صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

The dramatists, historians, and critics, we must pass over for the present; nor can we do more than to allude to the novel writers, who also form a numerous class, and several of whose works have both a European and American reputation. Of those thus known, we need not speak here. But we dare say that there are few of our American readers who have ever heard of the Assedio di Firenzi, of Anselmo Gualandi. And yet it is one of the best novels ever written. It is full of life and incident. As the title implies, the scene is laid at Florence. In speaking of the ancient grandeur of the Republic, and describing the terrible feuds between its principal citizens, it is often sublime, always original, vigorous and poetical. To show that we do not exaggerate its intrinsic merits, we subjoin two or three extracts, taken almost at random :

“But I concealed the sorrow that possessed me, and whenever a mournful duty required me to address the crowd, turning to the youth alone--for the times had taught me that gray hairs were not a crown of wisdom to the hoary head--that each year plucked out a virtue, and that man became clay long ere the eath had departed:-turning, I say, to none but the youth, I adınonished them thus:-“ Brothers, I exhort you to be great: true, my flesh quivers whilst uttering such a phrase; but God forbid that fear should deter me from the manifestation of lofty sentiments. There exists in creation a law which says, Bé great and unhappy. But there exists another law, still more universal, which ordains--Be man and die. If nothing, then, can ward off glorious death, what does life present that you should preserve it at the price of dishonor ? Perhaps you envy the drop from heaven which silently falls, and, unnoticed, loses itself in the sea! Who would not rather choose one day's existence of a bird--a day of song, of flight-who would not prefer one minute of thunder, one minute of sublimity and brightness, to the centuries of the sepulchral worm? Weighty ills will attend you, your lacerated heart will break---you will die: but in the hour of death you will call to mind the exile of Dante, the chains of Columbus, the stripes of Machiavelli, the prison of Galileo, the ravings of Tasso, and from these recollections you will acquire fortitude for that lot which the race of torturers will provide for you. The tyranny of man, which appeared to you a co. lossus of brass, will become an object of contempt when you detect the feet of clay, and you will dissipate the vision as easily as Dante's angel chased from his face the smoke of hell.'

“So spoke my lips, while my soul withered in bitterness. But a voice from within me answered thus: God doth not always repent him that he hath created man. Thou livest in an age which excelleth, in worthless


[ocr errors]


ness, all comparison with the meanest metal. Search history, and thou wilt find there times according to thy heart. . Cloak thyself with memory.. From the virtues of the dead, seize arguments to chastise the crimes of the living. The noble deeds of the dead will give thee hope in the virtues of those who are to come ; for nothing under the sun endureth forever, aud, on this earth, vicissitudes of good and evil continually alternate, Thou shalt live a life of visions of the past and the future.

[blocks in formation]

“I opened the volume of history in quest of this epoch of liuman felicity, and I read with the gasping breath of a dying man who longs for the light. Ah! low many days were spent in vain! Ah! how often, sorrowful but not despairing, did I lay my head on the fatal pages, exclaiming,

I shall be happier to-morrow.' To-inorrow came, and the day after, and the next, and still thick darkness on every side. This is the history of the brutes of the forest. I threw away the book, but with the book I did not throw away the knowledge of evil. Ye wakeful nights over the volumes of those who have preceded me, resistless agony for knowledge, what fruit did ye bring to my soul? Out of dejection and sorrow, I have woven the winding sheet of hope.

“I looked on Italy, and beheld a race spring up, overrunning the world to fetter the creature of God's workmanship; then the patience of the oppressed changed to fury; the iniquity of ages fell, and then came the day of danger; barbarous hordes drove before them, as shepherds their flocks, other barbarians towards our country. The torrent spreads from the Alps to Reggio. One throne became the lever to overthrow another; and we, the unhappy vanquished, bear the imprint of the fall of each. Civic broils succeed priestly. Guelfs and Ghibelins, Bianchis and Neris, Montecchis and Cappelettis, Maltraversis and Scacchesis, Bergolinis and Raspartis-blood on every stone in the villages ; blood on every tower in the cities; republics and continent miserable; perpetually warring with each other, within and without; lustful and avaricious tyrants, afraid even of the night, and yet of unbounded cruelty, betraying and betrayed; men put up for hire- Italian souls bartered for gold; illustrious cities treating with base marauders; lofty intellects bowing to ferocious ignorance; finally, as the tempest arises from the bottom of the deep, tyranny advances, pollutes heaven and earth, spreads a desert wild, unnaturalizes the soul--and stands."

[ocr errors]

The death of Nicolini, which took place on the 24th of last September, has awakened a new interest in his writings, to which, however, we can only allude in passing His Foscarini and Procida, especially the former, are, perhaps, the best specimens of the classic outline, clothed in the drapery of romanticism, and, what is more, the most likely to “


vive their century.” This would be readily assented to 'even by those who have never seen his works, could we only make room for some extracts. But to do him justice would require a whole article, and this we may give on a future occasion ; though, if we devoted one to every Italian author of equal eminence, it would be a long time before we should need to take up any other subject.

Modern Italy has produced but few philosophers who are known, beyond the Alps, as such ; although, in this department, too, she affords ample evidence against the theory of degeneracy. In proof of this, we need only mention Romagnosi, whose writings have exercised a considerable influence on the profoundest thinkers among his contemporaries.* No one has written more thoughtfully and forcibly on penal laws. “The right of punishment,” he says, “is an habitual right of self-defense against the permanent menace arising from an innate intemperance.”+ Romagnosi is one of the most earnest and powerful opponents of the theory of indefinite progress. “An indefinite progress," he observes, " is a vain chimera, because human nature herself is limited; our organization and soil, climate, stimulus, all demonstrate that she is inclined by herself to quietness. Methinks, rather, that the condition of the world suggests the great problem, whether the nations will ever be able to attain that finite apex to which the mind of the philosopher may soar, and whether it will be given to all of them to approach equally that point. Decay may intrude at every stage, as is attested by history." M. Guizot, as well as Mr. Buckle, and several other writers on the philosophy of history, have borrowed largely from this work, especially from those admirable chapters of it which relate to civilization and government. * The establishment of a government," says Romagnosi, “is a good, as far as it is a necessary, remedy, for an evil such as the ignorance, vices, &c., of the different individuals”'composing the body politic. No one who has examined the subject will deny the force of the following observation : “ Civilization has been, and is, a wholly special, whol'y traditional, wholly industrial art, which had its origin in a point of the globe, was propagated not

See his Alcuni Pensieri sopra un ultra metafisica Filosofia della Storia. Florence, 1834.

+ Genesi del Diritto Penale.
* Dell Indole e dei fattori del incivilementi.

§ Ihid.


otherwise than by alphabetical writing, in certain practicable modes, in certain climates, in certain countries, and which

succeed differently with different physical and moral peculiarities of nations."'* In this we have the whole affair, as it were, in a nut-shell--quite as much as M. Guizot gives us in several of his lectures on the same subject, although, for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of our article, Guizot is much more read by foreigners than Romagnosi.

ART. V.-1. The Commercial Agency Annual. New York: John

McKillop & Co. 2. Credit the Life of Commerce. Being a defence of the British

Merchants against the unjust and demoralizing tendency of the recent alterations in the Laws of Debtor and Creditor,

with an outline of remedial measures. By J. H. ELLIOTT. 3. An Act for the More Easy Recovery of Small Debts and De

mands in England. Aug. 28, 1848. 4. Bill to Amend the Laws of Bankruptcy and Insolvency. Pre

pared by the London Committee.

Laws regulating the relations between debtor and creditor are the most ancient on record, although nothing is more common, among a certain class of writers and orators, than to boast of the laws of the present day as the results of a civilization never attained to at any previous age of the world. This being taken for granted, the benighted people of antiquity, whether Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans, are pitied for the crushing oppressions they must at all times have suffered. That the ancients were oppressed in different countries is very true; but is not the same true of the moderns ? Perhaps it would not be so easy, as most persons think, to prove which have had the advantage in this respect. We learn from history that Bocchoris promulgated a law in Egypt, declaring that no citizen should be liable to imprisonment for debt, and that the same law was renewed by Sesostris.t That which. Solon gave the Athenians, and by which he

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

which signifies infamous, or without character. After this, the 'aloost? person is indeed excoinmunicated. His word is not to be taken; he is not allowed to be a witness, even on oath, and if a man trusts him, he does it at his own risk; he has no legal remedy against him. On the other hand, if a man takes his books to the public officer, and declares that he has given up all he has, and it does not appear that he has been doing business, knowing he was a bankrupt, and after a strict investigation there are no suspicious circumstances, his creditors must sign his papers. Thus, the creditor is protected without oppressing the debtor ; the rogue is distinguished from the honest; and a person is obliged, by a terrible penalty, to know the state of his affairs, and, when once embarrassed, to refrain from speculating to retrieve himself."

The bankrupt law of France is very nearly, if not quite, as strict as this, because it is presumed, until an investigation takes place, that the debtor has been guilty of fraud. As soon as the failure occurs, the tribunal of commerce proceeds at once to put the property into the hands of commissioners, who are to see that all is to be disposed of for the benefit of the creditors. The title of the debtor entirely ceases, except that his family are entitled to their household furniture and wearing apparel, and that his wife can claim whatever she has an independent interest in, herself. But not only is the debtor's property liable in this way; he is liable himself to be imprisoned or forced to work for the benefit of his creditor, if it appears, on investigation, that he was guilty of any fraud. If, upon the other hand, it is found that he has been doing business in good faith, and that his failure was the result of inexperience, the dishonesty of those with whom he dealt, or any other legitimate cause, he then receives protection, and may obtain his discharge as an insolvent, pretty much the same as debtors do in this country and in England. In other words, there is a wide distinction made between the debtor who has been guilty of fraud and the debtor who fails simply because he finds it impossible to meet his engagements.

In almost every country in Europe-certainly in each of the principal nations—there are similar laws. In short, ours is the only commercial nation, worthy of the name, that has no general bankrupt law. The Constitution gives Congress full

power "to establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States” (Art. 1, Sec. 8). On two occasions such laws were passed accordingly-first in 1800, and secondly in 1841, but neither was allowed to exist for

« السابقةمتابعة »