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6. Des Espérances et des Besoins de l'Italie, par J.C. L. Simonde
de Sismondi. 8vo. Paris. 1832.
We have been long wishing for the appearance of such a work as the one at the head of our list, a work that would tell us something more of the modern Romans, of their civil and social condition, of their laws and judicature, of their industry and commerce, than can be found in the hundred and one tours and travels which have been published in France or England since the beginning of our century. Hasty assertions, contemptuous vituperation, tales of banditti, and stories of gallantry, minute descriptions of church ceremonies, stale jokes about popes and cardinals, sneers at the Roman nobility, and denunciations of the lower classes in a lump ;* besides a long interminable list of virtù, of statues and paintings, inscriptions and medals, intaglios and basso relievos,-all these we have had, satis atque superque ; but to use the words of the author before
“No one, M. de Chateauvieux excepted, seems to have taken pains to inquire how and upon what the population of Rome and its territory subsists, what are the products of the country, and its internal economy. In order to save themselves the trouble of these researches, travellers hastily declare that Rome is built in the middle of a desert, and that the people are dependent on foreign industry for the supply of all their wants."-vol. i.
8. Count de Tournon was prefect of the department of Rome, during the French occupation from 1810 to 1814. He is one of those highly intelligent and honourable men whom Napoleon sometimes sent as civil administrators of the countries he had invaded, as if to make some compensation for the evils of military conquest. When the French took possession of Rome in 1809, the Papal territory was reduced to the country between the Apennines and the sea-about one-third of the actual Roman states, with a population somewhat less than a million. The northern or Adriatic provinces had already been annexed to the kingdom of Italy, but the remaining territory was united to the French empire, of which it formed two departments ; namely, that of Rome, and that of the Thrasymenian Lake, of which Perugia was the capital. The former and the
The work No. 5. on our list affords a specimen of all this, and it contains nothing else.
most important, having Rome for its capital, included the whole country from the rivers Nera and Velino to the sea, and in length from the frontiers of Tuscany to those of Naples. It thus embraced all Latium, Sabina, and part of Etruria. Of this magpiticent region and its 530,000 inhabitants, Count Tournon was chief administrator during four years. He then conceived the plan and collected the materials of the present work, having access to the best authorities and documents. No one had preceded bim in the path of Roman statistics. With regard to his judgments, he professes in his introduction that he belongs "neither to the enthusiastic school of which President Dupaty has been tbe leader, nor to the slanderous and sarcastic school of more modern date. I have attached myself solely to the school of truth, I bave awarded censure or praise with measure, and always in an earnest and sincere tone; confident that by so doing, although I might not obtain many readers, I should secure the esteem of those who will peruse my work, which last is to me an ample compensation."- Introd. p. X.
Our author begins his work by an interesting topographical description of his department. It is a common error to suppose that the whole province of Rome is unhealthy and uncultivated. We ought first of all to distinguish between the low lands or maremme, which consist of a volcanic soil covered in many parts by the alluvions of the Tiber and other rivers, and by the decomposition of rank vegetable matter, and the high calcareous region formed by the secondary chains of the Apennines of Umbria and Sabina, and which extends to within a few miles of Rome, on the side of Tivoli and Palestrina, enjoying an atmosphere as healthy as that of any country. The mareinme stretch like a broad belt along the coast of the Mediterranean, seldom extending deeper than five and twenty miles inland, and on several points considerably less. But this fatal belt is intersected in its breadth by two extensive volcanic ridges of high hills, the Cimino to the north, and the mounts Albanus and Algidus towards the south east. These two ridges, raised above the obnoxious plains, are watered by abundant springs, covered with luxuriant trees, and inhabited by an industrious and healthy population. On the slopes and valleys of the Cimino are the towns of Viterbo, Ronciglione, Vetralla, Caprarola, Vignanello, Bassano di Sutri, and Oriolo, surrounded by districts well cultivated, enlivened by villas and casinos of the wealthy proprietors. On the Alban Mount are the delightful residences of Frescati, Albano, Castel Gandolfo, Gensano, Marino; and on the opposite slope is the town of Velletri. Even within the flats of the pestilential maremnie, there are spots which, like Oases in the African desert, afford by their elevation, or other local accidents, comparative safety to the inhabitants, and cheer the traveller with the appearance of life and industry: such are La Tolfa, with its allumiere, or alum mines; the neighbouring colony of Monte Romano, first peopled by foundlings from the hospital at Rome; the pretty village of San Lorenzo Nuovo, built by Pius VI. (Braschi) at his own expense, to receive the inhabitants of the old village who were suffering by the malaria ; the city of Montefiascone, built on an insulated hill in the midst of an unhealthy plain ; the sea-port town of Civita Vecchia, (with its 10,000 inhabitants,) which is tolerably healthy, though the country outside of its walls is pestilential; the little town of Porto d'Anzio, built on a promontory jutting into the sea; and farther on, Mount Circello, with the village of Santa Felicita, rising in the very middle of the deadly Pomptine marshes. M. Tournon fully demonstrates that the state of the cultivation of the country is necessarily dependent, not on the greater or less industry of the inhabitants, but on the sanitary condition of the atmosphere.
“In the hilly region, all is life, bustle, and prosperity; the ground is covered successively by various productions, a multitude of trees spread their cool shade, the dwellings of the cultivators, scattered along the gentle slopes, appear in the centre of gardens and orchards; various branches of manufactures, paper-mills, iron-works, employ part of the population. In the plain below, on the contrary, solitude reigns; the ground rising in hillocks, or sinking in deep furrows, discloses here and there grey or reddish rocks, bared by the action of the violent rains ; no trees are to be seen; the few inhabitants live huddled together in gloomy villages, few and far between, from whence they sally out to the works of the distant fields : the eye discovers for many miles no cottage, farm-house, or barn ; you hear neither the barking of dogs, nor the crowing of the cock ; during the winter and early part of the spring, you see, it is true, fields and pastures decked in all the luxury of spontaneous vegetation, numerous herds of cattle and focks of sheep grazing on rich pasture ; but as soon as the hot season arrives, a sudden change takes place in the appearance of the country, all vegetation ceases, first a yellow then a grey tinge covers the ground, the dusty soil looks as if calcined by fire, the cattle migrate to the mountains, and the inhabitants disperse. In short, we see clearly that wherever the inhabitants can without fear live in the midst of their lands,they pursue assiduously a varied and intelligent system of cultivation, and it is only where the malaria forces them away from their properties during four months of the year, that they have adopted the unequal alternative of tillage and pastures. This principle ought to be borne in mind by those who would judge of this country and its people dispassionately, and without prejudice.”—vol. i. p. 18, 51, 65.
The town of Corneto, built in the unwholesome plains, a short distance north of Civita Vecchia, is the centre of one of the Jargest districts cultivated in the latter manner, or grande culture, as the French style it, and where this system can be best studied. The territory is fertile in wheat, oats, Indian corn, beans, and hemp; its pastures feed large herds of cattle, and the farmers are wealthy. During the healthy season, Corneto and its vicinity present a most animated scene ; all the proprietors have returned home; the population amounts to above 3000 inhabitants, besides hundreds of workmen from the neighbouring hills, who come in bands, led by their caporali, to offer their labour; these spread themselves merrily along the wide fields, and give to this rich country the most lively aspect; but the stranger who has witnessed such scenes, were he to come again in the summer, would find, both in the fields and in the town, nothing but solitude, sickness, or death. Hardly any one remains, all who are able repair to the hills till after the autumnal rains ; a few poor individuals only are found who will risk their lives to watch the property of the wealthy. Corneto and the neighbouring towns of Montalto and Canino are near the borders of Tuscany, and here M. Tournon makes another just observation on the prejudiced views of travellers and political writers. Whatever may be the deficiencies of the Papal adıninistration, whatever we may think of the energies of the inhabitants, the extent of the unhealthy maremme is not confined to the Papal states; the malaria does not stop either northward on the Tuscan frontiers, nor southward on those of Naples. The fiend carries his devastations over the territories of half a dozen governments and principalities, from the Riviera of Genoa to the southern coast of Sicily. The government of Tuscany, for more than half a century past, has been confessedly the best in Italy, and especially prone to encourage agriculture, having freed it from the trammels of restrictions. The Tuscan people too are industrious and intelligent in their agricultural labours, there is no want of enterprize and capital among the proprietors; and yet the muremma of Tuscany is as extensive, as solitary, as unwholesome, as that of Rome. The traveller who proceeds along the sea coast, after crossing the rivers Fiora or Pescia, which form the boundary line between the two states, finds no change whatever in the appearance of the country; he may wander through the vast and desolate plains of Grosseto, Volterra, Orbetello, and Castiglione, he may proceed northward as far as Piombino, and beyond it to the very gates of Leghorn and Pisa, and still further into the territory of Lucca, and all the while never leave the malaria country. “ Is it fair then," asks our author, “to throw the blame exclusively VOL. XI. NO, XXI.
on the Papal government, or on the laziness of the Roman population ? But the reason may be, that no traveller gives bimself the trouble to go out of the beaten track in order to visit the maremme of Grosseto, and the valleys of the Ombrone and the Cecina, whilst the Roman lowlands, on the contrary, happen to lie straight on the way of every tourist, they border the high road to Rome, and he can observe them at his ease from the windows of his carriage.”—p. 17.
Of the causes of the malaria our author speaks at some length. It seems certain that the infection proceeds partly from the nature of the soil and of the climate, and partly from the stagnant waters and the decomposition of vegetable matter. The former are inherent to the country, and must have existed in the oldest times, even where the low lands were cultivated and inhabited throughout. The position of the Roman plain between the sea and the Apennines exposes it to sudden alternations of southern hot winds and northern cold blasts from the mountains. The proximity of the sea, and the lakes and marshes, create abundant moisture, and the clouds, being stopped by the Apennine ridges, resolve themselves into copious rain. The extreme heat of the summer's day is often succeeded, if the wind is from the mountains, by a sudden chillness after sunset, when the vapours, pumped by the action of the sun, fall to the ground in heavy dew; exposure to the evening air is then dangerous, and often fatal. If the wind is from the south or scirocco, the air becomes suffocating, the perspiration profuse and incessant, and the nights are as sultry as the days, the body is weakened, and rendered incapable of exertion. Again, the Mediterranean, being a tideless sea, does not afford the means of refreshing and renovating the air of the plains which border on the coast, and of clearing the waters of the rivers—a very important consideration, which we have not seen noticed by any one. imity of stagnant waters is not the sole cause of the unhealthiness of the air ; for the dry dusty plain which immediately surrounds Rome is as unhealthy as the marshes of Ostia and Macarese, near the mouths of the Tiber. Our author discards the supposition that the latter pools of stagnant waters, or the still more distant Pomptine marshes, divided as the latter are from Rome by the ridge of Mount Albano, can have any material influence on the atmosphere of the capital and the country around it. He grants, of course, that the marshes and stagnant pools are causes of malaria to the neighbouring lands; but he thinks they are not the only causes, and that the nature of the soil itself is accountable for something in it. He observes that the unhealthy region is of volcanic formation, containing a vast number of hydro-sulphurous or hydro-carbonic springs, and that from out a thousand