5 OCTOBER 1878, Page 7


perhaps, at present, about which it is possible to feel very great curiosity. As regards almost every other, we are in one of two conditions. Either we know, or think we know, pretty exactly what would follow upon a certain event ; or the event itself is so improbable that it is not worth while to consider what would follow upon it. A Radical outbreak in France is an example of the former kind. We could almost trace out the successive steps by which momentary success would be turned into final failure, and some form of Conservative reaction would be established upon the ruins of the Republic. The disestablishment of the Church of England and the failure of the Bank of England are examples of the latter kind. They may conceivably happen, but it is not possible to realise their happening. The immense force of resistance to be overcome in the one case, the certainty of Government intervention in the second, take them out of the range of speculations with a purpose. The question we are thinking of is this,—What would happen if the Pope were to make up his mind, as he has half-threatened, to fight the Italian Government a outrance ? This is a possible contingency, —more so, perhaps, than in the time of Pius IX., for Leo XIII. may have an amount of quiet resolution about him which was wanting to his more excitable predecessor. And if it were to happen, have we any clear right to an idea as to the effect it would have upon the Italian people,—whether they would be alarmed, or conscience-stricken, or utterly indifferent V So far as appears, there are three weapons which the Pope might use in such a contest. He might leave Rome, he might excommunicate the King of Italy by name, or he might lay the kingdom under an interdict. Possibly, if he resorted to either of the two latter, he would leave Rome as a matter of precaution. He might, indeed, set the Italian Government at defiance, and having shot his bolt, await in the Vatican any vengeance they might take upon him ; and on the whole, we have little doubt that he might do this safely. To imprison the Pope until he with- drew an excommunication or an interdict would make the Government ridiculous in the eyes of all to whom it: did not appear impious. If excommunications and interdicts are serious things, to fight them by imprisoning their author is like firing a revolver at a ghost. If they are mere supersti- tions, why fight them at all ? But though the Italian Government would probably avoid this dilemma, the Pope might dread the inconvenience of being shut out from inter- course with Christendom so much as to be anxious not to run the slightest risk of a real imprisonment, and for that reason he might leave Rome before resorting to extreme mea- sures. Standing by itself, his departure from Rome mould have, we suspect, but very little result. It wonld shock Catholic feeling, but that is a matter about which the Italian Government is not careful, and we do not see that it would much trouble any one who has not been disturbed by.what the Italian Government have already done in this direction. The people of Rome might feel that the Pope's departure closed a particular channel of profit,. but the policy of the Government has for years been directed incidentally to making Rome less attractive from an ecclesiastical point of view, and it does not appear that the Roman people have been much concerned at it. They have probably found that a temporal capital is, on the whole, a better place to make money in than a spiritual capital. The pageants of the State may be inferior, speaking aesthetically, to the pageants of the Church, but the two have the common quality of attracting visitors and circulating money. Foreigners are not much interested in the common- place course of Italian Administration, but native Italians are ; and after all, a large proportion of the foreigners whom the Pope brought to Rome were either priests or pilgrims, and neither of the two are given to free spending.

Supposing, however, that the Pope did really excommunicate King Humbert by name, and that on the same Sunday, without any warning to the Government, the curse was read out.from every altar in Italy, with all the imposing ceremonial with which the Catholic Church invests this supreme function, what influence would this have on his subjects ? Would any and to spare, but a general excommunication does not come and in a way which proves that the wave of adversity, which home to a devout person as a particular and nominal was at first felt only by the middle-class, has at length reached excommunication does. It is pronounced on a certain the body of the people. Though bread is cheap, they are class of persons, and after all, the King may not belong obliged to be sparing of customary luxuries, and the Excise to that class, and so may not be really hurt by the excom- goes down. There is no revival in business visible, and the munication. But a specific excommunication allows of no accounts from Lancashire, from the India trade, from the quibbling. There is no denying that the Pope has meant to metal industries, grow rather worse than better, while there are cut off the excommunicated person from the communion of signs that the monetary panic, now overdue two years and ex- the Church. He has taken his acts into consideration, and petted for the last twelve months, is very near at hand. A has declared them worthy of the greatest spiritual condemna- great Scotch Bank, which very recently had £8,000,000 of tion which God's Vicegerent can pronounce. This may have deposits, has closed its doors ; and if any London Bank were no more effect on the nation than the more vague denancia- to go just now, we should, within forty-eight hours, be in a tions which have gone before, but still there is a difference state of barter. Serious financiers gravely doubt whether a between them, and a difference which may conceivably have "Black Friday" can be staved off much longer, and large dis- more important consequences than it seems likely to have. counters, eager, as a rule, for business, are "making themselves Hitherto the Pope has fought with the Government, and a safe " by refusing bills. Nevertheless, the optimists go about 'Government is an impersonal thing, and its subjects preaching that all will soon be well, that there must soon be a may in their hearts be profoundly indifferent to the revival of demand for British goods, that the Cycle of Depres- Pope's treatment of it. Like a corporation, it has no sion, long as it has lasted, is drawing to an end. To judge by soul; and having no soul, it is hard to see how it can what some capitalists and manufacturers affirm, it would seem suffer by being excommunicated. It is composed of Ministers as if they believed a check, a long-continued and disastrous who are constantly changing, who come into office pledged to check, in British business a natural impossibility, or that the policies which are only half their own, who go out of office uprising of a fresh demand for goods was as certain as the again leaving their policies behind. them, and taking their reflux of the tide. Many men, we begin to be convinced, do responsibilities with them. The King is something different hold this,—do think that the world being so big, it can never from this. He has a personality of his own, which survives be sufficiently supplied with any article, and that the only the fall and the resurrection of Cabinets, and is familiar by cause of demand not rising as prices fall is the report to millions of Italians to whom Ministries and Leaders of diminished means of buyers. The public will, they suppose, Opposition are but so many shadows. Very possibly the Italian if only it has money, buy any amount of anything that is nation would think the King's excommunication so much very cheap. Take, as an almost comically complete empty breath, but there is just the possibility that they might illustration of this feeling, the condition of the tin-plate think otherwise. trade, as described in the Cornish Telegraph. Tin, as every If, however, the Pope were really disposed to go to ex- body knows, has been in a bad way for some time. The metal tremities, it is the people, not the Sovereign, that he would be is being worked in the Eastern Archipelego, Singapore, wise to make the victim of his displeasure. Curiously enough, Burmab, Siam, and Australia, till in 1877 the foreign supply interdicts have passed out of use just as it became not incon- exceeded that from the mines of Cornwall and Devon. The sistent with justice to resort to them. In the middle-ages, it English mineowners, however, kept on digging away and pro- was only very remotely that a people could be said to lie ducing precisely the same quantities, till the markets could under any responsibility for the acts of its rulers. No doubt, absorb no more, and the price of common block-tin sank from even then there was a latent possibility of insurrection, which £152 15s. per ton to £73 3s. 6d., a fall of much more than a served as a check upon the Sovereign, and compelled him to clear half. At this price tin does not pay, and scores of mines take the wishes of his subjects into some sort of consideration. have been closed, but the owners of the remainder are only But it was only in the last resort that such a check could be taking advantage of their opportunity to produce as much as operative. Ordinarily the King was his own master, and to all the mines produced before, although hopeless, unless prices punish his subjects for anything that he did was to mete out rise, of any sufficient profit. They go on, in fact, as if they judgment in proportion not to the guilt, but to the thought block-tin was the end of mining, instead of a cash weakness, of the victim. Under a Constitutional Govern- balance. To add to the absurdity, the manufacturers of tin- ment, the subjects are the really responsible agents. The plate, though aware, from a fall of prices, that the world, had policy of the Government is determined by their wishes, and all the English tin-plates it wanted, have gone on increasing except in so far as it is unjust to punish a minority because production, from 2,083,451 boxes of the article in 1872, to it has been unable to make itself a majority, it is perfectly fair 2,819,098 boxes in 1877, till the markets are overflowing, and that they should suffer for what the Government of their choice they can only sell at reductions which leave them no adequate• has done. Why does the modern Church give the interdict return. There is not the slightest evidence that they will stop no place in her quiver? Is it because the good are punished now. One would have thought they could have seen that the with the evil, and in the most literal sense the believing wife need of tin-plate was finite, but they seem to have been -is cursed for the unbelieving husband ? Or is it that the unable to conceive that man can have enough of it, and that, Church cannot persuade herself of the efficacy of her own once satisfied, the human race will take no more at any price,. weapons, and shrinks from imposing an interdict because she and to have thought that as prices fell, the store-houses abreact fears that even an interdict would be made of no account ? It must be swept clean. Their case is in no way exceptional, is hard to say, but the probability is that the penalty would except so far as this, that they deal in an article of considerable be of little avail, unless the Roman Church were prepared to durability. The manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire, do what she always stops short of,—sacrifice the indivi- the ironmasters, the coalowners, and the lead-miners are all dual soul. The average Italian would have no difficulty doing the same thing, and with the same results. They are in dispensing with the consolations of religion so long as extending production, after production and price have satiated he was in health. It is when he came to die that he would their customers. miss them, and then the severity of the interdict would be The root of the popular error, or rather, we should say, of the relaxed, and the parting soul would not be condemned to leave capitalists' momentary blunder, is, we believe, this:—There are the world unfortified by the sacraments of the Church. Thus high priced articles in the world, the wish for which is uni- -the privations involved in an interdict would chiefly consist of versa!, while the demand is limited by the small number of the greater dullness with which life would be invested, when persons able to afford the expense—and in such cases every the churches were closed and the pageantry of Catholic cere- fall in price instantly increases the area of sale. Manufactured monial suspended. Even this would make life less pleasant silk, for example, is exactly such an article. It may be broadly than it ordinarily is, and so far would dispose the people to get said that all the women in the world, and three-fourths of the the interdict removed. But then there would be political men, would like to buy lengths of silk, if they could afford it, excitement, in lieu of ecclesiastical pageantry, and it might in and any fall in silk, therefore, tends directly to increase the the end be found that the one more than supplied the place of demand. If by any miracle first-class silk fit for a dress or a the other. It is doubtful, though far from certain, whether, lining could be produced for a shilling a yard, the demand would