|Chapter 1:||Introduction: Prelude to Emigration|
after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Jacob Burckhardt noted that Italy during the Renaissance was the great “nation of discoverers.”1
Political disunity in Italy, however, invited foreign aggression and conquest. Following the Renaissance, the Bourbons in the south, the Hapsburgs in the north, and the Papacy in central Italy were equally determined to maintain their sovereignty in a divided peninsula. At a time when church and state relationships were intricately intertwined, the Papacy was reluctant to sacrifice its temporal powers. The Papal states wore among the last to be won over to a united Italy.
The eventual success of the twin goals of the Risorgimento liberalism and nationalism—issued from the political disaster which befell Italy at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Italian nationalism had been stimulated by the American and French Revolutions and could not be stopped by the Congress settlement following the Napoleonic period. Though the Italian revolutions in the twenties and thirties were unsuccessful, they fed the flames of hope that could not be extinguished until unity and liberty were won. Mazzini believed that freedom could be attained by all oppressed nationalities in Europe through the uprising of the masses. For the most part, Mazzini was an impractical idealist. But, his dreams were the foundations on which successful revolutions were made. He taught the people that unity could come only through sacrifice. It was fitting, as Rene Albrecht-Carrie points out, that “Mazzini should acquire the aura of prophet and saint of the Risorgimento.”2
The revolutions of 1848 failed to overthrow the old regimes and made clear that unification would not come about through Papal leadership or peasant revolts. More and more patriots and liberals turned now to Piedmont for leadership. The Kingdom of Sardinia had demonstrated its interest in reform and unity and was the only state on the peninsula or in Sicily to be free from foreign domination. And, in Cavour, it possessed a brilliant prime minister. With consummate skill Cavour played off European rivalries and provoked wars for the benefit of Italy. Simultaneously, he used the ideas of Mazzini and the magnetism of Garibaldi to pull together the diverse threads from which the fabric of Italian nationalism was woven.