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by the


Author of 'Italian Characters In The Epoch Of Unification' (_Patriotti
Italiani_), etc.

With Portraits


Seeley And Co, Limited
Essex Street, Strand




The old figure of speech 'in the fulness of time' embodies a truth too
often forgotten. History knows nothing of spontaneous generation; the
chain of cause and effect is unbroken, and however modest be the
scale on which an historical work is cast, the reader has a right to
ask that it should give him some idea, not only of what happened, but
of why it happened. A catalogue of dates and names is as meaningless
as the photograph of a crowd. In the following retrospect, I have
attempted to trace the principal factors that worked towards Italian
unity. The Liberation of Italy is a cycle waiting to be turned into an

In other words, it presents the appearance of a series of detached
episodes, but the parts have an intimate connection with the whole,
which, as time wears on, will constantly emerge into plainer light.
Every year brings with it the issue of documents, letters, memoirs,
that help to unravel the tangled threads in which this subject has
been enveloped, and which have made it less generally understood than
the two other great struggles of the century, the American fight for
the Union, and the unification of Germany.

I cannot too strongly state my indebtedness to the voluminous
literature which has grown up in Italy round the _Risorgimento_ since
its completion; yet it must not be supposed that the witness of
contemporaries published from hour to hour, in every European tongue,
while the events were going on, has become or will ever become
valueless. I have had access to a collection of these older writings,
formed with much care between the years 1850-1870, and some
authorities that were wanting, I found in the library of Sir James
Hudson, given by him to Count Giuseppe Martinengo Cesaresco after he
left the British legation at Turin.

There are, of course, many books in which the affairs of Italy figure
only incidentally, which ought to be consulted by anyone who wishes to
study the inner working of the Italian movement. Of such are Lord
Castlereagh's _Despatches and Correspondence_, and the autobiographies
of Prince Metternich and Count Beust.

Perhaps I have been helped in describing the events clearly, by the
fact that I am familiar with almost all the places where they
occurred, from the heights of Calatafimi to the unhappy rock of Lissa.
Wherever the language of the _Si_ sounds, we tread upon the history of
the Revolution that achieved what a great English orator once called,
'the noblest work ever undertaken by man.'

The supreme interest of the re-casting of Italy arises from the new
spectacle of a nation made one not by conquest but by consent. Above
and beyond the other causes that contributed to the conclusion must
always be reckoned the gathering of an emotional wave, only comparable
to the phenomena displayed by the mediæval religious revivals.
Sentiment, it is said, is what makes the real historical miracles. A
writer on Italian Liberation would be indeed misleading who failed to
take account of the passionate longing which stirred and swayed even
the most outwardly cold of those who took part in it, and nerved an
entire people to heroic effort.

Salò, Lago di Garda.




Italy from the Battle of Lodi to the Congress of Vienna



Revolutions in the Kingdom of Naples and in Piedmont - The Conspiracy
against Charles Albert



Political Trials in Venetia and Lombardy - Risings in the South and
Centre - Ciro Menotti



Accession of Charles Albert - Mazzini's Unitarian Propaganda - The
Brothers Bandiera



Events leading to the Election of Pius IX. - The Petty Princes - Charles
Albert, Leopold and Ferdinand



Insurrection in Sicily - The Austrians expelled from Milan and
Venice - Charles Albert takes the Field - Withdrawal of the Pope and
King of Naples - Piedmont defeated - The Retreat



Garibaldi arrives - Venice under Manin - The Dissolution of the Temporal
Power - Republics at Rome and Florence



Novara - Abdication of Charles Albert - Brescia crushed - French
Intervention - The Fall of Rome - The Fall of Venice



The House of Savoy - A King who Keeps his Word - Sufferings of the
Lombards - Charles Albert's death



Restoration of the Pope and Grand-Duke of Tuscany - Misrule at Naples -
The Struggle with the Church in Piedmont - The Crimean War



Pisacane's Landing - Orsini's Attempt - The Compact of
Plombières - Cavour's Triumph



Austria declares War - Montebello - Garibaldi's Campaign - Palestro -
Magenta - The Allies enter Milan - Ricasoli saves Italian Unity -
Accession of Francis II. - Solferino - The Armistice of Villafranca



Napoleon III. and Cavour - The Cession of Savoy and Nice - Annexations
in Central Italy



Origin of the Expedition - Garibaldi at Marsala - Calatafimi - The Taking
of Palermo - Milazzo - The Bourbons evacuate Sicily



Garibaldi's March on Naples - The Piedmontese in Umbria and the
Marches - The Volturno. Victor Emmanuel enters Naples



The Fall of Gaeta - Political Brigandage - The Proclamation of the
Italian Kingdom - Cavour's Death



Cavour's Successors - Aspromonte - The September Convention - Garibaldi's
Visit to England



The Prussian Alliance - Custoza - Lissa - The Volunteers - Acquisition of



The French leave Rome - Garibaldi's Arrest and Escape - The Second French
Intervention - Monte Rotondo - Mentana



M. Rouher's 'Never!' - Papal Infallibility - Sédan - The Breach in Porta
Pia - The King of Italy in Rome








Italy from the Battle of Lodi to the Congress of Vienna.

The unity of Italy, which the statesmen of Europe and all save a small
number of the Italians themselves still regarded as an utopia when it
was on the verge of accomplishment, was, nevertheless, desired and
foreseen by the two greatest intellects produced by the Italian race.
Dante conceived an Italy united under the Empire, which returning from
a shameful because self-imposed exile would assume its natural seat in
Rome. To him it was a point of secondary interest that the Imperial
Lord happened to be bred beyond the Alps, that he was of Teutonic, not
of Latin blood. If the Emperor brought the talisman of his authority
to the banks of the Tiber, Italy would overcome the factions which
rent her, and would not only rule herself, but lead mankind. Vast as
the vision was, Dante cannot be called presumptuous for having
entertained it. The Rome of the Cæsars, the Rome of the Popes, had
each transformed the world: Italy was transforming it for a third time
at that moment by the spiritual awakening which, beginning with the
Renaissance, led by inevitable steps to the Reformation. The great
Florentine poet had the right to dream that his country was invested
with a providential mission, that his people was a chosen people,
which, by its own fault and by the fault of others, had lost its way,
but would find it again. Such was Dante's so-called Ghibelline
programme - less Ghibelline than intensely and magnificently Italian.
His was a mind too mighty to be caged within the limits of partisan
ambitions. The same may be said of Machiavelli. He also imagined, or
rather discerned in the future, a regenerate Italy under a single
head, and this, not the advancement of any particular man, was the
grand event he endeavoured to hasten. With the impatience of a heart
consumed by the single passion of patriotism, he conjured his
fellow-countrymen to seize the first chance that presented itself,
promising or unpromising, of reaching the goal. The concluding passage
in the _Principe_ was meant as an exhortation; it reads as a prophecy.
'We ought not therefore,' writes Machiavelli, 'to let this occasion
pass whereby, after so long waiting, Italy may behold the coming of a
saviour. Nor can I express with what love he would be received in all
those provinces which have suffered from the foreign inundations; with
what thirst of vengeance, with what obstinate faith, with what
worship, with what tears! What doors would be closed against him? What
people would deny him obedience? What jealousy would oppose him? What
Italian would not do him honour? The barbarous dominion of the
stranger stinks in the nostrils of all.'

Another man of genius, an Italian whom a fortuitous circumstance made
the citizen and the master of a country not his own, grasped both the
vital necessity of unity from an Italian point of view, and the
certainty of its ultimate achievement. Napoleon's notes on the
subject, written at St Helena, sum up the whole question without
rhetoric but with unanswerable logic: - 'Italy is surrounded by the
Alps and the sea. Her natural limits are defined with as much
exactitude as if she were an island. Italy is only united to the
Continent by 150 leagues of frontier, and these 150 leagues are
fortified by the highest barrier that can be opposed to man. Italy,
isolated between her natural limits, is destined to form a great and
powerful nation. Italy is one nation; unity of customs, language and
literature must, within a period more or less distant, unite her
inhabitants under one sole government. And Rome will, without the
slightest doubt, be chosen by the Italians as their capital.'

Unlike Dante and Machiavelli, who could only sow the seed, not gather
the fruit, the man who wrote these lines might have made them a
reality. Had Napoleon wished to unite Italy - had he had the greatness
of mind to proclaim Rome the capital of a free and independent
state instead of turning it into the chief town of a French
department - there was a time when he could plainly have done it.
Whether redemption too easily won would have proved a gain or a loss
in the long run to the populations welded together, not after their
own long and laborious efforts, but by the sudden exercise of the will
of a conqueror, is, of course, a different matter. The experiment was
not tried. Napoleon, whom the simple splendour of such a scheme ought
to have fascinated, did a very poor thing instead of a very great one:
he divided Italy among his relations, keeping the lion's share for

Napoleon's policy in Italy was permanently compromised by the
abominable sale of Venice, with her two thousand years of freedom, to
the empire which, as no one knew better than he did, was the pivot of
European despotism. After that transaction he could never again come
before the Italians with clean hands; they might for a season make him
their idol, carried away by the intoxication of his fame; they could
never trust him in their inmost conscience. The ruinous consequences
of the Treaty of Campo Formio only; ceased in 1866. The Venetians have
been severely blamed, most of all by Italian historians, for making
Campo Formio possible by opening the door to the French six months
before. Napoleon could not have bartered away Venice if it had not
belonged to him. The reason that it belonged to him was that, on the
12th of May 1797, the Grand Council committed political suicide by
dissolving the old aristocratic form of government, in compliance with
a mere rumour, conveyed to them through the ignoble medium of a petty
shopkeeper, that such was the wish of General Buonaparte. In
extenuation of their fatal supineness, it may be urged that they felt
the inherent weakness of an oligarchy out of date; and in the second
place, that the victor of Lodi, the deliverer of Lombardy, then in the
first flush of his scarcely tarnished glory, was a dazzling figure,
calculated indeed to turn men's heads. But, after all, the only really
valid excuse for them would have been that Venice lacked the means of
defence, and this was not the case. She had 14,000 regular troops,
8000 marines, a good stock of guns - how well she might have resisted
the French, had they, which was probable, attacked her, was to be
proved in 1849. Her people, moreover, that _basso popolo_ which
nowhere in the world is more free from crime, more patient in
suffering, more intelligent and public-spirited than in Venice, was
anxious and ready to resist; when the nobles offered themselves a
sacrifice on the Gallic altar by welcoming the proposed democratic
institutions, the populace, neither hoodwinked nor scared into
hysterics, rose to the old cry of San Marco, and attempted a righteous
reaction, which was only smothered when the treacherous introduction
of French troops by night on board Venetian vessels settled the doom
of Venice's independence.

'Under all circumstances,' Napoleon wrote to the Venetian Municipality,
'I shall do what lies in my power to prove to you my desire to see your
liberty consolidated, and miserable Italy assume, at last, a glorious
place, free and independent of strangers.' On the 10th of the following
October he made over Venice to Austria, sending as a parting word the
cynical message to the Venetians 'that they were little fitted for
liberty: if they were capable of appreciating it, and had the virtue
necessary for acquiring it well and good; existing circumstances gave
them an excellent opportunity of proving it.' At the time, the act of
betrayal was generally regarded as part of a well-considered plot laid
by the French Directory, but it seems certain that it was not made known
to that body before it was carried out, and that with Napoleon himself
it was a sort of after-thought, sprung from the desire to patch up an
immediate peace with Austria on account of the appointment of Hoche to
the chief command of the army in Germany. The god to which he immolated
Venice was the selfish fear lest another general should reap his German

Venice remained for eight years under the Austrians, who thereby
obtained what, in flagrant perversion of the principles on which the
Congress of Vienna professed to act, was accepted in 1815 as their
title-deeds to its possession. Meanwhile, after the battle of
Austerlitz, the city of the sea was tossed back to Napoleon, who
incorporated it in the newly-created kingdom of Italy, which no more
corresponded to its name than did the Gothic kingdom of which he
arrogated to himself the heirship, when, placing the Iron Crown of
Theodolinda upon his brow, he uttered the celebrated phrase: 'Dieu me
l'a donnée, gare à qui la touche.'

This is not the place to write a history of French supremacy in Italy,
but several points connected with it must be glanced at, because,
without bearing them in mind, it is impossible to understand the
events which followed. The viceroyalty of Eugène Beauharnais in North
Italy, and the government of Joseph Buonaparte, and afterwards of
Joachim Murat, in the South, brought much that was an improvement on
what had gone before: there were better laws, a better administration,
a quickening of intelligence. 'The French have done much for the
regeneration of Italy,' wrote an English observer in 1810; 'they have
destroyed the prejudices of the inhabitants of the small states of
Upper Italy by uniting them; they have done away with the Pope; they
have made them soldiers.' But there was the reverse side of the medal:
the absence everywhere of the national spirit which alone could have
consolidated the new _régime_ on a firm basis; the danger which the
language ran of losing its purity by the introduction of Gallicisms;
the shameless robbery of pictures, statues, and national heirlooms of
every kind for the replenishment of French museums; the bad impression
left in the country districts by the abuses committed by the French
soldiery on their first descent, and kept alive by the blood-tax
levied in the persons of thousands of Italian conscripts sent to die,
nobody knew where or why; the fields untilled, and Rachel weeping for
her children: all these elements combined in rendering it difficult
for the governments established under French auspices to survive the
downfall of the man to whose sword they owed their existence. Their
dissolution was precipitated, however, by the discordant action of
Murat and Eugène Beauharnais. Had these two pulled together, whatever
the issue was it would have differed in much from what actually
happened. Murat was jealous of Eugène, and did not love his
brother-in-law, who had annoyed and thwarted him through his whole
reign; he was uneasy about his Neapolitan throne, and, in all
likelihood, was already dreaming of acquiring the crown of an
independent Italy. Throwing off his allegiance to Napoleon, he
imagined the vain thing that he might gain his object by taking sides
with the Austrians. It must be remembered that there was a time when
the Allied Powers had distinctly contemplated Italian independence as
a dyke to France, and there were people foolish enough to think that
Austria, now she felt herself as strong as she had then felt weak,
would consent to such a plan. Liberators, self-called, were absolutely
swarming in Italy; Lord William Bentinck was promising entire
emancipation from Leghorn; the Austrian and English allies in Romagna
ransacked the dictionary for expressions in praise of liberty; an
English officer was made the mouthpiece for the lying assurance of the
Austrian Emperor Francis, that he had no intention of re-asserting any
claims to the possession of Lombardy or Venetia.

In 1814, Napoleon empowered Prince Eugène to adopt whatever attitude
he thought best fitted to make head against Austria; for himself, he
resigned the Iron Crown, and his Italian soldiers were freed from
their oaths. It was not, therefore, Eugene's loyal scruples which
prevented him from throwing down a grand stake when he led his 60,000
men to the attack. It was want of genius, or of what would have done
instead, a flash of genuine enthusiasm for the Italian idea. In place
of appealing to all Italians to unite in winning a country, he
appealed to one sentiment only, fidelity to Napoleon, which no longer
woke any echo in the hearts of a population that had grown more and
more to associate the name of the Emperor with exactions which never
came to an end, and with wars which had not now even the merit of
being successful. It is estimated that although the Italian troops
amply proved the truth of Alfieri's maxim, that 'the plant man is more
vigorous in Italy than elsewhere,' by bearing the hardships and
resisting the cold in Russia better than the soldiers of any other
nationality, nevertheless 26,000 Italians were lost in the retreat
from Moscow. That happened a year ago. Exhausted patience got the
better of judgment; in April 1814, the Milanese committed the
irremediable error of revolting against their Viceroy, who commanded
the only army which could still save Italy: the pent-up passions of a
long period broke loose, the peasants from the country, who had always
hated the French, flooded the streets of Milan, and allying themselves
unimpeded with the dregs of the townsfolk, they murdered with great
brutality General Prina, the Minister of Finance, whose remarkable
abilities had been devoted towards raising funds for the Imperial
Exchequer. Personally incorruptible, Prina was looked upon as the
general representative of French voracity; he met his death with the
utmost calmness, only praying that he might be the last victim. No one
else was, in fact, killed, and next day quiet was resumed, but the
affair had another victim - Italy. You cannot change horses when you
are crossing a stream. Prince Eugène was in Mantua with a fine army,
practically intact, though it had suffered some slight reverses; the
fortress was believed to be impregnable; by merely waiting, Eugene
might, if nothing else, have exacted favourable terms. But the news of
Prina's murder, and the blow dealt at his own authority in Milan,
caused him to give over the fortress and the army to the Austrians
without more ado; an act which looked like revenge, but it was most
likely prompted by moral cowardice. The capitulation signed with
Field-Marshal Bellegarde on the 23rd of April, so exasperated the army
that the officers in command of the garrison decided to arrest Eugene,
but it was found that he was already on his way to Germany, taking
with him his treasure, in accordance with a secret agreement entered
into with the Austrian Field-Marshal. Such was the end to the Italian
career of Eugène Beauharnais.

For the _Beau Sabreur_ another ending was in store. Back on Napoleon's
side in 1815, his Austrian allies having given him plenty of reason
for suspecting their sincerity, he issued from Rimini, on the 30th of
March, the proclamation of an independent Italy from the Alps to
Sicily. There was no popular reply to his call. Italy, prostrate and
impoverished, was unequal to a great resolve. The Napoleonic legend
was not only dead, but buried; Napoleon had literally no friends left
in Italy except those of his old soldiers who had managed to get back
to their homes, many of them deprived of an arm or a leg, but so
toughened that they lived to great ages. These cherished to their last
hour the worship of their Captain, which it was his highest gift to be
able to inspire. 'I have that feeling for him still, that if he were
to rise from the dead I should go to him, if I could, wherever he
was,' said the old conscript Emmanuele Gaminara of Genoa, who died at
nearly a hundred in a Norfolk village in 1892: the last, perhaps, of
the Italian veterans, and the type of them all.

But a few scattered invalids do not make a nation, and the Italian
nation in 1815 had not the least wish to support any one who came in
the name of Napoleon. So Murat failed without even raising a strong
current of sympathy. Beaten by the Austrians at Tolentino on the 3rd
of May, he retreated with his shattered army. In the last desperate
moment, he issued the constitution which he ought to have granted
years before. Nothing could be of any avail now; his admirable Queen,
the best of all the House of Buonaparte, surrendered Naples to the
English admiral; and Murat, harried by a crushing Austrian force,
renounced his kingdom on the 30th of May. After Waterloo, when a price
was set on his head in France, he meditated one more forlorn hope;
but, deserted by the treachery of his few followers, and driven out of
his course by the violence of the waves, he was thrown on the coast of
Calabria with only twenty-six men, and was shot by order of Ferdinand
of Naples, who especially directed that he should be only allowed
half-an-hour for his religious duties after sentence had been
delivered by the mock court-martial. His dauntless courage did not
desert him: he died like a soldier. It was a better end for an Italian
prince than escaping with money-bags to Germany. Great as were Murat's
faults, an Italian should remember that it was he who first took up
arms to the cry which was later to redeem Italy: independence from
Alps to sea; and if he stand on the ill-omened shore of Pizzo, he
need not refuse to uncover his head in silence.

When Mantua surrendered, the Milanese sent a deputation to Paris with
a view of securing for Lombardy the position of an independent kingdom
under an Austrian prince. They hoped to obtain the first by
acquiescing in the second. They were aroused from their unheroic
illusions with startling rapidity. Lord Castlereagh, to whom they went
first (for they fancied that the English were interested in liberty),
referred them 'to their master, the Austrian Emperor.' The Emperor
Francis replied to their memorial that Lombardy was his by right of

Online LibraryCountess Evelyn Martinengo-CesarescoThe Liberation of Italy → online text (page 1 of 31)