Contributions by Mazzini, Cavour and Garibaldi to Italian Unification

The Italian unification was a long process, which was achieved by a variety of treaties, as well as a variety of individuals. The most important persons are considered to be Mazzini, Cavour and Garibaldi. But their differences in beliefs and their contributions to the unification of Italy had many factors that had to be considered.

After the French Control in Italy came to an end in 1815, by the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, it was replaced by Austrian powers. This was decided at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 , because it occurred to be the best way to prevent any future threats of French invasion. Throughout this time there were different political ideas present in Italy, which created the Secret Societies and led to Revolutions.

The Liberals believed that everyone had the right to free speech towards the government and that the best way would be through a representative assembly or a parliament. Their intentions were mostly non-violent and their followers mainly from the middle-class who favoured a constitutional monarchy.

Another political group were followers of the radicals; who had much more extreme views and were ready to use violence to obtain set goals. They wanted social reforms and fair distributions of wealth. The ones that were members of Secret Societies believed that people should have the right to political decisions and not only the parliament, unless it was elected so by men over the age of 25. Women or peasants did not count as having the same right.

The Nationalists , however, had different aspects which did not contribute well to either the Liberals nor the Radicals. They believed that people of the same race, language, culture and tradition should be united independently, with geographical a boundary which clearly shows each nation, so that no-one would be a subject of control by another nation.

Finally there was also Metternich´s view which was considered to be entirely negative. He opposed to all the other political views and had no intention of accepting any ideas which could spread and undermine Austrian control over Italy. The fact that separate states were ruled by monarchs and that there were no full ´Italians`, it would keep Italy weak, divided, easily controlled by Austria and an Unity would continue not to exist.

These political views expanded and created secret societies which had been established similarly in the 1790s, whose main purpose was to drive out the French, but after 1815 it changed to overthrow the restored monarchs and drive out the Austrians. These groups were viewed as anti-Catholic and dangerous to social order, because of their mutual protection and semi-religious rituals. The revolutions in Spain encouraged Liberals in Naples to take own action which led to a widespread uprising. This did not succeed fully because the King could not defend and establish their wishes. Meanwhile other separate revolts had begun in Sicily to fight independence. Metternich was disturbed by the revolutions because they ruined the settled peace within a country. Even In Piedmont revolutions erupt in 1820 but did not manage to change the constitution of 1770, therefore it would remain an absolute monarchy in spite of the pressures of the Liberals. Until 1831 all revolutions granted minimal changes if any at all. They failed because they were mainly local affairs which included little communication and fewer co-operations outside the limited areas. Co-ordination was non existent because the aims of each secret society or revolutionary group was based differently.

A member of one of the secret societies ( Carbonari) was Giuseppe Mazzini who was a true Nationalist and founder of the new secret society `Young Italy´. Mazzini worked for the independence and unification of Italy and based his beliefs upon the existence of God, equality of men and races each individually and the progress of mankind. He wanted to replace the Christian religion with a straight forward democracy and lead decisions made by the people, not by God. This included the creation of his new society.

In 1833 Mazzini planned a revolt on Piedmont , in which he based himself in Switzerland and collected Polish, German and Italian refugees as volunteers for an own army. The military command was entrusted to Ramorino from Genoa. He got money to raise and organize the army but instead he misused it and returned to Mazzini without the money and without an army. Now all that was useful were the ones left of Mazzinis collection, but before departure to Piedmont the Swiss authorities disbanded the German and Polish volunteers, which left fewer than two hundred men. This way it was impossible to precede the expedition.

His dream of a United Italy could not be realised in the 1830s but it did have an important event in 1833 when Giuseppe Garibaldi got involved in a Revolt led by Mazzini in Genoa. It failed once again but the young man managed to escape before his trial and death sentence. It is said that Mazzinis ideas were too intellectual and impractical for a real basis for revolution. He had a major weakness in his written works, which consistent of incoherency and lack of attention towards the needs of peasants and working reforms in the countryside. The highest point of his life was after his return in which he became the head of the Roman Republic (1849).

Another important character for the unification of Italy was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. He was the author of the publication `Il Risorgimento´ in 1847, after Charles Albert freed the press from censorship, which was used to publicise his political ideas. In October 1850 he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and the Navy which allowed him to practice his economic theories and make free-trade treaties with Britain, Belgium and France. He then also became Minster of finance in 1851 but already in 1852 he resigned from the government and went abroad to France, meeting with Louis Napoleon. Though meanwhile in his absence a political crisis broke out in Piedmont when new rules about civil marriage were passed out and the Church complained heavily. As the Prime minister resigned Cavour was chosen as his successor, he agreed on this and became the new prime minister in 1852, dropping the civil marriage bill. He remained in this position until his early death in 1861.

Even if he expressed a vague wish of the Italian Unification in the 1830s, he did not take his aims realistically until the 1860s. His main focus had always been to drive out the Austrians and establish a bigger Kingdom of Piedmont, but the overall Unification was a considerable thought that began to have a slight importance to him, much later.

His decision to join in the war with Russia was affected by two main factors, which were considered right after he took office and the Crimean War started. One reason was the fact that he could ally with two of the Great Powers; Britain and France, which would give support against Austria. The other reason was gaining a seat at the Peace Conference which would give him the possibility to negotiate in a wider range and increase his reputation as well as from Piedmont. He did achieve this in 1856, where he negotiated at almost equal terms with the Great Powers and kept in touch throughout the next two years with Napoleon. The meetings were kept secret, especially the invitation to Plombieres, where Cavour and Napoleon discussed the possibilities to start a war with Austria. Throughout the discussions no major reason could be found, to start this war, so Cavour wrote a speech for Victor Emmanuel, that was presented at the Opening of the Parliament in 1859, which was anti-Austrian. It should provoke Austria into starting the War, because Napoleon believed that Austria would have to appear as the aggressor. In April 1859 the Austrian set an ultimatum to Piedmont to demobilize her army, and she had already mobilized an army in northern Italy, but due to her bad economic status, could not afford to keep it ready for very long. At this point Cavour had accomplished his goal and refused Austrian demands. Austria declared war on the 29th of April 1859 and a short but violent war started.

It lasted only 7 weeks because of the unorganized slaughter that was creating a further mess. On the 11th of July 1859 Napoleon made a truce with Austria without consulting Cavour. Piedmont received Lombardy and Austria still kept Venetia, which meant that they stayed a powerful influence in Italy.

While Napoleon and Victor Emmanuel tried to transfer Savoy and Nice to France after treaties and the armistice of Villafranca, there were many who questioned the purpose. One of them was Garibaldi, who was born in Nice and was a representative of the Piedmontese parliament who was currently preparing a military expedition in order to prevent Nice being taken over by France. But then he got diverted by an outbreak of revolution in southern Italy.

Garibaldi was a soldier and leader of men which follwed his goals in a clear, and simple way. In 1931 he had been under the influence of Mazzini but then he decided to abandon his republican ideals and follow Victor Emmanuel II becoming a monarchist instead. He constantly changed his nationalist beliefs but still remained focused on the same aim; of wanting to unite Italy and send out the Austrians. Also he wanted Rome and Venetia and Naples and Sicily to be a part of the Unification. After having led an Italian legion of guerrilla fighters in Uruguay, he decided to go back home , when he heard rumours of a revolution in Italy. He immediately offered his military services to the King of Piedmont, which denied his offer. The reason for Garibaldi to act this way, was due to his changement from a republican to a royalist. He believed that the King of Piedmont was the only one with the necessary resources to defeat the Austrians and unite Italy. This change was the end of a good relationship between Mazzini and Garibaldi.

The Roman Republic in 1849 was declared after the Pope refused to make changes in Rome, and had to escape to the south. The Republic was led by Mazzini and two other politicians which had been governed mainly under his influence. As Garibaldi reached Rome, Cavour mistrusted his intentions and asked the French for help which then intervened. Garibaldi fought with his men, without achieving his goal and travelling back to the south. In which he took possession of Palermo and also the island of Sicily. His aims at that time were to raise an army to conquer first Naples, then Rome and in the end Venice. During this time Cavour tried to stop Garibaldi, because he feared that Britain and France would see his revolts and actions as a threat to their countries and intervene even against Cavour. He asked Victor Emmanuel to command Garibaldi to stop his actions, which happened, but then he contradicted himself by saying Garibaldi should ignore the previous command. He slowly fought his way up to the city of Naples and discovered that the King had left, so that Garibaldi could rule as a dictator over the city.

Though he could not advance any further because the way was blocked by a Neapolitan military stronghold in the north. His plan was to advance through the Napal states onto Rome and therefore complete the Unification of Italy. This process of planning took a longer period of time which gave Cavour the possibility to act in advance. His major fear was that due to the followers of Garibaldi, which were mostly Mazzinians, the church and the Pope in Rome would be in great danger, and this could also affect France and the rest of the Catholic Europe. The only way for Cavour to stop Garibaldi before he reached Rome, was to send troops from Piedmont through the Papal States, with the excuse that the Pope could not deal with a revolt in his territory. When Victor Emmanuel and his troops reached Naples, there should have been a brutal ending, but instead it became a harmless meeting in which both sides marched friendly through Naples. At this point Garibaldi and his troops were disbanded and Victor Emmanuel and Cavour believed that Garibaldis political job was done, since all of Italy was united except Rome and Venetia.

In 1862, he returned to Sicily from Caprera and collected over 3000 volunteers to set up an army for the conquest of Rome. This attempt failed and Garibaldi was sent back to Caprera, but already in 1867 he again set up an army when the French withdrew from Rome. Again he got defeated by Italian troops and by the return of the French.

After the defeat of Napoleon III by the Prussian army, Garibaldi offered his service to the new French republic and with a little hesitation got elected to the French National Assembly. Meanwhile the French troops had to be withdrawn from Rome to help at home against the Prussians, which gave Italian troops in 1870 the chance to attack and finally capture their capital.

The importance of all three men contribution to the unification of Italy is unquestioned. Mazzini seen as a true Nationalist and creator of the ´young Italy`, which used democracy instead of Christianity, longing for the Unification and going beyond the middle class, to the actual essence of Italy. Cavour who fought for Piedmont, rather than for the unification of Italy, helped in spreading Italian influence over different nations and therefore was responsible for driving our major French influences. Garibaldi was the hero, seen as a humanist at last, changing his beliefs but remaining true to his main goal; the unification of Italy, which he achieved at last. Their Contributions were of different importance, but put together, led to the overall Unification.


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