Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

equally distinguished, there is scarcely a noble of my acquaintance who has any merits, moral or intellectual.

"They are surrounded by the finest ancient and modern art, and care nothing for it. The eminent men of every country visit Rome—the Romans avoid them for they have nothing to talk to them about.

'Politics are of course unsafe, literature they have none. They never read. A cardinal told me something which I doubted, and I asked him where he had found it. “In certi libri,” he answered.

Another, who has a fine old library, begged me to use it. “You will do the room good,” he said. “No one has been there for years.” Even scandal and gossip must be avoided under an Ecclesiastical Government.

They never ride, they never shoot, they never visit their estates, they give no parties ; if it were not for the theatre and for their lawsuits they would sink into vegetable life.

'Sermoneta,' I said, “told me that many of his lawsuits were hereditary, and would probably descend to his son.'

If Sermoneta,' said Ampère, with his positive intelligence and his comparative vigour, cannot get through them, what is to be expected from others? They have, however, one merit, one point of contact with the rest of the world—their hatred of their Government. They seem to perceive, not clearly, for they perceive nothing clearly, but they dimly see, that the want of liberty is a still greater misfortune to the higher classes than to the lower.

1861.]

Population of Rome.

231

[ocr errors]

‘But the people are a fine race. Well led they will make excellent soldiers. They have the cruelty of their ancestors, perhaps I ought to say of their predecessors, but they have also their courage.'

*They showed,' said Beaumont, courage in the defence of Rome, but courage behind walls is the commonest of all courages. No training could make the Spaniards stand against us in the open field, but they were heroes in Saragossa. The caprices of courage and cowardice are innumerable. The French have no moral courage, they cannot stand ridicule, they cannot encounter disapprobation, they bow before oppression; a French soldier condemned by a court-martial cries for mercy like a child. The same man in battle appears indifferent to death. The Spaniard runs away without shame, but submits to death when it is inevitable without terror. None of the prisoners taken on either side in the Spanish civil war asked for pardon.'

'Indifference to life,' I said, “and indifference to danger have little in common. General Fénelon told me that in Algeria he had more than once to preside at an execution. No Arab showed any fear. Once there were two men, one of whom was to be flogged, the other to be shot. A mistake was made and they were going to shoot the wrong man. It was found out in time, but neither of the men seemed to care about it; yet they would probably have run away in battle. The Chinese are not brave, but you can hire a man to be beheaded in your place.'

'So,' said Ampère, ‘you could always hire a substitute

in our most murderous wars, when in the course of a year a regiment was killed twice over. It was hiring a man, not indeed to be beheaded, but to be shot for you.'

* The destructiveness,' said Beaumont, 'of a war is only gradually known. It is found out soonest in the villages when the deaths of the conscripts are heard of, or are suspected from their never returning ; but in the towns, from which the substitutes chiefly come, it may be long undiscovered. Nothing is known but what is officially published, and the Government lies with an audacity which seems always to succeed. If it stated the loss of men in a battle at one half of the real number, people would fancy that it ought to be doubled, and so come near to the truth ; but it avows' only one-tenth or only one-twentieth, and then the amount of falsehood is underestimated.'

'Marshal Randon,' I said, “told me that the whole loss in the Italian campaign was under 7,000 men.'

*That is a good instance,' said Beaumont. • It certainly was 50,000, perhaps 70,000. But I am guilty of a délit in saying so, and you will be guilty of a délit if you repeat what I have said. I remember the case of a man in a barber's shop in Tours, to whom the barber said that the harvest was bad. He repeated the information, and was punished by fine and imprisonment for having spread des nouvelles alarmantes. Truth is no excuse; in fact it is an aggravation, for the truer the news the more alarming.'

'In time of peace,' I asked, “what proportion of the conscripts return after their six years of service ?'

[ocr errors]

6

a

1861.]

Loss in War.

233

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

About three-quarters,' answered Beaumont.

Then,' I said, ' as you take 100,000 conscripts every year even in peace, you lose 25,000 of your best young men every year?'

Certainly,' said Beaumont.

* And are the 75,000 who return improved or deteriorated ?' I asked.

· Improved,' said Ampère; they are dégourdis, they are educated, they submit to authority, they know how to shift for themselves.'

Deteriorated,' said Beaumont. *A garrison life destroys the habits of steady industry, it impairs skill. The returned conscript is more vicious and less honest than the peasant who has not left his village.'

And what was the loss,' I asked, “in the late war?'

* At least twice as great,' said Beaumont, as it is in peace. Half of those who were taken perished. The country would not have borne the prolongation of the Crimean War.'

• These wars,' I said, “were short and successful. A war with England can scarcely be short, and yet you think that he plans one ?'

'I think,' said Beaumont, 'that he plans one, but only in the event of his encountering any serious difficulty at home. You must not infer from the magnitude of his naval expenditure that he expects one.

*You look at the expense of those preparations, and suppose that so great a sacrifice would not be made in order to meet an improbable emergency. But expense is no sacrifice to him. He likes it. He has the morbid

6

[ocr errors]

taste for it which some tyrants have had for blood, which his uncle had for war. Then he is incapable of counting. When he lived at Arenenburg he used to give every old soldier who visited him an order on Viellard his treasurer for money. In general the chest was empty. Viellard used to remonstrate but without effect.

The day perhaps after his orders had been dishonoured he gave new ones.'

Is it true,' I asked, that the civil list is a couple of years' income in debt ?' 'I know nothing about it,' said Beaumont; 'in

I fact, nobody knows anything about anything, but it is highly probable. Everybody who asks for anything gets it, everybody is allowed to waste, everybody is allowed to rob, every folly of the Empress is complied with. Fould raised objections, and was dismissed.

'She is said to have a room full of revolutionary relics : there is the bust of Marie Antoinette, the nose broken at one of the sacks of the Tuileries. There is a picture of Simon beating Louis XVII. Her poor child has been frightened by it, and she is always dwelling on the dangers of her position.'

So,' I said, "did Queen Adelaide-William IV.'s Queen. From the passing of the Reform Bill she fully expected to die on the scaffold.'

“There is more reason,' he answered, 'for the Empress's fears.'

* Not,' I said, 'if she fears the scaffold. Judicial murder, at least in that form, is out of fashion. Cayenne

6

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »