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_Italia, ab exteris liberanda_.

Motto of Pope JULIUS II.


'Je suis italien avant tout et c'est pour faire jouir a mon
pays du _self government_ à l'interieur, come a l'extereur que
j'ai entrepuis la rude tache de chasser l'Autriche de l'Italie
sans y substituer la domination d'aucune autre Puissance' - _Cavour
to the Marquis Emmanuel d'Azeglio (May 8, 1860)_

The day is passed when the warmest admirer of the eminent man whose
character is sketched in the following pages would think it needful
to affirm that he alone regenerated his country. Many forces were
at work; the energising impulse of moral enthusiasm, the spell of
heroism, the ancient and still unextinguished potency of kingly
headship. But Cavour's hand controlled the working of these forces,
and compelled them to coalesce.

The first point in his plan was to make Piedmont a lever by which
Italy could be raised. An Englishman, Lord William Bentinck,
conceived an identical plan in which Sicily stood for Piedmont. He
failed, Cavour succeeded. The second point was to cause the Austrian
power in Italy to receive such a shock that, whether it succumbed at
once or not, it would never recover. In this too, with the help
of Napoleon III, he succeeded. The third point was to prevent the
Continental Powers from forcibly impeding Italian Unity when it became
plain that the population desired to be united. This Cavour succeeded
in doing with the help of England.

Time, which beautifies unlovely things, begins to cast its glamour
over the old Italian _régimes_. It is forgotten how low the Italian
race had fallen under puny autocrats whose influence was soporific
when not vicious. The vigorous if turbulent life of the Middle Ages
was extinct; proof abounded that the _rôle_ of small states was played
out. Goldsmith's description, severe as it is, was not unmerited -

Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade;
Processions formed for piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in every grove.
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
The sports of children satisfy the child;
Each nobler aim, represt by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul.

Only those who do not know the past can turn away from the present
with scorn or despair. In this century a nation has arisen which, in
spite of all its troubles, is alive with ambition, industry, movement;
which has ten thousand miles of railway, which has conquered the
malaria at Rome, which has doubled its population and halved its
death-rate, which sends out great battle-ships from Venice and Spezia,
Castellamare and Taranto. This nation is Cavour's memorial: _si
monumentum requiris circumspice_.



















Nothing is permanent but change; only it ought to be remembered that
change itself is of the nature of an evolution, not of a catastrophe.
Commonly this is not remembered, and we seem to go forward by bounds
and leaps, or it may be to go backward; in either case the thread of
continuity is lost. We appear to have moved far away from the men
of forty years ago, except in the instances in which these men have
survived to remind us of themselves. It is rather startling to
recollect that Cavour might have been among the survivors. He was born
on August 10, 1810. The present Pope, Leo the Thirteenth, was born in
the same year.

It was a moment of lull, after the erection and before the collapse
of the Napoleonic edifice in Italy. If no thinking mind believed that
edifice to be eternal, if every day did not add to its solidity but
took something silently from it, nevertheless it had the outwardly
imposing appearance which obtains for a political _régime_ the
acceptance of the apathetic and lukewarm to supplement the support of
partisans. Above all, it was a phase in national existence which made
any real return to the phase that preceded it impossible. The
air teemed with new germs; they entered even into the mysterious
composition of the brain of the generation born in the first decade of
the nineteenth century.

Environment and heredity do not explain all the puzzle of any single
man's mind and character, but they form co-efficients in the making of
him which can be no longer disregarded. The chief point to be noticed
in reference to Cavour is that he was the outcome of a mingling of
race which was not only transmitted through the blood, but also was a
living presence during his childhood and youth. His father's stock,
the Bensos of Cavour, belonged to the old Piedmontese nobility.
A legend declares that a Saxon pilgrim, a follower of Frederick
Barbarossa, stopped, when returning from the Holy Land, in the little
republic of Chieri, where he met and married the heiress to all the
Bensos, whose name he assumed. Cavour used to laugh at the story, but
the cockle shells in the arms of the Bensos and their German motto,
"Gott will recht," seem to connect the family with those transalpine
crusading adventurers who brought the rising sap of a new nation
to reinvigorate the peoples they tarried amongst. Chieri formed a
diminutive free community known as "the republic of the seven B's,"
from the houses of Benso, Balbo, Balbiani, Biscaretti, Buschetti,
Bertone, and Broglie, which took their origin from it, six of which
became notable in their own country and one in France. The Bensos
acquired possession of the fief of Santena and of the old fastness of
Cavour in the province of Pignerolo. This castle has remained a ruin
since it was destroyed by Catinat, but in the last century Charles
Emmanuel III. conferred the title of Marquis of Cavour on a Benso who
had rendered distinguished military services. At the time of Cavour's
birth the palace of the Bensos at Turin contained a complete
and varied society composed of all sorts of nationalities and
temperaments. Such different elements could hardly have dwelt together
in harmony if the head of the household, Cavour's grandmother, had not
been a superior woman in every sense, and one endowed with the worldly
tact and elastic spirits without which even superior gifts are of
little worth in the delicate, intimate relations of life. Nurtured in
a romantic _château_ on the lake of Annecy, Philippine, daughter of
the Marquis de Sales, was affianced by her father at an early age
to the eldest son of the Marquis Benso di Cavour, knight of the
Annunziata, whom she never saw till the day of their marriage. At once
she took her place in her new family not only as the ideal _grande
dame_, but as the person to whom every one went in trouble and
perplexity. That was a moment which developed strong characters and
effaced weak ones. The revolutionary ocean was fatally rolling towards
the Alps. It found what had been so long the "buffer state" asleep.
There was a king who, unlike the princes of his race, was more amiable
than vigorous. Arthur Young, the traveller, reports that Victor
Emmanuel I. went about with his pocket full of bank notes, and was
discontented at night if he had not given them all away. "Yet this,"
adds the observant Englishman, "with an empty treasury and an
incomplete, ill-paid army." It was a bad preparation for the deluge,
but when that arrived, inevitable though unforeseen, desperate if
futile efforts were made to stem it. Some of the Piedmontese nobility
were very rich, but it was a wealth of increment, not of capital.
The burdens imposed when too late by the Sardinian Government, and
afterwards the cost of the French occupation, severely strained the
resources even of the wealthiest. The Marquise Philippine sold the
family plate and the splendid hangings of silk brocade which adorned
the walls of the Palazzo Cavour at Turin. Napoleon from the first
looked upon Italy as the bank of the French army. This idea had been
impressed upon him before he started for the campaign which was to
prove the corner-stone of his career. "He was instructed," writes the
secret agent Landrieux, "as to what might well be drawn from this war
for the French treasury."

After the pillage and the war contributions came the blood-tax. The
Marquise Philippine's son, sixteen years old, was ordered to join
General Berthier's corps, and to provide him with £10 pocket money
she sold what till then she had religiously kept, a silver holy water
stoup, which belonged to her saintly ancestor, François de Sales.

The last sacrifices, imposed not in the name of the country, but to
the advantage of an insatiable invader, were not likely to inspire the
old nobility of Piedmont with much love for the new order of things,
nor was love the feeling with which the Marquise regarded it, but she
had the insight to see what few of her class perceived, that the hour
of day cannot be turned back; the future could not be as the past had
been. When Prince Camillo Borghese was appointed governor of Piedmont
(on account of his being the husband of Napoleon's sister, the
beautiful Pauline Bonaparte, who was the original of Canova's Venus),
the Marquise Philippine was commanded to accept the post of _dame
d'honneur_ to the Princess. A refusal would have meant the ruin of
both the Cavours and her own kin, the De Sales, whose estates in Savoy
were already confiscated. She bowed to necessity, and in a position
which could not have been one of the easiest, she knew how to preserve
her own dignity, and to win the friendship of the far from demure
Pauline, whom she accompanied to Paris for the celebration of the
marriage of Napoleon with Marie Louise. It is characteristic of the
epoch that in the French capital the Marquise took lessons in the art
of teaching from a French pedagogue then in repute, to qualify her to
begin the education of her little grandchildren, Gustave and Camille.

These two boys were the sons of the Marquis Michele Benso; who had
married a daughter of the Count de Sellon of Geneva. While on a tour
in Switzerland to recover his health from a wound received in the
French service, the Marquis met the Count and his three daughters, of
whom he wished to make the eldest, Victoire, his wife; but on his suit
not prospering with her, he proposed to and was accepted by the second
daughter, Adele. After an unfortunate first marriage, Victoire became
the Duchess de Clermont Tonnerre, and the youngest sister, Henriette,
married a Count d'Auzers of Auvergne. All these relatives ended by
taking up their abode in the Palazzo Cavour at Turin. Victoire was the
cleverest, but her sisters as well as herself were what even in these
days would be considered highly educated. She became a Roman Catholic,
a step followed by Adele after the birth of her second child, Camille,
but Henriette remained true to the rigid Protestantism of Geneva. At
the christening of Camille de Cavour the Prince and Princess Borghese
officiated as sponsors, the Marquis Benso holding at that time a post
in the Prince's household which he owed to the good graces enjoyed by
his mother.

It is plain that of all his kindred, the charming and valiant Marquise
Philippine was the one whom Camille de Cavour most fondly loved. She
was the member of his family who understood him best not only in
childhood, but in manhood, and when all the others reproached him with
embracing ideas contrary to his traditions and his order, he turned
for comfort to his "dearest Marina," as he called her ("Marina" being
the pet-name by which children in Piedmont called their grandmothers),
and begged her to defend him against the charge of undutiful conduct.
It might be true, he said, with the irony which was one day to become
so familiar, that he was that dreadful thing, a liberal, but devoid
of natural feeling he was not. On the great day when the Statute was
granted, he said to the light-hearted old lady, "Marina, we get on
capitally, you and I; you were always a little bit of a Jacobin." That
was not long before her strength, though not her courage, gave way
under the deep sorrow of the loss of her great-grandson Auguste on the
field of Goito. She died in the midst of the political transformation
she had so long waited for.

As a child Cavour was normally sweet-tempered, but subject to violent
fits of passion; while he hated his lessons, he showed an early
development of intelligence and judgment. Like most precocious
children he had one or two infantile love affairs. A letter exists
written when he was six, in which he upbraids a little girl named
Fanchonette for basely abandoning him. He says that he loves her
still, _but_ he has now made the acquaintance of a young lady of
extraordinary charms, who has twice taken him out in the most
beautiful gilt carriage. It is amusing to note the worldly wisdom of
the suitor of six who reckons on jealousy to bring back the allegiance
of the fair but faithless Fanchonette. The magnificent rival was
Silvio Pellico's friend, the Marchioness de Barolo, who, like every
one else, was attracted by the clever child with his blue eyes and
little round face. Another story belonging to the same date is even
more characteristic. The Cavours went every year to Switzerland to
stay with their connections, the De Sellons and the De la Rives. On
this occasion, when the travellers reached M. de la Rive's villa at
Présinge, Camille, looking terribly in earnest, and with an air of
importance, made the more comical by the little red costume he was
wearing, went straight to his host with the announcement that the
postmaster had treated them abominably by giving them the worst
horses, and that he ought to be dismissed. "But," said M. de la Rive,
"I cannot dismiss him; that depends on the syndic." "Very well," said
the child, "I wish for an audience with the syndic." "You shall have
one to-morrow," replied M. de la Rive, who wrote to the syndic, a
friend of his, that he was going to send him a highly entertaining
little man. Camille was therefore received next day with all possible
ceremony, which by no means abashed him. After making three bows, he
quietly and lucidly explained his grievance, and apparently got a
promise of satisfaction, as when he went back he exclaimed in triumph
to M. de la Rive, "He will be dismissed!"

The Swiss relations were most enlightened people. Cavour's uncle,
the Count de Sellon, was a sort of Swiss Wilberforce, an ardent
philanthropist whose faith in human perfectibility used sometimes to
make his nephew smile, but early intercourse with a man of such large
and generous views could not have been without effect. De Sellon
was one of the first persons to dream of arbitration, and though a
Protestant he sent a memorial on this subject to the Pope. M. de la
Rive was a man of great scientific acquirements, and his son William
became Cavour's congenial and life-long friend. This cosmopolitan
society was entirely unlike the narrow coteries of the ancient
Piedmontese aristocracy which are so graphically described by Massimo
d'Azeglio, and the absence of constraint in which Cavour grew up makes
a striking contrast to the iron paternal rule under which the young
d'Azeglios trembled. It should be observed, however, that in spite of
his mixed blood and scattered ties, Cavour was in feeling from the
first the member of one race and the citizen of one state. The
stronger influence, that of the father's strain, predominated to the
exclusion of all others. Though all classes in Piedmont till within
the last fifty years spoke French when they did not speak dialect,
the intellectual sway of France was probably nowhere in Italy felt so
little as in Piedmont. The proximity of the two countries tended not
for it, but against it. They had been often at war; all the memories
of the Piedmontese people, the heroic exploit of Pietro Micca, the
royal legend of the Superga, turned on resistance to the powerful
neighbour. A long line of territorial nobles like the Bensos
transmits, if nothing else, at least a strong sentiment for the
birthland. In Cavour this sentiment was, indeed, to widen even in
boyhood, but it widened into Italian patriotism, not into sterile

In one respect Cavour was brought up according to the strictest of
old Piedmontese conventions. No one forgot that he was a younger
son. Gustave, the elder brother, received a classical education, and
acquired a strong taste for metaphysics. He became a thinker rather
than a man of action, and was one of the first and staunchest friends
of the philosopher-theologian Rosmini, whose attempts to reconcile
religion and philosophy led him into a bitter struggle with Rome. For
Camille another sort of life was planned. It was decided that he must
"do something," and at the age of ten he was sent to the Military
Academy at Turin. He did not like it, but it was better for him than
if he had been kept at home. Mathematics were well taught at the
Academy, and in this branch he soon outstripped all his schoolfellows.
He himself always spoke of his mathematical studies as having been of
great service in forming the habit of precise thought; from the study
of triangles, he said, he went on to the study of men and things. On
the other hand the boys were taught little Latin and less Greek, and
nothing was done to furnish them with the basis of a literary style, a
fact always deplored by Cavour, who insisted that the art of writing
ought to be acquired when young; otherwise it could not be practised
without labour, and never with entire success. He once said that
he found it easier to make Italy than a sonnet. In his own case he
regretted never having become a ready writer, because he knew that the
pen is a force; he held that a man should cultivate every means at his
disposal to increase his power.

In 1824, when Charles Albert returned to Piedmont after three years'
exile in consequence of the part he was suspected of having taken in
the abortive revolution of 1821, one of his first acts was to obtain a
nomination for young Cavour as page in the royal household. The pages
were all inmates of the Military Academy, where the expense of their
education was borne by the king after they received the appointment.
The Count d'Auzers, a strong Legitimist, was one of the oldest friends
of the Prince of Carignano, who was regarded at the Palazzo Cavour as
the victim of false accusations of liberalism. Charles Albert always
seemed to reflect the opinions of the person to whom he was writing
or speaking. Thus it is certain that in his letters to the Count he
appeared as a convinced upholder of white flags. Cavour must have
heard him often defended from the charge of patriotism. Perhaps this
created in his mind a first aversion, which was strengthened by
personal contact in the course of his duties at Court. At any rate it
is clear that he never liked or trusted him.

When Cavour left the Military Academy in 1826 he came out first in the
final examinations. He entered the army with the rank of lieutenant in
the Corps of Engineers. He began to learn English. In a letter written
at this time he speaks of the utility of modern languages and a real
knowledge of history, but adds that a man who wishes to make a name
should concentrate his faculties rather than disperse them among
too many subjects and pursuits. Even then he had an almost definite
project of preparing himself to play a part in life. There is not much
to show what were his political ideas, except a memorandum written
when he was eighteen on the Piedmontese revolution of 1821, in which
he adopted the views of Santorre di Santa Rosa, once Charles Albert's
friend and later his severest critic, to combat whose indictment the
Count d'Auzers had written folios in the French and German newspapers.
At the end of the memorandum Cavour transcribed an extract from Santa
Rosa's work, in which he invoked the advent of an Italian Washington.
Was that the part which Cavour dreamed of playing? A few years after,
he wrote in a fit of despondency, "There was a time when I should have
thought it the most natural thing in the world that I should wake up
one morning prime minister of a kingdom of Italy." The words written
in 1832 throw a flood of light on the subjects of his boyish dreams
and the goal of his prophetic ambition.

The story repeated by most of Cavour's biographers, that in putting
off the page's uniform he uttered some scornful words which, reported
to Charles Albert, changed the goodwill of that prince into hostility,
rests on doubtful authority; but it seems to be true that Charles
Albert, who began by being very well disposed to the son and nephew
of his friends, calling him in one letter "the interesting youth who
justifies such great hopes," and in another, "ce charmant Camille,"
came to consider his quondam _protégé_ a restless spirit, inconvenient
in the present and possibly dangerous in the future. Though the
schoolboy essay above mentioned was kept a secret, the liberal
heresies of the young lieutenant were well enough known. He was told
that he would bring father and mother in sorrow to the grave, and he
was even threatened with banishment to America. The police watched
his movements. He wrote to his Swiss uncle that he had no right to
complain as he was liberal and very liberal and desired a complete
change in the whole system. On Charles Albert's accession to the
throne he was sent to the solitary Alpine fortress of Bard; but
it appears that not the king (as he supposed) but his own father
suggested the step. Cavour saw in the idleness and apathy of garrison
life in this lonely place a type of the disease from which the whole
State was suffering. He wrote to the Count de Sellon, the apostle of
universal peace, that much as he abhorred bloodshed, he could think of
no cure but war. "The Italians need regeneration; their _moral_, which
was completely corrupted under the ignoble dominion of Spaniards and
Austrians, regained a little energy under the French _régime_, and
the ardent youth of the country sighs for a nationality; but to break
entirely with the past, to be born anew to a better state, great
efforts are necessary and sacrifices of all kinds must remould the
Italian character. An Italian war would be a sure pledge that we were
going to become again a nation, that we were rising from the mud in
which we have been trampled for so many centuries."

These lines, written by a young officer of twenty-one, show how far
Cavour had already outstripped the Piedmontese provincialism which
had the upper hand in the early years of Charles Albert's reign. He
described himself as vegetating, but he was not idle; sustained mental
activity was, in fact, a necessity to him whatever were his outward
circumstances. He read Bentham and Adam Smith, and was excited by the
events going on in England, then in the throes of the first Reform
Bill. It was in the fortress of Bard that he gained a grasp of English
politics which he never lost, and which hardly another foreigner ever
possessed in a like degree. By chance he became acquainted with an
English artist who was engaged in making drawings of the Alpine
passes. This gave him not only the opportunity of speaking and writing
English, but also of expressing his private thoughts without reserve,
which was impossible with his fellow-countrymen. Throughout his
life he found the same mental relaxation in his intercourse with
Englishmen; he felt safe with them.

Cavour was not meant to be a soldier; his tastes did not agree with
the routine of military life, and his clear judgment told him that the
army is not the natural or correct sphere for a politician - which he
knew himself to be even then, in a country where politics may be said
not to have existed. Acting on these reflections, he resigned his
commission, and his father, perhaps to keep him quiet, bought him a
small independent property near the ancestral estate at Leri. The
Marquis warned his son that the income would not allow him to keep a

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