History of the The Unification of Italy!
Mazzini believed that the young men of Italy could bring about the unification of Italy if they had faith in their mission.
To quote him “Place youth at the head of the insurgent multitude; you know not the secret of the power hidden in those youthful hearts nor the magic influence exercised on the masses by the voice of youth.
1. Settlement of 1815 and Italy:
The Vienna Settlement of 1815 failed to unify Italy. As a matter of fact, it was divided into a large number of States under different rulers.
Ferdinand I was restored to Sicily and Naples, the Pope was restored to Rome and the Papal States, and Parma, Modena and Tuscany were given to the members of the Habsburg family.
Lombardy and Venetia were annexed to the Austrian Empire and Sardinia and Genoa were added to the kingdom of Piedmont.
It was on account of the division of Italy into many independent parts that Metternich referred to Italy as a geographical expression. Mazzini described the condition of Italy in these words “Country, liberty, brotherhood, all are wrested from them; their faculties are mutilated, curbed, chained within a narrow circle traced for them by men who are strangers to their tendencies, to their wants, their wishes; their tradition is broken under the care of an Austrian corporal; their immortal soul feudatory to the stupid caprices of a man seated on a throne at Vienna.”
The restorations of 1815 were followed generally by reactionary or demoralising administrations. Ferdinand I restored the hated police system, the press censorship and the authority of the clergy. He persecuted liberal opinion, gave preference to Royalists and offended the people of Sicily by abolishing the autonomous constitution of that Island. In the case of the Papal States, the Inquisition, the Index and all the paraphernalia of medieval church government were restored.
A corrupt and inefficient administration created a lot of discontentment. There was social anarchy in the country. There was a tyrannical government in Modena. In the case of Venetia and Lombardy, a deliberate attempt was made to “Austrianize” the political life of the people. In the case of Piedmont and Sardinia, Genoa smarted under the humiliation of subjection to Piedmont. On the whole, there was excessive provincialism in Italy and everything was dominated by Austria.
The Napoleonic regime had infused new life into Italy’ and given an impulse to union which had been strengthened on many a battlefield. As the restored princes followed a policy a reaction, the democratic and nationalist ideas began to work among the people like leaven. Patriots were roused to a sense of their country’s humiliation and democrats inspired to resist oppression as Italians and not as Sicilians, etc. Secret societies began to spread all over Italy and the Carbonari was the most important.
It had its mystic rites and symbols, but it concealed and fostered a determined political purpose which was the expulsion of the foreigner and the achievement of constitutional freedom. All classes joined it whether they were nobles, military officers, peasants or priests. However, the liberal and democratic ideas had taken the deepest roots among the gentry, and the bourgeoisie. The Carbonari spread beyond Italy and the black, red and blue of the Carbonari became the flag of the revolution.
2. Revolt in Naples (1820):
Under the impetus of secret societies, a revolution began in 1820 and was not exhausted for 30 years. The first revolt broke out in Naples. Ferdinand I had pledged himself solemnly to respect the liberal constitution of Sicily at the time of his restoration to the throne in 1815. However, in 1816, he cancelled that constitution so that it may not serve as a model for other States of Italy.
The excitement created by the Spanish revolution of 1820 spread to the Italian dominions of the Spanish Bourbons. The people of Naples, supported by the army, demanded a constitution on the model of Spain. Ferdinand granted the demands of the rebels with eagerness. He thanked God that He had given him an opportunity to confer that blessing upon his people.
He also ratified the concession in a solemn manner. In the presence of the court and ministers, he proceeded to the altar and took the following oath “Omnipotent God who with infinite penetration lookest into the past and into the future, if I lie, or if I have had in mind to break the oath do Thou at this instant hurl on my head the lightning of Thy vengeance.” The king kissed the Bible, the oath was repeated by his sons and the new constitution was publicly proclaimed.
However, Ferdinand I sent a secret message to the sovereigns assembled at Troppau informing them of his intention “to leave his kingdom and with the help of Austrian troops to resume absolute power.” In December 1820, he left for Laibach. As soon as he was safe in Austrian territory, he asked for the help of the sovereigns to restore him to absolutism. The result was that an Austrian army was sent to Naples. The troops of Naples ran away. Ferdinand was restored. The constitution was torn up. The rebel leaders were put in prisons or hanged.
3. Revolt in Piedmont (1821):
The revolutionary movement was not confined to Naples alone. The whole of Italy at that time was honeycombed with secret societies. The Government of Victor Emmanuel in Piedmont was weak and reactionary and in March 1821, an insurrection broke out there. However, there was no hostility to the House of Savoy.
The slogans of the people were the following. “Our hearts are faithful to our king, but we wish to deliver him from perfidious counsels. War against Austria; at home a constitution; such are the wishes of the people.” When the Austrian armies marched to Naples, the Liberals of Piedmont decided to attack the Austrian troops from the rear. However, the movement was badly led and the plans hopelessly failed. Victor Emmanuel resigned his crown in favour of his brother Charles Felix. There were people who wanted the throne to go to Charles Albert. In the midst of divided counsels, the movement collapsed.
In the case of Lombardy, the Austrian yoke was reimposed with great vigour. The rebel leaders were taken to Austria where they had to spend their lives in prisons. The young-men were conscripted for the Austrian armies. The jails of Lombardy were full of political prisoners. All the subjects were thoroughly watched. Torture was employed to get confessions.
5. July Revolution and Italy:
The July Revolution of 1830 in France also affected the Italian politics. The Papal States were very badly affected. From the Papal States, the movement spread to Piedmont, Parma and Modena. However, the rising were everywhere successful. Pope Gregory XVI asked for the help of Austria. Metternich sent the Austrian armies into Italy and the Papal States were occupied by the White coats.
Order was restored and the authority of the Pope was re-established. Francis IV was restored to his throne in Modena and Marie Lousie in Parma. However, as soon as the Austrian troops left Italy, fresh revolts broke out and they had to return once again. At this time, France also sent an army to occupy Ancona (1832) and for 6 years Austrian and French troops continued to confront each other in the Papal States.
The insurrections failed because the democratic efforts were disunited and not systematic. The people were not ripe for revolution. Unity was the cry of only a few leaders and not the creed of the masses. However, one thing was clear and that was the weakness of the reactionary States in Italy. They were saved only by the intervention of Austria.
There were many revolts in Italy against the existing conditions and thousands of persons were sent to prisons or in exile. They stimulated the deep and wide movement of thought and feeling which became so important in Italian history that they were given the title of II Risorgimento, the revival or resurrection.
The Risorgimento movement was at bottom a moral one. It was based on the ideal of a free and united Italy. It got strength from the Romantic Movement. It reminded the Italians of their greatness in the past. Politically, the revival was patriotic and national. It was a protest against Austrian domination and a demand for unity.
It was liberal and democratic. There was a demand for parliamentary form of government, freedom of press, reduction of powers of the church, and the establishment of a republic. It presented the aspirations of the middle classes of Italy to develop themselves economically. It was linked up with the growth of knowledge and science. Such a broad movement could not be incorporated in one single programme. The views and efforts of persons like Mazzini came within its scope.
7. Mazzini (1805-72):
Giuseppe Mazzini was the son of a doctor and professor of anatomy in Genoa, from his childhood; he was influenced by the nationalist movement in Italy. When he was hardly 10, Genoa was put under Piedmont in 1815. This act was very much resented by the people. During the 1820’s Mazzini studied the writings of the romantic writers of Italy, France, Great Britain and Germany.
His favourite writers were Dante, Shakespeare, Byron, Goethe, Schiller, Scott, Hugo, etc. Even when young, he was impressed by the misery of his country. To quote him, “In the midst of the noisy, tumultuous life of the students around me I was sombre, and absorbed and appeared like suddenly grown old. I childishly determined to dress always in black, fancying myself in mourning for my country.”
He had a bent of mind for literary life. “A thousand visions of historical dramas and romances floated before my mental eyes.” But he gave up that idea for the sake of fighting for his country. He called this as his “first great sacrifice.”
He joined the Carbonari not because he approved of its methods but because it was at least a revolutionary organisation. He was arrested in 1830 and imprisoned in the fortress of Savona. He was released after six months. The Governor of Genoa told Mazzini’s father that his son was “gifted with some talent” but he was “to fond of walking by himself at night absorbed in thought. What on earth has he at his age to think about? We don’t like young people thinking without our knowing the subject of their thoughts.”
His vast experience helped him to found in 1831 a new organisation known as “Young Italy”. This society superseded the Carbonari as the centre of nationalist agitation. Its motto was: “God and the People.” A member had to take an oath. “To dedicate myself wholly and forever to the task of constituting a free, independent and republican Italy.”
Mazzini believed that the young men of Italy could bring about the unification of Italy if they had faith in their mission. To quote him “Place youth at the head of the insurgent multitude; you know not the secret of the power hidden in those youthful hearts nor the magic influence exercised on the masses by the voice of youth.
You will find among the young a host of apostles of the new religion.” Mazzini appealed for martyrs to the Indian cause. He reminded the Italians that they had no citizenship, no country and no national flag. The cries of Young Italy were God, people and Italy. Its methods were education, literary propaganda and revolts.
Mazzini believed that Young Italy must not merely be a body of conspirators. Its main object was to create among the Italians the spirit of self-sacrifice to die for the sake of their country. Mazzini considered the liberation and unification of Italy as a religion.
He was prepared to live and die for it. He was a dauntless leader. He was a man of imagination, poetry, and audacity. He was the master of a persuasive literary style. He had a burning enthusiasm in his heart. All these qualities of Mazzini helped the cause of Italian unification.
Mazzini believed that Austria must be driven out of Italy and the sooner that was done the better. He was not in favour of any foreign help to drive out the Austrians from Italy. To quote him, “The only thing wanting to twenty million of Italians, desirous of emancipating themselves, is not power, but faith.
The great contribution of Mazzini lay in the fact that at a time when the people of Italy considered the liberation and unification of Italy as an impossible dream, he made the same a practical ideal. He was able to create a faith among the people for the holy task. He was able to convert a large number of persons who were fired with the same missionary spirit which he himself possessed for the cause of Italian unification.
High hopes were raised in Italy when Pious IX became the Pope in 1846. He followed a liberal policy and it was felt that he might become the leader of the nationalist and democratic forces in the country. The shouts of Viva Pio Nono were heard from democratic lips. Metternich was upset. To quote him, “We are prepared for anything except a liberal Pope. Now we have got one. There is no telling what may happen.” Austrian troops occupied Ferrara.
Charles Albert of Piedmont was indignant and Great Britain protested. However, the zeal of the Pope slackened very soon. He refused to move forward. In spite of this, in every State in Italy, a new spirit was to be found. The movement was almost universal. Browning’s account of Italy represents the feelings of the common man.
He makes the Italian in England say the following:
“However, if I pleased to spend
Real wishes on myself—say three—
I know at least what should be.
I would grasp Metternich until
I felt his red, wet throat distil
In blood through these two hands.”
8. Events of 1848-49:
The year 1848 opened with many problems, popular agitation was increasing in Naples and Sicily for reforms. The democratic parties in the Papal States, Tuscany and Piedmont were demanding a new constitution which transferred real power into the hands of the people. In the case of Lombardy and Venetia, the Austrian yoke was becoming intolerable. The movements of 1848-49 were democratic and nationalist.
In January 1848, a revolution broke out in Palermo which demanded reform, Sicilian autonomy and the constitution of 1812. The demands were granted after some resistance. There were demonstrations in Naples and they also got a new constitution. The result was that there were popular demonstrations in favour of a constitution in Piedmont, Tuscany and the Papal States. In March 1848, Piedmont and Tuscany got liberal constitutions which established constitutional governments in those States.
The same month news came that there was a revolt in Vienna and Budapest and Metternich had run away to London. The revolution broke out in Milan, the Viceroy ran away and the Austrian troops under Radetzky withdrew. A republic was proclaimed in Venice. The rulers of Modena and Parma also ran away.
There was a demand for war to end the Austrian domination in Italy. Cavour appealed in these words. “The supreme hour of the Sardinian monarchy has sounded. There is only one path open to the government, the nation, the king—immediate war.” Charles Albert declared war against Austria.
Tuscany, Naples and the Papal States sent their contingents. However, after some time they were all withdrawn. Charles Albert was defeated in the Battle of Custozza in July 1848. Lombardy and Venetia came under the control of Austria. The result of Custozza was that the Moderates were discredited and the Extremists under Mazzini same to the front. “The war of the princes was finished, that of the peoples begun.”
A republic was proclaimed in Rome under the headship of Mazzini. The authority of the Pope was abolished and the Pope ran away to Naples and appealed to the Powers for help. In March 1849, Charles Albert renewed the war against Austria but he was again defeated in the Battle of Novara. He abdicated and his son Victor Emmanuel II made peace with Austria. After Novara, reaction started in Italy. Sicily was reconquered by Naples.
The ruler of Tuscany was restored. Louis Napoleon, the French President, sent an expedition to Rome. Garibaldi was defeated and the Pope was restored. Venice was also captured by the Austrians in August 1849. Absolutism and reaction triumphed everywhere in Italy except Piedmont which did not cancel the liberal constitution given in 1848. Although the movement of 1848-49 had failed, something had been gained.
Those who stood for a republican government for Italy or a government under the Pope were discredited and things were cleared for the unification of Italy under the monarchy of Piedmont. Moreover, during this movement, the people from all over Italy participated unmindful of the fact whether they belonged to one part of Italy or the other. The people of Italy became conscious of themselves. The movement gave the Italian cause “a dynasty to represent it and a people to defend it.”
The failure of the revolts in Italy before the rise of Cavour was due to many causes. Austrian position was very strong in Italy and it was not possible to oust her without foreign help. However, the motto of the Italian patriots was that they would be able to achieve their independence and unification without any outside help. That was impossible. It is true that as a result of the Carbonari and Young Italy of Mazzini, ideas of nationalism were spreading all over Italy, but still there was provincialism and selfishness among the people.
Very few people thought in terms of Italy as a whole. There was no collaboration among the princes of Italy for Italian unification. As a matter of fact, excepting Piedmont, all others were opposed to it. Austria, Lombardy and Venetia were opposed to Italian unification.
The same was the case with the Austrian rulers of Parma, Modena and Tuscany. The Pope was the greatest enemy of Italian unification, because the unification of Italy was bound to deprive him of his territory, capital, income and prestige and he was helped by France and others in his efforts to keep Italy disunited. The Italian patriots had different objectives. Some stood for a Republican Government, others for the leadership of the Pope and still others that of Piedmont. The lack of unity weakened the cause.
The patriots pulled in different directions and consequently their divided forces could not achieve much. This was the condition \/hen Cavour came to the front. However, it must be remembered that the failure of the above revolts facilitated the work of Cavour. The cause of Republicanism and that of the headship of the Pope was discredited and thus all the people of Italy could work together for the unification of Italy under the House of Piedmont. Moreover, during these revolts, Piedmont proved herself to be the leader of the people of Italy.
Until his death in 1861, the most important man in Italian politics was Cavour. As a Youngman, he had travelled widely in England, France and Switzerland. He was a keen student of advanced Western methods in agriculture, industry and parliamentary government and was fascinated by them. It became a mission of his life to westernize Piedmont and eventually the whole of Italy.
He was convinced that railways, factories, banks, milk and business enterprises as working in France and Britain were the only road to economic prosperity in Italy. In October 1850, he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Marine of Piedmont. He made a series of commercial treaties with England, France and Belgium and thereby linked Piedmont to the free trade countries of Western Europe.
As a Minister of Finance, he raised capital by internal loans for immediate needs and an external loan from England. A part of it was spent on the construction of rail-roads. In November 1852, he formed his own Ministry. In his new capacity, he started in right earnest the improvement of the roads, rail-roads, docks and ports of Piedmont. He expanded her commerce and strengthened her finances.
As a young engineer in the army, Cavour had acquired the outlook and aptitude of a technician. He approached the problems of politics with a systematic well-informed and logical mind. He was always prepared to analyse them patiently and carefully in order to find out a solution.
By 1854, he had succeeded in running Piedmont on sounder business-like lines. Keeping England and France as his models, he passed the necessary legislation to modernise the structure of business corporations, banks and credit institutions, co-operative societies, the civil administration and the army. After the end of the Crimean War in 1856, Cavour took further a more intensive programme of economic development.
He tried to acquire more military and economic strength for his country. The railways of greatest strategic importance were expanded. The Mont Cenis Tunnel was planned to pierce the Alaps and link up the territory of Piedmont with France.
Genoa was changed from a naval base into a great commercial port with new docks and leading facilities. Piedmont was linked very closely with the West by rail and steamship. By the time Cavour died in 1861, he had created by diplomatic alliances and wars, a new kingdom of Italy with Piedmont as its core, but still excluding Venetia and Rome.
Before Cavour came on the scene of Italian politics, the boast of the Italian was “Italia fara de se” (Italy will act by itself). However, the conviction of Cavour was that Italy herself was not so strong militarily as to fight against Austria. This had been proved by the defeats of Custozza and Novara. Italian unification was possible only with foreign help. Cavour would have preferred British help and Britain was generally sympathetic to the cause of liberal nationalism in Italy and had no immediate demands to make from Italy in return.
However, the British Government had made it clear on many occasions that it would not help the people of Italy by military support. Palmerston believed that the survival of the Austrian Empire was necessary for the maintenance of balance of power between Russia and France in Europe.
When in 1857, the Archduke Maximilian became the Viceroy of Lombardy, his policy of leniency and conciliation was warmly approved by British diplomats at Vienna and Turin. At the most, Cavour could expect benevolent neutrality from Britain. Britain was determined to avoid any involvement in a general war.
Cavour joined the Crimean War in 1855 on behalf of England, France and Turkey and against Russia. It is true that Piedmont had no interest in the Eastern Question, but he got an opportunity to raise the status of Piedmont. It was a master-stroke of his policy. When the Italian troops complained of mud in the Crimea, Cavour wrote back thus. “Out of this mud, Italy will be made.” After victory over Russia, the Congress of Paris was held in 1856.
It was before that Congress that Cavour was able to condemn the Austrian rule in Italy and raise the Italian question from the level of a local question to that of an international question. Moreover, he wanted the sympathy of Europe for his cause, particularly that of Napoleon III.
Napoleon III himself had sympathy for the cause of Italian unification. He had once been a member of the Carbonari. The Liberals of France also encouraged him to help the people of Italy. Napoleon III was always ready to embark on foreign adventures in order to gain fresh prestige for his regime. He had tasted the fruits of popularity and prestige from the Crimean War.
He favoured the idea of north Italian kingdom coming into existence with French help. The people of France would like the idea of acquiring Nice and Savoy. Napoleon III also felt that by helping Italy, he will be doing what Napoleon I had done in his own time. He will be completing the work started by Napoleon Bonaparte.
In January 1858, bombs were thrown on Napoleon III and the Empress when they were going to the opera. It is true that both of them escaped unhurt, but many persons were killed and wounded. Many Italians were arrested and it was found that Orsini was me chief agent in the plot. Orsini declared that what he had done had sprung from his belief that Napoleon had betrayed the cause of Italy.
From his prison, he wrote two letters to Napoleon III appealing to him to free Italy. To quote Orsini, “So long as Italy is not independent, the tranquillity of Europe no less than that of Your Majesty, is a concrete chimera. Deliver my country and the blessings of twenty-five million citizens will follow you in posterity.” On the scaffold of the guillotine, the last words of Orsini were “Vive Italie” (Long Live Italy!). Victor Emmanuel had sent General Delia Rocca to congratulate Napoleon III on his escape.
However, the protests of the French Minister were so hostile that they evoked separate replies from both Victor Emmanuel and Cavour. These replies along with the courage shown by Orsini at the time of his death, confirmed Napoleon III in his resolve to help the cause of Italian unification. Napoleon III is stated to have observed. “Now that is what I call courage.” He also published Orsini’s last letter appealing to him to support the cause of Italian unification. He took the really decisive step in June 1858.
Napoleon III sent a message to Cavour through a private source that he was going to spend the summer in Plombieres and he would be glad to see him there. Cavour met the Emperor on 21-22 July 1858 at Plombieres and had a long discussion with him, first at his residence and then on a long drive round the town while Napoleon himself held the reins. An agreement was arrived at between Cavour and Napoleon III. France promised to support Piedmont in a war with Austria on the condition that Cavour provided a pretext which would justify the action of France in the eyes of the people of Europe.
The Austrians were to be driven out of Italy. The North was to form a kingdom of Italy under Victor Emmanuel 11. The whole of Italy was to be united in a federation under the Presidency of the Pope. Victor Emmanuel was to marry his 16-year-old daughter to Prince Napoleon, the cousin of Napoleon. France was to get Savoy and Nice although Savoy was the cradle of the royal house and of the state of Piedmont and Nice was the birthplace of Garibaldi.
The first step in the fulfillment of the Pact of Plombieres was the marriage of the daughter of Victor Emmanuel with the cousin of Napoleon III. In September 1858, little Clotilde agreed to meet Prince Jerome and promised “if he is not actually repulsive to me, I have decided to marry him.” Jerome was found to be not repulsive and the marriage was solemnised. In January 1859, the Pact which was so far verbal was embodied in a formal treaty between the two Governments.
It was provided in the secret treaty that in case of war, France was to provide 200,000 men and Austria was to be driven out of Italy. Cavour wrote, “We have Austria in a cleft stick and she cannot get out of it without firing the cannon.” The people of Northern Italy were excited. They cheered Victor Emmanuel and the kingdom of Italy. They cried, “Long live the war!”
In March 1859, Russia was won over by a treaty whereby Napoleon III agreed to support a revision of the Treaty of Paris of 1856 in return for Russia’s approval of the changes in the settlement of 1815 in so far as it affected Italy. This ensured against Russian intervention. There was no danger of intervention from Britain because popular sympathies in Britain were with the people of Italy. Prussia was expected to follow Britain in seeking mediation and she was not averse to seeking Austria humiliated.
Piedmont and Austria began to mobilise as tension began to increase. Cavour had only one aim in view and that was to force Austria to issue an ultimatum at the right moment and thereby put herself in the wrong. Mobilization in Piedmont dislocated everything. It was more than a precautionary measure. It nearly amounted to a declaration of war. Under pressure from different quarters.
Napoleon III began to show signs of backing down. By 18 April 1859, it appeared that the concert of Europe was reviving to prevent an outbreak of war. Great Britain, and to a lesser extent Russia, urged the possibility of settling trouble by means of a European Congress. That was also one of the ideas of Napoleon III and he could not refuse to consider it. His will was so unstable that Cavour was in despair. For a moment, peace seemed to be certain.
Cavour is said to have remarked, “Nothing remains for me but to put a bullet through my head.” Then came an incident which has not been fully explained. It is possible that Austria was tired of the long delays. It is also possible that he was encouraged by the assurances of loyalty from the different parts of the Empire. Austria despatched to Turin an ultimatum demanding disarmament “within three days” and sent her troops into Piedmont on 19 April 1859. Nobody welcomed the war more than Cavour did.
On that occasion, Cavour is said to have observed, “The die is cast and history is made.” The Austrian Emperor declared that he was fighting for “the rights of all people and states and for the most sacred blessings of mankind.” The general feeling was that Austria had broken the peace. Victor Emmanuel was declared Dictator by the Parliament of Piedmont and the war began.
Every great Power in Europe seemed to be interested in the Italian war and there was much talk of intervention. The attitude of Great Britain and Russia did not matter much, but the action of Germany and Prussia was really the most critical question. Austria was primarily a German power and she was at the head of the Germanic Confederation. Despite her grievances against Austria, Prussia could not be expected to remain unconcerned when Austria was being defeated by the armies of France and Italy.
The federal army and the Prussian army were both put on a war footing. The diplomacy of Austria could not induce them to go further than that. However, the fear of German or Prussian intervention was always in the mind of Napoleon III and was partly responsible for stopping the war after the battle of Solferino.
In spite of all this, the armies of Austria had to bear the attacks of their enemies without any allies. Although General Benedek won high reputation for his management of the campaign and the Austrian soldiers displayed great bravery in the battlefield, Austria was defeated. The different national elements in the Austrian army had no interest in the issue of the campaign and no wonder they could not give their very best.
Moreover, the higher ranks in the Austrian armies were confined to the nobles alone and these too were great handicaps. The situation in Italy was highly favourable to the national cause. There were spontaneous risings all over the North of Italy. There were risings in Modena. Parma expelled its ruler. There were movements of utmost importance in Tuscany, particularly its capital, Florence.
There were great popular meetings in Florence which cheered for “War, independence and Victor Emmanuel.” The King of Piedmont was asked to undertake the military dictatorship of Tuscany. These demonstrations in Tuscany were against the desire of Napoleon III who wanted to make Prince Jerome somehow the ruler of Tuscany. In the Romagna and the Legations, the Papal troops were driven out and the popular cry was for union with Italy and Victor Emmanuel.
There was no hope that Pope Pius IX would join the national cause. An effort was made to bring in the kingdom of Naples. Ferdinand II, the ruler of Naples, had just died and he was succeeded by his son Francis II who was married to the sister of the Austrian Empress. No wonder, an attempt to win him over to the national cause failed.
As regards the actual war, the Austrians were undecided. Their troops came in slowly. Count Gyulai held the supreme command and was thought to have owed his promotion over the heads of others on account of his influence at the court. On the Italian side, great reliance was placed on “Hunters of the Alps” who were a body of irregular troops collected from the most enthusiastic elements among the patriots of Italy and commanded by Garibaldi who was considered by the people as the incarnation of the romance of daring and the poetry of the national cause.
As the Allied forces advanced into Milan, Garibaldi acted on the left flank along the foothills of the Alps. However, the main brunt of the fighting fell on the French troops. It is conceded that without the support of the armies of France, the national armies were doomed. The Austrians would have fared better if they had remained on the defensive under cover of the fortresses of the “Quadrilateral”, but they decided to defend Milan. The issue was decided in two great battles.
The battles of Magenta were fought on 4 June 1859 and after heavy fighting the Austrians were defeated. They were defeated but not crushed and hence they retreated towards the “Quadrilateral.” The battle of Solferino was fought on 24 June 1859. It was a long drawnout and murderous battle.
In the centre and on the right, the French and the Italians won a complete victory. Although the Austrians under Benedek held their ground on their right, the battle was lost in other parts of the field. The losses on both sides were very heavy. The battle of Solferino was a crushing defeat for Austria although it was not decisive of the whole campaign. However, through the action of Napoleon III, the whole campaign ended.
A question has been asked why Napoleon III stopped after having won the battle of Solferino. It is true that Napoleon III was the victor in the field. He had crushed Austria and called a free Italy into existence. When he entered Milan after the battle of Hagenta, he was given a rousing reception which very few conquerors have received. He was called “Our liberator, our saviour our benefactor.”
His way was strewn with flowers by the women of Milan. He told the people of Italy that he will do nothing to force his will on them. “Use the good fortune that presents itself to you. Your dream of independence will be realised if you show yourself worthy of it. Unite in one great effort for the liberation of the country.”
The cordiality between Napoleon III and the people of Italy did not last long. The slaughter at Solferino profoundly affected the mind of Napoleon III and he would not like to go further in the war. The Italians also did not show themselves easily manageable as expected by Napoleon. The scheme of Napoleon III to put Prince Jerome on the throne of Tuscany completely failed on account of opposition from the people of Tuscany. Although his name was Napoleon, he was not a soldier.
He was an expert more in diplomatic combinations and appeals to the imagination of the people than in the art of fighting. Napoleon III also found danger from the side of Prussia whose army had already been placed on a war footing. Prussia now prepared her whole forces and proposed that she should be given the command of the army of Germany. She proposed to Great Britain and Russia to join her in an offer of mediation to both the parties. There was a fear that the French forces may not be compelled to protect the Rhine frontier.
It was under these circumstances that Napoleon decided to stop the war without consulting Piedmont. While doing so, he acted more as a conspirator than a statesman. Napoleon III sent General Fleury on a private mission to the headquarters of Francis Joseph, the Emperor of Austria with an offer of an armistice. The Austrian Emperor was willing to meet half way. He knew his own critical position. His armies had been defeated in two battles.
Hungary was threatening revolt and troops were wanted to suppress it. Austria was not favourably inclined towards Prussian help as in that case she will have to make concessions to Prussia in Germany and she was not willing to do the same. It was under these circumstances that Francis Joseph met Napoleon III at Villafranca and the preliminaries of peace were arranged. Lombardy was to be handed over to Napoleon III who was to transfer the same to Victor Emmanuel.
Both France and Austria were to support the formation of an Italian Confederation under the titular Presidency of the Pope. Venetia was to remain with Austria but was to form a part of the Italian Confederation. The rulers of Modena, Parma and Tuscany were to be restored. The Pope was to be urged to introduce reforms in his stale. A meeting of the representatives of all the states concerned was to he held to ratify the terms of the Peace of Villafranca.
It is worthy of notice that the armistice of Villafranca was signed by Napoleon III without consulting Piedmont. The result was that too many Italians and particularly to Cavour, it seemed treason to their cause. Cavour was disappointed. He is said to have remarked, “Nothing can come out of this peace. I will turn the conspirator and revolutionary, but this treaty shall not be carried out.” After a violent interview with Victor Emmanuel, he resigned his post as Prime Minister, but later on came back to his post again.
It was found that the people of Tuscany, Modena, Parma and the Romagna were not prepared to allow the Emperors of France and Austria to hand them back to their old rulers. Farini had kept the national standard flying in Modena and in Parma. A similar part was played by Ricasoli in Tuscany.
A representative Assembly in Florence declared unanimously in August 1859 that Tuscany desired to become a part of the strong Italy under the constitutional rule of Victor Emmanuel. Victor Emmanuel himself praised the wonderful example of moderation and unity shown by the people of Tuscany and he gave an assurance that he would represent the claims of Tuscany in the coming congress. The people of Paima, Modena and Bologna also demanded union with the kingdom of Victor Emmanuel.
It was found difficult to carry into effect the terms of the peace of Villafranca. The representatives of France, Austria and Sardinia met together at Zurich. Lombardy was annexed to Sardinia, but the Pope did not show any inclination in the creation of an Italian Confederation. The central Italian states refused to submit. It was proposed to refer the matter to a further congress which was to meet at Paris.
However, the congress never met. The Pope refused to participate as it had been made clear to him directly or indirectly that the territories of the Papacy were to be reduced to a minimum. Austria was also hostile to the idea of a new congress and hence the same had to be given up. Cavour who had taken over as Prime Minister again in January 1860 decided to settle the Italian question by direct secret negotiations. Cavour employed Napoleon’s favourite method of plebiscites in Italy.
An enormous majority in Tuscany and an almost unanimous vote in other places declared for a union with the Kingdom of Victor Emmanuel. Savoy by 1,30,538 votes to 235 and Nice by 24,448 to 160 votes declared for union with France. Thus, Napoleon III was given Nice and Savoy and he was to agree to the union of Tuscany, Parma, Modena, etc., with Piedmont. When Napoleon III accepted Nice and Savoy, Cavour observed, “Now we are accomplices.”
In the words of Cavour, “They have stopped me from making Italy by diplomacy from the North, 1 will make it by revolution from the South.” With great caution and skill, he embarked upon one of the most amazing enterprises in the history of the Italian union. The mass of the people of Sicily and Naples were uneducated and illiterate and they took little interest in the political revolution in the country. There were a large number of secret societies working there.
There was a section of the people who were frill of enthusiasm for Italy However, it was not certain whether the people of Sicil and Naples would be willing to merge their independence in the kingdom of Piedmont or not, even if it assumed the name of Italy.
There was a strong party that desired some form of autonomy King Francis II was planning to give reforms to his people to satisfy the sentiments of his people but before he had done that, Garibaldi, had landed in Sicily, Garibaldi was a great hero. He was known for his courage.
He was the leader of irregular forces. He was devoted to the cause of Italian unity The annexation of Naples and Sicily depended as much on Garibaldi as on Cavour. Although Cavour and Garibaldi did not see eye to eye with each other, they had to work in cooperation for the sake of Italian unification. On 5 May 1860, Garibaldi left the port of Genoa with two vessels and 1,136 volunteers to whom were distributed red shirts on the way.
They landed at Marsala on 11 May 1860. The force at the disposal of Garibaldi could not have overcome the resistance of the troops of Sicily and Naples. However, much depended upon the impression which Garibaldi could produce on the mind of the people of Sicily. Garibaldi possessed reckless courage and that stood him in good stead. He advanced on Palermo and won a wonderful victory outside Palermo and later on captured the city itself
This first victory decided the fate of the campaign in Sicily. King Francis had no supporters in Sicily outside the fortress of Messina. The nationalists of Naples appealed to Garibadi for help, Victor Emmanuel forbade him to pass the Straits and at the same time suggested to him the language in which he should refuse the command. Garibaldi landed at the extreme south of Italy and marched on Naples. There was no resistance. King Francis was betrayed by many of his ministers and soldiers and he left Naples for Gaeta on 6 September 1860. Garibaldi entered Naples and he was welcomed by the people. The triumph of Garibaldi was amazing.
Cavour was happy that King Francis of Naples and Sicily had been overthrown but he was anxious to know what was to take its place. Garibaldi had always declared that he was acting in the name of Italy and Victor Emmanuel but it was not certain as to what he might do in actual practice. The future was uncertain. Mazzini and his followers were working for a republic. There was a strong party which wanted to give to Naples and Sicily a separate and independent status in a free and united Italy.
The possibility of the restoration of King Francis could not be ruled out because he was still holding out at Gaeta. It appeared to Cavour that time had come when he and his master must act in order to save the situation. He had no confidence in the intellectual capacity of Garibaldi to deal with the same. He also saw an opportunity of not only completing the settlement of Naples but also adding the Papal lands to Italy.
There were revolts in the Marches and in Umbria. It was difficult to attack the Papal territory as the Pope was recognised as a part of the state system of Europe. However, Cavour declared in a despatch to Pope Pius IX that the King of Sardinia felt himself bound “in the cause of humanity” to prevent the Papal troops from suppressing with violence the popular movements in Umbria. On this pretext, the Italian army entered the Papal states and defeated the Papal army at Castelfidardo.
The forces of Victor Emmanuel then pushed on into Naples and took over the authority which had been exercised so far by Garibaldi as a dictator. To begin with, Garibaldi declared that he had no confidence in Cavour and he would not declare annexation to the kingdom of Victor Emmanuel until Rome was conquered. There was some danger of a clash between the Red shirts of Garibaldi and the troops of Victor Emmanuel.
However, the danger passed away. King Francis was forced to leave Gaeta and he retired to Rome. Garibaldi met Victor Emmanuel who thanked him for the great services rendered by him to the cause of the country. However, Garibaldi refused to accept any reward for his services and retired to his Island home Caprera. Plebiscites were held in Naples, Sicily and the Papal states and by overwhelming majorities, the people declared for immediate annexation to “the constitutional monarchy of Victor Emmanuel.”
The first Italian Parliament met in Turin in February 1861. In March a new constitutional decree containing a single article was promulgated. “Victor Emmanuel II assumes for himself and his successors the title of King of Italy.” Cavour died soon after, but it cannot be denied that he was the real creator of Italy as a nation.
In the words of Phillips, “Italy as a nation is the legacy, the life-work of Cavour Others have been devoted to the national liberation, he knew how to bring it into the sphere of possibilities; he kept it pure of any factious spirit; he led it away from barren Utopias; kept it clear of reckless conspiracies; steered straight between rebels and reactions and gave it an organised force, a flag, a government and foreign allies.”
Another writer says, “If there had been no Cavour to win the confidence, sympathy and support of Europe, if he had not been recognised as one whose sense was just in all emergencies, Mazzini’s efforts would have run to waste unquestionable insurrections, and Garibaldi’s feat of arms must have added one chapter more to the history of unproductive patriotism.” The last words of Cavour at the time of his death were: “Italy is made, all is safe.” Cavour created “Italy of the Italians.”
According to Lord Palmerston, “Cavour left a name, ‘to point a moral and adorn a tale.” The moral was that a man of transcendent talent, indomitable industry, inextinguishable patriotism, could overcome difficulties which seemed insurmountable, and confer the greatest, the most inestimable benefits on his country. The tale with which his memory would be associated was the most extraordinary, the most romantic in the annals of the world. A people which had seemed dead had arisen to new and vigorous life, breaking the spell which bound it and showing itself worthy of a new and splendid destiny.”
9. Garibaldi (1807-82):
Garibaldi was born in 1807 at Nice, then an Italian town. His father was a skipper. He was two years younger to Mazzini. He did not take advantage of the education which his father tried to give him in spite of his scanty means. He acquired “just enough book learning to feed his naturally freedom-loving, romantic and poetical disposition, but not enough to chosen it or to train his mind to wide understanding and deep reflection.”
He acquired good experience of the Mediterranean by working in coasting trade for ten years. Thrice he was captured by pirates. He was inspired by Italian patriots and exiles to fight for Italian freedom. “He believed in Italy as the Saints believed in God.” He was introduced to Mazzini and he joined “Young Italy” of Mazzini. “When I was a youth and had only aspirations towards good, I sought for one able to act as the guide and counselor of my youthful years. I sought such a guide as one who is athirst and seeks the water- spring. I found this man. He alone watched when all around slept; he alone kept and fed the sacred flame.”
In 1833, Garibaldi joined in one of the many conspiracies of Mazzini. His part was to enter the Sardinian Navy and win over the sailors to the plot. The conspiracy failed and Garibaldi was prosecuted. He managed to run away, but he was condemned to death by the Government of Sardinia.
The years between 1836 and 1845 were spent by Garibaldi in South America. There he lived a wild and roving life. He took part in the local wars. “He looked upon batties as a pleasure and the hardship of camp-life as a pastime.” He acquired the experience of guerilla warfare which was to be of great use to him later on.
In 1847, Garibaldi offered his services to the Pope who at that time was considered to be the hope of the Italian patriots who wanted unification of their country. In 1848, he came back to Italy and placed his services at the disposal of Charles Albert of Sardinia who had declared war against Austria. Thousands of persons flocked to the standard of “hero of Montevideo” to fight against Austria.
As the campaign failed, he went in 1849 to fight in defence of the republican regime in Rome. His was a heroic defence but after the fall of that city, he managed to escape with 4,000 troops. He was pursued by the Austrians who did not give him rest anywhere. The pursuit was undertaken both in forests and mountains as if he was some sort of a game. Most of his followers lost their lives.
Even his heroic wife, Anita, was killed. Garibaldi himself escaped to Tuscany and from there to Piedmont and ultimately to America. His exploits full of heroism, chivalry and romance moved the Italians to enthusiasm and admiration.
In 1854, Garibaldi came back to Italy with a little money with which he bought a small island of Caprera, near Sardinia. There he built a house in which he lived with the simplicity of a crafter and the status of a King. There he filled his soul with “the breath of liberty, the utter release from crowds and courts and officials and the whole scheme of modem life, to which he was always in mind and heart a stranger; and this liberty would have sufficed him to the end of his days. As he gazed over the unbroken surface of the sea, had he not in his mind’s eye seen beyond the eastern horizon those still enslaved shores.”
In 1856, Garibaldi met Cavour and in 1857 he announced his conversion to the cause of the Sardinian monarchy. It was a very important happening because it was necessary to heal the breach between the republicans and the monarchists and to combine them against the common enemy. At heart Garibaldi continued to be a republican but he remained loyal to Victor Emmanuel to the end. There continued to exist a mutual understanding between Garibaldi and the king although at times the relations between Garibaldi and Cavour were strained to the breaking point.
In 1859, he came out of his retirement and collected a large number of volunteers to fight against the Austrian’s. He was the idol of soldiers from one end to the other end of the country. There were thousands who were prepared and were ready to follow him blindly. He took part in the war in which Napoleon III himself fought. He was very unhappy when after the battle of Solferino, Napoleon III signed the armistice of Villafranca.
As early as the autumn of 1859, the conspirators in Sicily began to appeal to Garibaldi for help. His presence alone could give them success. He hesitated for some time, but ultimately agreed to help them on the condition that the revolt took place in the name of Italy and Victor Emmanuel and it was started by the people of Sicily themselves.
His supporters also approached Cavour who understood the political potentialities of a revolt conducted in the name of Victor Emmanuel. Outwardly, Cavour maintained an attitude of strict neutrality but he encouraged the conspirators to revolt. The followers of Garibaldi who had fought in 1859 were stirred and were spoiling for fresh encounters.
On 4 April 1860, the Revolution broke out near Messina in Sicily. When Garibaldi heard of its initial success, he agreed to help the rebels of Sicily and himself appealed to Cavour and Victor Emmanuel for authorisation and help. Cavour found himself in a very difficult position. It was impossible to give an official encouragement. At the same time, it was not possible to evade. There was a popular cry for war. The name of Garibaldi was on the lips of everyone and it was difficult to oppose him. Under the circumstances, Cavour played a double game.
He told the ambassadors of the Great Powers that he was completely ignorant of what was happening. At the same time, preparations were allowed to be continued. Volunteers were collected by Garibaldi. The only condition imposed by Victor Emmanuel was that the officers of the Sardinian army should not be enlisted as volunteers. Arms were collected from the arsenals of the national society. The harbour authorities of Genoa connived at the embarkation of the expedition. Admiral Persano of the Sardinian Navy was instructed “to keep between Garibaldi’s ships and the Neapolitan fleet.”
On 11 May 1860, Garibaldi appeared off Massala on the west coast of Sicily and disembarked his troops. This he did practically under the protection of a small British naval squadron. This was a very friendly gesture on the part of the British Government because without that help, Garibaldi might have faced difficulties. A few days later, Lord John Russell declared in the House of Commons, “We had once a great filibuster who landed in England in 1688.” From Massala, Garibaldi advanced to Palermo.
There were only a thousand men at his disposal, but the number of Neapolitan troops opposing him was 20,000. On 15 May 1860, the first battle took place. There was hardly any fighting and towards the end of the day, Neapolitan troops ran away. After a fortnight, Garibaldi entered Palermo and proclaimed himself the dictator of Sicily. By the end of July 1860, the whole of the island of Sicily except the fortress of Messina and one or two minor ports was in his hands. The name of Garibaldi had worked miracles. The revolutionaries were encouraged and they rallied to his side.
The success of Garibaldi in Sicily put Cavour and Victor Emmanuel in a difficult position. It was certain that Garibaldi would cross to the mainland and ultimately advance towards the Papal state and even to Rome. Garibaldi had become more and more independent and more and more impatient and distrustful of Cavour and his cautious and diplomatic methods.
He was more sympathetic to Crispi and the extreme republicans among his followers. Mazzini himself was in Italy and preparations were being made to invade the Papal state. Cavour was afraid of the intervention of France and Austria if Rome was attacked. However, the diplomatic situation was favourable to the cause of Italian unification. England was friendly. Napoleon III on the whole was sympathetic and was not willing to move without England. Austria was not prepared to act alone as there was the danger of a revolt in Hungary.
Cavour tried to persuade Garibaldi to agree to the immediate annexation of Sicily but failed. After that he decided to play his own game against Garibaldi. He tried to create in Sicily and Naples a strong public opinion against Garibaldi. The agents of Cavour started their intrigues in Naples. Efforts were made to win over the people to the side of Sardinian monarchy. Admiral Persano was sent to win over the Neapolitan fleet.
In the second week of August 1860, Garibaldi crossed the Strait and landed in Calabria. Napoleon III had suggested that an Anglo-French squadron should blockade the Strait of Messina in order to keep Garibaldi in Sicily. But Great Britain did not approve of the proposal.
The result was that Garibaldi was able to cross to the mainland of Italy. On 31 August 1860, Garibaldi captured Reggio and began to advance towards Naples. The progress of Garibaldi, became a simple triumphal march.
He was received by the people as “a second Christ.” On 6 September 1860, the King of Naples left for Gaeta and on 7 September Garibaldi entered the capital by train from Salerno alone ahead of his army. He did not show that he was leading a hostile force.
The only obstruction he met was from an excited mob which surrounded his train. As he left the station for the centre of the city, his carriage passed through the troops of Naples who could have killed him without any difficulty. Garibaldi stood up folded his arms and looked straight in the face of the Neapolitan troops. Some of them gave him the salute, but no one fired a shot.
It is true that they were acting according to the orders of the King, but anybody could have disobeyed the order and killed him. Garibaldi proclaimed him the dictator of the Kingdom. He appointed Bertani, a follower of Mazzini, as Secretary of State. As a proof of his loyalty to Victor Emmanuel, he handed over the Neapolitan fleet to Admiral Persano of Sardinia. Garibaldi made no secret of his future plans.
After Naples, he was to go to Venice and Rome. He was not prepared to listen to the appeals of Victor Emmanuel and Cavour. He rejected their “hypocritical but terrible pretext of necessity; the necessity of being cowards; the necessity of groveling in the mud before an image of transitory power.” The revolution infection had spread to the Papal States. The troops of the People were getting ready to put down the revolt.
It was under these circumstances that Cavour decided to act to save the situation. He declared, “Italy must be saved from foreigners, evil principles and mad men.” He decided to anticipate Garibaldi and attack the Papal states with the Sardinian troops and defend Rome from Garibaldi. It was a strange situation. Efforts were made to find out the attitude of Napoleon III if a Sardinian army occupied Umbria and the Marches. The reply of Napoleon III was “Do it quickly.” That was all which Cavour wanted. On 11 September 1860, he ordered the invasion of the Papal states.
On 18 September, the Papal army was defeated at Castelfidardo. On 29 September, Ancona fell. Thus, the whole of Umbria and the Marches came in the hands of the Kingdom of Piedmont. There had been a race between Garibaldi and the troops of Piedmont. Cavour had correctly stated, “If we do not reach the Volturno before Garibaldi: reaches La Cattolica, the monarchy is lost, and Italy will remain in the prison-house of the revolution.” Garibaldi was delayed on account of resistance put up by the people of Capua and thus Cavour won.
After the occupation of the Papal States, plebiscites were held in Sicily and Naples and those were in favour of joining the kingdom of Sardinia. That strengthened the hands of Cavour. Garibaldi also found that without the assistance of the Sardinian troops, he could not conquer the fortresses of Gaeta and Capua. It was under these circumstances that Victor Emmanuel entered the territory of Naples at the head of his army. On 27 October 1860, Garibaldi surrendered his power and his army to Victor Emmanuel. After that action was taken against Capua and Gaeta. Capua was captured in November 1860 and Gaeta in February 1861.
On 9 November 1860, there was an imposing ceremony in the Palace of Naples where Victor Emmanuel was declared the King of Sicil and Naples. Garibaldi formally resigned his dictatorship and asked the people to forget their differences and obey the king. On 10 November 1860, with a bag of seed-corn for his farm, Garibaldi returned to his Island of Caprera and there spent the rest of his life in peace and retirement. On many occasions, he appeared in national and international affairs. He joined the war in 1866 against Austria. He was a volunteer in French service in 1870.
It is said that when Cavour agreed to give Nice to France as the price of French help against Austria, Garibaldi burst into tears as Nice was his birthplace and its handing over to France was to result in his becoming a foreigner in Italy.
It is difficult to find a more selfless patriot in the history of the world. If all politicians in the world were to act in the manner in which Garibaldi acted, the face of the world will be completely changed. There will be a competition to serve and the world as a whole will gain.
Victor Emmanuel was a soldier and a man of action. He was not a dreamer like his father. In spite of his authoritarian character, he maintained the constitution granted by his father. He even favoured the Liberals of Sardinia. He was a realist. He pursued revolutionary aims while seeking to avoid revolutionary means.
10. Venetia (1866):
Italy entered into an alliance with Prussia in 1866 with a view to secure Venetia from Austria. When the war started between Austria and Prussia, the Italians also entered the field. However, they were defeated by the Austrian troops, but their entry into the war facilitated the task of Bismarck as Austria was forced to fight on two fronts. No wonder, the Austrians were defeated in the Battle of Sadowa and surrendered. Bismarck did not make any demand on vanquished Austria but merely asked the latter to give Venetia to Italy and the same was done.
11. Rome (1870):
The unification of Italy was completed in 1870 when Napoleon III was forced to withdraw the French troops from Rome which was stationed there since 1849. That was due to the fact that Napoleon had to fight against Prussia and it was necessary to collect troops from everywhere.It was in this way that the unification of Italy was completed in 1870 as a result of the efforts of the Italian patriots, foreign help and the force of circumstances.
12. Taylor on Unification of Italy:
According to A.J.P. Taylor, “The unification of Italy completed what the Crimean War had begun; the destruction of European order. Metternich system depended on Russia’s guarantee; once that was withdrawn, the system could be overthrown. Napoleon supposed that a new system, his own, was taking its place.
This was to misunderstand the events of 1859 to 1681. Certainly, Italy owed most to French armies and to British moral approval, but these could not have been effective without two other factors-Russian resentment against the Treaty of Paris, and Prussian resentment against the Austrian hegemony in Germany.
If Russia had followed a policy less consistently hostile to Austria, if Prussia had carried the war to the Rhine in 1859, Italy could not have been made. After 1861 Russia still aimed at the overthrow of the settlement of 1856; Prussia still aimed at equality, if not hegemony, in Germany. Both continued to work against Austria; this was no guarantee that they would continue to work in favour of France. And, in fact, the leadership of Europe which Napoleon seemed to have gained from the Italian affair was lost within two years over the question of Poland.”