Despite serious problems before World War I, the Italian constitutional system evolved in the same direction of the most advanced European countries, making notable progress toward democracy. By the 1850s Piedmontese ministers were responsible to Parliament, and this was also the case after unification, even though the king retained an important voice in governmental affairs. In France, this ministerial responsibility was won definitively only in 1877, although the executive power was much weaker. In addition, the Senate appointed by the king under the 1848 Statuto never had more than gadfly status, in contrast to Britain’s House of Lords, which lost its power only in 1911 but before then hampered the country’s democratic evolution. Unlike Italy, France, and Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia failed to develop ministerial responsibility before World War I. Indeed, immediately after the war, Italians probably enjoyed greater civil liberties than the citizens of most European countries and the United States. Indeed, perhaps this situation and the economic and social effects of the war help explain the reaction of 1921-1922 and the rise of fascism. These developments reversed the country’s steady progress toward a parliamentary democracy and greater economic fairness and thus represented a radical departure from the recent past.
On November 16, 1922, Mussolini asked the Chamber of Deputies for a vote of confidence. This request and the Duce’s creation of a coalition cabinet convinced traditional politicians anxious to ignore reality that the March on Rome signified only the installation of a cabinet capable of restoring order, which they could vote out of office any time they wished. But while right-wing Liberals such as Salandra saw Mussolini as heading a restoration government, and left Liberal leaders advocated patience until Fascist mistakes encouraged parliament to vote against Mussolini and recall Giolitti, the Duce presented the March on