Italy did not Make Itself, France Did
Charles Alberts famous quote “Italia fara da se” (Italy will make herself, by herself) was made in 1849 when the Piedmontese army was sent into Lombardy to take it over for the first time. This quote, however, was soon shown to be an empty boast and would stay like that for another 12 years. It became obvious after the failure of Charles Alberts invasion of Lombardy that Italy would only gain independence or unity by means of outside help.
If it was ot for the help of France in the war of 1859 the unification of Italy through Piedmont would have never been possible, however it was not only the work of the French that made Italy, Cavour and Garibaldi had a very large say in the future of the peninsula as well. When Cavour became Prime Minister of Piedmont after the resignation of d’Azeglio he publicly supported the people of Piedmont in wanting to get rid of Austria, however his real beliefs were not fully clear.
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He may have just been trying to gain support, or he genuinly wanted a unified Italy. In the 1850 however, he was quoted as saying that the concept of Italian unity was ‘rubbish’. But, his public beliefs are what was important, and what had a huge impact on the future of Italy. In 1858 Cavour was invited by Napoleon to a very secret meeting at Plombieres, near the Swiss frontier. Napoleon told Cavour that he had decided to support Piedmont in a war against Austria in order to secure Lobardy and Venetia.
One of the main topics of discussion was how could they find a method in which to start a war with Austria that did not make France look like the agressor in the eyes of the French public and the major powers in Europe. This however was not resolved, but was resolved later on by Cavour. The other main topic of discussion was what the objective of the war would be. It was decided that the purpose of the war would be to drive Austria “out of Italy once and for all”1. Cavour and Napoleon then had to decide what would happen to Italy after the war was won.
It was decided that the four Italian states would form a confedration of which the pope would be the president of. In return for France’s help she would be given Nice and Savoy, Savoy was easy to cede as it used to belong to France, but Nice was harder to let go of as this was the cradle of the Piemontese royal family. What Cavour wanted out of this war was basically and enlarged Piedmont with Lombardy and Venetia, he did not want Italian unification, he only wanted a Northern Italian Confederation.
The next step for Cavour was to try and provoke Austria into starting war. This however, proved to be more difficult that Cavour had imagined it to be. To try and provoke Austria Cavour mobilised troops on Piedmonts border with Lombardy, this did not originally provoke Austria. However in April 1859 Austria was finally provoked into starting hostilities. Austria issued an ultimatum demanding that Piedmont demobilized, and Piedmont rejected it. Austria and Piedmont had now declared war on eachother and Napoleon took several days to declare war in support of his ally.
The war was exceptionally violent and Austria and France, especially in the battles of Magenta and Solferino, both of which were won by the French. The Piedmontese, however made little effort to mobilise and let the French do most of the work. Also as there was still no real sense of unity and not many people were willing to risk their lives for the cause. The war stopped at an ubrupt halt when, after only securing Lombardy, Napoleon made a truce with Austria in July 1859. He was not prepared to lose any more men or money in the war.
He also did not want to run the risk of Austria uniting with Prussia as they would be an almost invincible enemy. He also did not like the Idea of a strong, unified Italy right on France’s borders. The main reason however, for Napoleons decision was the fact that he did not fully trust Cavour any longer because of the events in Italy at the time. All over Italy Cavour was stirring up trouble, he started up revolutions in the states of Parma and Modena and set up provisonal governments in them.
The main action by Cavour to really lose the trust of Napoleon was his attempt to take over Tuscany, which was not included in the Plombieres scheme for Piedmontese expansion. Because of the armistice, known as the armistice of Villafranca, Cavour resigned from his post as Prime Minister. Villafranca did not include Piedmont and completely ignored Plombieres. It was decided that France would be given Lombardy and would pass it to Italy, and that Venetia would remain Austrian.
However, later on in 1859 Napoleon was pressured by Britain to become sympathetic to the idea of Italy being united under the control of Piedmont. Cavour came back into power in 1860 and it was decided that Nice and Savoy were ceded to France in order for Napoleion to accept the formal annexation of Central Italy by Piedmont. After a series of rigged plebiscites in all of the central Italian states, cenral Italy was unified under Piedmont with Victor Emmanuel as King of Italy. Italy would most certainly not gotten so far without the aid of France, and to a smaller extent, Britain.
However, it was not only outside help that led to the full unification of Italy. Garibaldi was building up his forces originally to stop the giving over of Nice to France, but when he heard of uprisings in Sicily he pounced at the chance. He rallied 1000 men to invade and take over Sicily in 1860. Garibaldi attacked in the hope that if he were to conquer Sicily it would be annexed to the rest of Italy. Garibaldi gained a lot of popular support and conquered Sicily, however he did not let Sicily annex with Piedmont yet, as he was going to use Sicily as a base from which to attack Naples.
Garibaldi’s plan was to conquer Naples from the Neopolitan army as well and then hand over his conquests to Victor Emmanuel in order to unify the whole of Italy. Garibaldi and the Thousand crossed over from Sicily into Naples despite Cavour telling them not to, but Victor Emmanuel was not against the actions of Garibaldi. Even though his army was out numbered Garibaldi conquered Naples with relative ease and his next target was Rome to complete the geographical unification of Italy. However, Cavour was very much against an attack on Rome as this would cause widespread trouble, especially with the French.
Cavour was also aware that most of the Thousand (by now much more than that) were Mazzinians, and being Mazzinians they would be opposed to the Church and its teachings, and that they would have no problem attacking Rome. Cavour therefore sent an army from Piedmont to Rome in order to stop Garibaldi, however when the two armies met, Garibaldi saluted Victor Emmanuel as “the first King of Italy”2. Garibaldi then soon after oficially handed over all of his conquests to Victor Emmanuel and all of Italy was unified under Piedmont apart from Rome and the patrimony of St.
Peter. There is no doubt that without the help of France Italy would have not even gotten close to unifiacation. There would have been no war of 1859, and if there was Italy would have been soundly beaten. But, thanks to the French Piedmont gained the first piece of the jig saw in Lombardy and this was a stepping stone to much greater things. However, if it was not for the work of Garibaldi, Sicily and Naples would not have been annexed to Piedmont until much later. Most of the work was done by Cavour and he orchestrated the annexations with many of the States.