Italy from 1815 to 1849 Part 5

By | February 18, 2022

According to allcountrylist, the republican revolution of France had appeared to the most ardent patriots as the beginning of the universal democratic revolution, as Mazzini had prophesied; the people’s victory of the five days seemed to demonstrate that the people’s war was enough to overthrow the tyrant and expel the foreigner, as Mazzini had preached. The dissension between moderates in favor of annexation to Piedmont and the monarchy and the hostile republicans manifested itself perniciously from the beginning; and the disagreement was no less profound between unitary republicans and federalists; the latter had their center of action in Milan and at the head of C. Cattaneo. That faith in republican France which animated the republican party was no less harmful: the France of Lamartine, and then of Cavaignac, was contrary to both the unification of Italy, which was nevertheless believed to be impossible, both in a Savoyard state that was too large and powerful on the borders of France. Nor was the political-military situation of Carlo Alberto less difficult vis-a-vis the other Italian states. Popular enthusiasm had prompted the governments of Florence, Rome and Naples to participate in the war: but those governments considered any military success as a strengthening of Piedmontese hegemony, a disturbance of the political equilibrium in Italy, since no compensation they would have drawn the other Italian states. And greater spiritual concern troubled the pontiff over the threat of a schism in the Catholic countries of Germany; and therefore on April 29 he declared that he could not, as the father of all Catholics, wage war on Austria and withdrew his regular militias from Lombardy. The example was followed by the king of Naples and the grand duke of Tuscany. Under these conditions the second phase of the campaign took place. The Radetzky, having received reinforcements, had meanwhile gone on the offensive: he beat the Piedmontese at Custoza on 25 July, chased them as far as the walls of Milan, where Carlo Alberto had hoped to resist with the help of the people. And he was bitterly disappointed; the people believed they had been betrayed, and were hostile to them (4 August). A few days later Carlo Alberto marked the Salasco armistice; and Lombardy returned to Austria.

The military defeat was also the defeat of the moderate liberal party; and then the democratic party was agitated, and pushed forward to the conquest of power, sometimes bringing the demagogic turbulence. In Tuscany the democratic party prevails; the grand duke leaves Florence, and a provisional government is constituted, governed by a triumvirate: Guerrazzi, Montanelli, Mazzoni (February ’49). In Rome, the democrats are faced with the energy of Pellegrino Rossi, whom the pope had called to the government; and they get rid of him, murdering him. The pope leaves Rome, and on 9 February 1949 the Roman Republic is proclaimed. Even in Piedmont, after the Salasco armistice, the moderate liberal ministries could not stand up. Gioberti was then called to power; and he believed he could use the Democratic Party to dominate it.

The king accepted the war resolved to sacrifice: the war was a heroic, desperate decision at that moment: not wanting war meant breaking every possible union between revolution and monarchy, it meant giving the revolution reason to accuse the monarchy of having betrayed the brothers oppressed despite the promises of war. In Novara on 23 March the Piedmontese army was defeated. That same evening Carlo Alberto abdicated and left for exile.

Epilogue of the revolution of ’48 -’49 after Novara is the resistance of heroic cities such as Brescia and Messina and of the republics of Rome and Venice. It is the supreme effort of the revolution, after the moderate liberal experiment. In Rome Mazzini revealed himself to be a man of government: energetic, serene, meek, repressed any attempt at terrorism, respected the Catholic cult. Volunteers from the various regions of Italy agreed with Garibaldi and thus consecrated the unification of Italy in Rome in the blood of the fallen. At the appeal of the pope for his restoration, there was almost a competition among the diplomacies of Europe. France was urged to send militias; which however, approaching the walls of Rome, were rejected by Garibaldi (April 30). The king of Naples, who also came in defense of the pope, fled shamefully after being defeated in Velletri. In June the French, having received large reinforcements, returned to the assault, and on 2 July, after a bloody heroic resistance of the defenders, they entered Rome. Venice, which resisted longer, gave in to hunger and cholera rather than from the Austrian bombs (22 August 1849). As in Rome, so in Venice among the defenders were Italians from every region.

After 1849 the political situation of Italy of 1815, 1820-21, 1831 was renewed: Austria dominated with its dominions, and supported with its arms the thrones of the restored princes. Except that after 1849 there is an Italy that has rediscovered itself, an Italy that in the spring of ’48 had been entirely united in the war against the foreigner, an Italy that has the moral center of the nation in the Savoyard Piedmont. Thus the victory of the reaction was sterile, and the governments reconstituted with Austrian protection were weaker than ever.

Italy from 1815 to 1849 5