« VorigeDoorgaan »
tion and the policy of Cavour a few words of retrospect are essential.
For the last thirteen years Italy had been a prey to almost unbroken reaction. The diplomatists who disposed the fortunes of Europe in 1815 attempted to restore in Italy the status quo ante Napoleon. To Italy Napoleon had brought, if not the promised boon of liberty, at least good administration, and an approach to unity; but the Congress of Vienna made short work of Napoleonic Italy. Austria carved out for herself a Lombardo-Venetian principality; the ex-Empress Marie Louise (an Austrian Archduchess) was installed at Parma, with cadets of the Austrian house in Modena and Tuscany; the Bourbon King Ferdinand was restored to the two Sicilies; the Pope once more gripped middle-Italy; the republic of Genoa was tossed to Victor Emmanuel I, already King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy and Piedmont. But, despite the triumph of the dynastic principle, the Italy of 1815 was not the Italy of 1789. As Mazzini said (Works,' iii, 234): 'Notwithstanding our dependence on the French Empire, and despite war, the feeling of nationality specially incorporated in our brave army elevated our souls, picturing in the distance the oneness of Italy, the goal of all our efforts.'
That goal was still far distant. The reaction which dominated Italy from 1815 to 1848 was broken only by sporadic and seemingly fruitless insurrections. Metternich stood steadfastly sentinel over the settlement of 1815. The Carbonari raised insurrections in Naples and in Piedmont in 1821; the Parisian revolution in 1830 fanned into flame the revolutionary embers in Parma, Modena and the Papal States; Mazzini himself headed an ill-organised attack upon Savoy in 1833. Still Metternich's power was unbroken; and the main result of these occasional insurrections was to rivet more firmly than ever the Austrian yoke upon the Italian provinces, and to strengthen her hold upon the petty princes, whose thrones she upheld and whose policy she dictated.
Nevertheless, apart from the efforts of Mazzinian fanatics, there was movement in Italy. In 1842 Gioberti published 'Del Primato morale e civile degli Italiani,' in which he put forward a proposal for the formation of an Italian Confederation under the presidency of the Papacy
-the idea which inspired Napoleon's policy at Villafranca. In 1844 Cesare Balbo proposed that Austria should surrender Lombardy and Venice in return for a free hand in the Balkan Peninsula. A year later Massimo D'Azeglio published The Happenings in the Romagna.' These men were not revolutionary fanatics, but Liberal Conservatives; and substance appeared to be given to their dreams when in 1846 Pius IX was elected to the papal chair. The Neo-Guelphs jumped to the conclusion that the millennium had dawned for Italy. But Rome was not equal to the opportunity which for a moment seemed to be within her grasp; the reforming ardour of Pius IX quickly evaporated; and the Papacy sank back into reaction. I am convinced,' wrote D'Azeglio in 1847, 'the magic of Pio Nono will not last. He is an angel, but he is surrounded by demons; he has a disordered State and corrupt elements, and he will not be able to combat the obstacles.' D'Azeglio's prediction was speedily fulfilled. Nevertheless, there was promise of reform in many of the Italian States, particularly in Piedmont.
In January 1848 Cavour came out into the open and petitioned Charles Albert to 'remove the controversy from the dangerous arena of irregular agitation to a scene of legal, peaceful discussion.'
'What is the good' (he said to his friends) of reforms which lead to no conclusion and terminate nowhere? Let us demand a constitution. Since the Government can no longer be maintained on the bases which have hitherto sustained it, let it replace them by others conformable to the spirit of the times .. before it is too late, before social authority falls into dissolution amid the clamours of the people.'
It was a characteristic utterance; but hardly had it been made when news reached Turin which caused all ideas of a mere Statuto for Piedmont to be flung aside in favour of a national movement. In February the Republic was proclaimed in France; in March the revolutionary contagion reached Vienna. Metternich was driven into exile; and it seemed as if the hour of Italy's deliverance had struck. Before the end of March the Austrians were driven out of Milan; in Venice the Republic was proclaimed under the presidency of Daniel Manin; Charles Albert placed himself at
the head of the national movement and flung defiance at Austria; Parma, Piacenza, Modena, Lombardy and Venetia all united themselves by plébiscite to the Sardinian Kingdom. The union of all northern Italy under the hegemony of Sardinia seemed in a moment to have been achieved.
The forces of reaction were, however, still too strong. Charles Albert, who on the advice of Cavour had declared war on Austria, was forced to his knees at Custozza and compelled to accept an armistice. Renewing the war in 1849, he again found himself no match for the veteran Radetsky, and, defeated at Novara, he abdicated in favour of his son, Victor Emmanuel. On the outbreak of the revolution Pius IX had fled from Rome, and a Republic had been proclaimed. But, despite the statesmanship of Mazzini and the gallantry of Garibaldi, Rome could not hold out against the French army despatched by the Republic to the succour of the Pope. The city was taken by Oudinot, and Pius IX was restored. Venice held out against the Austrians until August; but in the autumn of 1849 the chains were once more riveted on the necks of the Italian peoples. Austria was again supreme throughout northern and central Italy; the vassal princes crept back under her protection to their petty principalities; even Piedmont lay prostrate for the moment under the crushing defeat of Novara. The last state of Italy seemed worse than the first. In reality, it was far otherwise. The events of 1848-9 did signal service to the cause of Italian unity. They shattered the Republican ideal of Mazzini, and concentrated the hopes of all Italian patriots on Sardinia and her young king. The northern campaign, as J. A. Symonds well said, baptized the cause of Italian independence with the best blood of Piedmont; it gave it a royal martyr; and it pledged the dynasty of Savoy to a progressive policy from which it never afterwards deviated.' And this fact was gradually recognised.
'Except the young sovereign who rules Piedmont, I see no one in Italy' (wrote Gioberti in his 'Rinnovamento' in 1851) 'who could undertake our emancipation. Instead of imitating Pius, Ferdinand (of Naples) and Leopold (of Tuscany), who violated their sworn compacts, he maintains his with religious observance-vulgar praise in other times, but to-day not small, being contrary to example.'
The praise was not undeserved. Victor Emmanuel, undeterred by the terrible circumstances under which he took up the sceptre laid down by his father, set himself steadfastly 'to heal the wounds of our country, to consolidate our liberal institutions.' The difficulties in the path of a sovereign who desired to be 'constitutional' were not slight. The Piedmontese had no experience of self-government; and during the first eighteen months of the new régime there were three Parliaments and no less than eight changes of Government. At length, after many experiments, the young king had the wisdom to confide his affairs to the one man capable of guiding them to a successful issue.
Cavour had been elected to the first Sardinian parliament in 1848; he was appointed Minister of Commerce and Agriculture in 1850; in 1851 he took over, in addition, the administration of the Navy and the charge of the Finances. He was not popular either with king or people, the general view being that, though able, he was crafty and unscrupulous. Detesting the extremes of revolution and reaction, he was mistrusted, like most moderates, by men of all parties; but, despite all opposition, he rapidly pushed on the work of administrative, commercial and fiscal reform, and in 1852 became Prime Minister of Sardinia. His programme on taking office is thus succinctly stated by himself:
'Piedmont must begin by raising herself, by re-establishing in Europe, as well as in Italy, a position and a credit equal to her ambition. Hence there must be a policy unswerving in its aims but flexible and various as to the means employed, embracing the exchequer, military reorganisation, diplomacy, and religious affairs.'
Re-establishing her credit in Europe.' Cavour's chance of doing this came in 1854; but it needed a statesman of extraordinary courage and astuteness to seize it. Despite the opposition of his colleagues, but firmly supported by his sovereign, Cavour determined to send a Sardinian army to fight side by side with the two Western Powers in the Crimea. It was seemingly a crazy enterprise; but Cavour's rashness was always the result of prudent calculation. His enemies rejoiced, believing that both he and his sovereign-nay, the whole
cause of the monarchy-would be fatally discredited. Cavour was conscious that he was playing for high stakes, but he was confident of victory. You have the future of the country in your haversacks'-so he wrote to La Marmora. The soldiers were aware of their high responsibility. Out of this mud,' said one of them in the trenches before Sebastopol, Italy will be made.' It was. Cavour's calculations were precisely fulfilled. In the Battle of the Tchernaja the gallant Sardinians covered themselves with glory. The stain of Novara was wiped out. In the Congress of Paris Cavour claimed a place. The diplomatic position of Sardinia was established. At the end of 1855 Cavour and his sovereign paid a visit to the allied Courts of Paris and London. This journey,' wrote Cavour, has confirmed the constitutional system; it is the equivalent of ten years of life.'* Even more important was the result of the Congress of Paris. Here are Cavour's own characteristic estimates :
"The Italian question has become for the future a European question. The cause of Italy has not been defended by demagogues, revolutionists and party men, but has been discussed before the Congress by the plenipotentiaries of the Great Powers.' And again: 'Two facts will remain, which are not without some importance. First, the stigma branded on the conduct of the King of Naples by France and England in the face of united Europe; and, second, the condemnation aimed by England at the clerical government in terms as precise and energetic as the most zealous Italian patriot could have desired.' +
Mr Thayer is surely right in the verdict he pronounces upon the Crimean episode: 'posterity will look back to it as one of the most brilliant strokes of statecraft in the nineteenth century.'§ It was undeniably the turningpoint in the fortunes of Cavour, of Sardinia, and of Italy. Hitherto Sardinia had been regarded as one of many Italian States; not the largest, nor the wealthiest, nor the best established. Cavour himself had hardly been distinguished from the crowd of Italian 'patriots' or revolutionaries who were anathema to the respectable European Courts and Chancelleries. After 1856 things
* Thayer, i, 368.
† Acton, op. cit., p. 189.
§ Op. cit. i, 333.