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In taking a survey of Europe, he found few of its sovereigns inclined to support him against the house of Bourbon: we may rather say, that none would authoritatively interpose in his behalf. Yet he would not tamely or too readily yield to dictatorial demands. He apprehended that one concession, on his part, would lead to new requisitions; and he knew that a facility of compliance would only serve to encourage domineering insolence. Amidst these reflexions, delay did not seem likely to be injurious; and, if he should be obliged to submit, a protraction of the evil day would at least save appearances, even in the eyes of the zealous advocates of papal supremacy. In this and in other affairs of moment, he resolved to think for himself, rather than follow the example of those pontiffs who had resigned their own judgements to the influence and authority of the cardinals. Many members of the sacred college were displeased at his want of confidence in men of their rank and merit: but he disregarded their murmurs, and declared that he would not be governed. It was, he thought, better for a sovereign to be, in a great measure, his own minister and negotiator, than to suffer others, as is too frequently the prac tice, to act for him at their discretion. With a volto sciolto, he deemed it expedient for a prince to have pensieri stretti; not from a mean spirit of hypocrisy or dissimulation, but from a politic desire of concealing those views and schemes of which an unfair advantage might be taken.
The Jesuits affected to believe (and probably many of them really thought), that Clement would not dare to suppress their order. But, in the fifth year of his pontificate, he resolved, in defiance of all the clamors and menaces of the zealots, to disembody the fraternity, and amalgamate its members with the unprivileged mass of society. He declared it to be his opinion, that the order had ceased to answer the ends of its institution, and that the members, by the impropriety of their conduct, their loose casuistry,
and their mischievous arts, had forfeited all claim to farther encouragement. A bull for the annihilation of the society was therefore promulgated"; its colleges were seised, and its revenues confiscated. Lorenzo Ricci, the refractory general of the order, was sent to the castle of St. Angelo, and died in confinement.
Pleased at the ruin of the Jesuits, 'the French court complimented Ganganelli on the justice and expediency of his edict, and restored the Venaissin to the holy see. The other remonstrating courts also adjusted their disputes with the pontiff; who, having thus settled the great point which had long engaged his attention, might be expected to feel little anxiety after the decision which he had so deliberately adopted. But, perhaps, he seriously apprehended the effects of the secret resentment of the ex-Jesuits, who could not look with a favorable eye upon the enemy of their order. However that may be, he died in the autumn of the following year, at the age of sixty-eight. It was supposed that he had been poisoned; but this suspicion has not been verified.
Of all the priests who for some centuries had filled the papal throne, Ganganelli seems to have been, if we except Benedict XIV., the most unprejudiced, candid, and liberal. He had neither the bigotry of a monk, nor the pride of a cardinal; neither the ferocity of an inquisitor, nor the rapacity of an indigent adventurer, suddenly exalted to power and sovereignty. He did not devote his chief atten tion to the selfish interests of the see of Rome; nor did he treat other religious establishments with supercilious arrogance, studied contempt, or marked reprobation. His moderation entailed upon him the censures of the rigid and severe, who alleged that he was too lukewarm and indifferent in religious concerns to be a proper defender of the fortress of
c On the 21st of July, 1773.
catholicism, which required for its support the most strenuous exertions of active zeal. He was even accused of being a well-wisher to Protestantism; a heavy charge against the head of that church to which the protestants were determined foes : but this charge amounted to no more, in effect, than that he was not a bigot to popery.
His treatment of the Jesuits exposed him to censures still more severe, and to all the rancor of malignity: but, in acting against that order, he only complied with the wishes of the most enlightened members of the grand community of Christendom, and justly dissolved a most immoral and unprincipled society. The time was opportune for such dissolution; the clamors which it excited soon spent their force; and a phalanx, once potent and formidable, had not the power of withstanding the energies of papal hostility; energies that were undoubtedly declining, but which, in the present case, were supported by the chief catholic princes and states.
The government of the church was now consigned to John Angelo Braschi, who had been created cardinal by Ganganelli, and was regarded as a moderate man, rather than a bigot or zealot. He was more indebted for his election to the clashing of parties, than to the peculiar favor or interest of any one faction. He was less popular, at the time of his elevation, than his predecessor; and his partiality and indulgence to his nephews did not tend to increase his popularity. Having a graceful person and a pleasing countenance, he was fond of show and parade, and took every opportunity of exhibiting himself to the public. In capacity and eloquence he was not deficient; but he had no extraordinary vigor of mind.
When he had superseded the vulgar name of John by the pontifical appellation of Pius the Sixth, some of those who were not inclined to think favorably of his disposition or his abilities, applied to him a reproachful verse, predicting the ruin of Rome under
a Sextusd. His friends, on the other hand, ridiculed this gloomy prophecy, and boasted of his ability, and the goodness of his heart and character. He commenced his administration with acts of benevolence and charity, with the selection of deserving men for various offices, and the removal or discouragement of some individuals who had misbehaved. He also formed the resolution of undertaking a work calculated for national benefit—the draining of the Pontine marshes. A bank was instituted to receive subscriptions for this purpose; but, after much labor and expence, the work was only effected in part. For what was done, however, Pius deserved thanks and praise.
After the suppression of the order of Jesuits, many who had belonged to the fraternity found protection in the dominions of the Prussian monarch, who intimated to the new pope, that he would not pay the least regard to the edict. His holiness replied, that he was bound to enforce the bull promulgated by his predecessor; but he at the same time declared, according to Frederic's agent Ciofani, that he would not treat the body of ex-Jesuits, then residing in the territories of that prince, as an irregular establishment. At the instigation, however, of the ministers of France and Spain, he afterwards required that the habit of the dissolved order should no longer be worn in the territories of Frederic, and that none of the ex-Jesuits should either preach, or administer the eucharist or other sacraments. The monarch, adverting to the ability which the Jesuits had displayed in the task of education, wished them to remain as a society for that purpose, in those provincese in which his catholic subjects were numerous; and, when Pius conceded this point, the king agreed to the requisitions of the pontiff'.
d“Semper sub Sextis perdita Roma fuit." • Particularly Silesia.
f Mémoires Historiques et Philosophiques sur Pie VI et son Pontificat, chap. iii.
The Jesuits were also protected by the empress
of Russia ; and from the bishop of Mohiloff, who, bred a Calvinist, had become a catholic, and who domineered over the church in Poland, they experienced peculiar favor and patronage. He was so eager to re-establish their society, that he gave public permission to a body of ex-Jesuits, assembled in the province of White Russia, to take probationary candidates for the privileges of their order. He pretended that Pius had allowed him so to exercise his authority : but this assertion was disclaimed by the pontiff, and probability favors the denial. When the Spanish court remonstrated with the empress on the subject, she maintained her pretensions and those of the prelate whom she protected, and declared that she would not submit to dictation from any court whatever. She afterwards authorised her Jesuit subjects to choose a vicar-general, who should enjoy all the former privileges of the institution; and, in defiance of all the enemies of the Jesuits, she continued to favor the members of an order proscribed and stigmatised by the catholic princes. While she disapproved the conduct of many who had been enrolled among the sons of Loyola, she said that the general demerits of the society did not appear to her to be so atrocious, as to justify its dissolution, or the severities which had preceded and followed that act s.
In France, the cause of Jesuitism was still abetted by many of the dignified clergy; but they were not so open in expressing their wishes for the restoration of the order, as they were in counteracting the claims of the Huguenots, whom the government had ceased to persecute. Some, who hated the Jesuits, joined this party in opposing the protestants, and also in reprobating the licentiousness of infidels. In an assembly holden in the year 1765, an animated re. monstrance had been voted by the prelates against the new philosophy. They conjured the king to
8 Memoires Hist. et Philos. sur Pie VI. chap iv.