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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 160/202 -

Peace of Villafranca the Neapolitan Court threw itself with ardour into schemes for the restoration of the fallen Governments and the overthrow of Piedmontese authority in the Romagna by means of a coalition with Austria and Spain and a counterrevolutionary movement in Italy itself. A rising on behalf of the fugitive Grand Duke of Tuscany was to give the signal for the march of the Neapolitan army northwards. This rising, however, was expected in vain, and the great Catholic design resulted in nothing. Baffled in its larger aims, the Bourbon Government proposed in the spring of 1860 to occupy Umbria and the Marches, in order to prevent the revolutionary movement from spreading farther into the Papal States. Against this Cavour protested, and King Francis yielded to his threat to withdraw the Sardinian ambassador from Naples. Knowing that a conspiracy existed for the restoration of the House of Murat to the Neapolitan throne, which would have given France the ascendency in Southern Italy, Cavour now renewed his demand that Francis II. should enter into alliance with Piedmont, accepting a constitutional system of government and the national Italian policy of Victor Emmanuel. But neither the summons from Turin, nor the agitation of the Muratists, nor the warnings of Great Britain that the Bourbon dynasty could only avert its fall by reform, produced any real change in the spirit of the Neapolitan Court. Ministers were removed, but the absolutist and anti-national system remained the same. Meanwhile Garibaldi was gathering his followers round him in Genoa. On the 15th of April Victor Emmanuel wrote to King Francis that unless his fatal system of policy was immediately abandoned the Piedmontese Government itself might shortly be forced to become the agent of his destruction. Even this menace proved fruitless; and after thus fairly exposing to the Court of Naples the consequence of its own stubbornness, Victor Emmanuel let loose against it the revolutionary forces of Garibaldi.


[Garibaldi starts for Sicily, May 5.]

[Garibaldi at Marsala, May 11.]

Since the campaign of 1859 insurrectionary committees had been active in the principal Sicilian towns. The old desire of the Sicilian Liberals for the independence of the island had given place, under the influence of the events of the past year, to the desire for Italian union. On the abandonment of Garibaldi's plan for the march on Rome in November, 1859, the liberation of Sicily had been suggested to him as a more feasible enterprise, and the general himself wavered in the spring of 1860 between the resumption of his Roman project and an attack upon the Bourbons of Naples from the south. The rumour spread through Sicily that Garibaldi would soon appear there at the head of his followers. On the 3rd of April an attempt at insurrection was made at Palermo. It was repressed without difficulty; and although disturbances broke out in other parts of the island, the reports which reached Garibaldi at Genoa as to the spirit and prospects of the Sicilians were so disheartening that for a while he seemed disposed to abandon the project of invasion as hopeless for the present. It was only when some of the Sicilian exiles declared that they would risk the enterprise without him that he resolved upon immediate action. On the night of the 5th of May two steamships lying in the harbour of Genoa were seized, and on these Garibaldi with his Thousand put to sea. Cavour, though he would have preferred that Sicily should remain unmolested until some progress had been made in the consolidation of the North Italian Kingdom, did not venture to restrain Garibaldi's movements, with which he was well acquainted. He required, however, that the expedition should not touch at the island of Sardinia, and gave ostensible orders to his admiral, Persano, to seize the ships of Garibaldi if they should put into any Sardinian port. Garibaldi, who had sheltered the Sardinian Government from responsibility at the outset by the fiction of a sudden capture of the two merchant-ships, continued to spare Victor Emmanuel unnecessary difficulties by avoiding the fleet which was supposed to be on the watch for him off Cagliari in Sardinia, and only interrupted his voyage by a landing at a desolate spot on the Tuscan coast in order to take up artillery and ammunition which were waiting for him there. On the 11th of May, having heard from some English merchantmen that there were no Neapolitan vessels of war at Marsala, he made for this harbour. The first of his two ships entered it in safety and disembarked her crew; the second, running on a rock, lay for some time within range of the guns of a Neapolitan war-steamer which was bearing up towards the port. But for some unknown reason the Neapolitan commander delayed opening fire, and the landing of Garibaldi's followers was during this interval completed without loss. [498]

[Garibaldi captures Palermo, May 26.]

On the following day the little army, attired in the red shirts which are worn by cattle-ranchers in South America, marched eastwards from Marsala. Bands of villagers joined them as they moved through the country, and many unexpected adherents were gained among the priests. On the third day's march Neapolitan troops were seen in position at Calatafimi. They were attacked by Garibaldi, and, though far superior in number, were put to the rout. The moral effects of this first victory were very great. The Neapolitan commander retired into Palermo, leaving Garibaldi master of the western portion of the island. Insurrection spread towards the interior; the revolutionary party at Palermo itself regained its courage and prepared to co-operate with Garibaldi on his approach. On nearing the city Garibaldi determined that he could not risk a direct assault upon the forces which occupied it. He resolved, if possible, to lure part of the defenders into the mountains, and during their absence to throw himself into the city and to trust to the energy of its inhabitants to maintain himself there. This strategy succeeded. While the officer in command of some of the Neapolitan battalions, tempted by an easy victory over the ill-disciplined Sicilian bands opposed to him, pursued his beaten enemy into the mountains, Garibaldi with the best of his troops fought his way into Palermo on the night of May 26th. Fighting continued in the streets during the next two days, and the cannon of the forts and of the Neapolitan vessels in harbour ineffectually bombarded the city. On the 30th, at the moment when the absent battalions were coming again into sight, an armistice was signed on board the British man-of-war _Hannibal_. The Neapolitan commander gave up to Garibaldi the bank and public buildings, and withdrew into the forts outside the town. But the Government at Naples was now becoming thoroughly alarmed; and considering Palermo as lost, it directed the troops to be shipped to Messina and to Naples itself. Garibaldi was thus left in undisputed possession of the Sicilian capital. He remained there for nearly two months, assuming the government of Sicily as Dictator in the name of Victor Emmanuel, appointing Ministers, and levying taxes. Heavy reinforcements reached him from Italy. The Neapolitans, driven from the interior as well as from the towns occupied by the invader, now held only the north-eastern extremity of the island. On the 20th of July Garibaldi, operating both by land and sea, attacked and defeated them at Milazzo on the northern coast. The result of this victory was that Messina itself, with the exception of the citadel, was evacuated by the Neapolitans without resistance. Garibaldi, whose troops now numbered eighteen thousand, was master of the island from sea to sea, and could with confidence look forward to the overthrow of Bourbon authority on the Italian mainland.

[The Party of Action.]

During Garibaldi's stay at Palermo the antagonism between the two political creeds which severed those whose devotion to Italy was the strongest came clearly into view. This antagonism stood embodied in its extreme form in the contrast between Mazzini and Cavour. Mazzini, handling moral and political conceptions with something of the independence of a mathematician, laid it down as the first duty of the Italian nation to possess itself of Rome and Venice, regardless of difficulties that might be raised from without. By conviction he desired that Italy should be a Republic, though under certain conditions he might be willing to tolerate the monarchy of Victor Emmanuel. Cavour, accurately observing the play of political forces in Europe, conscious above all of the strength of those ties which still bound Napoleon to the clerical cause, knew that there were limits which Italy could not at present pass without ruin. The centre of Mazzini's hopes, an advance upon Rome itself, he knew to be an act of self-destruction for Italy, and this advance he was resolved at all costs to prevent. Cavour had not hindered the expedition to Sicily; he had not considered it likely to embroil Italy with its ally; but neither had he been the author of this enterprise. The liberation of Sicily might be deemed the work rather of the school of Mazzini than of Cavour. Garibaldi indeed was personally loyal to Victor Emmanuel; but around him there were men who, if not Republicans, were at least disposed to make the grant of Sicily to Victor Emmanuel conditional upon the king's fulfilling the will of the so-called Party of Action, and consenting to an attack upon Rome. Under the influence of these politicians Garibaldi, in reply to a deputation expressing to him the desire of the Sicilians for union with the Kingdom of Victor Emmanuel, declared that he had come to fight not for Sicily alone but for all Italy, and that if the annexation of Sicily was to take place before the union of Italy was assured, he must withdraw his hand from the work and retire. The effect produced by these words of Garibaldi was so serious that the Ministers whom he had placed in office resigned. Garibaldi endeavoured to substitute for them men more agreeable to the Party of Action, but a demonstration in Palermo itself forced him to nominate Sicilians in favour of immediate annexation. The public opinion of the island was hostile to Republicanism and to the friends of Mazzini; nor could the prevailing anarchy long continue without danger of a reactionary movement. Garibaldi himself possessed no glimmer of administrative faculty. After weeks of confusion and misgovernment he saw the necessity of accepting direction from Turin, and consented to recognise as Pro-Dictator of the island a nominee of Cavour, the Piedmontese Depretis. Under the influence of Depretis a commencement was made in the work of political and social reorganisation. [499]

[Cavour's policy with regard to Naples.]

[Garibaldi crosses to the mainland, Aug. 19.]

Cavour, during Garibaldi's preparation for his descent upon Sicily and until the capture of Palermo, had affected to disavow and condemn the enterprise as one undertaken by individuals in spite of the Government, and at their own risk. The Piedmontese ambassador was still at Naples as the representative of a friendly Court; and in reply to the reproaches of Germany and Russia, Cavour alleged that the title of Dictator of Sicily in the name of Victor Emmanuel had been assumed by Garibaldi without the knowledge or consent of his sovereign. But whatever might be said to Foreign Powers, Cavour, from the time of the capture of Palermo, recognised that the hour had come for further steps towards Italian union; and, without committing himself to any definite line of action, he began already to contemplate the overthrow of the Bourbon dynasty at Naples. It was in vain that King Francis now released his political prisoners, declared the Constitution of 1848 in force, and tendered to Piedmont the alliance which he had before refused. Cavour, in reply to his overtures, stated that he could not on his own authority pledge Piedmont to the support of a dynasty now almost in the agonies of dissolution, and that the matter must await the meeting of Parliament at Turin. Thus far the way had not been absolutely closed to a reconciliation between the two Courts; but after the victory of Garibaldi at Milazzo and the evacuation of Messina at the end of July Cavour cast aside all hesitation and reserve. He appears to have thought a renewal of the war with Austria probable, and now strained every nerve to become master of Naples and its fleet before Austria could take the field. He ordered Admiral Persano to leave two ships of war to cover Garibaldi's passage to the mainland, and with one ship to proceed to Naples himself, and there excite insurrection and win over the Neapolitan fleet to the flag of Victor Emmanuel. Persano reached Naples on the 3rd of August, and on the next day the negotiations between the two Courts were broken off. On the 19th Garibaldi crossed from Sicily to the mainland. His march upon the capital was one unbroken triumph.

[Persano and Villamarina at Naples.]

[Departure of King Francis, Sept. 6.]

History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 160/202

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