Italy from 1815 to 1849 Part 2

By | February 15, 2022

According to travelationary, the Carbonari was at that moment in the best conditions of its fortune: it had acted as a force of opposition to a foreign government in the kingdom of Naples, had welcomed constitutional ideas with sympathy, restored in Sicily under the English influence on the island. , had hoped for the Bourbon restoration, had been disappointed and had therefore not disarmed, had spread through the Murattian army in central and northern Italy, and there had assimilated other ideas and included in its program that of independence national. But as that society grows, it suffers more and more from the diversity of particular purposes, from the lack of a strong center and a unity of program and action. The unitary aspirations are not lacking in the political thought of some Carbonari, but they are very vague: the commonly accepted program for the structure of Italy is federal. The problem of national independence is profoundly understood by the Carbonari of northern Italy, not so by those of southern Italy, still unable to understand that the constitutional problem, which was especially important to them, could not be solved, if not by provided that the problem of independence was solved. The program of constitutional freedoms itself is not decidedly fixed: it fluctuates between the Spanish, English, French and Sicilian conventions.

The news of the Spanish revolution of January 1820 inflamed the spirits of the Neapolitan Carbonari. Many of them were army officers, dissatisfied with the treatment received by the Bourbon government, since despite the agreements of the Casalanza convention, the officers who had been part of the Murat army had been demoted, if not fired. On 10 July, a squadron of cavalry garrisoned in Nola rose up shouting: “Long live the king, long live the constitution of Spain”. Shortly other soldiers, mutineers, joined and, led by General Guglielmo Pepe, entered Naples. The king gave in, and on July 13 he swore the Constitution.

The movement extended to Sicily with the character of separatism. Not the constitution of Spain, nor the union with Naples wanted the nobility of the island, which especially had its center in Palermo, but the Sicilian constitution and the full autonomy of the island’s government. After 1815, and under the pretext of giving unity to the state, the Bourbon had suppressed the Sicilian constitution, had taken away all autonomy from the island: it almost became a monopoly of overbearing Neapolitan bureaucrats. General Florestano Pepe, sent to subdue the island, came to honorable pacts with the representatives of the provisional government of Palermo. But the agreement he signed was not recognized in Naples. General Colletta replaced Pepe; and in October 1820 he subdued the island. The constitutional government of Naples was, on the other hand, very weak: the country lacked a political education; the constitution was poorly understood if not outright misunderstood; the constitutional ruler was in bad faith; the indifferent, if not hostile, people, especially in the countryside, where not the political question was of interest, but the agrarian question that threatened to flare up. The situation was even more serious in relations with Austria. She feared, rightly, that her dominance in Italy might be shaken by the spread of a Carbonaro constitutional movement, which might unite national forces against her. The Italian revolutionary danger was therefore recognized as a legitimate reason for Austrian intervention in the name of the great powers. The sovereigns of these, upon hearing of the riots in Naples, convened a congress in Ljubljana, and invited King Ferdinand. In leaving Naples he had promised to defend constitutional freedoms; arrived in Ljubljana he threw off his mask, and called for help. Austria was urged to provide him with an army. The constitutional army, commanded by Pepe, after an arms event in Rieti (March 7) and the weak defense in Antrodoco (March 9) it was disbanded; and the Austrians continued the march to Naples. In Naples in parliament on March 19, 28 deputies, headed by Giuseppe Poerio, voted a protest against the violence of which the Neapolitan people were victims, and declared to put “the cause of national independence in the hands of that God who holds the destinies of monarchs and peoples “.

The Austrians entered Naples on 23 March, and remained there until 1827. Repression followed: it is estimated that about 900 people were sentenced. Fortunately, many had managed to escape in time; and few were the death sentences carried out.

In March 1921, just in the days in which the Austrians entered Naples, the Piedmont revolution began. In Piedmont the aversion to Austria was general for the Austrian bullying, suffered during the Napoleonic wars and the Congress of Vienna, and for the attempt of political absorption of Piedmont, which, after 1815, Austria was aiming for. Old Piedmontese diplomats and King Vittorio Emanuele I himself were hostile to Austria.

These feelings of pride and independence, traditional in Piedmont, were revived and elevated by a select group of young people, who in the cult of Alfieri nourished their conscience as Italians. The restoration in Piedmont, however, had not only set the problem of Piedmont in Italian politics in the face of Austria but that of constitutional reforms in the face of the prevailing reaction in the court and in the government. This state of mind was favorable to the spread of the Carbonari, and above all of  the Italian Federation, his filiation, which made a monarchical profession, wanted the constitution and union (there was no talk of unity) and the independence of Italy. In February, agreements were made between the Lombard and Piedmontese federates for the revolution in Lombardy and the war against Austria; both put their hopes on the prince of Carignano Carlo Alberto. On 6 March the prince was warned that everything was ready. He promised to speak to the king, and was deluded by the promises he had made that he could stop those patriots in time from untimely resolutions. Except that the bolder faction prevailed, and the revolt broke out on March 12. That same night Vittorio Emanuele I abdicated in favor of his brother Carlo Felice, who was in Modena, and appointed Carlo Alberto as regent. The condition in which the regent found himself was very serious; he was forced, to avoid civil strife, to grant the constitution of Spain “except – he added – the approval of the king”. But Carlo Felice declared that he did not recognize any changes in the institutions, and gave the order to Carlo Alberto to go to Novara, and then to Florence. Carlo Alberto obeyed. Carlo Felice turned to the great powers to suppress the revolution. The Austrian army in Novara was easily able to defeat the constitutional militias (8 April ’21).

Italy from 1815 to 1849 2