Front Page Titles (by Subject) MR. STANSFELD AND SIGNOR MAZZINI. ( From The Economist, 26 th March, 1864.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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MR. STANSFELD AND SIGNOR MAZZINI. ( From “ The Economist, ” 26 th March, 1864.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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MR. STANSFELD AND SIGNOR MAZZINI.
It is impossible to deny that the Junior Lord of the Admiralty has come out of the recent personal attacks upon him, apropos of the Greco affair, somewhat damaged by the encounter. It is equally clear to us that this result is substantially an unjust one, and that the damage incurred is due solely to the want of tact and skill by which his, Mr. Stansfeld’s, defence was so signally marked. We believe he had a perfectly good case, had he known how to put it forth with fitting boldness and candour. Throughout the whole debate only Mr. Bright and Mr. Forster said the right thing or took the right tone; and in one point even Mr. Forster’s spirited defence of his friend was weak, and we think mischievous. Originally the facts of the case were very simple; the allegation was very narrow; and the culpability involved in all that any one really believed or entertained for a moment, absolutely nil.
The charge was brought, or rather the insinuation made, in the accusing speech of the Public Prosecutor in France, whose pleasure and duty it is, notoriously, to make matters look as bad as possible against the prisoner and his friends. One of the Prosecutor’s chief aims was to connect Mazzini with Greco’s plot. In this attempt, as we all know, he signally failed. Greco’s intercourse with Mazzini was of a date much earlier than this affair; the supposed complicity of Mazzini rested on the sole assertion of Greco, and is denied positively by Mazzini, and we presume no one will believe Greco in such a matter in preference to Mazzini. The only scrap of evidence consists of two fragments of letters asserted by the Procureur-Imperial, but not proved, to be in Mazzini’s handwriting, and with no date affixed. The sole connection of Mr. Stansfeld with the matter was the inference of the Procureur, a perfectly legitimate one under the circumstances, that the writer of these fragments discovered on Greco’s person, whoever he might be, desired him to address letters, at some time or other, to the house in which Mr. Stansfeld lives. (The other statement of the Procureur, that Mr. Stansfeld had been in 1857 the banker of the Tibaldi conspiracy fund, was made on no authority, sustained by not a tittle of evidence, and fell to the ground at once as a mere loose slander, for which no one believes there was ever the slightest shadow of foundation.)
Unhappily, Mr. Stansfeld did not confine himself to a simple and indignant denial of the remotest knowledge of either the Greco plot or the Tibaldi fund, and to a frank acknowledgment that he had allowed Mazzini to receive letters at his house under cover to him or under feigned names,—and a bold justification and explanation of the reason why he had done so. Instead of this, Mr. Stansfeld not only launched out into praise of Mazzini’s character—which as an attached friend of many years he was right and generous in doing,—but proceeded to expound Mazzini’s views, and to declare that Mazzini shared his own detestation of the doctrine that political assassination was ever a warrantable act—which he need not have done, and which he could not do with safety or without rashness.
Mr. Stansfeld is guilty, has been found guilty, has admitted that he is guilty, of two—and only of two—things: first, of loving and admiring Mazzini personally, and secondly, of protecting Mazzini’s correspondence by allowing it to be addressed to his house. In neither of these things is there anything to be ashamed of, any guilt, or anything needing apology or deprecatory exculpation. (When Mr. Stansfeld took office indeed, the matter was somewhat changed, and official proprieties then would suggest that he should have requested Mazzini to obtain the needed security through some other friends. This he appears to have done, though we are not exactly informed when.) There is nothing to be ashamed of in being Mazzini’s friend. He is, in our opinion, a very wrong-headed, perverse, mischievous man; a man with whose views of Italian liberty and the means by which it can be best promoted we entirely disagree; a man who, by his extreme republican notions and his extravagant and absurd ideas of the efficacy of mere popular and insurrectionary enthusiasm as against or instead of regular armies and constitutional organisation, has (we believe) done more harm to his country than his influence in keeping up the fanatic longing for unity and independence upon the people has done good. We consider that he has often been a dreadful mar-plot, that his misguided fanaticism has sacrificed many valuable lives, that he values unity far too much and civil liberty far too little. If we had been Cavour, and Mazzini had urged the Republican party to oppose and counter-work the constitutional struggles in 1859 and 1860 (as at one time there was reason to fear he would do), we should have hanged him without scruple, though with regret, as a dangerous enemy (though not an intentional one) to his country’s cause. But with all this, we should be no more ashamed of Mazzini’s personal friendship, than of that of Kossuth, or Mr. Bright, or Daniel O’Connell, or Garibaldi, or Louis Blanc,—or any other patriot, whom we hold to be in the main earnest and sincere, though in our opinion, and to our ceaseless indignation and condemnation, perverse, misguided, and very mischievous. Mr. Gladstone hit the exact truth when he had the courage to say that, however mistaken and injudicious and exalté we might deem Mazzini to be, every one who knows him will agree that he has all the virtues as well as all the faults of an enthusiast, and that both his patriotism and his general tone of character have something about them of singular purity, devotion, and disinterestedness. A man’s political views may be utterly wrong-headed, and yet he may be a fascinating and a noble character.
Whether Mazzini would maintain that political assassination is ever justifiable, we do not know. We should be sorry to vouch for him on this head,—or to shriek at him as a detestable villain if he does hold that doctrine. We do not hold it. We, in common with nearly all English thinkers, and with the better portion of continental ones, have at last found out that such acts of violence are nearly always impure in motive, that they are intellectually irrational, that politically they are blunders, that they are with the rarest exceptions indisputable crimes, and that it is for the good of the world that they should be held up to signal condemnation. But when we reflect that in this country nearly every boy who goes to a public school and nearly every young man who goes to the University, is brought up, if not to honour and worship and make idols of Brutus and Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the tyrannicides of old, at least to defend and respect them as pure patriots and martyrs; that up to the age of twenty-four, the right and duty of political assassination, as exemplified in those noble characters, is to say the least an open question with the ingenuous youth of England; and that it is not till we escape from our instructors and come forth to think and act in life that we throw off this perilous and false doctrine,—then we do say that the enormous and mysterious horror expressed by so many members of Parliament, who have themselves gone through this peculiar phase of hero-worship, is ludicrously misplaced and can scarcely be sincere. And further, we are not quite sure that any, even of those gentlemen, who remember and will duly weigh the case of the Emperor Paul I. of Russia, will be inclined to argue that there can be no case in which the removal by secret violence of an incurable and unmanageable brute may become a defensible necessity.
We say, then, that the member for Halifax need not be at all ashamed of his friendship for Mazzini, and was right and manly to avow it. We go further, and we concur with what was said by Mr. Bright in his generous and manly speech on the subject, that we should not be disposed to think very highly of the love of liberty, or the regard for justice, or the hatred of oppression and of wrong, of any Englishman who has not sympathised with the cause of Italy and the efforts of Italian patriots, and whose sympathies, at all events in early youth, did not carry him to the very verge of aiding those men and joining in those efforts:—fortunate if those generous and youthful impulses never led him to become the unintentional assistant of outraged and maddened exiles whose nature was not scrupulous and whose means were not unexceptionable; fortunate, also, if his ardent sympathy with a great and noble cause never brought him into connection with patriots less pure and less noble than Mazzini.
And now one word as to the second charge against Mr. Stansfeld—namely, that he gave to M. Mazzini’s correspondence the protection of his address and name. Have we forgotten—above all have honourable members who sit on the Opposition side of the House forgotten—why Mazzini’s correspondence comes to need this abnormal protection? Have the events and the discussions of February and March, 1845, passed from their memory? Have they forgotten that it then came to light that Mazzini’s letters had been, at the suggestion of foreign Powers, habitually opened at the English Post Office; that information gleaned from those letters of a wild plot (which Mazzini endeavoured to prevent) was conveyed to the Austrian Government; and that in consequence of that information the unhappy conspirators were seized, several slain in fight, and nine, including the Brothers Bandiera, executed in cold blood? After this, and remembering this, where is the liberal Englishman, where the friend of Italy, where the lover of justice, who would not feel prompted to do all he could to secure Mazzini’s correspondence from future official violation abroad? And who would blame men for yielding to those promptings? And how did it happen that, remembering this, even Mr. Stansfeld’s friends joined in condemning the use he had permitted his friend (when he was not yet in office) to make of his house? And, still more curious, how was it that during the whole course of the discussion, no one referred to those very questionable proceedings in 1844 and 1845, which rendered it necessary, in order to protect English official honour and Italian patriotic lives, that Mazzini’s correspondence should be carried on under feigned names and at the addresses of personal friends?