From Garibaldi’s brief account, it would almost seem that the Triumvirate and the Assembly surrendered Rome before absolute necessity constrained them so to do.
Today’s installment concludes Garibaldi and the Roman Republic,
our selection from The Birth of Modern Italy by Jessie White Mario published in 1909.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of five thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Garibaldi and the Roman Republic.
All this gave umbrage to Garibaldi, but no hypocrisy and much wisdom inspired these acts. In the first place, the Triumvirate, and especially Mazzini, the most religious man we have ever known, were well aware that, while the temporal power of the papacy might be destroyed by fire and sword, the spiritual power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy could be extinguished only in the name of a moral law recognized and accepted as being higher and more authoritative than any other intermediary between God and the people — they knew that ideas can be vanquished only by ideas. Again, as the responsible heads of the Roman Republic, the Triumvirs were wisely careful not to offend the hearts and consciences of Catholics abroad. Finally, the very fact that, with four armies at their gates, life, its feasts and fasts, its workdays and holidays, could go on as usual, was one highly calculated to strengthen the Romans’ faith in and affection for the new Government. No crimes were committed; the people came to the Triumvirs as children to their fathers, and — for Italians a very remarkable thing — they not only paid down current taxes, but they paid up arrears.
From Garibaldi’s brief account, it would almost seem that the Triumvirate and the Assembly surrendered Rome before absolute necessity constrained them so to do. He does not tell us how, when the French had actually entered Rome by the breach, he alone of all the civil and military commanders refused to head the troops to attack the invaders in possession. He gave his own reasons, very wise ones it seems to us, in writing many years later, but in his Memoirs he seems to have forgotten them. The terrible tidings that the seventh bastion and the curtain uniting it to the sixth had fallen into the hands of the French spread through the city. The Triumvirate had the tocsins rung. All the houses were opened at that sound; in the twinkling of an eye all the inhabitants were in the streets. General Rosselli and the Minister of War, all the officers of the staff, Mazzini himself, came to the Janiculum.
The people in arms massed around us,” writes Garibaldi in a short record of the siege of Rome, “clamored to drive the French off the walls. General Rosselli and the Minister of War consented. I opposed the attempt. I feared the confusion into which our troops would have been thrown by those new combatants and their irregular movements, the panic that would be likely by night to seize on troops unaccustomed to fire, and which actually had assailed our bravest ones on the night of the 16th. I insisted on waiting for the daylight.”
He here narrates the daring but unsuccessful attempt of the Lombard students, who flung themselves on the assailants, and who had gained the terrace of Casa Barberini, and continues: “But at daylight I had counted the forces with which we had to contend. I realized that another June 3d would bereave me of half of the youths left to me, whom I loved as my sons. I had not the least hope of dislodging the French from their positions, hence only a useless butchery could have ensued. Rome was doomed, but after a marvelous and a splendid defense. The fall of Rome, after such a siege, was the triumph of democracy in Europe. The idea of preserving four or five thousand devoted combatants who knew me, who would answer at any time to my call, prevailed. I ordered the retreat, promising that at five in the evening they should again advance; but I resolved that no assault should be made.”
From this and other writings of Garibaldi it is clear that from the night of June 21st he considered any further attempt to prevent the French from entering Rome as worse than useless–that hence he refused to lead the remnants of his army “to butchery” on the breach. How, then, was it possible for Mazzini to have retarded the catastrophe indefinitely, and reserved to Rome “the glory of falling last,” i.e., after Venice and Hungary?
Mazzini, beside himself with grief that the armed people had not been allowed to rush on to the bastions and drive the French from the walls, wrote a reproachful letter to Manara, then chief of Garibaldi’s staff, and this patriot here seems to have kept the peace, as on the 25th we find a friendly letter from Garibaldi to the Triumvirate in which he proposes to leave Manara in Rome, and to conduct, himself, a considerable number of his men out of Rome to take up position between the French and Civita Vecchia, to harass them in the rear. And on the same day, evidently after a meeting and the acceptance by Mazzini of Garibaldi’s project, the latter writes:
June 26th, 8 P.M.
MAZZINI: I propose, therefore (dunque), to go out to-morrow evening. Send me to-morrow morning the chief who is to assume the command here. Order the general-in-chief to prepare one hundred fifty mounted dragoons, who, with the fifty lancers, will make up two hundred horse. I shall take eight hundred of the legion, and to-morrow shall send them to change their shirts [i.e., doff their ‘red’ for ‘gray’]. Answer at once, and keep the plan a profound secret.”
The attempt was not made, probably because it was impossible to march out secretly from any gate, and Manara writes from Villa Spada, 1 P.M. on the same day:
CITIZEN TRIUMVIR: I have received your letter. I am somewhat better and at my post. I have spoken with Pisacane [chief of Rosselli’s staff]; we are perfectly agreed. Both animated by the same spirit, it is impossible for petty jealousies to come between us. Be assured of this. I have begged General Garibaldi to return to San Pancrazio, so as not to deprive that post at this moment of his legion and his efficacious power. He promises me that before dawn all will be here. Everything is quiet.
This was Manara’s last letter to Mazzini; at that same Villa Spada the yearned-for bullet pierced his heroic heart. Manara died as the barbarians entered Rome.
And here, to all appearances, is Garibaldi’s last letter written in Rome to Mazzini:
We have retaken our positions outside San Pancrazio. Let General Rosselli send me orders; this is now no time for change. Yours,
No time for anything but one last desperate onslaught at the point of the bayonet, Garibaldi in the foremost ranks with sword unsheathed, while Medici from Villa Savorelli renewed the wonders of the Vascello. Twice the assailants were driven back to their second lines; thrice they returned in overpowering numbers; but, gaining the gate, they were received with volleys of musketry from the barricades at the ingress to Villa Spada and Savorelli. There fell the flower of the Lombards; boys of the “band of hope”; Garibaldi’s giant negro, faithful, brave Anghiar; six hundred added to the three thousand four hundred corpses on which the soldiers of La Grande Nation reconstructed the throne of the supreme Pontiff, and guarded it with their bayonets until the sword of their self-chosen master fell from his trembling hands at Sedan.
This ends our series of passages on Garibaldi and the Roman Republic by Jessie White Mario from her book The Birth of Modern Italy published in 1909. 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.
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