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of the Royal troops, holding the King's commission to stamp out the sect, was directly accused in the Italian Chamber of acting in collusion with the Mafia, if, indeed, he was not a Mafiose himself. The stormy discussions which followed led to no result, and the Mafia was left to pursue its course in unhappy Sicily.
328. Origin of the Mafia.—The origin of the Mafia must be sought for in the former political conditions of the island. Since the middle of the last century, when Sicily was united with Naples, and with it formed the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the island was under the government, or rather misgovernment, of viceroys. The few
years of the First Republic and First Empire of France alone formed an exceptional period, during which the Court of Naples, expelled by Napoleon, took refuge in Sicily, where it was protected by England, which sent an army under Lord Bentinck, and a fleet under Nelson, to ward off the French from the island. There existed at that time in Sicily a numerous class of armed vassals, dependents, and retainers, in the service of the feudal nobility, clergy, and large landowners. The King of Naples, having upon the advice, or rather compulsion, of England granted the Sicilians a constitution, this measure involved the abolition of all feudal rights. The retainers and vassals thus set free being mostly reckless and daring fellows, nearly all turned brigands, whom the Bourbon king had no means of suppressing:
He therefore, to restore a little order and security on the island, took the chiefs of these robbers into his service, and organised the bandits into compagnie d'armi, or rural gendarmes, who, however, while pretending to prevent robberies and extortion, themselves committed these crimes. They grew very powerful, and daily affiliated new members. The respectable inhabitants, rather than expose themselves to the risks of the vendetta, quietly submitted to the exactions of the society ; the lower and uneducated classes began to look on it as a terrible power, superior to that of the government, and ended by considering it an honour, as it certainly was an advantage, to be received among its members. The causes of the continuance of the Mafia may be found in the sulphur mines of Northern Sicily, and in the agricultural conditions of the whole island. Tens of thousands of labourers of both sexes, and of every age, are employed in the mines, and their condition is one of abject poverty, and unremitting, dangerous toil. In the agricultural districts the peasantry are ground down by the “middlemen,'
who rent the estates of the great landowners from these latter, and under-let them in small portions, and at exorbitant rates, to the peasants, who, unable to live on the produce, are driven into crime. The true seat of the Mafia is the neighbourhood of Palermo; no one can go a mile beyond the gates without risk of being robbed or murdered. In September 1892 about one hundred and fifty of these malefactors were arrested at Catania, most of them, on being examined, proving to be old offenders.
The Mano fraterna, another secret association, discovered in Sicily in 1883, was an offshoot of the Mafia, though its members repudiated the idea of being robbers and extortioners; they called themselves the instruments of universal vendetta.
329. Origin of the term Mafia.—What is the meaning of the word Mafia ? and whence comes it? The invention is attributed to Mazzini; it certainly was unknown before 1859 or 1860, the time when that agitator made his appearance in Sicily. It is well known that he had no faith in any class of society except its very dregs, and his having formed the vagabonds and thieves, who then swarmed all over Sicily, into a secret society of his own, seems well borne out by facts. The allegation is that he first formed a secret society called the Oblonica, which word was coined by Mazzini from the two Latin words obelus, a spit, and nico, I beckon, which being joined and contracted became oblonica, the word meaning, “I beckon with a spit;” “spit” being taken in the sense of dagger, as no doubt the sect understood it, we should get the sense of I beckon, or threaten with a dagger, which was the usual occupation or practice of the vagabonds enlisted by Mazzini. But within this sect he formed an interior, more deeply initiated, one, the members of which were called Mafiusi, from Mafia, composed of the initials of the five following words :- Mazzini, autorizza, furti, incendi, avvelenamenti. Mazzini authorises thefts, arson, poisoning. And the Mafiusi were accustomed to call these crimes their pavi, or bread, since it was by them they lived.
330. The Mafia in the United States.-In October 1890 Mr. David Hennessy, chief of police at New Orleans, was assassinated. The subsequent legal inquiry showed the murder to have been the work of the Mafia, which had been introduced into New Orleans about thirty years ago. In May 1890 a band of Italians, residing in that town, surprised another band belonging to another society called the Stop
paghera in an ambush, and riddled the entire party with bullets, killing and wounding six persons. The authorities thereupon determined to take extreme measures to end the vendetta, which had already resulted in more than forty murders among Italians and Sicilians in New Orleans. Six persons were arrested and tried, but during the trial all the witnesses were assassinated. The men charged were, however, convicted, but their counsel succeeded in securing an order for a new trial, which was still pending when the chief of the police, Mr. Hennessy, was assassinated. He had thoroughly investigated the doings of the opposing societies, and was in possession of information which, it was thought, must lead to the conviction of the European cut-throats. He had received frequent warnings to beware of assassins, and had for some time travelled with an escort night and day. Nothing happened, however; he, on Sunday, dismissed his guard, believing it to be no longer necessary. On the following Wednesday, at midnight, he left the police headquarters for his home. It was raining and very dark, but, as he had not far to go, Mr. Hennessy determined to walk. As. he turned the corner of Basin and Girod Streets, where an electric light threw down its strong rays upon him, a volley of bullets was fired at him from a passage a few feet away. Though severely wounded, Mr. Hennessy turned, drew his pistol, and emptied it in the direction of the dark entrance of the alley. Altogether fully twenty shots were exchanged. A policeman who was standing on the opposite corner ran to assist his chief and was shot in the head. Mr. Hennessy having exhausted the contents of his revolver, fell to the ground from loss of blood, and as he did so, four of his assassins sprang from the alley and ran down the street, while four others emerged a moment later and went off in the opposite direction. In their flight the murderers dropped three guns. They were muskets, sawn off behind the trigger, and with the butts hinged on, so that the guns could fold into the pocket. These are used only by Italian and Sicilian desperadoes.
Eleven Sicilians were arrested on suspicion; and from the confession of one of them it appeared that the murder of Mr. Hennessy was determined on at a secret meeting held on the Saturday preceding the day of the assassination; ten members were chosen by lot to do the deed.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence against the accused, the jury, intimidated by threats of assassination by the countrymen of the Italians implicated, found six of them
not guilty, giving them, as they alleged, the benefit of the doubt. A fresh charge, however, was preferred against those whom the jury had acquitted, and they were sent back to the county gaol. But early on March 14, 1891, a large crowd collected at the Clay statue and was harangued by a citizen named Parkerson on the case of the Italians charged with the assassination of Mr. Hennessy. He denounced the finding of the jury, and under his leadership about two thousand persons, armed with guns and revolvers, stormed the county gaol, where the accused, nineteen in all, were still confined. The mob dragged the prisoners from their cells and hanged or shot eleven of them. On the following day meetings of the Stock Exchange, the Board of Trade, the Cotton Exchange, and other public bodies passed resolutions deploring, but endorsing as necessary, the acts of the mob which stormed the gaol and lynched eleven Italian prisoners. The lynchers included some of the most prominent men in the city, and the notice calling the meeting, which culminated in the massacre of the prisoners, was signed by professional men, editors, merchants, and public officials.
These occurrences led to a temporary tension between the governments of Italy and the States, but fortunately for the two countries the application of diplomatic oil gradually softened and finally dispersed the irritation. The Mafia has not since then dared to raise its head in New Orleans, though it may well be assumed to be still exercising its pernicious influence in secret. And that influence at one time was very great over the reputable portion of the community, who feared it much more than lawless ruffians feared the law. The majority of the Mafia Italians got their living by crime, whilst those who did follow a respectable trade got rid of competition by holding out threats of assassination to their rivals. Every time a member of the Mafia was tried for crime, one or more of the jurymen selected to try him received warning, written and sealed, from the Mafia Society, terrorising them into a refusal to convict. Probably the trouble is not over yet; for the government action in attempting to suppress the society on the other hand stirs up the Italian feeling for their compatriots, and many Italians, who never contributed before, nor sympathised with the objects of the Mafia, now subscribe freely.
BEGGARS, TRAMPS, AND THIEVES
331. Languages and Signs.—The vagabonds included in the above designations occasionally formed themselves into associations which were not strictly secret, but held together by secret languages and signs, adopted for one common object, as is now the case with the Jesuits, and as was done by the Garduna, the bands of Schinderhannes at the end of the last and beginning of the present century, and is done by the more modern brigands and thieves. In the Middle Ages France was infested with a band of itinerant beggars, usually known as Truands, whence our word truant. They had their king, a fixed code of laws, and a language peculiar to themselves, constructed probably by some of the debauched youths who, abandoning their scholastic studies, associated with the vagabonds. This language in course of time came to be called argot, which may be derived from the Greek åpyos, an idler, lazy fellow, and the truands were then known as argotiers. Cartouche (born 1693, broken on the wheel in 1721), the famous robber, also formed his band into an association, having a language and laws of their own. In England, beggars' and thieves' slang is known as cant or pedlars' French; tinkers have a language peculiar to themselves, but extensively understood and spoken by most of the confirmed tramps and vagabonds. It is known as “shelta," is pure Celtic, but quite separate from other tongues. In French slang is known as argot, in German as rothwälsch, in Italian as gergo, in Spanish as Germania, in Bohemian as Hantyrka, in Portuguese as calaõ. Circassian thieves and robbers make use of a secret language known as schakopsé and forschipsé. Among the Asiatics there is a cant language known as balaïbalan, formed chiefly of corrupted Arabic, Persian, and Turkish words.
The vagabonds who hang about the Hottentots use a jargon which is called Cuze-cat. The vulgar dialect of the Levant is known as Lingua franca, or bastard Italian, mixed