Слике страница


of their history, met the efforts of the Roman court, with a firm and successful opposition. This long and varied struggle was carried on with greater or less animosity, in proportion to the concurrent action of other causes ; but never so far subsided, as to give room for a durable union, or a communication, free from suspicion and jealousy. When, therefore, the Protestant reform first began to attract the attention of the Italians, it was to the Venetians that the eyes of all the friends of religious freedom were directed, and the motives of that cautious and independent government were observed with an interest proportioned to the importance of the question which was at stake. The works of the Reformers formed a fruitful source of gain for the booksellers of the republic, and her presses were employed in multiplying the copies of the Scriptures, which were considered by all parties as the principal support of the Protestant cause. The doctrines of Germany and Switzerland soon began to spread among the Venetians. In the course of a few months, the capital contained an extensive society of learned men, who openly avowed the principles of Luther. The effect of their influence and example was soon felt in other parts of the same dominions. Every day gave new strength to the party. From individual profession, they gradually advanced to public unions; and their cause was supposed to have excited more than usual interest in the senate. Nor in fact, could the important political advantages, that might have been secured by means of a religious reform, have escaped the observation of men, trained by long practice to consider every thing with a view to the aggrandizement or additional security of their possessions. But little seems to have been wanting, in order to throw into the Protestant scale the powerful political interest of Venice; that interest, before which every other consideration was made to bend. So confident of success were the Protestants of Germany, that Melancthon addressed a letter to the senate, in which he congratulated them upon what they had done, and urged them to further action. But the unsettled state of her relations with the court of Constantinople, rendered the favor of Rome essential to the safety of Venice; and the adherence of this mighty power to the Catholic religion may be attributed, in some measure, to the greatest enemy of that faith.

The change, which might have been naturally expected from the government of Venice, was nearly upon the point of being accomplished in Lucca, by the daring and enthusiasm of a single individual. The Reformation which had taken such strong hold in different sections of Italy, had nowhere found a more ready welcome than among the citizens of Lucca. Extending there, with the same rapid progress which we have already observed in Venice, and Naples, and Ferrara, its principles were soon embraced by a considerable portion of the most respectable among the inhabitants. Political motives united their influence with the love of religious liberty; and Lucca was upon the point of becoming the theatre of one of the greatest revolutions, that ever changed the face of a state.

Among the citizens whom the free principles of this gove ernment had elevated to a rank apparently inconsistent with the humble profession which he exercised, was Francis Burlamaqui, an artisan of the middle class. Endowed by nature with a studious and reflective cast of mind, this man had constantly united with the necessary labors of his trade, the study of ancient history, and particularly of those portions, in which the exertions of private individuals, in favor of their native cities, have been embellished by the eloquence of the great historians of Greece and Rome. From a constant meditation of these enticing examples, the humble artisan of Lucca was led to seek, for his own name, a renown like theirs ; and the situation which he then held, of Gonfaloniere, or chief magistrate of the republic, seemed to give new facilities for the accomplishment of his views. But Burlamaqui united with the warm imagination of a reformer, the coolness of judgment and political sagacity, essential to the success of reform. And while his patriotism was kindled by the prospect of restoring, Tuscany to her ancient grandeur, he grounded his hopes of success upon the political situation of Italy and of Europe. Florence, not yet formed to the yoke of an artful and ambitious tyrant, was fondly, although secretly, cherishing the remembrance of her lately lost freedom. Pisa, desolated by war, deprived of commerce, her once fertile fields vanishing beneath the accumulating masses of stagnant water, her municipal pride and glorious recollections lost in the degrading consciousness of an odious dependence ; Siena, torn by divisions, and ready to fall a prey to the same insatiable ambition ; Perugia, Bologna, every portion of Italy, hesitating between the desire of freedom and the dread of increasing the yoke that already weighed too heavily ; these were the circumstances, in the situation of his own country, which nourished the hopes and inflamed the zeal of Burlamaqui. Nor was the prospect less encouraging, when considered from another point of view. The Emperor, whose activity was the most to be apprehended, was engaged in the war against the Protestants of Germany, in support of which he had drawn away from Italy the greater part of his own troops, together with those of bis allies, the Pope and Cosimo of Tuscany. Thus the desence of all the important posts in the country was intrusted to the bands of a few soldiers, and those none of the best, while the great distance of the papal and ducal armies from the points which were first to be attacked, rendered it impossible for them to be recalled, in time to prevent the effects of a sudden assault on the part of the conspirators. The progress of the Empe

. ror, moreover, in his German war, was not calculated to inspire bis adherents with very ardent hopes of a successful issue ; while, on the contrary, the firm resistance and rapid movements of the Protestants had filled the minds of their partisans with the most cheering confidence. But one of the most encouraging circumstances in the political aspect of the moment, was the deep-rooted hostility, that subsisted between the Emperor and the French, and which led them to embrace every species of alliance, and resort to all kinds of expedients, in order to gratify their mutual animosity.

In order, however, to unite the feelings of those whom he wished to liberate, it was necessary to raise a new standard, as well for religion as for their political state. This was supplied by the progress of the Lutheran Reformation, and the favor with which the advocates of religious freedom were viewed in Italy. Thus the revival of the old Etruscan league, and the introduction of the Protestant religion, or, in other words, the full establishment of religious and political liberty, was the vision that constantly floated before the mind of the enthusiastic Lucchese.

The plan which he had conceived with so much boldness, he prepared for execution with cool and cautious judgment. By habitually making the original felicity of Tuscany the topic of bis conversation, he familiarized the minds of the friends, whom he designed to employ, with the subject of his desires, and prepared ihe way for a more direct and explicit avowal of his plans. His first confidant was a member of his own family, whose faith and zeal he had fully tested. The number of the conspirators was gradually enlarged with all the precautions which so dangerous an undertaking required, and soon comprised the principal refugees of Florence and Siena, and other states, together with the wealthy and daring Strozzi, who were to bring with them the favor and aid of France. Already confident in his numbers, Burlamaqui urged to immediate action; and had not his wishes been overruled by the authority of the Strozzi, so well arranged were all the plans of the conspiracy, and so well timed the moment for its breaking out, that its success would in all probability have been complete. Compelled by bis companions to delay, he still continued to strengthen his party by new accessions, chiefly made among the exiles, when an unfortunate communication of one of his companions defeated all the labors of his prudence, and consigned him to the hands of the executioner.

The desire to comprise in one sketch the principal events, which distinguished the rise of the Protestant religion in Italy, has led us a few years in advance of the first efforts of the Roman court for the suppression of it. Notwithstanding the severe shock which the papal power had received from the arms of Bourbon, the attachment of the Emperor to the religion in wbich he had been educated, or, as seems more probable, the close connexion between his political interests and those of the Roman See, had bound bim by a tie of which he always acknowledged the force, to exert all his power for the preservation of Catholicism. And thus, although in the course of his subsequent operations, great and dangerous disputes frequently arose between him and the popes, and he was more than once induced to threaten an open rupture, yet the preservation of the Catholic religion always continued to form a favorite point of his policy, and was pursued even at the hazard of important parts of his dominions. Had the same unity of motive prevailed in the minds of the pontiffs, who, during his long reign, were successively called to the papal throne, the progress of the reform in Italy would have been checked at a much earlier period of its course. But the disadvantages inherent in the union of spiritual with temporal power, were never more apparent than during the period which we are considering. The exertions which should have been solely directed to one object, were enfeebled by a division of interests. Of one kind were the views of the temporal, of another those of the spiritual ruler. The attention of the pontiff was constantly divided between schemes for the aggrandizement of the papal supremacy, and others, no less warmly pursued, for the extension of the dominions of the church. Thus while, urged on the one hand by his pastoral duties, he courted the favor of a particular sovereign, he was on the other, as a temporal prince, often constrained to oppose the same monarch by skilful negotiations, and sometimes even by open war.

If to these we add the further embarrassments of family ambition, and the disputes and wars which were frequently excited for, or by, the pope's relations, we shall be convinced, that, if Rome surpassed all other courts in the refinement of her policy, nothing short of that perfection could have held together the conflicting elements which composed her power.

There were two periods in the struggle between the Protestant and Catholic religion, in which the friends of a peaceful union were cheered with the prospect of a termination of the great question of reform, by mutual concessions of the contending parties. The first was upon the elevation of Adrian to the chair, made vacant by the death of Leo X.; the second, at the accession of Marcellus II. But the opposition which the first of these sincere and pious men encountered among the members of his court, and the premature death of the other, effectually closed the door against all reconciliation, by placing upon the throne a series of pontiffs, who cared less for the interests of religion, than for the enlargement of their temporal dominions. So strongly in fact, were they attached to the latter, that the repeated reclamations of several zealous Catholics upon the rapid extension of the Protestant opinions, were received with a degree of coldness, which it is difficult to account for, in a power so jealous of its prerogative. But when these reports began to thicken and assume the tone of warning and remonstrance, Rome was at length aroused from its lethargy, and began to seek out the most efficient means of defence. The remedy was the more terrible for having been so long delayed.

The Inquisition, that terrific tribunal, whose movements neither power nor pity could affect, which was blinded by ambition to the real interests of its order, and hardened by fanaticism against the voice of compassion, was the first object towards wbich the court of Rome directed its attention, in the hope of reëstablishing its shattered authority. The success which had attended the operations of this institution in Spain,

« ПретходнаНастави »