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

Southern Europe: Spain; Portugal; Italy; Greece.

Modern History. (a.d. 1492-1898). Europe from 1815 to 1898.
Pages: <1> 2

The history of Spain since 1815 presents for the most part a dreary record of disaster and disgrace - tyranny, revolution, civil war, only of late years ending in the establishment of a constitutional government. The miserably perfidious Ferdinand VII., on his restoration to his kingdom in 1814, set aside the "Constitution of Cadiz" of 1812, which he had sworn to maintain, and, after being compelled by revolt to recognise it for three years, from 1820 to 1823, he was enabled by French aid to re-establish absolute power until his death in 1833. His young daughter Isabella was acknowledged queen by the Cortes, under the regency of her mother Marie Christina, a Neapolitan Bourbon, and a civil war was at once begun by Don Carlos, the deceased king's brother, who claimed the throne under the old Salic law excluding females. The "Carlists" and "Christinos" were in conflict for years with variations of success, but in the end, with the general support of European opinion, and armed aid from British and French volunteers, the young queen s cause was successful, and she assumed power in 1843, with an oath to observe the constitutional form of rule. Order was fairly maintained under the influence of the prudent and energetic minister Narvaez, and liberalism made some progress, with the rise of a republican feeling after 1848. The administration of affairs was generally corrupt, under many successive ministries, but progress in internal development, and an increase of naval and military strength, took place during seven years of really liberal government from 1858 to 1865. Three years later, a revolution arose at Cadiz, under the leadership of General Prim and Marshal Serrano, and Queen Isabella, whose vicious private life had disgusted all classes, fled to France, the deposition of the Bourbons being proclaimed. After two years of "provisional government," and the assassination of Prim, who had been virtually dictator, in December, 1870, the Spanish throne was offered to and accepted by Amadeus of Savoy, second son of Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy. In 1873 he resigned the crown, and a republic was proclaimed, leading to a second Carlist war, which raged in the north of Spain in behalf of another Don Carlos, a collateral descendant of the former claimant. At the end of 1874 Isabella's son was proclaimed king as Alfonso XII., and early in 1876 Don Carlos gave up the struggle and withdrew to France. For n years, from 1874 until 1885, when Alfonso died, Spain enjoyed a period of comparative prosperity and improvement, which continued under the constitutional rule, as Regent, of his widow Christina, an Austrian princess, holding power for her son Alfonso XIII., born in May, 1886, some months after her husband's death. On August 8th, 1897, the hateful energy of the enemies of the human race styled "anarchists" was again lamentably displayed in the assassination of one of the best Spanish statesmen of modern times. Sefior Canovas del Castillo, after having held office as Minister of the Interior and as Minister of Finance and of the Colonies, took a leading part in bringing Alfonso XII. to the throne, and then became in succession twice Premier, President of the Cortes, and again Premier in 1890, and, for the fourth time, in March, 1895. The son of a peasant, ugly in person, brilliant, a man of sarcastic and witty speech, he became the head of the Conservative party, being followed also by the masses owing to his wonderful oratorical power. His services to Spain included the passing of the law for the abolition of slavery, financial reforms which restored the credit of the state, and the restoration of universal suffrage. At a crisis of trouble due to the long-continued Cuban rebellion, Canovas was fatally wounded, by a Neapolitan anarchist, with three shots from a revolver, in the piazza, of an hotel at Santa Agueda, in the Basque country, between Vitoria and San Sebastian. He fell at the feet of his wife, a young and beautiful woman of an illustrious and ancient family, a "society belle" devoted to and proud of her ill-favoured and ill-fated husband.

After the downfall of Napoleon, the affairs of Portugal, like those of Spain, were for many years in a troubled state. In 1815 the Inquisition was abolished, and the Jesuits were expelled, but the sovereign, John VI., and the court resided at Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, until 1821, and much public discontent existed in Portugal, where the government was in the hands of English officers, including Marshal Beresford, one of the commanders in the Peninsular War. In 1820 a peaceful revolution at Lisbon set up constitutional rule in a highly democratic form, and the king, returning from Brazil, accepted this new system. A despotic party at court, headed by the queen, a Spanish princess, and her son Dom Miguel, caused a counter-revolution in 1823, with the dissolution of the Cortes. The king, dying in 1826, left the throne to his son Dom Pedro, who had become emperor of Brazil as an independent country, but he renounced the Portuguese sovereignty in favour of his daughter Maria da Gloria, on condition of her marrying her uncle, Dom Miguel, who was to be regent. The despotic party claimed the throne for Dom Miguel as an absolute ruler, and in 1828 he was declared king by the Cortes. A period of anarchical confusion followed. In 1832 Dom Pedro, resigning the Brazilian crown, returned to Europe, overthrew the usurper with the aid of a British squadron under Charles Napier, and set up Maria as queen in 1833. Her reign was troubled by contests between parties favouring different constitutional forms of rule, but peace was generally maintained with the useful aid of her second husband, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, brother of Queen Victoria's admirable consort. On Queen Maria's death in 1853, her son became king as Pedro V., and progress was made in restoring financial affairs, under the management of his father as regent. On the king's sudden death in 1861, his brother succeeded as Luis I. and ruled steadily as a constitutional monarch until his death in 1889, when his son came to the throne as Charles I.

Italy, since the peace of 1815, has been the theatre of most important events, amounting to a complete revolution of affairs in that long-divided, much-harassed land of ancient and mediaeval renown. The Congress of Vienna left the country, as we have seen, in the hands of several rulers caring nothing for the aspirations of Italians for union and independence. For 45 years, from 1815 to 1860, Austria and the Bourbons held most of the country enslaved under a rigorous system of repression. The Jesuits were restored, and to their hands was committed the work of elementary education, with results that may be easily conceived. Secret political societies, such as the famous league styled Carbonari, aimed at the overthrow of despotic rule. The above name was derived from that assumed by certain republicans of Naples under Murat's rule, who made their way to the wild regions of the Abruzzi frequented by the "carbonari" or charcoal-burners. Insurrections in southern Italy were crushed in 1820 and 1821 by Austrian aid, and like failure attended similar movements in subsequent years, in Piedmont, Modena, Lombardy, and other quarters. Priests, army-officers, and ladies were found among the Carbonari, who included most of the patriotism and intelligence of Italy, but the lack of military force, good leadership, and funds made all efforts futile for many dreary years of conspiracy closely watched by ubiquitous police-spies. After the failure of revolutionary attempts in central Italy in 1831, the party styled "Young Italy" was organised by the able and famous patriot Giuseppe Mazzini, aiming at the establishment of a republic. Many wild and useless efforts were made, but there is no evidence to convict him or his supporters of any policy of assassination. Expelled in turn from France and Switzerland, Mazzini sought refuge in London, and carried on his work from 1833 to 1848 in the European press and by secret correspondence with Italy. The hope of freedom was flattered for a time by the advent of Pius IX., in 1846, to the Papacy. He began a course of liberal reforms, and even Ferdinand II. of Naples granted a "constitution" in 1848. That revolutionary year seemed to be carrying Mazzini and his party to the front, and the rebels for a time drove the Austrian troops from Lombardy and Venetia, Modena and Parma. The fair prospect was soon overshadowed by reactionary gloom. Charles Albert, king of Sardinia, declared war on Austria and won an initial victory, but his forces were completely defeated in later battles, notably at Novara, in March, 1849, and the brokenhearted monarch gave up his throne to his son Victor Emmanuel II. The Pope, meanwhile, had withdrawn, as if in terror, from the advanced political position which he had assumed, and had been driven from Rome, where a republic was set up, in February, 1849, by Mazzini and two co-triumvirs. The great patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi, who had twice defeated the king of Naples' forces defended Rome with desperate valour against a besieging French army but the place was taken on July 2nd. Venice, heroically maintained for a long time by the patriots under Daniel Manin, succumbed to the Austrian forces in August, and the petty sovereigns returned to power, the Pope's throne henceforth resting on French bayonets, with a state of siege maintained in his capital for seven years from 1850. Henceforth Italian patriots looked to the House of Savoy, the king of Sardinia, as the chief hope for unity and freedom.

At the middle of the century Sardinia was the only constitutional monarchy in the whole peninsula. The excellent king, Victor Emmanuel, honoured by his popular title "Il Re Galantuomo," "the honest king," bestowed on him in contrast with the perfidious tyrant Ferdinand of Naples, was a bluff, brave specimen of a noble race animated by the straightforward and steadfast purpose of ruling a free people in such wise as best to promote their prosperity and happiness. He had the advantage of possessing, as his chief minister one of the ablest and most enlightened of modern European diplomatists and statesmen, Count Cavour, who may be fairly regarded as a chief agent in the restoration of Italian unity and nationality. As a traveller and resident in England and France he had become well acquainted with the details of constitutional government, and with the industrial and economical conditions conducive to national welfare. After serving with excellent results as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, of Marine, and of Finance, Cavour became Premier in 1853, and at once took in hand the work of forcing Sardinia to the front as representing the cause of Italian unity and independence. With great tact he aided he French and British allied forces before Sebastopol, in 1855, at a time of difficulty, with a well-appointed brigade of 15,000 men, who fought victoriously against the Russians in August of that year, at the battle of the Tchernaya. Thereby winning French and British sympathy, the great Italian minister intrigued with Louis Napoleon, the French emperor, for a combined movement against Austrian domination in northern Italy, and his efforts were backed in a manner as far as possible removed from the sphere of his knowledge and control of affairs. In January, 1858, a desperate and almost successful attempt was made to assassinate the emperor by the explosion of three bombs under his carriage close to the entrance of the Opera-house in Paris. The leading conspirator in this atrocious affair was Felice Orsini, a member of the noble family known in the old times as supporters of the Guelph party, and one which had produced famous scholars, soldiers, and ecclesiastics, including Popes Nicholas III. and Benedict XIII. The Orsmi of the modern plot, a man of violent character, had escaped to England in 1856 from imprisonment in the fortress of Mantua. The outrage in Paris caused the death of ten persons and the wounding of 156, and Orsini and an accomplice died by the guillotine. It is believed that Napoleon III. was influenced by expressions in Orsini's will intimating that there could be no safety for the emperor from Italian plots until Italian freedom was obtained. However that may be, the French ruler soon resolved to draw the sword, and he took the field in support of Sardinia in the spring of 1859. The war was a brief one. The French had a great advantage in the use of rifled cannon, and in generalship which was at any rate superior to the miserable incompetence of the Austrian commanders. In May the Austrians were defeated at Montebello; again, on June 4th, at Magenta; and on June 24th at the great' battle of Solferino. The fear of Prussian intervention caused the French emperor to patch up a hasty preliminary peace at Villafranca on July 13th, and in November the Peace of Zurich ceded Lombardy, apart from the fortresses of Mantua and Peschiera, to Sardinia, and gave Nice and Savoy, by way of compensation, to France. Early in 1860, Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and some Papal territory, also fell to Victor Emmanuel, with the consent of Austria and France, and a good beginning had thus been made towards Italian liberation and unity. During the struggle with Austria, Garibaldi had played his part as a guerilla-leader, acting on the Austrian communications, and that ideal patriot and hero now came to the front as a chief agent in freeing southern Italy.

The condition of the "kingdom of the two Sicilies" (Naples and Sicily) was a scandal to the civilised world under the vile tyranny of Francis II., who had succeeded in 1859 to his father Ferdinand, the monarch infamously known as "King Bomba" from his having shelled his people in the cities of Messina and Palermo when they revolted against his violation of the constitution which he had sworn to maintain. His atrocious treatment of liberal politicians who had broken no law had been mercilessly exposed in 1851 by Mr. Gladstone, in the famous "Naples letters" to Lord Aberdeen, wherein he justly assailed the tyrant's whole system of rule as "the negation of God." In May, 1860, Garibaldi, with 1,000 of his red-shirted volunteers, landed at Marsala, on the west coast of Sicily. His numbers were rapidly increased, and after some fighting the Neapolitan troops were withdrawn from all points except the citadel of Messina. The conqueror crossed to the main-land on August 20th, and made a triumphal progress through the south of the peninsula, forcing the king to leave Naples for the fortress of Gaeta. Piedmontese troops had meanwhile occupied Umbria and the Marches, and the Papal States, excepting Rome and adjacent territory, were seized and annexed by Victor Emmanuel The Sardinian king then invaded the Neapolitan territory and joined Garibaldi, and Capua was taken on the retreat of the royal troops. Gaeta was forced to capitulate in February, 1861, after a brave defence, and the whole of the territory of Naples and Sicily came into the hands of Victor Emmanuel, as king of an Italy which included the whole peninsula except Venetia and the city and Papal domain of Rome. Some rash attempts of Garibaldi, made without the sanction of his sovereign, to obtain possession of Rome which was held by French troops, ended in his defeat at Aspromonte, by Italian royal troops, in August, 1862, and at Mentana, by French troops, in November, 1867. In 1861 the new Italian kingdom had a severe loss in the premature death of the prudent and wily Cavour, and the government for some years found much difficulty in reducing to order the Neapolitan territories, swarming with brigands who fought, as they declared, for "King Francis," and under that cloak committed all sorts of outrages. In 1864 Florence became the capital instead of Turin, and Italian patriots looked eagerly forward to the possession of Venetia and Rome. The first of these objects was attained in 1866, after the Austro-Prussian war. Austrian pride, as against Italy, Prussia's ally in that struggle, was gratified by her victory over Italian land-forces at Custozza, and by her naval triumph at Lissa, in the Adriatic. On the conclusion of peace, Venetia was transferred, first to the French emperor and then to the king of Italy, along with Peschiera and the other Austrian fortresses of the famous "Quadrilateral." Rome alone remained for the completion of Italian unity. This last prize came with the downfall of French imperial power in 1870. On September 20th Italian troops entered Rome by the Porta Pia, which had been breached by a few shots from the artillery, and in June, 1871, the "Eternal City" became at last the capital. The temporal power of the Papacy had an end, the Pope retaining possession only of the Vatican, the Lateran palace, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the villa of Castel Gandolfo, and their precincts, with an income of 50,000 pounds a year voted from the Italian revenues. Italy, entering the European system of states as the sixth great Power, has incurred vast financial expense in the maintenance of a great military and naval force, entailing a very serious burden of taxation on a people mainly dependent on the products of the soil. Victor Emmanuel, dying in January, 1878, was succeeded by his eldest son Humbert I., who has ruled fairly well as a constitutional sovereign. Much progress has been made with education, Sicily and southern Italy being still the most backward parts of the kingdom in this respect.

>>> Next page >>>
Pages: <1> 2

Pictures for Southern Europe: Spain; Portugal; Italy; Greece.

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About