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Chapter LVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8

Meeting of Zurich Conference - The Restoration of Grand Dukes proposed - Strong feeling at Florence - Address from the Provisional Government - Grand Reception at St. Cloud - Napoleon's Explanation of the Peace - The Pope's views upon Italy - Entry of the Piedmontese into the Pontifical States - Condition of Rome - Deputation of Romanese to the King of Sardinia - Letter to the Emperor from the Pope - His Answer - State of Parties at Home - Prorogation of Parliament.
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Plenipotentiaries were appointed to arrange the terms of a definitive treaty of peace at Zurich, where they met on the 6th of August, and it was signed on the 11th of November following. The document consisted of three parts, which might be regarded as three distinct treaties, the first containing a conveyance of Lombardy to France, the second a conveyance of the same province from France to Sardinia, and the third re-establishing peace between the three powers.

The Venetian territory was still in the possession of Austria, with the right of entering into the proposed Italian confederation, under the presidency of the Pope. It was the height of absurdity to suppose that the Pope would ever consent to be the president of any confederation of the kind, or that Venice could derive advantage from the nominal concession of any rights so long as she was subject to the foreign domination of Austria. One of the most unsatisfactory portions of the treaty was the stipulation for the restoration of the Dukes of Tuscany and Modena to their dominions, from which they had fled in consternation, their subjects having revolted, almost to a man, against them. According to the treaty of Villafranca, and the state of things which it recognised, the whole gain to Italy resulting from the war was the rescuing of Lombardy from Austria, and annexing it to the kingdom of Victor Emmanuel. This was no doubts great advantage - an important accession to the cause of constitutional government; but as the fortresses of Austria still menaced the independence of Piedmont, the whole results were in the highest degree disappointing, not only to the people of North Italy, but to the provinces which had thrown off the yoke of their petty princes, and had already established provisional governments. At Florence the feeling was so strong, that the French colours were torn down, and trampled under foot by the citizens. The provisional government hastened to publish an address, in which they said, " Tuscany will never consent to be again placed under the yoke, and subjected to the influence of Austria, contrary to its own wishes and rights."

On the 19th of July the Emperor received at St. Cloud the great bodies of the State, who went to congratulate him upon his triumphs. Their presidents were his own creatures, the men who had planned with him the coup d'état, and who had enjoyed with him the fruits of that bloody revolution. His most devoted friend and ablest assistant, the Count de Morny, addressed him in terms of adulation strong enough for the First Napoleon, saying - "The noblest victory of all is the victory you have obtained over yourself. In the burst of triumph, you have shown yourself a generous enemy, as well as a faithful and disinterested ally; surrounded by victorious and ardent warriors, you only thought of sparing their precious blood; you have given true liberty to Italy; delivering her from despotism, and forbidding revolutionary proceedings; finally, with that wonderful tact which characterises you, you have gone as far as the honour of France exacted, and not beyond her interests."

The reply of the Emperor to these addresses was really an apology to the French, the Italians, and the English, for what he felt to be a very imperfect fulfilment of the task he had undertaken. His reasons for stopping short, it must be confessed, are very forcible in themselves, and admirably expressed. But they are susceptible of this complete answer: that they should all have been foreseen, and should have entered into his calculations when he published his programme. Yet it appears that even when, at Milan, the addressed the Italians as a conqueror, the new light had not broken in upon him, which revealed the strength of the Quadrilateral, and the cost of expelling the Austrians from Venetia. That new light seems to have flashed from the Austrian ranks at Solferino. The Emperor said - "Gentlemen, Finding myself again in the midst of you, who during my absence have shown so much devotion to the Empress and to my son, I feel first of all the desire to thank you, and then to explain to you the motives of my conduct. When, after a successful campaign of two months, the French and Sardinian armies pitched their camp before the walls of "Verona, the struggle was evidently on the point of undergoing a change in a military as well as in a political point of view. I was fatally obliged to attack in front an enemy intrenched behind great fortresses, protected against any diversion on his flanks by the neutrality of the territories which surrounded him; and in commencing the long and sterile war of sieges, I found in presence of me Europe in arms, ready either to dispute our success or to aggravate our reverses.

" Nevertheless, the difficulty of the enterprise would neither have shaken my resolution nor stopped the enthusiasm of my army, had not the means been out of proportion with the results to be expected. It was necessary to resolve boldly to break through the barriers raised by neutral territories, and then to accept the struggle on the Rhine as well as on the Adige. It came to this: to accept everywhere the support of revolution. More precious blood must have been shed, and enough has been shed already. In a word, to succeed, it was necessary to stake what no sovereign ought to stake, unless the independence of his country is in danger. If, then, I stopped short, it was not from weariness or exhaustion, nor from abandonment of the noble cause I wished to serve, but because a louder voice spoke within my heart - 'the interests of France.'

"Do you imagine it cost me nothing to put a break upon the ardour of my soldiers, who, excited by victory, wished to advance? Do you suppose that it cost me nothing publicly, in the face of Europe, to curtain from my programme the territory which extends from the Mincio to the Adriatic? Do you imagine that it cost me nothing to behold noble illusions destroyed in honest hearts - patriotic hopes extinguished? To serve Italian independence, I waged war against the grain of Europe. As soon as the destinies of my country were imperilled, I concluded peace. And can it now be said that our efforts and sacrifices are a pure loss? No. As I said in my farewell address to my soldiers, we have a right to be proud of this short campaign. In four combats and two battles, a powerful army, inferior to none in organisation and bravery, has been defeated. The King of Piedmont, once styled the Guardian of the Alps, has seen his country delivered from invasion, and the frontier line of his states extended from the Ticino to the Mincio. The idea of Italian nationality is admitted by its warmest opponents. All the Sovereigns of the Italian peninsula understand, at last, the imperious necessity of salutary reforms.

" Thus, after having given a new proof of the military power of France, the peace which I have just concluded will be fruitful of happy results; the future will reveal them daily more and more, for the happiness of Italy, the influence of France, the quiet of Europe."

In his reply to the diplomatic body, the Emperor gives an additional reason for the abrupt and unexpected conclusion of peace: "Europe," he said, " was in general so unjust towards me at the commencement of the war, that I was happy to be able to conclude peace as soon as the honour and interests of France were satisfied, and to prove that it could not enter into my intentions to subvert Europe and provoke a general war. I hope that now all causes of dissent will vanish, and that peace will be of long duration."

The Pope was quite as much dissatisfied with the work accomplished by the Emperor in Italy as any of the people, whose hopes he had raised and disappointed. On the 12th of July Cardinal Antonelli addressed a circular to the representatives of the Papal Government at foreign courts, in which he described the war as deplorable, and complained that in spite of all the assurances given by the Emperor of the French and the King of Piedmont, facts occurred every day showing that it was intended to strip the Holy See of a part of its temporal dominions. Thousands of muskets had been brought to Rome, wherewith to arm insurgents and volunteers; cannon also had been imported "to aggravate the troubles of the revolted provinces, and to encourage the audacity of the disturbers of order." Another fact, which, he said, added to the flagrant violation of neutrality, was the appointment of the Marquis D'Azeglio as an extraordinary commissioner in Romagna, to direct the movement of the Legations during the war. This step, under the specious pretext of preventing the national movement from leading to any disorder, he regarded as a manifest usurpation of power, which affected the rights of the territorial sovereign of those states.

The Piedmontese troops had even entered the Pontifical States, occupying Torre Urbano and Castel Franco, the sole object of this movement being to join the rebels in opposing an energetic resistance to the Pontifical troops, which had been sent to restore legitimate power in the revolted provinces. As a final proof of the complete usurpation of the legitimate sovereignty of the Pope, two officers of engineers had been sent to Ferrara, to mine and destroy the fortress. "Such odious proceedings," he continued, " in the perpetration of which a flagrant violation of the law of nations is manifest in more than one point of view, cannot but fill the soul of the Holy Father with bitterness, and provoke in him a lively and just indignation, which is rendered more poignant still by the surprise with which he sees such enormities proceed from the government of the Catholic King."

The afflictions of the Pope accumulated from day to day, as the spirit of revolt took deeper root among his subjects, whom he had been accustomed to address as his beloved children, and who continued to express in every form their determination to submit no more to his paternal authority. On the 3rd of September the Assembly of Romagna adopted an address, in which they formally cast off their allegiance, stating that the temporal government of the Pope was substantially and historically distinct from the spiritual government of the Church, which they would always respect. But they called God to witness the rectitude of their intentions, while they declared that the people of Romagna refused to live any longer under the temporal sway of the Pontiff. On the 24th of September a deputation from Romagna waited on the King of Sardinia, begging that the Legations might be annexed to Piedmont, and tendering him allegiance as their sovereign. A similar offer was made to him on behalf of Tuscany. While expressing his gratitude to both, the King returned an evasive answer, finding himself tied up by the treaty of Villafranca, and fearing to give offence to the Emperor of the French. But he said - " I receive your wishes, and, strong by the rights conferred upon me, I will support your cause before the great powers. You may rely on their sense of justice. You may rely upon the generous love of our country felt by the French Emperor, who will accomplish the great work of reparation he has so powerfully begun, and who, assured of the gratitude of Italy, and seeing the moderation which has characterised your resolution during the late moments of incertitude, will recognise the fact that in the Romagna the mere hope of a national government suffices to put an end to civil disorders."

The Papal Government was so deeply offended at the reception given to the Romagnese deputation, and the hopes held out to them, that the Pope immediately sent his passports to the Sardinian charge d'affaires at Rome, and ordered him to quit the city. During this transition state of things the various provincial assemblies of Central Italy united to offer the regency of their states to Prince de Carignan, cousin of Victor Emmanuel; but this honour was declined by him under the pressure of French influence, and it was consequently conferred upon Buon Compagni, who had been acting as extraordinary commissioner of Victor Emmanuel in Tuscany.

All these measures led to a strong remonstrance, which was addressed by the Pope to the French Emperor, and to which the latter sent an elaborate reply, explaining and vindicating his own conduct. The letter of the Pope was dated the 2nd of December, but the answer was not dispatched till the 31st of the same month. Ho reminds the Pope that he had written to him immediately after the war, and that among the most potent reasons which induced him to conclude peace so promptly was the fear of seeing the revolution assume daily increasing dimensions in the states of the Church. "Facts," he said, " have an inexorable logic; and, despite my devotion to the Holy See, despite the presence of my troops at Rome, I could not avoid a certain amount of connection with the results of the national movement caused in Italy by the struggle against Austria . . . . found myself powerless to prevent the establishment of the new government. My endeavours only succeeded in preventing a spread of the insurrection, and the resignation of Garibaldi preserved the Marches of Ancona from certain invasion." The Emperor admits the right of the Holy See to the Legations; but if their subjection were to be obtained by the aid of foreign troops, it would imply their military occupation for a long time. "This occupation," he added, "would keep alive the hatred and resentments of a great portion of the Italian people, as also the jealousy of the great powers. This would be, then, to perpetuate a state of irritation, distrust, and fear."

The Emperor then announced, with sincere regret, that he was obliged to come to the painful conclusion that the solution which appeared most conformable to the true interests of the Holy See was the surrender of the revolted provinces. He pointed out what he conceived to be the effects of that concession - the restoration of tranquillity, the assurance of peace to grateful Italy, and the undisturbed possession of the States of the Church. He at the same time delicately reminded the Pope of the difficulties of his own position, and of what he had already done for the Church and its head; hoped he would give a kind interpretation to his frank language, assured him of his unalterable attachment, thanked him for the apostolic blessing which he had sent to the Empress, the Prince Imperial, and himself, and concluded by signing himself the devoted son of his Holiness.

It was while the war in Italy was in progress that Lord Palmerston assumed the reins of government, which Lord Derby had been compelled to relinquish after the general election. In the statement made by the Premier regarding the principles by which he would be guided in his foreign policy, he expressed his confidence that nothing would occur which would involve this country in hostilities. They would, of course, be ready to use the good offices of England, when an opportunity occurred, to restore to Europe the blessings of peace. "But," he said, " a great country like this ought not to tender advice or interpose offices until it sees that the march of events renders it likely that those good offices, or that advice, will be acceptable to those to whom they are tendered. Lightly, and without sufficient consideration, to commit the country to steps of that sort would be derogatory to the dignity of the nation, and useless with regard to any good which might be anticipated from the adoption of such a course." Parliament, however, were soon relieved from any perplexity on the subject by the startling news of the sudden conclusion of peace, which arrived by telegraph on the 12 th of July. In consequence of this intelligence Lord Malmesbury and Lord Normanby postponed motions, of which they had given notice, on the Italian question; and, in the imperfect state of information which then existed, little was said in either House upon the subject. But on the 28th of July, it was formally taken up by Lord John Russell. He remarked that the reasons assigned for establishing peace had a certain validity; but he believed that there was a reason not assigned in any state papers, which had a considerable weight with the two Emperors - namely, the numbers that had fallen upon the field of battle; and it was no disparagement of either to suppose them influenced by such a terrible spectacle. England had been invited by the French Emperor to enter into a conference, but before doing so, they should know something more about the treaty of Villafranca. It did not say that the Italian confederation was formed, or should be formed, but only that the two sovereigns would favour its formation. Lord John thought that such a confederation would be wise; but he doubted if it was practicable at that time, and whether a confederation with the Pope as chief, and the Emperor of Austria as one of its members, would be desirable. How could such a body assent to a religious toleration or liberty of conscience? How could the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had forfeited his rights by abdication, be forced back upon his subjects, who had asserted their independence? Then how could the difficulty about the Pope be got over? The Emperors recommended to him indispensable reforms, but he declined to take their advice. It would never do for a minister of the crown of Great Britain to say that this country, which has taken part in all the great concerns of Europe since 1815 - in the formation of the kingdom of Greece and in the formation of the kingdom of Belgium - should now, suddenly and without any reason, withdraw from a meeting of the powers of Europe, if there were any chance that the situation of Italy might be improved, that peace might be confirmed, and the independence of the Italian states secured by our taking part in the Congress.

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