Cavour - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Meyer 1885-1892,

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Article : Cavour (1880)
Cavour, Camillo Benso di, Count, Italian statesman, born in Turin on August 10th, belonging to a wealthy and highly respected family. Already in 1820 he enrolled in the military academy in that city. In 1826 he took the officers' examination with good results, especially in the field of mathematics, and in the same year he was appointed to fortification lieutenant. In the meantime he quickly realized that his liberal views were irreconsilable with his military position. So in 1831 he quit military service. Already at this time he had decided Italy's unification to be his life's task. Awaiting the right moment to come for the implementation of this great plan, he dedicated himself to the administration of the family fortune. He soon became an expert agriculturalist and placed himself at the head of various undertakings for the common good. For instance, he established steam boat lines on Lago Maggiore, built shipyards and chemical factories, supported the construction of railroads, and participated in the establishment of Turin's bank and its agricultural society. In order to develop his economic and political experience, in the 1830s and 1840s he undertook travels into foreign countries (Switzerland, France, England). In consequence of the reform movement in the Papal State and in Tuscany in 1846 - a movement which introduced a new era in Italy - together with a number of friends Cavour set up the newspaper "Risorgimento", which promoted the views of the Moderate Liberals, and in which he published articles on economy and foreign policy.
With the revolutionary storms of the year 1848, Cavour's proper political career began. At the head of a delegation of the Turin press he petitioned King Carlo Alberto in the same year for a written constitution, which the king, asked for the same also from other directions, finally approved. Elected into the new parliament in the same year, Cavour fought against revolutionary frenzy, and took a determined stand opposed to the War Party. But when Milan and Venice rose in rebellion, he abandoned his hesitation and stated that Sardinia should take the lead in the national struggle for independence. The defeats at Custozza (1848) and at Novara (1849) convinced him in the meantime that it was impossible to continue the struggle, therefore he energetically worked toward peace. After the end of the war he supported the Moderate Liberal cabinet Azeglio, which he joined in 1850 as minister for trade and agriculture. Taking over the ministries of the navy and of finances shortly after, he became the leading force in the named cabinet. He pushed through several important laws which freed work and property from certain burdens, concluded trade and navigation agreements with a number of foreign powers, which aimed at overcoming Sardinia's political isolation, to invigorate the country's trade and industry and to apply the principles of free trade. In order to strengthen his government against reaction, which since the coup d'etat in France in 1851 also appeared in the Sardinian parliament, Cavour brought about a union of [the Moderate Liberals with] the Left and Right Center. But this measure resulted in disputes in the cabinet, and he resigned in 1852. But already in the same year he assumed the presidency of a new cabinet, in which he also assumed the portfolios for finances, trade and agriculture. From this time until 1855, he focussed mainly on the conflict with papal authority. He recognized that the claim of the Roman Curia was incongruous with the rights of a modern society, and the only correct solution of the disputed question was, that the state would give the church full freedom in the spiritual sphere, but to reserve for itself the same freedom in the secular sphere. In accordance with this policy, which he expressed in the phrase "a free church in a free state", he pushed through the sale of church property, and deprived the religious corporations of their monopoly in the field of education, and dissolved a large number of monasteries.
While implementing these reforms, he worked perhaps more energetically than ever for Italy's unification and independence. At a political level in 1854 he persuaded king and parliament to join the alliance of the western powers and to participate in the Crimean War. He represented his country on the Peace Congress in Paris in 1856, and developed political tact and skill, which brought him the reputation of being one of Europe's most knowledgeable and most experienced statesmen. Despite the Austrian protested he pushed through, that the "Italian Question" was made an object of the Congress' discussions. Later, in front of the named Congress, he gave a moving description of the lamentable conditions in Italy and proved that these were in need of a thorough reform. In an energetic address to the cabinets in Paris and London in the same year he emphasized the necessity of a reorganization of Italy. Only now it became apparent and clear, what kind of a deeply important and finely calculated policy Cavour pursued, when he, during the Crimean War, had his fatherland take up the cause of the western powers. The Sardinian army had been given opportunities to prove its battleworthyness. Italy, which had been reorganized by "assembled Europe", not as a geographical term, but as a nation, now had, as all enlightened Italians now realized, a real statesman - not an emotional enthusiast or a furious fanatic - who held the country's fate in his hands. In proposals against the present order presented to the western powers in Rome and Naples (after the Paris Congress he also had taken over the portfolio of foreign affairs), Cavour described Austria as the cause of all of the peninsula's miseries. The diplomatic breach, which came about in 1857 between Austria and Italy, Cavour intentionally had provoked in order to prepare Europe for the possibility of a war between the two powers. Until Orsini's assassination attempt against Napoleon III. in 1858 he had been able to turn the latter into a proponent of his cause, by pointing out to the holder of power in France, that the political conditions in Italy had to bring about such deeds. Another result of his clever policy was the conclusion of an agreement with Russia in 1857 that the port of Villafranca should be leased as a Russian naval station. While implementing these measures, he constantly had to fight the Clerical Party, which in the parliamentary elections of 1857 gained ground. Mainly in order to stand up to their attack, that year he had himself appointed minister of the interior.
Since he concluded the Plombieres Agreement with Emperor Napoleon III. in 1858, which established a Franco-Sardinian alliance against Austria, war now was only a matter of time. Napoleon's expression in the new years reception in the Tuileries 1859, King Vittorio Emmanuele's address of January 10th and the conclusion of an offensive and defensive alliance by France and Sardinia that year were threats, which Austria on April 23rd answered with an ultimatum to the government in Turin. When this was rejected, Austrian troops on April 29th crossed the Ticino. In front of the world, Austria thus appeared as the offender. After the Battle of Magenta on June 4th that year, Cavour wrote a circular to the European governments, in which he pointed out that the exclusion of Austria from Italy was the war's only aim, and that the French Emperor would avoid any damage which would threaten the European balance of power by the establishment of a Kingdom of Italy. It is widely believed that this telegram, which completely disregarded the matter of compensation of the French, contributed considerably to Napoleon III., after the Battle of Solferino (in the same year) to abruptly end his chain of victories. The Treaty of Villafranca (in the same year), which did not fulfill Sardinia's hopes, hurt Cavour deeply and caused him to resign from the government. After the Peace of Zürich (in the same year) (in which Sardinia should get Lombardy, and an Italian confederation was to be formed under the Pope's presidency, with the reservation of the rights of the ex-sovereigns of Tuscany, Parma and Modena), Cavour resumed the lead of government. His task was now to pursue such a policy that Sardinia would not enter into a collision with France or Austria, that general opinion in central and southern Italy would get time to express itself, and that the provinces without a rebellion would come under the scepter of King Vittorio Emmanuele. In the spring of 1860 the population of Tuscany, Parma and Modena declared itself in favour of King Vittorio Emmanuele. In the meantime the joy over this result was reduced by the simultaneous cession of Nizza and Savoy to France, which had demanded these provinces as compensation for its provisions and expenses.
Since Cavour unsuccessfully tried to win over Ferdinand II. and Francis II. for a confederation with Sardinia for the restoration of Italy's independence, he saw himself induced to secretly support Garibaldi's expedition against Sicily and Naples in 1860. On September 7th he issued an ultimatum to the Papal government, and when this was rejected, he had Umbria and the Marches occupied by Sardinian troops; these provinces quickly were conquered. Cavour strictly respected the [part of the] Papal State, occupied by French troops, but France recalled its ambassador from Turin. But Cavour, with the moral support of Britain, had Sardinian troops enter Naples in the same year, where Garibaldi handed over power to King Vittorio Emmanuele. On December 20th 1860 a decree was signed which annexed Naples, Sicily, the Marches and Umbria with the Kingdom of Italy. On February 18th 1861 in Turin the first Italian parliament was opened, a few days later King Vittorio Emmanuele was proclaimed Italy's king. (Rome and Venice were the only Italian states which maintained their autonomy, and which were not integrated into the new kingdom). The enormous organizatoric task, which now fell to Cavour, in combination with unjustified attacks and accusations from the side of the Radical Party, undermined his hitherto strong health. After a few days of sickness he died on May 30th 1861. A statue of him was erected in Turin.
Cavour was not eloquent in the usual sense of the word, but if the power of the word is to be measured by its influence on the will of the people, he was one of the most powerful speakers of his time. Because he brought about Italy's unification not only as the counselor of King Vittorio Emmanuele, but also by his influence in the Sardinian parliament.
His "Discorsi Parlamentari" were published in 1863-1867.

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1885-1892, Article : Cavour
Cavour, Count Camillo Benso di, Italian statesman, born on August 10th 1810 in Turin into a wealthy family of old nobility. Determined for a career in the military, in the Turin Military Academy he gained excellent knowledge, especially in mathematics, and then was employed as an engineer lieutenant on fortification works at the Alpine passes. But because his Liberal views could not be reconciled with military service, in 1831 he resigned and dedicated himself to the study of national economics, and to the administration of his extended possessions in the Lomellina, he also broadened his economic and political knowledge by several travels, especially to England and France. The constitutional system, as he observed it in England, and the exclusive, but unconditional rule of the law were the ideal of his policy. After at first devoting himself to the establishment of institutions for the purpose of improving the economic and social conditions (f.ex. of orphanages, and in 1842 of the Agricultural Society), following the reform movements which appeared in 1846 in various parts of Italy, foremost in the Papal State, together with Count Cesare Balbo and others he founded the journal "Il Risorgimento", for which he wrote a number of articles on national economy. His political importance began in the year 1848.
The proclamation of the Sardinian constitution on March 5th 1848 fulfilled one of his greatest wishes. Simultaneously, King Carlo Alberto took on [the project of] the unification of Italy. Cavour did not want the king, with the words "Italia fara da se" to go it alone, but from the beginning regarded alliances as necessary, and finally the French alliance alone as achievable. In the chamber, where by the combination of an iron will and inexhaustible endurance he also developed exceptional oratory skills, he displayed moderate Liberalism, which did not satisfy the Left, and energetically declared himself against any revolutionary excesses. So in 1849, even after the end of the war, he supported the ministry Azeglio, in which, after the death of Santa Rosa, he took over the portfolio of trade and agriculture, and in April 1850 temporarily also that of finances. He now restored order in the finances which had been ruined by the war, concluded trade agreements with several foreign countries, cared for the construction of roads and railroads, for the liberation of property from feudal dues etc., in the ministry he became more and more dominant, he tried to establish support for the ministry in the chamber by moving closer to the Left Center (under Ratazzi), in order to push back the clerical-revolutionary elements. But by doing so he got in conflict with several cabinet members, most notably Azeglio, and therefore in May 1852 he was forced to resign. But already on November 4th of the same year he was (after the ministry Azeglio because of differences with the Papal See in regard to the civil marriage had to resign) recalled from Paris, where he had spent his time since his resignation, to form a new government. In the cabinet formed by him he took over the presidency, the portfolios of finances, trade and agriculture; temporarily also the portfolios of foreign affairs and of internal affairs. Supported by the compact majority in the chamber (which he had created by moving closer to the Left Center), he consequentially pursued a policy according to the principles of the constitution of 1848. Working on the extension of the latter he entered into a severe collision with the clergy, but despite their opposition he pushed through the sale of the property of the dead hand, deprived religious corporations the monopoly in education. Even when the pope threatened the king and his liberal ministers, Cavour did not restrain from the implementation of these reforms, while he had to postpone a continuation of this policy, for instance by introducing civil marriage and the complete liberation of the people from the rule of the church. After having gained the trust not only of the Piemontese, by his free-spirited, successful administration, but also the trust of all Liberal- and National-minded Italians, as well as the favour of public opinion in France and England, Cavour now could dare to raise the banner of Italy's unity and independence.
In order to gain the support of the French and English [!] governments for his national goals, first he persuaded king and the chambers, in 1854-1855 to join the alliance of the western powers against Russia, and despite of the enormous costs, to actively participate in the Crimean War. After the termination of the latter he succeeded, on the Paris Congress 1856, despite Austrian resistance, to put the "Italian Question" on the agenda, and to lay open the grievances caused by the occupation of Italian states by foreign armies and the weakness of the respective Italian governments, most of all the secular administration of the pope, in order to prove the necessity of the reorganization of Italian conditions as an undeniable fact. He intended to isolate Austria diplomatically, this is why he accepted the Russian wish to own the port of Villafranca in 1858, and to secure the support of France. The fact that Napoleon III., the acquaintance of whom he already had made in 1852, namely after the assassination attempt by Orsini (January 14th 1858), for dynastic and political reasons desired the expulsion of Austria from Italy and the establishment of French influence on the peninsula, had made supporting the national movement as a goal of his policy, came Cavour very much to pass. In the summer of 1858 Cavour held a secret meeting with Napoleon III., during which a Franco-Sardinian alliance, the acquisition of the Kingdom of Lombardo-Venetia, of Parma and Modena, for Sardinia and the cession of savoy and Nizza to France were agreed upon. Napoleon III. began his diplomatic campaign against Austria with the new years reception on January 1st 1859, with was followed by the Italian throne speech of January 10th 1859, in which King Vittorio Emmanuele declared that he had to listen to "Italy's scream of agony" Cavour immediately began to mobilize, but because of English [!] and French attempts to mediate,which only strove for the abolition of Austrian control in central Italy, found himself in a dilemma,from which, fortunately, he was freed by the Austrian ultimatum of April 19th, and the outbreak of the war by the Austrian invasion of Piemont. Now Austria appeared as the aggressor, and indeed it stood alone.
The course of the war developed favorably for the allies. All the less expected and hurtingly sudden Cavour received the message of the conclusion of the preliminary peace of Villafranca (July 11th 1859). He soon handed in his resignation and momentarily doubted in everything. But soon he found new hope. First, win cooperation with influential friends he worked for the peaceful annexion not only of central Italy, including the entire Papal State, and Tuscany, by the means of plebiscites, but also of southern Italy. At the beginning of 1860 he again took the lead of the ministry and now aimed to end in office what he had begun while not in office. Irrespective of the regulations of the Peace of Zürich and of the Austrian protests, also without awaiting the approval of Napoleon III., he accepted the union of Parma, Modena, Tuscany and of the Romagna with Sardinia, decided by plebiscite, and appeased France by the cession of Savoy and Nizza, the approval for which he pushed through in parliament. Secretly he supported the expedition of Garibaldi against Sicily, and, when the latter largely had succeeded, but the Neapolitan army still resisted on the Volturno, at the right moment he had Sardinian troops invade the Papal State, where the Marches and Umbria were won in the victory at Castelfidardo (September 18th 1860), and the rest of the southern kingdom was occupied, which now also was united with Sardinia. Several powers protested strongly against this revolutionary action, even France recalled its ambassador from Turin. But Cavour stuck to his course. On February 18th 1861 the Italian parliament was convoked, a few days later King Vittorio Emmanuele proclaimed King of Italy. Only Rome and Venice missed in the new kingdom. About the former, which the National Party demanded to become the capital of the new kingdom, Cavour on March 26th in the chamber expressed his hope of a peaceful contestation with the pope, and called for patience and moderation. He trusted in the victory of the principle, which he even uttered on his deathbed : "a free church in a free state". Soon after he fell ill and died on June 6th 1861, deeply bemoaned by Piemonte and all of Italy. He was the greatest statesman Italy produced in centuries. The work created by his genius survived his death, and a few years later reached its completion in his sense, a proof for his keen observation, his statesmanship and creativity. In Turin on the Piazza Carlo Emanuele in 1873 a large monument, made by Dupres (containing 5 marble statues and bronze reliefs) was dedicaterd to him, also a monument to him was erected in Rome.
The "Discorsi parlamentari del conte Camillo di Cavour" were edited by Massari (Turin 1863 ff., 12 vols.); "Lettere edite ed inedite del conte Cavour 1821-61" were published by L. Chiala (Turin 1883-84, 4 vols.; in German Leipzig 1884 ff.), hitherto unknown letters by Cavour to Emanuele d'Azeglio from the years 1852-1861 were edited by Bianchi (1885). See the biographies of Cavour by Massari (in German by E. Bezold, Leipzig 1874) and by Mazade (Paris 1877).

source in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek

DOCUMENTS Article Camillo Benso, Count Cavour, from EB 1911
REFERENCE William Roscoe Thayer, The Life and Times of Cavour, London, Vol.1 Elibron Classics (1911) 2006, Vol.2 Kessinger Publishing (1914) n.d., KMLA Lib. Call Sign 945.08 T369

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First posted on June 4th 2009

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