Page images
PDF
EPUB

Government, in which the will of the Emperor is supreme. To keep the representatives of every other Power out of Pekin seems to have been the policy of the Russian Government. We cannot but think that the mind of the Emperor of China must have recently received a considerable amount of political enlightenment. It is with much satisfaction that we learn that a disposition has been unequivocally manifested by the Court of Pekin since the war to draw closer its relations with the representative of the British Government. We entertain a confident expectation that a strong reaction will soon display itself throughout the country in favour of England, and that the Government will freely acknowledge that the two nations are commercially united only to their mutual advantage, and we trust that the majesty of honest dealing' will inspire all classes in China with the conviction that Great Britain could have had no object either in her policy or her arms inconsistent with the prosperity and integrity of their country.

ART. VII.-1. Opere Politico-Economiche del Conte Camillo Benso di Cavour. Cuneo, 1857.

2. Camillo Benso di Cavour. Per Roggero Bonghi. Torino,

1861.

3. Count Cavour, his Life and Career. By Basil H. Cooper, B.A. London, 1860.

COUN

YOUNT CAVOUR holds far too great a place in the history of our time to permit us to pass over his death in silence. Short as was his public career, he was the most remarkable man of our generation, and his influence will probably be felt longer and more widely than that of any living being. He has called into political existence a nation which, if its future be not marred by untoward events or wilful misconduct, may become one of the greatest of the earth, and may alter that balance of power upon which the present relations of the civilised world are based.

A candid inquiry into the history and condition of Italy will show that two things were necessary to the success of a man who, at this particular time, sought to achieve her independence and to unite her various States under one rule-that he should be born a Piedmontese, and should come from the upper, rather than the middle or lower ranks of the people. Both these conditions were fulfilled in Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. He was descended from an ancient and noble family, founded, it is believed, by a Saxon named Odibert. His ancestors have been traced to the middle of the 12th century. They belonged to the flourishing

community

community of Chieri, holding fiefs which are still possessed by their descendants. During the Middle Ages the Bensos numbered several distinguished statesmen and warriors. The Count Geoffrey Benso defended the Castle of Montmeillan, then the bulwark between France and Savoy, for thirteen months with great bravery and skill, against Louis XIII. At a later period the family contracted alliances with the noble French house of Clermont-Tonnerre. The title of Count of Cavour was conferred upon Michele Antonio di Benso, from a small town in the province of Pinerolo.

Camillo was the second son of the Marchese don Michele Giuseppe Benso di Cavour and of Adelaide Susanna Sellon, a lady of Geneva. He was born on the 10th of August, 1810. It is not a little curious that one of his sponsors was Pauline Borghese, the sister of the first Napoleon. His father, although an amiable man, and much beloved in his family, had rendered himself unpopular by his aristocratic manners and reserve, and by his connexion with the absolute party. A share of his unpopularity long fell upon his son. Like most young men of rank, Camillo was sent to the military academy. The army was then almost the only career open to a youth of noble birth. The civil service of the State was despised, and few in his position could be prepared for it by a suitable education. He soon distinguished himself by his diligence and ability, and was chosen as a royal page, then the next step to successful entrance into patrician life. His position at the Court seems to have been irksome to him. He took little pains to conceal his distaste for it, and was soon dismissed from its duties. Returning with renewed energy to his studies, chiefly directed by the celebrated astronomer Plana, he completed his military education at eighteen, leaving the Academy with the rank of Lieutenant in the Engineers, and the reputation of an able mathematician and one of the most industrious pupils of the institution. He was soon employed as an engineer, although only nineteen years old, in important works. In a letter, dated the 9th March, 1829, he writes, "I have passed the whole winter in the Apennines, to make the plan of a new fort, the object of which would be to close the road between Nice and Genoa!' A singular entry into life of the statesman who, thirty years later, was called upon to transfer the frontiers of his country to this very line of defence. From Genoa, he was sent to finish some works at L'Esseillon, a fort perched upon precipitous heights, and commanding the pass of the Mont Cenis into Italy. He writes with a keen enjoyment of the grand mountain scenery which surrounds it. He had formed an early friendship with the late Mr. William Brockedon. That distinguished Alpine Vol. 110.-No. 219.

P

traveller

[merged small][ocr errors]

traveller had been the first to describe those beautiful passes and valleys, now the favourite resort of the English tourist, which lead from the spotless summits and stern grandeur of the Swiss Alps through almost imperceptible gradations of gloomy pineforests, shady chestnut-groves, smiling vineyards and conventcrowned hills, into the sunny plains of Italy. He had sent his magnificent work on 'The Passes of the Alps' to the young Count. To no one could the gift have been more grateful. He was proud of his glorious native valleys, and jealous of their reputation. In the letter we have just quoted, the first of a series of great interest addressed to his English friend, he writes :—

'Having, with the exception of the Stelvio, explored all the passes you so well describe, I have seen with the liveliest pleasure that, doing full justice to the picturesque beauties of our valleys, you give so charming a description of them. The Piedmontese, who have hitherto been sacrificed on this score to the Swiss, should be grateful to you for what you have done for them. You sustain their cause in the most triumphant manner, by making known to all Europe the singularly picturesque scenery of the Mont Genève, and the magnificent valley of Aosta, which are in no way inferior to the most beautiful parts of Switzerland. We shall be indebted to you as one of the first amongst strangers, who, divesting himself of those accepted prejudices which assigned to Helvetia alone all the beauties of the Alps, has rendered complete and signal justice to a country which so well deserves to be known.'

He had been placed under arrest for a short time in the Fort de Bard, on account of political opinions expressed with too much freedom. Like most of the educated young men of Italy, his sympathies were altogether with the party of liberty and progress. But, unlike many of them who were hurried into unhappy excesses, his views from the very beginning seem to have been singularly moderate and practical. There is no greater proof of the miserable tyranny which then weighed upon Italy, and which attempted to crush every noble aspiration and every development of human intelligence, than that such a man should have been the object of suspicion and persecution. This policy was only calculated to breed conspirators and nourish hatred. Cavour took a wiser part than to join secret societies and to engage in hopeless plots. He threw up his commission in the Engineers in disgust, and set to work heart and soul to study the political and social questions of the day, and to prepare himself for the work that was before him, and to which he even then looked forward. A remarkable letter has been preserved, written by him about this time, in which he says that, in his dreams, he already sees himself the Minister of

the

the Kingdom of Italy.* The events of 1830 made a deep impression upon him. The French Revolution, the fall of the Bourbons, the establishment of constitutional government under Louis Philippe, the Reform agitation in England, and the growing strength of the Liberal party, led him at first to hope that the wrongs of Italy would be redressed, and that she would share in the progress which appeared to be in store for the West of Europe. He writes from Genoa in the month of December 1829:

[ocr errors]

I congratulate you sincerely on the happy change which has taken place in the policy of your Government. Whilst all Europe is walking with a firm step in the path of progress, unhappy Italy is always borne down under the same system of civil and religious tyranny. Pity those who, with a soul made to develop the generous principles of civilization, are compelled to see their country brutalised by Austrian and bayonets. Tell your countrymen that we are not undeserving of liberty-that, if we have rotten members, we have also men who are worthy to enjoy the blessings of light. Forgive me if I wander, but my soul is weighed down under the weight of indignation and of sorrow, and I feel a very sweet relief in thus opening myself to one who knows the causes of my grief, and surely sympathises with them."

His eyes were constantly turned to England. He watched with an interest extraordinary in a stranger and so young a man-for he was only twenty-two years of age-the progress of the great questions which then agitated the public mind in this country. He was not satisfied with such casual information as he could obtain in foreign publications. He wished to dig down to the very root. He applied to his English friend for books, reports, and documents, and studied them with untiring industry. The English language was now perfectly familiar to him. In it he wrote, on the 16th April, 1832, the following remarkable letter, which shows how early he had examined financial and economical subjects. Of course we are not concerned with his views on English party struggles:

:-

'It is not only in England that the great question of the corn-laws is agitated; here, as well as in your own country, the contending interests of the consommateurs and the protecteurs are in presence striving in order to obtain-the first, greater liberty for foreign importation, the latter, a more effectual protection against the corn of

*He writes,-Je vous remercie, Madame la Marquise, pour l'intérêt que vous prenez à ma disgrace; mais croyez le bien, je ferai tout de même ma carrière. J'ai beaucoup d'ambition, une ambition énorme; et lorsque je serai Ministre, j'espère que je la justifierai, puisque dans mes rêves je me vois déjà Ministre du Royaume d'Italie.-C. CAVOUR.'

P 2

Odessa.

Odessa. Most unhappily, nowhere the true principles of economical science are so little understood as in Piedmont. The lucid theories and profound reasonings of the philosophical writers, as well as the numerous facts and evidence collected by the care of various enlightened Governments, are totally unknown here. The violent passions of the one, and the blind and selfish interest of the others, are the only arms employed, till now, in the discussion of this question of so mighty interest. Having been of late engaged in several discussions on this subject with (a) person who can exert an efficacious influence on the final decision of it, I have endeavoured to collect all the official documents which might throw a light on the subject. I possess now all that has been written on it in France, but I yet want some works published in England; I mean, 1. "A relation of a journey undertaken by Mr. Jacob, by order of Government, in the western provinces of Europe, in order to ascertain the state of agriculture in these countries;" 2. "The Report of the Committee on the Corn-laws in the House of Lords." I will be infinitely obliged to you if you be so kind as to procure these works for me.

'All our attention is now directed towards England. We wait with great anxiety the final decision of the Reform question. More than any other nation Italy is interested in the triumph of the Liberal party in England, because more than any other nation she stands in need of the powerful and disinterested help of Great Britain for obtaining in some manner the redress, at least, of a portion of the intolerable grievances which afflict her since 1814.'

The young Count received with joy the books he had asked for, and others added to the list. He had thrown himself with his usual eagerness into the study of the great controversy on the corn-laws and free trade. In July, 1832, he writes:

'A slight illness has confined me to my bed for several days. It is only two days since I have regained the free use of my faculties. You would scarcely doubt that the first use I have made of them is to thank you warmly for the trouble you have given yourself in procuring for me the precious documents that I had asked you to send me. They will be of the greatest use in enabling me to fix my ideas clearly upon the difficult, but most important question of the Corn Laws and of Free Trade, which hitherto, I confess, have been entirely in accordance with those of your most celebrated writers and statesmen. Perhaps a deeper examination of the question will bring me to the opinions of the uncompromising partisans of the reciprocity system. Still I have never yet been able to find any conclusive answers to the reasonings of Smith and Ricardo, and to the facts advanced by Mr. Huskisson, and his disciples your present ministers. According to my view, the commercial and industrial crisis which has afflicted England, and the distress of the working classes which has been its result, far from having been caused by the new system introduced into your commercial policy, would have been

diminished

« PreviousContinue »