Correspondence between Constantine Phipps and William Gladstone, July 9-16, 1861
Hamilton Lodge, July 9, 1861
Dear Mr. Gladstone,
When I found myself obliged last night to postpone my motion, and could only fix it for a distant day, I stated that I much regretted the delay, as I could positively disprove the calumnies injuriously affecting the character of the Duke of Modena, the person attacked in the publication to which I should refer. I added that if "any one anywhere" had given additional publicity to groundless charges, I was sure that when he heard the truth he would be the first to express his regret that he had been deceived by those whom he now found unworthy of credit. In obedience to the somewhat capricious observance, in this particular instance, of the strict rules of order required by some of your colleagues, I state the case hypothetically; but I am sure you would not the less feel the responsibility of the charges you have distinctly made, and if convinced that some further step on your part is required, all must agree that the sooner it is taken the better.
You are probably aware that the object of the commission from whom this publication emanated was to collect and give to the world garbled extracts from the confidential correspondence between the Duke and his private secretary, to obtain which the desks of both had been rifled. I am told by a trustworthy person acquainted with all the circumstances of the case, that in order to produce an unfavourable impression abroad (for the book was little circulated where the facts were known) this commission falsified the chronological order of the documents, perverted their sense, adulterated their substance, and the whole product of their labours became a work of false suggestions, of fraud, and of forgery. I do not expect you to adopt that view from any statement of mine. I have in my hands ample materials for contradicting every one of the seven charges which you made your own by adoption, but I think if I can give you the means of satisfying yourself that the most odious charge is a malignant falsehood on the part of those who imposed it upon you, you will feel that not much credit can be given to the minor allegations, which are mostly mere matter of inference.
You are reported to have stated distinctly, "A young man of seventeen, of the name of Granai, of Carrara, was found guilty of murder or manslaughter. The law of Modena does not permit capital punishment under the age of twenty-one. After the trial, the Duke of Modena sent forth an edict, declaring that notwithstanding the law the young man should be executed." Now no such edict ever existed. No man of the name of Granai was ever tried for murder: therefore none such was ever executed. On examining the notes of the presiding judge, General Gentile, it is found that a certain Antonio Granai, aged seventeen, was imprisoned for two days for refusing to give evidence; but I understand that there is no trace of a criminal process of any kind at that time against any person of that name. There is a striking fact bearing upon the impossibility of the truth of that charge, "that during the whole of the Duke's reign of thirteen years, there have been but five cases of capital punishment, all of persons of mature age, and for atrocious murders." Great care was taken not to circulate these infamous calumnies where there was any fear of contradiction. the Duke of Modena never heard of thee charges till he read your speech, and, I am informed, exclaimed with honest indignation, as to this articular charge, "If this were true I should feel myself morally guilty of murder." His Royal Highness may well think he has a right to complain that a minster of the British crown should make such a charge without taking any previous pains to ascertain the truth. You will therefore excuse me for reminding you that there is a very easy method of putting yourself in a position to do tardy justice to the Duke of Modena. You can get the Foreign Office to telegraph to Mr. Walton, Her Majesty's Consul at Carrara, and ask these simple questions, "Was any man of the name of Granai ever convicted of murder within your recollection?* Were more than five persons ever executed during the whole of the Duke of Modena's reign?" You will see that I am very confident as to the authenticity of my information; and all I ask of you is thus to test it.
If you do so, I am convinced that in a few hours you will be in a position to do justice to the upright and unfortunate prince you have wronged, in the place where the injury was inflicted. And I am sure that you will feel that he does not the less deserve strict justice at your hands because he is utterly defenceless, since he was driven from his dominions by the overwhelming power of the arms of France and Sardinia.
* It is necessary to explain what was the only information that had been obtained with reference to this case at the time this question was proposed. It appears throughout these papers that he friends of the Duke of Modena never heard of these charges till they read Mr. Gladstone's speech. As in that speech it was distinctly asserted that a person of the name of Granai had been executed, they supposed that such a charge must refer to the only time when any executions ever took place during the Duke's reign - the state of siege in 1857-8. Therefore an explanation was asked from the Judge Advocate of that time, Gentili, and in this letter I therefore refer to Gentili's notes, which I had before me, and it was thus the question to the Consul was suggested, as Signor Gentili knew he had never tried any persons of that name. It was only when I received Mr. Gladstone's third letter, with its enclosure, that I found he had been referring to a period two years earlier, when there was not, and never had been, any execution of any one of any age. The enclosure sent, which was neither an edict nor an order for execution, bore the date of 1855, and referred to a trial before the ordinary criminal tribunals.
11 Carlton Terrace, July 9, 1861
Dear Lord Normanby,
I have just received your note, and in reply I cannot admit that, as at present advised, I have done wrong to the Duke of Modena. I have not made a single charge except on the authority of published documents, construing them to the best of my ability. These documents had been before the world for nearly two years, I think, at the time when I cited them, and their authenticity had never, to my knowledge, been disputed. Such being the case, it was, I think, my duty to assume them to be authentic. Nor, indeed, do I gather from your note that it will now be alleged they are forgeries. If I have misunderstood them, and mis-stated their natural meaning, then I have done wrong, and, upon being convinced of it, will express my regret with a strength of language proportionate to the gravity of the charge which may have been made in error. According to my confident recollection I did not state that Granai was executed. What I believe I stated, and what I think the document strictly justifies, was, that the law was altered ex post facto, so as to include his crime; and I contrasted this proceeding with another in which certain criminals appeared to be denied the benefit of an ex post facto mitigation which had been decreed, I think, between their conviction and their apprehension. If this and other documents are forged, no words can be strong enough to denounce the baseness of such an act. If they are not, I believe you will not shake an atom of my statements of fact, nor do I think much can be said against the colour that I gave them. Will you permit me to express my regret that the task of vindicating the Duke of Modena does not devolve upon one or other of the very zealous men who uphold in the House of Commons opinions on Italian affairs resembling those of your lordship? I venture to think the practice of answering in one house speeches made in another so exceptionable, that I have never on any occasion adopted it, and do not foresee that I ever shall. I will read your Lordship's letter to Lord Wodehouse, who has possession of my papers; but I doubt whether he ought to make inquiry upon an isolated question until we know the whole of the statements which are about to be made, and into which we have no opportunity afforded us of inquiring.
I remain, my dear Lord Normanby, very faithfully yours,
Hamilton Lodge, July 10, 1861
Dear Mr. Gladstone,
There is only one point in your letter to which I feel it necessary at once to call your attention. You say, "According to m confident recollection I did not state that Granai was executed." I read this sentence with a surprise which I am sure will be shared by every one who has seen the reports of your speech, either in the most authentic records we have here, or in the best translations in the foreign papers. In all these identical words appear - "After the trial of Granai, the Duke of Modena sends forth an edict that notwithstanding the law the young man should be executed." And here you are supposed to have stopped. Now, you must feel that if any one else had used these words the inevitable impression on your mind would have been that the sentence had been carried into effect, unless these words were added, "I must admit that no execution took place." I feel certain that all those who heard you looked upon this execution as the gravamen of your charges. When you know from me that the Duke of Modena shared in this respect the universal impression as to the obvious meaning of your words, when you hear that he indignantly used this expression, "If this were true, I should feel that I was morally guilty of murder," I appeal to your sense of justice whether you should lose four-and-twenty hours before publicly declaring that you are now aware that no such execution ever took place. This is not a question as to answering in one house any debating speech which was made in another. It is simply this - whether a minister of the Crown should allow an accusation to be circulated throughout Europe, in his name, of "moral murder" against an exiled prince, with whom his sovereign was always on terms of friendly alliance; and this, too, after that minister disclaims the interpretation of his words on which the charge is founded.
All other questions raised by the selections from this book, which are coupled with your name throughout Europe, may well be reserved till I bring on my motion. Having been the Queen's representative at Modena, during most of the years to which these charges refer, I feel it my special duty to re-establish the truth; and I shall call for my periodically renewed reports of the state of Modena, that they may be judged side by side with the selections you have made from a publication founded, as it appears, on garbled extracts or the alleged substance of stolen private documents never seen by any but the compilers.
Downing Street, July 10, 1861
Dear Lord Normanby,
I cannot undertake to state, as you require, within twenty-four hours, that I "am aware that Granai was not executed." First, because what you stated in your letter yesterday is wholly at variance with the printed document, and you do not inform me, in reply to my letter, that that document is falsified or forged. Secondly, because I have recently been told that Granai was executed; and tough I do not absolutely assume this to be correct, yet I cannot certainly assert the contrary. I have no doubt the Duke of Modena speaks what he believes to be true, but one of the curses adhering to certain systems of government is that the denial of publicity to the subject places the sovereign in the hands of ministers, and each class of governing agents in the power of those who are below them. I do not believe the King of Naples knew a fifth part of the horrors that were perpetrated in his kingdom.
I am not a little astonished to be challenged, after five months of anxious and varied business have intervened - I mean not to have been challenged before, if I was challenged at all - upon the accuracy of a particular expression for which I am not responsible, and which I have never read. I will, however, investigate that matter, as well as I can, by comparison of reports, and let you know the result. Meantime I restate the charge which I meant to make, and which, I believe, I did make. It was this, that while the benefit of ex post facto mitigatory legislation was denied to certain criminals, capital punishment was, by ex post facto legislation, made applicable to the crime of a certain youth named Granai. I state this thus plainly that you may be able to affirm or deny it, and to apprise me whether the published document from which I spoke is or is not falsified or forged. It is surely grave enough to demand attention.
I remain, dear Lord Normanby, faithfully yours,
Hamilton Lodge, July 11
Dear Mr. Gladstone,
After your letter of yesterday I feel it is to be quite useless to continue any correspondence with you on this subject. I shall therefore reserve the whole case of the Duke of Modena until my motion on the 22nd instant.
July 11, 1861
Dear Lord Normanby,
I have now consulted all the accessible reports of the passage in my speech to which you have referred, and though I cannot remember my words, I think the fair presumption is that I said the Duke issued an edict for the execution of the youth Granai. What I ought to have said was, that the Duke issued an edict ex post facto, bringing the crime of that youth within the category to which capital punishment was applicable. I am most ready to explain, without delay, this difference, and to express my regret for having stated as the meaning of the edict without any qualification what, though I might have argued it was the intention of the paper, was not its necessary import.
But I am desirous, in doing this, to do all that may be right. Is there more which, from the contents of the paper itself, I ought to say? That there may be no doubt on the subject, I send you a copy of it. If it is within your knowledge that in any other respect I have mistaken the meaning of it, I am most ready to be corrected.
To the Minister of Grace and Justice
Seeing the atrocious case of the assassination committed by a certain Granai of Carrara - seeing that the sentence relative to it is based on the local statute that the assassin cannot be condemned to death because he has not attained the age of twenty-one years:
Seeing that it is not in the project of the new criminal code to make any other exceptions upon this point, except the crimes of sacrilege and high treason, we ordain that such exception applicable to the two crimes here above cited shall be extended to all kinds of premeditated homicide, or committed without that adequate provocation which might be pleaded as such.
Dottor Carlo Parisi, Segretario di Gabinetto
Pavullo, 27th August, 1855
Hamilton Lodge, July 12
Dear Mr. Gladstone,
I received last night, just before I was obliged to go out, your announcement that you had convinced yourself that you must have said that "the Duke of Modena had issued an edict for the execution of Granai," and that you were ready to express your regret on that point; and I have also to thank you for inviting me to say whether there is any other statement connected with this charge, in which I consider you to have been in error, as you are anxious to do "all that is right." For this I give you implicit credit. I shall, therefore, in as few words as possible (since I quite feel with you the importance of the explanation being made without delay), give you my opinion with the candour you desire.
After your avowal of the general opinion which you feel must have been derived from your reported words as to the execution of Granai, I have no doubt your feelings will induce you to express yourself satisfactorily as to having been unfortunately the means of propagating throughout Europe so cruel a charge. And here I would willingly leave this point but for a phrase in your letter of the 10th: "I have recently been told that Granai was executed." It was this apparent willingness to revert to a charge which I believed to have been disclaimed, which induced me in my note of yesterday morning to declare as useless any further correspondence on the subject. All I wish now to say is, that I trust you will not hereafter place any reliance on the statements of the person, whoever he may be, who attempted to palm upon you this wanton falsehood. Now, without stopping to quote the words of your letter, for which I have not time, I regret to have to tell you that what you think you ought to have said is still far removed from a correct statement of the facts of the case, as gathered accurately from the papers you quote.
In the first place, the paper you send me is not an edict that was ever published: both its form and its substance show that it could not be. It is merely a minute of the Duke's, written and countersigned by his private secretary; which, after the revolution, was stolen from the cabinet of that secretary, and used for their own purposes by the Piedmontese Provisional Government. This was the form in which His Royal Highness conveyed his confidential instructions to his departmental ministers. That minute addressed to the Minister of Justice points out some alterations in the new criminal code.
If it had been a published edict it must have been countersigned by that minister, in the proposed amendment of the code then under consideration. The monstrous crime committed by this Granai in the year 1855 makes His Royal Highness think it desirable some further alterations should be made with regard to the crimes to be excepted in the future code. Now, so far from justifying the assertion that the Duke intended to make an ex post facto law, it proves directly the contrary; as by the first paragraph the Duke distinctly adopts the inadequate sentence against Granai as prescribed by law. Before I went out last night I made a literal translation of the document you sent me, which you will see cannot be otherwise construed. Therefore, in answer to your appeal as to what you ought to do, I would say - 1st. As to the charge of the execution of Granai, act according to your own feelings. 2ndly. Admit that there is no proof that the Duke ever published an edict as to the case of Granai. 3rdly. Explain that the minute you have seen has no one character of an ex post facto law. I send you my translation. I am sure it is correct.
11 Carlton Terrace, July 12, 1861
Dear Lord Normanby,
I will endeavour to get at the bottom of the Granai case, as far as the whole of the printed documents will enable me; and I will explain to the full extent which the evidence will warrant it, either to-day or Monday, as I may be able.
Those who told me that Granai was executed, did not state it as final or authoritative information; and what appears probable, as far as I have yet gone, is that he was sentenced to be confined to the galleys for life. I should have thought these published documents must have passed into the hands of the Duke and his friends.
They are, however, ill-arranged as well as voluminous, and hence it is that I am reluctantly obliged to hesitate about saying at once what I may have to say.
Dear Lord Normanby,
I am now in a condition to tell you what, from the documentary information in my hands, I can consistently and properly state in reference to the youth Granai, and to the charge against the Duke of Modena of having brought homicide by youths under age within the read of capital punishment by means of an ex post facto law.
I fear it may not give you much satisfaction.
1. I think that I put a construction on the document I cited beyond what it properly bears. It is certainly not an order for execution, and I am ready to express my deep concern for having used words that might fairly be held so to describe it. And though I think that the order apparently indicates an intention of operating ex post facto, it may, as a single document, be otherwise construed.
2. I do not assert that Granai was brought within the operation of the law, and such evidence as I possess appears to show that he was not put to death, but sent to the galleys for life.
3. I am sorry to say that the general charge remains in full force, and with circumstances of aggravation. In September, 1857, the Duke, by decree, appointed a military commission - apparently a commission of Austrian officers - to try persons charged with homicide, and authorised this commission to try all pending causes of that class in which the act was charged to have been committed anterior to the appointment of the commission, and since the (previous) "state of siege" had been abolished persons capitally condemned were to be executed within twenty-four hours.
4. On the 7th of October in the same year the Duke authorised the military commandant to apply this capital punishment to youths under eighteen years of age, and, combining this with the last paragraph, giving the law ex post facto operation, you will see that the ex post facto operation is made applicable to youths under eighteen. The Duke of Modena at the same time alters the law of the country by admitting the evidence of accomplices and that of soldiers; that is to say, persons under the military control of the judges themselves. I quote from the same repository of published documents, and not from any comment upon them. Might I venture to recommend your personal inspection of the collection? I am quite ready to make or not, as you think fit, an explanation to the effect above described.
And I remain faithfully yours,
Hamilton Lodge, July 13, 1861
Dear Mr. Gladstone,
If you adhere to the intention you announced to me of taking the earliest opportunity of expressing your regret as to the errors into which you had fallen yourself and led others upon the only grave charge you had made against the Duke of Modena, referring exclusively to the case of Granai in 1855, I can have no objection to the manner in which you propose to do so. But if you mean to avail yourself of that opportunity to bring forward new charges against the Duke, I must protest against the unfairness of that proceeding, although I happen to have in my hands authentic materials for contradicting the fresh allegation relating to quite a different period put forward in the letter I have just received.
Should you persevere in this strange method of making amends for admitted mistakes, I shall give these additional contradictions when I dispose, I trust satisfactorily, of the other five minor charges, which throughout Europe are only known as coupled with your name. On that occasion I, of course, reserve the option of using our correspondence as the best mode of doing full justice to both parties.
11 Carlton Terrace, July 15, 1861
Dear Lord Normanby,
If you think fit to supply me with the evidence on which you are prepared to contradict the documents referred to under Nos. 3 and 4 of my last letter, I shall be most happy to consider it. If you do not, I shall then state, with your approval, that you have apprised me you mean to contradict, but have not been disposed to put your proofs in my hands. I have no intention of bringing any new charge against the Duke of Modena. I think it would be ungenerous to do so in connection with an explanation such as is intended. But my charge was, that he had by an ex post facto edict brought youths under age charged with homicide within reach of capital punishment. This charge I unfortunately find to be true, and I therefore cannot recede from it.
You treat what I said about Granai as the principal charge, and the others as minor. Of course it is open to you to classify them as you please. But the classification is yours, not mine; I did not treat it as the principal charge. I look upon all these charges alike as mainly important, from their tending to illustrate that character of real lawlessness which unhappily distinguished the Government of Modena. What I understand you to ask is this, that when I state my charge not to be proved by page 6, I should refrain from stating that it is more than proved by pages 11-14. To this I think your Lordship will see I could not accede.
I remain faithfully yours,
Hamilton Lodge, July 16, 1861
Dear Mr. Gladstone,
I never saw the publication to which you refer, nor do I know anything of its contents except from the selections you yourself made; but I know the infamous means by which it was concocted and the disrepute in which the character of the compilers is held. It was never communicated to the Duke of Modena, and neither he nor his friends ever saw it, nor had their attention been called to the charges except by the translation of your speech. But for that they would not have condescended to notice anything coming from so impure a source. Therefore, I positively decline to discuss by letter any new charges which you have taken from that book. If you choose to enter into a new campaign under the auspices of these persons, I have no doubt I shall, on Monday next, have so many more opportunities of proving how you have been deceived. I think it fair, however, to caution you against proceeding with the levity shown in your letter of the 12th, when you talk of the commission "apparently composed of Austrian officers." Can it be possible you have spoken and written all this about Modena in ignorance of the notorious fact that every Austrian officer had been removed from the Duchy with the army of occupation eighteen months before the period to which you refer? If you choose to introduce these topics, and to say that I was not disposed to put my proofs into your hands, you will of course give my reasons for such refusal; but I trust you will see that it is better on every account to confine your explanations to those points on which you feel yourself indisputably wrong, by which means you will do the best in your power to remedy the personal injury you have afflicted.
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