ITALY. REVOLUTION IN NAPLES AND PIEDMONT. CONGRESSES OF TROPPAU AND LAIBACH.
METTERNICH regarded Italy as well as Germany as his especial province. In fact, essentially similar conditions existed in both countries. Italy, like Germany, was a conglomerate of numerous separate, mutually independent states, whose princes, exceedingly jealous of one another, had estranged their people by their restoration policy. And the Italian princes, like the German, now had as colleague the Emperor of Austria. The latter, by the reacquisition of Milan and the occupation of Venice, had appropriated a choice morsel of the Napoleonic inheritance; moreover, he was determined to substitute his influence for that of France, and from upper Italy to rule the whole peninsula. In order to attain this end, Austria must spread the principles of the Holy Alliance, and here, as in Germany, carry on war against all aspirations after freedom, against the Press and against constitutions; she must repress with all her power any longings after unity, leaving only that form of unity according to which all Italian states had to regard themselves as the vassals of Austria. But the question whether German long-suffering would spread its infection across the Alps, whether the inhabitants of Vesuvius would adapt themselves to the old feudal relations, as did the dwellers at Königstein and Brocken, still remained to be answered. Besides the readily inflammable temperament of the southerners, many things spoke against it. The transition from the French rule to that of the old dynasties was far sharper here than in Germany. There, in most of the states, the preexisting governments had maintained themselves under Napoleon, whereas in Italy not a single sovereign had remained upon his throne; further, in Italy, as the result of the French Revolution, equality of all classes before the law, religious liberty, freedom in the tenure of property, and the prosecution of all industries, had been introduced everywhere; and the former deficient administration of justice had been remedied by the Code Napoleon. A multitude of abuses, the whole littleness of a system of miniature states, the unnatural oppression of an all‑powerful hierarchy, had been done away with; and the returning royal families could not have done better than to retain the good of the French institutions, under which the majority of the people were prosperous, and upon this foundation build a popular structure. Instead of this, most of them acted like the Elector of Hesse; they struck a couple of decades out of their memories, connected themselves immediately with the old conditions, and at the most allowed such institutions to stand as lent more power and splendor to their authority. So of necessity dissatisfaction soon reached a high point.
There was no lack of organization among the different dements of opposition; for the league of the Carbonari (charcoal-burners), which had been for a long time spread over the whole peninsula, had definite political aims. Taking its rise in the eighteenth century from the freemasons, it had borrowed from them their different degrees, their ceremonies, and that mystery which exerts so powerful an attraction, especially upon the young. At the outset striving for enlightenment in opposition to ecclesiastical oppression, it soon, chiefly in consequence of the French Revolution, entered the field of politics and began to labor for freedom. It was disinclined toward the French rule as the rule of strangers, and disappointed the expectations of Murat when, in 1815, he summoned all the peoples of the peninsula to the battle for Italy’s independence and unity. It did nothing for him in the hope of better attaining its end with the Bourbons. The end sought was in reality the same thing which Murat had already proclaimed. As to the form of government to be set up, whether it should be a constitutional monarchy or a republic, the opinions of the Carbonari differed widely. In the year 1819 it was estimated that there were about 60,000 members in all Italy. Their head-quarters were at Naples. They constantly strove to strengthen themselves while awaiting from France the signal to strike.
The Carbonari had a favorable field in the States of the Church. There, upon the return of the captive Pope, Pius VII (1814), everything was placed once more on the old footing, and unbounded claims set up. It was not enough to demand back all the parts of the former States of the Church; Pius even believed that, without degenerating into the comic, he could advance the claim that the old Holy Roman Empire, with all its filigree work, be restored; that the ecclesiastical states be reestablished in Germany, and that secularized church property be given back. One might have believed himself transported into the times of the Augsburg Interim and the Edict of Restitution on hearing in the nineteenth century such pretensions on the part of a state that could not go without crutches. Hand-in-hand with such assumptions went the equipment of a complete establishment to combat heresy. The inquisition was restored, and in 1816 the inquisitor of Ravenna condemned to death a Jew who had apostatized after conversion. The congregation of the index of books to be prohibited assembled once more, and by way of prelude forbade all political writings. The miracle-working, eye-winking madonnas again gave audiences, and 2436 convents, whose support was a burden upon the state, were at once called into existence. By a decree of August 7th, 1815, the order of Jesus was reinstituted; and, despite all opposition on the part of the people, it forced its way once more into Spain, Switzerland, and Germany. Cardinal Pacca abolished the French institutions in a manner so sweeping and unreasoning that even vaccination and street-lamps were not excepted. All the higher positions in the administration and on the bench fell once more into the hands of prelates, under whose rule begging and robbery increased alarmingly. Whole communities pursued highway-robbery as their profession, and once the names of fifty-seven men guilty of both robbery and murder were posted at the same time. Agriculture, commerce, and industry were neglected. The attempted remedies of the more liberal Cardinal Consalvi met with insuperable opposition from Pacca’s party. In spite of this failure in the administration of its own country, the Curia sought to extend its government over other lands, and to this end concluded concordats with both Italian and foreign states. In Naples so many concessions were made to the clergy that they really formed a state within a state. It was not much better in the duchy of Modena, which, like Parma, lay wholly under Austrian influence. But while in Parma the Archduchess Marie Louise, Napoleon’s wife (perhaps more correctly the Austrian general, Count Neipperg), ruled, relatively speaking, with the greatest possible mildness, Duke Francis of Modena found his pleasure in the most senseless, hardly endurable despotism. Grand-duke Ferdinand III of Tuscany, following in the footsteps of his father Leopold, wielded the mildest and most enlightened sceptre. Bent upon making his capital, Florence, the centre of the intellectual movement, he strove for the greatest possible independence from Austria, and permitted the free introduction of foreign papers and books. Nevertheless, there, too, the French institutions, even the best of them, were done away with; but although they were replaced by the earlier institutions of Leopold, yet those were something much better than was to be found in the States of the Church, Naples, or Sardinia.
THE AUSTRIAN ADMINISTRATION IN MILAN AND VENICE.
Austria sought to keep its subjects at Milan and Venice in good-humor by other means. The fostering and advancement of the material interests, and a well-administered government, were the principles of her rule; she also permitted the clergy and nobles no ascendency, and bestowed the offices, with the exception of the highest, on natives. But in both of the separately administered countries the central congregations were a poor substitute for a national representation; for their selection was wholly dependent upon the government, and their sphere of activity scarcely extended beyond the composition of petitions. In accordance with the wishes of the people, an archduke was appointed viceroy, and held his court in Milan. But the jealous emperor took care that it should not be one of the ablest of his brothers who filled this important position, and that he should be allowed no political influence. Archduke Rainer spent there thirty years of his life from 1818 on. On the other hand, here, as in the whole empire, the police system showed itself as powerful as hated. This was alone sufficient to cause all liberal and intelligent men to hold aloof from the administration, and left it in all local questions dependent upon unworthy subjects. If the lower classes and the peasants were content with their material circumstances, the entire cultivated portion of the population, already repelled by the difference of language, felt the oppression of a conquered province, and nourished no less hatred against Austria than formerly the states of the old Lombard League had cherished against the rule of the Ghibellines.
Austria had to fear nothing so much as that the other Italian states might yield to the pressure of the Carbonari, and grant representant constitutions, and, in general, more liberal institutions. In that case it was impossible that the “poison of freedom” should not penetrate into Milan and Venice as well, rendering the population still harder to control, and leaving the system of Metternich no other way to maintain itself than by a display of overwhelming military strength. In order to prevent this danger, Metternich concluded with Ferdinand IV of Naples—who, after his return, had named himself Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies—the secret treaty of June 12th, 1815, in which the latter bound himself to introduce no constitution into his land, to permit no institutions which were more liberal than those of Lombardy, to make those his example in everything, and, when possible, even to remain a couple of degrees below the Milan thermometer. Nothing was easier for the old king than to carry out these promises, as far as he was concerned. He was a weak, ignorant man, wholly dependent upon his surroundings, and bestowed most confidence upon the man who confirmed him most in his conviction of divine appointment, and supported him most in the practice of his absolutism. When he returned to Naples after the fall of Murat, he abolished everything pertaining to the French regime which was inconvenient to him, and proclaimed Naples and Sicily one kingdom, under the name of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Since one half of his realms could not have a constitution and the other half none, a wished-for opportunity was afforded to repeal the liberal Sicilian Constitution of 1812, granted under the commanding influence of Lord Bentinck, the English general, and to reestablish an unlimited monarchy. With the acceptance of the concordat, the whole school system was transferred to the control of the Jesuits, and set back a century. On the other hand, brigandage prospered so well that in 1817 about 30,000 men pursued this profession, and the government found itself obliged to conclude formal treaties with the individual brigand chiefs, in order to drive out the brigands by their chiefs—the devil by Beelzebub. But the most foolish thing, under the circumstances, was the introduction of dissatisfaction among the soldiers by the slights put upon Murat’s officers, the contemptuous treatment of the army in general, and the insult to the national spirit in entrusting an Austrian general—Count Nugent—with the military organization. But, although every effort was made to keep liberals out of the army, the government always had to fall back on them at last, and set them in the highest places. One of the ablest of the liberal leaders—the Calabrian republican, William Pepe, who all his life had done nothing but plan conspiracies—was sent into the provinces to organize the militia. Pepe sought to make them not merely good soldiers, but also zealous Carbonari. All looked on him as the head of the conspiracy, which was already so widespread in the land that there was scarcely need of an occasion for outbreak. But occasion was not wanting. News came that a revolution had broken out in Spain, and that the king had been compelled to accept the constitution of 1812.
July 2d, 1820, Lieutenant Morelli, of the cavalry regiment Bourbon, stationed in the town of Nola, called upon his soldiers to endure no longer the disgrace of their country, but to imitate the example of the Spanish army. The soldiers shouted their assent, a part of the inhabitants joined them, and under the tricolored banner of the Carbonaria (black, rose-color, and sky-blue) the crowd of soldiers, monks, and citizens moved toward Avellino. The colonel at that place—De Conciliis—joined Morelli, and caused the Spanish Constitution to be proclaimed, the militia streaming in from all sides. The procession at once set out for Naples. There the greatest confusion prevailed on the report of Morelli’s revolt. Pepe, as the most popular man, was commissioned to suppress the insurrection; but out of distrust the commission was immediately revoke. Thereupon Pepe, with two regiments of cavalry which had attached themselves to him, went over to the rebels at Avellino, and was placed by them at the head of the undertaking. On the evening of his departure five Carbonari appeared in the palace, and demanded in the name of the nation the proclamation of the constitution. King Ferdinand replied that in a week he would publish the principles of a constitution, and in the meantime named his eldest son, the Prince of Calabria, his vicegerent. But the trick was of no avail. On the following day, July 7th, the prince was compelled to proclaim the Spanish constitution, and on the same evening the king ratified it. Thereupon Pepe presented his conditions : he demanded of the king a formal oath to the constitution, the establishment of a junta of fifteen persons to prepare for the introduction of the constitution, and, as security for the fulfillment of the royal promises, his own appointment as commander-in-chief of the whole army. Everything had to be granted. On July 9th, at the head of the revolted troops and a vast concourse of people, William Pepe made his entrance into Naples, while the Prince of Calabria, his brother, the Prince of Salerno, and the whole court, decked with the colors of the Carbonari, appeared on the balcony of the palace. The king was sick abed with vexation and distress, and hoped, under pretense of sickness, to escape the oath. But on July lath he was compelled to swear to the constitution upon the Bible before a great assembly; and after the oath had been recited he added the words : “Almighty God, whose all-seeing eye reaches the soul and the future, if I lie or should break my oath, send down at once the lightning of thy revenge upon me!”. Here and there tears of joy were shed; the princes embraced; ecstasy and noisy jubilation took possession of all the streets, and it was called a beautiful day. And yet this was nothing but a farce, such as twenty-eight years later was enacted in many a capital city of Germany with no less outlay of art!
A new ministry and a junta were at once formed, and for the most part friends of Murat were chosen for both. October 1st the national parliament was opened. It advised certain changes in the Spanish constitution, did away with feudal rights, ordained a more equitable distribution of taxes, and introduced improvements in all departments of the administration. By January 30th, 1821, the parliament had completed its work : the new constitution was sworn to, by the prince-regent, and a permanent committee of seven members was left behind in the name of the dissolved parliament. In the meantime, of course, anarchy had at first, ruled in the capital and the provinces; the number of the Carbonari rose to 300,000; even women were admitted, and founded the lodge of le Giardiniere; but quiet and moderation soon returned, for the chiefs of the Carbonari wished to give Austria no pretense for intervention, and succeeded in making their followers take this into consideration. This wise tact was more than outweighed by the terrible blunder in Sicily. The news of the revolution reached Palermo from Naples July 146. It was the festival of Saint Rosalie, and the streets swarmed with people. It was at once agreed not to accept the Spanish constitution, but to set up once more their own constitution of 1812, and to make themselves as independent of Naples as possible. “Hurrah for the constitution! Hurrah for independence!” was the watchword shouted by a thousand throats. It did not stop there. The populace stormed Fort Molo, possessed themselves of the store of weapons there, and committed excesses against persons and buildings. The Neapolitan troops were at once sent against the rioters. The latter opened the prisons, released 3000 galley-slaves and other prisoners, and dispersed the troops. Thereupon the principal officials fled to the mainland, their palaces were burnt down, and whoever could not flee was mercilessly murdered. In all about 4000 men were killed. A provisory junta of twenty members, mostly nobles, was formed, and emissaries sent out in every direction, in order to spread the revolt over the entire island, and array the whole population capable of bearing arms under their banner. Voluntarily or under compulsion most communities joined them. The town of Caltanisetta, which offered resistance, was reduced to a heap of ashes; men, women, and children were massacred. Only Messina, Catania, Syracuse, and Trapani were able to hold out against the power of the junta.
A deputation of the junta appeared in Naples and demanded a separate parliament, a separate constitution, and a union of the two states under one king; in other words, a personal union. The deputies were at first arrested, then sent back with the answer that Sicily should have a separate parliament in case the majority of the communities declared in its favor. It was hoped that jealousy of Palermo would excite opposition to the junta. At the same time Floristan Pepe, the brother of the commander‑in-chief, was sent to Sicily with 6000 men to subdue the island. After a fight of several days, he compelled the inhabitants of Palermo to capitulate on the promise that the decision as to the separation or union of the two kingdoms should be left to the representatives of Sicily. But Parliament pronounced the treaty void, and recalled Floristan Pepe. His place was filled by General Colletta, who kept the people of Palermo, already disarmed by Pepe, in submission; did away with their junta; introduced the Neapolitan constitution, and issued writs for the elections to the common parliament. Except the officials no one appeared at the polls, and those who were elected would accept no certificate. Sicily remained subdued under the strong military force stationed there; but this very subjugation was wrong in itself, and under the existing circumstances it was a political error. It is true that the Neapolitans had for a long time been accustomed to regard Sicily as a subject land, a mere prefecture, but there was no ground for such belief—both kingdoms had equal rights in relation to one another; and it least of all became the men who stood forth in Naples in behalf of freedom to rule in Sicily as despots. And how, at a time when they must be prepared for the armed intervention of the Holy Alliance, could they, for a question in any case secondary, not only put themselves to the necessity of retaining in Sicily the troops which they could so well use elsewhere, but also render it impossible to summon thence a single man, much less a contingent of enthusiastic fighters for freedom? Was that not to conjure up new dangers? to play into the hands of the foe? to set up for the court, which looked upon this family quarrel with a satisfied mien, a ladder to its second restoration?
That the revolution, if not suppressed, would not stop at Naples, but would traverse the whole peninsula, and knock very audibly at the gates of Milan, was plain. Metternich’s programme was quickly made out. His Carlsbad laurels were not yet faded, and he already planned to pluck still fresher leaves in Naples. He announced to the Italian princes that Austria would uphold the existing order in all Italy. In Lombardy and Venetia he forbade participation in the Carbonaria under pain of death. He carried on a war of extermination against the rising literature that made the new birth of Italy its aim; suppressed all liberal journals; and imprisoned the talented young Silvio Pellico as a contributor to the Conciliatore. The garrisons in Ferrara and Comacchio were put upon a war footing; strong bodies of troops were collected; and by this means a dam was opposed to the agitation in all upper and middle Italy. All defensive measures had been taken; but he did not yet have the courage to assume the offensive and seek the revolution at its crater, or at least he was not willing to undertake it alone. Hence he summoned a congress of monarchs and ministers to meet at Troppau, in Austrian Silesia, in order to obtain from the potentates of Europe an authorization to intervene. In the latter half of October, 1820, the monarchs of the three eastern powers, the fathers of the Holy Alliance, appeared there, and also the delegates of France and England. At the outset Czar Alexander played the prude, and vented the opinion that the Neapolitans could be influenced in a friendly nay to change their constitution—he could see no ground for armed interference. England, in any case disinclined toward meddling with the internal affairs of an independent state, agreed with him; and France was too jealous of the increasing influence of Austria in Italy not to look with great disfavor on the overstepping of the Lombard boundaries by her armies. Metternich was in great embarrassment : Troppau appeared to be no Carlsbad. He could only rely upon Prussia; but her alliance was as valueless in Italy as it was invaluable in Germany. In this dilemma he received intelligence of the insubordination of the guard regiment Semenoff in St. Petersburg, and by means of his ambassador at the Russian court was in possession of the new before Alexander himself. This outbreak among the soldiers had not the slightest connection with the revolutions in Spain and Italy; but what of that? He hurried at once to Alexander, reported to him the occurrence, and pictured to his imagination the spectre of a military conspiracy spread over all Europe. The Czar, since his residence in Warsaw, full of gloomy forebodings, allowed himself to be surprised by the adroit chancellor, and the three eastern powers, as “the centre of the union of the European states”, formed a coalition against the “tyrannical might of rebellion and crime”. After the treaty had been already signed, it was laid before the representatives of England and France, who were not greatly edified by what had been done behind their backs. At the same time, a new congress in Laibach was agreed upon, to which the King of Naples was also to be invited.
THE TROPPAU RESOLUTIONS. CONGRESS AT LAIBACH.
The excitement caused in Naples by these Troppau resolutions was immense. It was clear that these founders of the Holy Alliance looked upon themselves as the dictatory triumvirate of Europe, and tolerated no constitution which did not bear the stamp of the grace of God. Metternich went still farther, and categorically announced in Laibach to the Russo-Grecian diplomat Capodistria, that Austria would rather make war on the King of Naples than tolerate the introduction of a constitution in his kingdom, even if that constitution were according to his wishes. When the royal message concerning these resolutions was read in Naples, Parliament hall and gallery uttered the same cry : “Constitution or death!” and it found a thousand-fold echo in the streets. In Parliament the question was, whether the king should be allowed to go to Laibach, and whether they should consent to a change in the constitution in the direction of conservatism, as France advised. If they did not wish the latter, they should also have refused to let the thoroughly hypocritical king go. They resolved, however, that the constitution should remain unchanged, and that the king should go, in order, as he announced in a message to Parliament, to represent the Spanish constitution at Laibach. They even declined the king’s proposition that four members of Parliament should accompany him as witnesses and advisers, and in their address, with more than childlike trustfulness, gave as the reason: “Since the heart of the son of Charles III is naturally a temple of truth”. So the “true” king departed, visited his colleague, the despotic Francis IV, in Modena, and on his arrival in Laibach sent off his attendant, the Duke of Gallo, to Gorice, since in such secret discussions no strangers are needed. The king’s first letter from Laibach to his son does not contain a syllable about the object of his journey, but speaks of the pleasure he experiences in the fact that his hunting-hounds are better than those of the Russian Emperor.
In January, 1821, the congress was opened at Laibach, in Carniola. Besides the emperors of Austria and Russia and their diplomats, the ambassadors of Prussia, England, France, and the Italian states were present. Before the commencement of the session the three eastern powers had already agreed that Austria should send an army to Naples for the suppression of the revolution, and that in case of necessity a Russian army should follow. The ambassadors of Sardinia, Rome, Tuscany, and Modena gave in their adhesion, and no attention was paid to the repeated objections of England and France. King Ferdinand, with his “temple of truth”, was very ready when Metternich, by way of supplement, laid the resolutions before him, to break his oath to the constitution, and represent himself as having acted under compulsion. He merely took the precaution to purchase indulgence for such perjury by gifts to Sant' Annunziata in Florence. The Duke of Gallo was at once recalled to Laibach, and informed that he must set out for Naples immediately. There he was to announce that the revolutionary tribunals must disband, and submit to the king; that 10,000 Austrians would occupy the country until its complete pacification, and that, in case of prolonged resistance, 100,000 Russians and Austrians would follow them, and remain for three years at the cost of the land. King Ferdinand further said to him, privately, that he agreed completely with all the conclusions of the great powers. Six days after the duke’s departure, February 5th, the Austrian general, Frimont, crossed the Po at the head of an army of occupation, and at the end of the month stood at the Neapolitan frontier.
At Naples, on the reception of the news from Laibach, all was fire and flame. Young and old, rich and poor, hurried to arms; and when, at a great fraternization meeting, it was asked which of the generals would be the Miltiades, one of the enthusiasts cried, “All will be Miltiades’!”. Parliament did not declare the king a perjured traitor, as Pepe demanded, but a captive—his letter, which he bad given to Gallo, written under compulsion. It further placed the Prince of Calabria at the head of the army, as if the son would best conduct the war against his father. There was no lack of enthusiasm, speeches, and processions; but money, weapons, magazines, good soldiers—in short, all that is needful for the conduct of a war—were lacking. Officers had long since been commissioned to purchase in England 100,000 muskets, but the regent had always contrived to delay their journey. Now it became evident what folly had been committed in Sicily. Naples’ best battalions were there; and in Naples itself, in spite of all the warlike talk, not more than 25,000 regular troops, with 2000 horses, could be brought together; and these were in part ill-armed and unreliable—no match for the compact mass of 43,000 Austrians. Furthermore, they were under two generals bitterly hostile to one another. Pepe, with 12,000 men, mostly militia, was to hold the Abruzzia border, and in ease of need fall back on the Volturno, where his party foe, Carrascosa, was stationed with the second army corps. On March 7th Pepe attacked the Austrian advance under Count Wallmoden, at Rieti. At first he drove them back from their position of vantage, but was compelled to command a retreat when the enemy brought up re-enforcements from Vicenti, and fell upon iris right flank with superior numbers. There was a cry of treason, and the retreat quickly turned into a rout so complete that no further stand was attempted. The militia advancing to join them were carried along, and on the following morning Pepe had scarcely 2000 men left. These melted away like early snow. Thereupon Carrascosa was obliged to fall back across the Volturno. The battalions of the guards refused obedience, the militia disbanded, and Carrascosa’s own life was endangered by his followers. He and Pepe reached the capital with a few officers. There Parliament framed an address to the king, who was awaiting results in Florence, expressing their readiness to alter the constitution, and the wish that strangers might not come between king and people, which was, of course, too late. With a protest against the infringement of popular rights, moved by the patriotic Poerio, the last session of Parliament, at which only twenty-six members were present, came to an end on March 19th. On March 21st the Austrians entered Capua, and on the 23d, Naples. Pepe succeeded in escaping on a Spanish vessel, to plunge into new adventures. Carrascosa and several members of Parliament had also fled.
On the 9th of May Ferdinand returned to his capital, and was received with loud rejoicings by the lower classes. The appointment of Prince Canosa, whom he had earlier been compelled to dismiss under foreign pressure on account of his outrageous police administration, led men to expect the most terrible deeds of vengeance. In order to clip the wings of the spirit of freedom, the strictest censorship was introduced; the works of Voltaire, Rousseau, and others were publicly burnt, and a special commission established for the suppression of books. The Jesuits were recalled; all public schools, as well as the universities, were closed, the teachers discharged, and the whole system of instruction changed in the interests of the hierarchy. The sternest measures were adopted against the Carbonari. The whole league was outlawed; a few members with barer backs, hung with the ribbons and other insignia of their order, and set on donkeys, were led through the streets and flogged in the public squares. Many escaped the royal wrath by fleeing to the forests and mountains, to enter upon a robbers’ life and come later to the gallows. Murat’s officers were for the most part dismissed; prominent generals and members of Parliament, like Colletta, Poerio, and Borelli, were sent to the fortresses of Graz, Prague, and Braun. The same course was pursued in Sicily. Ten thousand Austrians were sent thither at the end of May, who succeeded, after a few bloody outbreaks of popular indignation, in restoring quiet.
All Europe was astonished at such a result after the boasting of the Neapolitan orators of freedom, and cried shame at the empty-headedness of the leaders and the cowardice of the army. And yet Naples’ chances were by no means bad, if it had maintained the defensive and offered a long resistance; for only three days after the fight at Rieti the mutiny in Piedmont broke out, delivering that state into the hands of the national party, and seriously menacing the rear and flank of the Austrians.
After Napoleon’s first overthrow, in March, 1814, King Victor Emmanuel had returned to Turin, having tranquilly slept away the time of the French dominion, a full eight years, in the island of Sardinia, among the atrocious feudal conditions which were still widely prevalent there. He was a man of great goodness of heart and weakness of head, and so broken by age and infirmities that he would fain toss through this earthly sea under no other sail than vows and pilgrimages. The Vienna congress enlarged his kingdom by the territory of the Genoese republic. He had scarcely reached Turin when he was surrounded by the Piedmontese nobles. They had withdrawn into their castles before the free ideas of the French Revolution, and now represented the foreign rule in the blackest colors, while they could not praise enough the blessings of the good old times. By a royal edict all French laws and institutions, whatever they might be, were at once abolished, and in their stead was sought out, like a wonder-working relic, the constitution of 1770, with its intolerance, its caste distinctions, its wheel and quartering, and by its tangle of antiquated laws an incomparable chaos was introduced. Suits which had been decided before the French courts of final appeal were reopened, and business thus made the prey of a depressing uncertainty. Cloisters which had been turned into factories were given back to the Capuchins; famine was remedied by processions and crowns of thorns. The Jesuits again gained possession of the schools, and the most talented professors of the University of Turin had to give up their positions. In the grand opera-house the queen, who was her husband’s master, permitted only the nobility to attend the representations, and to them places were assigned according to the length of their pedigrees. In Turin, as in Hesse-Cassel, the soldiers of 1800 were called back, as though the commanders could regulate the very calendar. They even wanted to tear down the splendid bridge which Napoleon had built over the Po at Turin, and no passes were given for the road over Mont Cenis, in order, forsooth, that this Napoleonic work might fall into decay. The department officials, in their Francophobia, threw the furniture of their predecessors out of the windows, and the royal gardener was too good a legitimist not to root out and destroy all French plants in the botanical gardens.
RESTORATION IN SARDINIA.—CIIARACTER OF PEOPLE.
A deep gulf was formed between government and people by a restoration which proceeded in such a way against men and things. The neighborhood of France and Switzerland had kept alive a freer spirit in this land. The first men of young Italy, like Victor Alfieri and the unfortunate Pellico, were born Piedmontese. The people of this race showed more industry, energy, and spirit—in general, a firmer, erecter bearing than the other Italians, and had ambition enough to wish to take the first place in Italy. The young men, even members of the nobility, were eager for a free Italy, were in correspondence with the opposition in France and with the Spanish cortes, and thirsted for a war with Austria. Secret engagements were entered into with the malcontents at Milan, and a plan of action arranged. The Austrians were to be ejected from Milan, Lombardy united with Sardinia, a strong north Italian kingdom formed, and in this way the foundation laid for a united Italy. The revolutions in Spain and Naples raised hopes to the highest pitch. Could there have been a more promising time for carrying out the national plans than those February days of 1821, when the Austrians moved toward Naples? What more was needed than an energetic assault upon their uncovered flank and Milan was free, and the kingdom of north Italy a fact? Charles Albert, the twenty-two-year-old prince of Savoy-Carignan, a collateral branch of the reigning family, was looked upon as the natural leader both of the enthusiastic young men and the reformers. He had been educated as a commoner, was possessed of good parts, railed at the absurdity of the reaction, associated much with the reformers, had a large following among the soldiers, and hated Austria as well as the best. Owing to the childlessness of the king and his brother Charles Felix, Duke of Genevois, he was the heir presumptive. He could never forgive the Vienna Cabinet for having wished to deprive him of this right and confer it upon the king’s daughter, the Duchess of Modena. The eyes, not of Piedmont alone, but of all Italy, were upon him; and no one had another plan than, when the time came to strike, to set the prince at the head of the movement, to call Victor Emmanuel to the throne of upper Italy, and to compel him to a war with Austria. There were only a few who held a different opinion of the Prince of Carignan, and believed that they already discerned, side by side with liberal ideas, a tendency to dissimulation, fickleness, and mysticism.
At the moment of action the heads of the conspiracy found that they could not depend upon him. He communicated their preparations to the king, and urged upon him military precautions. The leaders despaired of the possibility of striking, since the prince’s defection would necessarily exert too disheartening an influence upon the soldiers, and gave orders to undertake nothing for the present. But the ball had already been set in motion, and could not now be checked. In Alessandria, where the Carbonari were numerous, Lieutenant-colonel Ansaldi and Captain Count Palma had gained possession of the citadel in the night of March 10th, 1821. On the following morning they formed a provisional junta, proclaimed the Spanish constitution, and called the nation to arms in the name of the “kingdom of Italy”. But neither in their own regiment, the Savoyard, nor among the loyal-minded troops elsewhere, did they meet with an enthusiastic reception. Full of anxiety, the king sought to appease the soldiers by amnesties and increase of wages. On the 11th of March Captain Ferrero, with a company of soldiers, stationed himself before the gates of Turin, by the church of Saint Salvario, in the hope of drawing over people and army to the revolution. The troops sent out against him neither attacked him nor joined him, and the people streamed out from curiosity, wishing to know how the matter would develop before they chose sides. Only a few students attached themselves to Ferrero, and with these he retired to Alessandria. In the night St. Marsan, the Sardinian representative, returned from Laibach. Having ascertained that the intentions of the allied monarchs were serious, he had promised emphatically for the king that he would not consent to any change in the government. Reassured by his report, the king promulgated, on March 12th, two edicts, in which he refused to accept the constitution, as it would bring the Austrians into the country, and commanded a corps of troops to assemble at Asti. But the people had awakened from their indifference overnight, and now tore the placards from the walls, and demanded the Spanish constitution. The officers refused to shed the blood of their fellow-citizens, and by midday the Italian tricolor was waving from the citadel of Turin. Victor Emmanuel then abdicated in favor of his brother, Charles Felix, and went to Nice. Until the new king, a proud, arbitrary man, who was at that time with his friend and adviser, Duke Francis of Modena, returned to Turin, Charles Albert was to assume the regency.
ABDICATION OF THE KING. CHARLES ALBERT.
A very pressing question was presented to him for solution. Would he set himself at the head of the revolution, in order, as the Carbonari delusively assured him, to win the crown of Italy? He was too well acquainted with the limited resources of the land not to know that this meant nothing else than the presence of the Austrians in Turin within a few days. And then how would it be with his right of succession? Would the Holy Alliance hesitate to exclude a Carbonaro forever from the throne? These were very practical considerations, which the prince could not fail to take into account. The means he adopted to extricate himself from his difficult position was to surround himself with a veil of mystery, and seek to postpone his decision. But the people were pressing, the soldiers were becoming unmanageable, and definite threats were uttered in the Carignan palace. Then he called an assembly of thirty notables, accepted the constitution on their written demand, set up a provisional junta, and formed a new ministry. At the same time, however, he declared that he would not consider this constitution binding without the consent of the king, and forbade the soldiers to wear the Italian colors. This bred such bitterness among the revolutionary party that they spoke of seizing him as a hostage, or even murdering him. At the same time, the Austrian ambassador was obliged to leave, while Milanese deputies deceived the Turiners with hopes of an uprising of their countrymen.
Then Chevalier Costa, whom the prince had sent to Modena with a letter to the king, returned with the announcement that the severest measures were to be resorted to. The prince was commanded to join General la Torre at Novara, with the troops who were still faithful. While apparently making preparations to resist, he fled secretly to Novara, protested against the compulsion that had been put upon him, laid down the regency, and called on all the troops to return to the royal standard. By his flight the revolutionary party got all the power into its hands. Santarosa, who had just been named minister of war by the prince, assumed a sort of dictatorship. He hoped in vain for a revolution in Milan and France. On the news of the defeats in Naples, his generals deserted him. At length, with 3000 men, he marched against Novara, in the expectation that la Torre’s troops would go over to him. The latter had already been joined by the Austrian general, Bubna, and on April 8th, before Novara, a few cannon-shots and a charge from the Austrians scattered the little revolutionary band in wild flight—which, as far as panic, fright, and fleetness of foot are concerned, did not yield to the catastrophe of Rieti. La Torre entered Turin on the 10th of April. On the 11th he entered Alessandria, and the determined Ansaldi, not supported by the soldiers, had to yield. The insurgents crossed the French frontier, or, like Santarosa, sailed for Spain to fight for a similar cause on a different battlefield. Twelve thousand Austrians occupied the country, and had to be maintained at its expense. Under their protection Charles Felix returned to Turin, and brought the whole government machine back into the old grooves. Many persons were condemned by special tribunals and military commissions, although only two officers were actually put to death. The reaction was not so bloody as in Naples, inasmuch as the excesses of the revolution had not been so great. The Prince of Carignan had lost credit with both parties by his undecided conduct, and had to hear once more Austria’s designs against his succession. From Novara he had repaired to Modena, and there Charles Felix had refused to receive his visit. He sought and found an advocate in France : under the Duke of Angoulême he made the campaign against Spain, where, in the ranks of his foes, he met many of his old Piedmontese friends.
No one could have been prouder than Metternich after these successes. At the close of the Laibach congress he is reported to have said to the Russian Emperor, with a triumphant air, much as though the matter in hand were a boar-baiting : “There, see what a revolution is when it is taken in time!”. He forthwith had a conspiracy ferreted out in Milan, and cast many esteemed men into prison. Two years later about forty of these prisoners were conveyed to the prisons of Spielberg and Laibach, after having publicly stood in the pillory in Milan. This latter disgrace forever alienated from Austria the hearts of the Lombard nobility, many members of which were among the unfortunates. Several of the prisoners died in prison; others came out with sickly bodies; some fell a prey to insanity; only one, Felice Foresti, came again to the light of day with strength of mind and body unbroken. The work of Silvio Pellico on his Spielberger imprisonment made remarkable developments regarding a system which bowed even such a spirit as his, and threw him into the arms of mysticism.
AFFAIRS IN ITALY DURING THE THIRD DECADE.
In Italy, also, the Holy Alliance had conquered; the Austrian influence had shown itself so strong that now the whole peninsula looked not unlike a Hapsburg province. There were two principal causes which had led to such disgraceful result—the lack of systematic cooperation, and the slight participation on the part of the people, proceeding from the fact that they still stood on too low a plane of culture. Only the few cultivated men had originated the whole movement; the mass followed the one whom they saw develop the greatest strength.
Anachronistic conditions throve luxuriously through the whole of the third decade. The outlook was best in Tuscany, where Leopold II mounted the throne in 1824, and carried out a work of great material benefit in the draining of the Maremme; albeit in intellectual matters he felt himself much restricted by the Austrian dogmas. In Sardinia everything was administered quite to Metternich’s satisfaction; the government was given over to the most absolutist nobles and priests, while Charles Felix dragged out his existence in idleness and pleasure-seeking. If anyone spoke to him of business, he gave as an answer, “I am not a king to let myself be bothered”. It was still worse in Naples. January 4th, 1825, the hypocritical Prince of Calabria ascended the throne as Francis I, and his government was such that Chateaubriand said it vas sank to the lowest stage of contemptibility. Everything went to ruin amid luxurious banquets and shameless balls, sale of offices and persecution of secret societies. The throne was not supported by its own army, but by 6000 men of the Swiss guard, whose enlistment and maintenance was a costly matter. The Romish court under Leo XII (1823-1829) was travelling backward in close competition with Naples. The exclusion of laymen from all civil dignities, the unconditioned supremacy of the priests in the government, in the administration of justice, in the schools—this whole “theocratico-Turkish system” was more vexatious than ever, and bred in the people, honey-combed by the Carbonari, nothing but hatred and contempt. As early as this no less a man than General Bernetti said that, in case he lived to old age, he held it possible that he might witness the downfall of the temporal power of the Pope.