Italian Unification Essay

2545 words - 10 pages

Before 1860 Italy was a collection of independent states controlled by other European powers or the rich noble families of the region. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the Congress of Vienna split Italy into eight independent states with major influences from the surrounding powers of Spain, France and especially Austria. Uprisings against the state governments swept the country, but were suppressed by the Habsbergs1 in Northern Italy. This however, was soon to change. Giuseppe Mazzini, Count Camilo Benso Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi organized and inspired the people of Italy to unite and support a solid constitution which was not only key to unification but gave long term stability to Italy.
Giuseppe Mazzini, often called “the beating heart of Italy” was the son of a doctor from Genoa in northern Italy. Early on he joined the occasionally violent Italian secret society, the Carbonari, where he developed his political aptitude. The Carbonari was instrumental in creating tensione in certain areas to spark a revolution. However soon it was exposed that Mazzini was affiliated with them, and so he was forced to flee to France. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because he inspired one of the biggest movements in the process of unification, La Giovane Italia from his apartment in Marseille. La Giovane Italia, (or Young Italy), was a brotherhood of Italians who strongly believed in progress and duty, with the goal of eventual Italian Unification.2 . At a time when many, including the Austrian minister Metternich said that “Italy is merely a geographical expression” due to the Italian peninsula being politically constituted of a patchwork of historically established aristocratic and clerical states. La Giovane Italia totaled 50,00 to 60,00 Italians, and lasted roughly two decades. “National unity, as understood by Young Italy, does not imply the despotism of any, but the association and concord of all. The life inherent in each locality is sacred.”3 Mazzini wrote to Charles Albert, monarch of Sardinia-Piedmont, who, in the constitutional agitations of 1821, was likewise linked to the Carbonari. Mazzini urged Charles Albert to take the lead and responsibilities in efforts to secure Italian independence, in a letter which was also published in Marseilles. The Sardinian administration subsequently contacted the French administration, and Mazzini was given permission to leave Marseilles. He decided to base himself in Switzerland.
Mazzini's primary goals were to end the Austrian hegemony in Italy, give rights to peasant families such as his own, to curtail the temporal power of the pope, to achieve Italian unity, republicanism and democracy, and to liberate the oppressed.4 Imbued with a messianic zeal, he believed that, united under the banner of “God and people”, Italians would succeed in ridding themselves of their various rulers and establish a democratic unitary republic with its capital in Rome. Mazzini soon became the leader of the...

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