Today’s installment concludes Final Italian Unification,
the name of our combined selection from Pietro Orsi and Henry Dwight Sedgwick. The concluding installment, by Henry Dwight Sedgwick from A Short History of Italy, was published in 1905.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed five thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in Final Italian Unification.
Rome was the more pressing question of the two. A history of twenty-five hundred years, a profound sentiment, a patriotic, poetic, romantic love, had inevitably determined that Rome must be the capital of United Italy. On the other hand, opposed to the Italian national sentiment was the historic Catholic sentiment, diffused throughout Europe and strongest in France. The Pope naturally deemed his Italian birth inferior in obligation to his Catholic position. Moreover, the Temporal Power of the Popes had endured for more than a thousand years, and since the time of Julius II the pontifical title had been as good as the title to public or private property anywhere. Catholics honestly believed that this political kingdom was necessary to the independence of the Church. How could the world, they said, believe in papal impartiality if the Papacy were under the thumb of the Italian government? The difference in point of view inevitably brought the ardent Papist and the patriotic Nationalist to mutual injustice. The Italians looked on Pius IX as their worst enemy; the Roman Curia deemed the Italians robbers. French sympathy with the Papists, and especially the presence of a French army in Rome, made [Pg 406]the question exceedingly difficult. A special circumstance aggravated the difficulty. The King of Naples, having taken refuge in Rome, armed and subsidized gangs of brigands, who raided the Neapolitan provinces and committed unspeakable outrages. These rascals, when pursued by the Piedmontese army, crossed the pontifical border and were safe. This condition was intolerable.
At this juncture the great statesman who had steadfastly pursued his policy, — a free Church in a free State, — and never lost hope of a peaceful solution of the Roman difficulty, died (June 6, 1861). The priest who shrived him was summoned to Rome, deprived of his parish, suspended from his office, and sent to finish his days in a remote monastery; so strongly did the Roman Court feel that Cavour and his abettors were wicked men.
Cavour’s successors, Ricasoli and Rattazzi, with feebler gait, followed his policy as best they could; but uncertainty and hesitation prevailed. The two great questions, Rome and Venice, pressed for solution. The radicals clamored to have the Italian army march on Rome. Garibaldi’s impatience would not brook further inaction. He left his island home at Caprera, and betook himself to Sicily, crying, “Rome or Death!” With a little army of hot-tempered radicals he crossed into Calabria. The Italian government had no choice. Regular troops met Garibaldi at Aspromonte, near Reggio, and bade him withdraw; he refused; shots were fired. Which side fired first is uncertain. Garibaldi was wounded and made prisoner (August 29, 1862). [This indignity to the national hero roused much hard feeling, but reasonable men perceived that the solution of the Roman question had to be found in some other way than by a filibustering expedition against a city held by the troops of a power with whom the nation was at peace.
The liberation of Venice came first. Prussia occupied a position in Germany somewhat similar to that of Piedmont in Italy. Both had somewhat similar problems. Both felt antagonism to Austria, and also a suspicion of France. In April, 1866, the two states made an alliance against Austria, who, fearing the combination, tried to break it by offering to cede Venetia to Italy if she would abandon the Prussian alliance. Victor Emmanuel refused, and war began in June. The Italians were beaten both on land and sea, to their great mortification and chagrin. The crushing Prussian victory at Sadowa, however, forced Austria to accept the victor’s terms, including the cession of Venice. On November 7 Victor Emmanuel entered the city. Rome alone was left.
Garibaldi made another desperate attempt, but was defeated by the French at Mentana (1867). Not by Italian victories, but in consequence of Prussian victories, the conquest of Rome was finally effected. The French were obliged to withdraw their garrison during the Franco-Prussian War, and then the Italian government, which, to the shame of ardent patriots, had so long forborne out of obedience to the will of the French, gave notice to the world that it would annex Rome. After a [Pg 408]useless call upon the Pope for peaceful surrender, Victor Emmanuel directed his army to march on the city. Real resistance was out of the question, but Pius IX had decided to yield only to force. On the 20th of September, 1870, a breach was made in the wall near Porta Pia, a few shots were fired, a few score soldiers killed and wounded, and the Italian army marched in and took possession of the city. A plebiscite was held, and by a vote of 133,681 to 1507 the city voted to become a part of Italy. In June, 1871, the seat of government was formally removed from Florence, and Rome once again, after fifteen hundred years, became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
This ends our selections on Final Italian Unification by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- Modern Italy, 1748 – 1898 by Pietro Orsi.
- A Short History of Italy by Henry Dwight Sedgwick published in 1905.
This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history