The Life and Times of Cavour - Vol. 1

By William Roscoe Thayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
THE BLACKS

I ACCEPT with delight offer of the daguerreotype portrait of our friend Mazzini," Cavour wrote to Emanuel d'Azeglio. "It may help us to welcome him as he deserves, if he ever dreams of making us a second visit. I am not uneasy on that score; for we are in the way of thwarting all his plots."1 These lines show how little Cavour feared Mazzini's power to harm Piedmont. Just as Cavour had turned Austria's decree of sequestration into a Piedmontese diplomatic victory, so he made capital of the Mazzinian failure at Milan by assuring Europe that such disturbances were to be looked for in the despot-ridden provinces of Italy but that under Victor Emanuel's Liberal régime they did not occur. In spite of his somewhat cocksure air, however, he took every precaution through the police and through spies at home and abroad to forestall the Reds, if they should attempt an outbreak in Piedmont, and he had always present in his mind the danger into which their activity elsewhere might plunge his far-reaching policy. They introduced an element of uncertainty which overshadowed every plan.

Over against the Reds, the fanatics of the New, stood the Blacks, the zealots of the Old: both equally hostile to the champion of Reason. The Reds, restive under all laws, would risk the leap in the dark, hoping to alight on a social and political Utopia; the Blacks not only would take no step in advance, but insisted on abolishing the results of much vital experience and on returning forever to a medieval condition. There is for the historian no more difficult task than to describe fairly the dissolution of the Papacy. The scanty documents which the Vatican vouchsafes to publish are sown thick with Scriptural texts and pious protestations, but the aim of them is unquestionably worldly and political. Acts declared to be wholly religious, do not differ by a hair's-breadth from acts which are elsewhere wholly political.

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1
Mayor, p. 82: C. to E. d'Azeglio, April 4, 1854. Bianchi, p. 23, gives the letter but suppresses Mazzini's name.

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