each province a president, or prefect, who is entirely independent of the military commandant. I have decreed the formation in each province of a legion whose organization I will soon send to your Majesty. It is not paid. It is commanded by those men who are the most opulent, the most respectable, and the most attached to the present order of things. In each province I form a company of gendarmerie, composed of Frenchmen and Neapolitans. It is with some pride that I see that all the measures which your Majesty has prescribed to me I have adopted in advance.

[130] "Whatever I may say, your Majesty can form no conception of the state of oppression, barbarism, and debasement which existed in this realm. And I can assure your Majesty that the Neapolitan officers returning to their homes become well pleased in witnessing the spirit which animates their fellow-citizens. I derive much advantage from the knowledge I have of the language, the manners, and customs of the country. The inhabitants of the mountains and of the villages resemble closely those of Corsica. And I do not think that I can be mistaken when I assure your Majesty that the people regard themselves as happy in being governed by a man who is so nearly related to your Majesty, and who bears a name which your Majesty rendered illustrious before he became an emperor, and which has for them the advantage of being Italian."

On the 22nd of June, 1806, Napoleon wrote to Joseph:

"MY BROTHER—the Court of Rome is entirely surrendered to folly. It refuses to recognize you, and I know not what sort of a treaty it wishes to make with me. It thinks that I can not unite profound respect for the spiritual authority of the Pope, and at the same time repel his temporal pretensions. It forgets [131] that Saint Louis, whose piety is well known, was almost always at war with the Pope, and that Charles V., who was a very Christian prince, held Rome besieged for a long time, and seized it, with every Roman state."

On the 28th of February, 1806, M. de Meneval, the Emperor's secretary, had written to Joseph, "The Emperor works prodigiously. He holds three or four councils every day, from eight o'clock in the morning, when he rises, until two or three o'clock in the morning, when he goes to bed."

Napoleon well knew the fickle, unreliable, debased character of the Italian populace. He was sure that Joseph, in the kindness of his heart, was too confiding and unsuspicious. He wrote reiteratedly upon this subject: "Put it in your calculations," said he, "that sooner or later you will have an insurrection. It is an event which always happens in a conquered country. You can never sustain yourself by opinion in such a city as Naples. Be sure that you will have a riot or an insurrection. I earnestly desire to aid you by my experience in such matters. Shoot pitilessly the lazzaroni who plunge the dagger. I am greatly surprised that you do not shoot the spies of the [132] King of Naples. Your administration is too feeble. I can not conceive why you do not execute the laws. Every spy should be shot. Every lazzaroni who plies the dagger should be shot. You attach too much importance to a populace whom two or three battalions and a few pieces of artillery will bring to reason. They will never be submissive until they rise in insurrection, and you make a severe example. The villages which revolt should be surrendered to pillage. It is not only the right of war, but policy requires it. Your government, my brother, is not sufficiently vigorous. You fear too much to indispose people. You are too amiable, and have too much confidence in the Neapolitans. This system of mildness will not avail you. Be sure of that. I truly desire that the mob of Naples should revolt. Until you make an example, you will not be master. With every conquered people a revolt is a necessity. I should regard a revolt in Naples as the father of a family regards the smallpox for his children. Provided it does not weaken the invalid too much, it is a salutary crisis."

Such were the precautions which Napoleon was continually sending to Joseph. His amia- [133] ble brother did not sufficiently heed them. He fancied that the most ignorant, fanatical, and debased of men could be held in control by kind words and kind deeds alone. But he awoke fearfully to the delusion when a savage insurrection broke out among the peasants and the brigands of the Calabrias, and swept the provinces with flame and blood. Then scenes of woe ensued which can never be described. It became necessary to resort to the severest acts of punishment. Much, if not all of this, might have been saved had the firm government which Napoleon recommended been established at the beginning. It is cruelty, not kindness, to leave the mob to feel that they can inaugurate their reign of terror with impunity.

The following extracts from a letter which Joseph wrote his wife, dated Naples, March 22nd 1806, throw interesting light upon the characters of both the King and the Emperor.

"I repeat it, the Emperor ought not to remain alone in Paris. Providence has made me expressly to serve as his safeguard. Loving repose, and yet able to support activity; despising grandeurs, and yet able to bear their burden with success, whatever may have been [134] the slight differences between him and me, I can truly say that he is the man of all the world whom I love the best. I do not know if a climate and shores very much resembling those which I inhabited with him, have given back to me all my first love for the friend of my childhood; but I can truly say that I often find myself weeping over the affections of twenty years' standing as over those of but a few months.

"If you can not come to me immediately, send Zénaide; I would give all the empires of the world for one caress of my tall Zénaide, or for one kiss of my little Lolotte. As for you, you know very well that I love you as their mother, and as I love my wife. If I can unite a dispersed family and live in the bosom of my own, I shall be content; and I will surrender myself to fulfill all the missions which the Emperor may assign to me, provided they can be temporary, and that I may cherish the hope of dying in a country in which I have always wished to live."

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