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Kathleen Fitzgerald

April 1, 2007
Helena—History 10b

Compare and contrast Mazzini’s and Cavour’s plans for unifying Italy. How did they plan
to accomplish this goal? How do you account for their differences?

During the mid-1800s, two notable Italian nationalists proposed disparate plans for

Italian unification. Entering the scene at the height of the Enlightenment, Giuseppe Mazzini was

“a tireless and idealistic patriot…[who] favored a democratic revolution.”1 Accordingly, Mazzini

focused on revolutionary ideals like individual equality and every man’s duty to ensure universal

social justice. In his treatise, The Duties of Man, Mazzini demands Italian unification on the basis

that humans are strengthened by associations such as nations. He writes, “When isolated, [man

is] inferior in strength to many animals…All the noblest aspirations of [man’s] heart, such as love

of country, and also those less virtuous, such as desire of glory and of others’ praise, indicate

[man’s] inborn tendency to unite [his] life with the life of the millions who surround [him].”2

Having justified the need for Italian nationhood, Mazzini continues to support his argument

against national class subjugation by writing that God has “plant[ed] the instinct of progress in

the heart of every man, [and] has also put into human nature the faculties and powers necessary to

fulfill it.”3 According to Mazzini, once there is no longer any class or individual subjugation,

there will be nothing left to divide the Italian people, and a national “association” (in which

“fraternal cooperation toward a common aim” exists) will occur naturally.4

With the advantage of witnessing Mazzini’s brief and unsuccessful creation of the Republic

of Rome in 1849, Camillo Benso di Cavour, Mazzini’s late contemporary, understood that social

revolutions from the bottom up (and guerilla fighting tactics like those of Mazzini’s disciple,

Giuseppe Garibaldi) were ultimately no match for more organized forces of nations like France.5

After the French intervened in Mazzini’s Republic and re-established Pope Pius IX as ruler of the
1
Kishlansky, “Civilization in the West, Vol. II,” p. 699.
2
Mazzini, “The Duties of Man,” p. 69.
3
Mazzini, p. 74.
4
Mazzini, p. 51.
5
Kishlansky, p. 699-700.
Papal States, realists like Cavour came to realize that direct popular action would never work and

“only as a unified nation could Italy lay claim to status as a great power in Europe.”6

Consequently, although Cavour remained optimistic about the implementation of Enlightened

ideals just like Mazzini had, he chose to utilize diplomacy and princely leadership instead of the

moralistic, flag-waving tactics of movements like Young Italy and the Red Shirts.

Upon being appointed premier of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia by King Victor

Emmanuel II (who had seized power after his father had been forced out by Austrian interference

in 1849), Camillo Cavour “undertook liberal administrative reforms that included tax reform,

stabilization of the currency, improvement of the railway system, the creation of a transatlantic

steamship system, and the support of private enterprise.”7 Recognizing that pragmatic issues like

gaps in railroad track paths between Piedmont and Lombardy and a dearth of railroads in the

Papal State of Rome created a “humiliating [sense of] inferiority” [among] numerous branches of

the great Christian family,” Cavour sought to emancipate those peopled states by using expanded

rail lines to force communication between the various Italian principalities; through this measure,

Cavour aimed to destroy the petty, municipal passions, born of ignorance and prejudice, that had

previously undermined any efforts for a United Italy.8

In addition to expanded communication, Cavour’s plan for Italian unification also included

partnering with stronger powers, like France, so that those powerful European nations would be

less likely to interfere with and prevent Italian states from coalescing, as they had occurred in the

past. Furthermore, these partnerships also ensured that European nations traded and

communicated with Italy (via railways), which augmented Italy’s material and moral strength as a

single nation.9

As a loyal premier to King Victor Emmanuel II, Cavour purported that loyal friends of the

country must remain loyal to the local, deep-rooted thrones of good rulers, since those rulers
6
Kishlansky, p. 710.
7
Kishlansky, p. 710.
8
Cavour, p. 47, 49, 50, 57.
9
Cavour, p. 55.
would feel a duty to lead their inherited fatherland to its highest glory.10 Thus, although Cavour

remained similar to Mazzini in his belief that no people can attain a high level of intelligence and

morality without a strong feeling of nationalism, Cavour had the advantage of learning from

Mazzini’s failed revolution, and as a result, he proposed a unification plan which accounted for

the practical issue of established leadership.

In conclusion, while both Mazzini and Cavour aimed at bolstering inter-personal relations (via

equality and duties of life) as a way to unify Italy, Cavour elaborated upon Mazzini’s Enlightened

ideas by proposing practical measures (e.g. protection against foreign interference, a source for

domestic leadership, and a means for national communication) that progressed beyond simply

hoping for natural “associations” and “fraternal cooperation” to develop.11

10
Cavour, p. 60.
11
Cavour, p. 59.

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