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unhappy slaves, whose toil was rewarded by license. In Sicily, from then until now, wages for service have been too often impunity for crime.
Still more plausibly, the Mussulman conquest in the ninth century might be alleged as the cause of the social disorders which afflict the island. It is at least a coincidence that brigandage in Italy should follow so surely in the wake of Saracen colonisation, and the wild blood left behind them by the Arab settlements at Amantea and Santa Severina in Calabria, and Agropoli near Salerno, is doubtless not without effect upon the present state of public security in those regions. Moreover, the word Mafia is evidently derived from Ma'afir, the name of one of the Arab tribes settled at Palermo, another of which, the Kodhâ’a, has given its title to a subdivision of malefactors called the Ricottaro (the Arabic d becomes t in the Aryan tongues); while the distinctive costume and long locks of the mafiosi remind us that, by the edict of Omar, promulgated in the same place, the subjugated Christians were compelled to shave their foreheads, and forbidden to imitate the dress of their conquerors.
Signor Franchetti, however, is content to look no farther back than to the events of the present century for an explanation of the chaotic social state of Sicily. In 1812, Lord William Bentinck, who exercised practically, absolute power in the island, thought to remedy all its evils by the gift of a Constitution modelled on that of his native country--a panacea the administration of which, like the marriage of the hero and heroine in old-fashioned romances, was supposed to have for its effect that all concerned • lived happily together ever after.' Nevertheless, the simple of the British Ambassador failed of its effect; the British machinery of government worked badly on Sicilian soil. The Commons were unmanageable, the Peers subversive — the Lower House could not be induced to consider the Estimates : the Upper House was intent only on recovering the lost privileges of its members, and the model constitution was abrogated after four years' trial. The experiment had two consequences—the destruction of the ancient liberties of the realm, and the disappearance from the Statute Book of the Feudal Code. In Germany the Feudal system was abolished by emancipation, in France by confiscation; and in both by the action of forces inherent to the stage of civilisation at which they had arrived. In Sicily, on the contrary, its dissolution was accomplished by the exertion of an arbitrary external power, without any corresponding modification of the mutual relations between the members constituting the society upon which the change was prematurely imposed. The rights of property remained untouched, and the duties of protection no longer existed. Power remained in the same hands, but the moral tie which bound classes together was broken. The poor acquired no new rights, and lost their old dependence. Labour continued bound to the soil, and crime alone was emancipated.
Hence the profound social disturbance which has long vitiated and will long continue to vitiate all the efforts of Governments to restore Sicily to a normal condition. The iron hand of Manescalco, the Bourbon Minister of Police, repressed, but did not extinguish, the elements of disorder, and the emptying of the prisons, and general license which followed the landing of Garibaldi at Marsala, produced an immediate recrudescence of the evil. The Italian Constitution rests its weight upon the middle classes, and delivers the power of the State into their hands. It found in Sicily a nobility and a proletariat. Intermediate interests may be said not to exist, those of the gabellotti being identical with those of the great landowners, whose effete energies they tend to reinforce with the superior vitality of new blood. It was hoped that the sale of church and crown lands would have led to the formation of a class of small landholders; but the hope proved delusive. They were parcelled out at the discretion of the local camorras, and only went to increase the patrimonies of the great proprietors. Thus political power has fallen exclusively into the hands of the upper classes, who use it unrelentingly for selfish purposes; the public funds are at the disposal of the rich, while the public burdens fall mainly on the poor; the tyranny of capital has no check, and the rights of labour have no guarantee.
In the opinion of the Parliamentary Commission appointed in 1875, the Sicilian difficulty is a question of engineering, and will disappear before the whistle of the steam engine, and with the gradual substitution of macadamised roads for the native mule-paths. Nevertheless, here also, unusual and unlookedfor obstacles are encountered. The original plan for the network of railways, by means of which it was intended to open up communications between all parts of the island and the sea, was devised on a vicious principle. The sulphur industry was then in the ascendant. To the sulphur industry all other interests were sacrificed. The original plan, vicious as it was, was not carried out, and the result is that three trunks of railways which, up to the beginning of 1877,* it had been found
* It is hoped, however, that the line connecting Palermo with Girgenti will shortly be opened for traffic.
impossible to connect one with the other, lose themselves helplessly in the desert of the interior.
Even Nature herself is dead against the engineer. In some places the friable soil, loosened by the incessant percolation of water, overwhelms the works with landslips as often as they are undertaken. In others, the frequency of mountain-torrents requires a bridge of monumental construction at every half-mile of railway. Elsewhere, the obstructions of transport and the scarcity of material make labour difficult, or the malarious exhalations which poison the air render it all but impossible. The problem of road-construction is a still more arduous one, because here come into play the petty jealousies and hampering intrigues which are the bane of Sicily. Out of 360 communes, 102 are still inaccessible to wheeled vehicles, and the Commission was unable to visit the important town of Sciacca, owing to the complete impassability in bad weather of the mule-tracks which form the sole means of approaching it. In the midst of such deplorable backwardness, Government roads are permitted to become impracticable through local neglect; Government bridges are rendered inaccessible through local jealousies ; dishonest contracts are dishonestly apportioned; the refuse of the sulphur mines is substituted, as building material, for stone or brick; the inspector and the constructor are not unfrequently combined in the same individual, and municipal pockets are filled with the profits of municipal corruption.*
Nevertheless, the inevitable law of progress will no doubt finally prevail, and the vital arteries of road and rail will eventually stretch their branches even across the morasses of Montedoro, and through the defiles of the Madonie. There remains, however, the grave question whether the immediate interests of the people will be profitably affected by this advance in civilisation. The conditions of production will long remain unchanged by it; the laws of distribution must be extensively modified. It is greatly to be feared that, while competition in the labour market remains undiminished, increased facility in exporting corn will have for its effect a deterioration in quality of the food at the command of the Sicilian peasant, and the consequent degradation of his physical condition, which has hitherto been maintained at a high standard, to the level of that of the polenta-fed contadino of the Valley of the Po.
If Sicily is to continue part of the kingdom of Italy, a remedy must be found for the evils which afflict it, and that quickly; but as yet every remedy has proved ineffectual. Arbitrary
Report of Parliamentary Commission, passim.
measures have been tried, but only with the result of turning Government into a worthy rival of the Mafia, and adding to the sum-total of crime a long list committed in the name of order. Legal measures are acknowledged to be inadequate, although the ordinary law of Italy, in the system of admoni• tion' and forced domicile,' or practically transportation without trial, places powers in the hands of the authorities which would not be tolerated for a day in England. Even so sober a writer as Signor Franchetti recommends such a drastic mode of cure as the abolition of trial by jury, and the deportation of all suspected persons-a measure which, on his own showing, would make a large gulph in the population of the island; and it is unanimously agreed, that if public order is to be restored, Sicilians, with a very few exceptions, must be excluded from all share in the administration of justice in their country. Meglio buon rè che buona legge, says the proverb, which, like all proverbs, contains its modicum of truth-namely, that an equitable Code is vitiated by corrupt administration.
The fact is that the economic condition of the Sicilian peasant underlies all the disorders of Sicily, as the economic condition of the Irish peasant has been the main cause of the evils of Ireland; and all the remedies which leave this untouched have hitherto proved, and will continue to prove, fruitless. The famine of 1847, followed by a saving tide of Western
, emigration, and crowned by beneficent legislation, has got Ireland over the worst of her troubles; but the cruel cure of hunger is excluded from Sicily by the benignity of her climate and the fertility of her soil, and the idea of seeking a refuge from oppression in voluntary exile has as yet hardly dawned upon the minds of her inhabitants. There remains legislation. But the Sicilian vote, like the Irish vote, has the fate of each Ministry in its hands, and the Sicilian deputies, unlike the Irish members, are unanimous, and vote in a compact body. Far more than deputies, they are delegates sent by the landowners to represent their interests in Rome; and even if all the rest of Italy could be united against them, they would still have the formidable resource of falling back upon a Home Rule policy, which is not without a considerable following in Sicily. It is in vain to open railways, and sink millions in a soil where morasses and landslips offer almost insuperable obstacles to improved communications; it is in vain to endow bankrupt companies with a view to developing the resources of the island, and to strain its weary limbs on the Procrustean bed of a formalist constitutionalism. As long as the power remains to the rich of attaining unjust ends by iniquitous means, and
labour continues to be oppressed under legal forms, brigandage will remain the protest of the poor, and Sicily will still be the danger of Italy and the disgrace of Europe.
The British press has not unfrequently assumed the right of dragging to light the dark and dreadful deeds of tyranny and holding them up to the execration of the world ; indeed the British nation has been known to be wrought up to a pitch of excessive sensibility by the wrongs and sufferings of foreign countries. This very kingdom of the Two Sicilies (as it was then called) was the subject of one of Mr. Gladstone's earlier exploits in the cause of humanity. But he who has read the preceding pages has before his eyes a faint sketch of horrors and atrocities not to be surpassed by scenes in the prisons of Naples or in the most afflicted parts of the Ottoman Empire. These facts rest not upon newspaper correspondence or consular reports, but upon evidence taken before the Parliament of Italy: and they disclose a state of things which would justify the intervention of the civilised world, if we were of opinion that misgovernment and crime do justify intervention in foreign states. Great Britain cordially applauded, approved, and in some degree aided, the emancipation of Sicily from the Bourbon yoke. We had old ties and modern interests connecting us with the island. The most flourishing trade in Sicily, the wine trade, is entirely the creation of English houses settled there. Yet it has come to this, that British subjects, the benefactors of the country, have been robbed and murdered, without the possibility of protection or redress; and at this moment the life and property of no man in Sicily, more especially if he be a stranger, are secure. No doubt the respect and regard we feel for the Italian Government and nation have led us to submit to treatment in its dominions which would not be endured for a moment elsewhere. A very different tone has been taken in exacting redress from Turks, Greeks, and even Spaniards. But if these actions are intolerable in one country, are they to be endured in another? Are they more tolerable under the powerful government of enlightened Italy, with an enormous army at command, than they are under the feeble rule and unsettled social conditions of Turkey and Greece ? If it be a paramount national duty to reform the government of European Turkey, is it less a duty to establish government in Sicily, where it seems that neither order, security, law or justice exist at all, and the administration is under the absolute control of assassins ? *
See Note at the end of this Number, page 567.