THE DAY OF DUPES IN THE VATICAN.
THERE is a very memorable and also very amusing event in French history popularly known as the Day of Dupes, when with the stealthy bound of a tiger Cardinal Richelieu, pouncing down upon the intriguing Queen Mother and her friends just as they flattered themselves they had succeeded in ruining the great Minister, completely demolished their machinations, contemp- tuously turned the tables on his adversaries, and instead of being hurled from power, as some foolish persons already considered him to be, then and there inaugurated that reign of absolute ascendancy over the Sovereign which, lasting till death, was attended withresults for France and the world that have not yet been obliterated. Probably nine persona out of ten, when reading in the graphicpages of contemporary memoirs the absurdly trivial circumstances which turned an event that in its far-reaching consequences proved an epoch, have exclaimed to themselves that such things could happen only formerly. Let them stand corrected in their estimation of obsoleteness. In the Court that would fain boast of being the gravest and most decorous in Europe, the one exclusively regu- lated by a severe regard for principles, there has just been witnessed a palace revolution such as could occur nowadays no- where else, unless perhaps in the Seraglio. The Vatican has been the scene of a performance which is a perfect revival of the French Day of Dupes, and never has it happened for persons to be more completely what is vulgarly called " sold" than has hap- pened to some persons at the hands of Pius IX. In presence of the capital crisis which is actually on the point of bursting over Rome, a pitched battle has at last been fought between the two rival influences which for several years have been sullenly counteracting each other in the councils of the Vatican, and the result is that the fiery and eccentric constellation of Merode has had to yield before the calmly bright twinkle of Antonelli's
star, which now again rules in the ascendant. Had the issues at stake been none other than are involved in a merely personal squabble, we should have scarcely considered the matter worthy of notice ; but under present circumstances, with the evacuation of Rome virtually commenced, with a great crisis staring him in the face, with the inevitable necessity for the Pope's Government to deal with vital questions in the course of a few months, the changes just made by the Pope so deliberately acquire serious importance.
Monsignor Merode's political influence dates from the beginning of the Italian War. Until then he had been known only as one of the Pope's Court. Before entering the Church the Monsignor was a soldier, and had seen service. When therefore at that season it was felt desirable to put the Papal Army on an improved footing, who could seem more fitting for.the duty than Merode—a devoted adherent of the Pope, and practically acquainted with military matters? Moreover, Merode is a man of feverish energy, and his excited imagination fascinated at that season the weak-minded Pope with visions of the militant power latent in Catholic Christendom, which only required the word to rise against the spoiler. The restless activity of the new Minister verged indeed at times on lunacy, but the current of feelings was then still set in the same direction, men in Rome had not yet gauged by experience the practical force of Catholic fervour in behalf of the temporal power, and Pius IX. with character- istic exaggeration gave himself up to an overweening love for the Christian soldier whom Providence had specially sent to his aid. The creation of a cosmopolitan army of faithful, and especially the nomination of Larnoriciere, were the Monsignor's especial work. It was also his favourite project to make Rome a great gathering-place of all Legitimacy. His own family connection facilitated in some degree his exertions to this end, so that he succeeded in drawing to Rome a number of Legitimists with sounding names, who figure in the Pope's service and form par- ticularly a regiment of Zouaves. Rome was thus to be openly constituted the natural citadel of right principles—the natural home of their devotees. It has been no secret that in these pro- jects the ardent Monsignor was from the beginning but coldly supported by Cardinal Antonelli, whose nature is altogether ad- verse to the adventurous and the heroic. Nothing could be more distasteful to a mind that dislikes all fuss—that is content with shrewdly living for the day and staving off just what must be staved off—than the ecstatic policy advocated by Merode, and the fantastic impulse which made him incessantly interfere in the public administration of every department with a wild restlessness that was productive only of disturbance. Still the Pope smiled on the eager crusader, and after Castelfidardo Cardinal Antonelli was officially accused of having been the cause of that disaster in the report drawn up by Lamoriciere, and inserted in the Roman Moniteur. For some time the Cardinal's disgrace was so public that the announcement of his fall was looked for every day. But the Pope did not send him his dismissal, and the Cardinal would not give in his resignation, but quietly abided his time with unruffled equanimity, although during several years he had to put up with signal affronts which no man of quick feelings would have put up with, and to concur without protest in sending to solitary imprisonment for twenty years his confidential and most ancient familiar Fausti, on a charge of political conspiracy in- famously trumped up, with the view of virtually implicating therein the Cardinal himself, the poor victim's patron. But the Cardinal was aggravatingly impassible, and could not be stung by any feel- ings of punctilio into a premature outburst that might bound back against himself.
For some months, however, it has been manifest that a check has come on the exuberance of that favouritism which the Pope once felt for his War Minister. Pius IX., though an amiable old gentle- man at bottom, is always prone to whims, whether of exultation or irritation, which he is quite incapable of disguising or suppress- ing. We can easily infer that a variety of concurrent causes con- tributed to render irritating and even nauseous the inflammatory action of Monsignor Merode's overheated temperament. The successive bursting of so many dazzling bubbles eagerly held up to sight by the confident prelate—at Castelfidardo the army of the Faith slaughtered without one Catholic Prince raising a finger to avenge, no kind of practical assistance extended by the devout affection so freely assumed to be on the point of break- ing forth, constantly growing money embarrassments, largely aggra- vated by expenditure incurred through the Monsignor's incessant requirements for his peculiar policy, and finally a tormenting sense of the perils brought on the Church by the position into which it has been put, and of the rapidly encircling ring of fire that is girdling round Rome, have all worried the Pope, whom on the occasion of the Vegezzi negotiations the impetuous Merode actually presumed to lecture once on the impropriety of his action. Re- peatedly of late the Pope has taken pleasure in marking his peevish displeasure to the Monsignor in a way that struck public at- tention, until an accidental discovery furnished the Minister's enemies with an instrument to effect his downfall. It appears that the same feverish activity and fanciful ardour which induced Monsignor Merode to embark on his own account in a number of private enterprises of doubtful profit for the improvement of Rome, made him also hastily assume Government contracts at ruinous rates. It also appears certain that with the want of order which characterized his whole administration, he drew upon the Treasury for more money than he was authorized. It cannot for a moment be supposed that he was guilty of more than his inveterate presumptuousness, which disdained regulations, and his incredible spirit of disorder, for Monsignor Merode's reputation on the score of money is romantically pure. Nevertheless, from the complete want of auditing and the habit of mixing up accounts of the most varied kinds, he was found to be in debt to the Treasury for a considerable amount. This was at once brought ,under the notice of the Pope by the Ministers assembled in Council, and the Pope, flying into a violent passion with the man against whom he already bore a grudge, declared that Merode should be made to refund forthwith the moneys he had drawn without authority, and that he should be told to resign. With this deci- sion Cardinal Antonelli proceeded to Merode. The interview was long, and we believe marked by painful exhibitions of violence, but the end was satisfactory. The Monsignor, when the first frightful paroxysm of his fury had expended itself, agreed to pay in fixed instalments and declared himself ready to resign. All the preparations were made for travelling abroad, and Rome assumed that all was over for Merode, when suddenly it was whispered that he declined to carry out his engagement, and re- fused to abandon office unless he received an absolute dismissal from the Pope. In that case he would go away, and appeal to the Catholic world for his defence. At the same time that cosmo- politan galaxy attracted by Merode to Rome, and which looked to him as its especial protector, began to make loud and vehement pro- testations of its indignant feelings, and its determination to dis- perse if Merode were removed from office. During several days everything was in suspense, and Pius IX. was beset with bullying remonstrances which seemed to be about to triumph. A full week passed in such uncertainty, Merode openly declaring that he would leave Rome only under conditions to prove to the world that the Pope had deliberately turned him out, and Pius IX. timidly hesitating to take the final step, when, just as even in the Vatican it was believed that the feeble Pope was -brow-beaten by the presumptuous prelate, there issued a bun- dle of missives dismissing not merely Merode but also the Minister of the Interior, the Governor of Rome, who has the supreme direction of the State police, and every governor of -a province, and substituting men who are the devoted creatures of Cardinal Antonelli. What may have been the push which spirited up the Pope to the last effort is not certainly known, but it is probable that he was startled by the sight of irrefragable evidence of the direct protection extended to the brigand Fuoco by his hot- brained Minister, protection which shocked the Pope's moral feelings, while it seemed impolitic in its extent to the Cardinal who furnished the evidence. A more complete enthronement of the Antonelli influence cannot be conceive& It is true that Merode for the moment still stays in Rome, and has entered his residence as Canon of St. Peter, but that is of no consequence when all his instruments are ejected from place. Already there are manifest symptoms of a break-up in anger of the Legitimist elements that have congregated in Rome, and the champions of the Papacy have begun to fling their commissions into the august face of the rather weak old gentleman of whom a week before it was their affectation to speak in hyperbolical terms of veneration.
What, then, it will be asked, may we anticipate as likely to flow from all these changes? Nothing could well be further from the mark, we believe, than to believe this thorough remodelling of the administration to portend a disposition to enter upon a conciliatory policy towards Italy. At no time have the members of the Society of Jesus occupied so influential a portion in the Court of Pius IX. as at present. It may be fairly said that they have suc- ceeded in completely monopolizing the Pope. Yet almighty as the members of this Order are in the Vatican, and sworn foes to all compromise with Liberal doctrines, it is a significant fact that they did not make any exertions to avert the downfall of Merode and prevent the advent of the Cardinal's friends. It must therefore be inferred that, with all their sympathies with Monsignor Merode's ardent devotion to the cause of the temporal power, they did not think him a choice instrument to work with, and had more con- fidence in the efficiency of men now promoted to authority. It is also now demonstrated that those were much mistaken who sur- mised that Cardinal Antonelli, seeing evil times drawing rapidly on, was secretly watching for an opportunity to free himself from an official connection which must involve him in the dangers of a catastrophe. Deliberately the Cardinal has selected to encounter the perils which he well sees ahead, and like a sailor going out to meet a storm, he has first made all snug and handy on board his State vessel. No man in his senses (and no one supposes the Car- dinal to have lost his) acts thus, unless he is actuated by a conviction that he knows how to thread the dangers lying in waiting for .him. But the conviction and the plan connected therewith which the Cardinal thus entertains must evidently be to the taste of the Jesuits, since with their consummate knowledge of men in Rome they have abstained from doing aught to oppose the nominations which he has considered indispensable. Another very significant circumstance is, that the Cardinal, not content with changes in the higher offices, has deemed it necessary to make a sweeping change in the provincial governorships, naming in every case an individual known to be specially bound to him, for it is upon these officers that will devolve the ticklish duty of regulating relations on the confines with the Italian authorities, and of carry- ing out any particular policy which it may be the Cardinal's wish to pursue when the French are removed. It is evident that the greatest possible importance has been attached to the presence of particularly confidential servants in these quarters, and we may therefore pretty confidently conclude that there is good ground for believing in the existence or an elaborate plan to give the Holy See the benefit of appearing in the attitude of a victim, which it is contemplated to realize dexterously in the regions thus put under the knowing care of trustworthy confidants.