Article 14

ART. XIV. An Historical Survey of the Foreign Affairs of Britain, with a View to explain the Causes of the Disasters of the late and present Wars. By G. Francis Leckie, Esq. London, 1808. 8vo. pp. 262. J. Bele. Advertisement of Sicilian Wine. 1 p. sm. 4to. By G. F. Leckie.

[pp. 405-419] [original article in PDF format]

  1. THIS pamphlet, which has now been some time before the public, consists, 1st, of a series of reflections (not remarkable for diffidence) on the misconduct of the British Government during the progress of the French Revolution; and, 2ndly, of a very copious and detailed account of the present situation of Sicily, which we propose to make the subject of our consideration.

  2. Considering the opportunities which the officers of the British army in Sicily possess of investigating the real state of things in Sicily, and the competence of many of them to the inquiry, we cannot but regret that the task of enlightening this [405] country, as to what is passing in an island so interesting in all aspects, should have fallen into the hands of Mr. Leckie. We opened his book with an expectation of instruction, which diminished at every page. Mr. Leckie is a system-monger, and, like all of the profession, a wholesale dealer in decrying whatever he finds established. From the first to the last page of his account of Sicily, he never turns aside from his invectives. 'The king, queen, nobles, and clergy, are without virtue and principle. The subjects are reduced to a state of slavery. The poor pay for the rich,' &c. In his speculations, Mr. L. is usually original; in his declamatory harangues, however, he is driven to borrow, and no source is too mean or too impure for the supply of his necessities. The following passage, which he palms upon the reader for a picture of Sicily, is taken from the archives of the Corresponding Society. It has done its duty as a description of this country; and is now at liberty to make the round of Europe.

    'Every aggravation of misery, poverty, corruption, and ignorance, has been there accumulated. But the period of the total dissolution of the whole system, civil, political, and military, is at length arrived; the laws are either silent or contradictory; the clergy are ignorant and depraved; the tribunals of justice venal and insolent; the revenues of the country are embezzled by its ministers; and the sovereign, who is no other than Augustulus, the last of the western Cesars, whose soul has been again sent to animate an human body, nods on his tottering throne.' p. 21.

  3. The first question which we were disposed to ask, on reading these violent sallies, was the old school one, Unde derivantur? Whence has Mr. L. drawn the materials for such abuse? Where are the facts which justify him in fulminating so furiously against every thing which bears the name of Sicilian? On turning over his pages we discovered that he had made great use of a work written by one Simonetti, a Neapolitan lawyer, under the auspices of the Marquis of Caraccioli, viceroy of Sicily about twenty five years ago. This was more than enough to raise a suspicion of his correctness. The source of his information is impure; and, during the perusal of his work, we could not divest ourselves of a sceptical feeling, arising from the impression made on our minds by a singular fact, to which we now solicit the reader's attention,

  4. Caraccioli was a man of a bold, ambitious, and enterprising spirit. He returned from France, where he had lived some years, full of the eccentric theories of Gallican reform, then in [406] agitation; and impressed with the necessity of revolutionizing his country. About the time that Simonetti published his book, containing a studied exaggeration of every abuse, without the mention of any thing which was good, in the government of Sicily, Caraccioli was meditating a blow at the aristocracy of the country,* the destruction of which would smooth the way for the experiments in political regeneration, which he proposed to make. He found a ready instrument in a Maltese priest of the name of Vella, who gave out that he possessed a copy of an Arabick manuscript in the library at Fez in Morocco; this was a letter, supposed to be written by a Moorish resident in Sicily during the reign of Roger, the first Norman sovereign. It is addressed to the caliph at Cairo, and gives an account of all the laws enacted by Roger in the year 1078. By these laws, every thing in the island, land and water, plain and mountain, belongs exclusively to Roger; the power vested by them in the sovereign is of the most arbitrary kind; and a feudal system of the most rigorous nature is established.

  5. This manuscript was printed, with an Italian translation, by Vella. The sensation which it excited may be easily conceived. The storm, however, which seemed to threaten the existence of the nobles in Sicily, and to sweep away every right and privilege which they had hitherto enjoyed, was at last dispersed. The forgery was detected. Anachronisms, and inaccuracies of phraseology, first led to an examination; the king, sensible of the great importance of the question, urged the strictest investigation; and, after the fullest conviction, sentence of imprisonment was passed on Vella; Carraccioli did not live to witness the punishment of his agent.*

  6. To this singular political imposture, so well known in Sicily, and in which the interests of so many persons were involved, Mr. Leckie makes no allusion whatever! He must surely have been ignorant of it; for, on any other supposition, his silence is wholly inexcusable. We are in possession of some documents [407] relating to this affair, which were procured, with the greatest difficulty, in Palermo; the barons having destroyed every thing which they could find connected with the forgery. Among them is a copy of the supposed laws of Roger. It is printed in two columns in folio; one in Arabic, the other in Italian; the laws are, in number, 315. We give an extract, to shew the nature of the absolute rights which they bestow on the sovereign.

    Nel nome di Dio Uriico.

    Primo Decreto. Tutte le spiaggie tanto della Sicilia, quanto della piccola Calabria sono dell'Emir Ruggiero.

    Secondo. L'Emir Ruggiero proibisce a se stesso di poter concedere nissuna spiaggia a persona alcuna.

    Terzo. L'Emir Ruggiero proibisce a tutti quelli, che saranno suoi Eredi di poter concedere nissuna spiaggia a persona alcuna.

    Quarto. Niuno possa fare delle fabbriche vicino al mare, se non il solo Emir Ruggiero.

  7. The obvious reflections on the history of this infamous forgery are, 1st, that the salutary reform, as Mr. L. calls it, which Caraccioli meditated, was nothing less than a revolution; and of a most iniquitous and unjustifiable nature, namely, to plunder an order of men, who claimed the possession of their estates upon the eternal principles of law and reason: 2d. That this seizure of the property of the nobles, under the pretence of throwing it into the hands of the king, would have proved his destruction, as the throne could not long withstand the shock, which had already destroyed so material a part of the fabric of the constitution: 3d. That the nature of Caraccioli's views being so clearly shown in this instance, we cannot admit them to have been of a different kind in ordering Simonetti to write a book of which the sole object is the abuse of the Sicilian government: 4th. That one work was to come in aid of the other, and, therefore, it is impossible to give that faith to the publication of Simonetti, which it might have claimed, had it not, as well as the forged manuscript, confessed Carraccioli as its author;* who being the 'father of lies,' in the one instance, may fairly be presumed not to have spoken truth altogether in the other. [408]

  8. To say that there are abuses and imperfections in the government of Sicily is to say that it is the work of man. Some parts there are in every state which might be amended.—But to discern the fitness of political institutions, says Hooker, is the noblest exertion of human prudence. There are so many provisions, precautions, and preparations to be combined, there is so much mature reflection needful in working any important change in a state, as to render it a task of the greatest hazard and difficulty. The most comprehensive view of the subject is required; the actual situation of the country; the future condition of it, if the reform be effected; the means to be employed in the undertaking, are all to be duly considered. 'Qui ad pauca respicit, facilè pronunciat.'

  9. The Sicilians are distinguished by that sincere attachment to their Sovereign, which his mild and paternal government has so well deserved. Mr. L. seems to consider him as worthy of nothing but contempt and ridicule; yet it is to his praise that, during his reign, many of the oppressive laws which were in force under the Spanish sovereigns, have been repealed; that the Inquisition has been abolished; science and literature encouraged; and great attention paid to expounding and illustrating the principles of legislation. For a proof of this we refer to the work of Galanti, for which materials were furnished by the government; to the labours of Genovesi, of Filangeri, and of Grimaldi. At the period when these works were written, the kingdom was partaking of that general advancement in improvement and reform, discernible in most of the governments of Europe. The wishes and exertions of the King of the Two Sicilies would doubtless have been attended with results most fortunate to his dominions, had not the storm of the French revolution, there as every where else, destroyed good and bad together, and renewed the chaos out of which a happier order of things was beginning to unfold itself to the hopes of Europe. The Sicilian parliament is composed of persons possessing the great shares of landed property in the island. The aristocratical part of the constitution of Sicily is still powerful. It has not yielded, as in our own country, to the predominant influence of the democratical part; an influence arising from the great wealth and commerce peculiar to this island. Here the democratical part, by which is meant those who have raised themselves above the lower classes by wealth, the recompence of their industry, has increased in power, while the aristocratical part has declined. The voter is generally influenced by [409] prospects of gain, if he be a farmer or trader; and to him the favour of the merchant, the cornfactor and woolcomber is of more importance than that of the land-owner, whose influence is only proportionate to his income.

  10. We do not find that the people of Sicily, under the government of the Viceroy, shewed any mark of dissatisfaction or dislike to their constitution. It is not likely that they should do it now that the King and many of the nobles reside among them. They have never manifested any disposition to imitate the example of the commons in Denmark toward the middle of the last century; nor that of the Swedes in 1772. What Mr. Hume says of France, is true of Sicily; law, custom, and religion have concurred to make the people fully satisfied with their condition. The conduct of the nobles in Sicily is not of that oppressive kind which Mr. L. would have us believe. The crown, far from countenancing any usurpation, is always intent to watch and check an order of men who might otherwise become insolent and overbearing. There is also in Sicily a second class of nobles; these enter into commercial speculations, and are thereby connected with a description of persons for whose rights and interests they plead in the meetings of the parliament. Hence also the distance which separates, in other countries, the noble from the commoner is diminished. 'Second nobles,' says Lord Bacon, 'are a counterpoise to the higher nobility, that they grow not too potent.'

  11. Among the advantages which modern states derive from an institution of this kind, or an order of men elevated above the rest of their countrymen by honorary and hereditary distinctions, it is not the least, that we find none of those struggles between the rich and the poor, which are presented to us in the histories of the republics of ancient Greece; where, however, the subordination springing from the difference of wealth was quite as great as in the states of which aristocracy now forms a component part; and where the poor were always individually submissive, and collectively tyrannical; at one moment selling themselves to the rich, at another condemning them to death for the sake of enjoying their estates.

  12. 'But,' says Mr. Leckie, 'in the breast of the nobles is extinguished every sentiment of patriotic ardour.' Yet all these men have stepped forward and embodied a portion of their tenants into different corps for the national defence. It is now more than fifteen months since regiments were formed in the three divisions of Sicily. The number of infantry amounts, [410] at present, to 40,000, and that of cavalry to 4,000. Mr. L. may have seen the names of these noblemen in the Moniteur of Naples, where their conduct and zeal were derided by the hireling scribblers of Joseph Buonaparte, in terms which he seems to have copied. The island then, contrary to Mr. L.'s complaint, (p. 51.) does contribute something to its own protection. These noblemen, the objects of his abuse, are aware of the danger which threatens their country, and willing to assist in its defence.

  13. A very general alteration has taken place in Europe in consequence of the discovery of America and the Indies. Commerce, arts, learning, a new system of laws and taxation have changed the face of every government. In some countries they have produced more favourable effects than in others. Sicily has advanced; but her steps have been comparatively feeble. She still bears about her strong marks of the feudal system. Feudal principles in Sicily, as well as in England, form the basis of great part of the laws concerning landed estates. Mr. L. allows that the obstacles to the alienation of property in Sicily have been diminished. He has not convinced us that this alienation, if increased, would produce any great advantages. To us it appears that it would weaken those sentiments of regard and esteem which are found to exist in the breasts of men who recollect and feel that they, and those who lived on the estate before them, were protected, and supported by their landlord and his ancestors, for ages past. This bond of esteem and respect is of course stronger since the residence of the Nobles in Sicily.

  14. Mr. L. complains of the conduct of the Board of Revenue—they are, he says, the tyrants of the country. Yet we can furnish him with more than one instance where its power has been exerted to the most beneficial purposes. The Prince of Butera, the richest and most powerful nobleman in Sicily, who, with an income of 60,000 ounces* a year, had involved himself in immense debts, has been compelled, by the interference of this Board, to content himself with one sixth of his revenues, and appropriate the rest to the just demands of his creditors.

  15. With regard to the monopolies of oil, corn, and cattle, we never heard that they were oppressive. The monopolist well knows that by raising the prices too high, he only increases the [411] smuggling trade, which is considerable on the coasts of Sicily. The three articles above mentioned are every where cheap and every where abundant. With regard to the last, the price is not a matter of much importance to the poorer order of Sicilians, who live, by preference, on anchovies, oil, fruit, cheese, and bread. Cattle are exported to Malta: the garrison there, as well as the British army in Sicily, are daily supplied with fresh meat. Oil is an essential article of diet to the Sicilians; and although so much is consumed in the island, a great quantity is exported to Malta for the use of the dock-yard, at a price much lower than it can be procured from any other quarter.

  16. The farming of some of the branches of the revenue is condemned by Mr. Leckie. We, do not mean to say that it is to be preferred to the management of commissioners appointed by the state. Yet it has some advantages; it gives a fixed and certain revenue to be depended on at regular periods; the farmers also act with more zeal for themselves, as well as more frugality; and can therefore afford to give a higher rent than could be raised under the best management.* We see no reason to believe that the Sicilians are very severely oppressed by this mode of taxation. Those who know their character have observed that there is an indolence which leads them to provide only for the day that is passing over them; and a carelessness and want of ambition to meliorate their circumstances, which tend more to limit the productions of industry, and thus to raise their price, than any tax upon subsistence. That there are defects in the revenue-laws, and that a reform in them may be necessary, is true: but it would be foolish to infer, as Mr. L. does, that, 'the Sicilians are therefore slaves, and anxiously expect an alleviation of their evils from the English, who are come into their country.' In the fifth book of the Wealth of Nations, Mr. L. may have seen a picture of the mode of collecting the taxes in France, quite as odious as that which he has drawn of Sicily; yet Dr. Smith does not scruple to affirm, that France is the empire in Europe, which, after that of Great Britain, enjoys the mildest and most indulgent government.

  17. It is absurd to attribute, with Mr. L., the neglect of commerce in Sicily to bad laws, or injudicious regulations. Commerce, says Hume, is apt to decay in absolute governments, not because it is there less secure, but because it is less honourable. [412]

  18. The richness of soil and warmth of climate render the Sicilians inactive. The obstacles to inland trade are the mountainous and difficult nature of the country, and the want of rivers. Mr. L. would have us believe that the Sicilians have no commerce at all: this, however, is not the case; and we could enumerate more than thirty articles which, in favourable times, are sent to different parts of Europe. At present, indeed, the chief trade is with England and her dependencies, to which Sicily exports sulphur, barilla, and wine; the first, on account of its superior excellence, in very considerable quantities.

  19. Wine from the neighbourhood of Marsala, a town on the western coast of Sicily is sent to England, America, and the West Indies.

  20. But the article exported in the greatest abundance and with the greatest national profit is corn. The quantity of this is sufficient to disprove what Mr. L. says respecting the bad state of agriculture, and the obstacles to commerce. The corn produced in Malta is scarcely enough for one fourth of the population. The remainder comes from Sicily; with this, the island and garrison are not only liberally supplied; but a quantity is deposited in magazines and fossés excavated for the purpose, sufficient to answer a consumption of three years. Corn in Sicily is in so great plenty, that, in the month of August last, ships loaded with it, were seen sailing, under the convoy of British men of war, to Majorca, Minorca, and the whole coast of Spain. We have no opportunity of ascertaining the state of this beneficial trade at present; but there is not the slightest reason to suppose that it has declined.

  21. Before we conclude this part of the subject, it may not be amiss to point out a few of the causes which have led to this unmerited abuse of the Sicilian government. The first is obvious; and we have already alluded to it. Those who, like Mr. L. are determined to find more subject of blame than commendation, may succeed without going very far in the malicious publication of Simonetti; and rise from the perusal of it, as Don Quixote from his romances, with a desire to redress all the wrongs and grievances presented to them.

  22. Another easy method of supplying a person with censures on every thing in Sicily, is to bid him listen to the factious and discontented Neapolitans. These men quitted the capital with their sovereign, under a hope that a favourable turn of affairs would speedily convey them back to their families and fortunes. They have been disappointed: those of their acquaintance who [413] remained at Naples and attached themselves to the French, encourage them to believe that nothing but the conquest of Sicily by France can reinstate them in their former possessions; that this is therefore devoutly to be wished; and that the English army and navy are the only obstacles to so desirable a consummation.

  23. But there is yet a third cause. It is generally understood, that an eminent British commander in Sicily entertained, we have no doubt very sincerely, opinions on the subject of the Sicilian government and constitution not unlike those of Mr. Leckie. These opinions, circulated among those who naturally looked with deference to such an authority, were eagerly re-echoed from one to another, until at last all began to think that nothing could save Sicily but a political regeneration, and dethronement of the king and queen.

  24. If all the reports of the discontents of the Sicilians may be traced to one or other of these sources, it is needless to say that Mr. Leckie is unfounded in his complaints, and worse than visionary in his speculations. In one place, this severe censor of the conduct adopted by us during the last fifteen years, advises a direct interference with the Sicilian constitution; and asserts, that we shall incur the odium of the natives if we neglect it. But is he sure that our services would be accepted? 'Unfortunately,' says Talleyrand, 'the good offices of nations are often thought to be the result of calculation only, not of attachment.'* And how should we proceed? Should we join the commons and the king? the aristocracy would be annihilated. Should we join the commons and the nobles against the king? worse and worse. The opposition of the ecclesiastics, who possess great influence over the minds of the Sicilians, and who might conceive that their privileges were threatened, would exasperate the public mind against us. The factious part of the Neapolitans would eagerly embrace the opportunity of painting us in the most odious colours; and of promoting any dissension which promised to diminish the attachment of the natives, and pave the way for the designs of the French. It is of the utmost importance to maintain a cordial alliance with the Sicilians. Malta depends for its support on them. On this island and Sicily depends our whole existence in the Mediterranean. How absurd then to risk the loss of it by any forward and ill-timed interposition [414] in the domestic arrangements of the government! 'It is a violation of the law of nations,' says Vattel, 'to persuade those subjects to revolt, who actually obey their sovereign, though they complain of his government.' Book 2. c. 4.

  25. It appears to us that no satisfactory proof has been given of the assertion that 'the Sicilians are so discontented with their government, as to wish for a complete change.' Are those persons, whether in a military or civil character, who have swelled the cry on this head, prepared to say, that they have questioned the lower order of Sicilians in the Sicilian language, and the higher classes in the Italian, so as to warrant the opinions which they hold concerning the temper, dispositions, and hopes of the people? Have they done any thing more than a man would do, who, in travelling through England should ask one person whether he did not find the taxes heavy, another whether he did not suffer from the commercial restraints, and a third whether he had not to lament the knavery of some attorney, or the protracted nature of some legal process? Do they consider what would be the language which an eager inquirer might easily extract in this country from a suitor in a chancery suit, and especially a worsted suitor, or from a man who had just been refused an unreasonable demand by the government, against 'the law's delay' and 'the insolence of office?' And do they, or would they not do well, to compare such complaints even against English laws and institutions with what they must expect to hear against those of other countries? After all—is it fair to consider the Sicilian government with English habits of thinking? There is no constitution in which an Englishman will not find defects and abuses. Do they cite for their authority any conversation with Neapolitans? This, we repeat, is to be suspected. Or are Mr. Leckie's remarks, the merit or demerit of which must depend in some measure on what Caraccioli's agent asserts, the salient point from which all their knowledge proceeds?

  26. To return to Mr. Leckie: he says (p. 98) that 'the queen has publicly declared, that whenever she sees an Englishman, she feels the guillotine on her neck.' But what is the real fact: Et nos in Arcadia—we too have been in Sicily; and are not, we presume, wholly unacquainted with what has taken place there. It is true that with respect to one British officer, who had requested and obtained an audience of the queen, at which the accredited minister was not present, the queen was heard, to declare publicly, 'that when she saw him enter the room, she felt as if he was about to say, "Madam, I am come to [415] demand your crown and kingdom," or something to that effect.' But what has been so confidently quoted, and so triumphantly urged as a general test of the queen's aversion to the English, is nothing more than a simple expression of her feeling, at a particular conference with an individual whose manner she probably considered as not sufficiently ceremonious.

  27. But why should Mr. L. think that the Queen of Sicily is favourably disposed to Buonaparte? What has she to expect at his hands; she, a sister of Marie-Antoinette, and the wife of a Bourbon, brother to the late King of Spain; she, who has been treated in the French papers with the same contemptuous scurrility as the unfortunate queen of Prussia, in the bulletins of the day! 'The Queen of Naples has ceased to reign,' says Buonaparte; 'let her go to London, and increase the number of intriguers.'*

  28. There is no shadow of reason or truth in the assertion that the Sicilian government is influenced by France; nor in another position of Mr. Leckie's, that the Sicilians are disposed to receive the French with open arms.

  29. Machiavel has a chapter to shew, that those who are born in the same country retain almost the same nature through all variety of times.* Five centuries have elapsed; and the Sicilian vespers, and the massacre of the French at that time, are still in the mouth of every Sicilian. The regard which Mr. L. affirms the Sicilians entertain for them was proved by the destruction of all who, on their return from Egypt, put into the harbours of Sicily! The following sonnet, which was never printed, and which possesses considerable merit, was written on the massacre at the little port of Girgenti, by a native of that town. The allusion to the Sicilian vespers in the last line is very striking.

    Galliche turbe, O voi che (d'empia guerra
    Destato il fuoco in piu provincie, e regni)
    Su numerosi marziali legni
    Guingete erranti alla Sicania terra;
    Se d'esplorar quanto in suo sen rinserra
    Desio mostrate in vari modi e ingegni,
    Agraga or giá vi appaga, e agl' atti, ai segni,
    Ecco, che il tutto a voi spiega e disserra;
    Per tre bei monumenti omai rimbomba
    Di quest' isola il grido (ei dice) e sono, [416]

    Un gran tempio, un gran trono, una gran tomba;
    Il tempio é sacrosanto al Dio verace;
    Vi sta Fernando, é vi stará su '1 trono;
    La tomba é de' vostr' avi,—e il piu si tace
  30. But what advantages do the Sicilians expect to share by becoming part of the Great Nation? Are the countries of the Mediterranean, in which the French are stationed, so flourishing as to induce a wish to see them on their own coasts? Are they desirous to pay the heavy impositions which have been levied by Cesar Berthier and his troops on the Septinsular republic? Or do they wish to increase by conscription the Italian armies; or to navigate, like the Genoese, the degraded fleets of Toulon? Are they captivated by the conduct of the French in Spain and Portugal? And if they complain of the feudal system, are they likely to think the system established by the French in every country which they visit, calculated to improve their prosperity and happiness?

  31. The animosity of the Sicilians to the French is firm and rooted. This is not indeed sufficient. They have need of our assistance and direction on many points. Sicily in fact is not a substantive power. Her revenue and population would not enable her to withstand, were her government purer than it is, an army pouring down from the coast of Italy and the shores of Calabria, separated from her only by a straight of a few furlongs. There is, however, no reason to suppose that the French will hazard an attempt on an island where they would meet a respectable British army, aided by the natives. Nor can any preparation adequate to such an enterprize take place in the ports of Italy without our knowledge. The time indeed is gone by: we read no more such sentences as these—'Sicily is defended by 4,500 English. The presence of such enemies is an additional inducement for the French to go there.'*

  32. Mr. L. is liberal of his censures of the Marquis of Circello, the minister for foreign affairs. The Marquis de Circello is a Neapolitan, and left Naples with the King, to whom he is sincerely attached. He lives at Palermo, receiving no salary from his office, in a retired and unostentatious manner:- The person whom Mr. L. officiously recommends as proper to supplant him, appears to us to be very unfit for the situation, for reasons which it is not necessary to state. But here we cannot forbear asking—would it be surprising that the English should be unpopular in a country, where one of that nation, of no more consideration [417] than Mr. Leckie, went about sowing discontent, recommending changes in government, and displacing ministers at his pleasure, as if Sicily were indeed a mere dependency of Great Britain? And is it not a little too unreasonable, that the very persons who hold and publish these doctrines should complain of the unpopularity which they themselves create, and allege it as a crime against the Sicilians? And what if the individual who is foremost in exciting this alleged dislike of his countrymen, and then in denouncing it, were one eminently indebted to the bounty and indulgence of the sovereign, whose throne he endeavours to subvert?

  33. Mr. L. says, the king has withdrawn his army from the command of the British general. The reverse is the fact. The Sicilian army is to be under the command of Sir John Stuart whenever the situation of the country shall require it.

  34. There are two letters written by Mr. L. in a very flippant style to the British minister at Palermo. Mr. L. asserts that the Court never acceded to any request which he made. Does Mr. L. pretend to know all that passed between the minister and the Court? As far as we can judge, the Sicilian government has acted fairly and openly. There is the most sincere co-operation. The troops, as we have stated, are to be under a British general, whom they have seen already triumphant on the plains of Calabria. The powerful aristocracy of the country has come forward in arms. The subsidies are applied to the purposes for which they were granted. The treaty of alliance strengthens the ties of friendship, and extends the mutual relations of the two countries.

  35. After all, the great question seems to be, whether our interference in the domestic policy and arrangements of Sicily can have any other effect than to generate civil discord, and excite discontent in the minds of the people? Are we to examine the government of the country with theoretical nicety, and frame political romances with the projectors of Laputa? It is not absolute, but comparative good, that ought to be the subject of all political disquisition. The fabric of the Sicilian is not that of the British constitution. Originally similar, ours has been altered by the influence of many circumstances; by nothing more than commerce and the Reformation; and whatever opinion the Sicilians may entertain respecting their own, they cannot wish to have the British government forced upon them at the point of the bayonet. Our army is there for the purposes of defence, not of legislation. We do not deny that, when a part of our troops was sent from Sicily to Egypt to [418] tarnish the laurels which they had once acquired in that country, the Sicilians were less decided in their conduct, less zealous than they have been since the intention of England to defend their island has been clearly and unequivocally shewn by the large naval and military assistance afforded them.

  36. That a reform in what is defective may take place, we sincerely wish; but respecting the state of the public mind in Sicily we differ entirely from Mr. Leckie. His alarms are false; his terrors unfounded. In his political melancholy, he is scared by phantoms of his own creation. As so little is known concerning the actual state of Sicily, Mr. L.'s opinions have been deemed oracular. Hence the tide of clamorous invective which has set in one direction; hence the delirious pity which has been excited by his representations. There are, says Johnson, two causes of belief; evidence and inclination; the first, as produced by Mr. L. is not sufficiently satisfactory; since much of it depends on Simonetti's book, which was written for a particular purpose: there remains then the other; and Mr. Leckie, with many of his readers, only believes, perhaps, because he has an inclination to believe.—To conclude, we sincerely wish to Sicily all the happinness [sic] which Mr. Leckie's most sanguine views of regeneration could afford; and though we cannot approve of Mr. Leckie's Sicilian politics, we shall have no objection to drink the King of Naples' health in the produce of Mr. Leckie's Sicilian vineyard.