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The year 1814, so memorable in general history, was also an important one in the humble fortunes of the Abate Mezzofanti.
The success of the papal cause in Italy naturally opened a new career to the men against whom fidelity to the papal interest had long closed the ordinary avenues to distinction.
In the close of 1813, the reverses, which, from the disastrous Russian expedition, had succeeded each other with startling rapidity, at length forced upon Napoleon the conviction that he had over calculated the endurance of the people of France. He now learned, when too late, that the reckless expenditure of human blood with which his splendid successes were purchased, had brought sorrow and suffering to every fireside in every hamlet through his wide empire, and that the enormous levies which he still continued to demand, and which were called out only to perish in the fruitless contest with his destiny, consummated the popular discontent.
No longer, therefore, in a position to brave the public reprobation with which his treatment of Pius VII. had been visited, he found it necessary to restore the semblance of those more friendly relations which he had maintained with him in the less openly ambitious stage of his career. Accordingly, although among the provisions of the extorted Concordat of Fontainebleau, there was none to which Napoleon, in his secret heart, clung more tenaciously than the renunciation which it implied on the part of the Pontiff of the sovereignty of Rome, he found it necessary, notwithstanding, to yield so far to public sympathy as to issue an order for the Pope's immediate return to Italy, dated the 22nd of January, 1814. This measure, nevertheless, had evidently been extorted from his fears ; and, as he desired nothing from it beyond the effect which he expected it to produce on the public mind, he contrived that upon various pretences the Pope's progress should be interrupted and delayed.
For a short time, too, the varying success with which the memorable campaign of 1814 commenced; the opening of the Congress of Chatillon; the conclusion of the armistice of Lusigny;—all served to re-animate his sinking hopes. Thus the Pope was detained day after day, week after week, in the south of France, until the close of the Emperor's death struggle, by the capitulation of Paris ; when Pius VII. was at length set free to return to his capital, by an order of the provisional government, dated the 2nd of April, 1814.
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