THE three patriots who contributed by their labours more than any other Italians toward the independence and unification of Italy were all associated, during a portion of their lives at least, with the region of the Italian lakes. References to them crop up here and there, as the traveller makes his delightful rounds, and local reminiscences of them serve to explain modern Italy in the making, undergoing its national risorgimento.
On the shores of Lakes Maggiore, Como, and Garda the name of Garibaldi awakens echoes both of victory and defeat. From 1848 to 1866 Lugano was often the head-quarters of Mazzini, whence he issued his ringing appeals in the struggle for freedom. At Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, Cavour is reported to have thought out his wonderful plans of political reorganization, and in the meantime, being greatly interested in the economic revival of his native country, helped to place the first steamboat on the lake. Thus the three men who have not inaptly been called respectively the knight errant, the prophet, and the organizer of Italian unity, have spread the story of their noble endeavour over the region to which this book is devoted, and brief sketches of their careers will be found useful. No at-tempt is here made to supply the reader with critical biographies of an intimate or strictly analytical nature, but the generally accepted facts have been placed in narrative form to speak for themselves.
Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807 – 82)
A list of the mere incidents in Garibaldi’s life presents so adventurous and kaleidoscopic a picture that it is hardly necessary to emphasize the salient points in order to attract attention to his career. Born in Nice, he made several voyages in his youth as a sailor. In 1833 and 1834 he took part in the movement of ” Young Italy,” organized by Mazzini to liberate and unite Italy.
Driven into exile for taking part in an at-tempt to seize Genoa, he made his way to South America and took part in revolutionary movements there. His activity as a guerilla warrior and privateer in that part of the world earned him the title of ” the hero of Montevideo.” The outbreak of the war between Austria and Sardinia in 1848 called him back to Italy, where he fought in Lombardy against the Austrians. It was at this time that he and his volunteers per-formed some notable feats against the Austrians along the Swiss frontier, at Luino, and elsewhere. Then he took part in the defence of Rome against the French.
But the Italians lost the battle of Custozza, the Lombardo-Venetian lands were subjected anew to Austria, and the defence of Rome finally failed. Then Garibaldi made his escape to San Marino, thence to Chiavari in Liguria, to Tunis, and finally to the island of Maddalena, near which lies the islet of Caprera, where he later spent so many years of his life. He went to the United States and worked for awhile on Staten Island, New York, as a candle-maker. Later he became ship captain and prospered there in his business. On his return to Italy, in 1854, he purchased the northern part of Caprera and made it his home, until the outbreak of the war of France and Sardinia against Austria, in 1859, brought him forth again from his retirement. During that year and the next he saw much service against Austria. He organized his volunteers under the name of the “cacciatori delle Alpi,” crossed the Ticino eleven days before the French, and fought through the whole of the Lombard campaign, which was signalized by the victory of the French and Italians at Magenta and San Martino (Solferino). He rendered especially valuable service at Varese and Como.
After the peace preliminaries of Villa-franca, against the terms of which he pro tested strongly, Garibaldi organized the “cacciatori degli Apennini” in order to liberate Rome; but not receiving permission from Victor Emmanuel for this enterprise, he turned his attention to Sicily, at that time forming with Naples the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He embarked upon an expedition which proved to be the most remarkable as well as the most fruitful of his many bold ventures. In May of 1860, with one thousand volunteers, he landed at Marsala in Sicily, marched to Palermo, and thereafter, by brilliant and skillful generalship, aided by a constantly swelling number of recruits to his standard, broke the power of the Neapolitan king both on the island and main-land, and entered Naples in triumph, where he was proclaimed dictator of the Two Sicilies. Victor Emmanuel thereupon invaded Neapolitan territory from the north and joined Garibaldi. As soon as the Two Sicilies had been united to the Italian kingdom under Victor Emmanuel, Garibaldi once more retired to Caprera. He made two further unsuccessful attempts upon Rome, in 1862 and 1867. In the first he was defeated and wounded at Aspromonte; in the second he was made prisoner at Mentana. After each attempt he was liberated and then returned to Caprera.
When the Austro-Prussian war broke out in 1866, with the participation of Italy on the side of Prussia, Garibaldi and his volunteers advanced into the Austrian Trentino, where they gained the only victories on the Italian side in this campaign. After the defeat of Austria by Prussia, Venice was ceded to Italy at the request of Prussia, at the Peace of Prague. In the meantime Garibaldi, in 1864, had paid a visit to England, where he was received with the greatest enthusiasm as a popular hero. Garibaldi also participated in the Franco-Prussian War, on the side of the French, confining his movements to Dijon and Autun. His volunteers even gained a slight victory over the Germans by beating off a body of Prussian Pomeranians near Dijon. He returned once more to Caprera after this enterprise, and in 1875 was elected member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
The admiration in which he is held by his fellow countrymen is sufficiently evidenced by the multitude of statues which they have raised to him in almost every city and town from end to end of the beautiful peninsula. Through the generosity of English friends he became proprietor of the whole island of Caprera.
Ever constant to the ideal of his youth, namely, the unity of the Italian-speaking race, he pursued his purpose with whole-souled devotion, and by reason of the peculiar picturesqueness of his revolutionary methods he looms up as the central popular figure in the struggle for Italian independence.
Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72)
The man who figured preeminently as the agitator in the struggle for Italian independence was born in Genoa, was well educated and chose the profession of law. He early became interested in various projects for liberating the whole peninsula and uniting it under one government, and with this purpose in view organized the ” Young Italy ” movement, in which Garibaldi also played a temporary part. When Charles Albert came to the throne of Sardinia, Mazzini addressed a notable appeal to him to place himself at the head of a national movement. A decree of banishment was thereupon issued against him, and he went into hiding in Marseilles, whence he continued to issue stirring writings which affected the whole of Europe. In 1834 he organized an unsuccessful invasion of Savoy. During the next two years he made his residence in Switzerland, and it was in Bern that he drew up his famous ” Pact of Fraternity.” But banished even from Switzerland, he went to live in London, and then in 1848 returned to Italy to take part in the war between Austria and Sardinia. He was associated with Garibaldi in the attempt to keep the war alive along the shores of the Italian lakes and in the valleys of the Alps after Milan had capitulated. He was also prominent in the unsuccessful attempt of 1849 to maintain a republic in Rome.
Returning to London, Mazzini was occupied during the next few years in planning various risings in Italy. Like Garibaldi, he protested strenuously against the cession of Savoy and Nice to France, agreed to at the peace preliminaries of Villafranca in 1859. He supported Garibaldi in his expedition to Sicily. During his later years he lived for awhile in Switzerland, especially at Lugano, then in Pisa, and finally he returned to Genoa, his native city, where his great services in the struggle for Italian independence made him greatly respected and be-loved by all, and at his death he was deeply mourned by a grateful nation, which his incessant and persistent devotion had largely helped to create.
Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810 – 61)
The diplomat of the risorgimento was born in Turin of aristocratic ancestry and in an atmosphere of wealth and refinement. At the age of ten he was sent to a military academy, and in the course of time his military career began at Genoa. He is reported to have been genuinely disturbed at an early age about the disorganized condition of the nation, and to have spoken unguardedly about affairs at court. In consequence of his utterances he found himself constrained to resign from the army, and thereafter quietly sought for the means by which Italy could be united and made free. For sixteen years he held aloof from public affairs, watching in private life for the right way to manifest itself, and feeling himself out of sympathy both with the conservatives and the conspirators. In the meantime he occupied himself with agriculture and economic improvements, and with studying foreign countries, especially France and England. Of the latter he al-ways remained a genuine admirer.
It was not until 1848 that Cavour came to the front and publicly took his position as a patriot who was ready and capable to help Italy in her hour of rejuvenation. He united with others in instituting a paper in Turin called Risorgimento, and in the Sardinian chamber took the position of middle ground, which seemed to him more likely to lead to definite results, but this made him popular with neither side and required great moral courage on his part. In the course of time, the two extremes in public opinion tended to discredit themselves, and Cavour was able to see the fruits of his practical diplomacy in actual gains of territory and in a centralized government. He was premier of Sardinia from 185z to 1861, and is credited with having arranged with Napoleon III. the war of 1859.
During his career he saw Italy rise from a dismembered and disjointed conglomeration of petty states, filled with contradictory opinions, to a condition wherein, with the exception of Venice and the Papal States, the whole peninsula was united under a central executive power and was likewise in possession of representative government. To the final complete consolidation of Italy in later years under one sovereign, the pains-taking, persevering work of Cavour and his characteristic qualities of diplomacy seem to have been virtually indispensable, though he did not live to see Rome made the capital of his native land.