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breeches, were vigorously proscribed. Not a single Sicilian was to be found in the cabinet, nor in any office of the state. Places, pensions, dignities, all were absorbed by the queen's parasites. The resources of the island were drained, either to defray the expenses of a horde of Neapolitan refugees, or in preparing abortive expeditions for the reconquest of Naples. Under pretence of the exigencies of the times, Caroline seized all the deposits at the national bank, placed there under government security ; and finally filled up the measure of her rapacity bv appropriating the whole of the property left in pledge by the poorest classes at the Monte di Pietii*
Up till 1811 the English confined themselves to their military occupation, having about eighteen thousand troops stationed in the island, and remained passive spectators of the widening schism between the crown and the people. But at this period matters had reached a crisis which necessitated the active interposition of the cabinet of St. James; and a phase in Sicilian history was entered upon, wherein England played a part of which the beginning and the end were miserably dissimilar. It seems that a twofold danger alarmed our government. Not only was it to be apprehended that the Sicilians, now driven to extremities, might renounce their allegiance and invoke the assistance of Murat, but traces had been discovered of a conspiracy on the part of the queen to betray her British allies to Napoleon. The exact details of this singular plot are not yet before the world. Its proofs are said to he in certain documents in the French Foreign office, which, according to diplomatic rules, will not be published until sixty years after the events they refer to have elapsed. Its existence, however, has never been called in question.
The queen, dissatisfied with England for not making the recovery of Naples the prominent object in the war, had secretly turned to another quarter for the accomplishment of her desires. Through her grand-niece, Maria Lousia, recently united to the emperor, a channel of communication with France was opened; and her restoration to the Neapolitan throne was made conditional on her favoring the designs of Napoleon in a sudden descent upon the English forces in the island. To foil these intrigues, and avert any popular outbreak, Lord William Bentinck was despatched to Palermo, invested with the double office of commandcr-in-chief of the
* The Monte di Pifta, H is pcnrcely necessary to explain, is n government institution, a vast sort of pawnbroker's oflice, established to secure to the poor more facilities and fairer dealing than could be obtained iu a private concern.
British forces in the Mediterranean, and minister plenipotentiary to the Sicilian court. While this eminent man was on his -way to the country in which his name is still so gratefully rememhered, the acme of maladministration and injustice had been reached.
An extraordinary supply of 360,000 ounces per annum was required from the parliament. The nation was not in a condition to furnish this exorbitant amount, and only 150,000 ounces were voted. Furious at this uoncompliance, the king rcconvoked the chambers, and repeated his demand; but they firmly adhered to their previous decision. In retaliation he arbitrarily ordered the sale of several communal and national estates, and the levying of a tax of one per cent on the value of every contract. A strong protest was then issued by the parliament against these unconstitutional measures, setting forth that, "During an uninterrupted period of several centuries the Sicilian people had never recognized any other means of supplying the royal treasury except by such contributions as were approved of by their representatives during the sitting of parliament." The king's reply to this remonstrance was the arrest of the five barons by whom it was presented. In the dead of the night, without any warning or preparation, these chiefs of five of the most illustrious Sicilian houses, were seized in their homes, carried on board ship, and transported to state prisons in various islets off 'the coast. The popular indignation was j deep and threatening. In vain did the queen aflect to brave public opinion, ami overawe the Palcrmitans, by exhibiting herself in a sort of triumph through all the principal streets. She could discern in the lowering aspect of the people that the measure of their long suffering was now full. One day more might have witnessed the city in revolt, and Murat invited to its support; but an unlooked-for deliverer was at hand. Forty-eight hours after the arrest of the five barons, Lord William Bentinck landed in Palermo.
His comprehensive mind took in at a glance the requirements of the situation. He saw the imperative necessity of protecting a national government in Sicily as a counterpoise to the treacherous machinations of the queen, and lost no time in addressing an official note to the crown, intimating the British cabinet's views with regard to the maintenance of the Sicilian constitution. These representations were insolently rejected, f he queen openly manifested her aversion to the new envoy: "This vile sergeant," she said, " was sent here to make bows, not to dictate laws." Finding his ment at home; and desirous, moreover, to lay before it a clear account of the state of Sicily, Bentinck, with characteristic promptitude, re-embarked for England, leaving among the leaders of the constitutional party sufficient assurances of his determination to uphold their rights, to prevent any insurrection during his absence. After being away only six weeks, the court was disagreeably surprised at his return. "The wretch! the queen was heard to exclaim, "even the winds favor him!" Caroline had good cause for being displeased, for his re-appearance proved the death-blow to her ascendency.
personal influence ineffectual, unless backed ' royal highness shall reign if you agree to my by unconditional authority from the govern- just demands, jind sliow yourself faithful to the
alliance with Great Britain. If not, I have a frigate for you also, and yonr son shall fill your plnce."
At this bold language, the prince turned pale j and even his haughty mother felt the necessity of submission. Following the example of her husband, she retired to one of the royal villas; and the hereditary prince, invested with the king's alter ego, was named vicar-general of the kingdom.
Sicily might now be considered under the protectorate of Great Britain. As a statesman, Bentinck took a prominent part in the councils of the new ministry, of which three
Full powers to act, as well as to remonstrate, of the liberated barons were members j and had been conferred upon him j and his first | in his military capacity, the Sicilian army step was to demand the release of the five was placed under his control. The parliament was speedily convoked—" not only (in the words of the vicar-general's edict) to turn its attention to the wants of the State,
barons, the revocation of the recent unconstitutional edicts, and the removal of all Neapolitans from offices of state.
Unwilling to yield, yet fearful of openly refusing, the court sought to gain time under
but likewise to the correcting of abuses, and the amelioration of laws; and to every thing,
various pretences. Bentinck's decision and | in short, that can contribute to the real hapstraightfonvardness, however, proved a match I piness of this most faithful people." On the even for the subtlest arts of Neapolitan di- 15th of June, 1812, it was opened by the
plomacy. He suspended the payment of the subsidy, which, as already mentioned, was furnisned by England to the royal family, until his requisitions should be complied with; while the English troops were transferred by forced marches from Messina, their previous head-quarters, to the vicinity of Palermo. Opposing to these vigorous proceedings a will equally energetic and inflexible, Caroline appeared to grow more stubborn as the hopelessness of the struggle became more apparent. She instructed the king, who, on pretence of ill-health, had retired to the country, to refuse, in a private audience which the British plenipotentiary had expressly solicited, even to listen to his warnings and advice. At the same time it was evident, by her inflammatory harangues to the military, and other hostile demonstrations, that, encouraged probably by some communications from France, she was seriously preparing for resistance.
Whatever may have been her calculations, Bentinck was not one to give her the opportunity of seeing them realized. He took down the English arms from the front of the embassy, and announcing that he was on the
prince, with the most flattering assurances, and amidst universal hope and exultation. During the ensuing session the work of reform was carried out. The ancient Sicilian constitution was remodelled, and assimilated as much as possible to the actual one of England. The three chambers which had previously subsisted, were reduced to two; the Lords Spiritual and Temporal forming one, the Commons the other. Obsolete laws and privileges were rescinded; the nobility themselves setting in this a noble example. "The barons of Sicily," says Bentinck, " presented one of the most glorious spectacles the world ever beheld. They came forward with the voluntary surrender of their own feudal rights." To give the new charter of their liberties additional validity, not content with the full acquiescence of the vicar-general, the Sicilians requested him to obtain from the king a fresh authorization to accept and ratify it on his behalf. Accordingly, Ferdinand wrote with his own hand, at the foot of the prince's despatch, these words, which are registered in the archives of the kingdom: "The above is conformable to my intentions, and I authorize you to carry it into effect."
point of quitting Palermo, demanded a final Thus fenced about by every imaginable securintervicw with Francis, the hereditary prince. I ity—the double agreement of the king and His announcement was brief, but startfinK:— the regent, and the support and direction of
"I have used every argument to bring the king and queen to reason, but in vain. Great evils require strong remedies. I am about to leave Palermo, and place myself at the head of ray troops. I shall then advance upon the town,
Great Britain, the constitution of 1812, or as it is often popularly termed, " the English Constitution," was established in Sicily. This happy result of Lord William Bentinck's intervention gave the greatest satisIV., then prince regent, directed Lord Castlereagh to express to the Prince of Belmonte, Sicilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, one of the fiye barons who had presented the remonstrance, his approbation of " the truly vise and patriotic part he had taken in the recent negotiations;" and his conviction that "by persevering in the same conduct the alliance between the two countries would be forever fixed upon such a basis, that neither intrigues nor force would be able to shake it." The London press re-echoed these assurances, and powerfully contributed to strengthen in the minds of a people unacquainted with the ebb and flow of political partisanship, the inconvenient persuasion that England recognized their national liberties as thenceforth entrusted to her honor and safe-keeping.
and embark their majesties for England. Your J faction to the government at home. George
Every effort was made by the Sicilian government to show a grateful sense of its obligations; and the treaty of mutual alliance with Great Britain, which had hitherto been a dead letter on the side of Ferdinand and Caroline, was thoroughly carried out. During the previous six years, notwithstanding an express stipulation to that effect, no native troops had been furnished to co-operate in the war. Now, in the course of nine months, a contingent of 7,000 men was despatched to Spain; and in a few months later, more than double that number were available. The vicar-general also appeared so well disposed towards fulfilling his engagements, that he was upbraided by his mother for bis servile deference to the dictates of Bentinck and the Liberals.
We have not space to dwell on the queen's unceasing intrigues to overthrow the new order of things, which went the length, so the popular voice affirms, and historians do not discredit, of an attempt to carry off the prince by poison, while she kept up her secret practices with Napoleon for surprising her British allies. At length after a twelvemonth of successful but harrassing opposition, Bentinck, on the discovery of fresh indications of Caroline's perfidy, represented to the king that public security required that her majesty should leave the island. At this suggestion, Ferdinand turned his back upon the ambassador, and divulged some of the designs of liis party by threatening the Prince of Belmonte, one of Bentinck's stanchest supporters, with a speedy and bloody reaction; "And thou shall be its first victim," he cdded. "I shall know in that case," was the reply, " whose hand directed the dagger of the assassin." The ministers now gave in their resignation, and for twenty days the king, shut up in the palace of La Favorita, refused any attention to Bentinck's official notes, hoping to gain time for the counter
revolution the queen still flattered herself she would bring about. But a decisive movement on the part of the soldier cut short the perplexities of the diplomatist. During the night Bentinck caused the approaches to the royal residence to be surrounded by a body of English cavalry, and gave the court to understand that all temporizing must be at an end.
Ferdinand now saw plainly that a step only lay between him and the deck of an English man-of-war. He accordingly yielded to Bentinck's requirements. Supplied by her victorious antagonist with the funds for paying her debts and redeeming her jewels, the queen embarked for Constantinople, from whence by a circuitous land journey she proceeded to Vienna, all nearer approaches to Austria being in the hands of the French. A year later, and the course of Caroline was run. She was found dead in her bed-chamber in the castle of Hetzendorf; her heart broken by the determination of the congress then assembled in Vienna, September, 1814, to maintain Joachim Murat on the throne of Naples. "It not being possible," in the words of the Emperor Alexander—or what at least were reported as such to the queen the night before her death, "now that the fate of populations had to be taken in question, to restore a butchering king."
In Sicily, meantime, all went on smoothly, until the Neapolitans who were the king's familiar associates profited by Bentinck's absence in Spain, whither he had gone with the Sicilian contingent, to renew the intrigues which he fancied had been forever cut short by the removal of Queen Caroline. Every art of bribery and cajolery was employed to win over a party in the chambers to set aside the authority of the vicar-general, and procure Ferdinand's return to power; while rumors were extensively circulated, charging the English government with meditating a coup de main for the total appropriation of the island. Bentinck's prompt return once more checked these machinations. In the spring of 1814, however, the foreign policy of the English cabinet underwent a complete change. Napoleon an exile in Elba, the pacifiration of Europe seemingly ensured, no stringent motive any longer existed for sustaining the national party in Sicily. Ferdinand's resumption of the powers he had delegated to his son, therefore, met with no further opposition. Contemporarily with the old king's return to the government, Bentinck's mission ccme to an end; and the last days of his sojourn in the island were embittered by witnessing the substitution of the liberal ministry, composed of his own personal friends, by one avowedly absolutist in its tendencies. 'Thus, in July, 1814, terminated the English armed intervention in Sicily; an intervention which, dictated by the most palpable self-interest, led to the assumption of moral obligations towards the Sicilian people, which honor and humanity should have rendered more permanent than the contingency that gave them rise. Diplomatists affect to ridicule the earnestness with which the Sicilians dwelt on these obligations; the persistence with which when evil times came upon them they petitioned this country for justice ; and the faith they so long cherished in the recognition of their claims. But what Englishman, whose honesty of judgment is yet unwarpcd, can refuse to acknowledge in the promises held out to secure their cp-operation and allegiance, in the praises lavished on their patriotism, and in the unqualified approval o* Lord William Bentinck's line of conduct during his two years' struggle against their sovereign, that they had ample grounds for the belief that a definite purpose of maintaining their political independence animated the British government and people?
Bentinck's successor, as English minister at Palermo, was Sir., afterwards Sir William, A'Court.* To this day the Sicilians apply to them the surnames of two of their Norman kings. "William the Good" is remembered as the restorer of their liberties j "William the Bad " as their destroyer. The one threw the weight of his authority into the popular scale; the diplomatic resources of the other were taxed to the uttermost to promote the ascendency of the crown. Bent inck had been the sheet anchor of the Liberals. A'Court became as speedily the councillor and favorite of Ferdinand; and the former's energy in building up the constitution, found its counterpoise in the new minister's ready co-operation in overthrowing it.
It must not be imagined, however, that the king at once threw off all restraint, or that Mr. A'Court immediately earned a title to the designation of "II Malo." On the contrary both started with sufficiently favorable indications. Notwithstanding the change there had been in the ministry, the king's speech on the opening of the chambers, July, 1814, was full of expressions of confidence towards the Sicilian people, while he professed to " regard the constitution with feelings of the tcndercst affection." Mr. A'Court, on his side, in the autumn of the same year, presented a memorandum from Lord Castlereagh, which was circulated throughout the island, and, in spite of some hesitation and ambiguity in its wording, served to calm the apprehension that England intended backing out of her previous engagements. This document, which seven years later Lord Castlereagh saw fit to withhold * Subsequently Lord Ileytesbury
from the House of Commons, contained a summary of the policy hitherto pursued towards Sicily; disclaimed the secret ambitious aims attributed to the interference of Great Britain; and announced she had "no intention of continuing the peculiar attitude circumstances had compelled her to assume during the war." But as a corrective to this declaration, and to the assurance, " that in the event of any prudent and temperate modification of the government, England would willingly lend that aid and support which it might'be in her power to afford," there came this stipulation :—
"She exacts onfi/ as a condition of her assistance that tin's modification be undertaken by the parliament itself, and accomplished in a legal and constitutional manner, as fur removed (ram any direct intervention of overbearing authoritytm the one hand, as any undue exertion of popular interference on the other." Finally, in reference to " thoso individuals who have supported tlio measures of internal policy in Sicily during the last threo years," a decided tone is assumed. "Their abandonment would bo inconsistent with the character and dignity of the British nation. It has an undoubted right to insist that no person shall suffer, cither in his person or property, for the part lie m:iy have taken for tho establishment and support of the constitution; and the perfect security of these individuals must bo considered as the sine qua non of the continuance of British protection and alliance."
Thus much for official professions; the practices by which they were soon followed were of a different complexion. First came the dissolution of the parliament, under pretence of some illegality in the election of the deputies; but in reality to get rid of all those members who had been most conspicuous in advocating reform. Next the political catechism, sanctioned by the vicar-goneral, containing the statutes of the constitution of 1812, familiarly explained, and by him appointed to be taught in all the public schools, was burned, at the king's command, by the public executioner. While lastly, under the eyes of Mr. A'Court, and without a word of remonstrance on his part, all the supporters of the English party, as it was then termed, either about the pnlace, or in public departments, were displaced; and many treated with open-indignity, apprehensive of worse things, voluntarily expatriated themselves. It being now evident that no protection could be counted on from the English representative, the Prince of Belmonte, already mentioned as one of the leaders of the Sicilian patriots, set out with the intention of following Lord Castlereagh to the Congress of Vienna, and there exposing the dangers which threatened Sicily. But he fell ill on his way ; and to the irreparable loss of his countrymen, breathed his last at Paris, without having accomplished the object of his journey.
The events of 1815, and the imprudence of Murat, brought back Ferdinand to Naples. On Napoleon's escape from Elba, his brother-in-law thought he might strike for the throne of the entire Peninsula. The result is well known. Totally defeated by the Austria:i , he passed some mouths in concealment in Franco and Corsica, till a desperate attempt to reinstate himself in the kingdom of Naples, cost him his life. Ferdinand, who had already returned to his dominions beyond the Straits, showed no mercy to his fallen foe.
In the last sittings of the Congress of Vienna, we hear no more of "the considerations of humanity" ascribed the previous autumn to its deliberations on the affairs of Naples. The 104th article of the treaty there concluded, thus decrees the restoration of the Neapolitan Bourbons: "His Majesty King Ferdinand IV., for himself, his heirs and successors, is re-established upon the throne of Naples, and recognized oy the powers as king of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. There is nothing apparently remarkable in the wording of this article; nevertheless, on the alteration of the previous title of king of the Two Sicilies, for that of the king OF THE KINGDOM of the Two Sicilies, the court of Naples founded pretensions—gravely brought forward in recent days—to justify the most flagrant breach of faith ever laid to the charge even of Bourbon princes. Three days after the general treaty had been signed, a secret agreement was entered into between Austria and Naples. The exact words of this compact, which was concealed even from Lord Castlereagh for upwards of two years—a compact denounced by Sir James Mackintosh, as " a secret stab at English honor and Sicilian liberty " — are as follows: "His majesty, in resuming the government of his kingdom, will not admit of any innovation vbich is not in accordance cither with the ancient monarchical institutions, or with the principles adopted by his imperial and royal majesty (the emperor of Austria), ta the internal government of his Italian provinces."
The Sicilian constitution could not in fairness be classed as an innovation; but of late years it had been resuscitated as it were; it had stepped into new vigor and importance; and consequently, its existence was a dangerous incentive to schemes of similar independence. It is therefore easy to understand why_ Austria, desirous of establishing despotism all over Italy, pronounced its doom.
A year notwithstanding was suffered to paw without any overt aggression, means
being token in the interval to foment such disunion and corruption in Sicily as would give a coloring of justice to the king's designs. The hereditary prince, left there with the title of viceroy (not vicar-general, which would have awakened reminiscences of a different state of things), was included in the studied system of throwing contempt on every one connected with the Ben thick era. His ministers received their instructions direct from Naples, and were the avowed tools of Medici, the king's favorite, whose animosity to the Sicilians was so undisguised, that he was heard to declare "Tie would leave them nothing but their eyes to weep with!" The liberty of the press was rapidly restricted till their last newspaper was suspended; and all the printers of Palermo, summoned before the president of the supreme court of justice, were admonished, under severe penalties, that nothing henceforth was to be printed without the knowledge and content of the government. Some one present having appealed to the privileges of the constitution, the president angrily retorted "that in spite of a hundred thousand constitutions he would send them all to the galleys."
Bribery and intimidation having had full scope, it was now thought feasible to obtain petitions from the different electoral communes, praying for a revision of the statute: but to the lasting honor of the Sicilians, not one village even, throughout the island, sent up such an address. Indeed, the most opposite results were produced by this attempt, which aroused the population to the sense of impending danger. The signatures denied to the satellites of the king, were rapidly affixed to petitions to the viceroy, entreating that the parliament, dissolved by his father before his removal to Naples, might be assembled without delay. More than forty of these addresses reached the prince; one hundred others were intercepted by the local magistrates, who had been bought over by the crown.
Regardless of these demonstrations, in the autumn of 1816, Ferdinand of Bourbon applied for the consent of England to the suppression of the representative institutions of which she had so lately been the champion. The history of this miserable transaction is necessarily intricate and obscure. General Colletta, a celebrated Neapolitan writer, whose public career showed no was far from partial to the Sicilian?, and whose testimony is therefore unsuspected, thus sums it up:—
"Those ministers, those counsellors, those confidants of tha king, formerly persecutors of tlio Sicilians, but in 1812 driven from power— restored to greater power in 1815, through the desire of vengeance, ambition, and ministerial pride, urged tbo king to absolutism, be being