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the weak, and of those who were unjustly oppressed. It opened the prisons, where the victims of injustice languished in hopeless confinement, restored them to freedom, and punished, with fearful penalties, their proud and lordly persecutors. Its power, like the rays of the sun, radiated in all directions, and penetrated all places. In the castles of the barons, in the palaces of princes, and the halls of kings, the invisible Brotherhood took note of all that transpired. It glided through them an unseen Nemesis, and laid low the tyrant, although he were a prince surrounded by his courtiers, or a general at the head of his armies, or a baron in the midst of his retainers, and protected by his castle walls.
Such was the character of this remarkable Order, which became so terrible to the proud oppressor and unjust ruler, and so able a defender of the poor, the helpless and down-trodden. Its results on society in general, were in the highest degree beneficial, and its influence is conspicuously seen in the progress of European civilization. It tended to repress the power and prerogatives of the aristocracy, and to develop, in a degree, the popular power—that new element of democracy, which has been steadily rising for centuries, and which is destined to rule the future. It served to foster and perpetuate that law of personal independence among the German people, which they inherited from their liberty-loving ancestors. It led to the establishment of more equitable institutions, more righteous laws, and a more important and equal administration and execution of them. And, finally, it presented to the eyes of those who were permitted to enter its mystic circle, that Ideal of Freedom, Liberty, and social Equality, which inspires the dream of all earnest, and true, and enthusiastic spirits, who believe in the progressive development of man, and look forward with hope to the future that lies before him.
For many centuries, the divided state of Italy, and the unhappy condition of its inhabitants, subject, for the most part, to foreign rule, and oppressed by military despotism, have been the subject of sorrowful contemplation to all those elevated Italian spirits, who cherish the remembrance of the ancient glory of their country, and who still dream of the possibility of a free, united, and independent Italy. More favored by nature than other lands beneath the sun—the inhabitants bound together by the same social habits, the same national remembrances, the same language, and the same religious faith-we should naturally expect to find there, more than anywhere else, a great, free, independent and united people-united under one government, and able to bid defiance to all foreign interference. But such a happy destiny is still far distant from unfortunate Italy. Divided between numerous governments, all of them despotical, and having no sympathy with each other--and these again acknowledging the dominance of foreign despotism, still more intolerable - the proud and fiery-hearted Italian is sunk to the grade of a bondman, ignobly exploiting in the chains of a double servitude. On every hill and valley, in every city and town of Italy, seems to be inscribed, in ineffaceable letters, the name which Dante, ages ago, gave to his unhappy country,"di dolor ostello"—the Mansion of Pain !
The Italian heart, however, is not crushed, and visions of national unity and independence seem, at times, to float before the Italian mind. There is room to believe that the hope of a political regeneration shines bright and clear in the thought of many, and that the aspirations of the whole people, however faint they may be, point to the same idea.
The secret society of the Carbonari* is an expression of this thought--of the national aspiration to unity and independence. Like most societies of the kind, the origin of this great association is involved in obscurity. Some say that it was founded by Francis I. of France, on which account the members to this day drink to his health at their festivals. Others associate them with the disturbances among the German peasantry in the sixteenth century. And others, again, look for the origin of the society in the oppressive forest laws of the Norman kings of England. Whether we receive or reject either of these hypotheses, we must still admit the antiquity of the institution. If, however, it could be proved to be a branch of the Waldenses, its religious character, which aims at evangelical purity, and a rejection of traditions, would be best accounted for.
* Carbonari is an Italian word, signifying Colliers.
The association, for many years, was quite inactive, or, at least, was little observed by the world.* In 1818, however, it emerged from obscurity, and soon acquired great power and importance. From its published instructions, catechisms of the different degrees, statutes and rituals, we learn that its leading ideas were civil liberty and religious freedom.
According to Botta’s “ Historia d'Italy,” the republicans, under the reign of Murat, fled to the recesses of the Abruzzi, inspired with an equal hatred of the French, and of Ferdinand. There they joined the society of the Carbonari. Their chief, Capobianco, possessed great talents as an orator. Their celebrated war-cry--"Revenge for the land crushed by the wolf” --makes sufficiently clear the objects of the society at that time. The symbol and the ritual, of the Carbonari are based on this idea, of clearing the wood of wolves ! in other words, delivering the land from tyrants.
There were four degrees in the Order. Those of the second degree were called Pythagoreans, and the substance of the oath of admission was, “ Hatred to all tyrants !” The place of meeting is called baraca, that is, hut or lodge; the exterior parts are called the wood; the interior of the Lodge is called the vendita colliery. The confederation of all the Lodges of the province is called the Republic, generally bearing the ancient name of the province; for instance, the Republic of West Lucania, in Principatro Citra, which consisted of one hundred and eighty-two Lodges, and had its seat at Solerno; and the East Lucania, Republic, in the province of Basilicata, with its chief seat at Potewza.
* Vide Memoirs of the Secret Societies of Italy. London, 1821.
The growth of the Order, after its revivification, was one of unparalleled rapidity. It spread through all Italy, and in one month alone, it is said, the society received six hundred and fifty thousand new members. Whole cities joined it. The little town of Lanciano, in Abruzzo Citra, contained, at one time, twelve hundred armed members of this fraternity. The clergy, and the military especially, seem to have thronged for admission.
Knowing the hatred which the Order bore to all foreign invaders, Ferdinand and Caroline endeavored to obtain their assistance against the French. Prince Moliterni, himself a republican at heart, was sent to them for this purpose. In 1812, when Murat meditated a separation from Napoleon, and the raising of the standard of Italian liberty and independence, the Carbonari gave him their support, but abandoned him as soon as they saw he would not, or could not, perform what he had promised.
After the suppression of the Neapolitan and Piedmontese revolution, in 1821, the Carbonari throughout Italy were declared guilty of high treason, and punished as such by the laws.
er, however, still exists, and relinquishes none of its hopes and none of its efforts for Italian liberty. Addressing the highest and holiest sentiments of the human heart, the principles which it inculcates will yet awaken the dormant energies of the Italian people, and lead them forward to a sublime destiny. Propagating republican ideas, and asserting the freedom of worship, it is in harmony with the spirit of the age, and must be triumphant in the end.
The religious character of the Order appears from the following statute: “Every Carbonaro has the natural and inalienable right to worship the Almighty according to his own opinions, and the dictates of his conscience." This spirit shows most clearly the great power and importance of the society; for the religious spirit is far more difficult to be suppressed than the political spirit, and indicates a more universal and profound excitement. Should the dreams of the Italian patriots be realized, and unity, liberty and independence find a home in that delightful land, it will be found that the Secret Brotherhood of the Carbonari has been the chief agent in the accomplishment of so desirable an end.
THE HERMANDAD, OR HOLY BROTHERHOOD OF SPAIN. This object is most clearly apparent in the Spanish Brotherhood — the Hermandad — formed in 1295, in the cities of Castile and Leon. It was based on the secret principles, having secret signs of recognition, and secret places of meeting, where causes were tried, and offenders against justice were judged and punished. It operated in secret, and the blow of justice fell sure and speedy, like the bolt of lightning. It sought not only to punish crime, but to prevent it. It warned every nobleman, who showed a disposition to wrong a citizen, of the certain destruction that awaited him, if he persisted. Should he rob or injure a member of the Brotherhood, or a citizen, and refuse to make satisfaction, or give security for the better observance of the laws, his cattle, his vineyard and gardens were destroyed