OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Italy page 2

Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5 6

The Sicilian Chambers met on the 13th of April, and voted the deposition of the Royal family of Naples. It was resolved to elect a new king, and to join the league for the independence of Italy. The prince chosen King of Sicily was the Duke of Genoa, second son of Charles Albert, with the title of Albert Amadeus I., King of Sicily. Messina had revolted, and a fleet was sent from Naples to reduce it. A bombardment commenced, September 3, and was continued night and day. The insurgents bravely defended themselves till their provisions were exhausted, and they were scarcely able to stand to their guns. Their ammunition had been all consumed. On the other hand, reinforcements by thousands were poured in from a fleet of Neapolitan steamers. The city was now on fire in every quarter. The insurgents were unable to return a single shot. The victorious royalists then began to massacre the unresisting inhabitants. They fled in every direction from their murderous assailants, 10,000 of them finding shelter on board French and English vessels, while the Bourbon standard floated over the smoking ruins of Messina.

The Pop© had been labouring to satisfy his subjects by effecting some mitigation of the ecclesiastical system of government. He had promulgated a plan for the organisation of the executive in nine departments; the chiefs of which were to compose the Council of Ministers, to consist partly of laymen, with a cardinal as secretary. This Consulta was to examine all public measures, and approve of them before they were submitted to the Sovereign. The admission of the lay element by the Government was in itself a considerable revolution; but it was only inserting the wedge which the revolutionary hammer was to drive through the heart of the Papal Government. Before the French Revolution, Pio Nono was in advance of his time, and set an example of progress to his sons on other despotic thrones; but that event gave Continental society such a tremendous start forward, that the reforming Pope was left far behind. He still, however, determined to advance in the path of progress as far as he could safely do, saving the supreme rights of the Apostolic See. Therefore, on the 14th of March he issued a proclamation, announcing the grant of a new constitution to his subjects, in which he observed that, as his neighbours had decided that the people were already ripe for the benefits of a representative system of government, not merely consulative but deliberative, he was unwilling to think less worthily of his own subjects, or to repose less faith in their gratitude towards him and the Church. In truth the people were requiring of him some very painful sacrifices; not only that he should radically change a government which rested upon the claim of Divine right, but that he should join the revolution in Italy, and declare war against his most powerful friend and protector, the Emperor of Austria. A body of Roman volunteers had joined the ranks of the Italian army under Charles Albert. Among these was Signor Caffi, an eminent artist, whose dead body was found hanging on a tree near Verona, with this inscription appended to it: " This is the way in which the crusaders of Pius IX. are treated." The news of this insult exasperated the Romans to the utmost. They assembled in multitudes, loudly demanding that war should be declared against Austria. On the 1st of May the Pope yielded to their demand, and war was proclaimed. Soon after a very liberal administration was appointed, who issued a programme declaring that they would hold " especially dear the sacred cause of Italy; " that they would study the evils under which the people suffered, and the grievances of the working classes; that Rome should not yield to any country in the world in social progress or civil perfection; and that they would imitate every one of the improvements which the importance of the age demanded from modern science.

The populace, however, became gradually more unmanageable. The cardinals were insulted wherever they appeared in the streets. In the new administration, Count Rossi - formerly Ambassador from France - occupied the post of Prime Minister. He was the object of popular distrust; and it was supposed that by his temporising policy, and the feint of practical reforms, he was merely trying to gain time, and to delude the people - so, at least, thought the revolutionary party. The 10th of November was the day appointed for the opening of the Chambers. There was great public excitement on the occasion; but no serious disturbance was apprehended. The day was signalised, however, by an outrage with which all Europe was shocked. It is stated that the secret societies had arranged it beforehand, and that the assassin intrusted with the execution of the deed had practised on a block, that he might not miss his aim. Count Rossi, the object of the conspiracy, had received several warnings in anonymous letters, and even one from a priest, who, in order to save him, broke the seal of the confessional. But the courageous Minister disregarded all these warnings. When he alighted from his carriage, at the door of the Assembly, he was assailed with shouts of execration. As he ascended the steps the crowd pressed round him, cries were heard, uplifted daggers gleamed, and, turning suddenly round towards some one who mentioned his name, he was stabbed in the neck, and dropped dead on the spot. A number of persons with Vicenza medals closed round the body, while the assassin quietly walked off, and was lost in the crowd, no attempt whatever being made to arrest him.

The murder of Count Rossi was one of the worst deeds that stained the annals of revolution in 1848. He came of a noble family, and had risen by his talent and industry to the highest reputation as an advocate. Having settled at Geneva as a political refugee, his learning and eloquence, and the integrity of his character, won for him the esteem of all parties. He was a professor of law there, and a member of the Diet. Attracted by his learning and talents, Guizot invited him to Paris in 1833. There he rose so rapidly, that he was created a peer in 1839; and in 1845 he was sent as French Ambassador to Rome. It was through his influence and advice that Pius IX. entered on his career of reform. He went heartily with the movement for Italian independence, and sent his son to the army of Charles Albert; but the successes of Radetzky, hereafter to be mentioned, seemed to extinguish his hopes. He was living in retirement, when the Pope appealed to him to form a liberal Ministry - a task which he undertook on the 16th of September, and had been only one short month in power when he was cut off. At that time there was no class of statesmen so hateful to the Red Republicans as those moderate men who endeavoured to establish constitutional government. Had Rossi been spared, he would have done for the Roman States, as far as the Papal system permitted, what Cavour afterwards did for the whole of Italy.

It is stated that after the murder of Rossi the Assembly went on with the business of the day as if nothing had happened, taking no notice of the outrage; and that in the afternoon a crowd of persons paraded the streets, with colours flying, carrying banners, and singing in honour of the assassin. The French ambassador at Rome, M. Harcourt, in a dispatch to his own Government, drew a striking picture of the state of the city at this crisis. On the 16th of November, the day after the assassination, an immense multitude proceeded to the Quirinal, with a programme drawn up at the Popular Club. It called for the dismissal of the ministry, the election of a constituent assembly, and a declaration of war against Austria. One hundred Swiss soldiers, with a body guard, formed the Pope's sole protection. When the Swiss saw the hostile demonstration, they immediately closed the gates, just as the diplomatic corps had entered, hastening to surround the sovereign pontiff, and give him their moral support. The people first thundered for admission at the gates, and then endeavoured to set the principal ono on fire. A few shots from the Swiss caused the assailants to withdraw. They were dispersing, when the civic guard, the gendarmerie, the troops of the line, and the Roman Legion, numbering some thousands, all in uniform, with the military band at their head, marshalled themselves in order of battle, and began to fire at the palace windows. One of the cardinals was shot dead in his chamber. The Swiss defended the palace with their usual fidelity, and the insurgents were obliged to bring cannon to force the gates. The Pope, who showed much coolness and courage on this trying occasion, when defended by a handful of foreign soldiers, many of them no doubt Protestants, against his own people; but he saw that resistance was impossible, and to avoid the shedding of blood, he yielded to the demands of the insurgents, and signed the decree, appointing the ministers, whose names they had inscribed upon a flag. At their head were two of the revolutionary leaders, Mamiani and Galtelli. At first the Pope said, " I cannot sign that; it is against my conscience." But the cries were raised louder and louder, " Sign! sign! " He did sign at length, and then the city was illuminated, and the people shouted joyfully through the streets, " The Sovereign has given us a republic." Thenceforth he took no part in public affairs, and remained a prisoner in his palace, though the Government was still carried on in his name. It was not to be expected that the head of the Roman Catholic Church would remain long in that position. But the difficulty was to get out of the city unobserved. The plan adopted succeeded admirably. The Bavarian ambassador paid him a visit in hi^ carriage with two footmen, one of whom sat beside the coachman. The Pope dressed himself in this man's suit of livery, took his place in the box, and passed out undetected. Arrived at the ambassador's residence in the suburbs, the livery was exchanged for the costume of a chaplain, and the Pope thus attired travelled to Gaeta in the carriage with the ambassador, Count de Spaur.

There the Pope had recourse to his appropriate weapons, and fulminated anathemas against his enemies. His thunders excited only ridicule amidst the roar of artillery, or the shouts of an insurgent democracy. But the earnest appeals which he made- to the great Catholic Powers had a different effect. Ho recited all the acts that he had done in promoting the cause of reform, all the concessions he had made, and declared that the revolutionary decrees he had signed were extorted by direct compulsion, and were therefore null and void. But lie was obeyed by none; even Latour, the commander of the Swiss guard, declined to obey an order from him to move to the Neapolitan frontier for his protection. He went to Bologna, where he fraternised with the civic authorities. Some of the soldiers returned home; others, including the whole of the artillery, took service with the democratic party. Garibaldi, who had returned. from South America, now appeared again on the Italian stage. Born at Nice in 1807, he took very early to a seafaring life, partly from love of adventure. Having returned to Italy, he got mixed up in a conspiracy in connection with Mazzini against Charles Albert, in consequence of which he was condemned to death in his absence, and outlawed. He escaped to France, and evinced his humanity and moral courage by attending the patients in a cholera hospital at Marseilles when abandoned by the nurses. He then went to Africa as a soldier of fortune, and proceeded thence to South America, where he fought in the service of the Republic of Rio Grande against Brazil, where he was taken prisoner and cruelly tortured. He subsequently commanded an Italian legion of 800 men against the Dictator Rosas. After a career of stirring adventures and perils, in which he was accompanied by his heroic wife, he returned to Italy, delighted to have an opportunity of aiding in the liberation of his native country. He had collected together about 3,000 volunteers and refugees, with whom he arrived in Rome at the end of January, 1849. A constituent assembly was convoked, by which the Pope was dethroned, and a republic proclaimed. The whole of Central Italy was now emancipated. The petty despots were all deposed and banished, and the great work which remained to be accomplished by their united forces was the expulsion of the Austrian armies from the Peninsula.

The leader in this great undertaking, as we have already seen, was Charles Albert, King of Sardinia. He opened his Parliament in person on the 1st of February, 1849, when he delivered a lengthy speech, in which ho fully expounded his policy. " A constitutional Government," he said, "turns on two pivots - the king and the people. The first is the symbol of unity and power; the second, that of liberty and progress. I have accomplished my duty by granting free institutions to the nation, by conferring offices and honour on merit, and not on fortune; by composing my court of the chosen men of the state; and by devoting my life and that of my sons to the salvation and independence of the country. You have nobly assisted me in that difficult task. Continue to co-operate with me, and rest assured that the intimate union of our endeavours must produce common felicity and security. We shall be aided in that glorious mission by the affection and esteem of the most civilised and illustrious nations of Europe; and, in particular., by those who are united to us by the common ties of nationality and country." He spoke of his land and sea forces as being in the best possible condition, and full of national ardour. He invited the nation to co-operate in the great struggle which was impending, and which the mediation of France and England was designed, if possible, to avert. Radetzky, when he retreated from Milan to take up a new line of operations, had concentrated his forces, and obtained a victory over the Italian army at Cuztozza, which immediately led to the capitulation of Milan, to which he returned in triumph on the 6th of August.

On the 3rd of the same month, in the preceding year, the Austrians, under General Weiden, had crossed th« Po, and occupied Ferrara and Bologna. England and France protested against this violation of the Papal territory, which led to the withdrawal of the Austrians, and to an amnesty with Piedmont, which had lasted throughout the autumn and winter. The events at Rome and the flight of the Pope had greatly altered the position of the Italian question; and the revolutionary spirit was so strong that Charles Albert found it impossible to resist the demand of his people for a renewal of hostilities. " I must restore war," he said, " or abdicate the crown and see a republic established." In January the Sardinian Prime Minister, M. Gioberti, addressed a protest to the foreign Powers, in which he stated, that though the suspension of hostilities agreed to on the 5th of August, 1848, was productive of fatal political consequences, Sardinia had faithfully observed the agreement, while Austria had disregarded her promises, and exhibited nothing but bad faith. She had pursued an iniquitous system of spoliation. Under the name of extraordinary war contributions, her fleet seized Italian vessels navigating the Adriatic. She had put to death persons whose safety was guaranteed by the law of nations. She had violated the most sacred compacts in a manner unparalleled in the annals of civilised nations. Gioberti, however, who was obnoxious to the republican party, was compelled to resign, and was succeeded by General Chiodo. On the 24th of February the new Ministry issued a programme of its policy, and on the 14th of March, M. Ratazzi, Minister of the Interior, announced to the Chamber of Deputies the expiration of the armistice, declaring that no honourable peace with Austria could be expected unless won by arms. War would, of course, have it's perils; but between those perils and the shame of an ignominous peace, which would not insure Italian independence, the King's Government could not hesitate. Consequently, he stated that, two days before, a special messenger had been sent to Radetzky, announcing the termination of the armistice. The King, meantime, had joined the army as a general officer, commanding the brigade at Savoy. The nominal strength of his army at that time was 135,000 men; but the muster-roll on the 20th of March showed only about 84,000 effective troops, including 5,000 cavalry, with 150 guns. The chief command was given to a Polish General, Chrazanowski. Radetzky had under his command an army equal in number, but far superior in equipment and discipline. So completely did the esprit de corps animate the military machine, and so high was the spirit of military honour inspired by its old general, that even the Hungarians requested that they might be placed at the post of danger in order to prove their fidelity. Indeed, the whole army seemed to have been longing for a renewal of the war, and they were delighted when it came. In an order of the day, issued on the 18th of March, Radetzky said, " Soldiers Ī your most ardent wishes are fulfilled. The enemy has announced the termination of the armistice. Well, we are ready to meet them, and shall dictate in their capital the peace we so generously offer them. The contest cannot be long. You are to combat the same enemy you overpowered at Santa Lucia, Somma, Campana, Cuztozza, Volta, and under the walls of Milan. God is with us, for our cause is just. To arms, soldiers! Follow once more your old general to war and victory. I will witness your exploits. It will be the last joyful act of my long military career, if, in the capital of a perfidious enemy, I can decorate the breasts of my brave comrades with the emblem of valour, conquered with blood and glory. Let our watchward be ' Forward! ' Soldiers, let us march to Turin, where alone we can find the peace for which we are fighting. Long live the Emperor and our country! " The Austrian soldiers responded to this appeal by putting green bows in their caps, as a sign of rejoicing.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5 6

Pictures for Italy page 2

Piedmontese troops
Piedmontese troops >>>>
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi >>>>
The Royal palace Milan
The Royal palace Milan >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About