In February, 1861, the first Italian parliament was held, and Victor Emmanuel formally received the title King of Italy.
Continuing Final Italian Unification,
our selection from A Short History of Italy by Henry Dwight Sedgwick published in 1905. The selection is presented in 3.5 installments, each one 5 minutes long, the first one half of that..
Previously in Final Italian Unification.
Time: 1859 – 1861
The French Emperor crossed the Alps, and in June the allies won the battles of Magenta and Solferino. The Italians believed that Austria would now be driven from every foot of Italian soil: when, suddenly, without consulting Piedmont, Napoleon, for reasons of French policy, made peace with [Austria. The Emperor of Austria ceded Lombardy to Napoleon, and Napoleon transferred it to Piedmont; and, as a sop to the spirit of Italian unity, both Emperors agreed to favor the scheme of a confederation of the Italian States with the Pope at its head, but the latter plan was left in the air. This was the end of the high hopes of Italian freedom and unity. Italy had received a slap in the face. Cavour was furious; he had a stormy interview with his king, and passionately urged him not to consent, but the king had the good sense to see that he must. Cavour immediately resigned.
Meanwhile the war had caused the recall of the Austrian troops south of the Po, and the patriots had risen in joy. The Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Duke of Modena, the Duchess Regent of Parma, the papal legates of the Romagna, ran away, and provisional governments were established; but a permanent political disposition was attended with difficulties. The states themselves wished to join Piedmont, but the wish was not unanimous, for many people wanted to preserve local autonomy and their old historic boundaries. Napoleon favoured his vague confederacy, and a European Congress supported his view. Indecision reigned, but the cause of national union triumphed through the vigour of Count Bettino Ricasoli, a man of iron character, head of the provisional government in Tuscany. “We must,” he wrote, “no longer speak of Piedmont, nor of Florence, nor of Tuscany; we must speak neither of fusion nor annexation, but of the union of the Italian people under the constitutional government of [Pg 402]Victor Emmanuel.” Certainly the fugitive dukes could only return by force, and though Continental Europe approved their return, there was nobody to supply the force. The little states voted to join Piedmont. Piedmont, however, hesitated, in fear of European contradiction. Nobody but Cavour could manage the matter, and he was recalled to office (1860). Cavour appealed to the doctrine of the popular will to be expressed by a plebiscite. France, however, would only consent upon cession of Savoy and Nice, a measure already talked of as the price of the French alliance; and in spite of the reluctance of the king to surrender Savoy, the cradle of his race, the price had to be paid. The cession was made, and Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and the Romagna were united with the Kingdom of Sardinia under the name of the Kingdom of Italy (April 15, 1860).
In the meantime Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies, had died, hated and despised by everybody, and his son Francis II, a weak, ignorant, bigoted lad, had mounted the throne. He refused a suggestion of Victor Emmanuel to join in the war against Austria, threw himself into the arms of the reactionary party, and made an alliance with the Pope. The discontented liberals took courage at the news from the north. In April, 1860, the revolt began in Palermo, and, though suppressed there, spread. Two young patriots, Francesco Crispi and Rosalino Pilo, went about stirring the people to action. Garibaldi was begged to put himself at the head of the [proposed revolution. On the night of May 6, two ships, the Lombardy and the Piedmont, secretly left Genoa, and took Garibaldi and a thousand volunteers aboard. This band, known as i Mille, is nearly as famous and as legendary as King Arthur and his Round Table. On May 11, the ships landed at Marsala. Two Neapolitan cruisers came up, but two English men-of-war happened to be there also; and the English captains, under guise of friendly notification to the Neapolitans, took some action which delayed the latter long enough to let the last Garibaldians disembark. Once on shore, Garibaldi’s volunteers ran to secure the telegraph office. They arrived just after the operator had telegraphed that two Piedmontese ships, filled with troops, had come into the harbour; a Garibaldian was able to add to the message, “I have made a mistake; they are two merchantmen.” The answer came back, “Idiot.” The volunteers marched inland. A provisional government was organized; Garibaldi was made dictator, and Crispi secretary of state. The cry was “Italy and Victor Emmanuel!” Garibaldi was joined by insurgent Sicilians, and, with numbers considerably increased, fought and defeated the Bourbon army. The story reads like the exploits of Hector before the Greek trenches. Victory followed victory. Palermo fell, Milazzo and Messina; then he crossed the straits and invaded Calabria (August). This marvellous triumph, for there had been thirty thousand regular troops to oppose Garibaldi, frightened King Francis; he proclaimed a constitution, appealed to Napoleon, [Pg 404]and even to Victor Emmanuel, for help. It was too late. Garibaldi swept on victorious, and the king fled from Naples (September 6); the next day Garibaldi marched in and assumed dictatorship of the kingdom.
England approved, but Continental Europe looked askance at this irregular proceeding, and Victor Emmanuel and Cavour began to feel uneasy, apprehensive lest the Great Powers should intervene in Italian affairs. It was a difficult situation. Garibaldi was moving on northward, and proclaimed his intention of going to Rome, regardless of the French army stationed there, and then to Venice, regardless of the European treaties that gave Venice to Austria. Besides, the Pope had collected an army (largely of foreign recruits) to suppress the liberal movements in Umbria and the Marches, and to give aid to the Neapolitan king. Here were further opportunities for foreign intervention. Evidently Cavour must act promptly if he wished Piedmont to continue to control the national movement. He requested the Pope to dismiss his new army. The Pope refused. The Piedmontese army crossed the pontifical border, scattered the papal army, and took possession of all the papal territory, except the city of Rome and the country immediately about it, and then marched on across the Neapolitan boundary. Here the Bourbon army was holding Garibaldi at bay. The arrival of the Piedmontese determined the issue. A less noble man might have shown resentment at having another come at the eleventh hour and seize the fruits of victory, but Garibaldi hailed Victor Emmanuel as King of Italy, refused the proffered honours and rewards, and went home, a poor man, to the little island of Caprera. The Two Sicilies and the liberated parts of the Papal States voted to join the Kingdom of Italy. In February, 1861, the first Italian parliament was held, and Victor Emmanuel formally received the title King of Italy. Excepting Rome and Venice, Italy was free and independent.
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