Italy from 1815 to 1849 Part 4

By | February 17, 2022

After that decade of failed Mazzinian republican revolutionary tests, the spirits look for another program, review situations and values, hope for a new solution to the Italian problem. In this process of revision of values, the general conditions of Europe and the particular conditions in Italy give a sense of moderation and conciliation in drawing up the new program of action. After 1815 Europe had enjoyed thirty years of peace (the uprisings of the revolutionaries and military interventions were not considered as great wars like those of the past); wealth and culture had progressed enormously; that was the time of the great development of the sciences and their applications; a rich, active bourgeoisie was asserting itself; rather than proceeding with revolutionary leaps, it tended to progress smoothly, with peaceful reforms. And this development of civilization is no longer considered, as the Enlightenment had conceived it, in antithesis to religion, but reconcilable with it and with freedom. In Belgium, Poland and Ireland the national movement was associated with Catholic sentiment; in France, the Catholic revival reconciled freedom and religion. All this took place, albeit to a lesser extent, also in Italy where the great majority of Italians were Catholic; this great majority had participated neither in conspiracies nor in revolutions, they did not renounce their traditions and their faith, although they desired improvements and renewals without revolutionary shocks.

According to topschoolsintheusa, this Guelph conception of Italian history, this need to revive in the present an Italian national tradition, this state of mind that desired a reconciliation of religious sentiments with political aspirations explain the fortune of Vincenzo Gioberti and his  moral and civil primacy of the Italians. (1843). Like Mazzini, Gioberti considered the Italian Risorgimento not a simple political question, but a duty of nation, a mission to be carried out by the will of God. Italy, he warned, was a teacher of civilization, Rome was its center and seat of the papacy. . The greatness and decadence of Italy coincide with those of the papacy. Relieving Italy from its sad conditions is in the general interest, so that Italy continues the mission of civilization to which God has destined it. No one better than the pontiff can take the initiative of the Italian Risorgimento. Utopian was the idea of ​​assigning such political action to the papacy; practical and very effective was the idea of ​​converting what had been considered an obstacle into a coefficient of the Risorgimento. The Italian question could therefore be publicly discussed; which promoted a political literature which developed Giobertian doctrines, or which deviated from it in some points, or which fought against it. Thus a public opinion was formed, which fascinated an increasing number of Italians.

All this movement of political ideas had its own aspects and fruitful effects especially in Piedmont, where the tradition of an Italian Piedmont, from Alfieri to Santarosa, continued through the work of writers such as Balbo and D’Azeglio. Their action is then largely and effectively explained in the orbit of Giobertian ideas, but oriented towards the Savoy monarchy, considered as the center of the Risorgimento. Carlo Alberto then reigned. And that was the historical moment in which the action exercised by the movement of Giobertian ideas and the particular action of King Charles Albert filled the deep gap that divided the monarchy from the liberal idea. The previous decade had been in the reign of Carlo Alberto, fruitful of spiritual and material preparation for reforming activity. Which was not an end in itself, but it was aimed at the future of an Italian Piedmont. And in the meantime, and especially after 1840, the signs of his Italian conscience and his desire for a war of independence are becoming increasingly clear and frequent in the expressions of King Carlo Alberto; which to him, deeply religious, also appeared to be a religious duty. In such conditions of spirit, he was very sensitive to Gioberti’s eloquence, and was deeply moved by Pius IX’s invocation: “Great God, bless Italy”.

Pius IX had been elected on June 16, 1846. He did not have and could not have a political program, but he too had read Gioberti’s works with enthusiasm; and his few political ideas and his great goodness immediately found a place in that program of a national papacy, which many and many good Italian Catholics had longed for. Driven only by feelings of goodness, and not by political reflections, he issued the Edict of forgiveness, amnesty for political prisoners. The enthusiasm was great, beyond the scope of the fact; and enthusiasm grew for some reforms introduced the following year. In July 1947, Metternich, surprised by the reforms granted by the pope, thought of intimidating him with a bold blow, giving the Austrian garrison of the castle of Ferrara the order to militarily occupy the city. Metternich was mistaken: the Italy of ’47 was not what he had defined, thirty years earlier, a geographical expression. Carlo Alberto offered his army to the pontiff; the Italians all collected arms and money for the war against Austria. Metternich thought it right then to withdraw the militias from the city.

At the same time, the action of the liberal party in southern Italy is explained. In ’47 is the publication of the  Protest of the People of the Two Sicilies, indictment before the public opinion of the world against the Bourbon dynasty. Deeper and more popular was the hatred against the Bourbons in Sicily; and all were united in that hatred, since after the repressions of ’37 the jealousies between Messina and Palermo had disappeared. In September 1947 Messina rose up and was bloody tamed; but within a few months, Palermo, on January 12, rose up, chased away the Bourbon garrisons, and constituted a provisional government; Ferdinand II, who had boasted not to let himself be carried away by the revolutionary torrent, fearing that the revolution from Sicily would spread to the Neapolitan area, wanted to prevent it, granting the constitution on 10 February 1848. From February to March the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the king of Sardinia and the pope also granted the constitution. In this meantime, from February to March, the revolution ignited in France, Germany and Italy. On 23 March, the insurgent Venice had freed itself from the Austrians; from 18 to 23 March, in five bloody and glorious days, Milan chased away the Austrians. On 23 March Carlo Alberto proclaimed war on Austria, and on 27 he crossed the Ticino. The first phase of the campaign took place from April to May on the Mincio: the first fights in Goito, Monzambano and Valeggio were lucky, the attempt to take Verona was unhappy, the resistance to Curtatone and Montanara by the battalions of Tuscan students was heroic, the battle was victorious. of Goito on May 30, crowned by the surrender of Peschiera. But the home front gave way to discords and factions.

Italy from 1815 to 1849 4