Italian Unification: Role of Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour

We have discussed the revolts that shocked the European countries in the 1850s. So, now we will discuss the unification of Italian states and role of Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour in this.

The Italian States After Napoleon

After coming into power Napoleon unified smaller states of Italy. But after the defeat of Napoleon in Battle of Waterloo, these unified states reverted to their previous state. They were in worse condition because victorious allies at the Congress of Vienna of 1815 divided the country among themselves.

  • Austria took Venice and territory around it.
  • The Pope came back to Rome and the states adjoining it called the Papal States.
  • Naples and the south formed the kingdom of the two Sicilies under a Bourbon king.
  • To the north-west, near the French frontier, there was a King of Piedmont and Sardinia.

All these rulers ruled in an autocratic manner. Because of the oppressive and exploitative policies of the kings in these states, people started forming secretive societies.

Italy After Napoleon
Italy After Napoleon

Italian Unification: Common Ground of Culture

Italian states were having the common bond of unity on the ground of culture, language and ethnicity. But the victorious powers divided these states in accordance to their will. So, this was the cause of pain for the Italian people. Italian nationalists established Carbonari i.e. secret organisations.

The objective of these secret societies was to overthrow the rulers. So, they wanted to unify the Italian states. In the lack of mass support and international support, Carbonari did not get the required popularity among the people. Therefore Carbonari was immediately crushed by the Austrian Powers.

Italian Unification: Emergence of Mazzini

Soon there emerged an extraordinary young man who came to be known as the leader of the movement for freedom. This was Giuseppe Mazzini, the prophet of Italian nationalism. So, he established a society, Giovane Italia- Young Italy- with the aim of an Italian Republic.

For many years he worked for this cause. Many of his writings became classics in the literature of nationalism. Mazzini made two proposals:

  • Without international support unification of Italy is difficult.
  • Austria is a big hurdle in Italian unification.

In 1848, revolts were breaking out all over the North Italy. Mazzini took the advantage of the circumstances. So, he came to Rome and drove out the Pope. And established Republic in Rome.

Then he formed a committee of three- Triumvirs. Mazzini was one of these Triumvirs. But this young Republic was attacked on all sides: by the Austrians, Neapolitans and the French.

Italian Unification: Role of Garibaldi

All the three major powers surrounded and attacked the Roman Republic. The chief fighter on the side of the Roman Republic was Garibaldi. He held the Austrians and defeated the Neapolitan armies. He even stopped the French. All this was done with the help of volunteers.

The bravest and best of the youth of Rome gave their lives in defence of the Republic. Mazzini and Garibaldi carried on their work in different ways. Mazzini was a thinker and an idealist. Garibaldi was a soldier with a genius guerilla warfare.

Garibaldi’s leadership gave strength to the young volunteers. Volunteers poured in and they marched enthusiastically. They often marched singing Garibaldi’s hymn. Garibaldi and Mazzini both were fiercely devoted to Italian unification. The third player in this game was Cavour.

Italian Unification
Italian Unification

Italian Unification: Cavour the Clever

Cavour, the Prime Minister of Victor Emmanuel, King of Piedmont. He wanted to make Victor Emmanuel as the King of Italy. As this involved the suppression and removal of many of the petty princes, he took advantage of Mazzini’s and Garibaldi’s activities.

Cavour was clear that Italy required international support. In this circumstances, the Crimean war of 1854 broke out. In this war, Cavour sent Italian forces to assist Britain and France against Russia. Due to the contribution of troops sent by Cavour Britain and France won. So Cavour got the reward of it. This was a diplomatic victory of Cavour.

Cavour: French defeated Austrians

Now Cavour intrigued with the France. Then he involved them in a war with his enemies the Austrians. When the French defeated Austrians, taking advantage of condition Garibaldi went for an extraordinary expedition on his account against the King of Naples and Sicily.

This was the famous Garibaldi’s expedition in which his soldiers won the war. The fame of Garibaldi Spread. It was a difficult battle to win. Though many a time Garibaldi and his volunteers were on the verge of defeat. But even in the hour of defeat fortune smiled upon him. And he turned defeat into victory.

Military Leadership of Garibaldi and Diplomatic steps of Cavour

Soon Garibaldi and his troops landed in Sicily. As he marched through the villages of South Italy, Garibaldi appealed for volunteers:

Come! He who stays at home is a coward. I promise you weariness, hardship and battles. But we will conquer of the die. Nothing succeeds like success.

Garibaldi’s early success whipped up the spirit of nationalism of the Italians. So, Cavour took advantage of Garibaldi’s successes.

The result of all this was that Victor Emmanuel of Piedmont became King of Italy in 1861. Rome was still under French troops. Venice under Austrians. Within 10 years both Venice and Rome joined the rest of Italy. So, Rome became the capital.

Italian Unification: Constitutional Monarchy

At last Italy was a united nation. The new Kingdom was a constitutional one. So an Italian Parliament met at Turin immediately after Victor Emmanuel became king. So Italy became an independent nation. Though all the people of Italy sacrificed to gain this freedom but three men planned for it wisely. Though Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour perhaps of any one of these had not been there. But the freedom would have been longer in coming.

George Meredith, the English poet and novelist, wrote many years afterwards:

Who blew the breath of life into her frame:

Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi: three:

Her Brain, her Soul, her Sword; and set her free

From ruinous discords, with one lustrous aim.

Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi
Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi

This was all about the Italian Unification. In the next coming post, we will discuss German Unification.

Thank you so much. 🙂 Stay Connected. 🙂

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