The Kingdom of Italy - The Problems of the New Kingdom

The Kingdom of Italy – The Problems of the New Kingdom


Those of the new Italy after the epic of the glorious triennium are not easy: international public opinion is wary, more or less manifestly hostile among the states (Spain recognized the kingdom only in 1865 and Austria after the war of 1866), and to justify gloomy predictions and non-benevolent judgments, an alarming internal situation. Indeed, diversity of historical traditions and cultural, economic and social conditions hindered the realization of that unity that recent events had created, too easily and precariously in the eyes of many. Nor did the ruling classes seem up to the new arduous tasks: practical men and good administrators came from land ownership, but not very sensitive to the new social and political needs, stiffened many in an exclusivist conservatism; men of intelligence and passion emerged from the bourgeoisie, which had played a large part in the revolutionary event, more capable of brilliant improvisations than rich in political talents. Patriotism, literature, the daring of conspiracies, the torment of prisons and exile, the prowess of the battlefields badly replaced real skills. And from the great mass of the people, extraneous to public life, as before to national action, he could not expect any beneficial corrective: petty craftsmanship, selfish or averse to peasants, the lesser bourgeoisie uneducated and not very productive. “You are twenty-five million men endowed with active, splendid faculties: you have a tradition of glories that the nations of Europe envy you: an immense future lies before you”.

According to, the secular regionalist tendencies, the separatist aspirations had not disappeared as a result of the victorious revolution: and the accusation of  Piedmonteseism  hit the Turin government, which appeared guilty of considering Italy as its own conquest.

The seriousness of the financial situation, compromised by the needs of the recent struggle, hindered the indispensable reforms and public works promised or hoped for. The greater cost of the new Italian life was concretized for the people in the fiscal tightening. Public wealth is scarce: debts of almost 3 billion, deficit over 300 million. Yet to truly connect the various parts of the peninsula, so that unity became a beneficial reality in the eyes of the people, so that the discontented and hostile were conquered or defeated, it was necessary to operate: open schools, build roads, launch ships on the seas, stretch railways, build bridges, help industries and agriculture; in short, to demonstrate with facts that unity was good, especially to apathetic or distrustful plebs.

And it was necessary to provide for the army and navy where Piedmontese, Bourbonians, Garibaldians struggled to unite: here too, overcoming difficulties, mistrust and jealousy, merging wills and means into a harmonious whole. No less difficult task than the other of providing the country with good employees and officials. The profound diversity of geographical and economic conditions between the North and the South, disturbed by a “perennial imbalance between population and wealth, between wealth and taxes”, aroused concern and fueled dissension. The brigandage, a painful plague that tormented the southern provinces, where the disappointment followed the great hopes in the soul of the rural plebs, dissatisfied with the advantages ensured by the bourgeoisie, had origins and character of social reaction, even if it could never rise to true political significance. Not always understood in his deepest motives by public opinion and by the government, he found support in the Bourbon court refugee in Rome, which hoped to be able to change it into a revolution against the new Italian order, which errors and uncertainties of rulers did not accredit in the eyes of the populations. The repressive laws, the violent means did not help by themselves against this phenomenon that united international champions of legitimism with ancient Bourbon soldiers and brigands. An age-old inheritance, the southern economic and political question will drag on for fifty years, badly faced and badly resolved. The new tasks of foreign policy are serious, that he could not free himself from a certain dependence on France and had to pay for European mistrust and jealousy against this Italy, daughter of the revolution. Rome and Venice were still outside the borders of the kingdom, both indispensable for material and ideal, military and political reasons. The two questions exasperated the passions and exacerbated the difficulties and caused the neglect of other problems and other questions that appeared minor by comparison. The action party, comforted by the memory of recent daring, dreamed of rapid, revolutionary solutions, deluding itself on the possibility of an exclusively Italian action. On the contrary, the moderate party no longer believed in the confident “Italy will do it by itself” and feeling impossible the fight against France for one, against Austria for the other issue, aspired to negotiations, agreements, to accommodations. The polemics, the intemperance, the errors of one and the other made the task more harsh and did not strengthen the action of the rulers. Nor was the work of Cavour’s successors able to quell dissent and overcome obstacles.

Bettino Ricasoli, taking up his directives, tried to resolve the Roman question through agreements with Napoleon and the pontiff. But French and democratic hostilities, mistrust of Catholics and conservatives, especially Piedmontese, the unpopularity that his excessive rigidity caused him led him to leave the company and the government (February 28, 1862). Even if the major problem was not resolved, Ricasoli had started the administrative reorganization on a centralistic basis, had unified the public debt, and large railway constructions began.

The bitter Ricasoli was succeeded by Urbano Rattazzi, skilled parliamentarian, accepted by Vittorio Emanuele and Napoleon, well regarded by Garibaldi and democrats. Imitating certain forms of Cavour’s politics, he behaved ambiguously, letting the ideas of possible agreement between the government and the action party spread. But Garibaldi’s action for the liberation of Veneto ended in the facts of Sarnico and instead of Rome Italy had Aspromonte, the tragedy of the misunderstanding (August 29, 1862). Few were the dead in the fratricidal clash, royal deserters shot, but there were great calamities. Among the wounded was Garibaldi himself, who had re-dreamed the audacity of the Thousand on the road to Rome. The amnesty that took him away from the Varignano imprisonment (5 October) did not quell the discords and recriminations, nor did it acquit those responsible.

Discredited, opposed, blasphemed, Rattazzi resigned in November. After the brief government of LC Farini, Marco Minghetti, who had made an effort to fight regionalism and Piedmonteseism and to resolve the financial question, returned to negotiate with France to at least obtain the military, if not political, abandonment of Rome. Italy had to and could guarantee the pontiff on its own. The consent was obtained, and the Italian government undertook to respect and enforce the papal territory and gave a guarantee with the commitment to transfer the capital. This idea derived from an ancient Cavourian project of April 1861 and did not displease Minghetti and most of his colleagues, who were not Piedmontese, because it helped  spiemontization of the kingdom. But, of course, the Piedmontese gave a different opinion and, when the convention of September 15, 1864, was known, serious and painful riots broke out in Turin. The ministry sacrificed itself, but the convention was carried out by the new Lamarmora ministry, the capital moved to Florence and the French cleared Rome within two years. The solution, obviously too provisional, saved time but displeased the French and Italians, those with the Pope’s abandonment, because they feared the definitive renunciation of Rome. And this was not, because the government considered Florence a stage towards the final disputed goal and thought it had started the Roman question to become more nationally international. The  antiboin  legionof French creation, it partially replaced the imperial guardians of the pope, who meanwhile renewed in  the syllabus  the condemnation against the opponents of papal supremacy.

The Kingdom of Italy - The Problems of the New Kingdom