Introducing Final Italian Unification,
serialized in five total installments, each one 5 minutes long.
The unification of Italy, for which Italian patriots had longed and labored through many generations, was one of the most signal events of the nineteenth century. After the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, in 1861, Italian unity was acknowledged by England, France, Russia, and Prussia. In 1862 a new Italian Ministry was formed by Urbano Rattazzi, Cavour having been dead almost a year. It was the aim of Rattazzi, as It had been that of his two predecessors since Cavour, to continue the methods of that great statesman, who represented the highest civil glories of the Italian movement. The new Government had many difficulties to face. Naples, Tuscany, Modena, and Parma, which had been annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, aimed to recover their autonomy; Austria threatened invasion; the Pope used all his powers against the State that menaced his temporal throne; and Napoleon III, who had formerly assisted the Italian cause, was now mastered by adverse influences. At the same time the party of Garibaldi, impatient to finish the work they had done so much to advance, were eager to wrest Venice from Austria, and Rome from the Pope.
Disorganization everywhere hindered administrative progress. In the south, brigands, assisted by Francis II, the proscribed King of the Two Sicilies, committed alarming depredations, and a bold attempt was made to reinstate that Bourbon ruler. A futile scheme of Garibaldi‘s to move on Rome caused the Government much perplexity. Garibaldi was held prisoner for a few months, and in March, 1864, he went to London, where sympathy for his cause led him to hope for official support. That, however, was withheld. Meanwhile French troops occupied Rome, and their presence in the city was denounced by Italians through out the Kingdom. Wishing to soothe the irritation, Napoleon III induced Minghetti, who had succeeded Rattazzi, to consent to a convention, September 15, 1864, whereby it was agreed that the French soldiers should be withdrawn from Rome, and that the Italian Government should respect the frontier of the Papal States and transfer its capital from Turin to Florence.
Such was the state of affairs at the time when Orsi, the Italian historian. begins his concise but comprehensive narrative of the final steps leading to the unification of all Italy under her own chosen sovereign. Afterwards Sedgwick will provide a general background for the story.
The selections are from:
- Modern Italy, 1748 – 1898 by Pietro Orsi.
- A Short History of Italy by Henry Dwight Sedgwick published in 1905.
There’s 1.5 installments by Pietro Orsi and 3.5 installments by Henry Dwight Sedgwick. We begin with Pietro Orsi.
The Roman question still awaited solution. Napoleon III, in pursuance of the Convention of 1864, had, by degrees, withdrawn his troops from Rome: thus, by the end of 1866, the seventeen years of foreign occupation were at an end. The Pontifical Government now found itself face to face alone with its subjects. Thereupon, while some secret societies in Rome were seeking to foment an insurrection, the “party of action” determined to interfere, and with the greater readiness, since Urbano Rattazzi was again at the head of the Italian Ministry. Garibaldi traversed several provinces of the Kingdom to incite the citizens to war. By September, 1867, the preparations for the rising were well matured, but on the 23d of that month the Italian Government, which up till then had allowed them to go forward, was sufficiently influenced by the attitude of Napoleon III, now posing as the defender of the Pope, to have Garibaldi arrested and sent to Caprera, where his movements were watched by four vessels.
Notwithstanding the absence of Garibaldi, bands of volunteers were organized and marched into the Pontiﬁcal States. On the evening of October 22nd, a futile attempt at revolt was made in Rome by Monti and Tognetti, two masons, who tried by means of a mine to blow up the Serristori barracks, while a hundred young men took possession of Porta San Paolo; but this movement had hardly broken out when it was quenched in blood. Hoping to find the city still in insurrection, the brothers Enrico and Giovanni Cairoli, with seventy followers, passed the frontier of the Papal States, to hasten to the aid of the insurgents; they descended the Tiber to a point within two miles of Rome, and there took up a position on the Monte Parioli, near a villa called Glori, in expectation of receiving news of the rising. They were surprised instead by a strong body of the papal police, and a hand-to-hand struggle rather than a battle ensued, wherein seventy in all fell dead or wounded. Enrico Cairoli died on the spot; Giovanni, after receiving serious wounds, was made prisoner, but obtained his liberty through the mediation of an English bishop, only to drag out, for little more than another year, an existence full of suffering caused by his wounds.
Thus, this valiant family, of which one had already fallen gloriously at Varese in the campaign of 1859, and another had died in Sicily of exhaustion during the toilsome march of “the Thousand,” now yielded a fresh contingent to the band of Italian martyrs in the cause of freedom. A few days later the papal troops surrounded a factory in the Trastevere quarter of Rome, wherein several patriots were engaged in making cartridges. The besieged retorted on their assailants by fusillades and bombs, but were vanquished and in great part massacred. Among the dead was Giuditta Tavani-Arquati, who, in spite of her sex, had courageously assisted in the defense.
Napoleon III, indignant at the aspect events had assumed in Italy, prepared a fleet at Toulon to go to the aid of the Pontiff: such a step was all the more promptly taken, seeing that Garibaldi had effected his escape from Caprera. On the night of October 16th the veteran hero had put out alone in a small boat, managed to evade the surveillance of the watchful crews, and had reached Maddaloni, whence he made for Tuscany. Mean time Rattazzi, feeling himself incapable of coping with the existing state of affairs, resigned. During this ministerial crisis no one had the courage to take decisive steps, and thus the Garibaldian movement made progress. Garibaldi, having arrived at Florence, publicly incited the population to war, and then put himself at the head of the armed bands already assembled.
After passing the frontier, he encountered and defeated the papal troops at Monte Rotondo, on October 26th. But although a French division had debarked at Civita Vecchia, Garibaldi prevailed on his men to continue the struggle. On November 3d there was another engagement at Mentana, where at ﬁrst the old hero succeeded in routing the papal troops, but in the rear came the French soldiers. The volunteers, armed with bad muskets, could not hold out long against the chassepots of the French, which, according to the opinion expressed in such mal-a-propos terms by General De Failly, the commander of the expedition,- “worked wonders.” Garibaldi, having retreated, disbanded his men and, recrossing the frontier, was once more sent back to Caprera by order of the Italian Government. Thus failed the Garibaldian expedition of 1867.
As if to emphasize the estrangement that these events produced between Italy and France, Rouher, President of the French Ministry, uttered the following words in the Chamber: “In the name of the French Government, we declare that Italy shall never take possession of Rome; never will France tolerate such violence done to her honor and to Catholicism. If Italy marches on Rome, she will again find France blocking the way.”
However, the thoughts of all Italians were now fixed on Rome, and even in the December of that same year (1867) Giovanni Lanza, on assuming the office of speaker in the Chamber, announced that “all unanimously desire the accomplishment of national unity,” and that “Rome, through the very nature of things and the exigencies of the times, must, sooner or later, be the capital of Italy.” Afterward, when the growing animosity between France and Prussia had caused Napoleon III to desire a closer alliance with Italy and Austria, the Government of the former stipulated, as a condition of such an alliance, that Rome should be evacuated by the French troops which had returned there in 1867. Napoleon, still swayed by the clerical part, — would not hear of this, so the plan fell through. After the first defeat sustained by the French in 1870, Napoleon asked help from Victor Emmanuel, without fixing any terms whatever. The King would gladly have gone to the assistance of his old ally of 1859, but public opinion in Italy was unfavorable to Napoleon III; besides, the Italians, although they had fought side by side with the French in 1859, had been allies of the Prussians in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Thus it was that on the night of August 6th—7th the council of ministers voted for neutrality.
Henry Dwight Sedgwick begins 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