Page images
PDF
EPUB

cited assistance from all the Catholic states; but France was, at that time, in alliance with the Turks; Maximilian dreaded their power; the crown of Portugal was possessed by a child, and Poland was exhausted by her wars with Russia. The Venetians, on this pressing occasion, received assistance from Rome, whose power they had so often resisted, and from Spain, their late enemy.

Pope Pius V and Philip II joined their fleets with that of the republic. The confederate fleet assembled at Messina. The celebrated Don John of Austria, natural son to Charles V, was generalissimo ; Mark Antonio Colonna commanded the pope's division, and Sebastian Veniero the Venetian. The Turkish fleet was greatly superior in the number of vessels.

The two fleets meet in the gulf of Lepanta: it is said, that the Turkish galleys were entirely worked by Christian slaves, and the galleys of the Christians by Turkish; a shocking proof of the barbarous manner in which prisoners of war were treated in that age; and, in this instance, as absurd as it was barbarous; for a cartel for an exchange of prisoners would have given freedom to the greater number of those unhappy men, without diminishing the strength of either'navy. The fleets engage, and the Turks are entirely defeated. Historians assert, that twenty thousand Turks were killed in the engagement, and one half of their fleet destroyed. This is a prodigious number to be killed on one side, and in a sea fight; it ought to be remembered, that there is no Turkish writer on the subject.

Pius V died soon after the battle of Lepanta. Upon his death the war languished on the side of the allies; Philip became tired of the expense, and the Venetians were obliged to purchase a peace, by yielding the island of Cyprus to the Turks, and agreeing to pay them, for three years, an annual tribute of one hundred thousand ducats. Those circumstances have no tendency to confirm the accounts which Christian writers have given, of the immense loss which the Turks met with at the battle of Lepanta.

In the beginning of the seventeenth century, the republic had a dispute with the pope, which, in that age, was thought a matter of importance, and engaged the attention of all Chiristendom.

Paul V shewed as eager a disposition as any of his predecessors to extend the papal authority. He had an inveterate prejudice against the Venetian republic, on account of her having, on every occasion, resisted all ecclesiastical encroachments.

He sought, with impatience, an opportunity of manifesting his hatred, and expected that he should be assisted by the pious princes of Europe, in bringing this refractory child of the church to reason. He began by demanding a sum of

a sum of money, for the purpose of carrying on the war against the Turks in Hungary ; he complained of certain decrees of the senate, relating to the internal government of the republic, particularly one which forbad the building of any more new churches, without the permission of that assembly, and which, he said, smelt strong. ly of heresy; and above all, he exclaimed against the council of ten, for having imprisoned an ecclesiastic, and prepared to bring him to a public trial. This reverend person, for whom his holiness interested himself so warmly, was accused of having poisoned five people, one of whom was his own father. He was also accused of hav. ing caused another to be assassinated ; and, to prevent a discovery, had afterwards poisoned the assassin.

The senate refused the money, confirmed their decree against the building of churches, and applauded the conduct of the council of t:n, in prosecuting the ecclesiastic.

The authors of the age arranged themselves on the one side, or the other, and this became a war of controversy, in which, though there was no blood shed, yet it appeared by the writings of the partisans, that a considerable number of understandings were greatly injured. Those who supported the pope's cause insisted, that the temporal power of princes is subordinate to his; that he has a right to deprive them of their dominions, and release their sub

[ocr errors][merged small]

jects from their oaths of fidelity, as often as this shall be for the glory of God, and for the good of the church ; of which nobody could be so good a judge as the pope, since all the world knew he was infallible; thạt ecclesiastics were not subjected to the civil power ; that an ecclesiastical court, or the pope, only, had authority over that body of men; and nothing could be more abominable, than to continue a prosecution against a prisoner, whatever his crimes might be, after the father of the church, who had the undoubted power of absolving sinners, had interfered in his favour.

The senate, in their answers, acknowledged, that the pope was supreme head of the church, and that, in all subjects of religious belief, his power was unbounded ; for which reason they remained implicit and submissive believers; that they were far from disputing the infallibility of his holiness in ecclesiastical matters, particularly within his own dominions; but, with regard to the government of their subjects, they would certainly take the whole trouble of that on themselves, and would admini. ster as impartial justice to ecclesiastics, as to those of other professions. They imagined also, that they were com- . petent judges when, and for what purposes, they ought to levy money upon their own subjects, and whether it would be necessary to build any new churches in Venice, or not. Finally, they flattered themselves, that the prosecuting a murderer was no way inconsistent with the glory of God.

The greater number of the princes of Christendom seemed to think the senate were in the right. The pope was disappointed in his expectations; and finding himself unsupported, was glad to shelter his pride under the mediation of Henry IV of France, who endeavoured to give his holiness's defeat the appearance of victory.

LETTER XVII.

Tenice. The year 1618 is distinguished in the annals of Venice, by a conspiracy of a more formidable nature than any hitherto mentioned. The design of other conspiracies was a change in the form of government, or, at most, the destruction of some particular class of men in power; but the present plot had for its object the total annihilation of the Venetian republic. I speak of the conspiracy formed by the marquis of Bedmar, ambassador from the court of Spain, in conjunction with the duke of Ossono, and the Spanish governor of the Milanese.

The interesting manner in which this dark design has been described by the abbé St. Real, has made it more universally known than any other part of the Venetian story. This writer is accused of having ornamented his account with some fanciful circumstances, an objection often enviously urged against some of the most agreeable writers, by authors whom nature has guarded from the possibility of committing such an error: men, whose truths are less interesting than fictions, and whose fictions are as dull as the most insipid truths. Does any reader believe that the speeches of the generals before a battle, as recorded by Livy, were actually pronounced in the terms of that author ? Or, can any one, wish they were expunged from his history ? Abbé St. Real has also

put speeches into the mouths of the conspirators, and has embellished, without materially altering, the real circumstances of the story. For my own part, I feel a degree of gratitude to every person who has entertained me; and while my passions are agreeably agitated with St. Real's lively history, I cannot bear that a phlegmatic fellow should interrupt my enjoyment; and, because of a few embellishments, declare, with an affected air of wisdom, that the whole is an idle romance. The discovery of this plot, and the impressions of

jealousy and terror which it left on the minds of the inhabitants of Venice, probably first suggested a plan of a more wicked nature than any of the conspiracies we have hitherto mentioned, and which was actually put in execu-. tion.

A set of villains combined together to accuse some of the nobility of treasonable practices, merely for the sake of the rewards bestowed upon informers. This horrid crime may be expected in all governments where spies and informers are encouraged; it certainly occurs frequently at Venice ; sometimes, no doubt, without being detected, and sometimes it is detected, without being publicly punished, for fear of discouraging the business of inform*ation : but on the discovery of the present combination, all Venice was struck with such horror, that the senate thought proper to publish every circumstance. .

A certain number of those miscreants acted the part of accusers ; the others, being seized by the information of their accomplices, appeared as witnesses.

A noble Venetian, of a respectable character, and advanced in years, of the name of Foscarini, fell a victim to this horrid cabal ; and Venice beheld with astonishment and sorrow, one of her most respectable citizens accused, condemned, and executed as a traitor.

At length, accusations followed each other so close, that they created suspicions in the minds of the judges. The informers themselves were seized, and examined separately, and the whole dreadful scheme became manifest. These wretches suffered the punishment due to such complicated villany; the honour of Foscarini was re-instated, and every possible compensation made to his in. jured family. An instance like this, of the despotic precipitancy of the inquisitors, more than counterbalances all the benefit which the state ever receives from them, or the odious race of informers they encourage.

If the trial of the unfortunate Foscarini had been open, or public, and not in secret, according to the form of the inquisitor's court; and if he had been allowed to call ex,

« PreviousContinue »