Naples:life,death &
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"Through the eyes of..."

Camorra, the
  (end of!)

I have no profound sociological insight to offer on the persistence of organized crime, the camorra (the Neapolitan Mafia) in Naples, but I offer this from The Galaxy, an Illustrated Magazine of Entertaining Reading, a journal published in New York from 1866 to 1878 by Sheldon and Company. Among contributors to the very first issue were heavyweights such as William Dean Howells, Henry James, Bayard Taylor and Anthony Trollope. 

In May of 1868, the journal ran an article by G.W. Appleton entitled "The Camorra of Naples." The first paragraph was:


The name of Naples has for many years been synonymous with all that was evil. Mendacity and crime had attained here to proportions which exceeded the aggregate villainy of half a dozen other Italian towns. Overt, fearless, defiant, all dominant, these causes had earned for the Neapolitans a sinister reputation, which, as a people, they never merited. Aside from an ungovernable rapacity, and a propensity for imposing upon the ignorance and good nature of strangers, which all possess in common, the inhabitants of Naples are essentially as little predisposed to criminal acts, perhaps, as those of any other large city. On the contrary, no people in the world, probably, ever suffered with such patient endurance the tyranny of organized crime as themselves. The existence, until within a few years, in their midst, of a secret society, which…had for its object the spoliation of the weak, and the appropriation by violence of the results of honest toil…not only paralyzed the very energies of the people, but sapped the foundation of their integrity, and infused in them a spirit of retaliation and reprisal… This society was known as the “Camorra” of Naples, and it seems simply incredible that an organization, which aimed so successfully at the industry of a whole city; thrusting its thousand hands into the pockets of king and peasant alike, in total disregard of the requirements of law and order; scrupling not even at bloodshed, when its purpose demanded it; guilty, in short, of every enormity in the whole gamut of crime, should so long have been permitted to exist, unassailed and triumphant.

There follow long descriptions of the origin of the camorra, descriptions of involvement in smuggling and general leech-like attachment to all affairs public and private—what amounts to a shadow state, really.
The article is glowingly in the past tense: "…The existence until within a few years…This society was known as the camorra…should so long have been permitted to exist…etc." Written as it was, not long after the unification of Italy in 1860, the article is optimistic. It closes with this:

To Victor Emanuel [1820-78, the first king of united Italy] is due the overthrow of this monstrous iniquity…the most notorious of the leaders were apprehended and thrown into prison…and, in a short period, five or six thousand were lodged in prison or banished [from] the kingdom… and now, from Pozzuoli to Portici not one of these miserable creatures is to be seen, and Naples, purified, redeemed, free from…the terrors of the Camorra, has, for once in its history, a legitimate claim upon the good opinion and respect of the world.


That, from the Ministry of "Hope springs eternal…".



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