Countess Evelyn Martinengo-Cesaresco

Part 1 out of 3

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_Italia, ab exteris liberanda_.

Motto of Pope JULIUS II.


'Je suis italien avant tout et c'est pour faire jouir a mon
pays du _self government_ a l'interieur, come a l'extereur que
j'ai entrepuis la rude tache de chasser l'Autriche de l'Italie
sans y substituer la domination d'aucune autre Puissance'--_Cavour
to the Marquis Emmanuel d'Azeglio (May 8, 1860)_

The day is passed when the warmest admirer of the eminent man whose
character is sketched in the following pages would think it needful
to affirm that he alone regenerated his country. Many forces were
at work; the energising impulse of moral enthusiasm, the spell of
heroism, the ancient and still unextinguished potency of kingly
headship. But Cavour's hand controlled the working of these forces,
and compelled them to coalesce.

The first point in his plan was to make Piedmont a lever by which
Italy could be raised. An Englishman, Lord William Bentinck,
conceived an identical plan in which Sicily stood for Piedmont. He
failed, Cavour succeeded. The second point was to cause the Austrian
power in Italy to receive such a shock that, whether it succumbed at
once or not, it would never recover. In this too, with the help
of Napoleon III, he succeeded. The third point was to prevent the
Continental Powers from forcibly impeding Italian Unity when it became
plain that the population desired to be united. This Cavour succeeded
in doing with the help of England.

Time, which beautifies unlovely things, begins to cast its glamour
over the old Italian _regimes_. It is forgotten how low the Italian
race had fallen under puny autocrats whose influence was soporific
when not vicious. The vigorous if turbulent life of the Middle Ages
was extinct; proof abounded that the _role_ of small states was played
out. Goldsmith's description, severe as it is, was not unmerited--

Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade;
Processions formed for piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in every grove.
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
The sports of children satisfy the child;
Each nobler aim, represt by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul.

Only those who do not know the past can turn away from the present
with scorn or despair. In this century a nation has arisen which, in
spite of all its troubles, is alive with ambition, industry, movement;
which has ten thousand miles of railway, which has conquered the
malaria at Rome, which has doubled its population and halved its
death-rate, which sends out great battle-ships from Venice and Spezia,
Castellamare and Taranto. This nation is Cavour's memorial: _si
monumentum requiris circumspice_.



















Nothing is permanent but change; only it ought to be remembered that
change itself is of the nature of an evolution, not of a catastrophe.
Commonly this is not remembered, and we seem to go forward by bounds
and leaps, or it may be to go backward; in either case the thread of
continuity is lost. We appear to have moved far away from the men
of forty years ago, except in the instances in which these men have
survived to remind us of themselves. It is rather startling to
recollect that Cavour might have been among the survivors. He was born
on August 10, 1810. The present Pope, Leo the Thirteenth, was born in
the same year.

It was a moment of lull, after the erection and before the collapse
of the Napoleonic edifice in Italy. If no thinking mind believed that
edifice to be eternal, if every day did not add to its solidity but
took something silently from it, nevertheless it had the outwardly
imposing appearance which obtains for a political _regime_ the
acceptance of the apathetic and lukewarm to supplement the support of
partisans. Above all, it was a phase in national existence which made
any real return to the phase that preceded it impossible. The
air teemed with new germs; they entered even into the mysterious
composition of the brain of the generation born in the first decade of
the nineteenth century.

Environment and heredity do not explain all the puzzle of any single
man's mind and character, but they form co-efficients in the making of
him which can be no longer disregarded. The chief point to be noticed
in reference to Cavour is that he was the outcome of a mingling of
race which was not only transmitted through the blood, but also was a
living presence during his childhood and youth. His father's stock,
the Bensos of Cavour, belonged to the old Piedmontese nobility.
A legend declares that a Saxon pilgrim, a follower of Frederick
Barbarossa, stopped, when returning from the Holy Land, in the little
republic of Chieri, where he met and married the heiress to all the
Bensos, whose name he assumed. Cavour used to laugh at the story, but
the cockle shells in the arms of the Bensos and their German motto,
"Gott will recht," seem to connect the family with those transalpine
crusading adventurers who brought the rising sap of a new nation
to reinvigorate the peoples they tarried amongst. Chieri formed a
diminutive free community known as "the republic of the seven B's,"
from the houses of Benso, Balbo, Balbiani, Biscaretti, Buschetti,
Bertone, and Broglie, which took their origin from it, six of which
became notable in their own country and one in France. The Bensos
acquired possession of the fief of Santena and of the old fastness of
Cavour in the province of Pignerolo. This castle has remained a ruin
since it was destroyed by Catinat, but in the last century Charles
Emmanuel III. conferred the title of Marquis of Cavour on a Benso who
had rendered distinguished military services. At the time of Cavour's
birth the palace of the Bensos at Turin contained a complete
and varied society composed of all sorts of nationalities and
temperaments. Such different elements could hardly have dwelt together
in harmony if the head of the household, Cavour's grandmother, had not
been a superior woman in every sense, and one endowed with the worldly
tact and elastic spirits without which even superior gifts are of
little worth in the delicate, intimate relations of life. Nurtured in
a romantic _chateau_ on the lake of Annecy, Philippine, daughter of
the Marquis de Sales, was affianced by her father at an early age
to the eldest son of the Marquis Benso di Cavour, knight of the
Annunziata, whom she never saw till the day of their marriage. At once
she took her place in her new family not only as the ideal _grande
dame_, but as the person to whom every one went in trouble and
perplexity. That was a moment which developed strong characters and
effaced weak ones. The revolutionary ocean was fatally rolling towards
the Alps. It found what had been so long the "buffer state" asleep.
There was a king who, unlike the princes of his race, was more amiable
than vigorous. Arthur Young, the traveller, reports that Victor
Emmanuel I. went about with his pocket full of bank notes, and was
discontented at night if he had not given them all away. "Yet this,"
adds the observant Englishman, "with an empty treasury and an
incomplete, ill-paid army." It was a bad preparation for the deluge,
but when that arrived, inevitable though unforeseen, desperate if
futile efforts were made to stem it. Some of the Piedmontese nobility
were very rich, but it was a wealth of increment, not of capital.
The burdens imposed when too late by the Sardinian Government, and
afterwards the cost of the French occupation, severely strained the
resources even of the wealthiest. The Marquise Philippine sold the
family plate and the splendid hangings of silk brocade which adorned
the walls of the Palazzo Cavour at Turin. Napoleon from the first
looked upon Italy as the bank of the French army. This idea had been
impressed upon him before he started for the campaign which was to
prove the corner-stone of his career. "He was instructed," writes the
secret agent Landrieux, "as to what might well be drawn from this war
for the French treasury."

After the pillage and the war contributions came the blood-tax. The
Marquise Philippine's son, sixteen years old, was ordered to join
General Berthier's corps, and to provide him with L10 pocket money
she sold what till then she had religiously kept, a silver holy water
stoup, which belonged to her saintly ancestor, Francois de Sales.

The last sacrifices, imposed not in the name of the country, but to
the advantage of an insatiable invader, were not likely to inspire the
old nobility of Piedmont with much love for the new order of things,
nor was love the feeling with which the Marquise regarded it, but she
had the insight to see what few of her class perceived, that the hour
of day cannot be turned back; the future could not be as the past had
been. When Prince Camillo Borghese was appointed governor of Piedmont
(on account of his being the husband of Napoleon's sister, the
beautiful Pauline Bonaparte, who was the original of Canova's Venus),
the Marquise Philippine was commanded to accept the post of _dame
d'honneur_ to the Princess. A refusal would have meant the ruin of
both the Cavours and her own kin, the De Sales, whose estates in Savoy
were already confiscated. She bowed to necessity, and in a position
which could not have been one of the easiest, she knew how to preserve
her own dignity, and to win the friendship of the far from demure
Pauline, whom she accompanied to Paris for the celebration of the
marriage of Napoleon with Marie Louise. It is characteristic of the
epoch that in the French capital the Marquise took lessons in the art
of teaching from a French pedagogue then in repute, to qualify her to
begin the education of her little grandchildren, Gustave and Camille.

These two boys were the sons of the Marquis Michele Benso; who had
married a daughter of the Count de Sellon of Geneva. While on a tour
in Switzerland to recover his health from a wound received in the
French service, the Marquis met the Count and his three daughters, of
whom he wished to make the eldest, Victoire, his wife; but on his suit
not prospering with her, he proposed to and was accepted by the second
daughter, Adele. After an unfortunate first marriage, Victoire became
the Duchess de Clermont Tonnerre, and the youngest sister, Henriette,
married a Count d'Auzers of Auvergne. All these relatives ended by
taking up their abode in the Palazzo Cavour at Turin. Victoire was the
cleverest, but her sisters as well as herself were what even in these
days would be considered highly educated. She became a Roman Catholic,
a step followed by Adele after the birth of her second child, Camille,
but Henriette remained true to the rigid Protestantism of Geneva. At
the christening of Camille de Cavour the Prince and Princess Borghese
officiated as sponsors, the Marquis Benso holding at that time a post
in the Prince's household which he owed to the good graces enjoyed by
his mother.

It is plain that of all his kindred, the charming and valiant Marquise
Philippine was the one whom Camille de Cavour most fondly loved. She
was the member of his family who understood him best not only in
childhood, but in manhood, and when all the others reproached him with
embracing ideas contrary to his traditions and his order, he turned
for comfort to his "dearest Marina," as he called her ("Marina" being
the pet-name by which children in Piedmont called their grandmothers),
and begged her to defend him against the charge of undutiful conduct.
It might be true, he said, with the irony which was one day to become
so familiar, that he was that dreadful thing, a liberal, but devoid
of natural feeling he was not. On the great day when the Statute was
granted, he said to the light-hearted old lady, "Marina, we get on
capitally, you and I; you were always a little bit of a Jacobin." That
was not long before her strength, though not her courage, gave way
under the deep sorrow of the loss of her great-grandson Auguste on the
field of Goito. She died in the midst of the political transformation
she had so long waited for.

As a child Cavour was normally sweet-tempered, but subject to violent
fits of passion; while he hated his lessons, he showed an early
development of intelligence and judgment. Like most precocious
children he had one or two infantile love affairs. A letter exists
written when he was six, in which he upbraids a little girl named
Fanchonette for basely abandoning him. He says that he loves her
still, _but_ he has now made the acquaintance of a young lady of
extraordinary charms, who has twice taken him out in the most
beautiful gilt carriage. It is amusing to note the worldly wisdom of
the suitor of six who reckons on jealousy to bring back the allegiance
of the fair but faithless Fanchonette. The magnificent rival was
Silvio Pellico's friend, the Marchioness de Barolo, who, like every
one else, was attracted by the clever child with his blue eyes and
little round face. Another story belonging to the same date is even
more characteristic. The Cavours went every year to Switzerland to
stay with their connections, the De Sellons and the De la Rives. On
this occasion, when the travellers reached M. de la Rive's villa at
Presinge, Camille, looking terribly in earnest, and with an air of
importance, made the more comical by the little red costume he was
wearing, went straight to his host with the announcement that the
postmaster had treated them abominably by giving them the worst
horses, and that he ought to be dismissed. "But," said M. de la Rive,
"I cannot dismiss him; that depends on the syndic." "Very well," said
the child, "I wish for an audience with the syndic." "You shall have
one to-morrow," replied M. de la Rive, who wrote to the syndic, a
friend of his, that he was going to send him a highly entertaining
little man. Camille was therefore received next day with all possible
ceremony, which by no means abashed him. After making three bows, he
quietly and lucidly explained his grievance, and apparently got a
promise of satisfaction, as when he went back he exclaimed in triumph
to M. de la Rive, "He will be dismissed!"

The Swiss relations were most enlightened people. Cavour's uncle,
the Count de Sellon, was a sort of Swiss Wilberforce, an ardent
philanthropist whose faith in human perfectibility used sometimes to
make his nephew smile, but early intercourse with a man of such large
and generous views could not have been without effect. De Sellon
was one of the first persons to dream of arbitration, and though a
Protestant he sent a memorial on this subject to the Pope. M. de la
Rive was a man of great scientific acquirements, and his son William
became Cavour's congenial and life-long friend. This cosmopolitan
society was entirely unlike the narrow coteries of the ancient
Piedmontese aristocracy which are so graphically described by Massimo
d'Azeglio, and the absence of constraint in which Cavour grew up makes
a striking contrast to the iron paternal rule under which the young
d'Azeglios trembled. It should be observed, however, that in spite of
his mixed blood and scattered ties, Cavour was in feeling from the
first the member of one race and the citizen of one state. The
stronger influence, that of the father's strain, predominated to the
exclusion of all others. Though all classes in Piedmont till within
the last fifty years spoke French when they did not speak dialect,
the intellectual sway of France was probably nowhere in Italy felt so
little as in Piedmont. The proximity of the two countries tended not
for it, but against it. They had been often at war; all the memories
of the Piedmontese people, the heroic exploit of Pietro Micca, the
royal legend of the Superga, turned on resistance to the powerful
neighbour. A long line of territorial nobles like the Bensos
transmits, if nothing else, at least a strong sentiment for the
birthland. In Cavour this sentiment was, indeed, to widen even in
boyhood, but it widened into Italian patriotism, not into sterile

In one respect Cavour was brought up according to the strictest of
old Piedmontese conventions. No one forgot that he was a younger
son. Gustave, the elder brother, received a classical education, and
acquired a strong taste for metaphysics. He became a thinker rather
than a man of action, and was one of the first and staunchest friends
of the philosopher-theologian Rosmini, whose attempts to reconcile
religion and philosophy led him into a bitter struggle with Rome. For
Camille another sort of life was planned. It was decided that he must
"do something," and at the age of ten he was sent to the Military
Academy at Turin. He did not like it, but it was better for him than
if he had been kept at home. Mathematics were well taught at the
Academy, and in this branch he soon outstripped all his schoolfellows.
He himself always spoke of his mathematical studies as having been of
great service in forming the habit of precise thought; from the study
of triangles, he said, he went on to the study of men and things. On
the other hand the boys were taught little Latin and less Greek, and
nothing was done to furnish them with the basis of a literary style, a
fact always deplored by Cavour, who insisted that the art of writing
ought to be acquired when young; otherwise it could not be practised
without labour, and never with entire success. He once said that
he found it easier to make Italy than a sonnet. In his own case he
regretted never having become a ready writer, because he knew that the
pen is a force; he held that a man should cultivate every means at his
disposal to increase his power.

In 1824, when Charles Albert returned to Piedmont after three years'
exile in consequence of the part he was suspected of having taken in
the abortive revolution of 1821, one of his first acts was to obtain a
nomination for young Cavour as page in the royal household. The pages
were all inmates of the Military Academy, where the expense of their
education was borne by the king after they received the appointment.
The Count d'Auzers, a strong Legitimist, was one of the oldest friends
of the Prince of Carignano, who was regarded at the Palazzo Cavour as
the victim of false accusations of liberalism. Charles Albert always
seemed to reflect the opinions of the person to whom he was writing
or speaking. Thus it is certain that in his letters to the Count he
appeared as a convinced upholder of white flags. Cavour must have
heard him often defended from the charge of patriotism. Perhaps this
created in his mind a first aversion, which was strengthened by
personal contact in the course of his duties at Court. At any rate it
is clear that he never liked or trusted him.

When Cavour left the Military Academy in 1826 he came out first in the
final examinations. He entered the army with the rank of lieutenant in
the Corps of Engineers. He began to learn English. In a letter written
at this time he speaks of the utility of modern languages and a real
knowledge of history, but adds that a man who wishes to make a name
should concentrate his faculties rather than disperse them among
too many subjects and pursuits. Even then he had an almost definite
project of preparing himself to play a part in life. There is not much
to show what were his political ideas, except a memorandum written
when he was eighteen on the Piedmontese revolution of 1821, in which
he adopted the views of Santorre di Santa Rosa, once Charles Albert's
friend and later his severest critic, to combat whose indictment the
Count d'Auzers had written folios in the French and German newspapers.
At the end of the memorandum Cavour transcribed an extract from Santa
Rosa's work, in which he invoked the advent of an Italian Washington.
Was that the part which Cavour dreamed of playing? A few years after,
he wrote in a fit of despondency, "There was a time when I should have
thought it the most natural thing in the world that I should wake up
one morning prime minister of a kingdom of Italy." The words written
in 1832 throw a flood of light on the subjects of his boyish dreams
and the goal of his prophetic ambition.

The story repeated by most of Cavour's biographers, that in putting
off the page's uniform he uttered some scornful words which, reported
to Charles Albert, changed the goodwill of that prince into hostility,
rests on doubtful authority; but it seems to be true that Charles
Albert, who began by being very well disposed to the son and nephew
of his friends, calling him in one letter "the interesting youth who
justifies such great hopes," and in another, "ce charmant Camille,"
came to consider his quondam _protege_ a restless spirit, inconvenient
in the present and possibly dangerous in the future. Though the
schoolboy essay above mentioned was kept a secret, the liberal
heresies of the young lieutenant were well enough known. He was told
that he would bring father and mother in sorrow to the grave, and he
was even threatened with banishment to America. The police watched
his movements. He wrote to his Swiss uncle that he had no right to
complain as he was liberal and very liberal and desired a complete
change in the whole system. On Charles Albert's accession to the
throne he was sent to the solitary Alpine fortress of Bard; but
it appears that not the king (as he supposed) but his own father
suggested the step. Cavour saw in the idleness and apathy of garrison
life in this lonely place a type of the disease from which the whole
State was suffering. He wrote to the Count de Sellon, the apostle of
universal peace, that much as he abhorred bloodshed, he could think of
no cure but war. "The Italians need regeneration; their _moral_, which
was completely corrupted under the ignoble dominion of Spaniards and
Austrians, regained a little energy under the French _regime_, and
the ardent youth of the country sighs for a nationality; but to break
entirely with the past, to be born anew to a better state, great
efforts are necessary and sacrifices of all kinds must remould the
Italian character. An Italian war would be a sure pledge that we were
going to become again a nation, that we were rising from the mud in
which we have been trampled for so many centuries."

These lines, written by a young officer of twenty-one, show how far
Cavour had already outstripped the Piedmontese provincialism which
had the upper hand in the early years of Charles Albert's reign. He
described himself as vegetating, but he was not idle; sustained mental
activity was, in fact, a necessity to him whatever were his outward
circumstances. He read Bentham and Adam Smith, and was excited by the
events going on in England, then in the throes of the first Reform
Bill. It was in the fortress of Bard that he gained a grasp of English
politics which he never lost, and which hardly another foreigner ever
possessed in a like degree. By chance he became acquainted with an
English artist who was engaged in making drawings of the Alpine
passes. This gave him not only the opportunity of speaking and writing
English, but also of expressing his private thoughts without reserve,
which was impossible with his fellow-countrymen. Throughout his
life he found the same mental relaxation in his intercourse with
Englishmen; he felt safe with them.

Cavour was not meant to be a soldier; his tastes did not agree with
the routine of military life, and his clear judgment told him that the
army is not the natural or correct sphere for a politician--which he
knew himself to be even then, in a country where politics may be said
not to have existed. Acting on these reflections, he resigned his
commission, and his father, perhaps to keep him quiet, bought him a
small independent property near the ancestral estate at Leri. The
Marquis warned his son that the income would not allow him to keep a
valet or a horse; his mother opposed the purchase, as she thought that
the young landlord would be tempted to spend more than he had, but to
this his father replied that if a man was not a man at twenty-five he
would be one never. The Marquis Michele Benso had recently assumed
the post of _Vicario_ of Turin, which his family thought below his
dignity, but he apparently took it to oblige the king, with whom the
_Vicario_, who was a sort of Prefect of Police, was in daily contact.
As a result, the estate of Leri, which had been neglected before, was
now going actually to ruin. Cavour, with the approval of his brother,
proposed to undertake the whole management of the property, an offer
gladly accepted, as the Marquis was well convinced that his younger
son had rather too many than too few abilities. Cavour saw in
agriculture the only field at present open to him. When he left the
army he scarcely knew a cabbage from a turnip, for he had not been
brought up in the country, but in a few years he familiarised himself
with everything connected with the subject, from the most homely
detail to wide scientific generalisations. With knowledge came
interest, which, absent at first, grew strong, and lasted all his
life. Little, he said, does the outsider know the charm of planting a
field of potatoes or rearing a young heifer! The practical experience
which Cavour gained was precious. How many cabinet ministers in
different parts of the world would lead to bankruptcy a farm, a
factory, a warehouse, even a penny tart shop! As a matter of fact,
one Italian minister of finance was legally interdicted, on the
application of his family, from managing his own estates.

Leri, which Cavour looked upon henceforth as his true home, lies in
one of the ugliest parts of the plains of Piedmont, cold in winter,
scorched by a burning sun in summer, and unhealthy from the
exhalations of the rice-fields which contribute to its wealth. Except
that game was tolerably plentiful, it had none of the attractions of
an English country-seat--the smiling hillside, the ancestral elms, the
park, the garden. Cavour led the simplest life; the old housekeeper
who cooked the dinner also placed it on the table. But the fare, if
plain, was abundant, and Cavour was delighted to entertain his friends
and neighbours, who found him the most affable of hosts, inexhaustibly
good-tempered, a patient listener, a talker abounding in wit and
wisdom. He had the art of adapting himself perfectly to the society in
which he moved, but in one thing he was always the same: wherever he
went he carried his intense vitality--that quality of _entrain_ which
persuades more than eloquence or earnestness. He induced others to
join him in experiments which were then innovations: steam-mills,
factories for artificial manures and the like, while the machinery and
new methods introduced at Leri revolutionised farming in Piedmont. One
great scheme planned by him, an irrigatory canal between the Ticino
and the Po, was only finished after his death, as the most worthy
tribute to his memory. He rose at four, went to see his cattle, stood
in the broiling harvest fields to overlook the reapers, acted, in
short, as his own bailiff, and to these habits he returned in later
years, whenever he had time to visit Leri. Cavour's mind was not
poetic; we hear of his admiring only one poet, Shakespeare, but in
Shakespeare it was probably the deep knowledge of man that attracted
him, the apprehension of how men with given passions must act under
given conditions. He did not, therefore, see country pursuits from a
poet's standpoint, but he appreciated their power of calming men's
minds, of dissipating the fog of unrealities, of tending towards what
Kant called, in a phrase he quoted with approval, "practical reason."
He considered, also, that nothing can so assure the stability of a
nation as an intelligent interest shared by a large portion of its
citizens in the cultivation of the soil. The English country gentleman
who divided his time between his duties in Parliament and those not
less obligatory on his estates was in Cavour's eyes an almost ideal
personage. It should be added that Cavour could not understand a
country life which did not embrace solicitude for the worker. The true
agriculturist gained the confidence of the poor around him; it was, he
said, so easy to gain it. He was kindly, thoughtful, and just in his
treatment of his dependents, and he always retained his hold on their
affections; when Italy was asking what she should do without her great
statesman, the sorrowing peasants of Leri asked in tears what they
should do without their master?

One passage in Cavour's early life was revealed a few years ago, and,
whether or not it was right to reveal it, the portrait would be now
incomplete which did not touch upon it. The episode belongs to the
critical psychological moment in his development: the time immediately
after he left the army, and before he found an outlet for his
activity, and, what was more essential to him, a purpose and an object
not in the distance but straight before him, in the care of his
father's acres. His position at home was not happy; his brother's
small children were of more importance in the household than himself,
and when Cavour once administered a well-merited correction to the
much-spoilt eldest born, the Marquis Gustave threw a chair at his
head. Between the brothers in after life there prevailed remarkable
and unbroken harmony, but it is easy to see that when first grown to
manhood Gustave presumed rather selfishly on his _role_ of heir,
while Camille took too seriously the supposed discovery that he was
"necessary to no one!" Beyond all this, there was the undeclared clash
of the new with the old, the feeling of having moved apart, which
produces a moral vacuum until, by and by, it is realised that the
value of the first affections and ties depends precisely on their
resting on no basis of opinion. Cavour was overwhelmed by a sense of
isolation; if he decided "like Hamlet" (so he writes in his diary) to
abstain from suicide, he believed that he wished himself heartily out
of the world. To his family he seemed an abnormal and unnatural young
man. A conversation is on record which took place between the two
childless aunts who lived with the Cavours. The date was just before
Cavour's departure on a first visit to Paris. "Did you remark," said
Mme. Victoire, "how indifferent Camille seemed when I spoke to him of
the Paris theatres? I really do not know what will interest him on his
travels; the poor boy is entirely absorbed in revolutions." "It is
quite true," replied Mme. Henriette; "Camille has no curiosity about
things, he cares for nothing but politics." And the two ladies went on
to draw melancholy prognostics from their nephew's study of political
economy, "an erroneous and absolutely useless science."

A charming countess who had made a favourite of Cavour in his boyhood
tried to extract a promise from him that he would never again mix
himself up in politics; he refused to give it; sooner or later, he
writes in his diary, she would have blushed for him had he consented.
But, he adds bitterly, what was the good of demanding such a promise
from one for whom politically everything was ended? "Ah! if I were an
Englishman, by this time I should be something and my name would not
be wholly unknown!" Here, again, was a source of depression. At the
Military Academy he had formed one almost romantic comradeship with
a delicate and reserved youth, some years older than himself, Baron
Severino Cassio, to whom he first confided his determination to
Italianise himself: to study the language, history, laws, customs of
the whole country with a view to preparing for the future. Cassio
presciently marked out for his friend the part of architect, not of
destroyer, in that future; architects, he said, were what was most
wanted in public affairs, and Italy had always lacked them. There is
no reason to think that Cassio's sympathy had chilled, but Cavour, in
his morbid state, thought that it was so; he imagined that what
had drawn Cassio to him "was not I, but my powerful intellectual
organisation"; and with undeserved mistrust he did not turn to him for

He was at the nadir of his dejection when he received a letter in a
well-known handwriting, that of a woman who had strongly attracted
him four years before by her beauty, grace, and elevation of mind.
Separation cut short the incipient love-affair, and Cavour never
thought of renewing it. With the woman it was otherwise; from her
first meeting with the youth of twenty to the day of her death,
absent or present, he was the object of an idolatry in which all
her faculties united: her being was penetrated by a self-sustaining
passion which could not cease till it had consumed her. De Stendhal is
the only novelist who could have drawn such a character. She was of
noble birth, and from an early age had been eminently unhappy. Cavour,
in his private papers, called her "L'Inconnue," and so she will be
remembered. Her own life-story, and whether she was free to give her
heart where she would, the world does not and need not know; on the
last point it is enough to say that Cavour's father and mother were
aware of his relations with her and saw in them nothing reprehensible.

On a page meant for no eyes but his own, Cavour describes the
excitement into which he was thrown by the brief letter which
announced that the Unknown had arrived at Turin and that she wished
to see him. He hastened back to town and sought her at her hotel, and
then at the opera where she had gone. After looking all round the
house, he recognised her in a box--the sixth to the left on the first
row--dressed in deep mourning and showing on her face such evident
marks of suffering that he was at once filled with remorse "and
intoxicated by a love so pure, so constant, and so disinterested."
Never would he forsake this divine woman again!

For a moment he thought of flight to distant shores, but he soon
decided that "imperative duties required that she should remain where
she was." Their intercourse chiefly consisted of letters; his do not
seem to exist, hers were found after his death carefully preserved and
numbered. In these letters she laid bare her innermost soul; she was
ardently patriotic, steeped in the ideas of Mazzini, and far more
Italian than Piedmontese, though she wrote in French. She knew
English, and Cavour advised her to read Shakespeare. Remarkably
gifted, she had the deep humility of many of the best Italian women;
"What have I done, O Camille," she asks, "to meet a soul like
yours!... To have known you for an instant fills a long existence; how
can you love me, weak as I am?" She had an astonishing instinct of his
future greatness: "Full of force, life, talent, called, perhaps to
make a brilliant career, to contribute to the general good," such
expressions as these occur frequently in her letters. The romance
ended as it could not help ending. The "eternal vows" were kept for a
year and a few months; then on Cavour's side a love which, though he
did not guess it, had only been a reflection, faded into compassionate
interest. The _Inconnue_ uttered no reproaches; after a few unhappy
years she died, leaving a last letter to her inconstant lover. "The
woman who loved you is dead ... no one ever loved you as she did, no
one! For, O Camille, you never fathomed the extent of her love." With
a broken-hearted pride she declared that "in the domain of death she
surpassed all rivals." It remained true; if Cavour was not, strictly
speaking, more faithful to the _Inconnue's_ memory than he had been to
her while she lived, yet this was the only real love-passage in his
life. Fatal to her, it was fortunate to him. It found him in despair
and it left him self-reliant and matured. The love of such a woman was
a liberal education.



During the fifteen years which he devoted to agriculture, Cavour made
several long and important visits to France and England. In this way
he enlarged his experience, while keeping aloof from the governing
class in his own country, connection with which could, in his opinion,
only bring loss of reputation and effacement in the better days that
were to come. Cavour knew himself to be ambitious, but he had the
self-control never even to contemplate the purchase of what then
passed for power by the sacrifice of his principles. "My principles,"
he once wrote, "are a part of myself." The best way "to prepare for
the honourable offices of the future" was to keep his independence
intact, and to study abroad the working of the institutions which he
wished to see introduced at home. Through his French relations, he
took his place immediately in the best society of the capital of the
citizen king, under whose reign, sordid as it was in some respects,
Paris attained an intellectual brilliancy the like of which was never
equalled in the spectacular glare of the second empire. It was the
moment of a short-lived renaissance; literature, art, science, seemed
to be starting on new voyages of discovery. New worlds were opened up
for conquest; oriental studies for the first time became popular, the
great field of unwritten traditions surrendered its virgin soil. Above
all, it was a time of fermentation in moral ideas; every one expected
the millennium, though there was a lack of agreement as to what it
would consist in. Every one, like Lamennais in Beranger's poem, was
going "to save the world." The Good, the True, the Beautiful, were
about to dislodge the Bad, the False, the Ugly. If all these high
hopes had some fruition in the region of thought, they had none in the
region of facts, but meanwhile they lent a rare charm to Paris in the
Thirties. Cavour speaks of elasticity as the ruling quality of French
society; he praises the admirable union of science and wit, depth and
amiability, substance and form, to be found in certain Parisian salons
and nowhere else. He was thinking especially of the salon of Mme. de
Circourt, who became his friend through life. For no one else had he
quite the same unchanging regard. Attracted as he always was by the
conquest of difficulties, he admired the force of mind and will by
which this Russian lady, whom a terrible accident had made a hopeless
invalid, overcame disabilities that would have reduced most people to
a state of living death. In her, spirit annihilated matter. She joined
French vivacity to the penetrating sensibility of the Sclavonic races,
and she was a keen reader of character. Cavour interested her at once.
Even in his exterior, the young Italian, with blond hair and blue
eyes, was then more attractive than those who only knew the Cavour of
later years could easily believe; while his gay and winning manners,
combined with a fund of information on subjects not usually popular
with the young, could not but strike so discerning a judge as the
Countess de Circourt as indicating not a common personality. She
feared lest so much talent and promise would be suffocated for ever in
the stifling air of a small despotism. Cavour himself drew a miserable
picture of his country: science and intelligence were reputed
"infernal things by those who are obliging enough to govern us"; a
triumphant bigotry trembled alike at railways and Rosmini; Cavour's
aunt, the Duchess de Clermont Tonnerre, only got permission to receive
the _Journal des Debats_ after long negotiations between the French
minister at Turin and the Sardinian government. No wonder if Mme. de
Circourt impulsively entreated the young man to shake the dust of
Piedmont off his feet and to seek a career in France. In his answer
to this proposition, he asks first of all, what have his parents done
that he should plunge a knife into their hearts? Sacred duties bound
him to them, and he would never quit them till they were separated by
the grave. This filial piety stands the more to Cavour's credit, as
his home life had not been very happy. He went on to inquire, what
real inducement was there for him to abandon his native land? A
literary reputation? Was he to run after a little celebrity, a little
glory, without ever reaching the real goal of his ambition? What
influence could he exercise in favour of his unhappy brothers in a
country where egotism monopolised the high places? What was the mass
of foreigners doing which had been thrown into Paris by choice or
misfortune? Who among them was useful to his fellow-men? The political
troubles which desolated Italy had obliged her noblest sons to fly far
from her, but in their exile their eminent faculties became forceless
and sterile. Only one Italian had made a name in Paris, Pellegrino
Rossi; but this man, whose capacities Cavour rated as extraordinary,
reached the summit of success open to him in France when he obtained a
professorship at the Sorbonne and a chair in the Academy, whereas,
in the country which he repudiated, he might have one day guided his
compatriots in the paths of the new civilisation--words which read
like an imperfect prophecy, since the unfortunate Rossi was to lose
his life later in the attempt to reform the papal government. Cavour
repeats that literature would be the only promising opening, and for
literature he feels no vocation; he has a reasoning, not an inventive
head; he does not possess a grain of imagination; in his whole life he
had never been able to construct even the smallest story to amuse a
child; at best he would be a third-class literary man, and he says
in the matter of art he can only conceive one position: the highest.
Certainly he might turn to science; to become a great mathematician,
chemist, physicist, was a way of seeking glory as good as another;
only he confessed that it had few attractions "for the Italian with
the rosy complexion and the smile of a child." Ethical science
interested him more, but this was to be pursued in retirement, not in
great cities. "No, no," he writes, "it is not in flying from one's
fatherland because it is unhappy that one can attain a glorious end."
But if he were mistaken, if a splendid future awaited him on foreign
soil, still his resolution would be the same. Evil be to him who
denies his fellow-countrymen as unworthy of him. "Happy or unhappy, my
country shall have all my life; I will never be unfaithful to her even
were I sure of finding elsewhere a brilliant destiny."

While Cavour was in Paris, Tocqueville's _Democracy in America_ was
published, and immediately gave its author European fame. It did not
probably exercise much influence over Cavour in the formation of
opinions, but he found his own confirmed in it both as to the tendency
of modern societies towards democracy for better or worse, and also as
to the independence of the Church from State control, in which, from
the time that he began to think at all on such matters, he had thought
to see the solution of all difficulties of a politico-religious
sort. Cavour changed his practice, but rarely his mind; most of the
conclusions of the statesman had been reached at twenty-five. It was
not easy for him to take those who fundamentally differed from him
entirely seriously. Once, when he was the guest of the Princess
Belgiojoso, Musset's irresponsive idol and Heine's good angel, the
fair hostess bestowed on him such a republican lecture that he wrote,
"They will not catch me there again"; but he went. At the Duchess
d'Abrantes' receptions he met "the relics of all the governments."
He only spoke on one occasion to Guizot. The minister seems to have
received him coldly. He remarked that with these great people you
must be a person of importance to make any way; an obscure citizen of
Piedmont, unknown beyond the commune of which he was syndic, could
have no chance. With Thiers he got on much better; principles apart,
their temperaments were not inharmonious. Of the literary men Cavour
preferred Sainte Beuve; in Cousin he cared less for the philosopher
than for the friend of Santorre di Santa Rosa, the exiled patriot of
1821. Cousin introduced him to several fervid Italian liberals, among
others Berchet, the poet. He was invited by Alessandro Bixio to meet
the author of _Monte Cristo_. Bixio was one day to be intimately mixed
up in Franco-Italian politics, in which he acted as intermediary
between Cavour and Prince Napoleon. Royer Collard, Jules Simon,
Michelet, Ozanum, Quinet, and the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz were
then giving lectures, which Cavour found time to attend. The great
Rachel filled the stage. Cavour, who in his later years never went to
a theatre except when he wanted to go to sleep, was a warm admirer
of the incomparable actress, who satisfied his requirement of the
absolutely first class in art. He was drawn to the highest genius as
much as he was repelled by mediocrity. He blamed Rachel, however, for
the choice of one particularly repulsive _role_, and suspected that
she chose it because the dress suited her to perfection.

It was always known that Cavour staked considerable sums at cards,
but that he had at one time a real passion for gambling was hardly
supposed till the self-accusations of his journal were laid bare.
Though there was little in him of the Calvinism of his maternal
ancestors, he judged himself on this point with the severity of an
austere moralist. In the world of pleasure in which he moved such
offences were considered venial, but he looked upon them with the
disgust of a man who reckons personal freedom beyond all earthly
goods, and who sees himself in danger of becoming a slave. "The
humiliating and degrading emotions of play" threaten, he says, to
undermine his intellectual and moral faculties; his "miserable
weakness" degrades him in his own eyes; conscience, reason,
self-respect, interest, call upon him to fight against it and destroy
it. From high play at cards to gambling on the Bourse there is but a
step. Cavour embarked in a speculation the success of which depended
on the outbreak of war in the East, which he believed to be imminent.
No war occurred, and the loss of a few hundred pounds obliged him to
apply to his father for supplies. The Marquis sent the money, and
wrote good-naturedly that the mishap might teach Camille to moderate
his belief in his own infallibility. He thought himself the only young
man in the world in whom there was a ready-made minister, banker,
manufacturer, and speculator; and if he did not take care the idea
that he could never be wrong might prevent him from turning to account
the superior gifts with which he was undoubtedly endowed. But the
kindliness of the reproof did not lessen his own sense of shame and
mortification. The lesson was useful; he forsook the Bourse, and at
cards he conquered the passion without giving up the game. Rightly or
wrongly it was said that many years after he played high stakes at
whist with political men to gain an insight into their characters.
In any case there is nothing to show that his fondness for play ever
again led him into excesses which his judgment condemned. He had
recovered his freedom.

Cavour invariably ended his visits to Paris by crossing the Channel,
and, if in the French capital he gained greater knowledge of men, it
was in England that he first grew familiar with the public life which
he considered a pattern for the world. He did not find the delightful
social intercourse to be enjoyed in Paris; in fact, not one of the
persons to whom he brought letters of introduction took the least
notice of him. English society is quicker to run after celebrities
than to discern them in embryo. But the two or three Englishmen whom
he already knew were active in his behalf. William Brokedon, his
old friend the painter, conducted him to the dinner of the Royal
Geographical Society, where a curious thing happened. Cavour's first
essay in public speaking was before an English assembly. After several
toasts had been duly honoured, the Secretary of the Society, to his
unbounded astonishment, proposed his health. Taken unawares, he
expressed his thanks in a few words, which were well received, and on
sitting down he said to his neighbour, the Earl of Ripon, "C'est mon
_maiden speech_!" Lord Ripon remarked, "with a significant smile,"
that he hoped it would be the opening of a long career. He dined with
John Murray, and went to see Faraday, who in his working clothes made
him think of a philosopher of the sixteenth century. At a party given
by Babbage, the mathematician, he met Hallam, Tocqueville, Ada Byron,
and the three beautiful daughters of Sheridan. With Nassau Senior he
began a long friendship, and Edward Romilly, the librarian of Trinity
College, Cambridge, whom he had met at Geneva, introduced him to a
rich landed proprietor of the name of Davenport, who was to prove the
most useful of all his English acquaintances, as he liberally placed
his house in Cheshire at Cavour's disposal to give him an opportunity
of studying English agriculture. The chance was not thrown away.
Cavour learnt everything about the management of a well-ordered
English estate down to the minutest particulars. He admired much,
especially the system of subsoil drainage, then a novelty to
foreigners, but he was not carried away by the beautiful appearance of
the English country so far as to think that the English farmer was in
all respects ahead of the North Italian. He compared the up-and-down
English meadow left to itself with the highly-manured pasture lands of
Piedmont, level as billiard-boards, which yield their three crops of
hay a year. One point Cavour was never tired of impressing on students
of agriculture; it was this, and it exactly shows his habit of mind:
never consider results without knowing what they cost. Correct the
selling price by the cost of production. He had no patience with model
farms; they might be magnificent, but they were not agriculture. In
one of his earliest writings he held them up to ridicule.

In England he studied the then new Poor Laws; even before he started
on his first travels, he decided to inquire into the position of the
poorest classes in the countries he visited. He recognised that the
acknowledgment of the prescriptive right of every member of the
community to food and shelter was the first step to vast changes in
social legislation. Cavour's natural inclinations were more those of
a social and economic reformer than of the political innovator.
Gasworks, factories, hospitals, and prisons were in turn inspected.
Cavour went thoroughly into the questions of prison labour and diet.
He did not object to the treadmill in itself, but thought unfruitful
labour demoralising. Useful work with a small gain reformed the
convict. The prison fare seemed to him rather too good. He was
impressed by the bread "as good as the best that is consumed in the
clubs." Probably, next to the policeman, what impresses the thinking
foreigner most in the British Isles is the Englishman's loaf of white
bread. It might appear that in his close study of utilitarian England,
Cavour missed the greater England of imagination and adventure, of
genius and energy. It is true that he did homage at the shrine of
Shakespeare by a visit to Stratford-on-Avon, and that he declared that
there was no sight in the world equal to the Life Guards on their
superb black horses. But his real appreciation of the greatness of
England is not to be looked for in the jottings of the tourist; it
stands forth conspicuously in his few but singularly weighty early
political writings. The English politician whom he most admired was
Pitt. The preference was striking in a young man who was considered a
dangerous liberal in his own country. It showed amongst other things
an adoption of an English standpoint in appraising English policy
which is rare in a foreigner. "In attacking France," Cavour wrote,
"Pitt preserved social order in England, and kept civilisation in the
paths of that regular and gradual progress which it has followed
ever since." He said of him: "He loved power not as an end but as a
means"--words which long after he applied to himself: "You know that
I care nothing for power as power; I care for it only as a means to
compass the good of my country."

Cavour had the cast of mind which admires in others its own qualities.
As he revered Pitt's "vast and puissant intelligence," so he
sympathised with Peel's logic and courage. Peel was his favourite
among his contemporaries; he called him "the statesman who more
than any other had the instinct of the necessity of the moment." He
foretold Peel's abolition of the Corn Laws at a time when no one else
anticipated it. When he himself was charged by his old friends in the
Turin Chamber with desertion and treason, he reminded them that the
same charges had been made against Peel, but that he was largely
compensated by the knowledge that he had saved England from socialist
commotions, which in that country were in reality even more
threatening in their scope and extent than in the rest of agitated
Europe. He used to say that if Pitt had lived in times of peace he
would have been a reformer after the fashion of Peel and Canning,
adding his own venturesomeness to the largeness of views of the one
and the capable sound sense of the other.

These scattered judgments are drawn from the essays written by Cavour
in the years 1843-46. They appeared in Swiss or French reviews at a
period when it was easier to make a reputation by a magazine article
than it is now. Cavour's monographs attracted attention by the
writer's display of independent thought and firsthand information. The
most interesting now is that on "the condition and future of Ireland,"
which has been often referred to in the British Parliament. Most of
the suggestions made in it have been long since carried into effect,
but it is not these that make the essay still worth reading: it is
Cavour's mode of approaching the question. He writes as what has been
lately called an "Imperialist," though it was formerly thought enough
to say "Englishman." It is doubtful if any foreign publicist ever
wrote in the same spirit on the relations of England and Ireland
either before or since. It is only necessary to be familiar with the
continental press, from Legitimist to Socialist, to know, what he
knew himself, that Cavour was almost in a minority of one. He was not
acquainted with a single English politician; no one influenced him; he
judged the Irish question from the study of history past and present,
and having formed an unpopular opinion, he was prepared to stand by
it. He never held that politics are a game of chance; he believed that
they are subject to fixed laws of cause and effect, and he worked out
political problems by seeking and applying these laws to the case in
point without passion or prejudice. Having satisfied himself that the
union of Ireland and England was for the good of both, he was not
disposed to quarrel with the means by which it was accomplished. When
Pitt failed to carry the Bill for the Union through the Irish House of
Commons, he resorted to the expedient, "which had never failed in the
Dublin Parliament," of corruption on a large scale. He bought rotten
boroughs; he was prodigal of places, honours, pensions, and at the
end of a year he obtained a majority of 168 votes against 73. Was he
wrong? Cavour thought not, though he found no words strong enough to
condemn the men who sold their conscience for place or gold. Public
opinion, he said, has always sanctioned in governments the use of a
different morality from that binding on individuals. In all ages an
extreme indulgence has been shown towards immoral acts which brought
about great political results. He conceded, for the sake of argument,
that such indulgence might be a fatal error; but he insisted that if
Pitt's character was to be blackened because he used parliamentary
corruption, the same censure ought in justice to be extended to the
greatest monarchs of past times, Louis XIV., Joseph II., Frederic the
Great, who, to serve their own ends, outraged the immovable principles
of humanity and morality in a far graver manner than could be laid to
the charge of the illustrious statesman who consolidated the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

On Cavour's own grounds, those of expediency, it might be objected
that a bargain which on one side you allow to be discreditable leaves
the legacy of an indestructible desire on that side to wipe out
the discredit by tearing it up. Though Cavour became great by his
connection with a movement which, before all things, was swayed by
sentiment, he never entirely recognised the part that sentiment plays
in politics. He blamed O'Connell for demanding repeal, which, even if
possible to obtain, would do as much harm to Ireland as to England,
instead of supporting measures that would remove all cause for Irish
discontent. Had he lived long enough he would have seen all those
measures passed, but he would not have seen the end to Irish
discontent. This might have surprised him, but not so much as to see a
great English party advocating disunion, which, he declared, could be
logically supported only "by those who thought it desirable that there
should be a revolution."

Cavour noticed and deplored the unpopularity of England on the
Continent. Extreme parties, opposed in everything else, were agreed
in a violent hatred of that country. The moderate party liked it in
theory, but in reality they had no natural sympathy with it. Only a
few individuals who rose superior to the passions of the multitude
felt the esteem due to a nation which had powerfully contributed to
develop the moral and material resources of the world, and whose
mission was far from ended. The masses were almost everywhere hostile
to it. It was a mistake to suppose that this was the feeling of France
alone; it might be expressed more loudly there, but it was, in fact,
universal. The enemies of progress and the partisans of political
subversion looked on England as their worst adversary: the former
charged her with being the hotbed of revolutionary propagandism; the
latter, perhaps with more reason, considered the English aristocracy
as the corner-stone of the social edifice of Europe. England ought to
be popular with the friends of gradual reform and regular progress,
but a host of prejudices, recollections, passions, produced the
contrary effect. With but little alteration the lines here condensed
might have been written to-day.

A book on railways by Count Petitti had been prohibited in Piedmont.
That railways were connected with the Powers of Darkness was then a
general opinion, shared in particular by Pope Gregory. Cavour reviewed
the book in the _Revue nouvelle_, which was also prohibited, but
sundry copies of it were smuggled into Italy, and one even reached
the king. While Petitti had avoided all political allusions, Cavour's
article abounds in them: railways would promote the moral union of
Italy, which must precede the conquest of national independence.
Municipal jealousies, intellectual backwardness, would disappear, and,
when that happened, nothing could prevent the accomplishment of the
object which was the passionate desire of all--emancipation. A very
small number of ideas forms the intellectual hinge of man in the
aggregate; of these patriotism is only second in importance to
religion. Any conception of national dignity in the masses was
impossible without the pride of nationality. Every private interest,
every political dissension, should be laid aside that Italian
independence might become a fact. Cavour always spoke of Italy--not of
Piedmont, not of Lombardy and Venetia. Rome, still of all cities the
richest in precious memories and splendid hopes, would be the centre
of an iron network uniting the whole peninsula. Some well-intentioned
patriots objected to the increase of railway communication with
Austria from the fear that it would strengthen her military and
political hold over her Italian provinces. Cavour answered that the
great events at hand could not be delayed by the shortening of the
number of hours between Vienna and Milan. On the other hand, when the
relations arising out of conquest were replaced by those of friendship
and equity, rapid communication would promote the moral and
intellectual intercourse, "which, more than any one, we desire,"
between grave and profound Germany and intelligent Italy. In these
pages Cavour foreshadowed the boring of the Alps and the German
alliance, two facts which then seemed equally improbable.

The man was made; he waited for his opportunity. What if it never
came? Can we conceive Cavour's immense energy limited to a rice-field?
Are there really men whom their lot forbids--

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes?

The prophet may cry aloud in the desert, the scientific discoverer may
guess at truths which his age rejects, but the total waste of such a
force as the mind of Cavour seems less easy to imagine than that his
appearance was a sign that the times were ripe for him.



In 1846, Cavour was only known at home as the most unpopular man in
Piedmont. Most people can scarcely be said to be unpopular before they
have occupied any public position, but this, strangely enough, was the
case with Cavour. He was simply a private person, but he was hated
by all parties. His writings, which had made their mark abroad, were
little known in Italy; the reviews in which they appeared could only
be obtained by stealth. No one rightly knew what his views were, but
every one disliked him. Solaro de la Margherita, the retrograde prime
minister, was detested by the liberals, but he had a strong following
among the old Savoyard nobility; Lorenzo Valerio, the radical
manufacturer, was harassed by those in power, but he was adored by the
people; Cavour was in worse odour with both parties than these two men
were with either. Under the porticoes of Turin petty private talk took
the place of anything like public discussion. "By good fortune," as
the prime minister put it, "the press was not free in Piedmont;" quite
the reverse. Gossip, especially spiteful gossip, reigned supreme.
Gossip in both spheres of society was all against Cavour. What might
be called the Court party (though whether the king belonged to it or
it to the king was not clear), with the tenacious memory of small
coteries, still recollected Cavour as the self-willed student of the
Military Academy. Charles Albert himself made an occasional polite
inquiry of the Marquis as to his son's travels and his visits to
prisons and hospitals, but, unless report erred, he was speaking of
him to others as the most dangerous man in his kingdom. The degree
to which Cavour was hated by the conservatives is shown by one small
fact: he was treasurer of an Infant Asylum, but it was thought
necessary privately to ask him to retire for the good of the charity,
his connection with which set all the higher society against it. The
case with the radicals was no better. He belonged to an agricultural
association in which Valerio was a leading spirit; one day he asked
leave to speak, upon which almost all the members present left the
building. On this side, no doubt part of the antipathy arose from
the popular feeling against Cavour's father, who still occupied the
invidious and ill-defined office of Vicario. No particular ferocity
was laid at his door, but he was supposed to serve up all the private
affairs of the good Turinese to the king, and if any one got into
trouble he was thought to be the cause. When the liberals triumphed,
the first thing they did was to oblige him to resign. Then Cavour's
elder brother, though not retrograde on economic subjects, was a
conservative of the old school in politics. In later days Gustavo
always voted against Camillo. In politics the brothers were in
admirable agreement to differ; in fact, after the first trifling jars,
they dwelt to the end in unruffled harmony in the family palace, Via
dell' Arcivescovado. At the time when Gustavo was much better known at
Turin than Camillo the suspicious radical could not persuade himself
that one brother was not as much of an aristocrat as the other.
When Mr. Cobden was cordially received by both Marquis and Count,
a would-be wit exclaimed, "There goes Free-trade in the charge of
Monopoly," which was understood to refer to the false accusation
that the Cavours had stored up a quantity of grain in that year of
scarcity, 1847, in order to sell it dear, the truth being simply that
the improved cultivation introduced at Leri had secured fair crops in
a bad season.

The festivities in honour of the English Free-trader were promoted all
over Italy by Italians who were soon to become famous. The fact that
Cobden was an Englishman, even more than the outwardly harmless object
of his campaign, deterred the different governments from interfering
with him. Cavour proposed the health of the guest of the evening at
the Cobden banquet at Turin, but almost immediately after, he retired
to Leri, as he did not wish it to appear that he meant to embark on
public life while the existing political dead-lock lasted. There was
only room for conspirators or for those who extended toleration to the
_regime_ in force. It is doubtful if anything would have driven Cavour
to conspiracy against his own king, and he would have considered it
a personal disgrace to be mixed up with the men then in power. He
thought, therefore, that he could best serve his country by keeping
himself in reserve. He realised the futility of small concessions, and
the childishness of agitating to obtain them. He was the only
strong royalist who understood how far reform must go when it once
began--farther towards democracy than his own sympathies would have
carried him. If you want to use a mill-stream you must let it flow.

The situation in Piedmont was briefly this: Charles Albert's heart was
with the growing cry for independence, but he wished for independence
without liberty. This was the "secret of the king" which has been
sought for in all kinds of recondite suppositions: this was the key to
his apparently vacillating and inconsistent character. Yet he revealed
it himself in some words spoken to Roberto d'Azeglio, the elder
brother of Massimo. "Marquis d'Azeglio," he said, "I desire as much
as you do the enfranchisement of Italy, and it is for that reason,
remember well, that I will never give a constitution to my people."
While his government was a priestly despotism, he employed his leisure
in translating the sublime appeals to national sentiment in the
history of the Maccabees, of which, by a curious coincidence, Mazzini
once said that it seemed written for Italians. Charles Albert made the
mistake of forgetting the age in which he lived. His ancestors fought
the stranger without troubling themselves about representative
government--why should not he? But his ancestors represented in their
own persons the nerve and sinew of the State, its most adventurous
spirit, its strongest manhood, whereas Charles Albert represented only
the party of reaction which was with him in his absolutism but not
in his patriotism. He was accused of having changed sides, but, even
allowing his complicity in the movement of 1821 to have been greater
than he admitted, it is plain that the one thing which drew him into
that movement was its championship of Italian independence. Unlike the
Neapolitan revolutionists who disclaimed adventures for the freeing
of Italy, at least till they had made sure of their own freedom, the
liberals of Piedmont rose with the avowed purpose of rushing into an
immediate war with Austria. A madder scheme was never devised, but the
madness of one day is often the wisdom of the next. In politics really
disinterested acts bear fruit, whatever be their consequences to

The question which agitated all minds in 1847 was whether or not
Charles Albert could be gained to the liberal cause. Many despaired,
for by many even his Italian ambition was denied. Cavour had no
favourable opinion of the king, but it was one of his theories that
erroneous ideas always yield in the end to facts. He believed that
Charles Albert's support could be secured if he were fully persuaded
that the interests of his dynasty were not imperilled. He was not
afraid, as others were, that even after the first surrender the
wavering mind of the king would make retrogression probable; he
understood that, if reforms were more difficult to obtain in Piedmont
than elsewhere, they would be more durable when obtained. At last a
concession of real value was wrung from the king: the censure was
revoked. Cavour saw that the press, which till then had been a cipher,
would instantly become of vast importance. He left his retirement to
found a newspaper, to which he gave the name by which the Italian
movement will be known in history--_Il Risorgimento_. He was not a
born journalist, but he set himself with his usual determination to
learn the art. In after times he said that the experience gained in a
newspaper office was almost as profitable to him as the knowledge
of mathematics. Count Cesare Balbo was asked by Cavour to write the
prospectus of the new journal, in which its aims were described as
Independence, union between the princes and people, and reforms.
Cavour's name appeared as acting and responsible editor.

Balbo's work, _Le Speranze d'Italia_, had lately created an
impression, only second to that made by the Primato of Gioberti.
Practical men like Cavour preferred the simple programme which Balbo
put forward--the liberation of Italy from foreign yoke before all
things--to Gioberti's mystical outpourings, much as they pleased
the general. Gioberti, once a follower of Mazzini, and afterwards a
priest, imagined a United Italy, with the Pope at its head, which, to
unthinking souls, seemed to be on the road to miraculous realisation
when the amiable and popular Cardinal Mastai Feretti was invested with
the tiara. Cavour never had any hope in the Papacy as a political

The Genoese, impatient of the extreme slowness with which reforms were
meted out, proposed to send a deputation with a petition for a civic
guard, and the expulsion of the Jesuits, to whom the delay was
attributed, and who were regarded as the worst enemies of the liberal
Pope. The principal editors, with other influential citizens of Turin,
met at the Hotel d'Europe to consider how the deputation should be
received, and if their demands were to be supported. The list of the
journalists present comprises the best names in the country; it would
be difficult to find more distinguished or disinterested pressmen than
those who were then writing for the Piedmontese newspapers. Valerio
was there to represent his new journal, _Concordia_, in which he
carried on war to the knife with Cavour. His high personal character,
as well as his talents, made him no inconsiderable opponent. It was at
this meeting that Cavour first entirely revealed himself. He showed
that faith in _the prudence of daring_ which was the keynote to his
great strokes of policy. The demands of the Genoese, he said, were not
too large, but too small. They hit wide of the mark, and the second of
them was idle, because the king, while he remained an absolute prince,
was certain not to consent to it. The government was now neither one
thing nor the other; it had lost the authority of an autocracy, and
had not gained that of a _regime_ based on the popular will. The
situation was intolerable and dangerous; what was wanted was not this
or that reform, but a constitution.

Constitutions seem tame to us now, but to speak of a constitution at
Turin on January 18, 1848, was almost as audacious as it would be to
speak of it at St. Petersburg at the present time. Europe stood at the
brink of a precipice, but knew it not. The news had only just spread
of the first symptom of revolution--the rising in Sicily. Cavour's
speech was a moral bomb-shell. Most politicians begin by asking for
more or less than the measure which finally contents them; those
who cried for a republic have been known to put up with a limited
monarchy; those who preached the most moderate reforms, at a later
stage have danced round trees of liberty. Cavour asked at once
for what he wanted and all that he wanted as far as the internal
organisation of the State was concerned. From first to last he
believed that a constitutional monarchy was the only form of
government which, in a country like Italy, could combine freedom with
order. Under no narrower system would he accept office, and when in
office nothing could make him untrue to his constitutional faith; "no
state of siege" was the axiom of his political life.

How his proposal was received shows the difficulties with which he had
to contend from the outset. The more moderate members of the meeting
thought that he had taken leave of his senses. This was natural. Less
natural was the tooth and nail opposition of Valerio, who declared
that a constitution much exceeded the desires of the people, and that
a petition for it would only frighten the king. He carried all the
radicals with him except Brofferio, an honest patriot and the writer
of charming poems in the Piedmontese dialect, which gave him a great
popularity. Brofferio was an ultra-democrat, but he was no party man,
and he had the courage to walk over to the unpopular editor of the
_Risorgimento_ with the remark, "I shall always be with those who ask
the most." Valerio made no secret among his private friends of the
real reasons of his conduct. What was the good of wasting efforts on
some sort of English constitution, perhaps with a House of Lords and
other such abominations? Was it likely that anything worth having
would be excogitated by Milord Camillo, the greatest reactionary in
the kingdom, the sworn foe of revolution, "un Anglomane pur sang?" A
constitution could only check the revolution and stifle the legitimate
aspirations of the people. The nickname of "Milord Camillo" or "Milord
_Risorgimento_" was in everyone's mouth when speaking of Cavour.

A short time sufficed to show not only the expediency but the
necessity of granting a constitution, and that at once. Events never
moved so fast as in the first two months of 1848. The throne of Louis
Philippe was tottering, and, with the exception of the Duke of Modena,
the princelings of Italy snatched the plank of safety of a statute
with the alacrity of drowning men. In this crisis Charles Albert
thought of abdication. Besides the known causes of his hesitancy,
there was one then unknown: the formal engagement, invented by
Metternich and forced upon him by his uncle Charles Felix, to govern
the country as he found it governed. He called the members of the
royal family together and informed them that if there must be a
constitution there must, but the decree which bestowed it would be
signed by his son. The queen and the Duchess of Savoy, who were both
extremely afraid of him, sat in silence; the handsome Duke of Genoa
tried to prove that constitutions were not such dreadful things;
Victor Emmanuel opposed his intention of abdicating in resolute terms.
Then he summoned a high ecclesiastic, who succeeded in convincing him
that it would be a greater sin to abandon his people in their need
than to break a promise he could no longer maintain. After mortifying
the flesh with fasts and vigils, he yielded, and the famous decree
bore the signature "C. Alberto" after all,--not written indeed in the
king's usually beautiful character, but betraying rather a trembling
hand, which nevertheless registered a great because a permanent
fact. This was not the prelude to perjury and expulsion. Around the
Sardinian statute were united the scattered limbs of Italy, and after
fifty years Charles Albert's grandson commemorated its promulgation at
the Capitol.

Not a man in the crowd at Turin dared to anticipate such a result:
yet their joy was frantic. Fifty thousand people, arranged in guilds,
defiled before the king, who sat like a statue on his bay horse,
upright and impassible. Cavour walked in the company of journalists,
and all those who had opposed him a few weeks before were there too,
with Valerio at their head. They sang their strophe of Mameli's hymn,
"Fratelli d'Italia," very badly. Cavour whispered to his neighbour,
"We are so many dogs!"

That neighbour, a Milanese named Giuseppe Torelli, has left an
interesting description of Cavour's appearance as it was then. He was
fresh-coloured, and his blue eyes had not yet lost their brightness,
but they were so changeful in expression that it was difficult to fix
their distinctive quality. Though rather stout he was not ungainly, as
he tended to become later. He stooped a little, and two narrow lines
were visible on either side of a mouth, cold and uneffusive; but these
lines, by their trembling or contraction, showed the play of inward
emotion which the rest of the face concealed. In after days people
used to watch them in order to guess his state of mind. It was his
large and solid forehead that chiefly gave the idea of power which
every one who saw him carried away, despite of the want of dignity in
his person and of strongly-marked features in his face. His manners
were simple, but distinguished by an unmistakably aristocratic ease
and courtesy. He spoke generally low and without emphasis, and always
appeared to pay great attention to what was said to him, even by the
least important person.

Nothing, on the face of it, could seem more extraordinary than the
exclusion of Cavour from office in the momentous year of 1848. But
he had no popular party at his back whose cry could overrule the
disinclination which the king certainly felt towards making him his
Minister. Moreover, his abilities, though now generally recognised,
contributed to keeping him in the background: it was felt
instinctively that if he got the reins there would be only one driver.
He was known to be indifferent to criticism, and while he listened
patiently to advice, he rarely took it. He had mortally offended the
conservatives by the liberalism of his means, and the liberals by the
conservatism of his ends. Count Balbo, on assuming the office of the
first Prime Minister under the Statute, not only retired from the
directing council of the _Risorgimento_, but went out of his way to
disavow the policy supported in it by Cavour. "The little rascal," he
was heard to say, "will end by ruining the splendid edifice raised
by the wisdom and moderation of so many estimable men!" The
splendid edifice was on the verge of being nearly ruined, but by
timidity--which has lost a score of thrones,--not by audacity. The new
Cabinet entered upon their duties on March 16. Two days later
occurred an event utterly unforeseen--the rising of Milan against the
Austrians. It took them unprepared. They had talked so much about war
that perhaps they thought it would happen in the next century. When
the "now or never" sounded, which does sound sooner or later in all
human affairs, they hesitated or suffered the king to hesitate, which
came to the same thing. That Charles Albert stood for one instant in
doubt when the hour was come desired by him all his life, as he had
often stated, and there is no reason to think untruly, is possibly the
most serious stain on his memory. There are moments when to reflect
is criminal: a man has no right to reflect when his mother is in a
burning house. The reflections which held Charles Albert back were
two. He was afraid that the Milan revolution would breed a republic,
and he was afraid of England and of Russia. England, which during the
previous autumn had sent Lord Minto to urge upon the Italian princes
a line of policy rightly described by Prince Metternich as inevitably
leading to an attack on Austria, now applied the whole force of her
diplomacy to stop the ball she had herself set running. The spectacle
of Lord Palmerston trying to save or serve Austria, which he detested,
in obedience to the atavistic tendencies of the Foreign Office, is
a lesson in history. For English politicians of whatever party or
private sentiments, Austria was still what Lord Castlereagh called
her: "The great hinge on which the fate of Europe must ultimately
depend." Sir Ralph Abercromby assured the king that "the least act of
aggression" would place his throne in jeopardy. His throne was already
in jeopardy, but from the contrary reason. Each minute that passed
while the Milanese were fighting their death struggle and he stood
inactive threatened to deprive him and his house of that power of
progress on which not only their fortune but their existence depended.

The news from Milan reached Turin on March 19; on the 23rd, the last
of the Milan days, king and ministry were still hesitating. On that
day Cavour printed in the _Risorgimento_ the most impassioned piece
of writing that ever came from his pen. The conservative, the
reactionary, once more cried aloud that audacity was prudence,
temerity wisdom. The supreme hour of the Savoy dynasty had struck,
the hour of strong resolves, on which hangs the fate of empires, the
destinies of peoples. Hesitation, doubt, delay, were no more possible:
they could only prove fatal. "We, men of calm minds, accustomed to
listen more to the dictates of reason than to the impulses of the
heart, after deliberately weighing each word we utter, are bound in
conscience to declare that only one path is open to the nation, the
government, the king: war, immediate war!" It was said, he continued,
that Russia and England were on the point of uniting against Italy. In
common times such an argument would be conclusive, not now. When Milan
was struggling for life, was perhaps getting worsted, at all costs
they were bound to fly to the rescue. Duty, brotherhood, policy,
commanded it. Woe unto them if they crossed the frontier to find that
Milan had fallen.

Russia, through her ambassador, intimated that she would regard the
crossing of the Ticino as a _casus belli._ The threat made less
impression at Turin than the warnings of Sir Ralph Abercromby; it was
the possibility of English intervention, therefore, that Cavour went
on to examine. The _Anglomane_ "Milord _Risorgimento_" was less
surprised at the current of English official thought than were his
radical critics, but would any English minister, he asked, enter on a
European war to prevent the liberation of Italy, which was an object
sacred in the eyes of the mass of the English people? He believed it
to be impossible, but were it so, so be it! England would have against
her a mighty coalition, not of princes, as in former days, but of
peoples, in the old world and in the new. Victory in such a matricidal
strife would be as fatal to the first-born of liberty as defeat.

Thus Cavour was prepared to fight Austria, Russia, and England. The
division of parties at that time was in its essence the division of
those who were willing to accept a republican solution and those
who were not. It does not follow that all the liberals wished for a
republic, but they would all have taken office under it. Of this there
is little doubt. Cavour never would have become a republican any more
than an absolutist minister. But he saw what the other conservatives
failed to see, that the dynasty of Savoy could only live if it led.

On March 22, Charles Albert was still assuring the Austrian Ambassador
that his intentions were pacific. Next day Cavour's article appeared,
and in the evening the king decided for instant war. Only two of
the ministers assented at once; the others gave in after a long
discussion. War was declared on the 25th. Time lost cannot be
recalled; the happy moment had been let go by; Piedmont went not to
Lombardy engaged in a dangerous struggle, but to Lombardy victorious.
Cavillers said that the king had come to eat the fruits others had
gathered. Confidence in the ultimate result reached the point of
madness, but with revolution stalking through the streets of Vienna
the Austrian eagle seemed to have lost its talons. In May 1848, in
Austria itself, Lombardy was looked upon as completely lost, and with
it the Southern Tyrol as far as Meran, for no one at that period
thought of separating this Italian district from Italy; the most
sanguine Austrians only hoped to save Venetia. Radetsky alone expected
to save all, because he knew what he could do, and he had judged
Sardinian generalship correctly. Charles Albert's staff seemed to have
but one idea--to reverse the tactics which had led the first Napoleon
to victory on the same ground.

The brightest gleam of success which shone on the king of Sardinia's
arms was at Goito, in the battle of May 30. It was on that occasion
that Cavour's nephew, Augusto di Cavour, was killed. The _enfant
terrible_ grew up to be a young man of singular promise, on whom
Cavour had fixed all his hopes for the future of his name and house.
His uncle's last letter of encouragement to do his duty was found on
Augusto's body. The blow unnerved Cavour; he was found lying prostrate
in an agony of speechless grief. Through his life he kept the
blood-stained uniform in which the young officer received his
death-wound in a glass case in his bedroom, a piece of enduring
sentiment which shows how unlike Cavour was the coldly calculating
egotist whose portrait has passed for his.

The story of the years of revolution in Italy is a story of great
things and small, like most human records; but, when all is said, the
great predominate, for no blunders could efface the readiness for
self-sacrifice displayed by the whole people. The experience of these
years was bitter, but possibly necessary. It destroyed illusions.
It showed, for instance, that in the nineteenth century a free and
independent Italy under the hegemony of the Pope belonged to political
mythology. Here was a Pope who was, at heart, patriotic, but who drew
back at the crucial moment, precisely as Mazzini (almost alone) had
predicted. The first threat of a schism was enough to make him wear
dust and ashes for his patriotism. The Bourbons of Naples were
ascertained to have learnt nothing and unlearnt nothing; perfidy alone
could be expected from them. It was proved that the princes of the
other states, Piedmont excepted, must gravitate towards Austria even
if they did not wish it. All this was useful, if dearly bought,

At the first general elections in Piedmont, Cavour failed to obtain a
seat. He told the electors in his address that he had always desired
_Italia unita e libera_, and if "united" did not yet imply "under
one king," the phrase was still significant. Two months later he was
elected in four divisions; probably the death of his nephew in
the interim on the field of battle modified, for the time, his
unpopularity. He took his seat for the first college of Turin. He did
not make an immediate impression; his short stature, and still more
the imperfect accent with which he spoke Italian, were not in his
favour. French was allowed in the Sardinian Chamber, but Cavour never
opened his lips in it in Parliament. By degrees his speeches became
marvels of close reasoning, and they even soared, sometimes, when
he was deeply moved, into a kind of eloquence superior to that of
rhetoric, but the accent was never such as would satisfy a fastidious
ear. The day came, however, when people hung with too much anxiety on
the least of his utterances for any one to notice this defect. Cavour
sat on the Right, and from the first he horrified his colleagues on
the same benches by the enunciation of views which to them were rank
heresies. They existed in a state of perpetual uneasiness as to what
he might say or do next.

Cavour was not re-elected when Parliament was dissolved in January
1849; he was therefore not in the Chamber during the debates which
preceded and followed the last desperate throw of Novara. A letter
written by him six days after the battle shows what he thought of
those events. The Conservative party, he says, which represented the
great majority in the country, had been badly supported by it (an
assertion as true now as then). The king threw himself into the arms
of demagogues who thought that freedom and independence were to be won
by phrases and proclamations. The army had been disheartened, the best
officers kept inactive; twelve months' sacrifices of men and money
placed them in a worse condition than before the Milan revolution.
Self-love might, he concluded, warp his judgment, but he had the
intimate conviction that, if he had held the reins of power, he could
have saved the country without any effort of genius, and planted the
Italian flag on the Styrian Alps. But his friends joined with his foes
to keep him out of power, and he had passed his time in deploring
faults which it would have been very easy to avoid.

Remembering what Cavour afterwards accomplished, these are words which
should not be set lightly aside. Yet it is possible that the complete
disaster into which Charles Albert rushed at Novara was the only thing
to save the country and to lay the foundations of Italian unity. The
king was more eager for war than the most unthinking democrat. Reviled
by all parties, he sought the great conciliator, death. "The Italians
will never trust me," he exclaimed. "My son, Victor, will be king of
Italy, not I." When the death he would have chosen was denied him, he
went away, a crownless exile. He could do no more.

It was necessary, as Charles Albert had seen, that the king who was to
carry out the destinies of Italy should be trusted. Victor Emmanuel
came to the throne with few advantages; he was unpopular, his private
friends were said to be reactionaries, his brusque manners offended
most people. He had practically no advisers in these critical moments,
but the moral courage with which he refused the Austrian offers of
lenient terms if he would repudiate the Statute and his father's word,
won for him the nation's trust, which he never lost. Cavour, with all
his genius, could not have made the kingdom of Italy if the Italians
had doubted their king.



The condition of Italy, Cavour said, was worse at the end of the
year's struggle than at the beginning. Such was the case, if the
present only were looked at. When Austria resumed her sway in Lombardy
and Venetia she resumed it by the right of the conqueror, a more
intelligible, and in a sense a more legitimate, right than that
derived from bargains and treaties in which the population had no
voice. The House of Hapsburg was saved in Italy by one loyal servant,
Radetsky, and in Hungary by the Ban of Croatia and 200,000 Russians.
Besides the regained supremacy in the Lombardo-Veneto, Austria was
more predominant in the centre and south than in the palmiest days of
the Holy Alliance. A keen observer might have held that she was too
predominant to be safe. Talleyrand always said that if Italy were
united under Austria she would escape from her, not sooner or later,
but in a few years. There was not political unity, but there may
almost be said to have been moral unity. Even in Rome, in spite of the
French garrison, Austrian influence counted for much more than French.
When Victor Emmanuel gave the premiership to Massimo d'Azeglio, Cavour
remarked that he was glad of the appointment, and equally so that
D'Azeglio had not asked him to be his colleague, because in the actual
circumstances it seemed to him difficult or impossible to do any good.
D'Azeglio could not have offered Cavour a portfolio without undoing
the effect of his own appointment, by which confidence in Victor
Emmanuel was confirmed. The king was not sufficiently known for it to
be wise to place beside him an unpopular man, a suspected _codino_,
the nickname ("pig-tail") given to reactionaries. D'Azeglio, who was
really prepared to go far less far than Cavour, was almost loved
even by his political enemies, a wonderful phenomenon in Italy. His
patriotism had been lately sealed by the severe wound he received
at Vicenza. To rigid principles he added attractive and chivalric
manners, which smoothed his relations with the young king, who, if
brusque himself, did not like brusqueness in others.

Cavour retired, as became his wont, to enjoy the sweetness of
rural leisure at Leri: for him the sovereign remedy to political
disquietude. The well-cultivated fields, the rich grass lands, in the
contemplation of which he took a peaceful but lively satisfaction,
restored as usual his mental equilibrium, and brought back the
hopefulness of his naturally sanguine temperament. Before long he was
exhorting his friends to be of good cheer; while liberty existed in
a single corner of the peninsula there was no need to despair; if
Piedmont kept her institutions free from despotism and anarchy, these
would be the means of working efficaciously for the regeneration of
the country. To those who went to see him he said, rubbing his hands
(a sure sign that he was regaining his spirits), "We shall begin
again, and, profiting by past mistakes, we shall do better next time."
Probably he foresaw that "next time" he would have the game in his own

The king had done his part by proving his resolve to uphold the
constitution, but all danger for liberty in Piedmont did not cease
there. The members of the party which had ruled during the earlier
years of Charles Albert's reign did not give themselves up for lost.
They cherished the hope of using the constitution to overturn liberty.
On the face of things, the moral to be drawn from recent history
was for and not against them. They could say that the only patent
consequence of the change of system was that the country had been
plunged in disaster, that blood and money had been wasted with no
other effect than a bankrupt exchequer, a beaten army, trade at a
standstill, misery stalking through the land. This party, which was
by no means weak, could reckon on the compact support of Savoy, where
Italian patriotism was as scarce as true and chivalric attachment to
the royal house was abundant. Above all, it had the support of the
whole power of the Church, which, through its corporations and
religious orders and its army of priests, exercised an influence
in Piedmont unparalleled in Austria or in Spain. If the liberal
institutions of the country were to be preserved, it was necessary to
strike a blow at this party by weakening the arch on which it reposed.
Religious toleration had been proclaimed in Piedmont as one of the
first reforms, the concession having been obtained from Charles Albert
by the Marquis Robert d'Azeglio, a conservative and a profoundly
convinced Catholic, but a lover of justice and mercy, who esteemed
it the happiest day of his life when, through his interposition,
the faithful Vaudois were granted the rights of free citizens. But
legislation had not yet touched the extraordinary privileges arrogated
to itself by the Church. One of these, the _Foro ecclesiastico_, a
special court for the judgment of ecclesiastical offenders against
the common law, it was now proposed to abolish. It was a test
measure--like throwing down the gauntlet. Cavour had been re-elected
when the king dissolved Parliament by what is known as the
Proclamation of Moncalieri, and in the debates on the _Foro
ecclesiastico_ for the first time he made his power felt in the
Chamber. He spoke as one who had long thought out the subject and had
chosen his policy: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's,
and to God the things which are God's."

At this first stage in the long struggle the Roman curia might have
settled the matter in a friendly way, but it would not. Cardinal
Antonelli replied to a respectful invitation, that "the Holy Father
was ready to go to the ante-chamber of the devil's house to please the
king of Sardinia, but he really could not go inside." Yet, at the
same date, the Archbishop of Paris (Sibour) admitted to a Piedmontese
visitor that the Sardinian Government had no option under the new
institutions but to establish the equality of all citizens before the
law, and in Austria they were laughing at the progressive monarchy in
its laborious efforts to obtain reforms carried out in the despotic
empire by Joseph II. The reason that Rome refused to treat was that
she thought herself strong and Sardinia weak. Writers on this period
have too readily assumed that the Church, by the law of its being,
must always cry "no compromise!" Of course nothing can be more
erroneous. The Church has yielded as many times as it thought itself
obliged to yield. What other inference can be deduced from the strange
and romantic story of the suppression of the Jesuits? and, to
cite only one more instance, from the deposition of bishops for
extra-canonical reasons conceded by Pius VII. to the First Consul? The
curia thought that Victor Emmanuel would end at Canossa, but he ended
instead in the Pantheon. It should be remembered, however, that the
quarrel had nothing then to do with the dispute between pope and king
on the broader grounds of the possession of Rome. That dispute was
still in the darkness of the future. Sardinia had not given even moral
support to the Roman Republic.

In Cavour's able speech of March 7, 1850, he observed that his
friends, the Liberal Conservatives, feared the erection of the
priesthood into a party hostile to the State. Peace was precious, but
too heavy sacrifices might be made even to it. He himself trusted that
in the long run the priesthood would recognise the necessity to modern
society of the union of the two great moral forces, religion and
liberty. Europe was threatened with universal revolution; only large
and courageous reforms could stem the tide. M. Guizot might have
saved the throne of Louis Philippe had he yielded to the demand for
electoral reform. Why had there been no revolution in England? Because
the Duke of Wellington in 1829, Lord Grey in 1832, and Sir Robert Peel
in 1846, understood the exigencies of their epoch, proving themselves
thereby to be the first statesmen of the time. Uninfluenced by the
furious attacks on him as an _Anglomane_, Cavour took the first
opportunity of reaffirming from his seat in Parliament the admiration
for English methods which he had constantly expressed outside. He
closed his speech by appealing to Government to persevere in its
policy of large and fearless reforms, which, far from weakening the
constitutional throne, would so strengthen its roots that not only
would Piedmont be enabled to resist the revolutionary storm should it
break around its borders, but also "gathering to itself all the living
forces in Italy, it would be in a position to lead our mother-country
to those high destinies whereunto she is called."

The effect of this peroration was inconceivable. Here was the first
word of hope publicly uttered since the _debacle_! People in the
galleries who had seen Cavour usually silenced by clamour and howls
heard the applause with astonishment, and then joined in it. All the
ministers rose to shake hands with the speaker. Any other man would
have become popular at once, but against Cavour prejudice was too
strong for a fleeting success to remove it. From that day, however,
he was listened to. He was no longer a _quantite negligeable_ in the
politics of Italy or of Europe.

One of the ministers, Count Pietro di Santa Rosa, died within a few
months of the bill on the _Foro_ becoming law, and the last sacraments
were denied to him because he refused to sign a retractation of the
political acts of the cabinet of which he was a member. Cavour was an
old friend of Santa Rosa. He was present when he died, and he heard
from the Countess the particulars of the distressing scene when the
priest in the harshest manner withheld the consolations of religion
from the dying man, who was a pious Catholic, but who had the strength
of mind even in death not to dishonour himself and his colleagues.
Cavour wrote an indignant article in the _Risorgimento_ denouncing the
party spite which could cause such cruel anguish under a religious
cloak, and the people of Turin became so much excited that if the
further indignity of a refusal of Christian burial had been resorted
to, as at first seemed probable, the lives of the priests in the city
would hardly have been safe. Everything seemed to point to Cavour as
Santa Rosa's successor, but Massimo d'Azeglio felt nervous at taking
the final step. He was encouraged to it by General La Marmora, the
friend of both, who declared that "Camillo was a _gran buon diavolo_,"
who would grow more moderate when "with us." Cavour accepted the
offered post of Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, but not without
making terms. He exacted the retirement of a minister whom he
considered incurably timorous, especially in ecclesiastical
legislation. The point was yielded, but D'Azeglio said to La Marmora,
"We are beginning badly with your _buon diavolo_." The good Massimo
got no comfort from the king: "Don't you see that this man will turn
you all out?" Victor Emmanuel casually remarked, or rather he made use
of a stronger idiom in his native dialect, which would not well bear
translation. The king refrained from opposing the appointment, but he
did not pretend that he liked it.

About that time Cavour paid a visit to the Piedmontese shore of the
Lago Maggiore, where he made the acquaintance of the author of the
_Promessi Sposi_. Perhaps by reason of his poetic instinct Manzoni
expected great things of him from the first. "That little man promises
very well," he told the poet Berchet. And he opened his heart to
Cavour, telling him that dream of Italian unity which he had always
cherished, but which, as he said in his old age, he kept a secret for
fear of being thought a madman. They looked across the blue line of
water; there, on the other side, was Austria. Had Cavour said what he
thought, he would have responded, "That is the first stone to move."
But he did not enter upon a discussion; he merely murmured, rubbing
his hands, "We shall do something!"

To the end Cavour evoked more ready sympathy among men of the other
provinces than among the Piedmontese, although these last came to
repose the blind trust in him which the Duke of Wellington's soldiers
reposed in their leader--a trust born of the conviction that he would
lead to victory. Latterly this was Victor Emmanuel's own way of
feeling towards Cavour. Sympathy was always lacking.

On taking office Cavour sold his shares in the agricultural and
industrial speculations which he had promoted, with the exception of
one company, then not in a flourishing state, and likely to collapse
if he withdrew his name. He also severed his connection with the
_Risorgimento_, which had cost him much money and made him many
enemies, but he believed that the services rendered by it to the cause
of orderly liberty were incalculable. He never regretted his years of
work in the _antro_, the wild beasts' den, as the advanced liberals
called the office of the journal, a name gaily adopted by himself.
As editor of the _Risorgimento_ he fought his one duel; a scandalous
attack on the personal honesty of the writers was made by a Jewish
financier in an obscure Nizzard sheet; an encounter with pistols
followed in which no one was hurt, but both sides seemed to have aimed
in earnest. There is a tragic absurdity in the possible extinction
of such a life as Cavour's on so paltry an occasion; yet, in the
surroundings in which he moved, he could not have passed over the
worthless attack in the silent contempt it deserved without being
called a coward. At the conclusion of the duel he walked away, turning
his back on his adversary, but no long time elapsed before, as
minister, he was taking trouble to obtain for this man some honorific
bauble which his vanity coveted.

On taking office, Cavour doubted for a moment his own future, the
doubt common to men who reach a position they have waited for too
long. In these times, he wrote, politicians were soon used up;
probably it would be so with him. But the work of his department
dispelled gloomy thoughts: as Minister of Commerce he negotiated
treaties with France, England, and Belgium in which a step was made
towards realising his favourite theories on free trade. Before long he
was also made Minister of the Marine; it was taken for granted that
he could do as much work as two or three other men. Though both these
offices were secondary, Cavour became insensibly leader of the house.
Questions on whatever subject were answered by him, and he was not
careful to consult his chief as to the tenor of his replies. Massimo
d'Azeglio said with a rueful smile that he was now like Louis
Philippe: he ruled, but did not govern. Cavour stated his own
opinions, whether they were popular or unpopular, consonant with those
of his party or directly opposed to them. A deputy asked Government
to interfere with the mode and substance of the teaching in the
seminaries. Cavour immediately answered that he would hold such
interference to be a most fatal act of absolutism; the person to
control the instruction given in the seminaries was the bishop; let
bishops play the part of theologians, not of deputies, and let the
Government govern, and not play the theologian. Some one pointed out
that this was quite at variance with what had been said by the other
ministers; Cavour excused himself towards his colleagues, but repeated
that the principle was one of supreme importance. He had spoken "less
as a minister than as a politician." And he never learnt to speak
otherwise until there was a ministry in which (to borrow a once often
quoted witticism) all the ministers were called Cavour.

The energy with which Cavour repudiated the idea of interfering with
the seminaries is interesting on other grounds. Possibly he was the
only continental statesman who ever saw liberty in an Anglo-Saxon
light. This is further shown by the policy he advocated in dealing
with the Jesuits. He did not like the Society, which he described as a
worse scourge to humanity than communism. You must not judge its real
nature, he said, by observing it where its position is contested and
precarious. Look at it, rather, where it has a loose rein, where it
can apply its rules in a logical and consequent manner, where
the whole education of youth is in its hands. The result is _une
generation abatardie_. But the remedy he proposed was not repression.
He wished to grant the Jesuits three, four, ten times the liberty they
gave to others in the countries under their power. In a free country
they could do no harm; they would be always obliged to modify and
transform themselves and would never gain a real empire either in the
world of politics or intellect The great Pombal, who may be called the
Cavour of Portugal, took his conception of a free state from England,
like the Italian statesman, but he did not understand that persecution
is an unfortunate way of inaugurating liberty. This is what for Cavour
was "a principle of supreme importance."

In April 1851 Cavour took the office of Minister of Finance; he had
exacted the resignation of his predecessor, Nigra, as the price of
his remaining in the Cabinet. The Minister of Public Instruction also
resigned owing to disagreements with the now all-powerful member
of the Government, and was replaced by a nominee of Cavour's, L.C.
Farini, the Romagnol exile, author of _Lo Stato Romano_, whose
appointment was significant from a national point of view,
notwithstanding his ultra-conservative opinions. Cavour mentioned that
Farini's work had been praised by Mr. Gladstone, "one of the most
illustrious statesmen in Europe," at which the Chamber applauded
wildly, as Cavour intended it to do. Ever watchful for any sign from
abroad which could profit Italy, he was glad of what seemed a chance
opportunity to provoke a demonstration in honour of the writer of the
_Letters to Lord Aberdeen_ on the Neapolitan prisons, which were just
then creating an immense sensation. In Italy Mr. Gladstone was the
most popular man of the hour; in France, still calling itself a
republic, all parties except the reduced ranks of the advanced
liberals were very angry--not with King Bomba, but with his accuser. A
harmless cousin of Mr. Gladstone was blackballed in a club in Paris on
account of the name he bore. Nobody ever had such a good heart as the
king of Naples, Count Walewski went about declaring, in support of
which he told Mr. Monckton Milnes that Ferdinand had recently granted
his request to pardon three hundred prisoners against whom nothing was
proved. "How grateful they must have been," replied the Englishman;
"did not they come and thank you for having obtained their
deliverance?" Taken off his guard and unconscious of the irony,
Walewski made the admission that the three hundred were debarred from
the pleasure of paying him a visit because, though pardoned, they were
not released!

This little story was related to Lord Palmerston, in whom it fanned
the fuel of the indignation roused by Mr. Gladstone's _Letters_, of
which he had written that "they revealed a system of illegality,
injustice, and cruelty which one would not have imagined possible
nowadays in Europe." But he employed still stronger language against
the Austrians, whose method of reimposing their rule in Lombardy had
lost them all their friends in England, for the time at least, and had
worked their foes up to the point of fury. Those were the days when
they sang at Vienna:

Hat der Teufel einen Sohn,
So ist er sicher Palmerston.

Lord Palmerston was coming to a conclusion about Italian matters; it
was this: that, great as were the objections to the deliverance of
Italy from the Austrians by French aid, yet it would be better for
her to be delivered so than not at all. The same conclusion had been
reached by Cavour, except that he would not have admitted unending
servitude to be the alternative; he was too patriotic and too
resourceful for that. He kept in view other contingencies: European
complications, the organic disruption of Austria, even at that early
date, the foundation of a German empire. But in 1851, as in 1859, the
aid of France was the one means of shaking off the Austrian yoke,
which was morally certain to succeed For him, however, the French
alliance was only a speck in the distance. He did not think, as Lord
Palmerston seems to have thought, that a French liberating army might
be "very soon" expected in the Lombard plains. When Louis Napoleon
swept away the impediments between himself and the Imperial throne,
Cavour was less moved by the violence of the act than by the hope that
its consequences might be favourable to Italy. The Prince-President
tranquilly awaited the eight million votes which should transform him
from a political brigand into a legitimised emperor, and Cavour left
him to the judgment of his own countrymen. He saw no need to be more
severe than they. It is easy to conceive a higher morality, but as yet
it has not been applied to politics. As Cavour remarked, "Franklin
sought the help of the most despotic monarch in Europe," and the
analogies in recent history do not require to be recalled.

An inferior statesman who, like Cavour, contemplated foreign aid as
an ultimate resource, would have lost his interest and slackened his
activity in home politics. It was not so with him. Before all other
things he placed the necessity of consolidating Piedmont as a
constitutional State, and of preparing her morally and materially to
take her part in the struggle when it came. If that were not done,
a new Bonaparte might indeed cross the Alps in the character of
liberator, but a free Italy would be no more the result of his
intervention than it had been of his uncle's. Cavour was meditating
the stroke of policy which gave him the power to carry out this work
of consolidation and preparation. He ruled the ministry, but he did
not rule the House and, through it, the country. The Sardinian Chamber
of Deputies was composed of the Right Centre, the Extreme Right, the
Left Centre, and the Extreme Left. The Extreme Right was loyal to the
House of Savoy, but contrary to Italian aspirations; the Extreme Left
was strongly Italian, but the degree of its loyalty was hit off in
Massimo d'Azeglio's _mot_ "Viva Vittorio, il re provisorio" ("Long
live Victor, the provisional king"). There remained the two
Centres representing the liberal conservatives and the moderate
liberals--"moderate radicals" would be more correct, if the verbal
contradiction be permitted. But neither of these single-handed could
support a stable and independent government. Every ministry must exist
on the sufferance of its opponents, and in terror of the vagaries of
the advanced section on its own side. At any critical moment a passing
breeze might overthrow it. The only antidote to the recklessness or
obstructiveness of extreme parties lay in dissolution; but to dissolve
a parliament just elected, as Victor Emmanuel had once been forced to
do already, would be a fatal expedient if repeated often. Any student
of representative government would suggest the amalgamation of the two
Centres as the true remedy, but so great were the difficulties in the
way of this, that not half a dozen persons in Piedmont believed it to
be possible. Cavour himself thought about it for a year before making
the final move The acerbities of Italian party politics are not
softened by the good social relations and the general mutual
confidence in purity of motive which prevail in England. Hitherto
Cavour and the brilliant and plausible leader of the Left Centre had
not entertained flattering opinions of each other. Rattazzi thought
Cavour an ambitious and aggressive publicist rather than a patriot
statesman, and Cavour knew Rattazzi to be the minister who led the
country to Novara. But he appreciated his value as a parliamentary
ally; he had the qualities in which Cavour himself was most deficient.
Urbano Rattazzi (born at Alessandria in 1808) was famous as one of the
best speakers at the Piedmontese bar before entering the Chamber.
He was a perfect master of Italian; his manners were popular and
insinuating. He was richly endowed with all those secondary gifts
which often carry a man along faster, though less far, than the
highest endowments. If he had not power, he had elasticity; if not
judgment, cleverness. He always drifted, which made him always appear
the politician up to date. His name was then associated with one
catastrophe; before he died it was to be linked with two others,
Aspromonte and Mentana; but such was his ability as a leader that he
retained a compact following to the last.

Cavour rarely made a man's antecedents a reason for not turning him to
account; but there was one point on which he required to be reassured
before seeking an understanding with Rattazzi--this was whether his
fidelity to the monarchy could be entirely depended on. Cavour's old
friend and fellow worker of the _Risorgimento_, M.A. Castelli, who was
acquainted with the leader of the Left, opportunely bore witness to
Rattazzi's genuine loyalty, and Cavour hesitated no longer to come to
an agreement which every day proved to be more imperative. After
the _Coup d'etat_, the Extreme Right, led by the Count de Revel
and General Menabrea, adopted the tactics of professing to believe
untenable the position of a free State wedged in between the old
despotism of Austria and the new one of France. The argument was
ingenious and was likely to make converts. It was urgently necessary
to form a new political combination which should reduce this party to

Cavour's compact with Rattazzi was concluded in the first month of
1852, but at first it was kept a profound secret. It was divulged, as
it were, accidentally in the course of a debate on a Bill which was
intended to moderate the attacks of the press on foreign sovereigns.
This was the only form of restriction which Cavour, then and
afterwards, was willing to countenance. He held that the excuse for
umbrage given to foreign rulers by personal invective published in
the newspapers was a danger to the State which no government ought to
tolerate. The Extreme Right and Left were immediately up in arms, the
first declaring that the Bill did not go far enough, and the second
that it went too far. Both affected to consider it the first step to
more stringent anti-liberal measures--invoked by one side and abhorred
by the other. It was then that Rattazzi made the announcement that
although he did not mean to vote for this particular Bill, he intended
to support the Ministry through the session which had just begun,
if, as he believed, this Bill was an isolated measure, and did not
indicate a change of policy. Cavour acknowledged the promise in words
which left no doubt that a prior agreement existed between the two
leaders. He repudiated the reactionary tendencies of Menabrea and
his Savoyards, even, he said ironically, at the risk of so great a
misfortune as that of losing the weak support which they had lately
bestowed on Government, Count de Revel retorted that the Ministry had
divorced the Right and made a marriage (_connubio_) with the party
which drove Charles Albert to his doom and to an exile's death in a
foreign land. The alliance between the Centres was henceforth known by
the nickname thus conferred on it, which has been repeated since by
hundreds who have forgotten its origin.

It is difficult to describe the sensation which this scene created,
and no one was more astonished than D'Azeglio, who, with the other
ministers, had been kept entirely in the dark. By all ordinary
rules Cavour ought to have communicated with his colleagues before
revolutionising the parliamentary chessboard. The more sure he felt
of their opposition the less easy is it to justify him for taking so
grave a step without their knowledge. On public grounds, however
(and these were the only grounds on which Cavour ever acted in his
political life), it was desirable that the _Connubio_ should be an
accomplished fact before it was exposed to discussion. D'Azeglio was
very angry, but he hated scandal, and he refrained from disowning the
act of his imperious colleague. He was none the less determined never
to sit in the same Cabinet with Rattazzi. One reason he gave for it
was characteristic. The leader of the Left had debts, and was not in
a hurry to pay them. When Rattazzi, through Cavour's instrumentality,
was elected President of the Chamber, D'Azeglio felt again aggrieved.
Cavour, who began by treating his chief's antipathy to his new ally
as a prejudice to be made fun of, and in the end dispelled, came
to understand that it was insuperable. To cut short an impossible
situation, he tendered his resignation, on which all the ministers
resigned; but as the question was one of personal pique, the king
commanded them to remain at their posts. Cavour applauded this
decision. For the moment it was better that he, not D'Azeglio, should
be sacrificed. They parted without ceasing to be private and political
friends. Massimo d'Azeglio's nature was too generous to hear a grudge
against the man who was to eclipse him.

Cavour profited by his reconquered liberty to go to France and
England, a journey that relieved him of the appearance of wishing to
hamper the Cabinet, which was quickly reconstructed without himself
and Farini. On the eve of starting he went, as etiquette required, to
take leave of the king, who made the not very flattering remark that
he thought it would be a long while before he called him to power.
Cavour must have smiled behind his spectacles, but he naturally left
time to verify or contradict the royal forecast.



Cavour went abroad with the full intention of preparing for the day


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