NICE, July 2, 1764.
DEAR SIR, - Nice was originally a colony from Marseilles. You know the Phocians (if we may believe Justin and Polybius) settled in Gaul, and built Marseilles, during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus at Rome. This city flourished to such a degree, that long before the Romans were in a condition to extend their dominion, it sent forth colonies, and established them along the coast of Liguria. Of these, Nice, or Nicaea, was one of the most remarkable; so called, in all probability, from the Greek word Nike, signifying Victoria, in consequence of some important victory obtained over the Salii and Ligures, who were the antient inhabitants of this country. Nice, with its mother city, being in the sequel subdued by the Romans, fell afterwards successively under the dominion of the Goths, Burgundians, and Franks, the kings of Arles, and the kings of Naples, as counts of Provence. In the year one thousand three hundred and eighty-eight, the city and county of Nice being but ill protected by the family of Durazzo, voluntarily surrendered themselves to Amadaeus, surnamed the Red, duke of Savoy; and since that period, they have continued as part of that potentate's dominions, except at such times as they have been over-run and possessed by the power of France, which hath always been a troublesome neighbour to this country. The castle was begun by the Arragonian counts of Provence, and afterwards enlarged by several successive dukes of Savoy, so as to be deemed impregnable, until the modern method of besieging began to take place. A fruitless attempt was made upon it in the year one thousand five hundred and forty-three, by the French and Turks in conjunction: but it was reduced several times after that period, and is now in ruins. The celebrated engineer Vauban, being commanded by Louis XIV to give in a plan for fortifying Nice, proposed, that the river Paglion should be turned into a new channel, so as to surround the town to the north, and fall into the harbour; that where the Paglion now runs to the westward of the city walls, there should be a deep ditch to be filled with sea-water; and that a fortress should be built to the westward of this fosse. These particulars might be executed at no very great expence; but, I apprehend, they would be ineffectual, as the town is commanded by every hill in the neighbourhood; and the exhalations from stagnating sea-water would infallibly render the air unwholesome. Notwithstanding the undoubted antiquity of Nice, very few monuments of that antiquity now remain. The inhabitants say, they were either destroyed by the Saracens in their successive descents upon the coast, by the barbarous nations in their repeated incursions, or used in fortifying the castle, as well as in building other edifices. The city of Cemenelion, however, was subject to the same disasters, and even entirely ruined, nevertheless, we still find remains of its antient splendor. There have been likewise a few stones found at Nice, with antient inscriptions; but there is nothing of this kind standing, unless we give the name of antiquity to a marble cross on the road to Provence, about half a mile from the city. It stands upon a pretty high pedestal with steps, under a pretty stone cupola or dome, supported by four Ionic pillars, on the spot where Charles V. emperor of Germany, Francis I. of France, and pope Paul II. agreed to have a conference, in order to determine all their disputes. The emperor came hither by sea, with a powerful fleet, and the French king by land, at the head of a numerous army. All the endeavours of his holiness, however, could not effect a peace; but they agreed to a truce of ten years. Mezerai affirms, that these two great princes never saw one another on this occasion; and that this shyness was owing to the management of the pope, whose private designs might have been frustrated, had they come to a personal interview. In the front of the colonade, there is a small stone, with an inscription in Latin, which is so high, and so much defaced, that I cannot read it.
In the sixteenth century there was a college erected at Nice, by Emanuel Philibert, duke of Savoy, for granting degrees to students of law; and in the year one thousand six hundred and fourteen, Charles Emanuel I. instituted the senate of Nice; consisting of a president, and a certain number of senators, who are distinguished by their purple robes, and other ensigns of authority. They administer justice, having the power of life and death, not only through the whole county of Nice, but causes are evoked from Oneglia, and some other places, to their tribunal, which is the dernier ressort, from whence there is no appeal. The commandant, however, by virtue of his military power and unrestricted authority, takes upon him to punish individuals by imprisonment, corporal pains, and banishment, without consulting the senate, or indeed, observing any form of trial. The only redress against any unjust exercise of this absolute power, is by complaint to the king; and you know, what chance a poor man has for being redressed in this manner.