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Italy


Italy - Triumph of the Revolution at Milan - Retreat of the Austrians - Revolution at Venice - Excitement throughout Italy - Sicily - The Revolt in Palermo - Concessions by the King of Naples - A Constitution granted to Sicily - Insurrection in Naples - Revolt and Bombardment of Messina - Reforms at Rome - The Pope compelled to declare War against Austria - Assassination of Count Rossi - Insurrection at Rome- Attack on the Quirinal - The Pope a Prisoner - His Escape in Disguise to Gaeta - His Appeal to the Catholic Powers - Garibaldi, his Career - A Republic proclaimed at Rome - Piedmont - The War against Austria- Battle of Novara - Abdication of Charles Albert - Peace with Austria - Excitement at Turin - Revolt of Genoa - Expulsion of the Sardinian Garrison - The City reduced by General Delia Marmora - Interference of Lord Hardwicke - Dissolution of the Sardinian Parliament - Proclamation by Victor Emmanuel - The Siege of Venice - Reaction in Central Italy - Rome - The Junta - The Constituent Assembly - The Roman Republic - Protests of the Pope - Intervention of the Catholic Powers: Naples, Spain, Austria, and France - Mazzini - The Roman Triumvirate - The French Expedition to Rome - Protests of the Romans against it - First Attack on the City repulsed with great loss to the French - Fruitless Negotiations - The Siege and Capture of Rome - Proceedings of the Conquerors - Restoration of the Pope - Policy of the French Government - De Tocqueville - Thiers and Louis Napoleon ob the Roman Question - French Occupation of Rome - Garibaldi's Legion - The General a Fugitive - Death and Burial of his Wife - He is offered a Command in the United States - Parliamentary Debates on the Italian Question.
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Italy, of all the countries on the Continent, was most predisposed for revolution in 1848. In fact, the train had long been laid in that country - rather, a number of trains - designed to blow up the despotisms under which the people had been so grievously oppressed. Mazzini, the prince of political conspirators, had been diligently at work, and the Carbonari had been actively engaged in organising their associations, and making preparations for action. The hopes of the Italian people had been greatly excited by the unexpected liberalism of the new Pope, Pius IX., who startled the world by the novelty of his reforming policy. In 1846 he succeeded Gregory XVI., under whose government the abuses of the most odious despotism that had ever existed on the face of the earth had accumulated to such a pitch, as to be perfectly intolerable to its victims, and the condition of the Papal States was regarded as the great scandal of Christendom. The new Pope, however, feeling, no doubt, that the only way of saving the Papacy in their revolutionary outbreak, which even the arms of Austria could not long prevent, set about the work of reformation with so much earnestness, that he became the most popular pope that ever occupied the Vatican. "Viva Pio Nono!" became the cry of the revolutionary party throughout all the minor states of Italy. The Duke of Lucca had been induced to make some concessions in 1847, of which he immediately repented, and fled from the city. The inhabitants rose en masse, and constituted themselves a civic guard. A deputation was sent, requesting him to return to his dominions, which he declined, but appointed a regency. In order to coerce him to come, it was proposed to seize his revenue and sequestrate his palace. The men turned out in great numbers, and the women in bands paraded the streets, carrying the pontifical colours. The plan had the desired effect: the Duke came back, and was received with great enthusiasm. In Tuscany, also, the Grand Duke made concessions to the people. The consequence was, that the revolutionary party in other states was inspired with the greatest confidence by these successes. At Florence, a national guard was appointed. At night, 10,000 national guards assembled, and marched in torchlight procession, preceded by the busts of Pius IX. and Leopold II., the whole city being illuminated, and the houses decorated with the national flag. On the 8th of February, 1848, Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, promulgated a new constitution, to the preamble of which he said - "Now, therefore, that the times are ripe for greater things, and in the midst of the changes which have occurred in Italy, we hesitate no longer to give our people the most solemn proof that we are able to give of the faith which we continue to repose in their devotion and discretion." The constitution was to consist of Chambers, accompanied by guarantees of freedom, two formed as nearly as possible after the model of the British constitution, and evidently serving as an example to the German States in the constitutions which they promulgated during the same year. In adopting this course, the King knew well that he was giving mortal offence to Austria, whose troops were stationed along his frontier, menacing his independence. Austrian troops also had been ordered to occupy Ferrara, in order to intimidate the Pope. When this was done, Charles Albert offered to assist his holiness with an army to repel the invasion, it being his duty, he said, as an Italian power, to cause all the states of the Peninsula to be respected, as guaranteed by the treaties of Vienna. On the 3rd of October the reforming King went on a visit to Genoa, where he was received with tumultuous acclamation, being met at the gates by 50,000 persons, who followed him in procession to his palace, bearing popular banners and devices. In the evening he rode through the streets amidst the crowds of rejoicing people, when he was greeted with loud cries of "Amnesty! amnesty!" It is said that he was affected to tears, and stretching forth his hands, exclaimed - " My people, my brethren, what you ask shall be done. You shall be satisfied. I will accord all that can make you happy."

The aspirations of the people for freedom were very differently regarded by the Government in Lombardy, which groaned under the iron despotism of Austria. The arrival of a new archbishop at Milan, in September, 1847, was the occasion of a seditious demonstration in the streets, when loud cries of " Down with the Austrians!" were heard on every side. The Government had a monopoly of the cultivation and sale of tobacco in that province; and, in order to retaliate upon it, the liberal party resolved to discontinue smoking. To smoke, consequently, became a proof of loyalty, and not to smoke a proof of disaffection. The Austrians resented this anti-tobacco movement, and resolved to put a stop to it. Accordingly, on the 3rd of January, 1848, the troops were amply supplied with unsaleable cigars, and ordered to smoke them ostentatiously in the streets. This insolent defiance by the foreign troops had the desired effect. The people were annoyed, and insulted the troops; the latter drew their swords, killing some, and wounding many. This incident furnished the occasion for the only response the Austrian Government would deign to give, at that time, to the demand for reform. Marshal Radetzky was the Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian forces in Italy, with his head-quarters at Milan. On the 15th of January he issued a general order to his troops, in which he said - "The efforts of fanatics, and a false spirit of innovation, will be shivered against your courage and fidelity like glass striking against a rock. My hand still firmly holds this sword that during sixty-five years I have carried with honour upon so many fields of battle. I still know how to use it to protect the peace of a country only lately so happy, and which a furious faction threatens to precipitate into incalculable misery." This was followed, up, early in February, by a letter to the Viceroy from the Emperor, in which he said that he had already done for the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom all that the Viceroy had thought necessary to satisfy the wants and wishes of the different provinces; that he was not disposed to make any further concessions; and that if disturbances occurred, he relied on the courage and loyalty of his troops. Thus challenged and defied, the people of Lombardy sullenly awaited the time when they might dare to strike their tyrants. The French Revolution came opportunely for their purpose; but they felt that their time had not fully come till the Imperial power had succumbed to revolution in Vienna. It was then felt that Austria's extremity was Italy's opportunity. The Milanese, however, made a preliminary effort to obtain by peaceful means the concessions they required. They demanded, in the first place, the suppression of the old police, by which they had been so long tormented, and the establishment of a new force, subject to the municipal authorities; the abolition of the laws regarding state offences, and the immediate liberation of political prisoners, by whom the gaols were filled; a provisional regency of the kingdom; liberty of the press; and the convocation of the district councils for the purpose of electing a national assembly.

Of course these demands were disregarded. On the 17th of March, however, the Milanese became impatient and clamorous, and assembled in large numbers around the Government House. In order to disperse them, the soldiers fired blank cartridge. At this moment a fiery youth appeared, shouting " Viva l'Italia!" and then, apparently, gave the preconcerted signal by firing a pistol at the troops. Instantly the guards were overpowered, the Vice-Governor, O'Donnell, was made prisoner, and the success of the movement was quickly signalised by the floating of the tri-colour over the palace. That night and the next day (Saturday) the people were busily occupied in the erection of barricades. The bells of Milan tolled early on Sunday morning, summoning the population, not to worship, but to battle. An immense tri-colour flag floated from the tower of the cathedral, and under that emblem of revolution the unarmed people, men and women, fought fiercely against Radetsky's Imperial troops, and in spite of his raking cannon, for five days. It was the most terrific scene of street fighting by an enraged people who had broken their chains that had ever occurred in the history of the world. Every stronghold was defended by cannon, and yet one by one they all fell into the hands of the people, till at last the troops remained masters of only the gates of the city. But the walls were scaled by emissaries, who announced to the besieged that Pavia and Brescia were in open insurrection, and that the Archduke, son of the Viceroy, had been taken prisoner. The citizens also communicated with the insurgent population outside by means of small balloons, containing proclamations, requesting them to break down the bridges and destroy the roads, to prevent reinforcements coming to the Austrians.

In vain the Austrian cannon thundered from the Tosa and Romagna gates. The undaunted peasantry pressed forward in increasing numbers, and carried the positions. Radetzky was at length compelled to order a retreat, which he accounted for thus: - "Soldiers, the treachery of our allies, the fury of an enraged people, and the scarcity of provisions, oblige me to abandon this city of Milan, for the purpose of taking position on another line, from which, at your head, I can return to victory." He retired to Crema, where he issued an order stating that the severest discipline should be maintained; and that if any person was found with arms in his hands, he should be handed over to a military commission, and, if convicted, immediately shot. In the meantime, a Provisional Government was appointed at Milan, which issued an earnest appeal to all Italians to rise in arms. "We have conquered," they said; "we have compelled the enemy to fly." The proclamation also intimated that Charles Albert was hastening to their assistance, "to secure the fruits of the glorious revolution," to fight the last battle of independence and the Italian Union. Venice quickly followed the example of Milan, snapping asunder the Austrian chains, and establishing a Provisional Government. The Common Council had met to consider what concessions should be required from the Austrian Governor; and they resolved that nothing less would satisfy them than the possession of their own fortifications and their own arms. This demand being of course refused, the insurrection commenced. The first movement of the insurgents was to liberate the political prisoners. Among these was Manin, who afterwards so gloriously defended the city against the Austrians. He was borne in triumph through the streets, and became at once the leader of the revolution. He seized the keys of the arsenal. The workmen of that establishment killed Colonel Marinovich. The Governor of the city seemed paralysed, and resigned his authority into the hands of the military commander, who threatened to destroy the city; but seeing the whole population were united, firm, and resolute, he agreed to surrender the place, which was evacuated by the troops, leaving behind them all the military stores, and a considerable sum of money. Immediately on their departure a republic was proclaimed; and on the 26th of March, the fact was announced to Lombardy in the following address: -

"We hailed with infinite joy the account of the emancipation of our generous sister of Lombardy. On the very day when you shook off the Austrian yoke, a Provisional Government of the Venetian Republic was proclaimed here, under the glorious banner of St. Mark. We are influenced by no local prejudice; we are, above all, Italians, and the ensign of St. Mark figures on the tri-coloured banner. We are united to you, Lombards, not only by the tie of affection, but also by a community of misfortunes and hopes. When the hallowed soil of the country shall have ceased to be sullied by the feet of the foreign oppressor, we shall join you in discussing the form of Government most conducive to our common glory."

The enthusiasm which now pervaded the whole Italian peninsula was unbounded, and broke forth in frantic expressions of joy and triumph. The days of Continental despotism seemed numbered at last. The republic had been established in France; the Emperor had fled from Vienna; his greatest general, and one of his best armies, had been driven from Milan, by the armed people, with the assistance of some thousands of Italian troops, who had deserted from the Imperial eagles. Everything promised well for the cause of Italian freedom and unity. The Italian troops stationed at Bergamo, Cremona, Brescia, and Rovigo joined the insurgents. The Austrian garrisons were compelled to abandon Padua and several other places, while the great fortress of Verona was held with difficulty. In the south of Italy, the cause of despotism was going down rapidly. Deceived by the promises of the King of Naples, the people of Sicily resolved to trust him no longer. In January, 1848, an address to the Sicilians was issued from Palermo, which stated that prayers, pacific protestations, and demonstrations had all been treated by Ferdinand with contempt. Were they, a people born free, now loaded with chains, and reduced to misery, to delay any longer the assertion of their rights? No! At the break of day, on January the 12th, they would see the signal for the glorious era of universal regeneration. Palermo would receive with transport every Sicilian who should come armed to sustain the common cause, and establish reformed institutions, " in conformity with the progress and will of Italy and of Pius IX." Property was to be respected, robbery was to be punished as high treason, and whoever was in want would be supplied at the common charge. The King's birthday was kept at Palermo by unfurling the banner of revolution, and calling the citizens to arms. The royal troops retired into the barracks, the forts, and the palace, leaving the streets and squares in possession of the insurgents. They began, however, to shell the city, till a united remonstrance from the consuls obtained a suspension of hostilities. The garrison was soon reinforced by 6,000 men, conveyed by nine steamers from Naples. But the state of public feeling in that city, the danger of another insurrection there, and the determination of the Sicilians, caused the weak and wavering King, Ferdinand II., to yield; and, on the 28th of January, a royal decree appeared upon the walls of Naples, granting a constitution for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Orders were sent the same day to Palermo for the withdrawal of the Neapolitan troops, and an amnesty for political offences soon was published. The troops remained in the garrison, however, and occasional conflicts took place between them and the citizens till the 2nd of May, when an armistice was agreed to, which lasted to the 2nd of August. In the meantime, the elections had taken place under the new constitution, which the King had promulgated; but the Chamber proceeded to modify it, to which the King objected. The people, led on by the National Guard, which had been established, determined to support the Assembly. On the 10th of May, therefore, barricades were erected in the streets, the royal palace was occupied by troops, and artillerymen stood by their guns with lighted matches in their hands. The accidental firing of a gun led to a collision with the Swiss troops; thereupon, a tremendous battle commenced, which lasted for eight hours, the lazzaroni fighting against the citizens, and committing such atrocities, that the French Admiral, Bandin, who had a squadron in the bay, threatened to land a force to prevent further violence and bloodshed, if the slaughter continued. The troops then ceased firing; but martial law was proclaimed, the National Guard was disbanded, and the Chamber of Deputies dissolved.

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