Italian Unity


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Thus, this valiant family, of which one had already fallen gloriously at Varese in the campaign of 1859, and another had died in Sicily of exhaustion during the toilsome march of "the Thousand," now yielded a fresh contingent to the band of Italian martyrs in the cause of freedom. A few days later the papal troops surrounded a factory in the Trastevere quarter of Rome, wherein several patriots were engaged in making cartridges. The besieged retorted on their assailants by fusillades and bombs, but were vanquished and in great part massacred. Among the dead was Giuditta Tavani-Arquati, who, in spite of her sex, had courageously assisted in the defence.

Napoleon III, indignant at the aspect events had assumed in Italy, prepared a fleet at Toulon to go to the aid of the Pontiff: such a step was all the more promptly taken, seeing that Garibaldi had effected his escape from Caprera. On the night of October 16th the veteran hero had put out alone in a small boat, managed to evade the surveillance of the watchful crews, and had reached Maddaloni, whence he made for Tuscany. Meantime Rattazzi, feeling himself incapable of coping with the existing state of affairs, resigned. During this ministerial crisis no one had the courage to take decisive steps, and thus the Garibaldian movement made progress. Garibaldi, having arrived at Florence, publicly incited the population to war, and then put himself at the head of the armed bands already assembled.

After passing the frontier, he encountered and defeated the papal troops at Monte Rotondo, on October 26th. But although a French division had debarked at Civita Vecchia, Garibaldi prevailed on his men to continue the struggle. On November 3d there was another engagement at Mentana, where at first the old hero succeeded in routing the papal troops, but in the rear came the French soldiers. The volunteers, armed with bad muskets, could not hold out long against the chassepots of the French, which, according to the opinion expressed in such mal a propos terms by General De Failly, the commander of the expedition, "worked wonders." Garibaldi, having retreated, disbanded his men and, recrossing the frontier, was once more sent back to Caprera by order of the Italian Government. Thus failed the Garibaldian expedition of 1867.

As if to emphasize the estrangement that these events produced between Italy and France, Rouher, President of the French Ministry, uttered the following words in the Chamber: "In the name of the French Government, we declare that Italy shall never take possession of Rome; never will France tolerate such violence done to her honor and to Catholicism. If Italy marches on Rome, she will again find France blocking the way."

However, the thoughts of all Italians were now fixed on Rome, and even in the December of that same year (1867) Giovanni Lanza, on assuming the office of speaker in the Chamber, announced that "all unanimously desire the accomplishment of national unity," and that "Rome, through the very nature of things and the exigencies of the times, must, sooner or later, be the capital of Italy." Afterward, when the growing animosity between France and Prussia had caused Napoleon III to desire a closer alliance with Italy and Austria, the Government of the former stipulated, as a condition of such an alliance, that Rome should be evacuated by the French troops which had returned there in 1867. Napoleon, still swayed by the clerical party, would not hear of this, so the plan fell through. After the first defeat sustained by the French in 1870, Napoleon asked help from Victor Emmanuel, without fixing any terms whatever. The King would gladly have gone to the assistance of his old ally of 1859, but public opinion in Italy was unfavorable to Napoleon III; besides, the Italians, although they had fought side by side with the French in 1859, had been allies of the Prussians in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Thus it was that on the night of August 6th-7th the council of ministers voted for neutrality.

On August 24th Prince Napoleon, the King's son-in-law, arrived in Florence to beg for the support of Italy, leaving the latter free to solve the Roman question as she would, but it was now too late.

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“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Jesus, Matthew 11:30