The Makers of New Italy
THE revolution of 1848 was followed by a reaction ; for a while liberalism seemed to have gained nothing. In France, a tyrannical Empire succeeded the unsteady Republic. In Austria, in Germany, the old order was restored, and its rulers thought to guard against further outbursts by a more stringent policy of repression. In Italy, the expelled princes returned to their thrones, eager to punish the subjects who had driven them out. In Piedmont alone was there a change. The young king, Victor Emmanuel, had pledged himself to uphold parliamentary government; the Piedmontese constitution was the leaven of New Italy. Still more important was the appearance of a new actor on the scene, a mighty personality, the greatest of modern Italians. As always happens at the advent of an original man, circumstances hitherto chaotic and intractable began to take on order and fluency. This new leader was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. He was born in 1810, of an old Piedmontese family, his mother being Swiss. He shared very early the patriotic aspirations of his countrymen, but he quickly perceived that Italy could never be liberated by conspirators and spasmodic agitation. So he held himself aloof from secret societies, regretting, but without surprise, the pathetic failure of one insurrection after another. He studied the constitutions of modern states ; went to the root of the doctrines of political economists ; traveled in France and England ; watched the operation of their laws; had a personal acquaintance with their foremost public men ; measured, in brief, the social and political forces of the time. Returning to Piedmont, he devoted himself to the care of his estate, introducing the improved methods he had learned elsewhere, and mastering by actual experience the problem of agriculture, and the relations of the workers of the soil to the industrial and moneyed classes. To a superficial observer during the fourth decade of this century, Cavour would probably have appeared no more than a shrewd, practical gentleman-farmer, with a propensity for trying new tools and methods, and with English views on constitutional government and commerce. But while apparently absorbed with his tenants and his crops, he was watching the slow uncoiling of events, and with patience abiding his time. In 1847, he joined in the establishment of the Risorgimento, a Turin newspaper with liberal principles, and in that he began to publish political articles. He recognized the immense power which a journalist can direct, if he be sensible of his high mission and responsibility ; and he afterwards declared that, next to his study of mathematics, for which he had natural aptitude, his experience in journalism had been the best preparation for his work as a statesman. That work may fitly be dated from January 7, 1848. when he closed an address before a deputation come from Genoa to exploit their grievances, as follows : “ I propose that we beg of the sovereign the inestimable benefit of a public discussion before the country,— a discussion in which may be represented all the opinions, all the interests, all the needs, of the nation. I propose that we demand a constitution.” To those who heard that proposal, Cavour’s temerity seemed amazing ; yet within two months Charles Albert granted the constitution, and pledged the house of Savoy to maintain a liberal government. Cavour strenuously urged the prosecution of the war against Austria, and even the disaster of Novara did not discourage him. From that cruel experience he learned the terms on which the hope of Italy might finally be realized. He was soon so conspicuous in the new Parliament that when a vacancy occurred in the cabinet by the death of Santa Rosa, some of the ministers suggested Cavour’s name to Victor Emmanuel. “ Take care what you wish to do ! ” exclaimed the king, who, though young, was already remarkable for his perspicuity in reading men. “ Cavour will soon dominate all of you; he will send you about your business, and will be Prime Minister himself.” On October 11, 1850, Cavour entered the cabinet as Minister of Commerce and Agriculture. The king’s prediction was quickly fulfilled, and for more than ten years Cavour was the Pericles of the Italians.
His policy was twofold: it aimed at the moulding of Piedmont into a strong, compact, constitutional state, which might be a model in Italy; and it aimed at interesting the foreign Powers in the Italian cause, by showing them that the Italians were capable and worthy of governing themselves. From his youth up, he had calmly measured the obstacles to be surmounted before his country could become independent. He saw that foreign assistance would be absolutely necessary, and that it would not avail unless the Italians themselves did their full part in the work of emancipation. They could not use freedom which came to them as a gift; it must be earned. Neither did he deceive himself as to the means to be employed. Nothing could be accomplished by deploring the poor weapons within reach, and moping because better were not furnished; he set to work resolutely with what he had. To cry aloud for justice moved not the oppressors, nor reached the heavens. Patriotism on the lip would be impotent unless the hand held a musket. Three hundred thousand bayonets and the indifference or prejudices of Europe stood between the Italians and their independence ; steel was insensible to sentiment, as, alas ! so many brave, ineffectual martyrs had learned. Cavour fought his enemies with their own arms : if their choice was diplomacy, he would beat them at diplomacy; if war, he would contrive to marshal the most regiments and the heaviest guns.
He began his work by undertaking reforms at home: public schools and railroads were established, the pernicious influence of the Jesuits was curtailed, the monasteries were closed, civil marriage and a free press were introduced, the courts of justice were remodeled, and, above all and a corollary of all, the people were trained to use and respect parliamentary methods. Nor were the bettering of the army and of the commercial conditions neglected. Within a few years Europe beheld a wonderful improvement in Piedmont, a veritable regeneration, achieved by prudent, practical men who had nothing in common with the dreamers and conspirators who had before that been identified with the Italian movement. When the Crimean war broke out, involving France and England in a conflict with Russia, Cavour conceived what was perhaps the most remarkable modern instance of imagination and forethought in statesmanship, — an alliance of Piedmont with the Western Powers, in accordance with which he dispatched a contingent of 15,000 men to Sebastopol. That master stroke raised Piedmont to a place among the nations of Europe, and gave her a voice when their plenipotentiaries assembled at Paris to arrange the terms of peace. At the Council, on April 8, 1856, — a date not to be forgotten, — Cavour spoke ; but instead of discussing the Eastern Question, he made a bold statement of the condition of Italy, declaring the oppression of the Bourbons and Austrians to be intolerable, and warning Europe that she could enjoy no tranquillity until she interfered to give justice and independence to the Italians. That speech, falling like a bomb in the midst of the conference, was the first official presentation of the Italian question to the world. Louis Napoleon, over whom Cavour’s genius had great influence, vaguely hinted that something should be done. The good-will of England was secured, but the English could not be persuaded to promise armed assistance. At last, in the summer of 1858, Napoleon secretly assured Cavour that the French would coöperate in driving the Austrians out of Lombardy and Venetia, and that Italy should be free from the Alps to the Adriatic.
At the beginning of the next year, it was evident that the compact would soon be carried out. The armies wore made ready in France and Piedmont; diplomatic relations with Austria became so strained that they needed but a slight jar to snap altogether; and as usual before an outbreak, feverish symptoms appeared in all parts of the Italian peninsula. Garibaldi was on the alert. Being summoned to Turin, he had an interview with Victor Emmanuel, who revealed to him the plan of the campaign, and suggested that he should organize a corps of volunteers. Garibaldi’s republicanism had not abated. His favorite maxim was, L’ Italia sifarà da sè,— Italy will work out her own salvation. He deprecated foreign assistance, and despised the compromises and expedients of statecraft. Nevertheless, now, as in 1848, he consented to serve in the ranks of a king who embodied the cause of Italian freedom. He consented ; but the terms were hard, for he felt that the prestige of his name was used to attract popular support, while himself was slighted. Indeed, Cavour had a very difficult task to perform, in uniting Garibaldi and Napoleon in the same enterprise. The former detested the French Emperor, who, on his side, had no taste for revolutionary allies whom he could not overawe.
Garibaldi grumbled and was suspicious ; it could not be otherwise. He censured the military enrollment, by which the best recruits—from eighteen to twenty-six years of age — were assigned to the regular army, and those younger and older to the volunteer corps. He complained that the war department and high officers tried to hamper him, although he was allowed to select most of the officers for his own troops from among his friends. In spite of his recriminations and suspicions, however, he found himself in command of a fairly equipped force of several thousand men, when the war began. His Hunters of the Alps, as the volunteer corps was named, engaged in a desultory but not ineffective warfare near Lakes Maggiore and Como, and moved eastward along the mountainous frontier, but not so rapidly as the main divisions of the allied armies, which worsted the Austrians at Montebello (May 20) and Magenta (June 4), and redeemed Lombardy in a brief campaign. On June 24 there was a general engagement at Solferino, and at nightfall the allies were victorious. It seemed now that Venice was within reach of freedom, that the object of the war would be attained. What, then, was the surprise of Europe, what were the indignation and chagrin of the Italians, when Napoleon announced, shortly after this victory, that he would fight no more! A strange performance, indeed, that of a conqueror who, after a six weeks’ campaign of triumphs, proposed an armistice to his beaten foe, and quickly arranged the terms of peace without consulting his ally! Napoleon’s motives ? Perplexed historians are still in dispute over them. Some surmise that Napoleon was alarmed lest his unexpected success should provoke a declaration of war from Prussia and Russia, who had been lowering and jealous. Some say that his heart was wrung by the sight of the 16,000 dead and wounded French and Piedmontese soldiers on the field of Solferino; but this theory does not accord with his previous and subsequent indifference to human suffering. Others pretend that the stubborn resistance of the Austrians warned him that the war would be long and costly, as the Quadrilateral could not easily be won. If, argue these, he had been fired by a desire to convince Europe that he was a great general, worthy of his uncle, what fitter time to desist than in the moment of glory ? To continue would be to involve the risk of reverses, and the impression left by a protracted conflict would not be so brilliant. Then, too, an influential party in France had opposed the expedition from the first. “ Why,” they asked, “ should thousands of French lives and millions of French francs be spent in fighting disinterestedly for a people too weak to fight for themselves ? ” If Napoleon persisted, the losses must increase, although success were purchased by them in the end. Finally, some hint that he beheld with misgiving the possibility that central and southern Italy would throw off their yoke, and combine with Piedmont, Lombardy, and Venetia to form a united nation of more than twenty million inhabitants : might not such a nation be an inconvenient neighbor to France ? Whatever his motive, the fact is indisputable : he made peace with the Austrian Emperor at Villafranca; Lombardy was ceded to Piedmont, but Venetia remained in bondage. By the Italians, this action was resented as treachery; and Napoleon, for his insincerity, or cunning, or weakness, whichever was the real cause, got neither the prestige nor the gratitude for which he had worked.
The peace of Villafranca cut short the war in the north ; but the duchies and Tuscany were in full revolt. They had expelled their rulers, set up provisional governments, and were hurrying towards fusion with Piedmont. From Turin, Cavour had dispatched trusty emissaries to Modena, Bologna, and Florence, — where Farini, Cipriani, and Ricasoli were ably directing the revolution, — to counteract any Mazzinian designs. Napoleon entertained a chimerical scheme of establishing a confederation of these provinces, under their former governors and the honorary presidency of the Pope ! But the people themselves had no liking for this arrangement, and still looked to Piedmont for guidance. Garibaldi and his Hunters, deprived of occupation in the north, turned towards Tuscany, where he expected the command of the army to be given him. The crisis was unfortunately not one where he could aid. It demanded negotiations, not arms. While he insisted that with a hundred thousand volunteers, who could easily be raised, it would be practicable to march on Rome, or to dislodge the Austrians from Venetia, Ricasoli and his colleagues saw that this rashness would ruin everything, and that only by diplomatic methods, sober, firm, and most delicate, could their aim be accomplished. Garibaldi was annoyed and suspicious. He doubted the courage of those who directed the military policy ; he doubted the honesty of the political transactions. Objections to his scheme, though presented most forcibly, could not move him. Yet it was patent that, should Austria resume the offensive, the Italians could not, single-handed, overcome her; and they would vainly ask for support from Napoleon, who was so averse from the proposed annexation that he consented to it only after long persuasion. Garibaldi, wearied at last by his failure, and smarting from the supposition that it was due to jealousy of himself, threw up his office, and withdrew to his eyrie at Caprera. In March, 1860, Tuscany, the Romagna, Parma, and Modena were peaceably annexed to Piedmont, and the new state, counting about eleven million souls, took the title of Kingdom of Italy.
Cavour had resigned the premiership when Napoleon broke faith at Villafranca.1 For several months, a ministry presided over by Rattazzi strove to disentangle the perplexities of the crisis ; then Cavour was recalled. Almost immediately a repugnant duty confronted him. Napoleon, the public learned now, had not engaged in the Italian war out of pure magnanimity, nor for glory only: he had exacted as a price, first, the marriage of his cousin, Prince Napoleon (known commonly as Plon-Plon), to Clothilde, daughter of Victor Emmanuel; and, second, the cession of Nice and Savoy to France. The marriage took place in January, 1859; now the Shylock of the Tuileries called for the fulfillment of the second part of the bond. He, to be sure, had performed only half of his pledge, but he had no compunctions against demanding payment for the whole. He wished to convince his subjects that he was no enthusiast, who might involve them in enterprises of which the sole reward would be the consciousness of acting nobly. His bargain would show them that, even from a business standard, aiding oppressed peoples was a shrewd speculation ; and the French faction which had blamed him for encouraging the expansion of Piedmont into the Kingdom of Italy would be appeased by the acquisition of coveted territory. To the Italians this transaction was very painful. It would have been hard for them at any time to give up one of their provinces to a foreigner ; after the backsliding of the French Emperor, it was tenfold harder. Cavour, however, recognized that it must be done, and he was unshaken by popular indignation. Garibaldi declared that the cession of Nice, his birthplace, made him a foreigner in his own country, and he arraigned the loyalty of the government. He now treated Cavour, whose political methods he had hitherto disapproved, as a personal enemy, and as a secret instrument of Napoleon’s ambition.
Within a few weeks, public attention luckily was diverted from this galling subject. When the Italians of the north and centre had won their independence, the Italians of Naples and Sicily felt that their opportunity was at hand. Even the Neapolitan king took warning from the ominous signs, and bethought himself that by cementing an alliance with Victor Emmanuel he might stave off a revolution. Cavour listened to the proposition, but delayed giving a reply, because he was aware that a larger success might be achieved by other means. Word had come from Palermo that “ something might be done.” Garibaldi had flown, eagle-like, from Caprera to Genoa, and was collecting volunteers for an expedition which the Italian government did not dare to abet officially, and so discreetly ignored it. Garibaldi, not appreciating Cavour’s delicate position, complains that he withheld arms and ammunition, and hindered the project at every point; the fact is, however, that Cavour’s agents supplied arms, and that the Genoese authorities were instructed to close their eyes to the preparations that were making. Had Cavour acted otherwise, he might have excited France and Austria to interfere ; and if he had been personally hostile, as Garibaldi charges, a couple of regiments would have sufficed to arrest all the Garibaldians. But, like Nelson at Copenhagen, he refused to see what it was not politic to see, and the expedition was made ready with all possible dispatch and secrecy. On the night of May 5, 1860, when the two steamers, the Piemonte and the Lombardo, glided out of Genoa, the whole town, except the government officials, who were wonderfully busy in attending to some other matter, knew about the departure. The next morning the official world expressed proper surprise at learning that the vessels had disappeared.
Garibaldi and his Thousand2 vanished into the night, bound on a crusade the like of which had not been seen since the days of Godfrey and Cœurde-Lion. A thousand men setting forth to redeem a kingdom! “What can they do?” a spectator might have asked. “ What can they not do ? ” was asked four months later. In the composition of that force was to be read an epitome of the history and aspirations of the time. It was made up of volunteers of the recently liberated provinces, of Venetians and Romans and Neapolitans ; and not of Italians only, but of recruits from the oppressed peoples of central Europe, Poles, Germans, and Magyars, together with a sprinkling of men impelled by a love of adventure or by a Byronic devotion to liberty.
For a week Europe waited anxiously for tidings of the expedition, uncertain whether the Papal States or Sicily was its object. Then the telegraph reported the arrival of both vessels at Marsala ; they had touched for fuel at Talamon, on the Tuscan coast, and then, steering to the southwest, steamed into Marsala at one o’clock in the afternoon of May 11. Bourbon cruisers which had quitted that port a few hours earlier, upon discovering the suspicious craft turned about, and entered the harbor in time to open fire on the Lombardo, from which the Garibaldians were still disembarking. Nevertheless, the “ filibusters,” as the Bourbon government at first dubbed the Thousand, landed without loss. By the populace they were cordially welcomed ; the magnates and authorities, on the contrary, preserved a cold neutrality, being unwilling to compromise their future until they should see which side fortune would favor. Garibaldi, believing that in popular crises one man ought to rule, accepted the dictatorship, and on the next day the company set out on their march towards Palermo. Along the route they were joined from time to time by Sicilian volunteers. They fought their first battle at Calatafimi (May 15) : again and again they seemed on the verge of a defeat, which would have ruined the expedition, but at last they drove back the Bourbons, who spread marvelous reports of the prodigies of the victors.3 Garibaldi lost no time in advancing to the heights overlooking Palermo, eluded two columns sent to intercept him, and on May 27 stormed and carried the Termini gate, and entered the city. Barricades were thrown up, the populace, even to the women and children, assisting their deliverers ; and within two days General Letizia, who commanded the Bourbon garrison, found himself besieged in the royal palace, in distress for provisions. He asked for a day’s armistice, which resulted in his withdrawal to the Mole, and subsequently in his evacuation of Palermo. The liberators unlocked the prisons, crowded with political offenders, and organized a provisional government. Thus the Thousand, less than a month after leaving Genoa, had freed the western part of Sicily, and possessed themselves of its capital.4 Every day their numbers were increased by Sicilian volunteers and recruits from Italy. Garibaldi distributed his force into three divisions, and prosecuted the campaign as follows: the first division, under Bixio, marched along the southern coast; the second, under Türr, penetrated the centre of the island ; the third, under Medici, skirted the northern shore. All were to reunite at the Strait of Messina. Garibaldi himself embarked with nearly 2000 troops, just arrived under Colonel Corte, and was joined by Medici, who had been reinforced by a column commanded by Cosenz. On July 20, they won a decisive victory over the Bourbons at Milazzo, thereby becoming masters of Sicily (except the fortresses of Messina, Agosta, and Syracuse, on the eastern coast). Medici entered the town of Messina without resistance ; the other divisions, under Bixio and Eber (who had replaced Türr), soon arrived, and Garibaldi, elated by his success and encouraged by the enthusiasm of his troops, determined to carry out his larger scheme of crossing to the mainland and expelling the Bourbons from Naples.
Europe had watched with astonishment the progress of this chivalrous exploit. The partisans of democracy everywhere hailed it as the prelude to a cosmopolitan revolution by which downtrodden and divided nationalities should recover their rights. The liberation of Italy was to be but the first act in a European drama; for Poles dreamt of a united Poland, Magyars talked of an independent Hungary, and the republicans of France and Germany, who had been deceived and crushed in 1849, began to cherish fresh hopes. Extremists, brandishers of red and black flags, doctrinaires, adventurers, the entire brood of buzzards which find their quarry in the dissolution of governments, began to flap their wings and whet their beaks. The achievements of the Thousand called forth discussions concerning the superiority of volunteers over trained regiments, and predictions that standing armies would thenceforth be powerless against the vehemence of a popular soldiery. The people need but exert their might, and the organism of tyranny would tumble to pieces.
Cavour was probably not less surprised than other Italians at the suddenness and completeness of Garibaldi’s success. No one could have foreseen that the Bourbons were so rotten and cowardly that they would allow Sicily to slip from them without a more desperate resistance. Victor Emmanuel’s government occupied a difficult position. Napoleon scolded, obliging Cavour to intimate that the cession of Nice and Savoy could hardly be effected unless the Garibaldians were humored. Russia and Prussia chid Italy for winking at an expedition by Italian subjects against a peaceable neighbor. Austria, though indisposed to make war, denounced this act of “brigandage.” The King of Naples himself, by urging his offer of an alliance with Victor Emmanuel, justified the charge of insincerity against Cavour’s policy of delaying to give an answer. In this game of cunning, it was plain that Cavour had stale-mated his adversary. The conquest of Sicily once a fact, arrangements must be made for turning it to the benefit of Italy. Cavour did not choose that further complications should be added by Garibaldi’s projected campaign on the mainland, where reverses in battle would jeopardize the advantage already secured. The people of Sicily and Naples, so long debased by Bourbon rulers, were far behind northern Italians in civilization ; their union with the Kingdom of Italy — supposing the European Powers acquiesced in it—would entail heavy burdens, and much time must elapse before they could be educated to the national level. It would be wiser to annex Sicily, and work out her regeneration, before dealing with Naples. For many reasons, therefore, Cavour desired that Garibaldi should be satisfied at present with his Sicilian triumph.
But Garibaldi thought otherwise, and, having dodged the Bourbon and Italian cruisers which were lying in wait to prevent his passage, he crossed from Taormina to the village of Melito, and shortly afterward captured Reggio. Then was repeated the Sicilian experience: the Bourbon army retired, almost without firing a shot, before the smaller force of Garibaldians. Garibaldi outsped his troops, and on September 7, escorted by a few officers only, entered Naples, amid the acclamation of the populace and the indifference of the Bourbon regiments. The king had fled on the previous evening to Capua, leaving a large force behind him. One volley from a single platoon would have destroyed the little party of red-shirted adventurers ; but the officers and their men were infected with the taint of Bourbonism, and Naples cost not a drop of blood in the winning.
A dictatorship was proclaimed, with Garibaldi at its head, and in brief space the flock of revolutionary buzzards had swooped upon the city. Mazzini was there, and his republican coadjutors, busily shaping the revolution to their pet theories. Garibaldi himself confesses that he had no talents for organization ; he was a soldier, and as we have witnessed in the case of other soldiers who were thrust into high civil offices on account of their military ability, the qualities which made him great on the battle-field weakened him in the council. “ Adventurers, fanatics, and black sheep of all kinds established themselves in authority at Naples under the prestige of Garibaldi’s name. Misrule, corruption, and incompetence were rife under the dictatorship. Conspirators from every quarter of the globe made Naples their trysting - place. Scenes were enacted there which could only be paralleled by the extravagances of the Paris Commune. Naples had had long and rich experience of all kinds of maladministration, but in the whole of her troubled annals the capital of the Two Sicilies was never worse administered than under the rule of Garibaldi.” This is the testimony of an English eye-witness.5
Cavour measured the danger, and prepared to quell it. He represented to Napoleon that, unless the Italian government were permitted to send an army into the Neapolitan territory, the republican schemers, dangerous and incompetent, would control the disordered state, and perhaps succeed in kindling a tumult in Rome. It was indispensable, besides, for the future harmony of Italy, that the liberation of Naples should not be due to the energy of the Garibaldians alone ; Victor Emmanuel’s government must, by taking an active share in the campaign, earn the right to a share of the glory. Napoleon’s objections being thus smoothed, and assurances being given that the States of the Church would not be molested, an Italian army, commanded by the king, marched along the Adriatic coast, and entered the kingdom of Naples at a critical moment, when the Garibaldian army was preparing for a decisive engagement with the Bourbons, along the Volturno, and when the Mazzinian extremists were forcing their doctrines upon Naples.
This crisis illustrates the sharp contrasts in the characters of the four chief protagonists for Italian independence, — Victor Emmanuel, Cavour, Garibaldi, and Mazzini. So widely did they differ in their methods that most men have hitherto been unable to do justice to all; but it is necessary to cast away partisanship, and to determine equitably the part played by each. Most significant is it that the leaders of a great national movement should have held opinions mutually contradictory, in spite of which each contributed to the final success of that movement. Their individual forces were applied in different directions, but the resultant of their forces — to borrow a simile from physics — drove the ship of state to its goal.
Victor Emmanuel was the standardbearer, the incarnate symbol, of the Italian cause. Around him the majority of soldiers, statesmen, and citizens rallied. Their traditions and habits were still monarchical, and he was a monarch of the best type. Personally brave, devoted to his country even more than to his dynasty, downright and sincere, familiar but dignified, shrewd in selecting able advisers, but not servile in following their advice when it conflicted with his own judgment, he early won the respect and affection of his countrymen, and kept it to the end. They called him Re Galantuomo — King HonestFellow, — and no epithet describes him better. Cavour was the statesman; he laid out the course on the chart, and steered the ship by it, let storms rage as they might. It has been said that no great question can be settled by ignorance : Cavour embodied the wisdom and common-sense without which the Italian question could never have been settled. Garibaldi, on the other hand, was the hero, the representative of those popular emotions and sentiments which need but a proper channel in order to make their power irresistible. He has been compared to the mediæval knighterrant, eager to do battle for liberty at all times and in behalf of all distressed peoples, but above all for Italy, whose tricolor device he blazoned upon his shield. Garibaldi was the heart, Cavour the head; and as often happens, the impulses of the heart sometimes clashed with the judgments of the head, and needed to be checked and resisted.
Different from any of these three was Giuseppe Mazzini, the philosopherapostle. Feeble in body, strong in intellect, indomitable in will, his endowments fitted him for high achievements in literature, and under other circumstances he might have spent his life tranquilly among his books. But his principles would not let him rest, and the frail, nervous scholar became the arch-conspirator of the century, the terror of every sovereign in Europe. He saw that the old religion was losing its hold upon mankind ; had sunk, indeed, for the most part, into conventionalities and mummeries, from which the serious-minded men turned in disgust, and the ignorant imbibed superstition. He saw that the monarchical system of government was likewise nearly worn out. History revealed to him the progress of the human race from the lowest level, where absolutism and selfishness prevail, to the higher plane of representative government and national unselfishness. As he believed that the French Revolution marked the end of baser, feudal conditions, so he declared that the epoch had dawned when a nobler system should supersede the existing order. In this coming epoch, nations will not only be free to govern themselves, but the ancient hatreds and wars, instigated by personal greed and dynastic ambition, will cease ; for all nations will come to recognize themselves as members of the great body of collective humanity, in which each must perform the work to which it is best adapted, and in which the oppression or disease of one member is a detriment to all. Religion based upon superstition, government based upon privilege, commerce based upon selfishness, are equally condemned in this sublime scheme. Neither the visions of communists nor the sophistries of socialists led Mazzini astray: he probed each, to discover egotism, concealed under plausible formulas, as its motive. French republicanism has failed, as he perceived, because it has insisted upon the rights of man, and ignored the duties of man. But insistence upon rights can lead only to individualism, to selfishness ; we must recognize and perform our duties to our neighbors, in order to attain the end of human existence, — that unselfishness and love which the example and teaching of all noble souls make us to desire and urge us to emulate.
Had Mazzini contented himself with speculation, European royalty and aristocracy would have bothered themselves no more about his theories than if he had been a philologist or an antiquary. But he had the terrible earnestness of the reformer: belief in the truth of his principles imposed upon him the duty of making that truth victorious over falsehood. At the age of twenty-five he entered upon his apostolate, and throughout forty years he never faltered in it. St. Paul was not more indefatigable ; Machiavelli was not more cunning. He was banished in turn from Piedmont, from France, from Switzerland. Every continental monarchy was on the alert to crush him; every police officer, every detective, had orders to arrest him: yet he outwitted them all. From his retreat in London he sowed his doctrines broadcast. He was the centre to which all conspiracies, from Lisbon to Moscow, ran back. He had emissaries everywhere; his spies kept him informed of the secrets of cabinets and kings. He organized secret societies, and, when necessary, appeared at the conclaves of his disciples, to encourage or to direct them. He glided so stealthily from country to country that men said he had “a cat-like footfall.” His pursuers were aware of his visit only after he had vanished. There was no day between 1830 and 1870 when European autocrats would not have made high festival at the news of Mazzini’s death; gladly would they have purchased it at the cost of many regiments. But he was the more dreaded because intangible ; a demon of pestilence which passed invisible among throngs, and marked its victims noiselessly, pitilessly. The most hideous monster which rulers in their terror could conjure up they called “Mazzini.” They knew that he was surely undermining their power, but they could not catch him at his work, nor discover how far it had extended. Their uncertainty and ignorance gave their terror a grislier visage. If their forebodings were lulled for a time, suddenly, in their very banquet-room, appeared the fatal writing on the wall, and they knew that Mazzini’s hand had placed it there, that he did not slumber. During the many years of reaction, Metternich and Mazzini were the poles of European politics. Counterparts and antagonists, how different were their purposes, their methods, their apparent power! While Metternich, in his palace at Vienna, propped by the traditions of feudalism, by the strongest of hierarchies, and by standing armies, was weaving fresh bonds of servitude, Mazzini, in his cheap lodging in London, was secretly whetting knives and distributing them in every capital to cut those bonds asunder. When Metternich fell, and Napoleon took up the trade of weaver, against him Mazzini sharpened his weapons. Had a stranger asked to see this terrible personage, he would have beheld a slim, scholarly gentleman, with broad, high forehead, large, dreamy eyes, which time made sadder and more piercing, cheeks thinned by care and study, and a short, neatly trimmed beard, grown gray early. “ A poet,” you would have said in 1830; “ a philosopher,” in 1860, but for a certain unphilosophic restlessness, and an expression denoting, not the death of hope, but impatience at its deferred fulfillment.
In Italy, Mazzini began his career by joining the Carbonari. Dissatisfied with their narrow views, he founded the secret society of Young Italy, and preached that the regeneration of his countrymen must be moral as well as political.6 The interests of the individual, he taught, must be subordinated to those of the community ; and since he believed that self-government is the first step, in the education of both individuals and communities, towards unselfishness, he tolerated no political system but the republican. Garibaldi, as we have seen, was equally republican in theory; but he, regarding the emancipation of Italy from foreign oppressors as the first indispensable object, had served with the Piedmontese kings, who had espoused the Italian cause as their own. But now, during the dictatorship at Naples, Garibaldi and Mazzini were drawing nearer to each other in practice as well as in theory. The republicans seem almost to have won Garibaldi to their thinking; for, in reply to messages from Victor Emmanuel, he insisted that the dictatorship should be maintained for at least two years, — or until Garibaldi could salute Victor Emmanuel as king of Italy from the Roman Capitol, — and that Cavour should be summarily dismissed from the ministry. The king arrived at the Volturno in the nick of time, as I have said : his presence counteracted Mazzinian influence. Garibaldi loyally acknowledged him as sovereign, and they rode side by side into Naples in triumph. The soldier’s good sense and patriotism prevailed over the instigations of the doctrinaires; had he obeyed them, he might have brought on a civil war. His self-restraint and abnegation were a worthy conclusion to the romantic Sicilian expedition, which, after we make allowance for the unexpected collapse of the Bourbons and for Cavour’s tacit but very effectual support, must be admired as one of the most brilliant and disinterested military achievements in history. Garibaldi refused to accept honors or a national gift of money, and a few days after the arrival of the king he retired to Caprera.
In the spring of 1861 he was at Turin, where a hot debate had been stirred up on the question of enrolling the Garibaldian volunteers in the regular army. Garibaldi insisted that the men who had fought with him should receive regular commissions. The government demurred ; not only because by so doing volunteers who had served but a few months would be promoted over those who had served several years, but also because this would create a dangerous precedent, on which every successful free-lance might in future base similar demands. There must be a strict order of advancement, without which the discipline of the army could not be maintained. Moreover, Garibaldi had a habit of conferring colonelcies and captaincies upon persons of doubtful character. During the discussion (April 18) his devotion to his comrades hurried him into a passion. He accused the government of ingratitude towards men who had added nine million Italians to the kingdom, while the royal troops were holding aloof in their barracks. In his wrath, he attacked Cavour as the author of this outrage, the systematic thwarter of patriotic designs, the traitor who had ceded Nice and Savoy to France, the would-be provoker of a fratricidal war. At this onslaught, the excitement in the Chamber of Deputies was tremendous. Some cried for order, but the president could not enforce it. Cavour, with vehemence, exclaimed: “ It is not permitted to insult us in this fashion! We protest! We have never had these intentions! Mr. President, compel the government and the representatives of the nation to be respected. Order is demanded.” But the president was unheeded. Garibaldi reiterated his charge. The uproar increased, and the president, covering his head, declared the sitting to be suspended.7 The friends of both leaders realized the peril of the situation,8 and arranged an interview. Cavour, the momentary outburst of resentment past, never allowed his personal feelings to interfere with his public duties. “ In politics I always practice forgiveness of injuries,” was his rule. He consented to meet Garibaldi. The interview took place in one of the rooms of the royal palace.
“It was courteous,” he wrote to Vimercati (April 27, 1861), “without being affectionate. We both held ourselves reserved. I made known to him, however, the line of conduct which the government intends to follow as well towards Austria as towards France, declaring to him that on these points no transaction was possible. He declared that he accepted that programme, and was ready to pledge himself not to antagonize the proceedings of the government. He limited himself to asking that something should be done for the Army of the South. I gave him no promise, but I declared that I would busy myself in seeking a means of assuring more completely the welfare of his officers. We parted, if not friends, at least without any irritation.”
Garibaldi must have come from that interview fully aware that his popularity could not bend Cavour’s inflexible purpose. The Prime Minister desired the coöperation of the Garibaldians ; but he would not shrink from fighting even them, as he had fought the other enemies of his constitutional policy, should their anger plunge them into a course dangerous to Italy. Garibaldi made no public acknowledgment of having been in the wrong ; nevertheless, in a private letter to Cavour (first printed in 1886) he spoke in humble and deferential tones. Six weeks after this painful episode, on June 6, 1861, a brief illness snatched Cavour from the world, at the very moment when his wisdom was most needed by his country. We may presume that, had his life been spared a few years, he would have completed the unification of Italy in a manner more satisfactory than that of his less competent successors. If we measure statesmanship by the power of foreseeing and shaping events ; of using all materials, however refractory, to achieve a great end ; of making enemies involuntarily work for that end ; of overcoming every obstacle, going round those which cannot be beaten down, — if these be our criteria of statesmanship, Cavour deserves to rank first among the statesmen of this century. Bismarck will naturally be compared with him; but Bismarck had more favorable conditions at the start, and met fewer difficulties along the way. Germany had not to be freed from foreign despots ; she had not that most slippery and embarrassing of enemies, the Papacy, in her very heart. Prussia had already won a place among the great states of Europe. Bismarck succeeded in unifying Germany under the despotism of Prussia ; Cavour united Italy by liberal methods, and did not rob her of her liberty.
William Roscoe Thayer.
- Napoleon, whether from shame, or from fear lest he should be persuaded out of his project by Cavour, had refused to see the latter before the terms of the peace had been settled upon.↩
- The exact number was 1067.↩
- “ There were those among them,” says Garibaldi, “ who had seen the bullets from their carbines bound back from the breasts of the soldiers of liberty as if they had struck a plate of bronze ! ” Prosper Mérimée declares that one of the commands given to the Bourbon army at the drill was, “ Prepare to look fierce — look fierce ! ”↩
- Palermo had then over 200,000 inhabitants.↩
- Life of Victor Emmanuel, by Edward Dicey, New York, 1882.↩
- The Mazzinian banner had the motto, Dio e Popolo, — God and the People.↩
- See the official report, Discorsi Parlamentari del Conte C. di Cavour, vol. x. p. 371-3.↩
- Let the reader imagine how the North would have been pained and alarmed, had General Grant, in 1864, accused President Lincoln of treachery, and he will appreciate the sensation produced by Garibaldi’s attack upon Cavour.↩