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.
 Most of them were poor, ignorant creatures, but in January 1858 an attempt was made by a man of an entirely different stamp, Felice Orsini.

Born at Meldola in Romagna in 1819, he was of the true Romagnol type in mind and body; daring, resourceful, intolerant of control. From his earliest youth all his actions had but one object, the liberation of his country.
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.

Napoleon the third in Italy
 Cavour sent no reply, 'because,' he said later, 'the letter was noble and energetic, and I should have had to pay Orsini compliments which I did not deem fitting.
 '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.

louis Napoleon lost his empire above at Sedan
 He would have preferred to act alone, but since that was impossible, he sought and found without much difficulty two or three accomplices. One of these, Pieri, a teacher of languages, was arrested by the police, who recognised him as an old conspirator, before he threw the bomb which he was carrying. The other bombs were thrown just as the carriage containing the Imperial party drove up to the opera house.

orsinis attempt to kill louis napoleon
Deathbed of Louis Napoleon
A number of people in the street were killed or injured, but the Emperor and Empress escaped unhurt. When they entered the theatre the Rutli scene of the conspirators in Guillaume Tell was being performed. Not a breath of applause greeted them, though  everyone knew what had happened. Napoleon III. had a striking proof of how little hold he possessed on the affections of his subjects

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