Italy – Government And Administration

The charter promulgated in March, 1848, declares the old kingdom of Sardinia to be an hereditary constitutional monarchy. It has gradually been extended to the other portions of the peninsula. Like most similar documents, it guarantees equality before the law, personal liberty, and inviolability of the domicile. The press is free, ” subject to a law repressing its abuses ; ” the right of meeting is recognised, ” but not in the case of places open to the general public : ” and all citizens are promised the enjoyment of equal civil and political rights, ” except in those cases which shall be determined by law.”

The executive is intrusted to the King, but no law or act of government is valid unless countersigned by a minister. The King, as such, is commander of the naval and military forces, he concludes all treaties, and the assent of the Chambers is only required if they concern cessions of territory, or entail an expenditure of public money. All Government officials are appointed by the King, he may dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, justice is administered in his name, and he possesses the right of pardon. He enjoys the fruits of the Crow n lands, and may dispose of his private property without reference to the general laws of the country. The civil list of the King and the members of his family annually exceeds £800,000 !

senators are appointed by the King from amongst ecclesiastical, military, and civil functionaries, persons of wealth, and men who have deserved well of the country. Their number is not limited, and they must be forty years of age. Deputies are elected for five years. They must be thirty years of age. Neither senators nor deputies are in receipt of emoluments, and this may explain the little zeal they exhibit in the performance of their public duties. A quorum, consisting of one-half the members of each house plus one, is frequently unattainable for weeks.

The franchise is enjoyed by professors of universities and colleges, civil servants, knights of orders of chivalry, members of the liberal professions, merchants, persons who have an income of X24 from money invested in Government securities, and all others twenty-five s ears of age, able to read and write, and paying 32s. in taxes. The number of electors is about 400,000, but hardly one-half of them ever go to the poll.

Each province occupies the position of a ” corporation,” which may hold property, and enjoys a certain amount of self-government. The ” Provincial Councils” consist of from twenty to sixty members, who are chosen by the municipal electors for five years. These Councils usually occupy themselves with the material interests of the province, and, when not sitting, are represented by a ” Deputation ” charged with controlling the acts of the prefect.

The municipal organization is very similar to that of the provinces. The Councils are elected for five years: all males of twenty-one years of age paying from 4s. to 20s. in taxes (according to the importance of the municipality), professors, civil servants, members of liberal professions, and soldiers who have been decorated are in the enjoyment of the franchise. The Council meets twice a year, and its sittings are held in public if a majority demands it. It appoints a municipal giumta of from two to twelve members, charged with the conduct of current affairs. The mayors, like the provincial prefects, are appointed by Government, but must be chosen from the members of the Municipal Council.

The great territorial divisions of the kingdom (see p. 362) consist of 69 provinces and 284 circles (circondarii), or districts. These latter again are sub-divided into 1,779 judicial districts (mandamenti) and 8,360 communes. The central Government is represented in the provinces by a prefect, in the districts by a sub-prefect, and in the communes by a mayor, or sindaco. This system of administration s very much like that existing in modern France.

The administration of justice was organized in 1865. In each commune there is a ” Conciliator,” appointed for three years by Government, on the presentation of the Municipal Council. A “Pretor” administers justice at the capital of each of the judicial districts : he is assisted by one or more Vice- pretors. Next follow 161 civil and correctional courts, 92 assize courts, 24 courts of appeal, 25 commercial tribunals, and 4 courts of cassation ; the latter at Florence, Naples, Palermo, and Turin. The Code of Laws is an adaptation of the Code Napoléon, and breathes the same spirit.

In military matters Prussia has served as a model. Every Italian, on attaining his twenty-first year, becomes liable to serve in the army or navy. Men embodied in the first category of the standing army (esercito permanente) remain from three to five years under the colours, according to the arm to which they belong, and six to seven years on furlough. The men of the second category, or reserve of the standing army, drill fifty days, and are then dismissed to their homes. The ” mobilised militia” includes all men up to forty not belonging to the standing army.

The navy consists of 21 ironclads (179 guns, engines of 11,310 horse-power, 76,812 tons) and 51 wooden steamers, manned by 20,000 seamen. The great naval arsenals and stations are at Spezia, Genoa, Naples, Castellamare di Stabbia, Venice, Ancona, and Taranto.

The Roman Catholic Church alone is acknowledged by the State, but all other religions are tolerated. The conflict between Church and State is favourable to the spread of Protestantism ; but, apart from the Waldenses and a few foreigners in the larger towns, there are no Protestants in Italy. Many of those, however, who are nominally Catholics have ranged themselves amongst the enemies of their Church, or are perfectly indifferent.

Italy occupies quite a special position in the world, owing to its being the seat of the Papacy. Rome is the seat of two governments, viz. that of the King and of the Sovereign Pontiff. The latter, though shorn of his temporal power, is in principle one of the most absolute monarchs. Once elected Vicar of Jesus Christ by the cardinals met in conclave, he is responsible to no one for his actions, though it is customary for him to listen to the advice of the Sacred College of Cardinals before deciding questions of importance. The Pope alone, of all men, is infallible ; he can efface the crimes of others, ” bind and unbind,” and holds the keys of heaven and hell, his power extending thus beyond the span of man’s natural life.

The cardinals are the great dignitaries of this spiritual government. They are created by the Pope. Their number is limited to 70, viz. 6 Cardinal Bishops (who reside at Rome), 50 Cardinal Priests, and 14 Cardinal Deacons. The Cardinal Camerlengo represents the temporal authority of the Holy Sec, and on the death of a pope he takes charge of the Vatican and of the Fisherman’s Key, which is the symbol of the power bestowed upon `t Peter and his successors. In special cases the cardinals of the three orders may be convoked to an (Ecumenical Council. On the death of a pope the cardinals elect his successor, who must be fifty-five years of age, and obtain two-thirds of the votes. His investment with the pallium and tiara, however, only takes place after the assent of the Governments of France, Spain, Austria, and Naples (now represented by Italy) has been secured.

In virtue of the formula of ” A free Church in a free State,” so frequently repeated since Cavour, the Pope is permitted to enjoy sovereign rights. Ile convokes councils and chapters, appoints all ecelesiastical officers, has his own post-office and telegraph, his guard of nobles and of Swiss, pays no taxes, and enjoys in perpetuity the palaces of the Vatican and Lateran, as u ell as the villa of Castel-Gandolfo, on the Lake of Albano. In addition to this, he has been voted by the Italian Parliament an annual ” dotation ” of £129,000. This grant, how-ever, he has not touched hitherto, but the ” Peter’s pence,” collected by the faithful in all parts of the world, amount to more than double that sum.

Italy is divided into 47 archiepiscopal and 206 episcopal sees. There are more than 100,000 secular priests, and in 1666, when the monasteries and convents were suppressed, their inmates remiting pensions from Government, there were 32,000 monks and 44,000 nuns. The ecclesiastical army consequently numbers 176,000 souls, and is nearly as numerous as the military force on a peace footing.