HL Deb 30 April 1849 vol 104 cc968-70

observed, that as his noble Friend the President of the Council was then in his place, he would endeavour to renew a conversation which had taken place last week, and which he was happy to say had already been attended with some usefulness, on the subject of the pillage now in course of perpetration upon the great repositories of art in Italy. He was induced to speak on that subject last week in consequence of certain reports which were then bruited abroad, but which had turned out to be great exaggerations, respecting the removal from Italy of certain immortal remains of the chisel, and the larger paintings of the great masters, and which were rather more difficult to transport to foreign countries than the "lesser" works of art to which he had then alluded. It had since been promulgated, for the purpose, he believed, of preparing a market for the plunder, that the Minister of Finance, the Controller General of the Exchequer, under what had been called very incorrectly the de facto Government of Rome, had departed from that capital, having in his possession to dispose of in Paris or London, or elsewhere, or to pledge as security for a loan, those inestimable works of ancient and modern art, the cameos of the Vatican, and also the medals and coins of the Vatican, which were beyond all price, because they were unique, and the manuscripts of the Vatican, which had not yet been sufficiently explored, and which one could wish to be explored in the possession of their rightful owners, and not for the encouragement of robbery and pillage for the base lucre of gain. When he saw surreptitious practices like these imputed—but he hoped falsely imputed—to the Minister of Finance at Rome, he could not help reminding their Lordships of an anecdote connected with the name of Voltaire. Voltaire, D'Alembert, and some other wits of the day were sitting round the fire one December evening at the chateau of Madame Du Chatelet, amusing themselves with telling stories of celebrated robbers, and one told one story beginning thus—" Once upon a time there lived a great robber at Nantes," and so on; and then another proceeded—" Once upon a time there lived another great robber at Lyons," and so on. At last the story came round to Voltaire, and he began—" One upon a time there lived a general controller of finance," and then he stopped, and, resuming after a pause, said—" Pardon me, gentlemen, I have forgotten the rest." Jadis vivait un comptrolleur-general de financeparole d'honneur joublié le reste. He wished that that illustrious wit, philosopher, and historian had lived to see the remarkable light thrown upon his story by the Controller General of Finance at Rome, M. Manzoni. He could not help trusting that the public notice which he had taken, and which had been subsequently given to the world, of the fact that the medals, coins, and manuscripts belonging to the State of Rome had become the object of pillage, would have the effect of putting all the purchasers, and all the intended purchasers of them upon their guard. No love of the fine arts was a sufficient justification for men laying out their money in the purchase of works of art the produce of public robbery; for they must know that by so doing they became nothing else than purchasers of stolen goods.


said, Lord Brougham had imputed to M. Manzoni the deeds really perpetrated by M. Mazzini.


, in reply, believed that he was quite correct in imputing this robbery to M. Manzoni. He was not, however, inclined to say one word in extenuation of the conduct of M. Mazzini, who was at the head of the assassination department at Rome. ["Hear!"] Yes, he was at the head of the police there, and had not prevented the murder, or seized the murderers, of his dear and learned friend M. Rossi. M. Manzoni was, it was said, at the head of the robbery department.


declared that Lord Brougham was perfectly correct in applying his remarks to M. Manzoni; but he begged leave to inform their Lordships that there were now two individuals in Italy of the name of Mazzini. The one was Minister of Police at Rome, the other was the great poet, who was now reposing in quiet at Milan, if indeed any man of spirit and intellect could repose in quiet under the iron despotism of Austria. The Mazzini who was now Minister of Police at Rome was not at Rome, but at Leghorn, at the time of the murder of M. Rossi.


repeated that M. Mazzini and his Government had refused to detect, perhaps because they had instigated, the assassins of M. Rossi.

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