The Life and Times of Cavour - Vol. 1

By William Roscoe Thayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE CONDITION OF AUSTRIANIZED ITALY

WHEN Cavour became Premier in November, 1852, Piedmont had been for nearly three years an oasis of Liberalism in the midst of a Sahara of Reaction. Not only official Italy, but official Europe was trying to forget the year of Revolution. The immense conservative forces latent in society came to the aid of the special classes who now hoped to secure themselves in their recovered privileges. Everybody not actually a fanatic admitted before the end of 1849 the failure of the mighty but mismanaged struggle for popular liberty and nationality. The instinctive craving for order gained on multitudes who had either taken part in the upheaval or sympathized with it. Even the middle classes, which in several countries had at stake an equal prize with the people, were ready to cry quits. Business and commerce, interrupted or checked, required peace, and business is an opponent against which, in the long run, even religion and patriotism, unless they be inspired by the zeal that upholds martyrs, cannot make head. The great inventions of the previous half-century -- the expansion of manufactures, the adoption of railways, the springing up of industries employing large numbers of hands -- tended to strengthen the claims of business. Society, organized on an industrial basis, must have routine, and routine is the antithesis of revolution.

Louis Napoleon, the wiliest of all the adventurers swept into power in 1848, knew this, and by appealing to their need of quiet for prosecuting their industries, he captured the French, the stormiest of all the peoples in that revolutionary crisis. His enemies voted for him because they believed that he alone could save them from the Commune, with its red flag and barricades, its massacres, pillage and civil war. And now France was glad to believe his assurance that the Empire meant peace. Germany fell back even more easily than France into the comfortable ways of Reaction. The German Liberals had proved themselves

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