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Chapter XI. Italy a Nation at Last

The Crimean War curbs Russia.—Cavour plans a United Italy.—War against Austria.—Garibaldi, the patriot.—The Kingdom of Sardinia becomes part of the new Kingdom of Italy.—Venice and Rome are added.—Some Italians still outside the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Italy, under the leadership of two patriots named Mazzini and Garibaldi, was in a turmoil. The Austrians and the Italian princes who were subject to them were constantly crushing some attempted revolution.

One thing which helped the cause of the people was that the great powers were all jealous of each other. For example, Russia attacked Turkey in 1853, but France and England were afraid that if Russia conquered the Turks and took Constantinople, she would become too powerful for them. Therefore, both countries rushed troops to aid Turkey, and in the end, Russia was defeated, although thousands of soldiers were killed on both sides before the struggle was over.

You will remember that the counties of Piedmont and Savoy in western Italy, together with the island of Sardinia, made up a little kingdom known as the "Kingdom of Sardinia." This country had for its prime minister, a statesman named Count Cavour, who, like all Italians, strongly hoped for the day when all the people living on the Italian peninsula should be one nation. At the time of the Crimean War (as the war between Russia on the one side and Turkey, France, and England on the other was called) he caused his country also to declare war on Russia, and sent a tiny army to fight alongside of the English and French. A few years later, he secretly made a bargain with Napoleon III. (This was what President Bonaparte of France called himself after he had been elected emperor.) The French agreed to make war with his country against the Austrians. If they won, the Sardinians were to receive all north Italy, and in return for France's help were to give France the county of Savoy and the seaport of Nice.

When Cavour and the French were all ready to strike, it was not hard to find an excuse for a war. Austria declared war on Sardinia, and, as had been arranged, France rushed to the aid of the Italians. Austria was speedily beaten, but no sooner was the war finished than the French emperor repented of his bargain. He was afraid that it would make trouble for him with his Catholic subjects if the Italians were allowed to take all the northern half of the peninsula, including the pope's lands, into their kingdom. Accordingly, the Sardinians received only Lombardy in return for Savoy and Nice, which they gave to France, and the Austrians kept the county of Venetia. A fire once kindled, however, is hard to put out. No sooner did the people of the other states of northern Italy see the success of Sardinia, than, one after another, they revolted against their Austrian princes and voted to join the new kingdom of Italy. In this way, Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and part of the "States of the Church" were added. All of this happened in the year 1859.

These "States of the Church" came to be formed in the following way: The father of the great king of the Franks, Charlemagne, who had been crowned western emperor by the pope in the year 800, had rescued northern Italy from the rule of the Lombards. He had made the pope lord of a stretch of territory extending across Italy from the Adriatic Sea to the Mediterranean. The inhabitants of this country had no ruler but the pope. They paid their taxes to him, and acknowledged him as their feudal lord. It was part of this territory which revolted and joined the new kingdom of Italy.

You will remember the name of Garibaldi, the Italian patriot, who with Mazzini had been stirring up trouble for the Austrians. They finally pursued him so closely that he had to leave Italy. He came to America and set up a fruit store in New York City, where there were quite a number of his countrymen. By 1854, he had made a great deal of money in the fruit business, but had not forgotten his beloved country, and was anxious to be rich only in order that he might free Italy from the Austrians. He sold out his business in New York, and taking all his money, sailed for Italy. When the war of 1859 broke out, he volunteered, and fought throughout the campaign.

But the compromising terms of peace galled him, and he was not satisfied with a country only half free. In the region around Genoa, he enrolled a thousand men to go on what looked like a desperate enterprise. Garibaldi had talked with Cavour, and between them, they had schemed to overthrow the kingdom of the Two Sicilies and join this land to the northern country. Of course, Cavour pretended not to know anything about Garibaldi, for the king of Naples and Sicily was supposed to be a friend of the king of Sardinia. Nevertheless, he secretly gave Garibaldi all the help that he dared, and urged men to enroll with him.

[Illustration: The First Meeting of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel]

With his thousand "red-shirts," as they were called, Garibaldi landed on the island of Sicily, at Marsala. The inhabitants rose to welcome him, and everywhere they drove out the officers who had been appointed by their king to rule them. In a short time, all Sicily had risen in rebellion against the king. (You will remember that this family of kings had been driven out by Napoleon and restored by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. They were Bourbons, the same family that furnished the kings of Spain and the last kings of France. They stood for "the divine right of kings," and had no sympathy with the common people.) Crossing over to the mainland, Garibaldi, with his little army now swollen to ten times its former size, swept everything before him as he marched toward Naples. Everywhere, the people rose against their former masters, and welcomed the liberator. The king fled in haste from Naples, never to return. A vote was taken all over the southern half of Italy and Sicily, to decide whether the people wanted to join their brothers of the north to make a new kingdom of Italy. It was so voted almost unanimously. Victor Emmanuel, king of Sardinia, thus became the first king of United Italy. He made Florence his capital at first, as the country around Rome still belonged to the pope. The pope had few soldiers, but was protected by a guard of French troops. However, ten years later, in 1870, when war broke out between France and Prussia, the French troops left Rome, and the troops of Italy marched quietly in and took possession of the city. Rome, for so many years the capital, not only of Italy but of the whole Mediterranean world, became once more the chief city of the peninsula. The pope was granted a liberal pension by the Italian government in order to make up to him for the loss of the money from his former lands. The dream of Italians for the last 600 years had finally come to pass. Italy was again one country, ruled by the popular Victor Emmanuel, with a constitution which gave the people the right to elect representatives to a parliament or congress. One of the worst blunders of the Congress of Vienna had been set right by the patriotism of the people of Italy.

It should be noted, however, that there are still Italians who are not part of this kingdom. The county of Venetia, at the extreme northeast of Italy, was added to the kingdom in 1866 as the result of a war which will be told about more fully in the next chapter, but the territory around the city of Trent, called by the Italians Trentino, and the county of Istria at the head of the Adriatic Sea, containing the important seaports of Trieste, Fiume, and Pola, are inhabited almost entirely by people of Italian blood. Certain islands along the coast of Dalmatia also are full of Italians. To rescue these people from the rule of Austria has been the earnest wish of all Italian patriots, and was the chief reason why Italy did not join Germany and Austria in the great war of 1914.

[Map: Italy Made One Nation, 1914]

Questions for Review
  1. Why did England and France side with Turkey against Russia?
  2. What bargain did Cavour make with Napoleon III?
  3. How did the rest of Italy come to join Sardinia?
  4. Explain the origin of the "States of the Church."
  5. Why did Sicily and Naples revolt against their king?
  6. What Italians are not yet citizens of the kingdom of Italy?