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Empire in India, was to be chosen from among the most honored and honorable servants of the crown. The first of all was, with good reason, the man who had held up the name and honor of England in India, at a moment when her subjects were in revolt against her all through the vast territory, and when the unreasoning anger of her own children threatened to tarnish her glory. The measures of reform and of economy which marked the last years of Lord Canning's government were the first steps in the new path so wisely and boldly marked out. In March, 1862, Lord Canning left India, and but a few months later, he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, that last home of England's great servants.
THE TORY ADMINISTRATION.
ORD PALMERSTON and his ministry had passed through
momentous crises, the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. They had met and supported the domestic shocks caused by the financial panic of 1857, which had brought ruin to some of the most famous and well-established houses. The Bank Charter Act of 1814 had been suspended, and the Bank of England had been authorized to augment its circulation of notes to two millions sterling ; but already confidence was returning, the bank had remained well inside of the limits allowed it, and even a certain reserve had been established. Parliament adjourned at Christmas, and the nation was rejoicing with its sovereign over the projected union of the Princess Victoria, eldest child of the queen, and Prince Frederick of Prussia, eldest son of Prince William, heir presumptive to the Prussian throne. Power seemed secure in the hands of the Whigs, and their sway established on solid bases. The new enterprise of a foreign conspirator, in a foreign country, and against a foreign sovereign, was about to disturb this tranquillity by disturbing the judgment of the English ministry.
Count Orsini was well known in England. Imprisoned by the Austrians in Mantua, he had made his escape and taken shelter across the channel. The incidents of his escape, his noble and handsome face, his expressive eyes and jet-black hair, and that natural eloquence which animates almost all the men of his race, had rendered him popular in all the English cities where he had addressed public meetings, seeking to excite sympathy for oppressed Italy and wrath against her oppressors. The somewhat superficial enthusiasm of the English for all liberal causes has often deceived the exiled patriots of other lands, themselves superficial observers and ignorant of the principles, or, one may say, the instincts which govern the conduct of the English nation. Like Kossuth and like Garibaldi, Orsini allowed himself to be deceived by the flattering welcome which he received personally, and by the sympathy openly and sincerely manifested for his cause.
Imbued with the conviction, prevalent throughout Europe, that English public opinion governs England, fatally intoxicated by the empire he believed himself to hold over that public opinion, he hoped for an open intervention in favor of Lombardy and Venetia, an actual taking up of arms, like that of France eighteen months later. At one of Orsini's meetings in Liverpool, a merchant of that city had the courage and good sense to declare openly to the ardent patriot that he was cruelly deceived in respect to the value of the enthusiasm with which the crowd received him, and the practical results for his country to be expected from his generous efforts. Orsini himself soon became aware of the uselessness of his attempts. He was wounded and indignant; proud and inconsiderate, he did not attribute his failure to the mere force of circumstances, to the patriotic good sense of a foreign nation resolved never to be drawn into adventures, even though it may admire the adventurer. The Emperor Napoleon III. had just paid a visit to the Queen of England. Once himself a conspirator, and not very long ago engaged in all the plots of the Italian patriots, the prince had forgotten his oaths; he had sacrificed his promises to his ambition; and now, one of the most powerful sovereigns in Europe, he was employing his power to support the oppressor in Italy and dissuade the English from lending aid to the liberal cause. The imagination of the disappointed patriot grew heated at these thoughts; he went so far as to believe that the emperor was the real obstacle to the intervention of Europe in favor of Italy; that his death would remove this obstacle, and would be, indeed, the just punishment of his perfidy. The secret societies of Europe had long accustomed their members to regard assassination as a legitimate method of serving the cause; Orsini resolved to destroy the Emperor Napoleon III.
On the 14th of January, 1858, as the emperor and empress were driving up to the door of the Opera House in the rue Lepelletier, three bombs went off under the horses' feet, and almost in the carriage. Ten persons were killed ard a hundred and fifty-six wounded. As in the case of the infernal machine of Fieschi, directed against King Louis Philippe, the innocent had been pitilessly sacrificed in the hope of destroying a dangerous enemy. The attempt was as foolish as it was criminal; it was directed against a man already favorably disposed towards Italy, whose mind was even then occupied with vague intentions which Count Cavour would soon persuade him to execute. The odious and criminal act of Orsini was not, however, absolutely without effect; it remained and was destined during his life to remain in the mind of Napoleon III. as a warning and a menace. Prince Albert suspected this, without knowing what were the engagements made by the emperor with Count Cavour, when he wrote April 1, 1858: “I fear the emperor is at this moment meditating some Italian development which is to serve as a lightning-conductor; for ever since Orsini's letter, he has been all for Italian independence.”
It was an honor to Count Orsini, as it has been to more than one conspirator drawn into crime by political passion, that he cared nothing for his life, if he could by any means serve his cause after the failure of his attempt at assassination. Himself wounded by a fragment of shell, Orsini was tracked by his own blood, and arrested without difficulty. He exhibited no anxiety except to exculpate a man unjustly accused of complicity; while avowing his attempt, he wrote to the emperor imploring his aid in favor of Italy. Righteously condemned, without the emperor's natural clemency being permitted to avail in his favor, he was put to death with Pierri his comrade, and two other accomplices were condemned for life to the galleys.
The public excitement was extreme, and the horror at the crime profound, even among those unfriendly to the imperial government and policy. The general anger was directed against England much more than against down-trodden and oppressed Italy, more even than against the criminal himself. “England is a den of brigands," it was said ; "she gives shelter and support to all who work to overthrow European society. Orsini's bombs were made in England; in England the whole plot was laid.” The addresses of felicitation which rained down from all quarters upon the Tuileries almost all testified to this national indignation; the language of the colonels of certain French regiments was so insulting towards England that the government was obliged to apologize for having allowed them to be published in the Moniteur. Diplomatic communications were scarcely less aggressive. “Is hospitality due to assassins ?” asked Count Walewski, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Ought the English legislature to favor their designs and their attempts, and continue to protect persons whom their acts have placed outside the common law, and under the ban of mankind ?" The declarations of the Duke de Persigny, at that time French ambassador at London, were even more violent both in manner and in substance. “ France does not understand this state of things,” he said in reply to a deputation from the Corporation of London, "she cannot understand it, and there lies the danger, for she may be deceived in respect to the sentiments of her ally, and cease to believe in England's sincerity.”