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Cavour and the Making of Italian Unity

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					Cavour and the Making of Italian Unity
       Before 1848 three different plans for uniting Italy into a sovereign
state had been proposed; each had its own following. One plan was to make
Italy a liberal democratic republic. This was the plan of Giuseppe Mazzini,
an inspiring speaker and writer but not a very practical organizer or man of
action. His movement was called Young Italy. The second plan was to
form an Italian confederacy under the leadership of the pope. The third plan
was to make Italy a limited monarchy under the leadership of the house of
Savoy, the ruling dynasty in the kingdom of Sardinia. During the
Revolution of 1848, the first two plans were discredited. Mazzini’s chaotic
Roman Republic, which he set up after the rebellious populace had driven
out the pope, outraged the Roman Catholic world and was overthrown by a
French army of Louis Napoleon. After this experience the pope bitterly
opposed the unification of Italy, fearing that it would mean the loss of his
political control over the Papal States.
       At the same time, the heroic role played by the kingdom of Sardinia
(composed of Piedmont, the large island of Sardinia, and the little French-
speaking provinces of Savoy and Nice) in battling the Austrians against
hopeless odds won for the house of Savoy the devotion and confidence of
most Italian nationalists. However, the powerful Austrians were still in
Lombardy and Venetia, the unsympathetic pope still ruled the Papal States,
and the rest of the Italian states were weak and divided. Despite the new
prestige of Sardinia, therefore, the task of uniting Italy required the work of
a great political leader. He soon appeared: Camillo Benso, Count di Cavour
(1810-1861).
       Cavour saw clearly that Sardinia, a state of fewer than 5 million
people, could never defeat Austria alone. It must be done in alliance with a
great power. Since Napoleon III’s Second Empire was the only great power
that might be interested, Cavour sent the efficient Sardinian army into the
Crimean War in the hopes of winning the French sympathy. The plan
worked, and at the Paris peace conference in 1856, he was given an
opportunity to state impressively to the world Italy’s case against Austria. In
1858, Cavour and Napoleon met at Plombieres, a French spa, and there
Cavour persuaded him to fight Austria. Sardinia would provoke Austria into
a declaration of war; France would help Sardinia drive the Austrians out of
Lombardy and Venetia, which would then be annexed to the kingdom of
Sardinia. In payment Sardinia would cede the two little French-speaking
provinces of Savoy and Nice to France.
       When everything was in readiness in April 1859, Cavour easily
provoked unsuspecting Austria into a declaration of war. To Austria’s
surprise, French armies poured across the Alps to fight alongside the
Sardinians. In the two bloody battles of Magenta and Solferino, the
Austrians were defeated and driven out of Lombardy. But to the dismay of
Cavour, Napoleon suddenly made a separate peace with Austria (the
agreement of Villafranca) on condition that Sardinia receive Lombardy but
not Venetia. Napoleon appears to have been motivated by the surprising
bloodiness of the battles, the threatening attitude of Prussia, which mobilized
troops in the Rhineland, and the anger of the wild outburst of nationalism all
over Italy following the victories of Austria threatened the independence of
the Papal States.
        News of Magenta and Solferino set all Italy agog with nationalistic
fervor. Early in 1860, under Cavour’s behind-the-scenes direction, Tuscany,
Modena, Parma, and Romagna joined the kingdom of Italy, bringing
together all of northern Italy except Venetia and French troops protecting the
pope in central Italy, it looked as if the unification movement must now
come to a halt.
        At this juncture, the rawboned Giuseppe Garibaldi, the most colorful
of all the makers of the Italian nation, performed a daring exploit. With a
thousand civilian warriors dressed in red shirts and slouch hats, he sailed
aboard two little Piedmontese ships for southern Italy. His goal was the
conquest of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, the largest and most populous of
the Italian states, with a regular army of 124,000 men and a sizable navy.
Cavour officially condemned the seemingly foolhardy expedition of the
thousand but secretly aided it. Garibaldi’s exploits read like a fairy story.
He conquered the large island of Sicily, including Palermo, once the largest
city in Europe, crossed the Strait of Messina, and entered triumphantly into
Naples. The opposing troops, of course, had little heart for their cause and
deserted to Garibaldi by the thousands after his first victories. Moving
northward in the direction of Rome, Garibaldi defeated the last Neapolitan
forces.
        Fearful that the daring but undiplomatic Garibaldi would march on
Rome and bring down the armies of all Roman Catholic Europe on the
rapidly forming Italian nation, Cavour sent the Sardinian army southward
and seized all the pope’s remaining territory except the Patrimony of St.
Peter (Rome and the territory immediately surrounding it). When Victor
Emmanuel at the head of his army approached the forces of Garibaldi, the
gallant warrior and patriot submitted to his king and retired to the rocky
island of Caprera. The Kingdom of Italy was formally declared in March
1861, with Victory Emmanuel II as king and the liberal Sardinian
Constitution of 1848 as the national charter. The red, white, and green
Sardinian flag now flew over all of Italy from the Alps to Sicily except
Venetia and Rome. Those two provinces were not joined to the Italian state
until 1866 and 1970, respectively, when, first Austria and then France was
defeated by Prussia.

				
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posted:5/2/2010
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