“The people perceived… the sad exchange they had made”

In the last excerpt I posted from the memoirs of Dedem–who was no admirer of Murat–we see Dedem praise Murat for ruling in the interests of his subjects, for reforming and modernizing the Neapolitan administrative, financial, and judicial systems, and for instituting various public works projects. I’ve found some more excerpts that echo Dedem’s sentiments on this subject–from the memoirs of Francis Maceroni, Murat’s former aide-de-camp, and General Pépé, another recurring figure on this blog. These three men ran in very different circles–Dedem, for instance, was frequently in the company of Caroline Murat, who despised Pépé (and vice-versa). As far I’m aware, while they might have known each other, they were not particularly close, which makes the similarities of these excerpts all the more compelling.


Source: Memoirs of General Pepe, Vol. 2 (English translation—London, 1846)

“We had made more progress on this side of the Straits within the space of ten years, than our ancestors had done in three centuries. We had acquired the French civil, criminal, and commercial code; we had abolished the feudal system, which was superseded by an administration similar to that of the French Empire; and our army was likewise organized upon the same footing as that of France. We had a National Guard, composed of all classes; the clergy was almost entirely abolished, and probably for ever, as they had been deprived of the ill-acquired wealth they had accumulated. All corruption on the part of the magistrates was done away with by a more careful selection of the men raised to so important an office, and by the improved method with which justice was administered. Great fears were entertained, lest King Ferdinand, on his arrival from Sicily, influenced by his unfortunate disposition or of the evil advice of his counsellors, should partly destroy our social amelioration.” (pg 115)

“Those persons holding civil employments, and who had been included in the protection granted by the treaty of Casa Lanza, were deprived of their situations, and replaced by men devoted to the new order of things. In the island [of Sicily] itself, as well as on this side of the Straits, all the citizens of the more intelligent class, were far from sharing this devotion; accordingly, a very notable deterioration in the army, the civil administration, and even in the judicial branch was now perceptible…. During the reign of Joachim, the population of Naples had found much to criticize in his conduct, as well as in that of his civil and military officers. But now, when instead of this Prince, Ferdinand and his followers assumed the command, the people perceived to their cost the sad exchange they had made, and all the popular feeling was in favor of the Murattini.” (pgs 117-118)

“Ferdinand’s return had brought with it the most unfortunate change in the mode of government. The immense sums of money paid into the hands of Austria tended to impoverish the nation, the more so indeed from the excessive avarice of the Austrian troops then in the kingdom, who spent no more than they could possibly help. The magistracy had ceased to possess its former integrity. Many worthy magistrates had been superseded by sordid, ignorant men, who from having been fugitives in Sicily or out of employment for many years, were now bent upon enriching themselves all at once, and at the expense of their honesty. In consequence of the weakness of the administration, the whole kingdom was overrun by banditti, and the National Guard having been disbanded, it was extremely difficult to remedy this evil and destroy the malefactors. Military commissions were revived in the provinces; but these caused more disturbance to the peaceable than to the offenders. (pgs 120-1)


Source: Memoirs of the Life and Adventures of Colonel Maceroni, Late Aide-de-Camp to Joachim Murat, King of Naples, Vol 2, 1838.

“The character of Murat has been disparaged by writers, who, looking only to one side of social utility, exclaim against all ‘soldier,’ ‘journeyman butchers,’ &c. Such epithets has even the philosophic ‘Junius Redivivus’ [1] applied to Joachim Murat in some of his essays. He also goes on to ask,–‘What services Joachim Murat ever rendered to society, I am at a loss to discover.’ say, let Junius go to Naples; he will see and learn. He will learn that Murat, during his ten years’ reign [2], did more services to humanity than any king he has ever heard of. These services I need not repeat; they have been amply shown in these pages. One benefit only will I state again,–cheap, equal, and prompt JUSTICE, which is of more importance to a community than any other thing whatever. This did Murat assure to the Neapolitans. Is such to be had in England? I will leave Brougham and Bentham (were he alive) [3] to answer. In Naples, under Murat, pauperism and crime rapidly diminished, nay, almost vanished; monkry and tithes were abolished; Lancastrian and other schools were established in every parish; trade flourished; numerous manufactories were established throughout the country; roads, bridges, and other useful works were achieved with astonishing rapidity; and the city of Naples as much improved by new streets, cleansing, lighting, &c., as we have seen occur to some parts of London within the last twenty years.” (pg 349)


(My Notes)

[1] The pen name of William Bridges Adams (1797-1872), English writer and inventor.

[2] Actually eight years.

[3] Henry Brougham (1778-1868) and Jeremy Bentham (1747-1832), English social reformers.


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