Italian Unification

Unification of Italy (Risorgimento) – Unify Italian Revolution

The Unification of Italy first occurred around the 3rd century BC, and after that there were several collapses and rebuilding journeys in which many heroes fell and several villains were made. For many years, Italy was an extension of the defunct Roman empire, and as such it enjoyed several privileges. When the Frankish Empire succeeded in conquering the region, the office of the King of Italy was merged with the post of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. However, the emperor who was a German foreigner could only care little about the ruling of Italy; thus, Italy moved into a city-state system of government.

In subsequent years however, southern Italy was ruled by the Kingdom of Sicily, which was created by the Normans. On the other end, the Pope at Rome was in charge of ruling Central Italy. This system continued during the Renaissance period but started to fail during the modern era, which eventually saw Italy as the theater of wars between world powers such as France, Austria, the Holy Roman Empire, and Austria.

Napoleon’s Unification

Napoleon Bonaparte the famous French warrior had a quick rise to power during the French revolution and resulted in the conquest of all the regions in Italy and thus they became embedded into the French empire.

He later went on to implement several reforms across Europe. Along the line when Napoleon powers began to diminish, as he selected monarchs to rule their respective regions. Two of these monarchs namely Eugene de Beauharnais and Joachim Murat tried to get a succession approval from the Austrians so that they could Unify Italy but it was to no avail. Although Napoleon was now defeated and was in exile, he returned and made an attempt to regain power.

When Murat realized the European powers were planning to remove him at the Congress of Vienna, He declared it to the Italian and marched northwards to fight the Naples war against Austria in order to strengthen his military hold in Italy. However, in 1815, he was defeated by the Austrians at the Battle of Tolentino.

The Carboneria

The Carboneria was a very influential revolutionary group across the regions of Italy. The Carbonari filled the void that was left by the Freemasons after they were repressed. Even though the Carboneria were inspired by French revolution principles such as equality, fraternity, equality, and liberty, they refused to associate with Napoleon, but created their rituals and were very anti-clerical.

Insurrections at Sicily

The Italians were inspired by the success of the 1820 Spaniards revolution over their constitution. A Carbonaro, Guglielmo Pepe, the leader of a military regiment, mutinied and conquered a region. However, the revolutionaries were unable to enlist the support of the people and fell under the Austrian troops. Ferdinand revoked the constitution and began a systematic persecution of prominent revolutionaries.

About a decade later, revolutionary sentiments for a united Italy experienced a revival, and series of uprisings initiated a unified nation on the Italian peninsula. In France, in the course of the 1830 July Revolution, the king was forced to abdicate. The new French king Louis Philippe, encouraged the revolutionaries. He promised that he would intervene should Austria interfere with Italian. However, due to fear that could lose the throne, he reneged on his promise. The revolutionaries failed.

The Austrian army began a campaign to crush the resistance across the Italian peninsula around 1831. In early 1831, the Austrian army began a march into the Italian peninsula; this suppressed most of the new revolutionary movement and led to the arrest of the leaders.

The Killing of the Bandiera Brothers

In 1844, two Venetian brothers and members of Giovani Italia, Emilio, and Attilio Bandera, plotted the conquest of the two Sicilian kingdoms off the coast of Calabria, and supported the Unification of Italy. They gathered a group of twenty people who were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice. On June 12, 1844, they launched at sea. After four days, they arrived near Crotone and planned to proceed to Cosenza, release political prisoners, and make announcements.

Unfortunately for the brothers, they couldn’t find the band of rebels, so they moved to La Silla. Finally, one of their accomplice Pietro Pocesambi betrayed them. Gendarmes and a volunteer unit were sent to stop them and capture them. Bandiera’s brothers and their accomplices were fired, and while they died, they shouted “Long live Italy!”. When the news reached Italy, it affected the people’s morale and led to other revolutions.

Battle of San Fermo

At the famous Battle of Magenta, the Austrian troops were pushed back to Lombardy after suffering a devastating defeat. In the same vein, the the Austrians troops battling at Como and Varese also suffered defeat in the hand of the Giuseppe Garibaldi led Italian troops. There was no other option left for them than to agree to negotiations. Therefore, they signed the Armistice of Villafranca which left the control of Venice to Austria while Lombardy was ceded to Sardinia.

Sardinia finally succeeded in winning the war for the Italian Unification through politics rather than via military confrontation. The reason for this is that neither Austria, Sardinia, France was ready to risk another war and could no longer fight. All sides were ultimately dissatisfied with the outcome of Italy’s Second Unification War and tried to avoid further destruction that would come with another war.

With the establishment of the Palermo insurgency, the Neapolitan general Ferdinando Lanza arrived in Sicily with about 25,000 soldiers and angrily destroyed the region of Palermo. Following the intervention of Britain, a ceasefire was brokered.

Kingdom of Italy Proclamation

Mazzini was dissatisfied with the continued existence of the monarchy system of government and continued to push for the establishment of a republic. Movement for the Unification of Italy started with a focus on Venice and Rome. However, there were several obstacles that had to be confronted. Catholics from around the world will such actions as a challenge to the pope’s administration, and the French units in Rome were also another threat they needed to face. Victor Emmanuel feared the international consequences of the attack on the Papal States and advised his subjects not to engage in such a revolutionary move.

On the other hand, Garibaldi was convinced that they would get the government support if they launched an attack on Rome. Furious that the king refused to intervene, he retired and went on to start a new movement. In 1862, Garibaldi sailed to Palermo all the way from Genoa. At Palermo formed a new movement of volunteers, and they choose the motto ‘o Roma o Morte, ‘ which in English means “Either Rome or Death” They were barred from passing through the Messina garrison who were loyalist of the King. Garibaldi, there had to follow another route towards the south with his troops of over 2000 volunteers.

Garibaldi announced that he was ready to die at the walls of Rome or succeed in conquering the city. Either way, he was ready to lay down his life for the insurrection. On August 14, he arrived at Milito and promptly moved to the mountains of Calabria.

The Battle of Bezzecca

In 1866, a war broke out between the Austrians and Prussian as they contested the decision of the Prussian leader regarding German states. It was during this period that the Kingdom of Italy decided to cash in on the fact that Austrian were busy at war, so they formed ally with the Prussian troops. As a result, Austrians went into negotiation to take Venetia in return for them staying off the Austro-Prussian wars. On the other hand, the Prussian also made the same bargain with Italy to take Venetia in return for joining the war. Therefore, Italy, in return declared war against Austria in 20 June of the same year. Therefore, the Austro-Prussian war is usually referred to the Third Independence in the context of the Unification of Italy.

Garibaldi at Mentana

The National Party led by Garibaldi continued to make moves in to conquer Rome, which was regarded as the historic capital of the entire coast. In 1867, he, therefore, made another attempt to conquer Rome. However, he failed again at Mentana as the French-backed papal army, easily defeated the weakly armed and inexperienced volunteers. Because of this attack on Rome, the French army stationed a garrison at Civitavecchia until they had to join the Franco-Prussian War 1870.

Before Enrico Cairoli lost the war at Mentana, Giovanni, his brother, and some seventy companions attempted conquering Rome. He and his companion took off at Terni and sailed to the Tiber. When they got to Rome, they didn’t know that there was already an ongoing revolution in the city. The revolutionaries had taken control of the Piazza Colonna and Capitoline Hill. What had pressed further to the region of Villa Glori, but there they met a strong resistance and were eventually surrounded by the Papal army. Enrico sustained serious injury and died in the arms of his brother Giovanni.

With the death of Cairoli, his brother Giovanni Tabacih along with the rest of the volunteers agreed to move into the villa from where they kept shooting the papal soldiers. They also withdrew to Rome in the evening. The survivors retreated to the positions that Garibaldi had earlier held at the Italian border.

Capture of Rome

In 1870, the war between France and Germany broke out. In August of the same year, Napoleon III, the Emperor of France, withdrew his garrison that was stationed at Rome and thus was unable to continue protecting the Papal States.

Many public demonstrations were held by the citizens of Italy for their government to capture Rome, but they refused, fearing that the French may be back. The Italian government waited until the collapse of the French Empire in a fierce battle.

Victor Emmanuel II sent a personal letter to the pope, proposing to retain a good relationship with the city. This was to allow the Italian army to enter Rome in the pretense of protecting the pope. However, the Pope’s enthusiasm for the plan was low. The Pope Pius IX refused to offer San Martino a friendly reception but rather allowed explosions to come out from him. When he received the letter from the king of Italy, he threw it on the table and made some unpleasant remarks.

The General Raphael Cadorna led an Italian group of soldiers moved into the papal borders on September 11 and slowly advanced towards Rome in the hope of discussing peaceful entry. On September 19, the Italian Army reached the walls of Aurelian and laid siege to Rome. Even though Pope Pius IX was already convinced of an inevitable defeat, he still chose to resist his small soldiers. On September 20, after a three-hour cannon strike at Porta Pia, the Italian troops penetrated the walls of Aurelian; the life od Forty-nine Italian soldiers, four officers, and nineteen papal soldiers were lost during the short battle. As a result of this conquest, Rome and Lazio became part of the Kingdom of Italy at the referendum of 2 October.

Challenges That Followed

The Italian Unification was achieved in the interests of Piedmont, and that was a huge problem. According to Martin Clark, he noted that Piedmont was everywhere.

After the untimely death of Cavour in June 1861 at the age of fifty, the numerous promises he made to the local authorities to encourage them to join the newly formed United Kingdom of Italy were discarded by the subsequent leaders. The new Kingdom was built from the old Kingdom of Sardinia with all its provinces and annexes. The first king of the Unified Kingdom of Italy was King Victor Emmanuel II.

All national and local officials in the region received an automatic appointment from Piedmont. Most regional leaders held high positions under this new government structure, but the highly placed military officials and bureaucrats were predominantly from Piedmont. Soon the national capital was relocated to Florence and eventually to Rome, one of the events where Piedmont was lost.

However, in Italy, Piemont’s rules and rates were applied to diplomats and officials. The constitution of this new nation was the old constitution of Piedmont. In the general sense, the document was liberal, and thus the liberal elements quickly accepted it. However, in places such as Venice, Naples and Rome, and other regions prone to religious affiliation such as the island of Sicily, the anti-clerical rulings of the document provoked an outrage. In the first ten years of the unified kingdom, brutal civil wars broke out in Sicily and Naples. It is believed that the attempts to protest integration resulted into a mixture of a spontaneous movement of peasants and the bourbon religious reaction from former officials.

Ruling and Representing Southern Italy
Around the spring of 1860, all through to 1861 summer, the national Unification was a major problem for the Parliament of Piedmont. It “disrupted” the southern regions of the country, which were regularly represented by correspondents of Northern Italy. The reaction toward the response of the representations of southern Italy, the Parliament of Piedmont, had to decide whether to investigate the southern regions in order to better understand the social and political situation there or establish jurisdiction and enforce compliance.

Art of the Era

This period in art, was notable for neoclassicism, inspired by the art and culture of Ancient Rome and Greece. The most important Italian sculptor of this era, according to history, was Antonio Canova, famous for his delicate marble sculptures. One of his most notable work was done on the tomb of Vittorio Alfieri.

Another prominent artist in this era was Francesco Hayes, and his works mainly reflect symbols of Italian Unification. The most famous painting of his knowledge as the Kiss, featured a man in red, white, and green, which is representative of the Italian patriots who fought for their independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There is also a girl in a light blue dress who depicted France.

Around the year the painting was made in 1859, France had allied with the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont to ensure the Unification of the several states of the Italian peninsula into the Kingdom of Italy. Domenico Induno, Gerolamo Induno, and Andrea Appiani are also remembered for their beautiful paintings.

The current Italian Unification happened for over a period of centuries and cost the life of many soldiers and civilians. The process started with little insurrections here and there. At some point men were emboldened to become insurgents conquering territories and battling against authorities. Eventually, it became a state-wide agenda and ultimately it was achieved at a referendum.

One thing that is certain from the events is that no amount of force or coercion can crush the spirit of a people who believe in the course that they are fighting. Even if an entire generation is wiped out, another will eventually rise again in the future with more fervency and willing to fight for the course that the brings Italian Unification.

You May Also Like


History of Sicily

Chancellor of The Exchequer

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *