Roman Republic (19th century)

Roman Republic (19th century)

Infobox Former Country
native_name = Repubblica Romana
conventional_long_name = Roman Republic
common_name = Roman Republic
continent = Europe
region = Italy
country = Italy
status = Unrecognized state
empire = Kingdom of Sardinia
status_text = Client state of Sardinia
year_start = 1849
date_start = February 8
year_end = 1849
date_end = June 29
event_end =
date_event1=February 21, 1849
date_post=August 25, 1849
p1 = Papal States
flag_p1 = Flag of the Papal States (1808-1870).svg
s1 = Papal States
flag_s1 = Flag of the Papal States (1808-1870).svg

flag_type = Military flag

national_motto= _it. DIO E POPOLO
( _en. God and People)
capital = Rome
common_languages = Italian
leader1 = Carlo Armellini
leader2 = Giuseppe Mazzini
leader3 = Aurelio Saffi

The Roman Republic was a short-lived (four months) state established on February 8, 1849 when the theocratic Papal States were temporarily overthrown by a democratic revolution, led by Carlo Armellini, Giuseppe Mazzini and Aurelio Saffi.

One of the major innovations the Republic hoped to achieve was enshrined in its constitution; all religions could be practiced freely and the pope was guaranteed the right to govern the Roman Catholic Church. These religious freedoms were quite different from those under the preceding government. Under the regulations of the Papal States at that time, Judaism could be practiced freely by those who were born Jewish and not baptized, although Jews were still in many respects discriminated against; all other religions besides Catholicism and Judaism were forbidden except to visiting foreigners. Additionally, the Constitution of the Roman Republic was the first in the world to abolish capital punishment in its constitutional law.


Birth of the Republic

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

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

The government issued some liberal reforms which Pius IX rejected and when established in Gaeta he designed a new government.

A delegation was created by the High Council established by the Pope and the mayor of Rome, and sent to reassure the Pope and ask him to come back as soon as possible. This delegation was composed of the mayor himself, Prince Tommaso Corsini, three priests - Rezzi, Mertel and Arrighi - Marquise Paolucci de Calboli, doctor Fusconi and lawyer Rossi. However, they were stopped at the state boundary at Terracina. The Pope, informed of this, refused to speak to them. In Rome a "Costituente Romana" was formed, 29 November. Without a local government in Rome, for the first time in the history, popular assemblies gathered. Margaret Fuller described the procession under a new flag, a "tricolore" sent from Venice, that set the flag in the hands of the equestrian Marcus Aurelius at the Campidoglio [Leona Rostenberg, "Margaret Fuller's Roman Diary" "The Journal of Modern History" 12.2 (June 1940:209-220) p. 212] and the angry popular reaction to papal warnings of excommunication for political actions of November received from Gaeta and posted on the 3rd. ["An astonishmenmt in this age" was the progressive Margaret Fuller's reaction (Rostenberg 1940:213.] The "Costituenti" decided to schedule direct and universal elections (electors were all the citizen of the State, male and over 21 years old) on the following 21 January 1849. Since the pope had forbidden Catholics to vote at those elections (he considered the convocation of the election "a monstruous act of felony made without a mask by the sponsors of the anarchic demagogy" an "abnormus and sacrilogus attentate... deserving the punishments written both in the divine and the human laws", the resulting constitutional assembly had a republican inclination (in each and every part of the Papal States more than 50% of the potential voters went to the polls).

The voters were not asked to express themselves on the parties but on the individuals. The lawyer Francesco Sturbinetti, who had led the Council of the Deputies received the most votes, followed by Carlo Armellini, the physician Pietro Sterbini, monsignor Muzzarelli, in whose hands Pius had left the city and Carlo Luciano Bonaparte, prince of Canino. The aristocracy was represented with a prince, six marquises, fifteen counts and three nobles. The new assembly was dominated by the bourgeoisie, the affluent, professionals and employees. Twenty seven owners, a banker, fifty three jurists and lawyers, six graduates, twelve professors, two writers, twenty-one doctors, one pharmacist, six engineers, five employees, two merchants, nineteen military officers, one prior and one monsignore. [cite book|last=Fracassi|first=Claudio |title=La Meravigliosa Storia della Repubblica dei Briganti|location=Rome|year=1849|language=Italian.]

On February 2, 1849, at a political rally held in the Teatro Apollo, a young Roman priest, the Abbé Arduini, made a speech in which he declared that the temporal power of the popes was a "historical lie, a political imposture, and a religious immorality."cite book|first=Jasper|last=Ridley|title=Garibaldi|pages=p. 268]

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

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

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

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

However, the government's policies (lower taxes, increased spending) meant the government had trouble with its finances and had to resort to inflating the currency in order to pay its debts. Runaway inflation might have doomed the Republic entirely on its own, but it also faced military threats. The Piedmont was at risk of attack by Austrian forces, and the Republic's movement of troops in the area was a threat to Austria (which was certainly capable of attacking Rome itself). The commander-in-chief of Austrian forces in Milan, count Joseph Radetzky, had remarked during the "Five Glorious Days" of Milan, "Three days of blood will give us thirty years of peace". [Priscilla Smith Robertson, "Revolutions of 1848: A Social History" 1952:331.] But the Roman Republic would fall to another, unexpected enemy. In France, newly-elected President Louis Napoleon, who would soon declare himself emperor Napoleon III, was torn. He himself had participated in an insurrection in the Papal States against the pope in 1831, but at this point he was under intense pressure from the rabid ultramontane French Catholics, who had voted overwhelmingly for him. Though he hesitated to betray Italian liberals, he decided to send troops to restore the Pope.

French siege

On April 25, some eight to ten thousand French troops under General Charles Oudinot landed at Civitavecchia on the coast northwest of Rome, while Spain sent 4,000 men under Fernando Fernández de Córdova to Gaeta, where the Pope had found refuge. The French sent a staff officer the next day to meet with Giuseppe Mazzini with a stiff assertion that the pope would be restored to power. The revolutionary Roman Assembly, amid thunderous shouts of "Guerra!, Guerra!", authorised Mazzini to resist the French by force of arms.

The French expected little resistance from the "usurpers". But republican resolve was stiffened by the charismatic Giuseppe Garibaldi's triumphal entry into Rome at last, on April 27, and by the arrival on April 29 of the Lombard Bersaglieri, who had recently driven the Austrians from the streets of Milan in "modern" house-to-house fighting. Hasty defenses were erected on the Janiculum wall, and the villas on the city's outskirts were garrisoned. On April 30, Oudinot's out-of-date maps led him to march to a gate that had been walled up some time before. The first cannon-shot was mistaken for the noon-day gun, and the astonished French were beaten back by the fiercely anti-clerical Romans of Trastevere, Garibaldi's legionaries and citizen-soldiers, who sent them back to the sea. But despite Garibaldi's urging, Mazzini was loath to follow up their advantage, as he had not expected an attack by the French and hoped that the Roman Republic could befriend the French Republic. The French prisoners were treated as "ospiti della guerra" and sent back with republican tracts citing the Article V of the most recent French constitution: "France respects foreign nationalities. Her might will never be employed against the liberty of any people".

As a result Oudinot was able to regroup and await reinforcements; time proved to be on his side, and Mazzini's attempt at diplomacy proved fatal to the Roman Republic. A letter from Louis Napoleon encouraged Oudinot and assured him of French reinforcements. The French government sent Ferdinand de Lesseps to negotiate a more formal ceasefire. Neapolitan troops sympathetic to the Papacy entered Roman Republic territory, and de Lesseps suggested that Oudinot's forces in their current position might protect the city from the converging approach of an Austrian army with the Neapolitan force: the Roman Triumvirate agreed. Many Italians from outside the Papal States went to Rome to fight for the Republic: among them also Goffredo Mameli, who had tried to form a common state joining Roman Republic and Tuscany, and who died of a wound suffered in the defence of Rome.

The siege began in earnest on June 1, and despite the resistance of the Republican army, led by Garibaldi, the French prevailed on June 29. On June 30 the Roman Assembly met and debated three options: to surrender; to continue fighting in the streets of Rome; to retreat from Rome and continue the resistance from the Appennine mountains. Garibaldi made a speech in which he favored the third option and then said: "Dovunque saremo, colà sarà Roma." [G. M. Trevelyan,"Garibaldi's Defence of the Roman Republic", Longmans, London (1907) p. 227] (Wherever we may be, there will be Rome).

A truce was negotiated on July 1 and on July 2 Garibaldi, followed by some 4 000 troops, withdrew from Rome for refuge in the neutral republic of San Marino. The French Army entered Rome on July 3 and reestablished the Holy See's temporal power. In August Louis Napoleon issued a sort of manifesto in which he asked of Pius IX a general amnesty, a secularized administration, the establishment of the Code Napoléon, and in general a Liberal Government. Pius, from Gaeta, promised reforms that he declared "motu proprio", that is, of his own volition, not in answer to the French.

The Pope did not return to Rome itself until April 1850, since the French were considered liberals all the same, and the Pope would not return until assured of no French meddling in his affairs. French soldiers propped up the Papal administration in Rome until they were withdrawn at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, leading to the subsequent capture of Rome and annexation by the Kingdom of Italy.

According to Raffaele De Cesare:

The Roman question was the stone tied to Napoleon's feet — that dragged him into the abyss. He never forgot, even in August 1870, a month before Sedan, that he was a sovereign of a Catholic country, that he had been made emperor, and was supported by the votes of the conservatives and the influence of the clergy; and that it was his supreme duty not to abandon the pontiff. […] For twenty years Napoleon III had been the true sovereign of Rome, where he had many friends and relations […] Without him the temporal power would never have been reconstituted, nor, being reconstituted, would have endured." [De Cesare, 1909, pp. 440-443.]

ee also

* Revolutions of 1848
* Revolutions of 1848 in the Italian states


External links

* [ George Macaulay Trevelyan, "Garibaldi's defense of Rome"] excerpts from " Garibaldi and the Thousand", 1910
* [ Keith Frye, "'Roma o Morte'": the Siege of Rome—1849", 1997] A detailed account.
* The Constitution of the Roman Republic

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