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Garibaldi page 2


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The Romans and Venetians were still in bondage, and there seemed as yet no way opened for their liberation. The former were kept down by a powerful French garrison, which could be increased to any extent at the shortest notice; the latter dwelt under the shadows of the Quadrilateral, the strongest fortresses in the world, and Austria was determined to hold that province with its seaboard at any cost. But it occurred to Garibaldi and his friends that something might be done to overthrow the feeble government of the King of Naples in Sicily. Mazzini had sent an agent there, who reported that it would be dangerous to attempt anything in that quarter. Still, there was a chance that if Garibaldi placed himself at the head of an expedition to that island, the immense prestige of his character, and the magic of his name, might work wonders amongst the people. Mazzini took this view, and promised the support of the secret societies, with all the funds he could collect in England and other countries. "It is but common justice," says Colonel Chambers, " to state that nothing could be more straightforward and open than the conduct of Mazzini in this matter. He accepted Garibaldi's own programme, gave him all the information in his power, and unconditionally supported him." The General had resigned his commission in the Piedmontese service, and was therefore free to act independently. Dr. Bertani held for him at Genoa a sum of 40,000, collected in the different towns of Italy, subscriptions being at the same time raised in England by the Italian Unity Committee which had been formed in London. Efforts had been made to alienate the King from Garibaldi, and to make him jealous of the unbounded confidence and enthusiasm which the hero of the Italian cause everywhere excited; while, on the other hand, the revolutionary parties did not miss opportunities for rousing in his bosom an indignant sense of the injustice with which he had been treated. But nothing could shake his loyalty to. the Eang, or his purpose to accomplish the liberation of his country, persuaded that when that was done, all misunderstandings could be easily removed. To all suggestions from his friends, dissuading him from the undertaking to revolutionise the South of Italy, he answered, " I go to conquer fresh thrones for Victor Emmanuel, or to perish in the attempt."

We must assume that the Government of Victor Emmanuel considered this attempt of Garibaldi extremely rash and hopeless. Perhaps they suspected him - or, at all events, the party of action which had now placed him at its head - of a design to establish a republic in the South of Italy; perhaps they feared that his enterprise would furnish a pretext to the French Emperor to interfere again, and, in case of a revolution, to place one of his family on the vacant throne of Naples; or they might have apprehended a renewal of the war on the part of Austria. Whatever might be their motives, they did all in their power to prevent the enterprise. They accordingly seized upon the funds and the arms which had been deposited at Genoa and Milan, and neither the arms nor the money were ever after restored to Garibaldi. This was a great discouragement, as the supplies which had been collected were far too scanty. There was, however, a thorough conviction on the mind of Cavour that the venture would be an utter failure, for La Farina, his intimate friend, telegraphed to a gentleman who was about to join the expedition, that it would terminate nowhere but at the bottom of the sea. And, in truth, it would be difficult to find in all history an enterprise which, at the outset, appeared so Utopian. Garibaldi had only 1,000 volunteers, while the military force with which his expedition would have to contend consisted of twelve times as many well-appointed and regular troops. With his small army, numbering not more than a single regiment, he started from a country house near Genoa on the night of the 5th of May, 1860, to make war against the King of Naples, with whom his own sovereign was at peace. If he and his companions failed, as in all human probability they seemed likely to do, they might have to spend the remainder of their days in the loathsome dungeons of Naples, if- they did not perish ignominiously on the scaffold. The slightest reflection upon these facts is sufficient to fill the mind with wonder at the faith and courage with which this band of adventurers was inspired. Two steamers, with appropriate names - the Piedmonte and Lombardo - were seized by the volunteers in the roadstead at Genoa, and steaming along the coast, they picked up their comrades at the points previously fixed upon. The Sardinian Government, hearing of the embarkation, immediately sent out the fast screw frigate Maria Adelaide, under the orders of Admiral Persano, in pursuit of the expedition. The Times' correspondent, writing on the 12th of May, described this enterprise as beyond the limits of either praise or blame. " The man, the cause, and the circumstances were so extraordinary, that they must be judged by themselves. Success would stamp Garibaldi as a general and a statesman of the highest rank; defeat, ruin, and death would cause him to be remembered as a Quixotic adventurer, of dauntless courage but of feeble judgment. The expedition to Sicily would in future be ranked either with the landing of William of Orange in England, or with Murat's landing in Calabria: all that was certain was the heroic courage of the man by whom the attempt was made." It was possible that, if the communications with the mainland were cut off, the insurgents would have been able to hold their own against the troops already in the island; but in case the King was at liberty to use the whole strength of the State in coercing the refractory province, the Times thought the cause which Garibaldi had espoused was a desperate one; but added,4'what would be mere rashness and stark madness in another, is no more in Garibaldi than faith in his own good star. In him mere impulse in action is better than other men's caution and forethought. The tone in which Garibaldi spoke to those who urged upon him the desperate character of his enterprise, touched upon that sublimity which may seem akin to madness. To those who called attention to the chances of meeting with the Neapolitan cruisers, he talked about the feasibility of boarding the Neapolitan frigates, and taking possession of them one after the other; he also remarked that a navy was the very thing he should want the most, and that they would be very useful. To those who, well knowing his devoted love and affection for his eldest son, implored him almost on their knees to spare the youthful Menotti, and not to cast a blight on a life which he had given, and to remember how little was to be hoped from the tender mercy of a King of Naples, so closely allied with Austria; the response he gave was, 'I only wish I had ten Menottis, in order that I might risk them all.' "

Before his departure from Genoa, Garibaldi wrote a letter to his friend Dr. Bertani, in which he told him that he was once more about to take a share in the events which were to decide the destinies of a country, requesting him to collect all the means he could obtain in aid of the enterprise - to give the Italians to understand that if he received proper assistance, Italy would be consolidated in a short time with little cost. The part of Italy that was free, he said, should have 500,000 men under arms, a proportion attained even by states which, had not their independence to secure by conquest. If Italy had such an army she would have no need of foreign masters, sure to eat her up piecemeal, under the pretence of giving her freedom. He added, "I never advised this Sicilian movement; but since these brethren of ours are fighting, I deemed it my duty to go to the rescue. Our war-cry will always be, -'Italy, and Victor Emmanuel!' I hope even out of this crisis the banner of Italy will be borne without dishonour." He also wrote a letter, before starting, to the King, stating that the cry of Sicily had touched his heart; that he knew he was embarking in a dangerous undertaking; but he trusted in God, and in the courage and devotion of his companions. Their war- cry would always be, " Long live the unity of Italy Long live Victor Emmanuel, her first and bravest soldier! " Should they fall in the enterprise, he trusted that Italy and liberal Europe would not forget that it had been determined by the most unselfish sentiments of patriotism. If they succeeded, he would be proud to adorn the crown of His Majesty with, perhaps, its brightest jewel, on the sole condition that he would not allow his advisers to hand it over to foreigners. He had not ventured to communicate his project to the King, lest he should be persuaded by him to abandon the enterprise.

Victor Emmanuel was already deeply indebted to Garibaldi for the new jewels which had been already set in his crown. It was owing to him, above all men, that the royal progress through Central Italy was one unbroken triumphal march, from Leghorn to Piacenza. In the chief cities were festivities and illuminations. In every town and village, castles, towers, churches - the whole extent of streets and piazzas - were adorned with flowers, with coloured lights, and with rich hangings of every sort, while flags were waving by thousands. The tribunes were thronged with applauding women, and in the theatre at Bologna more than one hundred ladies of rank sang the national anthem. Even Te Deums and high masses were not wanting to the sovereign who had despoiled the Papacy; for in every city there were liberal-minded priests, who sang them in spite of excommunications and interdicts! It was in the midst of this triumphal progress that the news came of Garibaldi's expedition. Count Arrivabene, who was with the King at the time, states that Count Cavour did all he could to prevent the expedition which he thought to be mere madness; but he did not dare to advise his master to stop it by means of a Sardinian squadron; for had he done so, such was the popular excitement throughout Italy, he would have risked his crown. Consequently, nothing remained but to wish God speed to the thousand heroes and their illustrious leader, and to accept the inevitable results. God did speed their efforts, and crowned the most daring of enterprises with a success to which there is no parallel in history. The night on which they put out to sea was brilliant, and a gentle breeze blowing from the north seemed sent on purpose to expedite their voyage. The two steamers next morning entered the harbour of Talimone, on the Tuscan coast. There, on board the Piedmonte, the General addressed his soldiers - the brave Cacciatori - who had already served their country with a stainless conscience. " No rank," he said, " no honour, no recompense, is held out to my brave companions. When the danger is past, they will return to a quiet domestic life; but now the hour of battle has struck. Italy sees them again in the front rank, cheerfully volunteering to shed their blood for her. The war-cry of the Cacciatori delle Alpi is the same that resounded a year since on the banks of the Ticino - 6 Italy and Victor Emmanuel! ' - and this cry will strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Italy! "

He then organised his little force, and appointed officers to the several companies. Among these was the Hungarian, Colonel Turr. Steaming out of Talimone Harbour, both vessels laboured heavily in a rough sea, while Garibaldi, with his friend Castiglia, pored over the map of Sicily, and the volunteers laughed and sang patriotic songs. They steered their course to the harbour of Marsala, where the men had just time to land, and get their guns and stores on shore, before two Neapolitan ships, which were pursuing at full speed, could come within reach. Some broadsides were fired at the Garibaldians, but without effect. Sicily had been prepared for the advent of the deliverer. Some partial attempts to effect a revolution had been crushed with great brutality by the Neapolitan troops, but the effect was to extend throughout the island the spirit of revolt. Consequently, the moment Garibaldi entered the town of Marsala, he was hailed as a liberator. He immediately issued the following proclamations: -

"Sicilians! - I have brought you a body of brave men, who have hastened to reply to the heroic cry of Sicily. We, the remains of the battles of Lombardy, are with you. All we ask is the freedom of our land. United, the work will be easy and short. To arms, then! He who does not snatch up a weapon is a coward and a traitor to his country! Want of arms is no excuse. We shall get muskets, but for the present any weapon will do in the hands of a brave man. The municipalities will provide for the children, women, and old men deprived of their support. To arms, all of you! Sicily shall once more teach the world how a country can be freed from its oppressors by the powerful will of a united people. "G. Garibaldi."

"To the Neapolitan army. - Foreign insolence reigns over Italian ground in consequence of Italian discord. But on the day that the sons of the Samnites and Martii, united with their brethren of Sicily, shall join the Italians of the North, on that day our nation, of which you are the finest part, shall resume its place, as in former times, amongst the first nations of Europe. I, an Italian soldier, only aspire to see you drawn up side by side with these soldiers of Varese and San Martino, in order jointly to fight against the enemies of Italy. " G. Garibaldi."

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