The Life and Times of Cavour - Vol. 1

By William Roscoe Thayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE CRISIS WITH THE CLERICALS

BY the expedition to the Crimea Piedmont affirmed her leadership of the Italian cause. The unthinking said that it cost too much: but Cavour knew that symbols are to be appraised not by their intrinsic value but by the value of the things they stand for. He owed his success first to his own tenacity and genius, and, next, to the staunch support of the King. At the very time when Victor Emanuel was throwing his influence on the side of the alliance, however, he was also busy trying to defeat another vital measure which his Ministers had brought to the front; had he defeated it, he must have wrecked Cavour and the Liberal Cabinet, blasted Constitutional Government in Piedmont, and perhaps even destroyed his dynasty and the monarchy itself.

The quarrel with Rome weighed on his conscience. His mother and wife, devout zealots entirely docile to their priestly advisers, implored him to make his peace with the Holy Father. Many of his courtiers, most of the old aristocracy, and the prelates who chiefly had access to him, seconded their entreaties. The hierarchy sowed as much dissension throughout the Kingdom as it dared. In Savoy and the Val d'Aosta the peasants, instigated by the Clericals, started a revolt (which was quietly snuffed out) with the war-cry, "Down with the Constitution; Down with Liberty! Long live the King!" In Turin itself, Count Revel seems to have engaged in a plot for ousting Cavour and forming a Reactionist ministry with himself at the head.1 To be rid of this thorn, Victor Emanuel determined to deal directly with the Vatican. Accordingly, he requested the Archbishop of Genoa -- his warm friend, the patriotic Monsignor Charvaz -- and the Bishops of Maurienne and Annecy, to visit Rome, confer with Pius and discover the way to a reconciliation. On their return the prelates informed the King that the Pope and the Curia had welcomed them cordially, and that the Holy See, inspired as ever

____________________
1
Lettre, II, 74.

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