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[Giuseppe Mazzini, Young Italy]
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Giuseppe Mazzini - biography
Young Italy

  Giuseppe Mazzini was born in Genoa on June 22nd, 1805 into a middle class family where his father was a professor of anatomy. Mazzini was extremely delicate as an infant, and as a young child, giving his parents cause for concern. From a young age he showed signs of intellectual precocity possessing a tremendous interest in books and spending many hours reading.

  Mazzini entered the University of Genoa at the age of fourteen where he studied law but was also involved in literary pursuits. During these student days many associates were impressed by his being possessed of gentle, generous, and noble character.

  In April 1821 a large number of would-be revolutionaries, who had not prevailed in an insurrection against Austria, sought refuge in Genoa. Mazzini felt that his spirit was crushed by the impossibility he felt of ever conceiving by what means to free his country from foreign rule. From that time Mazzini decided to dress always in black as if in mourning for his country.

  At a time when the Austrian minister Metternich could say that "Italy is merely a geographical expression" due to the Italian peninsula being politically constituted of something of a patchwork of historically established aristocratic and clerical states Mazzini came to believe that there was an "Italy" that young "Italians" could and should seek to establish with "liberty of country."

  Mazzini joined the revolutionary Carbonari society, and was sympathetic to the widespread European efforts at liberal and constitutional revolution in 1830. Mazzini was arrested, (principally it seems because he appeared to be an unorthodox thinker) and, on evidence that Mazzini regarded as being contrived, sentenced to a term in jail for allegedly introducing another young man into the Carbonari. Mazzini subsequently spent six months of imprisonment at Savona (1830-31), during which time he took upon himself the "apostolate" (in Mazzini's own terminology) of working to achieve "liberty of country" for "Italia."

  Upon his release Mazzini was offered a choice of "internment in a small town or exile" and decided to base himself in exile in southern France. In exile in Marseille Mazzini, having dismissed the Carbonari as unlikely to be effective in terms of his "apostolate", worked to establish a Young Italy (La Giovine Italia) Society which aimed at the liberation of "Italy" from foreign or domestic tyranny and at the political unification of the Italian Peninsula under a republican form of government. Mazzini envisaged that there should be a many faceted approach to achieving these goals and, whilst there should be a mainly educational approach, there could well be some recourse to the use of violence by guerilla bands.

  In April of 1831 there was a change of monarch in Sardinia-Piedmont with the succession of Charles Albert who, in constitutional agitations of 1821, had had links with the Carbonari. In the summer of 1831 Mazzini wrote to Charles Albert urging him to take the lead in efforts to secure Italian independence - the letter was also published in Marseilles. The Sardinian administration subsequently contacted that of France and Mazzini, was ordered (August 1831) to leave Marseilles. He now based himself in Switzerland.

  From his Swiss exile Mazzini encouraged revolutionary movements in Sardinia including an attempted army mutiny of 1833 (for which Mazzini was sentenced to death in absentia) and an attempted invasion of Savoy, (a Sardinian territory), of 1834.

  Young Italy established branches in many Italian cities. Mazzini argued that through coordinated uprisings, the people could drive the Italian princes from their thrones and oust the Austrians from dominance of the Italian Peninsula.
  In 1833 the Austrians declared membership of Young Italy to be high treason and punishable by death. In April 1834 a "Young Europe" association was formed "of men believing in a future of liberty, equality and fraternity for all mankind; and desirous of consecrating their thoughts and actions to the realization of that future." The formation of "Young Switzerland" was followed by Mazzini being exiled again in late 1836 - he now relocated to London.

  In his early days in London Mazzini was practically destitute and living on potatoes and rice but, once he gained a good grasp of english, began to gain a living through literary journalism. He was assisted in this integration into literary circles through a frienship with Thomas Carlyle.
  Carlyle did not really agree with much of Mazzini's politics but nonetheless considered him to possess a remarkable nobility of spirit.

  From his base in London Mazzini maintained contacts with radicals and revolutionaries widely in Europe. A fairly high profile scandal was aired in 1844 after it was established that Mazzini's correspondence was being intercerpted and read by the authorities. Questions were asked in the House of Commons and the official response was greeted by much indignation.

  In June 1846 a Cardinal, who was regarded as being of liberal views, was unexpectedly elected to the Papal dignity and thereafter followed a number of policies that seemed to confirm a reputed inclination towards liberalism and reform. In the later months of 1847 Mazzini wrote a letter to the new Pope. This letter, which was also made available to the public, indicated that Italian liberals expected that the new Pope would seek to fulfil a national as well as a religious mission.

  The high point of Mazzini's career came during the revolutions that were widespread in Europe and the Italian Peninsula during 1848-49. As events continued to unfold Charles Albert of Sardinia-Piedmont placed himself in a form of broad alliance with Italian nationalism against Austria. Mazzini returned the Italian Peninsula where he joined the nationalistic forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi for a time.
  Early in 1849 he was elected as a member of what proved to be a short-lived government in Tuscany following the departure of the Grand Duke and as one of the leaders of the new Roman Republic following the withdrawal of the Pope into exile at Gaeta.
  Mazzini was elected as a member of a constituent assembly that was to assume the responsibility of framing a constitution for the Roman Republic. In late March Mazzini was appointed as one of the Triumverate who were invested with supreme powers in the Roman Republic.

  The Pope issued appeals to the European powers to help in the re-establishment of the control of Rome by the Papacy. Although the French Constitution explicitly renounced military actions against foreign peoples this did not prevent a large French army being sent with the intention of overthrowing the would-be Roman Republic.
  On July 3rd 1849 the Roman Republic fell after offering a determined defence over several weeks against the besieging French army.

  A Constitution of the Roman Republic had been passed and proclaimed two days previously by the Roman Assembly although the Assembly knew that it had little chance of actually enduring into the future.

  Mazzini was reluctantly obliged once again to seek foreign exile and returned to London by way of Marseilles. Efforts to spark republican uprisings in Mantua (1852) and Milan (1853) were notably unsuccessful and this lack of success tended to discredit Mazzini and to limit his influence.

  Over the ensuing years Italian nationalism and republicanism were somewhat exploited by Camillo di Cavour who was attempting to draw numerous and extensive territories in the Italian Peninsula into association with a liberal monarchy centred upon historic Sardinia-Piedmont. Cavour was serving as Prime Minister in Sardinia-Piedmont where he sponsored seemingly progressive policies. The Sardinian state, being possessed of an army, was open to being presented as a champion of Italian interests against Austria. Whilst middle class persons tended to be seduced by Cavour's Realpolitik working class persons often drifted towards Socialism and Marxism. This drift towards Socialism being facilitated by Mazzini's own flirtation with Socialism in these times.

  Mazzini came back to Italy during the wars of 1859 and 1860 but took only limited satisfaction in seeing the establishment of a unified North Italian kingdom in 1861. Mazzini would have preferred nascent "Italia" to be constituted as a republic. Mazzini was elected to the Turin Italian parliament in 1865 but declined to take his seat because that would have involved an oath of allegiance to the monarchy.

  Mazzini continued to plot to gain Venice (from Austrian control) and Rome (from Papal control) and was expelled from Switzerland in 1869 at the Italian governments request following evidence of a conspiracy with Garibaldi. After a few months spent in England Mazzini sailed for Sicily but was arrested at sea as his ship approached the Italian coasts. Mazzini was thus in jail in Gaeta (August-October 1870) at the time when the Italian Kingdom of Victor Emmanuel II seized control of Rome.

  Mazzini was in failing health and (ironically) the birth of a royal prince was used as an excuse for clemency. Mazzini retired to Pisa, where he died on March 10th, 1872. A public funeral was conducted in Pisa but Mazzini's remains were thereafter conveyed to his home city of Genoa for burial.

  In terms of his place in history - Mazzini is included with Cavour and Garibaldi as being one of the leading figures of the Italian Risorgimento or resurgence.

Popular European History pages
at Age-of-the-Sage

The preparation of these pages was influenced to some degree by a particular "Philosophy of History" as suggested by this quote from the famous Essay "History" by Ralph Waldo Emerson:-
There is one mind common to all individual men...
Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate events. But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay "History"
Italian Unification - Cavour, Garibaldi and
the Unification of Risorgimento Italy
Otto von Bismarck &
The wars of German unification
Italian unification map
Risorgimento Italy
Map of German unification
1 The European Revolution of 1848 begins
A broad outline of the background to the onset of the turmoils and a consideration of some of the early events.

2 The French Revolution of 1848
A particular focus on France - as the influential Austrian minister Prince Metternich, who sought to encourage the re-establishment of "Order" in the wake of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic turmoils of 1789-1815, said:-"When France sneezes Europe catches a cold".

3 The Revolution of 1848 in the German Lands and central Europe
"Germany" had a movement for a single parliament in 1848 and many central European would-be "nations" attempted to assert a distinct existence separate from the dynastic sovereignties they had been living under.

4 The "Italian" Revolution of 1848
A "liberal" Papacy after 1846 helps allow the embers of an "Italian" national aspiration to rekindle across the Italian Peninsula.

5 The Monarchs recover power 1848-1849
Some instances of social and political extremism allow previously pro-reform conservative elements to support the return of traditional authority. Louis Napoleon, (who later became the Emperor Napoleon III), attains to power in France offering social stability at home but ultimately follows policies productive of dramatic change in the wider European structure of states and their sovereignty.

Emerson's "Transcendental" approach to History
.
Spirituality & the wider world
.
Some Social Theory and insights
.
The Unfolding of History
.
The Vienna Declaration
.
Framework Convention on National minorities



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Giuseppe Mazzini
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Risorgimento