Italian Unity



A.D. 1870


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 throughout 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Rattazzi, to consent to a convention, September 15, 1864, whereby it was agreed that the French soldiers should be withdrawn from Rome, and that the Italian Government should respect the frontier of the Papal States and transfer its capital from Turin to Florence.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.

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 Napoleon III, in pursuance of the Convention of 1864, had, by degrees, withdrawn his troops from Rome: thus, by the end of 1866, the seventeen years of foreign occupation were at an end.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 22d, 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.

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Romans 10:9