TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE COMING CRISIS IN ROME.
THE Continental papers, English Tory journals, the Morning Advertiser, and most old women in Islington, are busily speculating on what Mr. Gladstone can possibly be doing in Rome. Is he about to convert the Pope or to turn Cardinal, to build up the temporal power or to denounce the Papal prisons, to act as Grand Referendary of the Conclave, or to bid for old china on the dispersion of the collections in the Vatican ? We are authorized to explain the mystery which so vexes the souls of the faithful few who still believe that a visit to Rome is not the best of all possible prophylactics against Romanism. Mr. Gladstone is doing nothing in Rome. He is not playing any part whatever, but is simply seated an honoured spectator in the stage box, and watching from that post of vantage the most exciting drama of modern times, the death struggle of the oldest government on earth, the new development of its only spiritual power. As the fifth act draws slowly on—even death cannot be hurried in Rome—the interest of the audience becomes absorbing, the listeners hold their breath lest a whisper should escape, and even the English show signs of that emotion, that overpowering sense of expectation, which is so nearly fear. The " tension of the situation," as the diplomatists call it, becomes greater every hour. The "Vatican,"—in which expression we include the Pope, Cardinal Antonelli, the ruling Committee of the Society of Jesus, and the three or four Cardinals and Monsignori who retain some initiative power,—are at last convinced that the French troops are going, and their attitude as of suffering angels has given place to one of fierce, almost despairing, anxiety and suspense. From causes varying with each indi- vidual mind, the effect of the change has been to make the Society, with its definite policy and extreme counsels, master of the situation. That policy is resistance to the end, a calm, unblenching defiance alike to France, Italy, the Roman people, and the spirit of the age. In the supreme hour of its existence, abandoned by its allies, tricked by its friends, detested by its children, the Papacy will concede nothing, will promise nothing save pardon after submission, will make no reforms, will accept no advice, will simply assert itself now as ever, as beyond the need of human wisdom, above the range of earthly insult or aggression. Even Cardinal Anto- nelli, most secular of all its counsellors, has given way, and the single answer to the final appeal from France, from Italy, and from Rome, has been an allocution declaring that they shall be blessed when they have humbly acknowledged their sin. The opposing forces, therefore, must in a few weeks be face to face without any, barrier between them, and then— even the few cool English observers who know the Vatican and Rome as it is known only to Cardinals and the secret police of Florence, seem inclined to give way to fear, and antici- pate a catastrophe which will rouse the whole Catholic world. In the remnant of the Roman States, indeed, there is little, we are told, to dread. There are no troops, and although the fanatics in the Roman Government are organizing the bri- gands under the title of Auxiliary Companies, still brigands rob much more comfortably when they are not under organ- ization. The moment the French troops depart, terror will compel the landed proprietors to organize a national guard, which will pronounce the districts first independent and then Italian. The troops of the monarchy, too, which are gather- ing in a solid ring round the frontier, could interfere to put down agrarian insurrection without risk of recalling the French or of collision with any force which the Papacy can avow. The perplexity does not lie there, but within Rome itself, where the foreign legionaries, and the Sanfedisti, and the more trustworthy of the 'brigands will gather in great force, will show fight, will, if they can, provoke an insurrec- tion which would justify an appeal to the Catholic world for the protection of his Holiness. If in that case the appeal- were made to Italy all would be well, as the sight of the Italian uniform would at once reduce the city to order, and compress once more that hatred of the priestly caste which burns so fiercely in the Roman heart that it baffles even the otherwise irresistible authority of the National Com- mittee. That Committee contains of necessity two elements —the Italian and the Revolutionary—and though the former, backed by Ricasoli, by the Italian Army, and by every Liberal with property in Rome, is still completely in the ascendant, still, any great outrage, any slaughter of a crowd, any rumour of an intended massacre might give Mazzini's agents a moral stand-point, and with it irresistible power, Even Roman patience has limits, and the scores accumulating through a generation of oppression, petty, wearying, searching, remorseless oppression, as of malignant old women, might be wiped off in one excusable but most disastrous hour. The agents of the Reds are working to this end, eagerly backed by the ultra-Clericals, who see beyond the Red Sea the road to the promised land, but watched, and in many directions- baffled, by a body as well organized as themselves and better disciplined,—the secret police of Italy. The friends of dis- order are pitted not only against the National Committee, but against a far serener and stronger brain, wielding the forces- of a nation, daring as a Jacobin, cool as a grand seigneur, un- swerving as the Papacy itself. Still, even Ricasoli's force is inadequate alone to hold down a population boiling with hate and injury, and an accident, a murder, a rumour, may call up the Roman populace, brave, cool, and capable of reason, but with a thirst in it for blood. Once Rome is in revolution, Italy and the whole Catholic world are adrift on a sea of possibilities. The French may return, the Pope may fly, the "faithful" throughout Europe may rise to a crusading fer- vour, as Mgr. de Merode believes ; above all, Italy may insist on her capital, though its purchase-money be a war with France. With the centre of Catholicism in commotion almost anything may occur, the least disastrous possibility, perhaps, being the flight of the Pope from Rome.
Amid all this play and counterplay of great forces, this imbroglio of priests and Reds, of secularism and sacerdotalism, of forces which, while they must co-exist, cannot endure a compromise, the best hope is in the Italian character alike of the Pope and his opponents. They can wait like Orientals, he can endure like a martyr or a negro: Pius IX. will neither quit Italy, nor recall the French, nor massacre Romans, if he can help it. He may be induced by those about him to do either, but he may also at the last moment assert himself, rise to the splendour of an unparalleled situation, and forbid abso- lutely resistance to the powers of the world. The man is an Italian to the core of his heart, hating the idea of flight to any other country, scorning the barbarians to whom, if he resists, he must appeal for aid. He believes, too, in himself, really thinks, difficult as it appears to Englishmen to believe, that he is in spiritual affairs the Vicegerent of Heaven, the appointed mouth-piece of the Universal Church, and he may in the supreme hour override all counsel and reject all interference, declare that with or without dominion he is still the successor of St. Peter, and leave " the men of the world to work their will, undismayed by their violence or the external losses of the Church. In that event all will go well, for Rome once free will be Italian, and the Pope, recognized as a Sovereign Prince residing in Italy, will be free to execute all spiritual functions. untram- melled by personal considerations or secular interference. But if the Pope does not rise to this temper, if he yields to the advice of the Jesuits, or allows the instinct of kingship to get the better of the nobler elements in his character, if he calls on mercenaries instead of St. Peter, and trusts to brigands rather than to prayer, all the efforts of his opponents may not avert a catastrophe which will resound to the ends- of the world. Personally, he neither is nor can be in any danger, but the accumulated hatreds of a thousand years menace his caste, and the possibility of an explosion which will hoist them into the air has not yet passed away. It is well that under such circumstances substantive power belongs to two men so calm and patient as Louis Napoleon and Ricasoli, well that even the National Committee feels, like the Papacy and the people, " What is time to Rome ? "