The Life and Times of Cavour - Vol. 1

By William Roscoe Thayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE RENASCENCE OF PIEDMONT. 1850-1852

T HE Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce was the humblest post in the Cabinet: Cavour soon showed that it might be the most important. When Parliament met, in November, the country felt a new vigor impelling the Government. From the Ministerial bench Cavour defended not only the policy of his own department but that of his colleagues. With a readiness smacking of presumption he spoke now for one and now for another, interpreting bills to conform to his general scheme of progress, in which all branches of civic development must advance together. And if some of those colleagues may have been inclined to chafe at his forwardness, they found compensation in the support he gave them. At first, indeed, most of them welcomed the coöperation of a man of boundless energy and wide knowledge, who asked only to be allowed to do others' work in addition to his own.

D'Azeglio's artistic temperament unfitted him for parliamentary leadership: he fretted at long discussions; he had little patience for the tactics by which in deliberative assemblies opponents delay or postpone the passage of bills. The War Minister, General La Marmora, busy remodeling the army, found the wear-and-tear of debate equally irritating. As a soldier he was accustomed to give commands and see them obeyed; discussion affected him almost like lack of discipline. Count Paleocapa, Minister of Public Works, a man of much technical erudition, was a doer rather than a debater. Count Nigra, who controlled the finances, relished conflict with captious deputies so little that he usually sent a clerk to explain his plans to them. Obviously, therefore, the Cabinet was immensely strengthened by the advent of Cavour, who never declined a challenge, who understood better than any one in Piedmont the methods of parliamentary warfare, who never lost courage, and who never waited to defend himself when he could be the first to attack.

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