Some women had tried to have their names placed on the election lists, as the electoral law did not prohibit it, but the courts decided against them. A petition signed by a large number of women was presented to the House of Deputies and some of these advocated a law to give women the suffrage but Premier Giolitti held that full civil rights must first be given to them.
These were the people whose change of hearts and minds surprised Giolitti and the Germans. What had been going on in those hearts of the plain people all these months of the great war, Giolitti could not understand. It was another Italy from the one he had charmed that rose at his prudent advice and threw the bitter word "traditore" in his teeth and howled him out of Rome.
Noisy Rome these days might very well give rise to pessimistic reflections on the folly of popular government to politicians like Giolitti and the Prince von Buelow, whose obviously prudent policies were thus being upset by the "voice of the piazza" led by a very literary poet!
Yet he knew, the Salandra Government and the King knew, the people knew, that Giovanni Giolitti must be reckoned with before Parliament could be opened to ratify the acts of the ministers, to support them in whatever measures they had prepared to take.
To a Giolitti, adept in the trading game of political management, it must seem insane for Italy to plunge into the war against powerful allies, who at just this time were triumphing in West and East alike all the more when the sentimental and trading instincts of the populace might be partly satisfied with the concessions so grudgingly wrung from Austria.
Now Giolitti was acquainted with everything that had been done by the Cabinet, including his country's covenant with the Allies, and he disapproved of it. He was also initiated by Bülow into the scheme by which that covenant was to be set aside and Italy made to break her faith, and he signified his approbation of it.
Possibly they had never been with Giolitti on this vital national question. At least, the fact illustrates how representative government does roughly perform the will of its people when that will is clear enough and passionate enough: the will registers itself even through unwilling instruments.
Almost universally they gave it other, sinister interpretations. Giolitti had been "bought," was nothing more than the knavish mouthpiece of German intrigue. Giolitti became overnight traditore, the arch-conspirator, the enemy of his country! It must have staggered the politician, this sudden fury which his innocent advice had roused.
I believe that once since the "Caro Carlo" letter he has spoken to his countrymen, a patriotic interview in which he announced that he had been converted to the necessity of the war with Austria! Thus even the politician comes to see light. But Giovanni Giolitti, as the black-bordered card said, is dead politically.
Neither would it be easy to find an example of a responsible statesman behaving as Giolitti behaved and working in collusion with the Government of a State which at the time was virtually his country's enemy.