Cavour’s Heirs: The "Right" Reigns
On June 6, 1861, Camillo Cavour died at age fifty. Upon hearing of his death, Napoleon said: "The driver has fallen from the box; now we must see if the horses will bolt or go back to the stable."
This statement expressed Europe’s doubts that Italy would hold together. The "driver" had left at a crucial time. The peninsula had been united after centuries of political division, which had produced different customs, traditions, and dialects. Venice and Rome remained out of the kingdom, and making them part of Italy presented numerous diplomatic difficulties. Melding the disparate parts of the peninsula and building a single state out of long-divided areas would prove even more formidable. Risorgimento wars and the takeover of debts of the old states created enormous financial problems. Besides these issues, the question of whether the more socially backward parts of the peninsula could successfully transition to liberal institutions remained unresolved. Given the extent of the new kingdom’s tasks, the new state’s inability to become a great power hardly comes as a surprise.
When Cavour died of "fever", the Kingdom of Italy had been declared, but unification remained incomplete. Cavour’s heirs (the "Right") had to integrate the peninsula into one state — a qualitatively different and less heroic job than the exhilarating struggle for independence; as Victor Emmanuel II remarked, the age of poetry had given way to an age of prose.
European politics had determined the manner in which Italy had been unified and strongly influenced its future political development. The annexations excluded a federal structure, while the threat of political disputes leading to foreign intervention and collapse made calling a constituent assembly impossible. The different parts of the peninsula had been attached to a preexisting state that had its own dynasty, constitution, and administrative structure. It is hardly surpris-