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The New Italy: Mazzini, Cavour, Garibaldi

The most important struggles for national unity in the nineteenth century were those of Italy and of Germany. Italy was still a much-divided land, mostly under the heel of the hated white-coated Austrians. There was as yet no Italian nation.

Mazzini, Garibaldi, Cavour -- these were the three great men who, as prophet, warrior, and statesman, led the way for the freeing of Italy from the yoke of Austria, and the union of the Italian states into a kingdom.

When Europe was reorganized after the defeat of Napoleon, Italy reverted more or less to her previous condition. A Bourbon monarch governed the south. To the north lay the "Papal States," including Rome, ruled by the Pope. Then there were three duchies, all under Austrian dukes, and other smaller states. To the north of these, again, there were Lombardy and the city of Venice, which had been a republic under doges (dukes) for a thousand years, until given to Austria by Napoleon. Lastly, in the north-west, there was Piedmont, ruled by the King of Sardinia.

Now the real mistress of Italy was Austria. The only native rulers were the Pope and the King of Sardinia. All the rulers restored (1815) the old ways, and this aroused great discontent. There were therefore two motives for revolution -- greater freedom and a united Italy.

From 1815 there were various risings in different parts of Italy, but chiefly for winning freedom, the idea of one Italian state being at first accepted only by a few. After the revolutionary year of 1830, the flag of Italy, the red, green, and white tricolor, was first raised at a rising in a part of the Papal States. That same year the King of Sardinia received a letter from some unknown writer, calling on him to unite Italy and drive out the foreigner. The author was Mazzini, then twenty-six years old, who, sent into exile, formed a society called "Young Italy," with this object in view. And he inspired them with noble words:

"Love your country; it is the home that God has given you. Give it your thoughts, your counsels, Your blood.... Let it be one, as the thought of God. You are twenty-five millions of men, endowed vith active, splendid faculties; possessing a tradition of glory, the envy of the nations of Europe; an immense future lies before you; you lift your eyes to the loveliest heaven, and around you smiles the loveliest land in Europe; you are encircled by the Alps and sea, boundaries traced out by the finger of God for a people of giants -- you are bound to be such, or nothing."

The next risings came in "the year of revolutions," 1848. The Italian cardinals, not wishing to have a pro-Austrian Pope, had elected Pius IX. ("Pio Nono") before the Austrian cardinal could interfere. Pio Nono introduced some reforms, to the great annoyance of Austria, who feared that if the Italians became freer they would use their power to expel her. She therefore occupied the town of Ferrara as a protest, thereby arousing intense anger in Italy. The King of Sardinia told the Pope he would support him in everything, while a letter offering his services came from an Italian in South America -- Garibaldi. Then there was a rising in Naples, but the Austrians could not go to the help of the king, because the Pope would not allow the troops to pass through his States.

Meanwhile there had been a great demand in Piedmont for a Parliament, which was voiced in a new and popular newspaper called The Awakening. The name of the editor was Count Cavour. As the news from Naples increased the agitation, the king at last (1848) granted a Parliament. Then news came of the revolution in Vienna, and the Milanese rose against the 15,000 Austrian troops quartered in their city. This was the famous "five days' revolution," which ended only when the Austrian troops had to leave Milan after suffering a loss of 5,000 killed and wounded. Other risings followed in northern Italy until, largely inspired by Cavour's rousing articles, his king declared war on Austria.

The king was defeated, however, and the Pope became a fugitive, leaving the Romans to set up a republic. Mazzini was appointed one of the three heads of State, while Garibaldi, who had returned to fight for his country, joined them with a body of his famous red-shirted followers, 500 in number.

The year 1849 was, however, a terrible year for Italy. Austria recovered Venetia and Lombardy, and defeated Piedmont, while the French recovered Rome for the Pope, compelling Mazzini and Garibaldi to flee, and keeping French troops in the city.

The next ten years (1849-59) are known as "the decade of resistance." All Italians now wished to be united, for all the different sections had now fought side by side. The Austrians were made to feel that they were hated foreign conquerors. No decent Italian would have anything to do with them. On the other hand, for the Austrians even to mention the name "Italy" was considered a crime.

During this time Cavour, made Prime Minister of the new King of Sardinia, was working steadily to expel the Austrians and unite at any rate northern Italy. He skilfully managed to win the sympathies of Europe for his oppressed countrymen. Then he gained the help of Napoleon III by a promise to hand over Nice and Savoy when Austria declared war (1859), and Garibaldi again led his "red-shirts" in the field. Austria was defeated, and Lombardy was added to Piedmont.

Important results followed. The duchies threw off the rule of their grand dukes, and invited Victor Emmanuel to become protector. The Pope, however, at once excommunicated the king.

Then Garibaldi set sail (May 5, 1860) for Sicily to take part in a rising. On 8th August his invincible "red-shirts" started to cross from Sicily into Italy. "How glorious were thy Thousand, O Italy, wrote Garibaldi, "fighting against the plumed and gilded agents of despotism, and driving them before them like sheep!" On 7th September the hero entered Naples to proclaim himself director of the kingdom. Cavour knew that if Garibaldi attacked the Pope in Rome, Europe would interfere. He therefore found a pretext to occupy parts of the Papal States.

Then, on 7th November, Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi entered Naples together, when the latter handed over his authority to the king. Cavour lived to see Victor Emmanuel made King of Italy, February 18, 1861, but died the following 6th June.

"Italy a nation is the legacy of Cavour. Others have been devoted to the cause. He steered straight between Revolution and Reaction, and gave it an organized cause, a flag, a government, and foreign allies."

At his death, Rome and Venice were still outside the new kingdom. "Without Rome for a capital," said Cavour, "Italy can never be firmly united. The great object, then, is to persuade the Holy Father that the Church can be independent without the temporal power.... We are ready to proclaim in Italy the great principle of a free Church in a free country."

Three years after Cavour's death, France agreed to withdraw her troops from Rome within two years, Italy promising that Rome should not be attacked. Then Italy made an alliance with Prussia {1866), which led to her receiving Venice after a war between Prussia and Austria.

The French withdrew their regular troops from Rome, but French soldiers still served under the Pope. Mazzini and Garibaldi both wished Rome to rise, and Garibaldi joined the insurgent bands who took up arms in October. France had, however, sent another force to Rome, which, by means of their new rifles, defeated the "red-shirts" with great slaughter, so that the attempt failed. Then France declared war on Prussia (1870). The French Empire fell, and at once the Italian army marched on Rome. The Pope, however, made no more than a show of resistance. King Victor Emmanuel entered Rome in state, and the union of Italy was thus at last accomplished. In World War I Italy secured its "natural boundaries."

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”
Ephesians 3:20