The Effect of Revolutions on the Cause of Unification in Italy

The Effect of Revolutions on the Cause of Unification in Italy
There are many factors that may explain why so little was achieved in Italy from 1848-9. In this essay I plan to examine how and why these factors contributed o failure. One point that should be made clear about Italian unification is that rather than one large organisation there were many separate movements, each with their own ideas and intentions concerning Italy. Between the revolutionary movements there was a lack of co-operation and division. Instead of working together to fight Austria on a united front they tried it alone. Liberalists wanted constitutions and Nationalists independence but Sicilians wanted complete separatism from Naples. It has been said that Charles Albert simply wanted to gain more control of the North. The leaders of these movements, for example, Mazzini and Charles Albert all had different ideas and ideals.
There was little agreement between leaders and this made it hard for them to co-operate with each other as in earlier revolutions. Obviously this is a significant reason for why so little was achieved because for people fighting for unification they were not very united their selves. The Austrian army was without a doubt more than a minor hindrance to the Italians, the majority of its troops were trained soldiers and it had years of experience when it came to revolts. The Italian organisations were ill equipped and not trained for battle. This is why guerrilla warfare was often resorted to. To make things worse a proportion of the Austrian army were Italian peasants who didn?t care about unification. They were only concerned with their well being and as they were never included in revolutionary plans it is easy to see why. The king of Piedmont, Charles Albert inability to lead is a reason in itself. When there was a need for an army big enough to fight Austria he hindered the growth of the army by refusing to accept Republican volunteers and everyone else were forced to swear an allegiance to Piedmont. He was indecisive and slow to make decisions and the ability to think fast is a necessary skill in military leaders. What Piedmont needed was a strong, confident leader to lead them against the Austrians. Pope Pius? IX reforms encouraged liberalists and many, such as Gioberti, came to believe that the Pope would be a perfect candidate for ruling a federation of existing states. He freed 2000 political prisoners and abolished censorship of the press allowing 100 revolutionary papers. The Pope even granted Rome a constitution. Obviously people interpreted this as liberal action and a move towards independence, they were wrong. In 1848 in a complete turnaround, the Pope changed his policies and condemned nationalists. He abolished all earlier reforms and declared it forbidden to have any connection with the new kingdom of Italy. When troops were desperately needed he refused to allow Papal troops to help fight the Austrians. However, this wasn?t nearly as big a blow as when Pius appealed to the French, a Catholic country, to fight revolutionaries in Rome. He was able to do this because although by that time he had been forced to escape Rome and had lost much of his former power, he still had spiritual power and this gave people a very hard decision. Did they ignore their spiritual leader, appointed by God? Or did they fight on and face excommunication? There were those who decided to fight on but many chose their religion over unification. Again this was a blow especially to the army opposing Austria and removed a huge amount of support. With the French now fighting for the Papal presidency what the revolutionaries really needed now was foreign help but Mazzini was stubborn and stood fast on his policy of no foreign help. He foolishly believed that they would be able to liberate themselves on their own. In my opinion this is where Mazzini failed. His policies and intentions were far to idealistic and romantic when what was needed was realism. By this time it was obvious that they would not do this alone, even with the majority of the Austrian army fighting back in Vienna. Another reason for outside help was the fact that Italy had hardly any industry. A country that wants to fight a war on its own needs industrial strength. Of course it also has to be in good economic shape, the harvest failures in 1848 meant that the people were starving and a cholera epidemic had spread through Italy. How can you fight a war without guns, ammunition and food? Mazzini was crazy not to appeal for help. With most of the Austrian army fighting back in Vienna several states were liberated for a period of time. The Republic of Rome was overthrown because the Pope appealed to the French army. Lombardy was left in the Austrian?s hands after Charles Albert failed in his attempt to invade. He was defeated at Navara after the French help he?d hoped failed to materialise. Once Charles Albert had been defeated the Austrian Navy was able to bombard Venetia with shells. Eventually Venetia surrendered and the only state which maintained their constitution was Piedmont. The reason for this was that the governments that were set up were poorly organised, as with the revolutionary movements themselves. They had no real ideas or plans for the future of their states and wasted time making social reforms instead of constructing foundations for a sturdy government. Once again they made the mistake of excluding the peasants and ordinary people in decisions. This is why there was such a lack of resistance when the Austrians returned to regain control. In Piedmont however, men were given the chance to gain experience in statecraft and parliament. This is perhaps why the Piedmont constitution remained. In conclusion, I feel that all the factors boil down to division, lack of co-operation and poor leadership. It seems ridiculous that people fighting for unification were so divided. The fact that some were not even willing to co-operate with people fighting for a common cause is reason enough for why so little was achieved. Having said this there were some positive outcomes. Because Piedmont had kept its constitution it now became a breeding ground for nationalist ideas, Mazzini and Garibaldi resided in Piedmont for a time. Charles Albert abdicated and was replaced by his son, Victor Emmanuel who was patriotic and had witnessed his father?s mistakes. Another lesson learnt was that unification could not be done without foreign help, the revolutions of 1848-9 clearly demonstrated this.

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