But only when it was known that the French Republic had voted an expedition, with the specious object of guaranteeing the independence of the supreme Pontiff, did the Romans and their rulers realize that the existence of Rome and her newborn liberties was seriously menaced.
Continuing Garibaldi and the Roman Republic,
our selection from The Birth of Modern Italy by Jessie White Mario published in 1909. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Garibaldi and the Roman Republic.
Finally, on February 9th, of the one hundred fifty-four Deputies present, all but five voted for the downfall of the temporal power of the Pope, all but eleven for the proclamation of the republic. These, with the exception of General Garibaldi and General Ferrari, were all Romans. G. Filopanti, who undertook to explain the state of affairs to the Roman people, won shouts of applause by his concluding words, “We are no longer mere Romans, but Italians.”
This sentence sums up the sentiments of all: of Garibaldi, who, after recording his vote, returned to his troops at Rieti and drew up an admirable plan for attacking the Austrians bent on subjugating the Roman Provinces and for carrying revolution into the Kingdom of Naples; of Mazzini, who, so far from having imposed on the Romans a republic by the force of his tyrannical will, was — during its proclamation — in Tuscany, striving to induce Guerrazzi and his fellow-triumvirs to unite with Rome and organize a strong army for the renewal of the Lombard War.
True, the Romans, mindful of all they owed to the great apostle of Italian unity and independence, proclaimed him Roman citizen on February 12th, and on the 25th of the same month the Roman people, with nine thousand votes, elected him member of the Constituent Assembly; but it was not until March 5th that he entered Rome, when, in one of his most splendid speeches, rising above parties and politics, he called upon the “Rome of the People” to send up combatants against Austria, the only enemy that then menaced Italy.
Suiting the action to the word, he induced the Assembly to nominate a commission for the thorough organization of the army; and ten thousand men had quitted Rome and were marching up to the frontier to place themselves at the orders of Piedmont, when, alas! their march was arrested by the news of the total defeat at Novara, of the abdication of Charles Albert and the reinauguration of Austrian rule in Lombardy.
Genoa, whose generous inhabitants arose in protest against the disastrous but inevitable treaty of peace, was bombarded and reduced to submission by La Marmora; and now, while to Rome and to Venice flocked all the volunteers who preferred death to submission, the new Holy Alliance of Continental Europe took for its watchword: “The restoration of the Pope; the extinction of the two Republics of Venice and of Rome.”
Austria crossed the Po and occupied Ferrara, marching thence on Bologna; the Neapolitan troops from the south marched upward to the Roman frontier; even Spain sent her contingent to Fiumicino. But only when it was known that the French Republic had voted an expedition, with the specious object of guaranteeing the independence of the supreme Pontiff, did the Romans and their rulers realize that the existence of Rome and her newborn liberties was seriously menaced. Garibaldi wrote from Rieti, in April, an enthusiastic letter worth recording here:
BROTHER MAZZINI: I feel that I must write you one line with my own hand. May Providence sustain you in your brilliant but arduous career [Mazzini had just been elected, with Armellini and Saffi, Triumvir of Rome], and may you be enabled to carry out all the noble designs in your mind for the welfare of our country. Remember that Rieti is full of your brethren in the faith, and that immutably yours is
At the same time he sent a plan, proposing to march along the Via Emilia, to collect arms and volunteers, proclaim the levy in mass, and with a division stationed in the Bolognese territory, operate in the duchies, unite Tuscan, Ligurian, and Piedmontese forces, and once more assail the Austrians. But the news of Piedmont defeated, Genoa bombarded and vanquished, convinced him that it would be difficult to re-arouse the disheartened population of Northern Italy. Hence he next proposed to cross the Neapolitan frontier, fling himself upon the royal troops, and seize the Abruzzi. A sensible project this, to take the offensive against the Pope’s defenders. But before the Triumvirate could come to a definite decision, it was known that the French troops, by a disgraceful stratagem, had landed and taken possession of Civita Vecchia, General Oudinot entwining the French flag with the Roman tricolor and assuring the Romans that they only came to secure perfect freedom for the people to effect a reconciliation with Pius IX.
But the people had no desire for such reconciliation; the Assembly decreed that Rome should have no garrison but the National Roman Guard: that if the Republic were invaded by force, the invaders by force should be repelled. A commission of barricades established, the people flocked to erect and remained to man them. The National Guard summoned by Mazzini all answered, “Present,” and served enthusiastically throughout the siege; all the troops dispersed in the Provinces were summoned to the capital, and Garibaldi and his volunteers marched into the city amid the acclamations of the populace, too thankful to welcome them to demur at the strange appearance they presented.
Now that Garibaldi’s military and naval genius is fully recognized, and the extraordinary fascination he exercised over officers and men, the enthusiasm with which he filled whole populations whom others failed to stir, are undisputed, many historians and critics have expressed their astonishment that he was not made at once commander-in-chief of the Roman forces, and have blamed the Triumvirate for having failed to recognize in the hero of Montevideo the good genius of Rome. Such critics must be simply ignorant of the actual condition of Rome and her Government. There existed, in the first place, the regular Roman army, which would have served under none save regular generals; then there was the Lombard battalion under Manara, whose members, after fifteen months of regular campaigning, were thoroughly drilled and disciplined, who insisted on retaining the cross of Savoy on their belts, and, until their prowess made them the idols of the Romans, were nicknamed the “corps of aristocrats.”
Little did they imagine, when they kept aloof from the legion, that before three months were over their young hero chief would resign his command of them to assume the delicate post of head of Garibaldi’s staff. Carlo Pisacane–educated in the military college of the Nunziatella, who had served as captain in the foreign legion in Algiers, destined later to become the pioneer of Garibaldi and his “Thousand” and to lose his life in the attempt–while recognizing Garibaldi’s prowess and talents as a guerilla chief, in his military history of 1849, severely criticizes his tactics, and blames his sending up “a handful of boys against masses of the enemy” and censures, unhesitatingly, “his indiscipline at Velletri.” One of the Deputies of the Roman Constituent wrote to the Triumvirate begging them to “Send Garibaldi with his motley crew to a terrible spot, called For del Diavolo, between Civita Vecchia and Rome; on no account to allow them to enter the city, as they are quite too disorderly.”
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