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widely diffused there, and the popular party, soon gaining the ascendency, did not spare the aristocratic families who had hitherto ruled the city. The elder Sismondi was imprisoned, his house was stripped, and a heavy fine levied on the remainder of his property. Being released after a few weeks, he determined to seek an asylum for his family in England. Landing there in safety with them in February, 1793, he sought out an humble residence in the country, as most suitable for his diminished means and friendless condition. During the spring and summer, the family boarded with the rector of Bearmarsh, a small parish in Sussex ; but finding the solitude there too gloomy for them, accustomed as they had been to society, they went to reside the following winter at Tenterden, in Kent.
The active mind of young Sismondi found ample employment during this period of exile. He acquired the English language, and studied with ardor the literature and institutions of the country, and the system of agriculture which was practised on the great farms. The fruits of some of these studies appeared long afterwards in his economical writings. A short visit to London enabled him to visit the theatres, the courts of justice, the prisons, and many other objects of interest for a thoughtful mind; he took full notes of all that he saw, and thus accumulated a mass of materials which were of much use to him in the labors of his maturer years.
He always showed a strong but discriminating love for English institutions, admiring the trial by jury, and even the system of representation in Parliament, in spite of its glaring inequalities, as he discerned in it the principle of admitting different classes and interests, as well as mere numerical majorities, to have a voice in the national legislature. But he deplored the sad condition of the laboring poor, and the effect of aristocratic institutions in perpetuating and increasing monstrous inequalities of wealth.
The spirits of Madame de Sismondi gradually sank under the sorrows of exile, and for her sake the family determined, though at the risk of meeting again the political persecution from which they had fled, to return to their native land. They accordingly set out for Geneva in the summer of 1794, and again established themselves at their beloved abode at Châtelaine. But their misgivings proved to be too well founded ; Switzerland could not yet afford a home to per
sons of their moderation of principle, who still had some attachment for old associates and for an order of things which had passed away; and this time, the bitterness of exile was enhanced by grief for the cruel murder of a friend. The four former syndics of Geneva had been proscribed by the Jacobinical party, and one of them, M. de Caila, an intimate acquaintance of the Sismondis, came to ask shelter and concealment from them, till he could escape from the territory. The request was instantly granted, and he was lodged in a shed at the bottom of the garden, communicating by a back entrance with the road leading to the French frontier. Young Sismondi was placed as a sentinel to watch over the safety of their aged guest during the night. At two o'clock in the morning, hearing the noise of coming hoofs and voices, he knocked and called in order to wake M. de Caila ; but the old syndic, who was deaf and sound asleep, did not answer. The gendarmes soon arrived, and Sismondi, attempting to resist their entrance, was struck down by a blow from the buttend of a carbine.
“ His last hope was, that the noise and tumult at the door might awaken Monsieur Caila, and that he might still escape; he listened with a beating heart to hear the door open which led to France. The shriek of Madame de Sismondi, on seeing her son struck to the ground by a blow from the butt-end of a musket, did indeed awake M. de Caila, and he might still have fled, but disdaining a life to be purchased only by endangering those of his hosts, he generously presented himself to his executioners. Charles, still anxiously listening, had the anguish to hear the wrong door unlocked, and to see his revered friend led off to certain death. The day had scarcely broken on that painful night, when the family, still on their knees in prayer, heard the discharge of fire-arms, which finished the sufferings and the lives of the four virtuous magistrates.” — p. 26.
After this tragical event, the family had no heart to remain any longer in the neighbourhood of Geneva. Intending to bid it farewell for ever, they sold Châtelaine, which they ever afterwards called their Paradise Lost, and turned their weary steps towards Tuscany, the home of their ancestors. With the proceeds of the sale of their country-house, they intended to buy a farm, the product of which, with some economy, might suffice for their support. Young Sismondi was required to select the spot, and for this purpose he traversed
on foot many of the charming valleys which lie among the bends of the Apennines.
“ The rich territory of Pescia in the Val di Nievole, between Lucca, Pistoia, and Florence, attracted his attention by the beauty and variety of its cultivation. Its verdant plain, watered with astonishing art, cut into almost equal-sized fields, covered with corn, or cultivated as meadow-land, gardens, orchards, all bordered with poplars intertwined with the branches of the vines; its hills formed in stages, where the ground, kept up by walls of trees and grass, displayed, according to the exposure of their slopes, cheerful alleys of vines, pale olive woods, groves of orange and citron trees; lastly, even the summits of the mountains crowned with forests of chestnuts, and ornamented with villages, filled him with admiration. He did not hesitate fixing his family in this beautiful industrious abode. He found, in a little valley called Val Chiusa, a country-house in an enchanting situation, standing halfway down the southern slope of the hill, from whence the eye wanders over the plain of Pescia, whose towers and steeples are outlined on the verdure of the opposite hill. It was in this agreeable abode, settled with his family, that Sismondi gave himself up to the care of its cultivation, and to the pleasure of deep study.” — p. 6.
This last removal took place in 1795, and the family remained for five years in their new resting-place. The father, indeed, soon returned to Geneva, leaving the farm at Val Chiusa under the charge of his son. The ground had been held on lease for thirty years by a peasant family, on what is called the metayer system, the landlord furnishing the stock and agricultural implements, the tenant performing the labor, and the products of the year, with a proper reservation for seed, being equally divided between the two at harvest. Land is universally cultivated upon this system in Tuscany and many other parts of Continental Europe ; and its effect in maintaining the peasantry in a contented and prosperous condition, supplying the wants of all without ministering too much to the inordinate extravagance of a few, besides preventing the population from increasing faster than the means of subsistence, is unquestionable. Sismondi was an attentive observer of the workings of this plan of social economy, contrasting its results with those which he had lately seen in England, where the system of large farms, money rents, and pauper labor prevails, with its constantly accumulating train of evils. The comparison was a striking one, and naturally ex- No. 138.
cited his curiosity as to the causes of the vast difference in the social condition of the two nations. His first attempts to solve the problem were unsuccessful ; and many years elapsed before he was able to shake off the old prejudices of the political economists, and to give the true explanation of this inequality in the distribution of happiness.
With his native kindness of heart, Sismondi became warmly interested in the happiness of the Tuscan peasantry. He liked to visit them and observe their household arrangements, to watch the management of their vineyards and farms, and to be present at their harvest and vintage feasts. His mother retained some of her aristocratic notions, but her benevolence quickly triumphed over the force of old associations, and she soon shared her son's delight in these rural enjoyments. The first fruits of the observations thus made appeared in the volume on the Agriculture of Tuscany, which Sismondi published at Geneva in 1801. His mind was now teeming with literary projects, and he pursued his political and historical studies with great ardor. But he was not permitted to follow them without interruption. Inoffensive as his life and character appeared, political persecution had hunted him from one city to another, and he found no refuge from it even in Tuscany.
At this period, the Austrians and the French alternately had command in this region, and a stranger in the land like Sismondi, not disposed to sympathize warmly with either party, naturally became an object of suspicion to both. Before he had been more than a year at Val Chiusa, he was seized by the Austrians, with sixteen other inhabitants of Pescia, and imprisoned during the whole summer of 1796. Thus equally harassed and oppressed by the friends and the opponents of liberal principles and free institutions, his mind was not apt to receive any improper bias in favor of either party. Persecuted and driven from one home to another by the former, he was now to learn, within the walls of an Austrian jail, that the Jacobins were not alone in the practice of tyranny and injustice ; but for the hardships he was now made to suffer, he might have renounced the generous enthusiasm of his boyhood. But his placable and unselfish disposition was not embittered by suffering ; he looked calmly upon the motives and proceedings of both parties, not suffering the abstract merits of principles to be darkened through the outrageous conduct of those by whom they were professed. He never became an absolutist nor a radical, but adhered firmly to catholic opinions in politics throughout his life, arguing with equal earnestness against universal suffrage on the one hand, and unlimited monarchy on the other.
The confinement was hard to bear for one who entered so heartily into rural pleasures, and had so keen a relish for study and literary pursuits. The hardship was greater, for his jailers, with true Austrian policy, denied him the use of pen and paper, and his active mind was left to prey on itself under the corroding influence of solitary thought, which so often drives less richly furnished and happily balanced intellects to insanity. From the terrace of his sister's house the prison was visible, his songs could reach his mother's ear, and he could even converse with her by signs. Soon a more direct correspondence was opened between them by the aid of their faithful bailiff, Antonio, whose business it was to convey to the prisoner his food.
“Bits of paper, ends of pencil, were hidden in the candlestick, in the bread, in the meat, even in the bottles of wine; and the letters of Madame de Sismondi, safely received, were every day answered. The necessity of cheering and consoling his mother, and a lively attachment to those principles from which he never deviated, are apparent in all these little notes, in which Sismondi continually repeats, —Love me ; do not afflict yourself ; when I converse with you, and when I read, I feel myself really out of prison.'
“ During the days of suffocating heat, so difficult to bear when air and space are meted out, a simple mark of the attachment and goodness of his bailiff cheered the solitude of Charles. Every evening ices were brought, as from Madame de Sismondi. The thanks of the prisoner, and the astonishment of the mother, discovered the affectionate fraud of Antonio to lighten, in his way, the captivity of his young master : in his simplicity he did not suspect that the notes he carried might betray his generous imposition." - p. 27.
He was released at the end of a few months, but was not allowed to enjoy his freedom long. The jealousy of the government, when once aroused, could not be quieted, and before a year had elapsed he was again arrested, though there was no definite charge against him, and doomed to a second term of imprisonment. This time, however, he was treated more leniently.