THE Italian government had followed the deliberations of the Council with the greatest attention. Giovanni Lanza, who was at that time Prime Minister, had at Rome, in his friend Berti, a trusted agent, who was in communication with the most conciliatory Italian prelates, and what Berti heard through them of the proceedings of the Council, and of the transactions which took place behind the scenes, was immediately passed on to Florence.

But the Italian statesmen were, like all European diplomatists, occupied by other and greater things than the Council. The year 1870 was to others besides Count von Beust, ein Jahr unablassiger Aufregung. Rouher's Jamais l'ltalie n'ira à Rome had for a time caused a break in the good relations between Italy and France; but as early as 1868 negotiations had been opened between the governments of those two countries and Austria, on the initiative of the Emperor Napoleon III, for the formation of a triple alliance. For the moment, however, only personal letters were exchanged between the three sovereigns; and the negotiations seemed hopeless. It was well known both at Florence and Vienna that Napoleon III had for a long time perceived clearly that the part of the Papacy as a temporal power was played out. But out of regard to the clerical party, who had champions amongst those nearest to him, he would not hear of the incorporation of the city of Rome into the kingdom of Italy. The Cavaliere Nigra, on the other hand, on behalf of the Italian government, had declared that there was no possibility of an alliance between France and Italy if the Emperor would not give way respecting Rome. And as to this point Beust supported and encouraged the Cabinet of Florence. From Vienna Metternich, who was then the Austrian ambassador at Paris, received a dispatch to the effect that Austria would not be able to induce Italy to join with her until "the Roman thorn" had been extracted. Beust, who had to face a Liberal and anticlerical majority, dared not oppose the wish of Italy to occupy Rome, and Metternich, therefore, much against his will, had to negotiate with Napoleon on this basis.

If Prince Napoleon understood his Imperial cousin aright, Napoleon III, with regard to the projected triple alliance, as well as with regard to much besides, entirely failed to appreciate the real facts of the case. The French Emperor seems to have imagined that the quite private letters, which he had exchanged with Victor Emmanuel and Francis Joseph, formed such a sure foundation for a treaty of alliance, that only a few days were needed to bring an alliance about. Nigra, however, maintains that this was a complete misunderstanding, and there can be no doubt that he is right.


On 12th July Nigra was invited to St Cloud. The Emperor himself then believed that peace would be preserved, and Nigra, on behalf of his government, could only say that Italy much wished to see it maintained. Even after the hostile meeting at Ems, Nigra next day advised the Duke of Gramont to be conciliatory; but Visconti-Venosta at the same time gave the assurance that France had no need to fear that Italy would be on the side of the enemy. After the scheme for a triple alliance had failed and France on 19th July had declared war on Prussia, Beust contemplated making a treaty with Italy alone for an armed neutrality and concerted diplomatic action. The two states would thus find time to complete their armaments, and they might perhaps at an opportune moment exercise diplomatic or military pressure in favor of France.

Count Vitzthum on 1st August brought the draft of such a treaty to Florence, and on the following day the draft was communicated by Count Vimercati to the Emperor Napoleon, who was then staying at Metz. But the alliance in the meantime was to remain a secret from the rest of Europe. One of the articles in the draft was to the effect that Austria-Hungary should request France to recall her troops as speedily as possible from the papal territory; and the evacuation was to take place on conditions "that were in accordance with the wishes and interests of Italy, and which might secure internal peace in that kingdom." Napoleon appreciated the good offices of the two powers, but he could not at all approve of the article about the Roman question.

On 26th July the Duke of Gramont had informed Nigra that France would under no circumstances go beyond maintaining the September Convention, and on the following day he had charged the French ambassador at Vienna to tell Count von Beust that the Tuileries would not suffer any interference in the Roman question on the part of Austria-Hungary. The Emperor repeated the same thing on 3rd August, after reading the Austrian proposal, in a despatch from Metz to the Duke of Gramont. The despatch said categorically: "In spite of X's (i.e. Vimercati's) proposal, and in spite of [Prince] Napoleon's efforts, I do not consent as regards Rome." And it was related in Italy that the Empress Eugenie had said: "Rather the Prussians in Paris than the Italians in Rome". The Italian government, however, was not itself satisfied with the Austrian proposal. At Florence they wished the article in question to promise non-intervention on the part of Austria-Hungary, and an arrangement of the affairs of the Roman territory in accordance with the wishes and interests of the Romans and Italians.

These negotiations for an alliance had not remained entirely hidden from the rest of the world. The Vatican believed the rumors about the triple alliance, and was deeply moved at such a contingency. On 25th July the Austrian Minister of Public Worship, Von Stremayr, had proposed to the Emperor Francis Joseph to repeal the imperial patent of 5th November 1855, giving legal force to the Concordat of 18th August of that year. Stremayr argued that the party with whom Austria had concluded that Concordat in 1855, had, after the proclamation of the Infallibility, changed its identity by that proceeding. There was, therefore, a causa gravis, justa, et rationabilis, which, according to the views of the canon lawyers and the scholastic divines, would give the other party a right to retire from the Concordat. No doubt the papal Infallibility was, according to the definition, only to concern matters of faith and morals; but it was first of all the infallible Pope who was himself to decide what fell under the head of "faith and morals", and so was covered by his infallibility; and next it was matter of common knowledge that the popes from ancient times had included practically all relations between man and man in the description of "faith and morals". In order to meet the dangers which now threatened, since the proclamation of the new dogma, the minister proposed to repeal the imperial patent of 5th November 1855. Two days later Stremayr asked Count von Beust to give his attention to the proposal of the Ministry of Public Worship, and without delay, on 3Oth July, the Chancellor sent to the Austrian ambassador at Rome, the Ritter von Palomba, a dispatch containing the statement that the imperial government considered the Concordat of 1855 as abrogated.


At the same time the Vatican received news from Paris that boded misfortune. On 30th July the Duke of Gramont telegraphed to the Marquis de Banneville, the French ambassador at Rome, that he was to prepare the Pope for the speedy recall of the French garrison. The next morning De Banneville carried the disagreeable tidings to Antonelli, and the Cardinal immediately went to the Pope to prepare him for what was coming. Pius IX received the announcement with great calmness. He looked up to heaven and said: "Now it is time for prayer! But everything will end well". The next day the Duke of Gramont explained in a long dispatch to the Marquis of Banneville, that it was not strategic reasons which made the French government recall its few regiments from Cività Vecchia, but only the wish to carrying out the September Convention loyally. "If we go to war", wrote the French Foreign Minister, "without having Italy as our ally, or without at least being sure of its neutrality, we must have not 5,000 but 100,000 men at Rome; for sound sense would compel us to be prepared for a conflict with the Italian government, to which we should have afforded a pretext for considering itself free from the convention, and for reserving to itself full freedom of action". Antonelli fully understood the views of the Duke of Gramont, and he did not conceal the fact that the Vatican had only France to rely upon, and that it was convinced that the defeat of France would be the beginning of an European deluge, in which the see of St Peter would undoubtedly lose everything.

The sudden zeal of France for the September Convention was, in the view of Italian politicians, somewhat uncalled for. For Napoleon III had in reality violated the convention himself, when, in 1867, to stop Garibaldi, he sent General Failly with 2,000 men to Cività Vecchia, and from thence to Rome and Mentana. There was, however, an unexpressed understanding, which La Marmora had hinted at in 1864, that the two powers who had made the convention were in "extraordinary cases" to enjoy freedom of action. Italy had therefore, in 1867, acquiesced in the French breach of the convention, but Napoleon III did not seem to the Italians to be especially entitled to stickle for the letter of the convention.

And, just at that moment, the French government was obliged to sue for the friendship of Italy at all hazards. On 7th August the Duke of Gramont informed the Cavaliere Nigra that the French ambassador at Florence had been ordered to feel his way with Victor Emmanuel, and to find out whether Italy would be willing to send 60,000 men over the Mont Cenis. Victor Emmanuel himself was much bent upon coming to the help of France; he always felt a debt of gratitude to Napoleon III, and he thought with anxiety of what might befall his daughter, the consort of Prince Napoleon. But the popular feeling in Italy was against the French, and became more so day by day. The Italians did not feel inclined to take part in a war of adventure, and they had a secret mistrust of the efficiency of the French army. General Cialdini was the only general who was on the King's side, and the council of war, which Victor Emmanuel summoned, declared plainly that it was impossible to gratify the wish of France. If Italy joined in and sent 60,000 men over the Mont Cenis, it would also have to guard the northern frontier against Bavaria, double the troops on the papal border, and be prepared for internal disturbances. In reality, a much greater force would need to be mobilised than the 60,000 men desired by France. Mazzini was already at work reopening his "republican apostolate", and there was no reason to expect that Garibaldi would remain quiet in Caprera, when a great part of Europe was in flames. Lanza, therefore, for safety's sake, had Mazzini arrested at Palermo, and took him to Gaeta; and the fleet kept watch off Caprera.