The March 17 was the Monarchic Risorgiment. But was there some Republican attempt?

(To Federico Gozzi)

The term "Risorgimento" indicates a period in Italian history, historically placed by the defeat of Napoleon with the consequent Congress of Vienna (1815), to the proclamation of Rome as the capital of the newborn Kingdom of Italy, in the 1871. Some Italian historians terminate the Risorgimento period in the 1918, coinciding with the victory achieved during the Great War, defined by them as the "fourth war of independence", a definition aimed at showing a connection with the unification that took place almost half a century before ( we remember that in World War I Italy tried to conquer part of the Triveneto and the unredeemed Istrian and Dalmatian lands). At this juncture the 17 March is a fundamental date, in which three different facts are fulfilled: in 1805 the first Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed, led by Napoleon; in the 1848 Venice rebels against the Austrians, resisting the siege until the following year. Finally, the 17 March 1861, Vittorio Emanuele II is proclaimed King of Italy.

But let's take a step back: after the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, Italy was in a disastrous political situation, prey to the victorious powers. The various Italian states were sold or at least placed under the influence of Austria governed by the Habsburg-Lorraine. This paved the way for an already latent Italian patriotic sentiment, consciously present in the Italian intellectual class but almost totally absent among the popular masses. It must be remembered that the first appeals to a national unit were even found in "Il Principe" by Machiavelli, who advocated an Italic principality to oppose the invaders.
It is precisely in this that a distinction must be made: there was a concrete, political resurgence that triggered revolts against the occupiers and promoted advanced political experiments (such as the Roman Republic of the '49) and there was a literary resurgence, which began with the Enlightenment and gained a greater boost during Romanticism, thus succeeding in inspiring and guiding the cultural and political revolution to which the unification of Italy led.
But we must not think that the Italian Risorgimento was a homogeneous movement: it was a tangle of different ideas, democratic, clerical, liberal, socialist and sometimes authoritarian that came together to satisfy a historical contingency, or unification. The heterogeneity inherent in the Italian national forces led to various revolts and revolutions, which, not being coordinated among themselves, almost all ended up failing, leaving the field free for the Savoy monarchy, the only one possessing both diplomatic and military strength to unite the Country. This is one of the reasons why the Italian State was born as a monarchy and not as a Republic or a State of the Church.

In this article we will discuss the Roman Republic of 49 ', proclaimed by Galletti, Masi and Saffi following the expulsion of Pope Pius IX from Rome in the midst of the Risorgimento uprisings of the 1848. The reasons that led to the flight of the Pope were many: first of all the retreat of the Roman army in the war of independence (fought in the Triveneto by the Savoys, by the Lorraines of Tuscany, by the Bourbons and finally by the Papacy against the Austrians), which caused a popular discontent. Another reason was the political instability of the Papal State, caused directly by the neutralist line of Pius IX, which reached its peak when Count Pellegrino Rossi, Prime Minister of the Pope, who had married a moderate political doctrine, was assassinated he claimed both the patriots and the Curia.

After the Pope left the scene (which he sheltered in Gaeta, in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies), the proclamation of the Republic was fairly rapid. In Rome, several volunteers came from all over Italy and even from Europe, including eminent figures such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini, the latter became part of the triumvirate (together with Saffi and Armellini) who took the lead in the new State. Garibaldi, on the other hand, organized an army, formed by both Romans and various volunteers, who later offered a harsh resistance to the French expeditionary forces sent by Napoleon III to restore the Pope's temporal power.

The Republic equipped itself with a constituent, which was joined by some Tuscan deputies sent by the newly formed Republic of Tuscany, a state born of the insurrections against the Lorraine in the region that gave birth to Dante. The Constitution of the Roman Republic was innovative for the times, universal suffrage was foreseen, which even included women. Various social protections were established, such as the agrarian reform and the right to housing; the state was defined as secular and freedom of religion, opinion and the press was in force. In addition, the death penalty and torture were abolished and civil marriage was introduced. Italian constitution was advocated in the Constitution, but the presence of non-Italian foreigners was not prevented or limited.

The Republic had a short life: it lasted only 5 months, from 9 February to 4 July of 1849, under the blows of French assaults. Republican resistance was tenacious and full of heroic deeds, including the famous defenses of Ponte Milvio (defended by a university battalion) and Villa del Vascello, defended by Italian volunteers. It was during this siege that Goffredo Mameli died of gangrene, probably struck by a bullet during an assault. The last battle fought by the Republicans was on the Gianicolo, where Roman troops were barricaded. Surrounded by the French and almost without ammunition, Garibaldi ordered a final bayonet charge, which caused a furious melee, in which the Italians fought with their nails and teeth, causing more than 2000 deaths in the French ranks. Republican losses amount to almost 3000 between dead and wounded.
The surrender was presented the 1 ° of July. Garibaldi affirmed that the defeat was due to the slowness of the democratic machine, which meant not to make a single man make decisions in times of crisis and therefore to hinder the speed of the reaction.

After the fall of Rome, revolutionary Italy was prey to the forces of reaction. The Savoys had signed the peace treaty with the Austrians. The Lorraines and the Bourbons, withdrawn the year before from the war against the German occupants, were prey to political instability. The only city that continued to resist was Venice, besieged by the forces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The patriotic revolts of the 1848 had failed and with them the dreams of national reunification and independence of the Italians seemed to have disappeared. Dreams destined to materialize after the decade 1850-1860.