Mazzini, Cavour, and Garibaldi: Opposing Views and Instrumental Personalities

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Mazzini, Cavour, and Garibaldi: Opposing Views and Instrumental Personalities

Europe in the mid-nineteenth century was a tumultuous continent surging with popular movements. In particular, there was a notable increase in nationalism, not only amongst countries that were united but as well as in regions of divided states that were bound by a shared language or culture. Perhaps the greatest examples of nationalism during this time were the movements for unification among the Germanic states as well as among the Italian states. The Risorgimento, or rather, the movement for Italian unification, spanned more than half of the century, and can be considered one of the foremost historical examples of cultural nationalism. It was a period of intense Italian patriotism as well as of fervent political activity. The movement for Italian unification did not only involve the Italian states, but also put the interests of other great European powers at stake.

Although its roots can be placed as far back as the first half of the eighteenth century, the Risorgimento really gained momentum in the 1820s. Although it began as a republican movement, the end result was quite different. Although there are numerous reasons for the movement’s success, it is without a doubt that Italian unification could not have been achieved without the direction of three key figures: Giuseppe Mazzini, Camillo di Cavour, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. It was under the influence of Mazzini that the Risorgimento gained momentum, because of the political strategies of Cavour it became a realization, and because of the nationalistic campaigns of Garibaldi that it became a success. However, ultimately it was Cavour’s realistic vision of a constitutional monarchy that was realized; Mazzini’s utopian republican ideals and Garibaldi’s intention of dictatorship, although important in the journey towards unification, were diminished.

Giuseppe Mazzini was among the most influential political theorists existing in nineteenth century Europe. He joined the carbonari in 1827, when he was 22 years of age, after studying law and philosophy in his birthplace of Genoa. The carbonari were elitist secret societies, consisting of middle- and upper class supporters of a constitutional government and a unified Italy. Soon thereafter, he was betrayed by an informer and subjected to four months in jail, which was followed by exile to Marseilles. His time in Marseilles was not wasted. While in exile, Mazzini worked to form the La Giovine Italia, otherwise known as the Young Italy. La Giovone Italia was new political society which was much less elitist that its predecessor, the carbonari. The primary aim of the new society was to liberate Italy from its foreign or domestic forms of tyranny, and to unite the Italian peninsula under a republican form of government.

The prowess of the carbonari diminished in the success of La Giovine Italia, which counted Giuseppe Garibaldi amongst its members. Mazzini chose Savoy as the base for his new society, partially because of its proximity to Switzerland. In doing this, he felt he would appeal to other exiles living outiside of Italy; he was right. By 1833, La Giovine Italia had grown to encompass several hundred exiles. Many were Poles and Germans, and a few were French. By diversifying the makeup of La Giovine Italia, Mazzini opened up possibilities of International alliances. Moreover, he formed a basis for what would become La Giovine Europa, or “the Young Europe”, which would to spread propaganda regarding unification elsewhere throughout Europe.

La Giovine Italia signified much of Mazzini’s philosophical achievement and political sway. The group participated in many domestic revolts, and set the precedent for uprisings to spur a nationalistic revolution.

It is obvious that the “Italian unitary, monarchical, constitutional, and parliamentary state” that was formed as a result of the unification were contrary to Mazzini’s ideals and...
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