Henry Hyndman August 1877
Source: Fortnightly Review, August 1877, p.219-243;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
There is no portion of the history of the nineteenth century that better repays careful study than those memorable ten years during which Cavour, as the constitutional minister of a small and impoverished state, gradually raised Piedmont from her position of existence on sufferance to the recognised leadership of an almost completed Italy. To Englishmen in particular the life of Count Cavour will ever be of singular interest, for he avowedly built upon lines traced by our politicians and thinkers, and his most successful reforms were modelled upon improvements which we have slowly introduced into our own anomalous political system. Englishmen indeed are entitled to feel proud of the high regard expressed for them and their institutions by two patriots of such different character and such widely different ambition as Garibaldi and Cavour. The perfect freedom we have gained, the energy and patriotism we have shown at all critical periods in our history, appear alike to the cool calculating statesman and to the enthusiastic simple-minded warrior worthy of the constant imitation of their countrymen. It is refreshing, after that long course of self-depreciation which is an integral part of English training, to observe the success which has attended the wise application of English methods amid an excitable and far from homogeneous people. The fashion is gaining ground of jeering at the cumbrous forms of representative parliamentary government, and some even go so far as to predict its speedy downfall. It is described on the one hand as involving a waste of power and a sacrifice of efficiency by excessive deference to the popular will; whilst on the other hand the checks and balances so carefully contrived are held to fritter away all genuine responsibility, and to prevent the true tendency of popular feeling from making itself felt at the most important time. A system, however, that rendered it possible for Italy to secure unity, independence, and in the main good government under the most difficult circumstances without any serious internal commotion, can scarcely be really wanting either in strength or in flexibility. Weak ministers, or those of a naturally arbitrary disposition, may fail to manage a machine which enabled rulers of greater capacity and wider grasp to carry through projects that would have been hopeless without its assistance; but the real value of parliamentary institutions is not the less great on that account. Herein it was that Cavour displayed the noblest sagacity. He was ever ready to blame his own incompetence rather than to find fault with his tools or his materials.
Throughout all the bitter struggles that he engaged in when his policy was thwarted, his motives misrepresented, and even his character traduced, he steadily refused to tamper with one iota of that liberty, failing which, as he persistently declared, it was not worth while to reconstitute Italy. Parliaments themselves might be refractory, his adversaries unscrupulous, or his allies exacting, but nothing could justify a statesman in taking a short cut to his object over the broken-down fences of the rights of the people. Cavour, from the first, had a deep-rooted confidence in his own countrymen, and they more than repaid him for it in the end. No minister of a despotic sovereign, no dictator raised to supreme power by the pronunciamento of an army or the ignorant plebiscite of a mob, could possibly have had the weight in Italy and throughout Europe that Cavour carried with him as the responsible chief of a constitutional cabinet. That which he thought and felt to-day, it was certain that through his persuasion the great majority of Italians would think and feel to-morrow. By degrees he established such a community of sentiment between himself and them that they could follow him as readily in the most intricate negotiations as in pursuing those ends which were obviously for their advantage. The perfect openness of mind which enabled Cavour to work willingly and harmoniously with all, no matter what might be their political or religious views, who could subordinate their own opinions to the good of their country, is a rare quality even among statesmen of the first rank and it is this, even more than his genius, which renders him a example to be imitated. He alone of modern ministers could have fairly said with Demosthenes, “Though each of you is nearer to his own than I am, yet I, the statesman, am nearest to you all.”
Not until he was thirty-eight years old did Cavour begin take an active part in the public affairs of Piedmont, and their circumstances under which he commenced political life were as extraordinary as his capacity for dealing with them was exceptional. In 1848 all Europe broke through the spell of absolutism which had pressed upon every country with such deadening weight since the great peace of 1810, and nowhere was the awakening more sudden or more hopeful for the time than in Italy. To this Cavour himself had in some degree contributed by the establishment of his journal, the Risorgimento. When also, just before the outbreak, a deputation from Genoa appealed to the despotic priest-ridden Charles Albert to obtain the expulsion of the Jesuits and the formation of the National Guard, Cavour at once gave form and substance to the ill-conceived petition by demanding a constitution in a manner as bold as it was prudent. The Charter thus unexpectedly asked for was still more unexpectedly granted, and Cavour was one of the foremost in labouring on the committee appointed to draw up the Electoral Bill. At this time, nevertheless, his ability was still unappreciated, and. the step which he had taken in respect to the Charter was derided by the more advanced Liberals, to whom he might naturally have looked for encouragement and support. Between Cavour, however, and the ablest of the moderate men, Caesare Balbo Massimo d’Azeglio ancl Vincenzo Gioberti, there was already this in common, that they had all determined to give up the old conspiring, revolutionary methods, which, identified as they were with the name of a man whose patriotism was undoubted, had nevertheless rendered assassin and Mazzinian into almost convertible terms throughout Europe. Before the assembling of the first Piedmontese Parliament, however, Italy was in a blaze of insurrection. The “five days” of Milan which drove the Austrian army in headlong rout to Verona, and the almost simultaneous successful risings in Venice, Rome, and Central Italy, drew away attention from the internal affairs of Piedmont. The time had arrived for a definite resolve, and Cavour urged that the only honourable course should be taken. A few days later Charles Albert issued his proclamation to the Italians, put himself at the head of the army, crossed the Ticino, and for some months carried everything before him.
The opening of the campaign was indeed most favourable to Italian hopes. It seemed that for once long-standing feuds and jealousies would be forgotten in the common desire that Italy should suffice for herself. Republicans and Monarchists could rejoice together that the newly elected Pope had ranged himself on the side of liberty and independence. The enthusiasm of the people unfortunately affected the judgment of the leaders; the dispute about the spoils began ere the battle was half won, and there appeared on every side those sad differences which so long interfered with the best-laid plans for Italian enfranchisement. Fanatical Republicans boldly declared that no good thing could come out of monarchical Piedmont, and did all in their power to hamper Charles Albert. “They were really Austria’s most useful allies.” And so it chanced that the Pope, alarmed at the spread of freedom, issued his Encyclical of April 29th; the army of Durando, which might have acted with crushing effect, was frittered away at the decisive moment; Venice rendered no important assistance; and even the Piedmontese Ministry lent but a lukewarm support to the prosecution of the war. This last mistake Cavour, now deputy for Turin as well as editor of the Risorgimento, never ceased to condemn vigorously, though he gave a general support to the Ministry against the machinations of the Left. In the meantime, unfortunately, intrigues both reactionary and socialistic were carried on in every direction. At length Radetzky, who had received large reinforcements, felt himself strong enough to assume the offensive, and Charles Albert and his gallant little army, deprived of the national support on which he had reckoned were after a series of unlucky defeats driven back through Lombard into his own state, whilst Turin itself was scarcely deemed safe from attack. During the first four months of uncheckered victory public expectation had naturally been raised to the highest pitch, and the disappointment at the result was none the less keen because the vision of Italian unity had been by no means clearly defined. With the defeat of the Piedmontese army all hope vanished, but the agitators were ready to lay the blame of the catastrophe upon anything rather than their own disinclination honestly to back up a king who was fighting on their side. In Milan some misguided fanatics attempted to assassinate Charles Albert. The miserable word “tradimento,” which all the Latin races are only too ready to use when things go badly with them, passed rapidly from mouth to mouth, and on his arrival in Turin the unfortunate monarch found himself surrounded by a discontented, clamorous mob, who used their newly acquired liberties only to show that they were as yet unworthy to have them. Well might Cavour say of the extreme Republicans, who were so deeply responsible for the issue of ‘48, “I admire their self-sacrifice, but their fanaticism horrifies me.”
In November of that melancholy year he pointed out that “revolutionary methods,” with their disregard for the general laws of society and political economy, invariably result in the defeat of their own ends. It was this mania for revolutionary methods which had constantly wrecked the noblest causes, and he predicted that the newest application of this false and treacherous system would seat Louis Napoleon on the throne of France. Now, too, it was that Cavour gave evidence of his capacity to appreciate the stern logic of facts, and manifested that determination not to be swept away from the sound basis of his principles by the tide of emotional folly that surged up around him, which afterwards earned for him the complete trust of his more excitable countrymen. A thorough man of business above everything, he had no mercy for those sentimental enthusiasts who imagine that because their quarrel happens to be just, the days of miracles will return for their benefit. Therefore when the thoughtless and hasty were shouting at the end of 1848 and the commencement of 1849 in favour of an immediate renewal of the war, he raised his voice in the Piedmontese Parliament on the side of watchfulness and delay. But moderate counsels were not just then in season. Cavour was met with yells and hisses both in and out of Parliament, and the most liberal statesman in Italy was howled down as a reactionist and a “codino,” because he refused to give in wholly to the umeasoning clamour of men who could understand neither the political nor the military situation. Cavour lost his seat for Turin, and Charles Albert went forth to his final defeat of Novara. The abdication of the King followed, and his son Victor Emanuel, then as unpopular and as much distrusted as his father succeeded him on the throne. It would have been easy for the young king to have recalled the Charter, thrown himself into the arms of Austria, and lived for some years without much trouble supported by the bayonets of the principal power m Italy; but he chose the nobler course, and has earned a brilliant reward.
Cavour was born at Turin in 1810. His father, the Marquis Michele Benso di Cavour, was the head of the old and noble family of the Bensi, which rose to wealth and renown during the twelfth century in the little republic of Chieri. At the time of Cavour’s birth, the Marquis di Cavour held the post of grand chamberlain to Prince Borghese, the governor of Piedmont under the French dominion, and his wife, a De Sellon, of Geneva, was lady in waiting to the Princess Borghese, that beautiful Pauline Buonaparte sculptured by Canova as Venus, who, in warmth of disposition as well as loveliness of form, was not unlike the goddess she personated. The young Cavour was named Camillo, after the Prince, and it is not impossible that this early connection of himself and his family with the Buonapartes may have had a favourable influence when Cavour came to deal directly with Napoleon III. However this may be, it is certain that the boy grew up amid a people who regretted the disappearance of the French rule, and who suffered under the restoration of many of the abuses which Napoleon’s influence had swept away. Thus his mind may naturally have turned towards France as a benefactor long before he conceived the idea that through an alliance with her Italy might be freed. At the age of ten the lad was appointed page to the Prince of Carignano, afterwards Charles Albert. For some reason he appears to have taken a dislike not only to the servile duties which he had to perform, and the “livery” he was bound to wear, but to the heir to the throne himself, and he soon returned to the military academy which he had lately left. In 1826 he received his commission, at eighteen joined the Piedmontese army as lieutenant of engineers, and in 1831 was employed in surveying the fortifications of Genoa. At this time, “proud, witty, and self-reliant, unsuited to obey,” as one of his most eloquent eulogists  described him, the liberal opinions which he shared in common with young Italy (though in a much more moderate form), were but confirmed by the repressive system in vogue at Turin, and his Swiss relations and friends helped him to acquire that knowledge of the true principles of liberty which he adhered to throughout with so firm a grasp. A young man of his open speech could not long escape punishment in those days, and the French Revolution of July, 1830, seems to have had even more attraction for him than others. For some free remarks on the tendencies of that movement he was sent into confinement at Fort Bard in 1831, his own father being Vicario of Turin, Chief of the Police, and one of the leaders of the reactionist party. Piedmont. indeed, then and for many years after, was under a stricter and more oppressive rule than even that which was maintained in the Austrian dominion, and nowhere outside of Rome and Naples was the influence of the priesthood greater. Cavour’s visit to Switzerland seemed to him like an escape into the open country from the confined atmosphere of Turin. On his release from Fort Bard Cavour resigned his commission in the army, and in the same year he wrote the remarkable letter to a friend in which, referring to the sacrifice of his profession, he said, “I thank you for the interest you take in my misfortune, but, believe me, I shall accomplish my career despite of it. I am a very, an enormously ambitious man, and when I a minister I shall justify my position; for I tell you in my dreams already see myself Minister of the Kingdom of Italy.” Other you men of twenty-two have had, perhaps, similar visions, but Cavour spent the next eighteen years of his life in thoroughly qualifying himself for the time of trial. Even his military training, though he never appears to have resumed his studies in this direction, was of considerable value. From 1832 to 1835 he passed his time chiefly in travelling in Italy – where he already had the honour of being marked as a dangerous “suspect” by the Austrian police – France, and England. His stay in the last-named country in 1835 greatly influenced the bent of his political genius, though he did not then understand our language. Both on these travels, and in the more important journeys which he took eight years later to the same countries, Cavour showed himself as a clever, lively, agreeable man of the world, ready to take advantage of his means and position for purposes of enjoyment as well as for the acquisition of knowledge.
Nor with all his genuine convictions in favour of what would: certainly pass for radicalism in those days, did he ever condescend, as M. de Mazade notes approvingly, to play the part of the aristocrate defroqué. Cavour, however, was a second son, and having given up a profession, he found it necessary to settle down, in the then condition of politics, to the regular life of a Piedmontese country gentleman. It is probable that no part of his experience was more useful to him than that which he acquired in this capacity. The whole of Northern Italy is essentially an agricultural district, and Cavour’s everyday dealings, as a well-to-do gentleman farmer, with the shrewd Piedmontese peasantry, gave him an insight into the real requirements of the country which he could have gained so surely in no other way. His steady attention to his own land was rewarded with complete success, and the flat and monotonous estate of Leri, which Cavour so greatly enriched and improved by his care and skill, played a similar part in the history of his life to that which Varzin has filled in the career of the great German statesman. His labours and experiments at Leri by no means prevented Cavour from keeping a a careful watch upon the course of European and Italian politics. During these years he became more attached than ever to the policy of the juste milieu or broad Italian whiggism – a rather original position to take up in Italy, where the gulf between the reactionist clerical party and the hot-headed. Republicans seemed impossible to bridge over. His letters at this period are interesting, not only on account of the judicious criticisms they contain on current events, but because of the clear perception which they manifest, that only by the development of liberty could Italy be permanently strengthened, and an end be put once for all to those disastrous conspiracies and fitful insurrections which exhausted the patriotic party without really injuring the oppressors. By constant trips to Turin, as well as by the formation of an agricultural society and a whist club, both more or less political in their constitution, Cavour kept up his connection with the stronger men of all parties, whilst his essays on the State and Prospects of Ireland, on the Influence of Commercial Reforms in England, on the Economical Condition of Italy, in addition to two others on Communism and Italian Railways, gained him almost an European reputation as a political writer of wide and statesmanlike views. As editor of the Risorgimento also, and member for Turin in the critical times of 1848-49, he had still further strengthened his standing as a politician of sound views, and considerable powers of clearly expressing them. Thus when after Novara Cavour was again elected deputy for Turin, a seat which he held to the end of his life, he was an active, vigorous man of thirty-nine, full of life and gaiety, more thoroughly acquainted with the resources of Piedmont and better versed in the true principles of finance than any of the statesmen who held a prominent position in the government; his knowledge of the affairs of Western Europe also entitling him to consideration in any discussion on foreign politics. A strong man, both physically and intellectually, was needed to take the control of Piedmontese affairs during the next few years, and it was well for Sardinia and Italy that Cavour stood ready for the work.
Cavour was naturally no orator, and the hesitation with which he spoke in public was increased by the fact that his pronunciation of Italian was very imperfect. He spoke French far better, but though either French or Italian might be used in the Piedmontese Parliament, he invariably chose the national tongue. “When he spoke Italian,” says S. Artom, “his delivery was awkward, broken, almost painful to listen to.” Yet, in spite of this great drawback, Cavour soon became the most powerful debater in the House. At first he confined himself chiefly to the subjects with which he was specially familiar – those relating to taxation and finance. His criticisms on these matters were so much to the point and the liberalism which he professed on all occasions was so broad and clearly defined, that he rapidly rose to the leadership of the band of independent liberal members who, in the new Parliament, gave their support to the Government founded after Novara by the chivalrous, unselfish Massimo d’Azeglio. D’Azeglio’s position, indeed, was such that he needed all the help that could be given him. Peace was not concluded, the finances were in terrible. disorder, and the factiousness of both the extreme parties made the task of government much heavier than would have been the case had all in that time of depression made common cause for the public good. Cavour, therefore, took the really patriotic course in warmly championing D’Azeglio’s government both in Parliament and in the Risorgimento, though its principles were, on the whole, more conservative than he could himself approve. It was not, however, until the bill introduced by Count Siccardi for the suppression of the ecclesiastical tribunals that Cavour clearly stood forward as one to whom the highest offices in the state must shortly be offered. Not long afterwards Pietro Santa Rosa, the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, died, and in August, 1850, Cavour was appointed his successor. It was then that Victor Emanuel made his celebrated prediction: “I am quite ready to approve; but, mark my words, he will take everyone of your offices into his own hands.” As the first step towards the fulfilment of this prophecy Cavour took the portfolio of finance, in addition to that which he already held, in April, 185l.
Now commenced that long spell of herculean labour in the various departments which lasted with little relaxation to the end of his life. None but a man of the strongest constitution and the most inexhaustible fund of animal spirits could have gone through the amount of work and petty vexation together without breaking down. Cavour not only did so, but, unless all the stories of the period are to be discredited, he contrived to hold his own at the same time even with such a well-known free-liver as the King. But there is no need now to recall this and Cavour never allowed his pleasures to interfere with the business of the state. His activity was indeed prodigious. The conclusion of commercial treaties with the various European states was entirely due to his energy and determination, and how completely he understood the real principles of free-trade may be judged from the remarks which he made in a discussion on differential duties so early as April 4th, 1850. Cavour then contended that these duties ought to be abolished, whether anything were to be obtained from other nations in return or not; the reform was good in and for itself, quite irrespective of the proceedings of other countries, Towards France, as he openly stated, he was specially easy in negotiation, because it might be advantageous to acquire her moral if not material support; and the Austrians accused him of purchasing the English goodwill by the excessive liberality of his commercial policy. It is easy to understand what a tremendous opposition his anti-protectionist measures met with from the “vested interests:” every step he took in advance left a cloud of enemies on his flank and rear. But these treaties of commerce removed a dead weight from the prosperity of the country, and the trade of Piedmont soon began to show the effects of his enlightened management. For the gradual abolition of protective duties was but a small part of the economical reforms he introduced. The establishment of banks, the construction of railways and other public works, the encouragement of every new industry that promised to be profitable, the raising of such loans as were necessary to carry out his projects, all these matters were personally attended to by Cavour himself, and he left very little even of the detail of his financial work to be done by clerks. This desire to do everything himself, which rapidly grew upon him, was, undoubtedly, a serious weakness in his otherwise powerful intelligence.
Cavour was now becoming the most important member of D’Azeglio’s Ministry, and it says much for the noble character of D’Azeglio himself, that he not only exhibited no jealousy of Cavour’s growing influence, but supported his new colleague most unreservedly in carrying through measures the value of which he scarcely appreciated, and which he saw alienated some of his own staunchest supporters. The boldness of these proceedings might well appear little better than the most dangerous rashness, at a period when Piedmont was labouring under a chronic deficit, and the taxation was already too heavy to be borne continuously even by the most patriotic population. But Cavour never slackened speed for a moment. He had made up his mind that the only way in which he could make both ends meet, and at the same time prepare Piedmont for her future of successful self-sacrifice, was by enriching the people up to the taxation and not by lowering the taxation (at the cost of reducing the army and retarding public works) to the needs of the people. And Cavour was not the man to be deterred by opposition from resolutely carrying out his programme. On all questions of internal liberty he was as firm as in his financial policy, and he now began to develop in relation to the affairs of the Church that policy of a Free Church in a Free State – “Libera Chiesa in Libero Stato” – which Italy would be wise to adhere to even under circumstances of the greatest provocation. The coup d’etat in France, which Cavour had foretold, took place on December 2nd, 1851, and it then appeared that Piedmont was advancing too fast on the road to genuine liberty to suit the convenience of any of her neighbours. Her free press in particular, which, to say the truth, indulged in a good deal of license, was galling to the imperial régime, and a new press law was demanded in relation to the comments permissible on foreign governments. The position of little Piedmont at this time was indeed anomalous, for she was growing every day in the strength of constitutional principles, whilst the two great Powers by which she was hemmed in were, if possible, more reactionary than ever. The introduction of a law for the regulation of the press led to the break-up of D’Azeglio’s administration. During the debate which brought about this result Cavour found himself frequently in accord with Ratazzi, who had been the leader of the Left Centre since 1849, and the ablest opponent of the Government on all questions of interior policy. Cavour even went so far as to make common cause with Ratazzi, and helped him to secure the Presidency of the Chamber. He did not join D’Azeglio’s reconstituted administration, but left Italy in July, 1852, for Paris and London. In September he returned to Turin fuller than ever of enthusiasm for England. He was sent for by the King on D’Azeglio’s retirement, but the Roman question presented an insuperable difficulty, and it was not until the more conservative Balbo had failed to form an administration that Cavour came up from Leri and assumed the supreme direction of affairs. Cavour’s approach to Ratazzi prior to his departure had given as great a shock to many of his old friends as that which disturbed the majority of the Tory party when his favourite statesman, Sir Robert Peel, abandoned the Conservatives on the question of the Corn Laws. They accused Cavour of steering his bark towards new and dangerous shores; to which he replied that he desired only that the craft of the State should sail in the direction of the bow – he, at any rate, had no wish to get stern way on her. In November, 1852, Cavour constituted a moderate liberal cabinet, in which he held three portfolios.
Thus in little more than three years after his first election to Parliament Cavour had become chief Minister of Piedmont, and, without having sacrificed one of his liberal principles, found himself in a position to command a majority for his own views. As head of the administration he devoted the same attention to the development of the resources of the country that he did when he inaugurated his bold progressive policy with D’Azeglio, and in Paleocapa he found as able a colleague for the department of Public Works as La Marmora proved in the reorganization of the army. A year later, Cavour’s agreement with Ratazzi on the Press Bill bore further fruit in the appointment of that able but unscrupulous politician to the Ministry of Grace and Justice. Necessary as the “connubio” was, the connection between the liberal aristocrat and such a statesman as Ratazzi was by no means easy to maintain. Ratazzi, however, more than justified Cavour’s foresight in seeking his support, for the eventual success of the Civil Marriages Bill was in a great degree due to his judgment and to the unwearied efforts which he lavished on its behalf. Piedmont was already a long way from the starting-point of the abolition of the ecclesiastical tribunals, and the nation, now accustomed to the exercise of freedom, no longer shrank from a direct contest with Rome. But the hostility of the Church to what she regarded as a fresh invasion of her most cherished rights was so violent, that the supporters of the Ministry were provoked to retort in similar fashion.
In spite of his moderation, therefore, Cavour came to be considered by many as a godless politician, and his subversive measures in every direction were denounced as leading straight to anarchy and disaster. A crisis was in fact fast approaching, and it was well for the liberal party that the political education of the last few years enabled the mass of the people to comprehend the question really at issue. A succession of misfortunes befell the country, and the famine, the slackness of trade, and the cholera were all attributed to Cavour’s irreligious measures, aggravated by his unreasonable interference with the old commercial regulations. At this juncture Ratazzi brought in his bill for dealing with religious corporations, and this still further provoked the opposition, which now numbered in its ranks all who were suffering from any cause whatever. The King himself, who throughout his life has been subject to fits of theological despondency, was terrified at the successive deaths of the Queen, the Queen Mother, and the Duke of Genoa, and considered that these bereavements were punishments sent from Heaven to chastise his obduracy towards the Church. Cavour was hooted in the streets of Turin, and the agitation reached such a point that for the moment it appeared as if the liberties of Piedmont might be seriously endangered. The King refused to sanction Ratazzi’s Law, and Cavour resigned. Then it was that Massimo d’ Azeglio did his country the greatest service which it had ever been even in his power to perform. There was no time to be lost, for every day’s delay tended towards further trouble, and external affairs called for immediate action on the part of a united people. D’Azeglio, therefore, availing himself of his position outside of politics, and his great reputation as a stainless patriot and a man of a religious mind, appealed directly to the King not to risk the whole future of his family and of his country by further hesitation, but at whatever cost to his private feelings to throw in his lot with the people whom he ruled. The King happily listened to his faithful servant, the law was passed, and Cavour was recalled. After the first moment of hesitation the whole nation had rallied round the great minister, and it soon became manifest what a risk had been run. For the Crimean War had begun, and Cavour alone could deal successfully with the circumstances which arose out of memorable struggle.
One scarcely knows which to admire most, the nobility and resolution of the statesman who was not afraid to assume the responsibility of sending the Sardinian army to the Crimea, or the confidence of the people, who at that critical time supported their leader in such a hazardous enterprise. The idea of taking part in the war occurred to Cavour early in 1854, but in November of that year “the whole Cabinet was against it.” Cavour nevertheless had made up his mind to accept the proposals of England, and by degrees overcame the opposition of his colleagues. It was at this point that Cavour reaped the benefit of the complete publicity which had attended all his doings, as well of his invariable good-humour and accessibility. There was no need for him to be continually threatening to resign, or asking for fresh unconstitutional powers. Liberty had bred mutual confidence, and the people came to understand intuitively what Cavour could not fully express, that although nominally only minister of Piedmont, he was acting thenceforth as minister of Italy. Still there were some moments of doubt and distrust; nor can this be wondered at. The arguments of Cavour’s opponents were assuredly not without weight, and the contention that the crippled state of the finances could not bear the strain, that England’s alliance was not worth purchasing, that Austria was most unfriendly, and that Italian blood had far better be spent in Italy, could only be met by counter-arguments which left much to the imagination of the hearers. Cavour’s speech on February 5th, 1855, was notwithstanding the greatest which he had yet delivered. After referring to the Treaty of Alliance with England and France, he read in full Lord Clarendon’s letter to Sir James Hudson, brimming over with compliments to the Sardinian Government, and then proceeded to review the interests which Sardinia had in opposition to Russian supremacy in the Black Sea, touched upon the state of the finances and the loan guaranteed by England, and wound up with a clear and even eloquent review of Sardinia’s standing in Europe and the European situation, which involved an animated defence of his whole policy, foreign as well as domestic. This speech marked, in fact, the end of an old policy and the beginning of a new one. Up to the date of the Crimean war Cavour had given his mind chiefly to the regulation of the internal affairs of the country – to finance, public works, and the re-establishment of credit. Henceforth, whilst pursuing the same course at home, he subordinated these measures to the needs of his foreign policy, and no longer hesitated to stretch the resources of Piedmont to the utmost limit, in order to be ever in readiness for a blunder on the part of his formidable enemy across the Ticino. The departure of the Sardinian army for the Crimea brought with it a period of dreadful suspense. The command was given to General La Marmora, who had been for so many years the leading spirit of the reorganization. For weeks after the landing, the only enemy which he had to face was the cholera. This terrible disease almost decimated the little army, and the feeling of uneasiness in Turin deepened almost into panic as each succeeding mail brought intelligence of continued sickness and death. But the gallant stand made by the Piedmontese force at the battle of the Tchernaya more than compensated for this harassing anxiety, and when the news arrived Cavour felt that the great game which he had played was already in a fair way to be won. Piedmont had justified her existence in the eyes of Europe, and for the future all Italy could look to her with pride as the natural leader in any fresh struggle with Austria.
This is precisely what Cavour was throughout striving for. He desired that when the time came for a renewed effort to rescue Italy from foreign interference, there should be no further question as to what was the part to be taken by every man who loved his country, and he was determined that the remembrance of “the conspiracies, plots, revolutions, and ill-contrived risings,” which, as he truly said in his speech on the Alliance, had degraded Italy in the opinion of Europe, should be swept away by the inauguration of a bolder and more successful policy. The Alliance with England and France should lead not only to the defeat of Russia, but to the final establishment of Italian independence. Nearly all the abler Italians who doubted him at first, now felt that Cavour was taking the only course by which success could sooner or later be certainly achieved. Daniel Manin, who at one moment had himself been offered the portfolio of Foreign Affairs in Piedmont during the crisis of 1848-9, slowly recognised that Italy was not ripe for the republican government on which, as a Venetian, he had set his heart, and living in exile as a poor schoolmaster in Paris, he rejoiced to see in Cavour the statesman who could carry out his own projects with a firmer hand. Poerio, too, a galley-slave at Naples, felt his chains lighten when he heard of the conclusion of the Alliance with England and France. Mazzini alone, in spite of his love for Italy and the many services which he had rendered her, could not sacrifice his long-cherished Utopias to the welfare of his country. Italy must be freed, if freed at all, in accordance with the plans of the master-conspirator, and he gave a dismal proof of his unbending fanaticism by stirring up an insurrection in Genoa at a most critical moment.
Unfortunately for the speedy fulfilment of Cavour’s hopes, the capture of Sebastopol brought the Crimean war to a close, and Cavour himself could scarcely see at first how Sardinia was to be recouped for the sacrifices which she had made, She was excluded from the early negotiations at Vienna, and although she was admitted to the Congress of Paris, on the representations of England, France and Russia, in spite of the strong protest of Austria, this had so much the appearance of an admission on sufferance, that Cavour said, “What is the use of going there to be treated like a child?” He nevertheless went, and ere long succeeded, thanks to his good-humour, and genuine knowledge, in making himself felt at the council board. By degrees he was enabled to side, in the discussions which took place, with France and Russia, against England and Austria, though without offending Lord Clarendon. His chief gain consisted in the friendly relations which he established with the Russian plenipotentiary, and the ill-feeling which he contrived to aggravate between Russia and Austria. Later, owing to the Emperor of the French, the question of Italy made its appearance at the Congress. This gave Cavour the opportunity he sought placing on record the national grievances, and in particular enabled him to point out that Austria herself, by overstepping the bounds imposed by the treaties of 1815, had destroyed the equilibrium established at that time, and had placed Piedmont in a most difficult position. These views he further elaborated in a note to Lord Clarendon and Count Walewski; and though little came of all this at the time, it was something new to have the claims of Italy as a nation pressed by an Italian plenipotentiary at an European congress.
There can be no doubt, however, that the vision of an united Italy near at hand turned Cavour’s head for the moment, and he attributed more importance to the kindly expressions of Lord Clarendon and to the Emperor’s question, “What can we do for Italy?” than they deserved. His letters to Ratazzi at this time were written under the influence of considerable exaltation. A visit to London calmed him at once, for, though he was exceedingly well received, Lord Palmerston evidently had no intention of giving him any assistance, and on his return through France he saw that the Emperor, too, was by no means inclined to move at present. Still, though nothing definite had been done, Cavour was fairly entitled to the enthusiastic welcome with which he was greeted at Turin, and the still more satisfactory congratulations which he received from the other great cities of Italy. He had accomplished even more than he yet knew, and the well-assured self-confidence which he had acquired by measuring himself against the representatives of the Great Powers was of the highest value in the difficult succession of negotiations on which he now entered. It is true that the envoys at the Congress of Paris were, with the exception only of himself, a very second-rate company; but that was not then so plain as it is now, and only the veteran Metternich, looking on at the destruction of his own handiwork, recognised that there was but one first-rate diplomatist, in Europe, “and he opposed to us, Cavour.” Of this diplomacy and its methods Cavour could afterwards proudly say, “Whilst my enemies are groping for me in the by-paths and hedges, I am fearlessly marching along the public highway.” And in spite of some necessary secrecy, this description of his acts was in the main correct. He never disguised that every step which he took was in one definite direction, and that he was constantly and vigorously working to overthrow the Austrian domination.
On Ratazzi’s retirement, after Mazzini’s miserable émeute at Genoa, Cavour took the Ministry of the Interior, in addition to the three other departments, into his own hands; but his ministerial dictatorship still rested entirely upon parliamentary majorities and the will of the people. These were the days of the fortification of Alessandria and Casale, of the subscription for a million of muskets, of the piercing of Mont Cenis, and, above all, of the formation of the arsenal at Spezzia – at the very end of the Piedmontese dominions – matters to which Cavour, in spite of his innumerable engagements, contrived still to give his personal attention. Charles Lever, in one of his amusing papers, has sketched the short, thick-set, active figure, with its broad hunched shoulders and owl-like face, that appeared one fine day examining the environs of the Bay of Spezzia, and whose investigations ended in the destruction of his favourite villa. It was the same with the Cenis Tunnel, which owed its rapid progress in great part to his energetic support. His activity and promptitude became more astonishing than ever. Rising at four, he finished his private correspondence and the perusal of confidential reports before breakfast, dispatched the business of his four departments with less of apparent effort than it cost some of his colleagues to attend to one, and night after night was in his place in Parliament defending his policy in every branch against assailants who made little account of the difficulties by which he was surrounded. The rancour of parties had been much embittered during the year 1857, and the successes of the Right at the elections had driven many of the Moderate Liberals into the arms of the revolutionists. But Cavour held his own through all these troubles. The Turinese, who prided themselves on their famous and indefatigable representative, always said that by Cavour’s face and manner, as he passed through the streets, they could tell whether things were going well or ill with the State, and his familiar gesture of rubbing his hands when pleased spread confidence through the city at the most critical times.
The Foreign Office alone might have sufficed from 1856 to 1859 for the energies of any ordinary man. The good understanding which Cavour had established with Russia at the Congress of Paris enabled him to offer suggestions on the subject of the Danubian Principalities and the Danube itself, which soothed the pride of Russia without wounding the susceptibilities of England, though the grant of a harbour at Villafranca to the northern power in 1857 almost called forth a remonstrance from Lord Palmerston. England in fact, had drawn closer to Austria in spite of Cavour, and look with suspicion upon any movement on the part of Sardinia for the liberation of Italy. The treaties of 1815, rudely shaken as they had been by the Crimean war, were still the objects of her gravest solicitude. The Emperor of the French, on the other hand, was becoming more and more favourable to intervention, and Cavour, who spared no pains to keep the cause of Italy continually before him, could look forward with well-founded hope to the time when Napoleon’s ideas would be reduced to action. Matters were indeed progressing precisely as the Piedmontese minister desired, when Orsini attempted to assassinate the Emperor on January 14th, 1858. This raised a storm of indignation, and even England felt something of its effects in the violent address of the French colonels, the trial of Dr. Bertrand, and the defeat and resignation of Lord Palmerston, on account of his presumed subservience to Louis Napoleon. England could afford to disregard the anger of France, but to Piedmont it was a much more serious affair. She was in no position to dispense with the friendship of the Emperor, and yet Cavour, though he proposed a law for the stricter regulation of the ultra-revolutionary press, and took order with the advocates of assassination, positively refused to have recourse to the arbitrary methods of arrest and suppression which Count Walewski vehemently urged him to adopt.
Nothing was lost in the end by Orsini’s attempt, and the Emperor seems to have appreciated Cavour’s manly behaviour. At any rate, Cavour’s secret visit to Plombières in July served to conclude an informal alliance, and the marriage of Prince Napoleon with the Princess Clotilde, the Italian campaign, and possibly the cession of Savoy and Nice on certain contingencies, were arranged at this interview. The Emperor’s idea at that time was no doubt that of an Italian national confederation, afterwards elaborated in pamphlet, “Napoleon et l’Italie,” but it may be doubted whether Cavour ever looked upon this as more than a stepping-stone to a more complete unification. During his stay at Plombières he fully confirmed the favourable impression which he had previously made on the Emperor, and established between them a community of feeling which even the shock of Villafranca did not altogether upset. Everything was now ready for the great coup so long and patiently waited for. But politicians were unprepared for what followed, and the menacing words of Louis Napoleon to Baron Hubner on the 1st January, 1859, fell like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky upon startled Europe. Victor Emanuel’s speech of the 10th, and the marriage of Prince Napoleon, revealed a preconcerted plan, and from then until the actual outbreak of hostilities Cavour lived in one perpetual turmoil of diplomatic encouragements an remonstrances. Fortune once more favoured the Italian statesman. Austria, wearied out with negotiations, suddenly called upon Piedmont to disarm in three days, and the war began. The Emperor declared in his proclamation, before leaving Paris, that Austria must either be mistress to the Alps, or Italy should be free from the Alps to the Adriatic. The French army, still at the height of its reputation, was pushing forward full of confidence and spirit; the Piedmontese forces, though not very numerous, were admirably equipped, and worthy to take their place side by side with their friends of the Crimea; above all, as showing the triumph of the liberal policy, Garibaldi, the hero of Rome and South America, whose very name was even then a tower of popular strength, was conducting a separate warfare, precisely suited to his genius, on the skirts of the Tyrol. Cavour himself was now the whole administration, and his direction made itself felt at every point. As the allied forces swept onwards from victory to victory, new governments were established in their rear, and the ablest representatives of the Piedmontese system were appointed to superintend the interests of Italy and order at Milan, Florence, Modena, Parma, Bologna, and the other cities, which hastened to throw off the yoke of Austria and Rome.
But Italy was doomed to experience a cruel disappointment. The victories of Montebello, Palestro, and Magenta led up only to the bloody drawn battle of Solferino. Before Napoleon lay the almost impregnable Quadrilateral; he had lost a large portion of the flower of his army, and Prussia threatened to take the field. France had entered upon a campaign from which under no circumstances could she derive great advantage, and sad as it might be for Italy to see Venice still in the power of Austria, Frenchmen might well feel that they had done enough for an idea, The armistice was signed at Villafranca, between France and Austria, without reference to Piedmont, and Cavour arrived at the camp only to find that Victor Emanuel had likewise signed the document, and that peace was, therefore, virtually assured. When he learnt that his plans were thus frustrated, and Italy, as he thought, betrayed, Cavour gave way to a tremendous fury of passion, which appears to have unhinged his intelligence, already tried by overwork. He refused to be responsible for such a peace, sent in his resignation to the King, and hurried back to Turin without even seeing the Emperor.
That this was a really grave mistake on the part of the great statesman must be apparent to any unprejudiced person who considers the facts of the case, and though it may be easy to excuse, it is impossible to defend, the burst of petulance which deprived Italy of his counsels at this most critical juncture. Granted that Cavour had been deceived, and that his sovereign had been forced into signing peace against his will, this was no more than a politician of Cavour’s experience ought to have counted upon as at least a possibility when he committed Piedmont to the French alliance; and the very vehemence of his anger convicts him of want of foresight. But worse than this, his own capacity had forced him into a position of such overwhelming importance that he had no right to be angry at all, save in the strictest way of business. He had gathered all the skeins of negotiation, the whole powers of the Government, into his own. hands, with the full consent of all parties, it is true, but, nevertheless, to the exclusion of men who might have been qualifying to succeed him in the event of sickness or death. Consequently Cavour was bound to stay at his post, or at any rate remain as adviser at Turin, until he saw what was the result of the armistice and the retirement of the French. The good of his country demanded no less of him, and he should have sacrificed all personal feeling to that. It may be urged that Italy lost nothing by his withdrawal just then, and that he gained increased influence with the people by thus markedly expressing that bitter disappointment which all his countrymen felt. But who shall tell what effect Cavour’s personal influence with the Emperor of the French might not have had? Who shall say that if Cavour had been at hand to insist upon the drawbacks of Villafranca, and had exercised his unrivalled tact and diplomacy in the negotiations which immediately followed, the annexations of the Central States would not have been more easily attained, and perhaps the sacrifice of Savoy and Nice avoided by some less valuable surrender? But the Italians felt for their leader, and admired rather than blamed him. His one hurried interview with the Emperor at Turin a few days after served in some sort to soothe his shattered nerves, and he then took his departure for Switzerland, leaving the government in the hands of Ratazzi, La Marmora, and Dabormida. But though Cavour had gone, his spirit remained. Farini, D’Azeglio, and, above all, Ricasoli, his friend and his ablest successor, maintained the provisional governments at Modena, Bologna, and Florence with a firmness and a capacity which earned for them the gratitude of the whole country. After all, had Cavour stopped to consider the results already achieved, he would have been forced to admit that, provoking as the conclusion of such a peace might be, the failure was by no means so complete as he imagined in the first moments of depression. A year or two earlier he would have looked upon the acquisition of Lombardy, which was secure under any circumstances, as in itself a great achievement; and it was obvious, even before he went to the camp, that not only was the confederation scheme shelved, but that, spite of any convention, the Central States and Romagna were far more likely to link their future to that of Piedmont than to return to the control of their former rulers, or to set up permanent governments on their own account. Much remained to be done, but much had been accomplished by the policy which had been so steadily pursued.
The Ministry which succeeded to power during Cavour’s temporary retreat proved incompetent to deal with the series of confused negotiations that followed upon the half-settlement of Villafranca and the Treaty of Zurich. One French army was in Lombardy, ready to encounter any Austrian aggression; another French army still occupied Rome, prepared to chastise any attempt on the part of the Italians to interfere with Umbria and the Marches; the States of Dentml Italy, who wished nothing better than to exchange their provisional governments for definite annexation to Piedmont, were unable to carry their intentions into effect on account of the doubtful attitude of the master of these French legions, and the necessity under which he felt, or pretended to feel, himself to observe the engagements of Villafranca. In reality the Emperor, as usual, could not make up his mind to be wholly generous or thoroughly grasping. He was not himself averse to the extension of the Piedmontese rule, but he was keenly alive to the criticisms of those who looked with distrust upon the rising power of Italy, and he desired to have some recompense to show the French people in return for the cost of the war. It was no discredit to Ratazzi’s administration that they failed to understand the Emperor’s flickering policy: they had never been to Plombieres, and could not guess that the solution of the question of Central Italy lay on the French side of the Alps. Still their hesitation made them unpopular, and it was clear that Cavour, who had returned to Leri, and was taking an active though not responsible part in current politics, must once more assume the direction of affairs. He was recalled therefore, and the cession of Savoy and Nice to France was arranged on the same terms as the annexation of the central provinces to Piedmont – the adoption of the measure by the whole of the populations affected in both cases by means of a plebiscite. The result of such a test in Tuscany and Romagna was a foregone conclusion, and. the vote in Savoy and Nice had been most carefully prepared. Sardinia therefore became merged in Italy, and France, in gaining two new provinces, lost the credit she had obtained by her magnanimous Italian campaign. All Piedmont, from the King downwards, felt the surrender of Savoy in particular as a terrible blow; and necessary as the sacrifice was, and little as Cavour himself could be blamed for what occurred, there can be no doubt that the loss was ever present to his mind, and in the end, by leading to a memorable misunderstanding, tended to shorten his life.
Cavour’s defence of his policy against the able, well-arranged indictment of Ratazzi and the fierce personal attack of Guerazzi, the dictator of Florence in 1848, was one of the best of his speeches. Guerazzi had the temerity to attempt to force home his invective by a reference to an episode in English history. This was Cavour’s strongest ground, and he retorted with crushing effect in a famous passage. It is perhaps the most complete reply of its kind ever made in the course of a debate, and certainly lost none of its point from the constitution of the Opposition in the new Italian Parliament.
“The honourable member Guerazzi reminds me of the case of Lord Clarendon; he reminds me how that statesman, after having followed his sovereign into exile, after having given proofs of fidelity only too rare in England those days, after having been in power for more than twenty years, impeached by the Commons, sent into exile by his sovereign, and condemned to die there for having ceded the port of Dunkirk to the French, The honourable member will permit me to observe that if Lord Clarendon, in defence of policy, so bitterly attacked by his enemies in Parliament, had been able point to several millions of Englishmen freed from the yoke of the stranger, many provinces added to the realm of his master, perhaps the Parliament would not then have been so harsh, perhaps Charles II. would not then have been so ungrateful to the most faithful of his servants. But, gentlemen, since Signor Guerazzi wished to read me a lesson in history, it was his business to have finished it. After having spoken of Lord Clarendon, he ought likewise to have reminded me who were the opponents of that minister, what manner of men were they who pressed for his impeachment, divided his spoils, and succeeded to his power. Then he would have told you that opposed to Lord Clarendon was that famous clique of politicians united to one another by no previous history, by no community of principles, by not one single political idea --banded together only in the most factious egotism; men who had been false to every party, who had professed every creed, who were by turns Puritans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and finally Papists; Republicans to-day, bigoted Royalists to-morrow; demagogues in the market-place, courtiers in the palace; tribunes in parliament, advocates of reaction and extreme measures in the councils of their king; the men, in short, who formed that ministry which history has branded with the name of the Cabal. And then I should have been able remind the deputy Guerazzi that Englishmen highly honour Lord Clarendon, and esteem his memory one of the glories of their country, in contrast to his political opponents – to Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale.”
But this speech was something much more than a personal vindication or a defence of the inevitable surrender of Savoy and Nice. In it Cavour found occasion to give again a brief but luminous review of the whole course of policy which had been pursued by Piedmont under the direction of himself and his colleagues since the year 1850, and the striking summary thus delivered before the Assembly which he had done more than any living man to bring together, produced an almost unexampled effect. As the story of past doubts, dangers, responsibility, and difficulties was unfolded to the representatives, not now of Piedmont only, but of Lombardy and Parma, Tuscany and Modena, by the statesman to whom they owed their liberties and their independence; as the success of the present and the well-grounded hopes for the future were held up for their encouragement, the loss of the provinces seemed but trifling in comparison with what had been and yet would be achieved, and when he sat down Cavour had fully established his position as the indispensable minister of the new Italy.
Even as he was speaking Garibaldi was on his way to Sicily, Lamoricière, one of the famous generals of the French wars in Africa, had taken the command of the Papal army, and the relations of Victor Emanuel’s Government, both with Rome and Naples, were exceedingly strained. The European powers also, who had become generally reconciled to the annexations already accomplished, again manifested uneasiness at what they regarded as the unlimited ambition of Piedmont. The extraordinary success of Garibaldi’s expedition, which Cavour, though he certainly could not foresee, did his best to assist without too far compromising Italy with Europe, raised the popular enthusiasm to the highest pitch. Garibaldi himself, loyal and chivalrous throughout, openly proclaimed that he was acting only in the interests of Victor Emanuel and Italy, as with his heroic little band of volunteers he marched steadily forward. Sicily conquered, he crossed to the mainland, and almost before diplomatists had time to consider what was taking place, Francesco II. had retreated to the Volturno, and Garibaldi the Republican, the devoted follower of Mazzini, was signing decrees in Naples as Dictator of Southern Italy. It is strange to look back to the consternation produced. The red republican spectre, which had so affrighted the monarchs of Europe twelve years before, had now actually taken its seat in a royal chair. The influence of Mazzini threatened to overpower that of the representative of Piedmont with the noble but impulsive Italian. Garibaldi was induced to delay the plebiscite which was to declare the annexation to Upper Italy, and intoxicated by his victories over the Neapolitan forces, he began to plan enterprises against Rome and Venice, which would undoubtedly have jeopardised what had been so dearly won. The situation was not improved by the personal feeling which Garibaldi, who went so far as to demand the First Minister’s dismissal, manifested towards Cavour. The policy of reason and the policy of emotion now stood face to face. The latter had done good work, but it threatened to hazard everything for a problematical advantage. Between Naples and the Piedmontese army, which could alone put an end to the growing anxiety, lay the States of the Church, with Lamoricière at the head of a cosmopolitan rabble, ready to defend the Pope’s temporal power. Once more hesitation would have been fatal, and Cavour, having secured the Emperor’s good-will, pushed forward the army into Umbria and the Marches, whilst he ordered the fleet round to Ancona. This was in its way as bold a stroke as the Crimean alliance, and it was rewarded with a more immediate if not more genuine success. Lamoricière was defeated, the army penetrated without difficulty to the Neapolitan frontier, took part the final overthrow of Francesco II. on the Volturno, and comrnenced the siege of Gaeta. Garibaldi, who, though frequently thoughtless and ill-advised, had not a spark of jealousy in his composition, heard with genuine satisfaction that his “Piedmontese brothers” had again taken up arms to secure the unity of Italy. In the end too giving way, as a good patriot, to the vote of confidence in Cavour passed by the Parliament, he went out to meet Victor Emanuel on his entry into Naples, and then retired suddenly to his island of Caprera. The coup had been completely successful, and Naples and the Marches were peaceably annexed. Had Cavour now treated the volunteers with open-handed generosity, and done his utmost to remove any remains of ill-feeling from the minds of men who, whatever their defects, had just rendered a vast service to Italy, all might yet have been well, and Garibaldi would have forgotten his sense of personal neglect in the honours and benefits conferred upon his friends. But unfortunately little was done in this way, and it was almost enough for Garibaldi to prefer a request in order to insure its rejection. This was most probably due to the mistakes of subordinates, rather than to any deliberate intention on the part of the great statesman himself. But Cavour’s hostility to all that savoured of revolutionary propagandism was well known, and every slight received by the Garabaldians from the Piedmontese officials was laid to his account. Garibaldi therefore remained at Caprera, carefully nursing his wrath against the man who had made him a stranger in Italy. Cavour, however, was now at the height of his popularity, and the reception which he met with at Turin, when, with the venerable Manzoni by his side, he came forth from the palace where the Parliament of all Italy was happily assembled, no more than reflected the unmeasured enthusiasm felt for him by the great body of his countrymen. He was still in the full vigour of life, and Italians might well look forward to having the benefit of his matured counsels for many years to come. Cavour himself knew that the task of consolidation and reorganization was as difficult as anything which he had previously undertaken, and that the Neapolitans and Sicilians were as yet far from ready to bear their full share in the working of liberal institutions. The prevailing jealousy of Piedmont had to be overcome, and the rival claims of the great cities to be adjusted. Above all, the relations of the Government to the Church, and how to obtain possession of Rome – shortly afterwards declared, though still occupied by foreigners, to be the national capital – were questions that needed most careful handling. To the Roman question, as the most troublesome of all, he now turned in earnest. Throughout Italy the priesthood was still bitterly opposed to the government of the “King of Sardinia,” and though in the northern provinces they confined their hatred and malice within the bounds of legality, in the Papal States and the two Sicilies they openly proclaimed their intention to conspire continually against the new rule. As to the Pope, he, as well as his counsellors, was disinclined to enter into any arrangement whatever with the sacrilegious power that had robbed him of the countries which he had so infamously misgoverned. Yet Cavour in nowise despaired of eventually carrying out his favourite scheme of “Libera Chiesa in Libero Stato,” with the full and willing consent of the Pontiff himself. He trusted in this as in other cases to the continued influence of liberty and patriotism to convince the leaders of the Church, and with them their followers, that it was possible to be a good Catholic without ceasing to be a good citizen. But Cavour was not to accomplish his own designs. The statesman who had laid the foundation and raised the superstructure did not live to see the crowning of the edifice.
That Rome and Venice should still be left under the control of the Pope and Austria, until a favourable opportunity might arise for obtaining their liberation by diplomacy or force, seemed to the more excitable spirits a wilful betrayal of the Italian cause, and unfortunately Garibaldi, whose popularity, especially in Southern Italy, was even greater than that of Cavour, proved no more capable at Caprera than at Naples of comprehending the impossibility of success at that juncture. He not only called upon all Italians to arm themselves for a renewal of the war on their own account, but still smarting at the cession of his birthplace, and at the remembrance of what he considered the shabby treatment of his followers, he besought his countrymen to withdraw their support from Cavour, and from that majority in Parliament which had enabled the minister to betray his country and to “drag Italian honour through the mud.” Such language could not pass unnoticed in the Assembly, to which Garibaldi had been elected a deputy. Ricasoli made himself the spokesman of the whole of the moderate party in Parliament and throughout the country, when he referred to Garibaldi’s attacks as insults to Italy and disloyalty to the King. Garibaldi came to Turin from Caprera, and in an earnest letter proclaimed his unalterable fidelity to Victor Emanuel. But his feeling against Cavour was still further aggravated by this enforced explanation, and in the debate on military reorganization and the army of the south he poured forth all the accumulated bitterness of months. The scene which followed was as painful as it was dramatic. Garibaldi, after enlarging in the warmest language upon his own devotion to an united Italy, and the glorious exploits of his gallant army, proceeded to a point-blank denunciation of the cold, self-seeking ministry, which, not content with blighting the noble achievements of his force, would, but for his own patriotism and self-sacrifice, have provoked a “fratricidal” war. Cavour, who had listened in silence the wounding statement that the speaker could never give his hand to one who had rendered Garibaldi a stranger in Italy, now sprang to his feet, and, overcome with indignation, demanded in strongest terms that the General should be called to order. The House had already protested for him even more warmly. Garibaldi, in spite this, quite beside himself with rage, unmindful of the general cry of shame and of the milder remonstrances of the President Ratazzi, repeated the monstrous accusation. This was the sign for general disorder, the Garibaldini in the galleries cheering on the hero, and the great majority of all parties in the House itself siding with Cavour. The confusion was such that the sitting had to be suspended for a time. When the debate was resumed General Bixio appealed to Cavour to overlook what had passed, and Cavour, who had at once mastered his momentary feeling of personal resentment replied in language as well chosen as it was generous, that he was aware that one occurrence had placed an impassable gulf between himself and General Garibaldi, and that from the grief that he himself had felt when compelled to make the sacrifice of Nice, he could sympathize with Garibaldi in his affliction. Garibaldi, on his side, though professing himself Cavour’s opponent, admitted that he had always considered that statesman a friend of Italy. But Cavour; determined not to risk anything by a policy of provocation, could not give way to the General’s demands for the reorganization of the volunteers, and the breach between these two great men was never filled up. Though a private meeting was arranged between them, and Cavour showed himself ready as ever to renew his friendship with one who had done so much for the common cause, Garibaldi could not forget the circumstances which had led to his intemperate outburst. That Cavour was in the right, from a political point of view, does not admit of question, for a renewal of the war at that time would in all probability have arrayed against Italy at least two of the great Powers. Garibaldi then, as in after years, was incapable of appreciating such considerations, and thought that his readiness to lay down his own life, or to imperil his great reputation, were arguments in favour of immediate action, no matter what overwhelming superiority of numbers might be found on the opposite side.
Cavour never fully recovered from the shock which he had received, and the efforts he had made to control himself. This stormy sitting took place on the 18th April, 1861; on the 6th of June Cavour was dead. The amount of work to be done necessarily increased with each successive annexation, and Cavour, regardless of his health, foolishly piled more and more upon his own shoulders. But he had over-estimated his strength; and when to this continuous exhausting labour were added annoyance and grief that his exertions were not appreciated by one section of his countrymen, his unequalled powers of rallying from the effects of overwork seem to have failed. He felt himself giving way, yet he could not afford to be ill, and the approach of serious danger was manifested by a mental irritability which he had never previously exhibited under the most trying circumstances. On the 29th May, after having spoken in the House, he was taken ill on his return home; but he never dreamed that the attack was mortal, and even recommenced work on the third day, confident that he would shortly recover. But the Italian doctors willed it otherwise, and Cavour, who had the same faith in bleeding that is still held by many of his countrymen, lent himself readily to this dangerous remedy. He gradually grew worse under the treatment, and all Turin watched sadly round the house where he lay. His last conversation expressed the same love of liberty and dread of arbitrary methods which had accompanied him throughout his whole life. “Above all, no state of siege,” he said, with reference to Naples, in words that have already become historical: “anyone can govern in a state of siege.” “Libera Chiesa in Libero Stato,” he repeated to Father Giacomo, as he bade him farewell, when the priest had administered the sacraments in accordance with his promise of seven years before. Shortly afterwards, murmuring “Italy, Rome, Venice,” the great statesman breathed his last. He had been ill but eight days, and his sudden death was a blow to all truly liberal men in Europe, without distinction of party. This active, bold, wide-reaching intellect, which never despaired. and never was satisfied, had apparently become so indispensable to the country that men looked blankly to a future without Cavour.
Apart from his great natural genius and his indefatigable industry Cavour owed the success which attended him to the perfect fearlessness of his character, and to his confidence in the power of freedom and publicity to make the right cause prevail. No statesman of modern times has assumed graver responsibilities, or acted more completely on his own judgment, yet none more implicitly relied upon Parliament and the people to sanction the steps which he had taken. He never yielded one inch to popular clamour, or swerved aside from the course which he had deliberately decided was the best for the interests of his country; but yet he declared that when Parliament was not sitting, he felt half his strength was gone. From first to last he never hesitated to meet the most harassing interpellations with perfect openness, maintaining that the inconvenience of such questionings at critical times was more than counterbalanced by the confidence which a full statement of his policy at all seasons gradually develops in a capable minister. And thence it came that even his mistakes served but to endear him the more to the people whom he loved. His errors were theirs, and he freely shared with them his victories.
1. Vincenzo Botta.