THE LIBERATION OF ITALY 1815-1870
COUNTESS EVELYN MARTINENGO CESARESCO
Author of 'Italian Characters In The Epoch Of Unification' (Patriotti Italiani), etc.
Seeley And Co, Limited Essex Street, Strand
[FRONTISPIECE: GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI]
The old figure of speech 'in the fulness of time' embodies a truth too often forgotten. History knows nothing of spontaneous generation; the chain of cause and effect is unbroken, and however modest be the scale on which an historical work is cast, the reader has a right to ask that it should give him some idea, not only of what happened, but of why it happened. A catalogue of dates and names is as meaningless as the photograph of a crowd. In the following retrospect, I have attempted to trace the principal factors that worked towards Italian unity. The Liberation of Italy is a cycle waiting to be turned into an epic.
In other words, it presents the appearance of a series of detached episodes, but the parts have an intimate connection with the whole, which, as time wears on, will constantly emerge into plainer light. Every year brings with it the issue of documents, letters, memoirs, that help to unravel the tangled threads in which this subject has been enveloped, and which have made it less generally understood than the two other great struggles of the century, the American fight for the Union, and the unification of Germany.
I cannot too strongly state my indebtedness to the voluminous literature which has grown up in Italy round the Risorgimento since its completion; yet it must not be supposed that the witness of contemporaries published from hour to hour, in every European tongue, while the events were going on, has become or will ever become valueless. I have had access to a collection of these older writings, formed with much care between the years 1850-1870, and some authorities that were wanting, I found in the library of Sir James Hudson, given by him to Count Giuseppe Martinengo Cesaresco after he left the British legation at Turin.
There are, of course, many books in which the affairs of Italy figure only incidentally, which ought to be consulted by anyone who wishes to study the inner working of the Italian movement. Of such are Lord Castlereagh's Despatches and Correspondence, and the autobiographies of Prince Metternich and Count Beust.
Perhaps I have been helped in describing the events clearly, by the fact that I am familiar with almost all the places where they occurred, from the heights of Calatafimi to the unhappy rock of Lissa. Wherever the language of the Si sounds, we tread upon the history of the Revolution that achieved what a great English orator once called, 'the noblest work ever undertaken by man.'
The supreme interest of the re-casting of Italy arises from the new spectacle of a nation made one not by conquest but by consent. Above and beyond the other causes that contributed to the conclusion must always be reckoned the gathering of an emotional wave, only comparable to the phenomena displayed by the mediaeval religious revivals. Sentiment, it is said, is what makes the real historical miracles. A writer on Italian Liberation would be indeed misleading who failed to take account of the passionate longing which stirred and swayed even the most outwardly cold of those who took part in it, and nerved an entire people to heroic effort.
Salo, Lago di Garda.
Italy from the Battle of Lodi to the Congress of Vienna
THE WORK OF THE CARBONARI
Revolutions in the Kingdom of Naples and in Piedmont—The Conspiracy against Charles Albert
PRISON AND SCAFFOLD
Political Trials in Venetia and Lombardy—Risings in the South and Centre—Ciro Menotti
Accession of Charles Albert—Mazzini's Unitarian Propaganda—The Brothers Bandiera
THE POPE LIBERATOR
Events leading to the Election of Pius IX.—The Petty Princes—Charles Albert, Leopold and Ferdinand
THE YEAR OF REVOLUTION
Insurrection in Sicily—The Austrians expelled from Milan and Venice—Charles Albert takes the Field—Withdrawal of the Pope and King of Naples—Piedmont defeated—The Retreat
THE DOWNFALL OF THRONES
Garibaldi arrives—Venice under Manin—The Dissolution of the Temporal Power—Republics at Rome and Florence
Novara—Abdication of Charles Albert—Brescia crushed—French Intervention—The Fall of Rome—The Fall of Venice
'J'ATTENDS MON ASTRE'
The House of Savoy—A King who Keeps his Word—Sufferings of the Lombards—Charles Albert's death
THE REVIVAL OF PIEDMONT
Restoration of the Pope and Grand-Duke of Tuscany—Misrule at Naples— The Struggle with the Church in Piedmont—The Crimean War
PREMONITIONS OF THE STORM
Pisacane's Landing—Orsini's Attempt—The Compact of Plombieres—Cavour's Triumph
THE WAR FOR LOMBARDY
Austria declares War—Montebello—Garibaldi's Campaign—Palestro— Magenta—The Allies enter Milan—Ricasoli saves Italian Unity— Accession of Francis II.—Solferino—The Armistice of Villafranca
WHAT UNITY COST
Napoleon III. and Cavour—The Cession of Savoy and Nice—Annexations in Central Italy
THE MARCH OF THE THOUSAND
Origin of the Expedition—Garibaldi at Marsala—Calatafimi—The Taking of Palermo—Milazzo—The Bourbons evacuate Sicily
THE MEETING OF THE WATERS
Garibaldi's March on Naples—The Piedmontese in Umbria and the Marches—The Volturno. Victor Emmanuel enters Naples
BEGINNINGS OF THE ITALIAN KINGDOM
The Fall of Gaeta—Political Brigandage—The Proclamation of the Italian Kingdom—Cavour's Death
'ROME OR DEATH!'
Cavour's Successors—Aspromonte—The September Convention—Garibaldi's Visit to England
THE WAR FOR VENICE
The Prussian Alliance—Custoza—Lissa—The Volunteers—Acquisition of Venetia
THE LAST CRUSADE
The French leave Rome—Garibaldi's Arrest and Escape—The Second French Intervention—Monte Rotondo—Mentana
ROME THE CAPITAL
M. Rouher's 'Never!'—Papal Infallibility—Sedan—The Breach in Porta Pia—The King of Italy in Rome
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI (Frontispiece)
KING VICTOR EMMANUEL
Italy from the Battle of Lodi to the Congress of Vienna.
The unity of Italy, which the statesmen of Europe and all save a small number of the Italians themselves still regarded as an utopia when it was on the verge of accomplishment, was, nevertheless, desired and foreseen by the two greatest intellects produced by the Italian race. Dante conceived an Italy united under the Empire, which returning from a shameful because self-imposed exile would assume its natural seat in Rome. To him it was a point of secondary interest that the Imperial Lord happened to be bred beyond the Alps, that he was of Teutonic, not of Latin blood. If the Emperor brought the talisman of his authority to the banks of the Tiber, Italy would overcome the factions which rent her, and would not only rule herself, but lead mankind. Vast as the vision was, Dante cannot be called presumptuous for having entertained it. The Rome of the Caesars, the Rome of the Popes, had each transformed the world: Italy was transforming it for a third time at that moment by the spiritual awakening which, beginning with the Renaissance, led by inevitable steps to the Reformation. The great Florentine poet had the right to dream that his country was invested with a providential mission, that his people was a chosen people, which, by its own fault and by the fault of others, had lost its way, but would find it again. Such was Dante's so-called Ghibelline programme—less Ghibelline than intensely and magnificently Italian. His was a mind too mighty to be caged within the limits of partisan ambitions. The same may be said of Machiavelli. He also imagined, or rather discerned in the future, a regenerate Italy under a single head, and this, not the advancement of any particular man, was the grand event he endeavoured to hasten. With the impatience of a heart consumed by the single passion of patriotism, he conjured his fellow-countrymen to seize the first chance that presented itself, promising or unpromising, of reaching the goal. The concluding passage in the Principe was meant as an exhortation; it reads as a prophecy. 'We ought not therefore,' writes Machiavelli, 'to let this occasion pass whereby, after so long waiting, Italy may behold the coming of a saviour. Nor can I express with what love he would be received in all those provinces which have suffered from the foreign inundations; with what thirst of vengeance, with what obstinate faith, with what worship, with what tears! What doors would be closed against him? What people would deny him obedience? What jealousy would oppose him? What Italian would not do him honour? The barbarous dominion of the stranger stinks in the nostrils of all.'
Another man of genius, an Italian whom a fortuitous circumstance made the citizen and the master of a country not his own, grasped both the vital necessity of unity from an Italian point of view, and the certainty of its ultimate achievement. Napoleon's notes on the subject, written at St Helena, sum up the whole question without rhetoric but with unanswerable logic:—'Italy is surrounded by the Alps and the sea. Her natural limits are defined with as much exactitude as if she were an island. Italy is only united to the Continent by 150 leagues of frontier, and these 150 leagues are fortified by the highest barrier that can be opposed to man. Italy, isolated between her natural limits, is destined to form a great and powerful nation. Italy is one nation; unity of customs, language and literature must, within a period more or less distant, unite her inhabitants under one sole government. And Rome will, without the slightest doubt, be chosen by the Italians as their capital.'
Unlike Dante and Machiavelli, who could only sow the seed, not gather the fruit, the man who wrote these lines might have made them a reality. Had Napoleon wished to unite Italy—had he had the greatness of mind to proclaim Rome the capital of a free and independent state instead of turning it into the chief town of a French department—there was a time when he could plainly have done it. Whether redemption too easily won would have proved a gain or a loss in the long run to the populations welded together, not after their own long and laborious efforts, but by the sudden exercise of the will of a conqueror, is, of course, a different matter. The experiment was not tried. Napoleon, whom the simple splendour of such a scheme ought to have fascinated, did a very poor thing instead of a very great one: he divided Italy among his relations, keeping the lion's share for himself.
Napoleon's policy in Italy was permanently compromised by the abominable sale of Venice, with her two thousand years of freedom, to the empire which, as no one knew better than he did, was the pivot of European despotism. After that transaction he could never again come before the Italians with clean hands; they might for a season make him their idol, carried away by the intoxication of his fame; they could never trust him in their inmost conscience. The ruinous consequences of the Treaty of Campo Formio only; ceased in 1866. The Venetians have been severely blamed, most of all by Italian historians, for making Campo Formio possible by opening the door to the French six months before. Napoleon could not have bartered away Venice if it had not belonged to him. The reason that it belonged to him was that, on the 12th of May 1797, the Grand Council committed political suicide by dissolving the old aristocratic form of government, in compliance with a mere rumour, conveyed to them through the ignoble medium of a petty shopkeeper, that such was the wish of General Buonaparte. In extenuation of their fatal supineness, it may be urged that they felt the inherent weakness of an oligarchy out of date; and in the second place, that the victor of Lodi, the deliverer of Lombardy, then in the first flush of his scarcely tarnished glory, was a dazzling figure, calculated indeed to turn men's heads. But, after all, the only really valid excuse for them would have been that Venice lacked the means of defence, and this was not the case. She had 14,000 regular troops, 8000 marines, a good stock of guns—how well she might have resisted the French, had they, which was probable, attacked her, was to be proved in 1849. Her people, moreover, that basso popolo which nowhere in the world is more free from crime, more patient in suffering, more intelligent and public-spirited than in Venice, was anxious and ready to resist; when the nobles offered themselves a sacrifice on the Gallic altar by welcoming the proposed democratic institutions, the populace, neither hoodwinked nor scared into hysterics, rose to the old cry of San Marco, and attempted a righteous reaction, which was only smothered when the treacherous introduction of French troops by night on board Venetian vessels settled the doom of Venice's independence.
'Under all circumstances,' Napoleon wrote to the Venetian Municipality, 'I shall do what lies in my power to prove to you my desire to see your liberty consolidated, and miserable Italy assume, at last, a glorious place, free and independent of strangers.' On the 10th of the following October he made over Venice to Austria, sending as a parting word the cynical message to the Venetians 'that they were little fitted for liberty: if they were capable of appreciating it, and had the virtue necessary for acquiring it well and good; existing circumstances gave them an excellent opportunity of proving it.' At the time, the act of betrayal was generally regarded as part of a well-considered plot laid by the French Directory, but it seems certain that it was not made known to that body before it was carried out, and that with Napoleon himself it was a sort of after-thought, sprung from the desire to patch up an immediate peace with Austria on account of the appointment of Hoche to the chief command of the army in Germany. The god to which he immolated Venice was the selfish fear lest another general should reap his German laurels.
Venice remained for eight years under the Austrians, who thereby obtained what, in flagrant perversion of the principles on which the Congress of Vienna professed to act, was accepted in 1815 as their title-deeds to its possession. Meanwhile, after the battle of Austerlitz, the city of the sea was tossed back to Napoleon, who incorporated it in the newly-created kingdom of Italy, which no more corresponded to its name than did the Gothic kingdom of which he arrogated to himself the heirship, when, placing the Iron Crown of Theodolinda upon his brow, he uttered the celebrated phrase: 'Dieu me l'a donnee, gare a qui la touche.'
This is not the place to write a history of French supremacy in Italy, but several points connected with it must be glanced at, because, without bearing them in mind, it is impossible to understand the events which followed. The viceroyalty of Eugene Beauharnais in North Italy, and the government of Joseph Buonaparte, and afterwards of Joachim Murat, in the South, brought much that was an improvement on what had gone before: there were better laws, a better administration, a quickening of intelligence. 'The French have done much for the regeneration of Italy,' wrote an English observer in 1810; 'they have destroyed the prejudices of the inhabitants of the small states of Upper Italy by uniting them; they have done away with the Pope; they have made them soldiers.' But there was the reverse side of the medal: the absence everywhere of the national spirit which alone could have consolidated the new regime on a firm basis; the danger which the language ran of losing its purity by the introduction of Gallicisms; the shameless robbery of pictures, statues, and national heirlooms of every kind for the replenishment of French museums; the bad impression left in the country districts by the abuses committed by the French soldiery on their first descent, and kept alive by the blood-tax levied in the persons of thousands of Italian conscripts sent to die, nobody knew where or why; the fields untilled, and Rachel weeping for her children: all these elements combined in rendering it difficult for the governments established under French auspices to survive the downfall of the man to whose sword they owed their existence. Their dissolution was precipitated, however, by the discordant action of Murat and Eugene Beauharnais. Had these two pulled together, whatever the issue was it would have differed in much from what actually happened. Murat was jealous of Eugene, and did not love his brother-in-law, who had annoyed and thwarted him through his whole reign; he was uneasy about his Neapolitan throne, and, in all likelihood, was already dreaming of acquiring the crown of an independent Italy. Throwing off his allegiance to Napoleon, he imagined the vain thing that he might gain his object by taking sides with the Austrians. It must be remembered that there was a time when the Allied Powers had distinctly contemplated Italian independence as a dyke to France, and there were people foolish enough to think that Austria, now she felt herself as strong as she had then felt weak, would consent to such a plan. Liberators, self-called, were absolutely swarming in Italy; Lord William Bentinck was promising entire emancipation from Leghorn; the Austrian and English allies in Romagna ransacked the dictionary for expressions in praise of liberty; an English officer was made the mouthpiece for the lying assurance of the Austrian Emperor Francis, that he had no intention of re-asserting any claims to the possession of Lombardy or Venetia.
In 1814, Napoleon empowered Prince Eugene to adopt whatever attitude he thought best fitted to make head against Austria; for himself, he resigned the Iron Crown, and his Italian soldiers were freed from their oaths. It was not, therefore, Eugene's loyal scruples which prevented him from throwing down a grand stake when he led his 60,000 men to the attack. It was want of genius, or of what would have done instead, a flash of genuine enthusiasm for the Italian idea. In place of appealing to all Italians to unite in winning a country, he appealed to one sentiment only, fidelity to Napoleon, which no longer woke any echo in the hearts of a population that had grown more and more to associate the name of the Emperor with exactions which never came to an end, and with wars which had not now even the merit of being successful. It is estimated that although the Italian troops amply proved the truth of Alfieri's maxim, that 'the plant man is more vigorous in Italy than elsewhere,' by bearing the hardships and resisting the cold in Russia better than the soldiers of any other nationality, nevertheless 26,000 Italians were lost in the retreat from Moscow. That happened a year ago. Exhausted patience got the better of judgment; in April 1814, the Milanese committed the irremediable error of revolting against their Viceroy, who commanded the only army which could still save Italy: the pent-up passions of a long period broke loose, the peasants from the country, who had always hated the French, flooded the streets of Milan, and allying themselves unimpeded with the dregs of the townsfolk, they murdered with great brutality General Prina, the Minister of Finance, whose remarkable abilities had been devoted towards raising funds for the Imperial Exchequer. Personally incorruptible, Prina was looked upon as the general representative of French voracity; he met his death with the utmost calmness, only praying that he might be the last victim. No one else was, in fact, killed, and next day quiet was resumed, but the affair had another victim—Italy. You cannot change horses when you are crossing a stream. Prince Eugene was in Mantua with a fine army, practically intact, though it had suffered some slight reverses; the fortress was believed to be impregnable; by merely waiting, Eugene might, if nothing else, have exacted favourable terms. But the news of Prina's murder, and the blow dealt at his own authority in Milan, caused him to give over the fortress and the army to the Austrians without more ado; an act which looked like revenge, but it was most likely prompted by moral cowardice. The capitulation signed with Field-Marshal Bellegarde on the 23rd of April, so exasperated the army that the officers in command of the garrison decided to arrest Eugene, but it was found that he was already on his way to Germany, taking with him his treasure, in accordance with a secret agreement entered into with the Austrian Field-Marshal. Such was the end to the Italian career of Eugene Beauharnais.
For the Beau Sabreur another ending was in store. Back on Napoleon's side in 1815, his Austrian allies having given him plenty of reason for suspecting their sincerity, he issued from Rimini, on the 30th of March, the proclamation of an independent Italy from the Alps to Sicily. There was no popular reply to his call. Italy, prostrate and impoverished, was unequal to a great resolve. The Napoleonic legend was not only dead, but buried; Napoleon had literally no friends left in Italy except those of his old soldiers who had managed to get back to their homes, many of them deprived of an arm or a leg, but so toughened that they lived to great ages. These cherished to their last hour the worship of their Captain, which it was his highest gift to be able to inspire. 'I have that feeling for him still, that if he were to rise from the dead I should go to him, if I could, wherever he was,' said the old conscript Emmanuele Gaminara of Genoa, who died at nearly a hundred in a Norfolk village in 1892: the last, perhaps, of the Italian veterans, and the type of them all.
But a few scattered invalids do not make a nation, and the Italian nation in 1815 had not the least wish to support any one who came in the name of Napoleon. So Murat failed without even raising a strong current of sympathy. Beaten by the Austrians at Tolentino on the 3rd of May, he retreated with his shattered army. In the last desperate moment, he issued the constitution which he ought to have granted years before. Nothing could be of any avail now; his admirable Queen, the best of all the House of Buonaparte, surrendered Naples to the English admiral; and Murat, harried by a crushing Austrian force, renounced his kingdom on the 30th of May. After Waterloo, when a price was set on his head in France, he meditated one more forlorn hope; but, deserted by the treachery of his few followers, and driven out of his course by the violence of the waves, he was thrown on the coast of Calabria with only twenty-six men, and was shot by order of Ferdinand of Naples, who especially directed that he should be only allowed half-an-hour for his religious duties after sentence had been delivered by the mock court-martial. His dauntless courage did not desert him: he died like a soldier. It was a better end for an Italian prince than escaping with money-bags to Germany. Great as were Murat's faults, an Italian should remember that it was he who first took up arms to the cry which was later to redeem Italy: independence from Alps to sea; and if he stand on the ill-omened shore of Pizzo, he need not refuse to uncover his head in silence.
When Mantua surrendered, the Milanese sent a deputation to Paris with a view of securing for Lombardy the position of an independent kingdom under an Austrian prince. They hoped to obtain the first by acquiescing in the second. They were aroused from their unheroic illusions with startling rapidity. Lord Castlereagh, to whom they went first (for they fancied that the English were interested in liberty), referred them 'to their master, the Austrian Emperor.' The Emperor Francis replied to their memorial that Lombardy was his by right of conquest; they would hear soon enough at Milan what orders he had to give them. Even after that, the distracted Lombards hoped that the English at Genoa would befriend them. All uncertainty ceased on the 23rd of May 1814, when Field-Marshal Bellegarde formally took possession of Lombardy on behalf of his Sovereign, dissolved the Electoral Colleges, and proclaimed himself Regent. There was no question of reviving the conditions under which Austria ruled Lombardy while there was still a German Empire: conditions which, though despotic in theory, were comparatively easy-going in practice, and did not exclude the native element from the administration. Henceforth the despotism was pure and simple; for Italians to even think of politics was an act of high treason.
It is not generally known that a British army ultimately sent to Spain was intended for Italy, but its destination was changed because the Italians showed so little disposition to rise against Napoleon. The English Government was continually advised by its agents in Italy to make Sicily, which was wholly in its power, the point d'appui for a really great intervention in the destinies of the peninsula. 'The grand end of all the operations in the Mediterranean,' wrote one of Lord Castlereagh's correspondents, 'is the emancipation of Italy, and its union in one great state.' Lord William Bentinck urged that if Sicily were reunited to Naples under the Bourbons, liberty, established there by his own incredible efforts, would be crushed, and the King would wreck vengeance on the Constitution and its supporters. Universal terror, he said, was felt at 'the unforgiving temper of their Majesties.' He strongly supported a course proposed for her own reasons by Queen Caroline: the purchase of Sicily by the English Government which could make it 'not only the model but the instrument of Italian independence.'
This way of talking was not confined to private despatches, and it was no wonder if the Italians were disappointed when they found that England declined to plead their cause with the Allies in Paris, and afterwards at Vienna. When charged directly with breach of faith before the House of Commons, Lord Castlereagh said that Austria, being 'in truth the great hinge on which the fate of mankind must ultimately depend,' had to be paid (this was exactly the sense, though not the form, of his defence) by letting her do what she liked with Italy. There is a certain brutal straightforwardness in the line of argument. Lord Castlereagh did not say that independence was not a good thing. He had tried to obtain it for Poland and had failed; he had not tried to obtain it for Italy, because he was afraid of offending Austria. At least he had the courage to tell the truth, and did not prate about the felicity of being subjects of the Austrian Emperor, as many English partisans of Austria prated in days to come.
The political map of Italy in the summer of 1814 showed the Pope (Pius VII.) reinstated in Rome, Victor Emmanuel I. at Turin, Ferdinand III. of Hapsburg-Lorraine in Tuscany, the Genoese Republic for the moment restored by the English, Parma and Piacenza assigned to the Empress Marie-Louise, and Modena to the Austrian Archduke Francis, who was heir through the female line to the last of the Estes. Murat was still at Naples, Ferdinand IV. in Sicily, Austria acknowledged supreme in Lombardy and Venetia, and the island of Elba ironically handed over to Napoleon. These were the chief features, so far as Italy was concerned, of the Treaty of Paris, signed on the 30th of May 1814. Next year the Congress of Vienna modified the arrangement by providing that the Spanish Infanta Maria Louisa, on whom had been bestowed the ex-republic of Lucca, should have the reversion of Parma and Piacenza, while Lucca was to go in the end to Tuscany. Murat having been destroyed, the Neapolitan Bourbons recovered all their old possessions. San Marino and Monaco were graciously recognised as independent, which brought the number of Italian states up to ten. The Sardinian monarchy received back the part of Savoy which by the Treaty of Paris had been reserved to France. It was also offered a splendid and unexpected gift—Genoa.
Lord William Bentinck entered Genoa by a convention concluded with the authorities on the 18th of April 1814. A naval demonstration following an ably-conducted operation, by which Bentinck's hybrid force of Greeks and Calabrese, with a handful of English, became master of the two principal forts, hastened this conclusion, but the Genoese had no reluctance to open their gates to the English commander, who inspired them with the fullest confidence. He came invested with the halo of a constitution-maker-under-difficulties; it was known that he had stopped at nothing in carrying out his mission in Sicily; not even at getting rid of the Queen, who found in Bentinck the Nemesis for having led a greater Englishman to stain his fame in the roads of Naples. Driven rather than persuaded to leave Sicily, Marie Antoinette's sister encountered so frightful a sea voyage that she died soon after joining her relations at Vienna. Lord William had acquired the art of writing the finest appeals to the love of freedom; a collection of his manifestoes would serve as handy-book to anyone instructed to stir up an oppressed nationality. He immediately gave the Genoese some specimens of his skill as a writer, and by granting them at once a provisional constitution, he dispelled all doubts about the future recognition of their republic. What was not, therefore, their dismay, when they were suddenly informed of the decision of the Holy Alliance to make a present of them to the people whom, of all others, they probably disliked the most. Italians had not ceased yet from reserving their best aversion for their nearest neighbours.
Bentinck did not mean to deceive; perhaps he thought that by going beyond the letter of his instructions he should draw his government after him. That he did, in effect, deceive, cannot be denied; even Lord Castlereagh, while necessarily refusing to admit that definite promises had been made, yet allowed that, 'Of course he would have been glad if the proclamation issued to the Genoese had been more precisely worded.' The motive of the determination to sacrifice the republic was, he said, 'a sincere conviction of the necessity of a barrier between France and Italy, which ought to be made effectual on the side of Piedmont. The object was to commit the defence of the Alps and of the great road leading round them by the Gulf of Genoa, between France and Italy, to the same power to which it had formerly been entrusted. On that principle, the question relating to Genoa had been entertained and decided upon by the allied sovereigns. It was not resolved upon because any particular state had unworthy or sordid views, or from any interest or feeling in favour of the King of Sardinia, but solely to make him, as far as was necessary, the instrument of the general policy of Europe.'
A better defence might have been made. Piedmont was destined to serve as a bulwark, not so much against France, which for the time was not to be feared, as against Austria, absolute except for the subalpine kingdom in all Italy. But this belongs to the shaping of rough-hewn ends, which is in higher hands than those of English ministers. The ends then looked very rough-hewn.
Piedmont was a hotbed of reaction and bigotry. True, she had a history differing vastly from that of the other Italian states, but the facts of the hour presented her in a most unattractive light. The Genoese felt the keenest heart-burnings in submitting to a decision in which they had no voice, and which came to them as a mandate of political extinction from the same powers that confirmed the sentence of death on Genoa's ancient and glorious rival. The seeds were laid of disaffection, always smouldering among the Genoese, till Piedmont's king became King of Italy. It might almost be said that the reconciliation was not consummated till the day when the heir and namesake of Humbert of the White Hands received the squadrons of Europe in the harbour of Genoa, and the proud republican city showed what a welcome she had prepared for her sovereign of the Savoy race.
After the Congress of Vienna finished its labours, there were, as has been remarked, ten states in Italy, but out of Sardinia (whose subjugation Prince Metternich esteemed a mere matter of time) there was one master. The authority of the Emperor Francis was practically as undisputed from Venice to the Bay of Naples as it was in the Grand Duchy of Austria. The Austrians garrisoned Piacenza, Ferrara and Commacchio; Austrian princes reigned in Tuscany, Parma, Modena and Lucca; the King of Naples, who paid Austria twenty-six million francs for getting back his throne, thankfully agreed to support a German army to protect him against his subjects. In the secret treaty concluded between himself and the Emperor of Austria, it was stipulated that the King of the Two Sicilies should not introduce into his government any principles irreconcilable with those adopted by His Imperial Majesty in the government of his Italian provinces. As for the Roman States, Austria reckoned on her influence in always securing the election of a Pope who would give her no trouble. Seeing herself without rivals and all-powerful, she deemed her position unassailable. She forgot that, by giving Italy an unity of misery, she was preparing the way for another unity. Common hatred engendered common love; common sufferings led on to a common effort. If some prejudices passed away under the Napoleonic rule, many more still remained, and possibly, to eradicate so old an evil, no cure less drastic than universal servitude would have sufficed. Italians felt for the first time what before only the greatest among them had felt—that they were brothers in one household, children of one mother whom they were bound to redeem. Jealousies and millennial feuds died out; the intense municipal spirit which, imperfect as it was, had yet in it precious political germs, widened into patriotism. Italy was re-born.
Black, however, was the present outlook. Total commercial stagnation and famine increased the sentiment of unmitigated hopelessness which spread through the land. The poet Monti, who, alas! sang for bread the festival songs of the Austrians as he had sung those of Napoleon, said in private to an Englishman who asked him why he did not give his voice to the liberties of his country which he desired, though he did not expect to see them: 'It would be vox clamantis in deserto; besides, how can the grievances of Italy be made known? No one dares to write—scarcely to think—politics; if truth is to be told, it must be told by the English; England is the only tribunal yet open to the complaints of Europe.' A greater poet and nobler man, Ugo Foscolo, had but lately uttered a wail still more despondent: 'Italy will soon be nothing but a lifeless carcass, and her generous sons should only weep in silence without the impotent complaints and mutual recriminations of slaves.' That as patriotic a heart as ever beat should have been afflicted to this point by the canker of despair tells of the quagmire—not only political but spiritual—into which Italy was sunk. The first thing needful was to restore the people to consciousness, to animation of some sort, it did not matter what, so it were a sign of life. Foscolo himself, who impressed on what he wrote his own proud and scornful temperament, almost savage in its independence, fired his countrymen to better things than the despairing inertia which he preached. Few works have had more effect than his Letters of Jacobo Ortis. As often happens with books which strongly move contemporaries, the reader may wonder now what was the secret of its power, but if the form and sentiment of the Italian Werther strike us as antiquated, the intense, though melancholy patriotism that pervades it explains the excitement it caused when patriotism was a statutory offence. Such mutilated copies as were allowed to pass by the censor were eagerly sought; the young read it, women read it—who so rarely read—the mothers of the fighters of to-morrow. Foscolo's life gave force to his words: when all were flattering Napoleon, he had reminded him that no man can be rightly praised till he is dead, and that his one sure way of winning the praise of posterity was to establish the independence of Italy. The warning was contained in a 'discourse' which Foscolo afterwards printed with the motto from Sophocles: 'My soul groans for my country, for myself and for thee.' Sooner than live under the Austrians, he went into voluntary exile, and finally took refuge in England, where he was the feted lion of a season, and then forgotten, and left almost without the necessaries of life. No one was much to blame; Foscolo was born to misunderstand and to be misunderstood; he hid himself to hide his poverty, which, had it been known, might have been alleviated. His individual tragedy seemed a part of the universal tragedy.
With Foscolo, his literary predecessor Alfieri must be mentioned as having helped in rekindling the embers, of patriotic feeling, because, though dead, he spoke; and his plays, one of which was prophetically dedicated al libero Popolo Italiano, had never been so much read. The Misogallo, published for the first time after the fall of Napoleon, though aimed at the French, served equally well as an onslaught on every foreign dominion or even moral or intellectual influence. 'Shall we learn liberty of the Gauls, we who taught every lofty thing to others?' was a healthy remonstrance to a race that had lost faith in itself; and the Austrians were wise in discountenancing the sale of a work that contained the line which gave a watchword to the future:—
Schiavi or siam si; ma schiavi almen frementi.
Like Foscolo's, Alfieri's life was a lesson in independence: angry at the scant measure of freedom in Piedmont, he could never be induced to go near his sovereign till Charles Emmanuel was staying at Florence as a proscript. Then the poet went to pay his respects to him, and was received with the good-humoured banter: 'Well, Signor Conte, here am I, a king, in the condition you would like to see them all.'
Against the classical, not to say pagan, leanings of these two poets, a reaction set in with Alessandro Manzoni, the founder of Italian Romanticism, to which he gave an aspect differing from that which the same movement wore in France, because he was an ardent Catholic at a time when Christianity had almost the charm of novelty. His religious outpourings combine the fervour of the Middle Ages with modern expansion, and he freed the Italian language from pedantic restrictions without impairing its dignity. It was once the fashion to inveigh against Manzoni for, as it was said, inculcating resignation; but he did nothing of the kind. As a young man he had sung of the Italians as 'Figli tutti d'un solo Riscatto,' and though he was not of those who fight either with the sword or the pen, yet that 'Riscatto' was the dream of his youth and manhood, and the joy of his old age. His gentleness was never contaminated by servility, and the love for his country, profound if placid, which appears in every line of his writings, appealed to a class that could not be reached by fiery turbulence of thought.
In an age when newspapers have taken the place of books, it may seem strange to ascribe any serious effect to the works of poets and romancists; but in the Italy of that date there were no newspapers to speak of; the ordinary channels of opinion were blocked up. Books were still not only read, but discussed and thought over, and every slight allusion to the times was instantly applied. In the prevailing listlessness, the mere fact of increased mental activity was of importance. A spark of genius does much to raise a nation. It is in itself the incontrovertible proof that the race lives: a dead people does not produce men of genius. Whatever awakes one part of the intelligence reacts on all its parts. You cannot lift, any more than you can degrade, the heart of man piecemeal. In this sense not literature only but also music helped, who can say how effectually, to bring Italy back to life. The land was refreshed by a flood of purely national song, full of the laughter and the tears of Italian character, of the sunshine and the storms of Italian nature. Music, the only art uncageable as the human soul, descended as a gift from heaven upon the people whose articulate utterance was stifled. And
... No speech may evince Feeling like music.
THE WORK OF THE CARBONARI
Revolutions in the Kingdom of Naples and in Piedmont—The Conspiracy against Charles Albert.
Considering what the state of the country was after 1815, and how apparently inexhaustible were the resources of the Empire of which the petty princes of the peninsula were but puppets, it is remarkable that political agitation, with a view to reversing the decisions of Vienna, should have begun so soon, and on so large a scale. Not that the nation, as a whole, was yet prepared to move; every revolution, till 1848, was partial in the sense that the mass of the people stood aloof, because unconvinced of the possibility of loosening their chains. But, during that long succession of years, the number of Italians ready to embark on enterprises of the most desperate character, accounting as nothing the smallness of the chance of success, seems enormous when the risks they ran and the difficulties they faced are fully recognised. Among the means which were effective in first rousing Italy from her lethargy, and in fostering the will to acquire her independence at all costs, the secret society of the Carbonari undoubtedly occupies the front rank. The Carbonari acted in two ways; by what they did and by what they caused to be done by others who were outside their society, and perhaps unfavourable to it, but who were none the less sensible of the pressure it exercised. The origin of Carbonarism has been sought in vain; as a specimen of the childish fables that once passed for its history may be noticed the legend that Francis I. of France once stumbled on a charcoal burner's hut when hunting 'on the frontiers of his kingdom next to Scotland,' and was initiated into the rites similar to those in use among the sectaries of the nineteenth century. Those rites referred to vengeance which was to be taken on the wolf that slew the lamb; the wolf standing for tyrants and oppressors, and the lamb for Jesus Christ, the sinless victim, by whom all the oppressed were represented. The Carbonari themselves generally believed that they were heirs to an organisation started in Germany before the eleventh century, under the name of the Faith of the Kohlen-Brenners, of which Theobald de Brie, who was afterwards canonised, was a member. Theobald was adopted as patron saint of the modern society, and his fancied portrait figured in all the lodges. That any weight should have been attached to these pretensions to antiquity may appear strange to us, as it certainly did not matter whether an association bent on the liberation of Italy had or had not existed in German forests eight hundred years before; age and mystery, however, have a great popular attraction, the first as an object of reverence, the second as food for curiosity with the profane, and a bond of union among the initiated. The religious symbolism of the Carbonari, their oaths and ceremonies, and the axes, blocks and other furniture of the initiatory chamber, were well calculated to impress the poorer and more ignorant and excitable of the brethren. The Vatican affected to believe that Carbonarism was an offshoot of Freemasonry, but, in spite of sundry points of resemblance, such as the engagements of mutual help assumed by members, there seems to have been no real connection between the two. Political Freemasonry remained somewhat of an exotic in Italy, and was inclined to regard France as its centre. As far as can be ascertained, it gave a general support to Napoleon, while Carbonarism rejected every foreign yoke. The practical aims of the Carbonari may be summed up in two words: freedom and independence. From the first they had the penetration to grasp the fact that independence, even if obtained, could not be preserved without freedom; but though their predilections were theoretically republican, they did not make a particular form of government a matter of principle. Nor were they agreed in a definite advocacy of the unity of Italy.
A Genoese of the name of Malghella, who was Murat's Minister of Police, was the first person to give a powerful impetus to Carbonarism, of which he has even been called the inventor, but the inference goes too far. Malghella ended miserably; after the fall of Murat he was arrested by the Austrians, who consigned him as a new subject to the Sardinian Government, which immediately put him in prison. His name is hardly known, but no Italian of his time worked more assiduously, or in some respects more intelligently, for the emancipation of Italy. Whatever was truly Italian in Murat's policy must be mainly attributed to him. As early as 1813 he urged the King to declare himself frankly for independence, and to grant a constitution to his Neapolitan subjects. But Malghella did not find the destined saviour of Italy in Murat; his one lasting work was to establish Carbonarism on so strong a basis that, when the Bourbons returned, there were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Carbonari in all parts of the realm. The discovery was not a pleasant one to the restored rulers, and the Prince of Canosa, the new Minister of Police, thought to counteract the evil done by his predecessor by setting up an abominable secret society called the Calderai del Contrapeso (Braziers of the Counterpoise), principally recruited from the refuse of the people, lazzaroni, bandits and let-out convicts, who were provided by Government with 20,000 muskets, and were sworn to exterminate all enemies of the Church of Rome, whether Jansenists, Freemasons or Carbonari. This association committed some horrible excesses, but otherwise it had no results. The Carbonari closed in their ranks, and learnt to observe more strictly their rules of secrecy. From the kingdom of Naples, Carbonarism spread to the Roman states, and found a congenial soil in Romagna, which became the focus whence it spread over the rest of Italy. It was natural that it should take the colour, more or less, of the places where it grew. In Romagna, where political assassination is in the blood of the people, a dagger was substituted for the symbolical woodman's axe in the initiatory rites. It was probably only in Romagna that the conventional threat against informers was often carried out. The Romagnols invested Carbonarism with the wild intensity of their own temperament, resolute even to crime, but capable of supreme impersonal enthusiasm. The ferment of expectancy that prevailed in Romagna is reflected in the Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, whom young Count Pietro Gamba made a Carbonaro, and who looked forward to seeing the Italians send the barbarians of all nations back to their own dens, as to the most interesting spectacle and moment in existence. His lower apartments, he writes, were full of the bayonets, fusils and cartridges of his Carbonari cronies; 'I suppose that they consider me as a depot, to be sacrificed in case of accidents. It is no great matter, supposing that Italy could be liberated, who or what is sacrificed. It is a grand object—the very poetry of politics. Only think—free Italy!!! Why, there has been nothing like it since the days of Augustus.'
The movement on which such great hopes were set was to begin in the kingdom of Naples in the spring of 1820. The concession of the hard-won Spanish Constitution in the month of March encouraged the Neapolitans to believe that they might get a like boon from their own King if they directed all the forces at their command to this single end. To avoid being compromised, they sought rather to dissociate themselves from the patriots of other parts of Italy than to co-operate with them in an united effort. The Carbonari of the Neapolitan kingdom, who were the entire authors of the revolution, which, after many unfortunate delays, broke out on the 1st of July, had good cause for thinking that they were in a position to dictate terms; the mistake they made was to suppose that a charter conceded by a Bourbon of Naples could ever be worth the paper on which it was written. Not only among the people, but in the army the Carbonari had thousands of followers on whom they could rely, and several whole regiments were only waiting their orders to rise in open revolt. The scheme was to take possession of the persons of the King and the royal family, and retain them as hostages till the Constitution was granted. Such extreme measures were not necessary. The standard of rebellion was raised at Monteforte by two officers named Morelli and Silvati, who had brought over a troop of cavalry from Nola, and by the priest Menechini. In all Neapolitan insurrections there was sure to be a priest; the Neapolitan Church, much though there is to be laid to its account, must be admitted to have frequently shown sympathy with the popular side. Menechini enjoyed an immense, if brief, popularity which he used to allay the anger of the mob and to procure the safety of obnoxious persons. The King sent two generals and a body of troops against the Chartists, but when the Carbonari symbols were recognised on the insurgent flags, the troops showed such clear signs of wishing to go over to the enemy that they were quietly taken back to Naples. The cry of 'God, the King, and the Constitution,' was taken up through the land; General Pepe, who had long been a Carbonaro in secret, was enthusiastically hailed as commander of the Chartist forces, which practically comprised the whole army. The King was powerless; besides which, when pushed up into any corner people who do not mind breaking their word have a facility for hard swearing. On the 13th of July, Ferdinand standing at the altar of the royal chapel, with his hand on the Bible, swore to defend and maintain the Constitution which he had just granted. If he failed to do so, he called upon his subjects to disobey him, and God to call him to account. These words he read from a written form; as if they were not enough, he added, with his eyes on the cross, and his face turned towards heaven: 'Omnipotent God, who with Thine infinite power canst read the soul of man and the future, do Thou, if I speak falsely, or intend to break my oath, at this moment direct the thunder of Thy vengeance on my head.'
The Neapolitans had got their liberties, but they soon found themselves face to face with perplexities which would have taxed the powers of men both wiser and more experienced in free government than they were. In the first place, although a revolution may be made by a sect, a government cannot be carried on by one. The Carbonari who had won the day were blind to this self-evident truth; and, to make matters worse, there was a split in their party, some of them being disposed to throw off the Bourbon yoke altogether; a natural desire, but as it was only felt by a minority, it added to the general confusion. Then came, as it was sure to come, the cry for separation from Sicily. The Sicilians wanted back the violated constitution obtained for them by the English in 1812, and would have nothing to do with that offered them from Naples. In every one of the struggles between Sicily and Naples, it is impossible to refuse sympathy to the islanders, who, in the pride of their splendid independent history, deemed themselves the victims of an inferior race; but it is equally impossible to ignore that, politically, they were in the wrong. In union, and in union alone, lay the only chance of resisting the international plot to keep the South Italian populations in perpetual bondage. The Sicilian revolt was put down at first mildly, and finally, as mildness had no effect, with the usual violence by the Neapolitan Constitutional Government, which could not avoid losing credit and popularity in the operation. Meanwhile, the three persons who traded under the name of Europe met at Troppau, and came readily to the conclusion that 'the sovereigns of the Holy Alliance exercised an incontestable right in taking common measures of security against states which the overthrow of authority by revolt placed in a hostile attitude towards every legitimate government.' The assumption was too broadly stated, even for Lord Castlereagh's acceptance; but he was contented to make a gentle protest, which he further nullified by allowing that, in the present case, intervention was very likely justified. France expressed no disapproval. Only the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain gave the Constitutional regime tacit support by recognising it. The Emperor of Russia was very anxious to take part in the business, and would have sent off an army instantly had not his royal brother of Prussia hesitated to consent to the inconvenience of a Cossack march through his territory. The work was left, therefore, to the Emperor of Austria. Before entering upon it, it occurred to these three to invite the King of Naples to meet them at Laybach. They knew his character.
Ferdinand assured his Parliament that he was going to Laybach solely to induce the Holy Alliance to think better of its opposition, and to agree, at least, to all the principal features of the new state of things. Most foolishly the Parliament, which, according to the Constitution, might have vetoed his leaving the country, let him go. Before starting he wrote an open letter to his dear son, the Duke of Calabria, who was appointed Regent, in which he said: 'I shall defend the events of the past July before the Congress. I firmly desire the Spanish Constitution for my kingdom; and although I rely on the justice of the assembled sovereigns, and on their old friendship, still it is well to tell you that, in whatever circumstance it may please God to place me, my course will be what I have manifested on this sheet, strong and unchangeable either by force or by the flattery of others.'
Brave words! News came in due time of the sequel. On the 9th of February 1821, the Regent received a letter from the King, in which he gave the one piece of advice that the people should submit to their fate quietly. He was coming back with 50,000 Austrians, and a Russian army was ready to start if wanted. Nevertheless, to prevent a sudden outbreak before the foreign troops arrived, the Regent carried on a game of duplicity to the last, and pretended to second, whilst he really baulked, the preparations for resistance decreed by Parliament. Baron Poerio, the father of two patriot martyrs of the future, sustained the national dignity by urging Parliament to yield only to force, and to defy the barbarous horde which was bearing down on the country. The closing scene is soon told. On the 7th of March, in the mountains near Rieti, General Guglielmo Pepe, with 8000 regular troops and a handful of militia, encountered an overwhelmingly superior force of Austrians. The Neapolitans stood out well for six hours, but on the Austrian reserves coming up, they were completely routed, and obliged to fly in all directions.
'Order reigned' in the kingdom of Naples. In Sicily, a gallant attempt at insurrection was begun, but there was not the spirit to go on with it, and General Rossaroll, its initiator, had to fly to Spain. The afterpiece is what might have been expected; an insensate desire for vengeance got hold of Ferdinand, and the last years of his life were spent in hunting down his enemies, real or imaginary. Morelli and Silvati were hung, the fugitives, Pepe and Rossaroll, were condemned to death, but this was only the beginning. The Austrian commander counselled mercy, but in this respect the King showed an independent mind. A court-martial was instituted to examine the conduct of ecclesiastics, public functionaries and soldiers, from the year 1793 downwards. No one was safe who had expressed a dislike of absolutism within the last thirty years. A blameless gentleman who was a Carbonaro, was conducted through Naples on the back of an ass, and beaten with a whip, to which nails were attached. Eight hundred persons are said to have perished at the hands of the state in one year. Ferdinand himself expired on the 3rd of January 1825, after misgoverning for sixty-five years.
The Neapolitan revolution had just collapsed, when another broke out in Piedmont, which, though short in duration, was to have far-reaching consequences.
At that time, the King of Sardinia was Victor Emmanuel I., who succeeded his brother Charles Emmanuel in 1802, when the latter abdicated and retired to Rome, where he joined the Society of Jesus. Victor Emmanuel's only son was dead, and the throne would devolve on his youngest brother, Charles Felix, Duke of Genoa, whom reasons of state led to abandon the wish to become a monk, which he had formed as a boy of eleven, on being taken to visit a convent near Turin. But Charles Felix, though married, was without children, and the legitimate heir-presumptive was Charles Albert, Prince of Carignano, who represented the younger branch of the family, which divided from the main line in the early part of the seventeenth century. Charles Albert's father was the luckless Prince Charles of Carignano, who, alone of his house, came to terms with Napoleon, who promised him a pension, which was not paid. His mother, a Saxon Princess, paraded the streets of Turin, dressed in the last republican fashion, with her infant son in her arms. Afterwards, she gave him a miscellaneous education, that included a large dose of Rousseau from a Swiss professor. The boy was shifted from place to place, happier when his mother forgot him, than when, in temporary recollection of his existence, she called him to her. Once when he was travelling with the Princess and her second husband, M. de Montleart, Charles Albert was made to sit on the box of the carriage, in a temperature many degrees below zero.
His uncles (as the King and Charles Felix called themselves, though they were his cousins) heard with natural horror of the vagaries of the Princess of Carignano, and they extended their antipathy from the mother to the son, even when he was a child. In Victor Emmanuel, this antipathy was moderated by the easy good-nature of his character; in Charles Felix, it degenerated into an intense hatred.
It is a singular thing that Prince Metternich, from the very first, had an instinctive feeling that the unfortunate boy, who seemed the most hopeless and helpless of human creatures, would prove the evil genius of the Austrian power. He therefore set to work to deprive him of his eventual rights. He was confident of success, as fortune had arranged matters in a manner that offered a ready-made plan for carrying out the design. Victor Emmanuel had four daughters, precluded from reigning by the Salic law, which was in force in Piedmont. His wife, the Queen Maria Teresa, a woman of great beauty and insatiable ambition, was sister to the Austrian Archduke Francis d'Este, Duke of Modena. Francis had never married, having been robbed of his intended bride, the Archduchess Marie-Louise, by her betrothal to Napoleon. What simpler than to marry the eldest of the Sardinian princesses to her uncle, abrogate the Salic law, and calmly await the desired consummation of an Austrian prince, by right of his wife, occupying the Sardinian throne?
The first step was soon taken; princesses came into the world to be sacrificed. The plot ran on for some time, the Queen, who was in the habit of calling Charles Albert 'that little vagrant,' giving it her indefatigable support. Victor Emmanuel was weak, and stood in considerable awe of his wife, who had obtained a great ascendancy over him in the miserable days of their residence in the island of Sardinia. His nephew, who was almost or wholly unknown to him, partook of the nature of a disagreeable myth. Nevertheless he had a sense of justice, as well as Savoy blood, in his veins—he resisted; but the day came when his surrender seemed probable. Just at that moment, however, the Duke of Modena prematurely revealed the project by asking through his representative at the Congress of Vienna for the port of Spezia, in order that he might conveniently connect his own state with his prospective possession, the island of Sardinia. Prince Talleyrand was alarmed by the vision of Austria supreme in the Mediterranean, and through his opposition the conspiracy, for the time, was upset, and the rights of Charles Albert were recognised.
Curiously enough, Prince Metternich had insisted on the young Prince, then seventeen, visiting the headquarters of the Allies. Charles Felix (who was unconnected with the Modena scheme) wrote a letter to the King on this subject, in which he stated it as his belief that the Austrian plan was to get Charles Albert accidentally killed, or to plunge him in vice, or to make him contract a discreditable marriage. This was why they had invited him to their camp. He adds the characteristic remark that their nephew would be in no less danger at the headquarters of the Duke of Wellington 'a cause de la religion.' Have him home and have him married, is his advice. 'We are well treated, because there is the expectation of soon devouring our remains by extinguishing the House of Savoy. It is the habit of the cabinet of Vienna; it was thus they made an end of the House of Este.'
These counsels were the more likely to impress Victor Emmanuel from his knowledge that they were inspired by no shadow of personal interest in 'the little vagrant,' but by the race-feeling alone. The Queen contrived to prevent the immediate recall of the Prince of Carignano, but she was obliged to give way, and he was definitely established in Piedmont. In 1818 he was married at Florence to the Archduchess Maria Teresa of Tuscany, who, on the 14th of March 1820, gave birth to the child that was to become the first King of Italy.
Very soon after his return to his country, the hopes of the Liberal party began to centre in the young Prince, whom some of their more ardent spirits already saluted as the rising sun. Those who made his acquaintance were fascinated by the charm of manner which he could always exert when he chose, and were confirmed in their hopes by his evident susceptibility to the magnetism of new ideas and fatalistic ambitions. What they did not perceive was, that in his nature lay that ingrained tendency to drift before the wind, which is the most dangerous thing in politics. In the mid-sea of events he might change his course without conscious insincerity, but with the self-abandonment of a mind which, under pressure, loses the sense of personal responsibility.
In Piedmont, Carbonarism had made great way among the upper classes and among the younger officers; the flower of the country was enrolled in its ranks, and the impatience to take some action towards procuring free institutions for themselves, and doing something for their Lombard brothers, had reached fever heat in the spring of 1821, when the affairs of Naples were creating much excitement. The principal conspirators, noble young men, full of unselfish ardour, were the chosen friends and companions of the Prince of Carignano. It was formerly the opinion that they made him the confidant of their plans from the first, that he was one of them, in short—a Carbonaro bound by all the oaths and obligations of the society. The judgment of his conduct afterwards is, of course, much affected by this point; were the assumption correct, the invectives launched against him, not by any means only by republican writers, would hardly seem excessive. But by the light of documents issued in recent times, it appears more just as well as more charitable to suppose that Charles Albert's complicity was of a much less precise character. A little encouragement from a prince goes a long way.
According to his own account, he was taken by surprise when, on the and or 3rd of March, his friends Carail, Collegno, Santa Rosa and Lisio came to tell him in secret that they belonged to societies which had been long working for the independence of Italy, and that they reckoned on him, knowing well his affection for his country, to aid them in obtaining from the King some few first concessions, which would be the prelude of a glorious future. It is clear that he ought either to have broken with them altogether from that moment or to have cast his lot with them for good or evil. He tried a middle course. He induced the conspirators to put off the revolution by which they intended to enforce their demands, and he conveyed to the King information of what had happened, asking at the same time that no measures should be taken against incriminated persons.
In fact, no precautions of any kind seem to have been taken. Victor Emmanuel, frightened at first, was soon reassured. The revolution, which was to have begun on the 8th, actually broke out on the 10th of March at Alessandria, where the counter orders issued at Charles. Albert's request, after the interview just described, were not obeyed. The garrison 'pronounced' in favour of the Spanish Constitution. It was now impossible to draw back. From Alessandria the revolution spread to the capital. The bulk of the army sympathised with the movement, and relied on the support of the people. The greatest ladies mixed with the crowds which gathered under the Carbonaro flag—black, blue and red. On the other hand, there were a few devoted servants of the House of Savoy who beheld these novelties with the sensations of a quiet person who sees from his window the breaking loose of a menagerie. Invincibly ignorant of all that was really inspiring in this first breath of freedom, they saw nothing in it but an unwarrantable attack on the authority of their amiable, if weak, old King, for whom they would gladly have shed every drop of their blood—not from the rational esteem which the people of Italy, like the people of England, now feel for their sovereign, but from the pure passion of loyalty which made the cavalier stand blindly by his prince, whether he was good or bad, in the right or in the wrong. Men of their type watched the evolution of Piedmont into Italy from first to last with the same presentiment of evil, the same moral incapacity of appreciation. A handful of these loyal servitors hurried to Victor Emmanuel to offer their assistance. They marshalled their troop in battle-array in the courtyard of the palace. Their arms were antiquated pistols and rapiers, and they themselves were veterans, some of them of eighty years, mounted on steeds as ancient. The King thanked them, but declined their services; nor would he give carte blanche to Captain Raimondi, who assured him that with his one company he could suppress the insurrection if invested with full powers. Soon after this refusal, a firing of guns announced that the citadel was in the hands of the insurgents. The troops within and without fraternised; it was a fine moment for those who knew history and who were bent in their hearts on driving the foreigner out of Italy. Here at the citadel of Turin, during the siege of 1706, occurred the memorable deed of Pietro Micca, the peasant-soldier, who, when he heard the enemy thundering at the door of the gallery, thought life and the welcome of wife and child and the happy return to his village of less account than duty, and fired the mine which sent him and three companies of French Grenadiers to their final reckoning.
After vacillating for two or three days, Victor Emmanuel abdicated on the 13th of March. The Queen desired to be appointed regent, but, to her intense vexation, the appointment was given to Charles Albert. A more unenviable honour never fell to the lot of man.
Deserted by the ministers of the crown, who resigned in a body, alone in the midst of a triumphant revolution, appealed to in the name of those sentiments of patriotism which he could never hear invoked unmoved, the young Prince uttered the words which were as good as a surrender: 'I, too, am an Italian!' That evening he allowed the Spanish Constitution to be proclaimed subject to the arrival of the orders of the new King.
The new King! No one remembered that there existed such a person. Nor had anyone recollected that the Spanish Constitution abrogated the Salic law, and that hence, instead of a new King, they had a new Queen—the wife of the Duke of Modena! An eminent Turinese jurisconsulist, who was probably the only possessor of a copy of the charter in the town which was screaming itself hoarse for it, divulged this awkward discovery.—Several hours were spent in anxious discussion, when the brilliant suggestion was made that the article should be cancelled. The article was cancelled.
But Charles Felix could not be disposed of so easily. The news of the late events reached him at Modena of all places in the world, the rallying-point of the Prince of Carignano's bitterest foes. He was not long in sending his orders. He repudiated everything that had been done, and commanded Charles Albert, 'if he had a drop of our royal blood left in his veins,' to leave the capital instantly for Novara, where he was to await his further instructions.
Charles Albert obeyed. He was accompanied on his journey—or, as it may be called, his flight—by such of the troops as remained loyal. At Novara he found a sentence of exile, in a fresh order, to quit Piedmontese territory. Tuscany was indicated as the state where he was to reside.
The Austrians crossed the frontier with the consent of the King. Charles Felix's opinion of Austria has been already given; another time he said: 'Austria is a sort of bird-lime which, if you get it on your fingers, you can never rub off.' If anything was needed to increase his loathing for the revolution, it was the necessity in which it placed him, as he thought, of calling in this unloved ally. But Charles Felix was not the man to hesitate. Not caring a straw for the privilege of wearing a crown himself, his belief in the divine right of kings, and the obligation to defend it, amounted to monomania. The Austrian offer was therefore accepted. On her part Austria declined the obliging proposal of the Czar of a loan of 100,000 men. She felt that she could do the work unaided, nor was she mistaken.
On the 8th of April the Constitutionalist troops which marched towards Novara, sanguine that the loyal regiments there quartered would end by joining them, were met by an armed resistance, in which the newly-arrived Austrians assisted. Their defeat was complete, and it was the signal of the downfall of the revolution. The leaders retired from Turin to Alessandria, and thence to Genoa, that had risen last and was last to submit. Thus most of them escaped by sea, which was fortunate, as Charles Felix had the will to establish a White Terror, and was only prevented by the circumstance that nearly all the proposed victims were outside his kingdom. Capital sentences were sent after them by the folio: there was hardly a noble family which had not one of its members condemned to death. When his brother, Victor Emmanuel, recommended mercy, he told him that he was entirely ready to give him back the crown, but that, while he reigned, he should reign after his own ideas. He seems to have had thoughts of hanging the Prince of Carignano, and for a long time he seriously meant to devise the kingdom to his son, the infant Prince Victor. Thus a new set of obstacles arose between Charles Albert and the throne.
Of the personal friends of that ill-starred Prince all escaped. One of them, the noble-minded Count Santorre di Santa Rosa, died fighting for liberty in Greece. In the miseries of exile and poverty he had never lost faith in his country, but fearlessly maintained that 'the emancipation of Italy was an event of the nineteenth century.' To another, Giacinta di Collegno, it was reserved to receive the dying breath of Charles Albert, when as an exiled and crownless king he found rest, at last, at Oporto.
There were deeper reasons than any which appear on the surface for the failure of the revolutionary movements of this period. North and south, though the populations exhibited a childish delight at the overthrow of the old, despotic form of government, their effervescence ended as rapidly as it began. They did not really understand what was going on. 'By-the-bye, what is this same constitution they are making such a noise about?' asked a lazzarone who had been shouting 'Viva la Costituzione' all the day. Within a few weeks of the breakdown at Novara, Count Confalonieri wrote wisely to Gino Capponi that revolutions are not made by high intelligences, but by the masses which are moved by enthusiasm, and for a possibility of success, the word Constitution, the least magical of words, should have been replaced by the more comprehensible and stirring call: 'War to the stranger.' But this, instead of sounding from every housetop, was purposely stifled at Naples, and kept a mysterious secret in Piedmont.
PRISON AND SCAFFOLD
Political Trials in Venetia and Lombardy—Risings in the South and Centre—Ciro Menotti.
The Austrians fully expected a rising in Lombardy in the middle of March, and that they were not without serious fears as to its consequences is proved by the preparations which they quietly made to abandon Milan, if necessary. The Court travelling-carriages were got ready, and the younger princes were sent away. Carbonarism had been introduced into Lombardy the year before by two Romagnols, Count Laderchi and Pietro Maroncelli. It was their propaganda that put the Austrian Government on the alert, and was the cause of the Imperial decree which denounced the society as a subversive conspiracy, aiming at the destruction of all constituted authority, and pointed to death and confiscation of property as the penalty for joining it. There was the additional clause, destined to bear terrible fruit, which declared accomplices, punishable with life-imprisonment, all who knew of the existence of lodges (Vendite, as they were called) or the names of associates, without informing the police. In the autumn of 1820, Maroncelli and many others, including Silvio Pellico, the young Piedmontese poet, were arrested as Carbonari, while the arrest of the so-called accomplices began with Count Giovanni Arrivabene of Mantua, who had no connection with the society, but was charged with having heard from Pellico that he was a member. Pellico and his companions were still lying untried in the horrible Venetian prisons, called, from their leaden roofs, the 'Piombi,' when the events of 1821 gave rise to a wholesale batch of new arrests. As soon as they knew of a movement in Piedmont, the Lombard patriots prepared to co-operate in it; that they were actually able to do nothing, was because it broke out prematurely, and also, to some extent, because their head, Count Confalonieri, was incapacitated by severe illness. But though their activity profited not at all to the cause, it was fatal to themselves. The Austrian Government had, as has been stated, a correct general notion of what was going on, but at the beginning it almost entirely lacked proofs which could inculpate individuals. In the matter of arrests, however, there was one sovereign rule which all the despotic Governments in Italy could and did follow in every emergency: it was to lay hands on the most intelligent, distinguished and upright members of the community. This plan never failed; these were the patriots, the conspirators of those days. The second thing which the Austrians made a rule of doing, was to extort from the prisoners some incautious word, some shadow of an assent or admission which would place them on the track of other compromised persons, and furnish them with such scraps of evidence as they deemed sufficient, in order to proceed against those already in their power. In their secret examination of prisoners, they had reduced the system of provocative interrogation to a science. They made use of every subterfuge, and, above all, of fabricated confessions fathered on friends of the prisoner, to extract the exclamation, the nod of the head, the confused answer, which served their purpose. The prisoners, men of good faith, and inexperienced in the arts of deception, were but children in their hands, and scarcely one of them was not doomed to be the involuntary cause of some other person's ruin—generally that of a dear and intimate friend.
The first to be arrested was Gaetano De-Castillia, who went with the Marquis Giorgio Pallavicini on a mission to Piedmont while the revolution there was at its height. They even had an interview with the Prince of Carignano, 'a pale and tall young man, with a charming expression' (so Pallavicini describes him), but had obtained from him no assurance, except the characteristic parting word: 'Let us hope in the future.' When De-Castillia was arrested, Pallavicini, then a youth of twenty, and full of noble sentiments, rushed to the director of the police with the avowal: 'It was I who induced De-Castillia to go to Piedmont; if the journey was a crime, the fault is mine; punish me!' No error could have proved more calamitous; till that moment the Austrians were in ignorance of the Piedmontese mission; De-Castillia was arrested on some far more trifling charge. Pallavicini's generous folly was rewarded by fourteen years' imprisonment, and its first consequence was the arrest of Count Confalonieri, at whose instance the visit to Turin had been made. For months the Austrians had desired to have a clue against him; the opportunity was come at last.
Federico Confalonieri, brilliant, handsome, persuasive, of great wealth and ancient lineage, innately aristocratic, but in the best sense, was morally at the head of Lombardy, by the selection of the fittest, which at certain junctures makes one man pre-appointed leader while he is still untried. When in England, the Duke of Sussex prevailed upon him to become a Freemason, but he was not a Carbonaro in the technical sense, though both friends and foes believed him to be one. He knew, however, more about this and the other secret societies then existing in Italy—even those of the reactionary party—than did most of the initiated. In an amusing passage in his memoirs he relates how, when once forcibly detained in a miserable hostelry in the Calabrian Mountains, a den of brigands, of whom the chief was the landlord, he guessed that this man was a Calderaio, and it occurred to him to make the sign of that bloodthirsty sect. Things changed in a second; the brigand innkeeper was at his feet, the complete household was set in motion to serve him. In 1821, he founded at Milan, not a secret society, but an association in which all the best patriots were enrolled, and of which the sole engagement was the formula, repeated on entering its ranks: 'I swear to God, and on my honour, to exert myself to the utmost of my power, and even at the sacrifice of my life, to redeem Italy from foreign dominion.'
Knowing to what extent he was a marked man, Confalonieri would have only exercised common prudence in leaving the country, but he could not reconcile himself to the idea of flight. Anonymous warnings rained upon him: most likely they all came from the same quarter, from Count Bubna, the Austrian Field-Marshal, with whom Confalonieri was personally on friendly terms. On the 12th of December the Countess Bubna made a last effort to save him; her carriage was ready, she implored him to take it and escape across the frontier. He refused, and next day he was arrested.
Austrian legal procedure was slow; the trial of the first Carbonari, Silvio Pellico and his companions, did not take place till 1822. On the 22nd of February the sentence of death was read to Silvio Pellico in his Venetian prison, to be commuted to one of fifteen years' imprisonment at Spielberg, a fortress converted into a convict prison in a bleak position in Moravia. To that rock of sorrow, consecrated for ever by the sufferings of some of the purest of men, Silvio Pellico and Pietro Maroncelli, with nine or ten companions, condemned at the same time, were the first Italians to take the road. Here they remained for the eight years described by the author of Francesca da Rimini, in Le Mie Prigioni, a book that served the Italian cause throughout the world. Even now some Italians are indignant at the spirit of saintly resignation which breathes upon Silvio Pellico's pages, at the veil which is drawn over many shocking features in the treatment of the prisoners; they do not know the tremendous force which such reticence gave his narrative. Le Mie Prigioni has the reserve strength of a Greek tragedy.
Maroncelli contracted a disease of the leg through the hardships endured; amputation became necessary, but could not be performed till permission was received from Vienna—a detail showing the red-tapism which governed all branches of the Austrian administration. This patriot went, after his release, to America, where he died, poor, blind and mad. Pellico, crushed in soul, devoted his latter years entirely to religion. Only men of iron fibre could come out as they went in. The Spielberg prisoners wore chains, and their food was so bad and scanty that they suffered from continual hunger, with its attendant diseases. Unlike the thieves and assassins confined in the same fortress, the State prisoners were given no news of their families. Such was Spielberg, 'a sepulchre without the peace of the dead.'
The State trials of the Lombard patriots in 1823 resulted in seven capital sentences on the Milanese, thirteen on the Brescians, and four on the Mantuans. The fate of the other prisoners depended on that of Count Confalonieri. If the sentence on him were not carried out, the lives at least of the others might be regarded as safe, since he was looked upon as the head. It is certain that the authorities, and the Emperor himself, had the most firm intention of having him executed; the more merciful decision was solely due to the Countess Confalonieri's journey to Vienna. Accompanied by the prisoner's aged father, this beautiful and heroic woman, a daughter of the noble Milanese house of Casati, went to Vienna before the conclusion of the trial, to be ready for any eventuality. When the sentence of death was passed, it was announced by the Emperor to old Count Confalonieri, whom he advised to return with the Countess Teresa as fast as possible if they wished to see the condemned man alive. Undaunted by the news, the brave wife sought an interview with the Empress, in whom she found a warm advocate, but who was obliged to own, after several attempts to obtain a reprieve, that she despaired of success. Teresa Confalonieri hurried back to Milan through the bitter winter weather, in doubt whether she should arrive before the execution had taken place. But the unceasing efforts of the Empress won the day. The respite was granted on the 13th of January; life-imprisonment was substituted for death. The countess sent her husband the pillow which she had bathed with her tears during her terrible journey; needless to say that it was not given to him. She died broken-hearted with waiting before he was set at liberty in the year 1836.
When Count Confalonieri reached Vienna on his way to Spielberg, he was surprised to find himself installed in a luxurious apartment, with three servants to wait upon him. Though too ill to touch solid food, a sumptuous breakfast and dinner were daily set before him; and but for the constant jingle of his chains, he would have thought himself in a first-class hotel on a journey of pleasure. The object of these attentions was clear when one evening Prince Metternich came to see him, and stayed for three hours, endeavouring by every exquisite flattery, by every promise and persuasion, to worm out of him the secrets of which he alone was believed to be the depositary. The Austrian Government had spent L60,000 on the Milan Commission, and, practically, they were no wiser than when it began. Would Confalonieri enlighten them? Whatever scruples he might have felt during the trial could be now laid aside; there was no question of new arrests. It was from pure, abstract love of knowledge that the Government, or, rather, the Emperor, desired to get at the truth. If he preferred to open his mind to the Emperor in person, His Majesty would grant him a secret audience. Above all, what was the real truth about the Prince of Carignano?
All the rest was a blind; it was the wish to have some damnatory evidence against Charles Albert, such as would for ever exclude him from the throne, that had induced the Emperor and his astute minister to make this final attempt.
'Confalonieri need never go to Spielberg,' said the Prince; 'let him think of his family, of his adored wife, of his own talents, of his future career, which was on the brink of being blotted out as completely as if he were dead!' Confalonieri was worthy of his race, of his class, of himself; he stood firm, and next morning, almost with a sense of relief, he started for the living grave.
'The struggle was decided,' Prince Metternich had said in the course of the interview, 'and decided not only for our own, but for many generations. Those who still hoped to the contrary were madmen.'
Some years of outward quiet doubtless confirmed him in the first opinion, while the second was not likely to be shaken by the next attempt that was made to take up arms for freedom. On the 28th of June 1828, several villages in the province of Salerno rose in obedience to the harangues of two patriotic ecclesiastics, Canon de Luca and Carlo da Celle, superior of a capuchin convent. This was meant to develop into a general insurrection, but it was nowhere followed up, and the sword of vengeance fell speedily on the wretched villagers. Surrounded by the royal troops, they were forced into submission, many were shot on the spot, others were dragged in chains to Salerno, not even a drop of water being allowed them during the journey under the scorching sun. The village of Bosco was rased to the ground. The priest, the monk, and twenty-two insurgents were shot after the repression. The heads of the victims were cut off and placed in iron cages where their wives or mothers were likely to see them. A woman went to Naples to beg for the pardon of her two grandsons, by name Diego and Emilio. The King, with barbarous clemency, told her to choose one. In vain she entreated that if both could not be saved the choice should be left to chance, or decided by someone else. But no; unless she chose they would both be shot. At last she chose Diego. Afterwards she went mad, and was constantly heard wailing: 'I have killed my grandson Emilio.' This anecdote gives a fair notion of Francis I., whose short reign was, however, less signalised by acts of cruelty, though there were enough of these, than by a venality never surpassed. The grooms-in-waiting and ladies-of-the-bedchamber sold the public offices in the daylight; and the King, who was aware of it, thought it a subject for vulgar jokes with his intimates. Francis died in 1830 of bad humour at the Paris revolution, and was succeeded by Ferdinand II., to be known hereafter as Bomba—then a clownish youth, one of whose first kingly cares was to create St Ignatius Loyola a Field-Marshal.
The revolution which upset the throne of Charles X., and ushered in the eighteen years' reign of the Citizen King, seemed likely to have momentous consequences for Italy. The principle of non-intervention proclaimed by French politicians would, if logically enforced, sound the death-knell of the Austrian power in Italy. Dupin, the Minister of War, enlarged on the theme in a speech which appeared to remove all doubt as to the real intentions of the Government. 'One phrase,' he remarked, 'has made a general impression; it expresses the true position of a loyal and generous Government. Not only has the President of the Council laid down the principle that France should abstain from intervention; he has declared that she would not tolerate intervention on the part of others. France might have shut herself up in a cold egotism, and simply said that she would not intervene; this would have been contemptible, but the proclamation of not suffering the interventions of others is the noblest attitude a strong and magnanimous people can assume; it amounts to saying: Not only will I not attack or disturb other nations, but I, France, whose voice is respected by Europe and by the whole world, will never permit others to do so. This is the language held by the ministry and by the ambassadors of Louis Philippe; and it is this which the army, the National Guard, France entire, is ready to maintain.'