The Life and Times of Cavour - Vol. 1

By William Roscoe Thayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
LEGITIMIZING THE REVOLUTION

W HILE defending Piedmont from foreign intriguers, bent on robbing her of the prestige he had won for her at the Congress of Paris, Cavour was busied with equally important negotiations with one of the great bodies of Italian patriots that had outlined a new plan for the redemption of Italy. The stability of the little Subalpine Kingdom was now fairly well assured; but Victor Emanuel's subjects numbered only five millions, against twenty other millions calling themselves Italians and parceled out among six detested rulers. How could the non-Piedmontese be brought to work together for a National end?

The first difficulty lay in the choice of a leader. The Party of Revolution, which, after 1849, the Mazzinians dominated, was Republican. When it split up in 1853, its dissident sections still clung to Republicanism, holding very tenaciously Mazzini's doctrine of unity. The groups outside of his influence either professed Unitarianism, or they limited their plans to local or provincial reform. The inveterate Italian sectionalism was tested in the recent revolution, when the wave of national enthusiasm quickly spent itself, leaving behind the old warring elements, amid which feuds as ancient as the days of Guelf and Ghibelline smouldered, and the old dynastic jealousies, and the discredited, terror-stricken princes still lived. And yet, every Italian who could analyze his deepest political sentiments recognized that it was the National Spirit which mysteriously impelled him to unite with his brother Italians, no matter what dialect they spoke or what differences had separated their ancestors from his. The hated Austrian might be driven out; the cruel and corrupt governments of Pope and Bourbons might be purged; each province might enjoy the best products of modern civilization: and yet the National longing would still be unrealized. Without that realization no political victory, no social betterment, could satisfy.

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