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Camillo Benso di Cavour

Camillo Benso di CavourBorn: 10-Aug-1810
Birthplace: Turin, Italy
Died: 6-Jun-1861
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Activist, Politician

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Genius behind a united Italy

Military service: Sardinian Army (1824-31)

Italian statesman, born at Turin on the 1st of August 1810. The Bensos, who belonged to the old Piedmontese feudal aristocracy, were a very ancient house, said to be descended from a Saxon warrior who settled at Santena in the 12th century and married a Piedmontese heiress; Camillo's father, the marquis Michele, married a noble Genevese lady, and both he and his wife held offices in the household of Prince Borghese, the governor of Piedmont under Napoleon, and husband of the latter's sister, Pauline Borghese. Being a younger son (his brother Gustavo was the eldest) Cavour was destined for the army, and when ten years old he entered the military academy at Turin. On leaving the college at the age of sixteen he was first of his class, and received a commission in the engineers. He spent the next five years in the army, residing at Ventimiglia, Genoa, and various Alpine fortresses to superintend defense works; but he spent his leisure hours in study, especially of the English language. He soon developed strongly marked Liberal tendencies and an uncompromising dislike for absolutism and clericalism, which, as he had not acquired the art of reticence, made him a suspect in the eyes of the police and of the reactionaries; at the same time he does not seem to have joined any secret society, for he was too loyal to conspire against the king whose uniform he wore, and he did not believe that the time was yet ripe for a revolution. But after the accession to the throne of Charles Albert, whom he always distrusted, he felt that his position in the army was intolerable, and resigned his commission (1831).

From that moment we find him in the ranks of the opponents of the government, although his was always a loyal and straightforward opposition which held aloof from conspiracies. During the next few years he devoted himself to the study of political and social problems, to foreign travel, and to acquiring thorough knowledge of practical agriculture. Cavour's political ideas were greatly influenced by the July revolution of 1830 in France, which proved that an historic monarchy was not incompatible with Liberal principles, and he became more than ever convinced of the benefits of a constitutional monarchy as opposed both to despotism and to republicanism. But he was not affected by the doctrinaire Liberalism of the time, and his views were strengthened by his studies of the British constitution, of which he was a great admirer; he was even nicknamed "Milord Camillo." He frequently visited Paris and London, where he plunged into the political and social questions of the day, and contributed among other essays two admirable and prophetic articles, one on the Irish question, in which he strongly defended the Union, and another on the Corn Laws. He applied his knowledge of agriculture to the management of his father's estate at Leri, which he greatly improved, he founded the Piedmontese Agricultural Society, and took the lead in promoting the introduction of steam navigation, railways and factories into the country.

Thus his mind gradually evolved, and he began to dream of a united Italy free of foreign influence, but owing to the reactionary policy of the Piedmontese government he was unable to take any active part in politics. In 1847, however, the psychological moment seemed to have arrived, for the new Pope Pius IX showed marked Liberal tendencies and seemed ready to lead all the forces of Italian patriotism against the Austrian domination. The hopes of the Italian Liberals rose high and the so-called neo-Guelph party, represented by such men as Vincenzo Gioberti and Cesare Balbo, believed that an Italian confederation might be formed under the presidency of the pope. Cavour, although he realized that a really Liberal pope was an impossibility, saw the importance of the movement and the necessity of profiting by it. Together with Balbo, P. di Santa Rosa, and M. Castelli, he founded a newspaper at Turin called Il Risorgimento, which advocated the ideas of constitutional reform in Piedmont, with a view to preparing that country for an important role in the upheaval which seemed imminent. In January 1848 the revolution first broke out in Sicily. Cavour, in a speech before a delegation of journalists, declared that the king must take a decided line and grant his people a Constitution. Strong pressure was brought to bear on Charles Albert, and after much hesitation he was induced to grant a charter of liberties (February 8, 1848). Cesare Balbo was called upon to form the first constitutional ministry; but Cavour was not offered a seat in it, being suspected by Liberals and Conservatives alike. He continued his journalistic activity, and his articles in the Risorgimento came to exercise great influence both on the king and on public opinion. When the news of the revolt of the Milanese against the Austrians, known as the Five Days, reached Turin on the 19th of March, Cavour felt that the time for Piedmont to act with energy had come, and advocated war against Austria. "After deliberately weighing each word", he wrote, "we are bound in conscience to declare that only one path is open to the nation, the government, and the king: war, immediate war!" Piedmont was the only part of Italy enjoying a government at once national and independent, and if it did not hasten to the assistance of the Milanese in their desperate struggle, if possible before the Austrians were expelled, the monarchy could not survive. The situation was most critical, and even the British government was not friendly to Piedmont; but Cavour was prepared to face any danger rather than see his country inactive. In an article in the Risorgimento he declared that, while he never believed that material help was to be expected from England, he was convinced that she would not actively help Austria to crush the revolution, but that if she did "she would have against her a coalition not of princes, but of peoples." Cavour's article made such an impression that it put an end to the king's vacillations, and a few days after its appearance war was declared (March 25).

For a few months patriotic and revolutionary enthusiasm carried all before it. In Hungary, in Germany, in Paris, in Vienna itself the revolution was triumphant; constitutions were granted, dynasties tottered and fell, and provisional governments were set up. In all parts of Italy, too, revolts broke out against the established order. But the Piedmontese army, although the troops behaved with gallantry, was no match for Austria's veteran legions, and except in a few minor engagements, in one of which Cavour's nephew Gustavo was killed, it was generally unsuccessful, and an armistice was concluded in the summer. In the meanwhile the elections were being held in Piedmont. Cavour himself was not returned until the supplementary elections in June, and he took his seat in parliament on the right as a Conservative. His parliamentary career was not at first very successful; he was not a ready speaker; his habit of talking French made Italian difficult for him, and, although French was at that time allowed in the chamber, he preferred to speak Italian. But he gradually developed a strong argumentative power, his speeches became models of concise reasoning, and he rose at times to the highest level of an eloquence which was never rhetorical. After the dissolution in January 1849, Cavour was not re-elected. The new parliament had to discuss, in the first instance, the all-important question of whether the campaign should be continued now that the armistice was about to expire. The king decided on a last desperate throw, and recommenced hostilities. On the 23rd of March the Piedmontese were totally defeated at Novara, a disaster which was followed immediately by the abdication of Charles Albert in favor of his son Victor Emmanuel II.

Although the new king was obliged to conclude peace with Austria and the Italian revolution was crushed, Cavour nevertheless did not despair; he believed that so long as the constitution was maintained in Piedmont, the Italian cause was safe. There were fresh elections in July, and this time Cavour was returned. He was still in the difficult position of a moderate Liberal at a time when there seemed to be room for none but reactionaries and conspirators, but by his consummate ability he convinced men that his attitude was the right one, and he made it triumph. his speech on the 7th of March 1850, in which he said that, "Piedmont, gathering to itself all the living forces of Italy, would be soon in a position to lead our mother-country to the high destinies to which she is called", made a deep impression, for it struck the first note of encouragement after the dark days of the preceding year. He supported the ministry of which Massimo d'Azeglio was president in its work of reform and restoration, and in October of the same year, on the death of Santa Rosa, he himself was appointed minister of agriculture, industry and commerce. In 1851 he also assumed the portfolio of finance, and devoted himself to the task of reorganizing the Piedmontese finances. By far the ablest man in the cabinet, he soon came to dominate it, and, in his anxiety to dominate the chamber as well, he negotiated the union of the Right Center with the Left Center (a manoeuvre known as the connubio), and promoted the election of Urbano Rattazzi to the presidency of the chamber. This, which he accomplished without d'Azeglio's knowledge, led to a split between that statesman and Cavour, and to the latter's resignation. Cavour has been blamed for not informing his colleagues of the compact, but for public reasons it was not desirable that the connubio should be discussed before it was consummated. D'Azeglio indeed bore no malice, and remained Cavour's friend. Cavour made use of his freedom to visit England and France again, in order to sound public opinion on the Italian question. In London he found the leaders of both parties friendly, and Lord Palmerston told him that if the constitutional experiment in Piedmont succeeded the Italian despots were doomed. At this time Sir James Hudson was appointed British minister at Turin, where he became the intimate friend of Cavour and gave him valuable assistance. In Paris, Cavour had a long interview with Prince Louis Napoleon, then president of the republic, and he already foresaw the great part which that ruler was destined to play in Italian affairs. He also met several Italian exiles in France.

On Cavour's return he found the country in the throes of a new cabinet crisis, in consequence of which, on d'Azeglio's recommendation, he was invited to form a ministry. By the 4th of November he was prime minister, a position which he held with two short interruptions until his death. He devoted the first years of his premiership to developing the economic resources of the country; but in preparing it for greater destinies, he had to meet the heavy expenditure by increased taxation, and some of his measures made him the object of hostile demonstrations, although he soon outlived his unpopularity. Cavour's first international difficulty was with Austria; after the abortive rising at Milan in February 1853, the Austrian government, in addition to other measures of repression, confiscated the estates of those Lombards who had become naturalized Piedmontese, although they had nothing to do with the outbreak. Cavour took a strong line on this question, and on Austria's refusal to withdraw the obnoxious decree, he recalled the Piedmontese minister from Vienna, thus by his very audacity winning the sympathy of the Western powers.

Then followed the Crimean War, in which Cavour first showed his extraordinary political insight and diplomatic genius. The first suggestion of Piedmontese cooperation is usually believed to have come from England, who desired the Italian contingent, not only as material assistance, but also in order to reduce the overwhelming French preponderance. From the Piedmontese point of view there were several reasons why Cavour should desire his country to participate in the campaign. Firstly, it was advisable to use every opportunity of making the Italian question an international one; secondly, by joining the alliance Piedmont would place the Western powers under an obligation; thirdly, Cavour, like Balbo, believed that the Italian question was bound up with the Eastern problem, and as Austria was demanding the permission of the powers to occupy Alessandria, as a guarantee that Piedmont would not profit by the war in the East to create trouble in Italy, Piedmontese participation would in itself prove the best guarantee; and finally, as he always looked to Italy and not merely to Piedmont, he felt that, having proved to Europe that Italians could combine order with liberty, it remained to show that they were capable of fighting as well. But there were serious difficulties in the way. Had Austria joined the allies, as at one time seemed probable, Sardinia's position fighting by her side would have been an impossible one. On the other hand, Piedmont could not demand definite promises of future aid from the Western powers as some politicians desired, because these would never have been given, lest Austria should be offended and driven into the arms of Russia. Then, both the extreme Conservatives and the extreme Radicals were opposed to expenditure on foreign adventures for which they could see no use. In all these difficulties, however, Cavour was loyally supported by the king, who saw the advantages of Piedmontese participation, even if unattended by definite promises. General Dabormida, the minister of foreign affairs, disapproved of this policy and resigned. The vacant portfolio was offered to d'Azeglio, who refused it; whereupon Cavour assumed it himself. On the same day (January 10, 1855) the treaty with France and England was signed, and shortly afterwards 15,000 Piedmontese troops under General La Marmora were despatched to the Crimea.

Events at first seemed to justify the fears of Cavour's opponents. Cholera attacked the Piedmontese soldiers, who for a long time had no occasion to distinguish themselves in action; public opinion became despondent and began to blame Cavour, and even he himself lost heart. Then came the news of the battle of the Tchernaya, fought and won by the Italians, which turned sadness and doubt into jubilation. Joy was felt throughout Italy, especially at Milan, where the victory was the first sign of daylight amid the gloom caused by the return of the Austrians. Everyone realized that the Piedmontese contingent was fighting Italy's battles. But to Cavour the announcement that Russia had accepted Austrian mediation (January 16, 1856) was a great disappointment. He had always hoped that if the war continued Austria would be forced to side with Russia in return for the aid given by the emperor Nicholas in suppressing the Hungarian revolt in 1849, and the Western powers would then have an opportunity of helping the Italian cause. He sent a memorandum, at Napoleon III's request, to Count Walewsi, the French minister of foreign affairs, setting forth a kind of minimum program of Piedmonts claims. On the summoning of the congress of Paris at the conclusion of the war, Cavour first proposed that d'Azeglio should represent Piedmont, and on the latter's refusal decided to go himself. After much discussion, and in spite of the opposition of Austria, who as mediator occupied a predominant position, behaving "as though she had taken Sebastopol", Cavour obtained that Piedmont should be treated as one of the great powers. Although he did not expect that the congress would liberate Italy, yet by his marvellous diplomatic skill, far superior to that of his colleagues, he first succeeded in isolating Austria, secondly in indirectly compromising Napoleon in the Italian question, and thirdly in getting the wretched conditions of Italy discussed by the representatives of the great powers, who declared that some remedy to that state of things was necessary, not in the interests of Italy alone, but of all Europe. A scheme of reform proposed by Count Walewski gave Cavour the opportunity to plead the Italian cause, and from that moment it was manifest to all that the liberation of Italy was personified in him, the statesman who came to hold all the strings of European politics in his hands.

Cavour's chief measure of internal reform during this period was a bill for suppressing all monastic orders unconnected with education, preaching or charity; this aroused strong opposition from the extremists of both parties and also from the king, and led to the minister's resignation. But he was soon recalled, for the country could not do without him, and the bill was passed (May 29, 1855).

Cavour now saw that war with Austria was merely a question of time, and he began to establish connections with the revolutionists of all parts of Italy, largely by means of La Farina; but it was necessary that this policy should not be advertised to Europe, and he strongly discountenanced Giuseppe Mazzini's abortive revolutionary attempts. He continued to strengthen Piedmont's military resources, and the army soon grew too large for the country and was obviously destined for more than merely defensive purposes. But he well knew that although Piedmont must be made as efficient as possible from the military point of view, it could not defeat Austria single-handedly. He would have preferred an alliance with Great Britain, who would never demand territorial compensation; but although British sympathies were wholly Italian, the government was desperately anxious to avoid war. From Napoleon more was to be hoped, for the emperor still preserved some of his revolutionary instincts, while the insecurity of his situation at home made him eager to gain popularity by winning military glory abroad; but he still hesitated, and Cavour devoted the whole of his ability to overcoming his doubts. In the midst of these negotiations came Orsini's attempt on Napoleon's life (January 14, 1858), which threatened to alienate his Italian sympathies and cause serious embarrassments to Piedmont. But after some remonstrances to Piedmont for not acting with sufficient energy against the revolutionists, the incident was settled; and Napoleon was, in fact, afraid that if he did not help the Italian cause more such attempts would be made. A month after the Orsini outrage he laid before Cavour a proposal for a Franco-Piedmontese alliance and the marriage of Prince Jerome Bonaparte with Princess Clothilde, the daughter of Victor Emmanuel.

An "accidental" meeting between Napoleon and Cavour was arranged and took place at Plombières in July, and although no one knew what passed, the news of it fell like a bombshell on the diplomatic world. No definite treaty was signed, but the basis of an agreement was laid, whereby France and Piedmont were to declare war against Austria with the object of expelling her from Italy, and a north Italian state was to be formed; in exchange for this help France was to receive Savoy and possibly Nice. But the emperor still hesitated, and refused to decide on war unless Austria attacked Piedmont; the British government, too, in its anxiety to preserve peace, was not very friendly to the Italian cause. Cavour saw that the only way to overcome all these obstacles was to force Austria's hand. Then there was the danger lest an Italy freed by French arms should be overwhelmed under French predominance; for this reason Cavour was determined to secure the cooperation of volunteers from other parts of Italy, and that the war should be accompanied by a series of risings against Austria and the local despots. It was also necessary that the risings should break out in the various provinces before the Piedmontese and French troops arrived, so that the latter should not appear as invaders and conquerors, but merely as liberators.

The moment war was seen to be imminent, parties of Italians of all classes, especially Lombards, poured into Piedmont to enlist in the army. Cavour also had a secret interview with Giuseppe Garibaldi, with whom he arranged to organize volunteer corps so that the army should be not merely that of Piedmont, but of all Italy. Every day the situation grew more critical, and on the 10th of January 1859 the king in his speech from the throne pronounced the memorable words "that he could not remain deaf to the cry of pain (il grido di dolore) that reached him from all parts of Italy" -- words which, although actually suggested by Napoleon, rang like a trumpet-call throughout the land. In the meanwhile the marriage negotiations were concluded, and during the emperor's visit to Turin a military convention was signed between the two states, and Savoy and Nice were promised to France as a reward for the expulsion of the Austrians from Italy. But the British government was still unfavorable, and Napoleon, ever hesitating, again sought an excuse for backing out of his engagements; he jumped at the Russian proposal to settle the Italian question by means of his own favorite expedient, a congress. To this Austria agreed on condition that Piedmont should disarm and should be excluded from the congress; England supported the scheme, but desired that all the Italian states should be represented. Cavour was in despair at the turn events were taking, and appealed to Napoleon, actually threatening to emigrate to America and publish all his correspondence with the emperor if the latter did not keep his engagements. He decided at last most reluctantly to accept the English proposal, lest Piedmont should be abandoned by all, but clung to the hope that Austria would reject it. On the 19th of April the Austrian emperor, on the advice of the military party, did reject it; and on the 23rd, to Cavour's inexpressible joy, Austria sent an ultimatum demanding the disarmament of Piedmont. Cavour replied that his government had agreed to the congress proposed by the powers and that it had nothing more to say. On quitting the chamber that day he said to a friend: "I am leaving the last sitting of the last Piedmontese parliament" -- the next would represent united Italy. France now allied herself definitely with Piedmont, and England, delighted at Cavour's acquiescence to her own proposal and enraged by Austria's ultimatum, became wholly friendly to the Italian cause. A few days later Austria declared war.

As La Marmora now took the chief command of the army, Cavour added the ministry of war to the others he already held. His activity at this time was astounding, for he was virtually dictator and controlled single-handedly nearly all the chief offices of the state. The French troops entered Piedmont, where they were received with enthusiasm, and the allies marched into Lombardy; the victory of Magenta, which opened the gates of Milan to them, was shortly followed by that of Solferino. The people rose in arms at Parma, Modena, Florence and Bologna, which had been occupied by Austria for the pope since 1849; the local princes were expelled and provisional governments set up. Cavour sent special commissioners to take charge of the various provinces in Victor Emmanuel's name. But these events, together with Prussia's menacing attitude, began to alarm Napoleon, who, although he wished to destroy Austrian influence in Italy, was afraid of a large and powerful Italian state. Consequently, after Solferino, he concluded an armistice with Austria at Villafranca on the 8th of July, without previously informing Cavour. When Cavour heard of it he was thunderstruck; he immediately interviewed the king at Monzambano, and in violent, almost disrespectful language implored him not to make peace until Venice was free. But Victor Emmanuel saw that nothing was to be gained by a refusal, and much against his own inclination, signed the peace preliminaries at Villafranca, adding the phrase, "pour ce qui me concerne", which meant that he was not responsible for what the people of other parts of Italy might do (July 12). Lombardy was to be ceded to Piedmont, Venetia to remain Austrian, the deposed princes to be reinstated, and the pope made president of an Italian confederation.

The cabinet resigned the next day, but remained in office provisionally, and Cavour privately advised the revolutionaries of central Italy to resist the return of the princes, by force if necessary: "for we must now become conspirators ourselves", he said. His policy was thus continued after he left office, and Palmerston, who had meanwhile succeeded Malmesbury as foreign minister, informed France and Austria that Great Britain would never tolerate their armed intervention in favor of the central Italian despots. The new Piedmontese ministry, of which La Marmora was the president, but Rattazzi the leading spirit, hesitated between annexing central Italy and agreeing to the terms of peace, but on the 10th of November peace was signed at Zürich. Napoleon proposed a new congress, which never met, and on the fall of the Rattazzi-La Marmora cabinet the king, in spite of the quarrel at Monzambano, asked Cavour to take office again. By January he was once more premier, as well as minister for foreign affairs and of the interior. His first act was to invite the people of Italy to declare their own wishes with regard to annexation to Piedmont; but Napoleon still refused to consent to the union of Tuscany with Piedmont, for he contemplated placing one of his own relatives on the throne of the grand-duchy. Cavour now saw that Napoleon might be ready to deal, and, although the bargain of the preceding year had not been exactly fulfilled, as the Austrians were still in Venice, he again brought forward the question of Nice and Savoy. To Cavour no less than to the king the loss of these two provinces was a cruel wrench, but it was a choice between them and central Italy. The plebiscites in the latter region had unanimously declared in favor of union with Piedmont, and Napoleon became more pressing, going so far as to threaten that unless the cession were made, the French troops would leave Lombardy at the mercy of Austria and occupy Bologna and Florence. On the 24th of March the treaty was signed and the emperor's opposition to the annexation of central Italy withdrawn. On the 2nd of April the parliament representing Piedmont, the duchies of Parma and Modena, Tuscany and Romagna, met, and Cavour had the difficult and ungrateful task of explaining the cession of Nice and Savoy. In spite of some opposition, the agreement was ratified by a large majority.

The situation in the kingdom of Naples was now becoming critical, but there seemed as yet little chance of union with upper Italy, for the Bourbon government was a more or less regular one, and, although risings had broken out, there was no general revolution. Cavour therefore had to follow a somewhat double-faced policy, on the one hand negotiating with the Bourbon king (Francis II), suggesting a division of Italy between him and Victor Emmanuel, and on the other secretly backing up the revolutionary agitation. Having now learned that Garibaldi was planning an expedition to Sicily with his volunteers, he decided, after some hesitation, not to oppose its departure; on the 5th of May it sailed from Quarto near Genoa, and Cavour was only deterred from declaring war on Naples by the fear of foreign complications. Garibaldi with his immortal Thousand landed at Marsala, and the whole rotten fabric of the Bourbon government collapsed. At Palermo they were welcomed by the Piedmontese admiral Persano, and soon the whole island was occupied and Garibaldi proclaimed dictator. The general now proposed to cross over to the mainland, and this placed Cavour in a serious dilemma; Russia and Austria protested against the expedition, France and, Prussia were unfriendly, Great Britain alone remained warmly pro-Italian. He still hoped for a revolution in Naples, so that King Victor's authority might be established before Garibaldi's arrival, but this proved impossible. When Garibaldi crossed the straits of Messina the Neapolitan government fell, and he entered Naples in triumph. But there was still danger that he might be subsequently defeated, for the Neapolitan army was still a force in being, and Cavour feared, moreover, that, although Garibaldi himself had always loyally acted in the king of Italy's name, the red republicans around him might lead him to commit some imprudence and plunge the country into anarchy. The cession of Nice, Garibaldi's birthplace, had made an impassable gulf between the two men, and neither quite trusted the other. Cavour also feared that Garibaldi might invade the papal states, which would have led to further international complications. In any case, Rome must not be touched for the present, since Napoleon was pledged to protect the pope; but as the latter had made large armaments, and his forces, consisting largely of brigands and foreigners under the French general Lamoricière, were in a menacing attitude on the frontier, Cavour decided on the momentous step of annexing the papal states with the exception of the Roman province. The Italian army crossed the frontier from Romagna on the 11th of September, whereupon every power, except Great Britain and Sweden, withdrew its minister from Turin. But the troops advanced and were everywhere received with open arms by the people; Ancona was taken, Lamoricière was defeated and captured at the battle of Castelfidardo, and on the 20th King Victor marched into the Neapolitan kingdom. On the 1st of October Garibaldi defeated the Neapolitan troops on the Volturno, and Gaeta alone, where King Francis of Naples had retired, still held out.

New difficulties with Garibaldi arose, for he would not resign his dictatorship of the southern provinces, and wished to march on Rome. Cavour had to use all his tact to restrain him and at the same time not to appear ungrateful. He refused to act despotically, but he summoned parliament to vote on the annexation, which it did on the 11th. Two days later Garibaldi magnanimously gave in to the nation's will and handed his conquests over to King Victor as a free gift. Gaeta was invested, and after a siege prolonged through the action of Napoleon, who for some reason unknown kept his fleet before the town, preventing any attack by sea until England induced him to withdraw it, the garrison surrendered on the 13th of February, and King Francis retired to Rome. Parliament was dissolved once more; the new chamber showed an overwhelming majority in favor of Cavour, and Victor Emmanuel was proclaimed king of Italy.

The last question with which Cavour had to deal was that of Rome. For some years past the pope had only been able to maintain his authority by the help of foreign troops, and Cavour saw that as long as this state of things lasted there could be no united Italy. In October he declared in parliament that Rome must be the capital of Italy, for no other city was recognized as such by the whole country, and in January 1861 a resolution to that effect was passed. But owing to Napoleon's attitude he had to proceed warily, and made no attempt for the present to carry out the nations wishes. At the same time he was anxious that the church should preserve the fullest liberty, and he believed in the principle of "a free church in a free state." His great dream, save for Rome and Venice, was now realized, and Italy was free and united. But the wear and tear of these last years had been almost unbearable, and at last began to tell; the negotiations with Garibaldi were particularly trying, for while the great statesman wished to treat the hero and his volunteers generously, far more so than seemed wise to the Conservatives and the strictly military party, he did not wish the Italian cause to be endangered by their imprudences, and could not permit all the Garibaldian officers to be received into the regular army with the same grades they held in the volunteer forces. This question, together with that of Nice, led to a painful scene in the chamber between the two men, although they were formally reconciled a few days later. For some time past Cavour had been unwell and irritable, and the scene with Garibaldi undoubtedly hastened his end. A fever set in. and after a short illness he passed away on the 6th of June 1861. He was buried at his ancestral castle of Santena.

The death of Cavour was a terrible loss to Italy; there remained many problems to be solved in which his genius and personality were urgently needed. But the great work had been carried to such a point that lesser men might now complete the structure. He is undoubtedly the greatest figure of the Risorgimento, and although other men and other forces cooperated in the movement, it was Cavour who organized it and skilfully conducted the negotiations which overcame all, apparently insuperable, obstacles. "That which in Alfieri and Gioberti was lacking", wrote T. Artom, his private secretary, "a deep and lively sense of reality, Cavour possessed to a supreme degree. He was not a littérateur; he was never a political dreamer. His views broadened progressively; at each stage he discovered a new horizon, and he followed his path without ever seeking anything save what was real and possible." He was gifted with pronounced political genius and with an astounding power of foresight. In his ideas he was always a moderate Liberal, and although he disapproved of republicanism, he was an ardent constitutionalist, ever refusing to resort to arbitrary methods, for he felt that, the Italian character being what it is, Italian unity could not last if unsupported by popular feeling. In meeting opposition he could not, like Bismarck, rely on a great military power, for the Piedmontese army was a small one; Austria must first be isolated and then an alliance had to be obtained with some other power. Some of his acts, especially his policy towards the Neapolitan kingdom, have been criticized as politically immoral; but apart from the fact that few revolutions -- and Cavour, after all, was a revolutionary -- can be conducted without attacking vested rights, it is hard to see that any policy which led to the destruction of a government, rightly described as the "negation of God on earth", could be deemed immoral. He has been accused of changing his views, but what statesman has not? Moreover, in the extremely complicated and difficult diplomatic situations which he had to face, what was impossible or dangerous one day became possible and desirable the next. This was particularly the case with the Neapolitan question. Cavour's one absorbing passion was the liberation and regeneration of Italy, and to this he devoted his whole life and talent.

Brother: Gustavo (older)

    Prime Minister of Italy 17-Mar-1861 to 6-Jun-1861
    Proxy Baptism: Mormon St. George, UT (Aug-1877)


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