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Chapter LV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


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In the meantime the Austrians had retreated to the Quadrilateral, and taken their position behind the lines of those celebrated fortifications, which were believed to be impregnable. The allies had crossed the Mincio in pursuit. The French head-quarters were established at Valeggio, in the villa of the Marchioness Maffei, which had been previously occupied by the Austrian Emperor. There Louis Napoleon was surrounded by eleven generals and fourteen orderly officers, besides secretaries, medical attendants, and a host of servants. His camp life was very simple. He might have been seen in his shirt sleeves writing at his desk, occasionally smoking a cigar, but always at work, attended by the chief of his staff, Marshal Vaillant. In spite, however, of the freedom which seemed to exist at the Imperial head-quarters, the strictest vigilance was kept up by the camp police. The Imperial body-guard, dressed in plain clothes, was formed of Corsicans and Italians - the latter being fully acquainted with almost all the emigrants of London and Brussels, so that any stranger who made his appearance went through the keenest scrutiny without knowing it. But Victor Emmanuel, whose head-quarters were at Monz Albano, took no such precautions. He had no body-guard, either in plain clothes or in uniform; living in the simplest way in a small house upon a hill, with two or three of his most intimate generals, of whom La Marmora was one. He dined every day, with the royal staff, at a large house in the vicinity, Count Cavour, five generals, ten orderly officers, and some other attendants, completing the royal circle. These simple habits of Victor Emmanuel, with his good-humoured countenance and affable manners, almost banished etiquette; the evenings being spent most pleasantly by the officers lounging, smoking, and talking over the anticipated fortunate end of the campaign. " How often," exclaims one of the number - Count Arribavene - "was our conversation suddenly interrupted by the joyful face of that great man whom all Italians mourn - the matchless statesman Cavour! How his sharp, quick, lightning-like manner of speaking brightened up the discussion, or gave it the most serious and interesting turn. When Count Cavour appeared amongst the party, all mouths were silent; all ears were intent to hear what the great man had to say. But, alas! those delightful meetings of Monz Albano were destined to be abruptly and unexpectedly broken up. The terrible 6th of July was not long in coming. That sad day will remain a black spot on the history of France, until the Queen of the Adriatic shores shall be finally delivered from the Austrian yoke."

Two days after the battle of Solferino, Count Cavour, with his friend and secretary, Nigra, had a long interview with the French Emperor. They found him exceedingly disgusted with the quarrels of his generals deeply impressed by the horrible scenes of war he had just witnessed for the first time in his life; but, above all, proud and delighted that the military glory of France, and the superiority of her army over the Austrians, had been once more splendidly asserted. The count returned to the camp in high spirits and full of hope, under the impression that the Emperor was determined to prosecute the war with vigour to its conclusion, and that, in case it should be necessary for the accomplishment of that object, he would not scruple to appeal to the Hungarians. In the course of a day or two after, however, mysterious rumours were afloat in the camp, that a French general had been sent to Verona on some inexplicable mission to the Austrian Emperor. These rumours proved to be well founded. When both armies were fully marshalled, prepared for action at any moment, when there was some apprehension that their lines would be attacked by the enemy, or that they would be ordered to march on Verona, General Fleury was despatched with a proposal for an armistice. This step was taken without any communication with Victor Emmanuel, and without the knowledge of any human being except the bearer of the message. At seven o'clock next morning lie returned with, a letter to his Imperial master, announcing the success of the mission. The result was the conclusion of an armistice for one month. The announcement, it need scarcely be said, spread consternation through the Sardinian camp, and excited the deepest disappointment and indignation throughout Italy. Coming upon the Italians, while still in the flush of victory and full of hope, they felt it not only as a terrible shock, but as a betrayal of their cause, and a national humiliation.

The two Emperors met at Villafranca, each accompanied by a brilliant staff, and they were closeted alone for an hour. Of what passed between them there is no record. "When they left the house and appeared in the street, to present to each other the officers of their staffs, the younger looked pale and embarrassed, the elder gay and at ease. The proud descendant of the Hapsburgs doubtless felt bitterly the humiliation of that moment. Louis Napoleon, on the contrary, had satisfied what was thought to be one of his greatest desires - the dealing in person with a legitimate Emperor. Nothing was written by the two monarchs at that meeting. The inkstand and paper which had been placed on the table were not touched, and they may still be seen exactly where they were set down."

Prince Napoleon was sent as a plenipotentiary to Verona to arrange preliminaries of peace, and it was on the evening of that day that the Emperor announced to Victor Emmanuel that if the preliminaries could be arranged, peace would be concluded. It is said that the King, with extreme coldness of manner, replied, " Whatever may be the decision of your Majesty, I shall feel eternal gratitude for what you have done for the independence of Italy; and I beg you to believe that, under all circumstances, you may reckon on my complete fidelity." The moment Cavour heard the disastrous news, he jumped into a vettura, and, driving with all speed to head-quarters, immediately repaired to the King's apartments. We are told that he was greatly excited. " His face was scarlet, and his manner, ordinarily simple and easy, was now marked by violent gesticulations, showing that he had completely lost his usual self-control." He had an interview of two hours with the King, to whom he spoke in the most disrespectful terms of the French Emperor. He advised his master to reject the terms of peace, to withdraw his army from Lombardy, and even to abdicate - or do anything to vindicate his dignity. The King, calm and gracious, laboured to soothe the irritation of his almost frantic minister, but in vain. When he came forth from the royal presence his excitement had by no means abated. "I shall never," says Count Arribavene, "forget that heartrending scene. Leaning against a wall, Cavour was violently talking with Nigra, his secretary. Broken words of indignation were now and then uttered by him, and his sunburnt face flashed forth anger in every expression.. It was a singular and terrible sight."

The great statesman had just resigned, rather than endorse a peace concluded without his Sovereign or himself being consulted, and Ratazzi had received orders to form a cabinet. The ex-premier had scarcely departed in his carriage, amidst shouts of " Long live Cavour! " when the Emperor and Prince Napoleon drove up to dine with the King. It is said to have been a sad party, during which little was spoken by the royal host. On the 12th of July the Emperor returned to Paris, passing through Milan and Turin, where he had been so recently received with enthusiastic acclamations/ He must have painfully felt the contrast, when the victor of Magenta and Solferino was permitted to return from the scenes of his military glory without a cheer from the people whose country he had promised to free from the Alps to the Adriatic; but which he seemed now to abandon, leaving his "mission" but half accomplished.

Before his departure, he issued a proclamation in the following terms: - "Soldiers, - An armistice has been concluded on the 8th instant between the belligerent parties, to extend to the 15th of August next. This truce will permit you to rest after your glorious labours, and, if necessary, to continue the work which you have so gloriously inaugurated by your courage and your devotion. I am about to return to Paris, and shall leave the provisional command of my army to Marshal Vaillant; but, as soon as the hour of combat shall have struck, you will see me again in your midst to partake of your dangers."

The armistice was immediately followed by the basis of a treaty of peace, the terms of which were arranged; and the treaty itself was provisionally signed, on the 11th of July, at Villafranca by the two Emperors. Its conditions were these: -

" The two Sovereigns will favour the creation of an Italian Confederation. That Confederation will be under the honorary presidency of the Holy Father. The Emperor of Austria cedes to the Emperor of the French his right over Lombardy, with the exception of the fortresses of Mantua and Peschiera, so that the frontier of the Austrian possessions shall start from the extreme range of the fortress of Peschiera, and shall extend in a direct line along the Mincio, as far as Grazio; thence to Scorzarolo and Suzana to the Po, whence the actual frontiers shall continue to form the limits of Austria.

" The Emperor of the French will hand over the ceded territory to the King of Sardinia. Venetia shall form part of the Italian Confederation, though remaining under the crown of the Emperor of Austria. The Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Duke of Modena return to their states, granting a general amnesty.

" The two Emperors will ask the Holy Father to introduce indispensable reforms into his states. A full and complete amnesty is granted on both sides to persons compromised in the late events in the territories of the belligerent parties."

The French Emperor announced the treaty of Villa- franca to his army by a proclamation, in which he said: - "Soldiers, - The basis of a peace has been agreed on with the Emperor of Austria. The principal object of the war is attained; Italy will for the first time become a nation. A Confederation of all the States of Italy, under the honorary presidency of the Pope, will re-unite in one group the members of the same family. Venice, it is true, will remain under the sceptre of Austria; but it will be, nevertheless, an Italian province forming part of the Confederation. The union of Lombardy to Piedmont creates for us on this side of the Alps a powerful ally, who will owe to us his independence. The governments that have taken no part in this movement, or are recalled to their territories, will comprehend the necessity of salutary reforms. A general amnesty will remove all traces of civil discord. Italy, henceforth the mistress of her own destinies, can only blame herself if she does not progress in order and liberty."

The Emperor then tells his army that a grateful country will receive with joy the soldiers who have carried to so high a point the glory of their arms at Montebello, Palestro, Turbigo, Magenta, Melignano, and Solferino; who in two months have liberated Piedmont and Lombardy, and have only stopped because the conflict was assuming a magnitude no longer in proportion to the interest that France had in this formidable war.

"Be proud, then," he concludes, "of your success; proud of the results obtained; proud, above all, of being the beloved sons of France, which will always be a great nation as long as she has the heart to comprehend noble causes, and men like you to defend them."

The Emperor of Austria soon after published an address to his people, in which he spoke of having exhausted all efforts to preserve peace without sacrificing his rights or his dignity, stating that he was consequently under the painful necessity of requiring from his people new and heavy sacrifices to enable him to take the field in defence of their most sacred rights. He acknowledges the alacrity with which they responded to his summons, which inspired him with confidence that the cause in which his gallant army was prepared to do battle would triumph.

But the fortune of war was not favourable, although the enemy, who made tremendous sacrifices, did not obtain a decisive victory. They had acquired advantages, however, of which they could not be deprived without new sacrifices, on the part of Austria, not less bloody than those which had already filled the heart with sorrow, nor without further and greater demands upon the faithful provinces of the empire for additional supplies of men and money.

Then the Emperor adds - "The result of renewed exertions would, besides, have been doubtful, as I was bitterly deceived in my well-founded hope that I should not stand alone in a war which was not undertaken for the rights of Austria exclusively. Notwithstanding the warm and gratefully to be acknowledged sympathy felt for our just cause in the greater part of Germany, by the governments as well as by the people, our oldest and most natural allies obstinately refused to take cognisance of the high importance of the great question of the day." The Emperor laments the unavoidable loss of Lombardy, but still it gives him heartfelt pleasure to restore to his beloved people the blessings of peace; and he says he will now direct his whole and uninterrupted attention to the development of the rich moral and material strength of Austria, and to the making of such improvements in legislation and administration as are in accordance with the spirit of the age. He concluded by thanking his people for the heroism of their sons, "who went to battle for God, their Emperor, and their country."

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Pictures for Chapter LV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3

Victor Emmanuel
Victor Emmanuel >>>>
The Emperor Napoleon
The Emperor Napoleon >>>>

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