Camillo Cavour & His Significance in Italian Unification

A summary of Cavour and his significance in the unification of Italy.

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Cavours Early Career

  • Born Camillo Benso di Cavour in Piedmont into a rich noble family
  • Joined Charles Alberts army and returned to study economics and politics.
  • Ascended - Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and the Navy, Minister of Finance, and then Prime Minister in 1852.
  • He came to power with an expert knowledge of economics and finance but a limited understanding of foriegn affairs. He came into power with an amibigous approach to Italian Unification. Initially he made it clear that he hoped 'for the soonest possible emancipation of Italy from the barbarians who suppress her'
  • He feared that revoluntionary riots and social upheavel 'would only make unity more difficult to achieve'. Yet in the 1850's, on occasion he referred to the unity of Italy as 'rubbish' and so it is hard to distinguish his thoughts on the matter. 
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The Crimean War & Plombieres

  • After Two years as Prime Minister, Cavour happily joined the Crimean War against in Russia in 1854 with the hope of building good relations with Britain and France, some of the spoils and a seat at the Paris Peace Conference in 1865. However it is hard to determine whether it was remotely his decision, for other countries would have pressured Italy into the war as extra troops would have been useful in battle. Also the King was eager to join the conflict, swaying his decision greatly. 
  • He did indeed gain a seat at the Paris Peace Conference which allowed him to make aquaintence with the Great Powers - particularly Louis Napoleon, when in 1858 he was invited to attend the Plombieres meeting.
  • July 1858 - A secretly organised meeting by Napoleon in which it was decided that if Piedmont were to enter into a war against Austria, that France would support them. In return, France would be ceded Nice and Savoy.
  • However the allies needed Austria to declare war on Italy, for a war of unprovoked aggression would not be supported by Britain and would allow Austria to find an ally such as Prussia - 200,000 French soliders would be supplied, Italy divided into 4 loose states with the pope was figurehead. This idea was eventually dropped. 
  • However Napoleon was wary of the unification, a unified Italy would threathen France itself. 
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The Second War of Independance - 7 weeks war.

  • By January 1859, France was becoming impatient with the absense of reasons to go to war with Austria - they began to get cold feet and felt it might be better to abandon the idea of war and settle the question of Italy at a congress. Cavour would not be made to feel feeble and powerless by the other powers and so refused this. Cavour mobilised the Piedmontese army in March 1859 - to which in April 1859, Austria demanded Piedmont demobilise it's army; with their own army set up, they could not afford to keep it ready for much longer and feared an attack from Piedmont with its army mobilised - they sent an ultimatum which Cavour refused to comply with, leading Austria to declare war on the 29th April 1859. However this was a short & violent conflict. 
  • The armies were unprepared on both sides - the provisions and equipment arrived after the Piedmontese had arrived in Lombardy themselves, this and incompetent generals meant a mass choas when it came to organisation of the war. 
  • Success - The Austrians were defeated at Magenta on June 4th and Solferino and 24 June through a battle of complete carnage - medical equipment did not arrive till after the war was over. 
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Second War of Independance continued -

  • The French lost 12,000 men and the Austrians even more. 
  • Swiss - Journalist Henry Dunant reported the horrors of the war and led to the formation of the Red Cross - the only good thing to come out of this slaughter.
  • The war ended after 7 weeks due to an Armastice at Villafranca in 11 July 1859. Napoleon arranged to meat up with Franz Joseph at Villafrance and called a truce with the Kings awareness but without consulting his Piedmontese allies. 
  • Lombardy would be ceded to France first and then Piedmont - dignity of Austria saved
  • The previous rules of Tuscanny, Modena and Parma who fled would be restored to their positions
  • Austria retained Venetia.
  • Napoleon had no stomach for war and was trying to prevent a bloodbath. The armies would not be able to breech the quadrilateral stonghold of Austrian defences & Prussia might come to the aid of Austria. Cavour appealed to the King to carry on with the war, but he refused and this led to the resignation of Cavour in July 1859 only to return 9 months later - Jan 1860 due to vast extenstion of Piedmont. 
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Cavour Stops Garibaldi

  • Italia fara da se' Italy will make herself by herself - cavour knew his was impossible and outside hekp was needed to drive out the Austrians. 
  • Cavour was not in favour of Garibaldis plan to take over Sicily - he complained that he was 'planning the wildest, not to say most absured schemes' 
  • Once Garibaldi had conquered Sicilly, Cavour feared that he would make an attack on Rome - if this were to happen, Cavour felt that a threatened Pope and Rome would call for protection from the French and so a Piedmontese army was sent to the Papal states to meet Garibaldi before he reached Rome. Napoleon was not interested in intervening unless the Garibaldi's actually reached Rome. 
  • On Oct 26th, Victor Emmanuels army reached Garibaldi, and due to his loyalty to the King, Garibaldi handed over all the territory he had taken - Sicily & Naples - to the King. The gamble to invade the Papal States had paid off. Victor Emmanuel was then proclaimed the King of Italy - March 1861. However Cavour did not live to see a fully unified Italy as supposedly died in March 1861 from a 'fever' 
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