« ZurückWeiter »
of its innumerable petty establishments. But a more dangerous source of discontent has been opened in all the Austro-Italian provinces by this illiberal system of exclusion. There is a host of needy military adventurers, late in the service of the kingdom of Italy who are now either pining in the inferior ranks of the imperial army, or being too proud to descend in the scale of service, are actually without the means of obtaining their daily bread. These men are, of course, all ripe for revolution, and ready for any chance or change that may present itself. But if the fate of those who have been turned adrift is pitiable, that of many who have remained in the vessel is hardly to be envied, these being ut on short allowance, and aving scarcely wherewithal to support a miserable existence. In the time of the French a subaltern in the Venetian marine had three franks a day: he has now one and a half. The Venetians received this paternal treatment at the hands of his Imperial majesty immediately on returning under his dominion, and indeed have no legal right “to think themselves ill-used;” but the Milanese have this melancholy resource. Till lately they enjoyed certain privileges, which they imagined they had ensured by a capitulation, under which they subjected themselves to their invaders. I am now, however, told that, by the new organisation lately sent to Milan from Vienna, there are only two Italians left in the higher departments of that government.
The Milanese have hitherto confined their revenge to teaching their magpies and jackdaws to rail upon their ostensible tyrant. But will their rage always find so innocent a vent? God grant it may ! for I see nothing that this miserable country could hope from a revolution.
If the Milanese, however, have not reaped the benefits they expected from their capitulation, they have gained something by showing their teeth; for the minor impositions of Milan are at least somewhat milder than at Venice, and, as a simple proof of this, I should state that a letter from Venice to Milan pays much less than one from Milan to Venice, though the road runs nearly on a flat, and no reason can be assigned for the difference.
How much more rational was the system pursued by the French, who, opening the road to all Italians, peculiarly encouraged national talents and worth ! I do not believe I exaggerate when I say that, excepting the line of country annexed to France, there was not a Frenchman employed, even as a sub-prefect, in Italy. The only one who held any civil official situation in this city was the director of the post. . In military matters it was indeed otherwise; for the commandants in all towns were, I believe, French; but that Buonaparte should deviate in this particular from his general system, and not choose to part with the staff of power, can hardly be objected to him. In my general horror of his system (of which I have by no means divested myself), I could not, at first, under: stand why he was here preferred to his successor; but I can say, with truth, that on coming to Italy the scales fell from my eyes, and I instantly discerned and acknowledged the justice of the preference shown to his admimistration by the Italians over that of a race which seems rather Chinese than European. At least I am not single in these sentiments; for I never yet met with an Englishman, who knew enough of the language of Italy to inform himself of what was passing about him,I never knew one employed or unemployed, —“whether whig or tory, Whether he went to meeting or to
who did not feel what I feel, and generally in a much keener degree than myself.
All the misery which I have thus described as heaped upon Italy is, I repeat, in my firm belief, inflicted by an unwilling instrument. The emperor of Austria has the reputation of an amiable private character, and the princes of his house have shown talent as well as good intentions, whenever they have been unfettered from the gyves of the Aulic Council.
Fiscal System of Austria in Italy, &c.
I shall attempt in my present letter to give you some idea of Austria's fiscal administration of these provinces, from which you will judge whether Lombardy
has, in this respect, reason to be content with her change of masters. It is but just to state, that the system is not to be exclusively attributed to the head of the sour-crout nations, and that Austria is not to be considered as more weak or tyrannical than her neighbours; who are all, like the emperor, excellent persons in private life, and all scourges of the countries subject to their sway. But as it would be a useless task to trace this scheme of oppression, through all its variations, I shall give you that of the government of the state from which I write, which is, however, as I have hinted, a little more severe than the other great division of Lombardy, known under the name of the Milanese. I have already mentioned, incidentally to other matters, the taxes upon flesh, fowl, fish, flour, &c.; but to give a more comprehensive idea of these, I shall state that every eatable and drinkable is not only taxed, &c. but seized and cessed under whatever various form it may present itself. Thus grain, flour, and bread, pay each a separate impost. It is the same with bull and beef, &c.; and mark, that not an article is brought to the place I date from, no not even a cabbage, but what pays its miserable fraction of a farthing. Such revenue, it is obvious, can only be collected at an expense, which must run away with the profit. But these petty taxes, which are almost unproductive to the government, though grievous in the extreme to the subject, are, to speak familiarly, liarly, mere flea-bites in comparison to the other vampire pulls of the Austrian eagle. I pass to these more cruel evacuations. The most serious of them, known by the name of la prediale, which prevails over Italy, is levied as well on land as on all descriptions of actual and tangible property. These pay 25 per cent upon their annual produce, that produce being calculated by public appraisers, and estimated according to the valuation made by them, under the French administration. This tax is collected in four even and quarterly payments. There, are, in addition to this, what are called extra taxes ( .."...". )which proprietors pay, and which are known by the various denominations of stradale, communale, reimposta, &c. The taxes of this latter description have amounted, during the three years of Austrian government, to about 12 per cent a year. The whole amount, therefore, of these greater taxes would be 37 per cent—always speaking of annual produce. It is but justice to declare that this appears to me to have been heavier in the time of the French; since, according to the best official information I can obtain, the aggregate produce of their main taxes amounted from 42 to 44 per cent. The question, however, whether Italy was more severely taxed under the French or Austrians, is not to be determined by this comparison, because the system of frontier custom-houses, such as at present are established at
the interval of every few miles,
as between Padua and Venice, Vicenza and Padua, though all situated within the same state— this monstrous piece of folly, I say, did not exist under the French, who were cruel taskmasters, but not ignorant of their own interest, if careless of that of the people whom they had united to them. We must, therefore, in addition to the 37 per cent levied by the Austrians, throw in the innumerable petty duties levied upon different articles in transitu. It ought, however, to be stated that the next most foolish and iniquitous tax still existing, was even of old Venetian origin, and was preserved by the French, I mean that which bears upon all beasts in life, lump, or leavings, from the wholesale bull which enters the city with horns fixed and tail flying, down to the lowest garbage which is extracted from him when he has laid down his
life in the slaughter-house. But questions of taxation are not only to be tried by numbers; and the last species of impost which I have described is a striking illustration of this truth. Taxes are, as any child knows, more or less mischievous, not only in proportion to their extent, but with reference to their nature and their application. Brought to this last test, I should give a decided preference to French economy. Under this, I see the completion of magnificent public works, and the foundation of establishments for the encouragement of art, of fine public roads, and a secure police. On the other side, I see all the sources of wealth cut off from the country where
where they spring and which they watered, to be diverted into a desert which its inhabitants have not the skill or the activity to fertilize. Thus a striking instance of the mode in which the ancient provinces of Austria are favoured at the expense of her new acquisitions is afforded by her mode of supplying the wants of her armies. These are supplied with all necessaries, where the thing is practicable, out of her hereditary transalpine dominions, though necessarily at a much greater expense; a curious contrast to the conduct of France, who fed and clothed her GalloItalian armies entirely with the products of the peninsula. But to leave all question of the distribution or application of taxes, and to return to that of the amount, under the French and Austrian regimen in Italy; I mean taxes of every kind, whether on land, on articles of consumption, or duties, &c. &c. &c. I am assured by another authority (my own opinion leans a different way), that these are so much more oppressive at present, that where French Italy paid thirty millions of francs, Austrian Italy now pays forty. And you will recollect that the Lombard and Venetian states are at least a third less than was the kingdom
of Italy. If this fact, which I.
have heard confidently averred, be true, the excess of present taxation must arise out of provincial imports and exports: for I cannot be deceived in the statement which I have given you respecting the prediale, &c. Whether is: French system of raising a revenue in Italy was
more or less nefarious than that of the Austrians, it must be acknowledged that the mode of collecting it, as well as the formation of the main system of taxation, originated with the former. It is scarcely possible to conceive any thing more monstrous than this mode of collection, which, adopted by the Austrians, remains unmodified and unmitigated to the present hour. I have already stated that the payment of the prediale, &c. is to be made quarterly; the failure of this payment at quarter-day is visited by the mulct of an additional five per cent if the payment be not made good within the fourand-twenty hours of the day of receipt. This penalty “drinks deep;” but that which awaits further default, to pursue my quotation, “drinks cup and all.” For if the tax, together with its penalties, is not paid at the conclusion of the term of fifteen days (for so much more law is afforded the debtor), the receiver threatens what is called un’ oppignorazione, in plain English, a distress, and this he may levy upon house, lands, or moveables, as he shall think fit. If, notwithstanding this intimation, the tax and penalties are not paid, the distress is actually levied; and this being done, in addition to the tax itself and its penalties, the expenses of the distress are also to be defrayed by the defaulter. If he does not voluntarily defray all these accumulated charges, a new distress is levied upon other lands, other houses, and other moveables. Thus, you see, there is . an eternal repetition of the Gallico-Italian scene of Molière, “che
“che fare?—seignare, purgare, e clysterizare.” But the matter is not mended, and the old question is renewed of che fare?—reseignare, re-purgare, et re-clyste7:22are. The distress is now levied according to the mode of the country, that is, the property of the defaulter is put under sequestration, but this peine forte et dure does not extort payment. The next step of the receiver, under such circumstances, is to send him a “diffida.” After this ominous intimation, he proceeds to sell his distrained property by auction, but if the ol. of it more than covers the debt, is supposed to return him the overplus. There is still moreover a last hope held out to him; though his property is sold, he has two months good allowed him to recover it, by the payment of the same price at which it was purchased. This is, however, to be considered as scarcely more than a nominal grace, since the expenses and difficulties attending this transaction are such as to render it usually much more advisable to acquiesce in the loss. I should observe that no legal claim whatever stands in the way of the harpy claws of the imperial eagle. To give you, however, some more precise notion of the habits of this obscene bird, take the following anecdote, respecting which I shall observe, that the circumstances came under my own immediate observation: A Venetian gentleman, some time absent from Venice, together with other property in houses, was owner of a magazine, which a tenant held by a
livello, or life-lease. This man having been long in arrears of rent, the gentleman began to lose patience, and was recurring to rigorous proceedings, when he was informed, by the supposed tenant, that he was no longer possessor of the magazine, the government having seized upon it for the non-payment of the prediale! Every day offers similar instances of ruthless rapine. While such are the burthens and visitations which vex and break down the landed proprietor, the monied proprietor, whether he put his gold out to interest, or whether he brood over his bags, withholding his wealth from healthful circulation,-the monied proprietor is untouched either by direct or indirect taxation. But, considering the general system of government, there is another point in which the conduct of the French will appear in a very superior light, if contrasted with that of the Austrians; I mean that of legislation. Under the French, Italy enjoyed all the incalculable advantages of a code, which allowed the cross-examination of witnesses, and gave publicity to all the proceedings of justice. This was indeed so under the ancient government of Venice; but a criminal code was
given her by France infinitely
superior to what she possessed in the time of her republic. But the system of open pleadings and examinations has given way to one which has abolished the oral examination of witnesses, and to these principles, perhaps yet more precious in Italy than elsewhere, has been substituted that