Cavour and the Piedmontese Solution
In 1848the Italians had led Europe in revolution, and in 1849 their heroic resistance against overwhelming French and Austrian force won the admiration of Europeans. In the 1850s, amid all the gloom, Italian nationalists could take heart because the Risorgimento had been forcefully posed as a European problem and because Piedmont had been converted to the cause of independence.
As expected, the restored regimes clamped down hard on their populations. In Lombardy-Venetia, military authorities under Radetzky ruled until 1857. This regime conducted a particularly harsh repression, with summary executions of persons discovered with arms in their possession and frequent beatings of suspected patriots. On August 12, 1849, the Austrians conceded an amnesty for all but the most compromised patriots, but the police retained wide powers to crush any suspected opposition. Sustained by the memory of the Five Days, the people opposed a sullen resistance. No dialogue between the imperial government and its Lombard and Venetian subjects of any class existed, and physical force alone kept the Austrians in power.
Besides intolerable political conditions, the Lombard economy stagnated. This slowdown occurred despite a more liberal tariff policy dictated by an Austrian desire to bring its possessions into the Prussian-dominated Zollverein. Diseases debilitating the silk and winemaking industries caused great hardship, but Austrian administration had primary responsibility for the downturn. The Austrians greatly increased taxes to make their Italian subjects pay the costs of the 1848 revolutions, the financial crisis that ensued, and an increased share of the empire’s enormous deficit. Moreover, the Austrians failed to encourage railway building, the engine of economic development in Europe at this time, and also subordinated Lombardy’s economic well-being to their strategic goals. In the decade following 1848, Lombards and other Italians looked wistfully at the