This series has five easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Pope Flees Rome.
1848 was the year revolutions spread throughout Europe. In some places they succeeded; in others not so much. The following year, the spirit of revolution spread to Italy. This is the story of the short-lived Roman Republic.
This selection is from The Birth of Modern Italy by Jessie White Mario published in 1909.
White “Hurricane Jessie” was an activist and a writer for Italian freedom. She was close to the leading Italian leaders of that era.
When “Young Italy,” the association of republican agitators led by Giuseppe Mazzini, began its activities (about 1834), hatred of the Austrian government, which ruled in several of the Italian States, was kept alive through this determined organization. Aspirations for liberty and self-government were re-quickened. The endeavors of the reforming Pope, Pius IX (1846), to harmonize his policy with the aims of this party, in order to promote a confederation of the Italian States under papal supremacy, at first seemed to promise the dawn of a new era. Soon after the outbreak of the revolution of 1848 in France, revolt against the Austrian power began in various parts of Italy. The Austrian troops were driven out of Lombardy; Venice compelled the Austrian forces in her territory to surrender, and became a free republic; in a short time Italy appeared to have delivered herself from the rule of Austria; but almost immediately the foreign power began to regain its ascendancy, and this, through the events here related, was fully recovered.
After the flight of Pius IX from Rome (November, 1848), Mazzini and his followers pursued their own course. A constituent assembly was summoned, and on February 5, 1849, it declared the temporal power of the Pope abolished. The Italian soldier who now becomes the chief figure of this movement has enjoyed a popular renown unsurpassed by that of any of his countrymen. Giuseppe Garibaldi, a sailor’s son, was born in Nice, July 4, 1807. In youth he went to sea. In 1834 he took part with Mazzini in the Young Italy demonstrations, and for aiding in an attempt to seize Genoa he was condemned to death. Escaping to South America, he won distinction as a guerilla leader and a privateer in the service of the Rio Grande rebels against Brazil. After further military adventures in South America, he returned to Italy, and in 1847 offered his services to Pope Pius IX, but they were not accepted. In 1848 he received indifferent treatment at the hands of Charles Albert of Sardinia, who was besieging the Austrians in Mantua. After the failure of Charles Albert, Garibaldi collected his own followers and acted against the Austrians with such effect as to bring him into prominence in the ranks of Italian patriots. The following account of the siege and defense of Rome, which admiringly presents him to view, is from the author’s supplement to Garibaldi’s Autobiography, and is a valuable contribution to the history of the events in which he was so conspicuous.
Of the many sublime pages traced in the blood of Italian patriots, the sublimest in our eyes is that of the defense of Rome. No writer of genius has yet been inspired to narrate the heroic deeds enacted, the pain, privation, anguish, borne joyfully to save “that city of the Italian soul” from desecration by the foreigner. Mazzini’s beloved disciple, Mameli, the soldier-poet, died with the flower of the student youth; the survivors, exiled, dispersed, heartbroken, or intent only on preparing for the next campaign, have left us but fugitive records, partial episodes, or dull military chronicles. Margaret Fuller Ossoli, competent by love and genius to be the historian and who had collected the materials day by day, lived the life of the combatants hour by hour, was wrecked with “Ossoli, Angelo” and her manuscript, in sight of her native shore.
From details that reached him Garibaldi always maintained that there was a priest among the wreckers who secured and destroyed the treasure! Guerrazzi’s Siege of Rome is inferior to all his other writings. The entry of the Italian army into Rome by the breach in Porta Pia has cast the grand defense of 1849 into the background of rash attempts and futile failures. In these brief pages we give merely the outline of the drama in which Garibaldi was one of the leading actors. The men who desired a republic did not exist as a party in Rome previous to the flight of the Pope. But there existed a strong national anti-Austrian party, who, as they had worshipped Pio Nono (Pius IX) when he “blessed Italy” and the banners that the Romans bore upward to the “Holy War,” now execrated him inasmuch as he had withdrawn his sanction to that war and had blessed the Croats and the Austrians who were butchering the Italians in the north. Convinced of the impossibility of favoring the independence and unity of Italy, and remaining at the same time the supreme head of the Universal Church, Pio Nono fled for protection to the King of Naples; there he declined to accept from the King of Piedmont his repeated offers of protection or mediation, and appealed to Austria alone to restore him pope-king absolute in Rome. Very soon afterward the Archduke of Tuscany revoked the Constituent Assembly which he had granted, and followed the saintly example of the Holy Father, so that Tuscany and Rome were alike left sheep without a shepherd.
In the Roman States an appeal was made to universal suffrage, and the people sent up deputies, known chiefly for their honesty and bravery, to decide on the form of government, to assist Piedmont in her second war against Austria. When the Constituent Assembly met to decide on the form of government, Mamiani warned them that only two rulers were possible in Rome — the Pope or Cola di Rienzi; the Papacy or the Republic.
Garibaldi, who had organized his legion at Rieti, was elected member of the Constituent Assembly, and on February 7th put in his appearance and in language more soldier-like than parliamentary urged the immediate proclamation of the republic. But the debate was carried on with all due respect for the “rights of the minority.”
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