Roman Republic (19th Century) - History - Birth of The Republic

Birth of The Republic

On November 15, 1848, Pellegrino Rossi, the Minister of Justice of the Papal government, was assassinated. The following day, the liberals of Rome filled the streets, where various groups demanded a democratic government, social reforms and a declaration of war against the Empire of Austria. On the night of November 24, Pope Pius IX left Rome disguised as an ordinary priest, and went out of the state to Gaeta, a fortress in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Before leaving he had allowed the formation of a government led by Archbishop Carlo Emanuele Muzzarelli, to whom he wrote a note before leaving:

We entrust to your known prudence and honesty to inform the minister Galletti, engaging him with all the other ministers not only to defend the palaces, but especially the persons near you that did not know Our decision. Because not only you and your family are dear to Our heart, We repeat they did not know Our thinking, but much more We recommend to those Sirs tranquillity and order of the whole City.

The government issued some liberal reforms which Pius IX rejected and when securely established in Gaeta he designed a new government. A delegation was created by the High Council established by the Pope and the mayor of Rome, and sent to reassure the Pope and ask him to come back as soon as possible. This delegation was composed of the mayor himself, Prince Tommaso Corsini, three priests – Rezzi, Mertel and Arrighi – Marchese Paolucci de Calboli, doctor Fusconi and lawyer Rossi. However, they were stopped at the state boundary at Terracina. The Pope, informed of this, refused to speak to them. In Rome a Costituente Romana was formed, 29 November.

Without a local government in Rome, for the first time in history, popular assemblies gathered. Margaret Fuller described the procession under a new flag, a tricolore sent from Venice, that set the flag in the hands of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at the Campidoglio, and the angry popular reaction to papal warnings of excommunication for political actions of November received from Gaeta and posted on the 3rd. The Costituenti decided to schedule direct and universal elections (electors were all the citizen of the State, male and over 21 years old) on the following 21 January 1849. Since the pope had forbidden Catholics to vote at those elections (he considered the convocation of the election "a monstruous act of felony made without a mask by the sponsors of the anarchic demagogy" an "abnormal and sacrilegious attempt... deserving the punishments written both in the divine and the human laws"), the resulting constitutional assembly had a republican inclination. In each and every part of the Papal States more than 50% of the potential voters went to the polls.

The voters were not asked to express themselves on the parties but to vote for individuals. The lawyer Francesco Sturbinetti, who had led the Council of the Deputies, received the most votes, followed by Carlo Armellini, the physician Pietro Sterbini, monsignor Muzzarelli, in whose hands Pius had left the city and Carlo Luciano Bonaparte, prince of Canino. The aristocracy was represented with a prince, six marquises, fifteen counts and three other nobles. The new assembly was dominated by the bourgeoisie, the affluent, professionals and employees. Twenty-seven owners, a banker, fifty three jurists and lawyers, six graduates, twelve professors, two writers, twenty-one doctors, one pharmacist, six engineers, five employees, two merchants, nineteen military officers, one prior and one monsignore.

On February 2, 1849, at a political rally held in the Teatro Apollo, a young Roman ex-priest, the Abbé Arduini, made a speech in which he declared that the temporal power of the popes was a "historical lie, a political imposture, and a religious immorality."

The Constitutional Assembly convened on February 8 and proclaimed the Roman Republic after midnight on February 9. According to Jasper Ridley: "When the name of Carlo Luciano Bonaparte, who was a member for Viterbo, was called, he replied to the roll-call by calling out Long live the Republic!" (Viva la Repubblica!). That a Roman Republic was a foretaste of wider expectations was expressed in the acclamation of Giuseppe Mazzini as a Roman citizen.

When news reached the city of the decisive defeat of Piedmontese forces at the Battle of Novara (22 March), the Assembly proclaimed the Triumvirate, of Carlo Armellini (Roman), Giuseppe Mazzini (Roman) and Aurelio Saffi (from Teramo, Papal States), and a government, led by Muzzarelli and composed also by Aurelio Saffi (from Forlì, Papal States). Among the first acts of the Republic was the proclamation of the right of the Pope to continue his role as head of the Roman Church. The Triumvirate passed popular legislation to eliminate burdensome taxes and to give work to the unemployed.

Giuseppe Garibaldi formed the "Italian Legion", with many recruits coming from Piedmont and the Austrian territories of Lombardy and Venetia, and took up a station at the border town of Rieti on the border with the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. There the legion rose to about 1000 and gained discipline and organization.

The Pope asked for military help from Catholic countries. Saliceti and Montecchi left the Triumvirate; their places were filled on 29 March by Saffi and Giuseppe Mazzini, the Genoese founder of the journal La Giovine Italia, who had been the guiding spirit of the Republic from the start. Mazzini won friends among the poor by confiscating some of the Church's large landholdings and distributing them to peasants. He inaugurated prison and insane asylum reforms, freedom of the press, and secular education, but shied away from the "Right to Work," having seen this measure fail in France.

However, the government's policies (lower taxes, increased spending) meant the government had trouble with its finances and had to resort to inflating the currency in order to pay its debts. Runaway inflation might have doomed the Republic entirely on its own, but it also faced military threats.

The Piedmont was at risk of attack by Austrian forces, and the Republic's movement of troops in the area was a threat to Austria (which was certainly capable of attacking Rome itself). The commander-in-chief of Austrian forces in Milan, count Joseph Radetzky, had remarked during the "Five Glorious Days" of Milan, "Three days of blood will give us thirty years of peace".

But the Roman Republic would fall to another, unexpected enemy. In France, newly-elected President Louis Napoleon, who would soon declare himself emperor Napoleon III, was torn. He himself had participated in an insurrection in the Papal States against the Pope in 1831, but at this point he was under intense pressure from ultramontane French Catholics, who had voted overwhelmingly for him. Though he hesitated to betray Italian liberals, he decided to send troops to restore the Pope.

Read more about this topic:  Roman Republic (19th Century), History

Famous quotes containing the words birth of, republic and/or birth:

    Our children shall behold his fame,
    The kindly-earnest, brave, forseeing man,
    Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
    New birth of our new soil, the first American.
    James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

    Royalty is a government in which the attention of the nation is concentrated on one person doing interesting actions. A Republic is a government in which that attention is divided between many, who are all doing uninteresting actions. Accordingly, so long as the human heart is strong and the human reason weak, Royalty will be strong because it appeals to diffused feeling, and Republics weak because they appeal to the understanding.
    Walter Bagehot (1826–1877)

    ... in all cases of monstrosity at birth anaesthetics should be applied by doctors publicly appointed for that purpose... Every successive year would see fewer of the unfit born, and finally none. But, it may be urged, this is legalized infanticide. Assuredly it is; and it is urgently needed.
    Tennessee Claflin (1846–1923)