Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Orsini and Napoleon the Third
A true account of the attempts on Napoleon's life will never be written, because the only persons who were able and willing to throw light on the subject, ex-police agents and their kind, are authorities whose word is worth a very limited acceptance.
It is pretty sure that there were more plots than the public ever knew of, and that in some cases the plotters were disposed of summarily.
His youthful brain was enflamed by Alfieri and Foscolo, who remained his favourite authors.
He hated Austria well, and he hated the Papal government as no one but one of its own subjects could hate it. 'When the French landed in Italy' (he told his judges) 'it was hoped that they were come as friends, but they proved the worst of enemies.
For a time they were repulsed, then they resumed the cloak of friendship, but only to wait for reinforcements.
When these arrived they returned to the assault, a thousand against ten, and we were judicially assassinated.' A succinct and true narrative.
During the republic Orsini was sent to Ancona, where anarchy had broken out; by vigorous measures he restored perfect order.
In 1854 he was arrested in Hungary and condemned to death, but he escaped from Mantua under romantic circumstances and reached England, where the story of his audacious flight won for him many sympathisers. He was often seen in society.
On one occasion he was asked to meet Prince Lucien Buonaparte.
Orsini knew Mazzini, but he was impatient of his mystical leanings, and he disapproved of such enterprises as Pisacane's, by which, as he thought, twenty or thirty men were sacrificed here or there without anything coming of it.
He finally repudiated Mazzini's leadership, and in March 1857 he wrote to Cavour, asking him for a passport to return to Italy, and placing at the disposal of the Sardinian government 'the courage and energy which it had pleased God to give him,' provided that government left wavering behind, and showed its unmistakable will to achieve the independence of Italy.
'Unlike Victor Emmanuel, who in after years carried on regular negotiations with Mazzini, Cavour, while ready to make an alliance with the Radicals in the Chamber, was extremely loth to have anything to do with actual revolutionists.
His not answering Orsini's letter certainly led up to the attempt of the 14th of January 1858.
Having quarrelled with Mazzini, and receiving no encouragement from Cavour, Orsini evolved the plan which on that day he endeavoured to put into execution.