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by the rest of the Chamber--angry at its exclusion from office, first coalesced with the Right, and then, alarmed at the success which the Opposition seemed likely to obtain by its help, almost immediately wheeled round, and, joining the Government, managed to secure for itself in the election of the thirty members of the General Budget Committee no less than nine seats, the Ministerialists counting sixteen, whilst the Right had to be content with five. Encouraged by this achievement, the Dissident groups now put forth fresh claims to representation in the Cabinet; throughout the whole year the same kind of tactics were employed, the same demands were made, but always in vain. For although now and again placed by these means in an awkward position—as on July 3, when a resolution, equivalent to a vote of censure, was appended by the Committee on the Budget to the Bill for the Supplementary Estimates, 1878–79—Ministers always succeeded in holding their own, and when the first Session of the new Parliament came to a close on July 20, the Senate, having at last voted the Bill for the abolition of the Grist Tax (July 19), and disposed of the preliminary Budget for 1880, the position of the Government was decidedly strengthened and improved.
The first act of the reassembled Chamber (November 15) was to vote twenty days of mourning in memory of Baron Ricasoli. The influence of Ricasoli on the destinies of his country had not been confined to the brief periods during which he had held power, but his tenure of office in 1861 deserved, on account of the measures then initiated for the unification of the Italian debt, to be specially remembered at a moment when financial reforms which should complete his work were about to be offered for the consideration of both Houses.
The three specially difficult problems which awaited the opening of the autumn Session were the Bill on Electoral Reform, the provisions for the abolition of the Forced Currency, and the Budget. It was understood that the Dissident groups—which could not decently attempt to bring about a crisis either over the Bill on Electoral Reform or that on the Forced Currency-meant to give trouble either on the discussion of the interpellations or on that of the Budget, although the rumours of a coalition for that purpose between the two great chiefs, Crispi and Nicotera, had been indignantly denied. The Cabinet, wamed by the annoyance which the Ferry Ministry in France had recently experienced, was determined not to challenge a vote of confidence by proposing or insisting on priority in favour of any measure. The committee on the Bill for Electoral Reform, of which Zanardelli was president, had not yet reported (although the House had solemnly engaged itself by vote in the later days of the previous Session not to separate until it had been discussed); supposing, therefore, that it were taken immediately after the Budget, at the usual rate of transacting business it could not possibly be reached before the beginning of January 1881; nor could the Bill on the abolition of the Forced Currency, which was laid on the table by the Finance Minister on the first day of the Session, be taken into consideration until a yet more distant date. The struggle, therefore, began on the interpellations (November 24), which covered the whole field of foreign and domestic policy. The Montenegrin question and the difficulties of the situation at Tunis furnished the main points of attack in foreign affairs ; whilst the action taken by the Government at home in ecclesiastical matters, and their attitude towards demonstrations of a Republican character, were blamed by some as not sufficiently lenient, whilst others censured them as hostile.
In the Montenegrin question Italy had, however, played an important part. The compromise discussed in March and April by the Ambassadors at Constantinople had been entertained on the proposal of Count Corti, the representative of Italy. It consisted in an agreement-signed on April 18 by the Porte, by the Ambassadors, and by the agent of Montenegro-and proposed, owing to the resistance of the Mussulman population of Gusinje-Plevna, that the Porte should cede instead the district occupied by the Hoti-Grudi and Clementi tribes, all Roman Catholic in religion, together with the district of Kuci-Kraïna, the inhabitants of which belonged to various persuasions. The Roman Catholic resistance to the Corti compromise was so strong that it was replaced by the arrangement of which the chief feature was the cession of Dulcigno; and when the naval demonstration was proposed by England as a means of putting an end to the hesitation and double-dealing of the Porte, Italy at once became a party to it, and the Cairoli Ministry gave further proof of their readiness to co-operate with an English Government having Mr. Gladstone for its head by instantly adhering to the proposal made by England early in October to blockade Smyrna should the Porte continue secretly to encourage resistance to the execution of its own agreements. The charge of vacillation as to choice of allies and policy on this head was triumphantly met by Signor Cairoli, who stated, in terms as strong as those which he used in the Senate at a later date, in the debate on the Estimates for Foreign Affairs (December 19), that he was resolved to continue to act in strict agreement with the other Powers ; in conclusion he also showed that he had never been slack to maintain such legitimate Italian influence, credit, or interests as had seemed to be menaced by the attitude of the French at Tunis. To Signori Depretis and Villa fell the task of justifying the home policy of the Cabinet, and they expressed, in especial reference to the monster meeting which had greeted Garibaldi's presence at Milan on November 2, a firm determination to admit the utmost liberty of public discussion compatible with the due preservation of public order. The ecclesiastical policy of the Cabinet, if moderate, had at least been distinctly pronounced ; as far back as October 8 the advent of the French Jesuits in Italy had been met by a circular in which Signor Villa prescribed to all the procureurs-généraux of the
kingdom the rigorous application of the existing laws against the Company of Jesus. Nor had Ministers neglected the task of constructive legislation. In the first days of the Session a Bill was laid before Parliament which not only unified the various branches connected with the present system of State control of Church discipline and the administration and liquidation of ecclesiastical property, thereby effecting a great economical reform, but attempted to put new limitations on mortmain, bringing under its operation the glebe lands which had been exempted from the action of the laws of 1866–67; other minor provisions embodied tentative efforts in the direction of the emancipation of the lower clergy, and the Bill as a whole might be considered a serious if very modest attempt to undermine the independence of the Church in Italy, and so may ultimately open the way to the much-to-bedesired revision of the old guarantee laws.
As the debate proceeded it became evident that the Government would triumph, and the Dissident groups, perceiving this, proposed the suspension of the debate, but Signor Cairoli would not forego his advantage, rejected all offers of compromise, and demanded a vote of confidence, which was passed (November 30) by 221 to 188, the Cabinet thus obtaining a clear majority of 33.
For the moment the Chamber settled down again to the consideration of the estimates, which were disposed of in rapid succession, and on December 22 both Houses were prorogued until January 24, 1881. The estimates, with one exception, were passed without incident; a successful push was made by the Dissidents to dislodge the Minister of Public Instruction, Signor de Sanctis (December 20). Rumours of the intended resignation of this unpopular member of the Cabinet had been current during the whole Session; failing health disinclined him to make any struggle for the retention of office, but those who brought about his fall have not been equal to forcing Signor Cairoli to replace Signor de Sanctis by one of their own number. The nomination of Signor Bacelli to the vacant post shows that the Government has made so much way this year that it feels itself strong enough to continue to dispense with compromising allies. The prospect of a surplus, which seems uncontested, has redeemed their financial policy from the suspicion of foolbardiness which long attached to it, and the scheme of Signor Magliani for the abolition of the forced currency, when discussed (December 9) by the bureaux of the Chamber of Deputies, was received with general goodwill; it was, indeed, recognised that important modifications would be necessary, but Signor Minghetti, and other leading members of the Right, declared their intention of not raising any political point during the debate, all parties being held equally interested in a satisfactory solution of the question.
The attitude of the Right on this and on many other matters is seriously changed in the present Parliament by the formation within itself of what is called the “ Young Right.” The Young Right are said to demand a stricter respect for the essential basis of the party-for the monarchy; for public order; for the rights of property; for the equal administration of the laws (even in the case of Garibaldi); on the other hand they are ready to make concessions on various points of economical and domestic policy-such as the abolition of the malt tax and of the forced currency, and are prepared even for a course of compromise in the matter of the Electoral Reform Bill, which, having been brought up from committee on December 21, stands on the order of the day for the first sitting after the Christmas recess. Signor Minghetti is, it is said, in essential agreement with these theories of the Young Right, who are sufficiently numerous, also, to exercise a certain influence on the councils of their party, and the consequently less hostile attitude of “his Majesty's Opposition " must considerably strengthen the hands of Ministers in dealing with the long-vexed questions of reform now before them.
The continued abstention of the clerical party from the poll still leaves a most important element of the national life unrepresented. At the municipal elections in July the Catholic Conservatives came forward again in greater numbers, and obtained by their compact discipline even more striking success than in 1879, but from the Chamber they hold aloof. We may, perhaps, in this abstention find the cause of that want of party cohesion which reduces parliamentary government in Italy to a state of almost perpetual crisis.
Sooner or later it is to be hoped that the entry of the clerical party-which is more dangerous by its absence than it can ever become by its presence-into the Chamber may lead to a stricter definition of principles, involving more solid union in the ranks of all parties. In such a case, gathering to itself the more Conservative elements both of Left and Right, the clerical party may force the Liberals to sink personal and academical dissensions as to men and methods, and unite in the serious effort to educate and enfranchise the people; above all to educate and enfranchise the people of the South, for, as long as the interests of the South and North can be opposed as different or hostile the one to the other, so long must the kingdom of Italy carry within itself the germ of possible disruption.
Position of Prince Bismarck-Foreign Policy—The Russian Scare–The Austrian
Alliance-The Prussian Landtag—The Reichsrath-The Army Bill-Extension of the Anti-Socialist Laws, Relaxation of the May Laws-Elbe Navigation and Freedom of Hamburg-Negotiations with the Vatican-The Chancellor's Resignation-Its outcome-The Bundesrath-Prince Bismarck Minister of Commerce- The Anti-Jewish Agitation or “ Judenhetz.”
The history of the German Empire during the year has been marked by few important incidents. The too frequently repeated assertion that the history of Germany is that of her great Chancellor can scarcely be accepted as correct, for, whilst Berlin still retains its place as the centre of European politics, none but the blindest worshippers of Prince Bismarck will assert that the aims and means of his policy have not been canvassed more freely than ever, or will deny that the stream of hostile criticism has gathered strength in every political party in the country and in the Reichsrath. The cause of this decline in the hero-worship of which the German Chancellor for fifteen years has been the object is not far to seek. It was in diplomacy and foreign policy, even more than in his contempt for parliamentary forms, that Prince Bismarck earned his fame, and this field of ambition his fellow-countrymen were ready and eager to abandon to him without reserve. The successive and signal victories which he achieved over the enemies of German unity and Prussian supremacy, both within and without the Bund, entitled him to the confidence and gratitude which his fellow-countrymen lavished upon him. In the management of the external relations of the Empire, therefore, he was recognised by all parties as the sole possible leader; and had he been content to remain the director-in-chief of German affairs in Europe, his claims would have been undisputed, and his demands for the means necessary to enforce his policy would probably have been unhesitatingly obeyed. Unfortunately for his present prestige, and probably for his future fame, the German Chancellor seemed unable to limit the area of his activity to his dealings with foreign States. He wished to prove himself equally great in all spheres of political life; and successively upon all phases of religious and political opinions, as well as upon the complex questions of finance and commerce, he aimed at leaving the mark of his individual views. He seemed to forget that the stubbornness of purpose and fixity of resolve which were of the highest use and value when dealing with national enemies were scarcely the means by which national goodwill could be fostered or commercial prosperity called into existence. His countrymen began to discover that the facility with which he divested himself of all connection with one poli