This portion of the law, designed to reassure foreign Catholics, met with little opposition; but the second portion, regulating the relations between state and church in Italy, was sharply criticized by deputies who, like Sella, recognized the ideal of a free church in a free state to be an impracticable dream.
Before proposing the reintroduction of the tax, Sella and his friend Ferrara improved and made exhaustive experiments with the meter.
Ferrara, successor of Scialoja, met a like fate; but Count Cambray-Digny, finance minister in the Menabrea cabinet of 1868-1869, driven to find means to cover a deficit aggravated by the interest on the Venetian debt, succeeded, with Sellas help, in forcing a Grist Tax Bill through parliament, though in a form of which Sella could not entirely approve.
Under the stress of the appalling financial conditions represented by chronic deficit, crushing taxation, the heavy expenditure necessary for the consolidation of the kingdom, the reform of the army and the interest on the pontifical debt, Sella, on the 11th of December 1871, exposed to parliament the financial situation in all its nakedness.
By economies and new taxes Sella had reduced the deficit to less than 2,000,000 in 1871, but for 1872 he found himself confronted with a total expenditure of 8,ooo,ooo in excess of revenue.