previous next

Death of count Cavour--sketch of his life and public career.

On the sixth day of June, Italy lost her first, almost her only statesman. Victor Emanuel lives to rule for her, Garibaldi to fight for her, but Cavour shall thick for her no more. If in the past complications of the Italian question our American instincts have attached us to the side of the faithful executive and the fearless military founders of the young kingdom, rather than to the man's whose diplomacy too often appeared blocking the wheels of unity and empire, let us now do justice to Cavour. To the caution of a Fabius and the policy of a Richelieu, he added a third element most rarely found in combination with these traite — a Washington's unselfish love of country.

We cannot doubt that the three representative men of modern Italy have always held one common object in their deepest hearts. To Victor Emanuel, Garibaldi and Cavour existed but a single aim — United Italy. To reach that aim a long and perilous journey was demanded — a journey through the cavern of old tradition, grim, despotic power, and popular ignorance, still dark with the longest settled light of medieval times. How to reach it was the question. ‘"Mine the cavern--'blow it up — open it from end to end to the daylight — and your aim will be visible"’ said Garibaldi. Shall we quarrel with Cavour if he preferred to take up, like a new Theseus, the clue of patient negotiation to follow it with true and delicate handling, step by step, through darkness into night ? Let us do, as nearly as possible, the impartial justice of history to a mind which succeeded in keeping on his country's side, in her severest struggle, the greatest, perhaps the least ideally unselfish of continental monarchs, albert he could not strike with the sword of a Garibaldi, nor rule the popular hear with the prestige of a Victor Emanuel.

Camillo di Cavour was born in Turin on the 14th day of July, 1809 His father was a large merchant, ennobled by Carlo Alberto, and left the young Cavour an ample fortune. about his twenty fifth year Camillo paid a visit to England, whose prominent men and institutions proved so strong an attraction to a mind always active and investigating, that he remained in the country for several years. During this period he pushed his researches in all directions. He was a constant and eager visitor at the debates in Parliament, a close observer of the more sparkling currents of English social life, with whose leaders his fine presence and genius immediately made him a great favorite, yet unaltered by the blandishments of gay society, an equally diligent student of those manufactures and that commerce which are the true substratum of England's greatness.

In the agriculture of England he took the deepest interest, and many of the hints which he derived from British farmers were treasured up to bear seed hereafter in the improvement of Italian husbandry, through the Agricultural Association which he founded in Sardinia on his return. Already, in his youth and among foreigners, he began to be regarded as an encyclopaedic man--one who cultivated himself in all possible and valuable directions--one destined to become in all of them an authority for reference.

In 1842 Cavour returned to Turin. He was now in his opening prime--thirty-two years of age — gifted with the strongest natural powers of conception, judgment and execution, developed to their utmost by his English training and enriched by the stores of fact and conclusion brought back with him from the land of his sojourn. He possessed, moreover, one element of success without which these mental riches, as we sadly see every day in other men of genius, would have been of little use to him. He was healthy.

Up to the period of his last illness he had hardly known a day's indisposition. His frigality was almost as famous as that of Garibaldi, and his capacity for sleepless work worthy to be compared with that of Napoleon the First or Palmerston. His habitual quantum of sleep was but four hours a day.--We may understand the strength of his constitution when we learn that after six successive bleedings for the removal of the congestion which finally proved fatal, he had so little idea of his peril as to call his ministerial colleagues to his bed and hold with them a conference of several hours upon the matters of the realm.

With such a constitution Cavour, in 1842, commenced that great Italian work which ceased its activities eleven days ago — which shall never cease in its fruits. His ruling grand idea was the acclimation of tree institutions on the English model, in an Italian atmosphere.

Almost immediately he founded the agricultural society of which we have spoken. Its membership soon rose to two thousand. Not only did this society afford a nucleus for the researches of all minds interested in the speciality after which it was named, but a home and a debating school for the Italian friends of liberal government, otherwise without a rallying point.

With the crisis of 1847 both absolutism and government of all kinds were threatened with destruction. Cavour, a foe alike to anarchy and despotism, in conjunction with other prominent Italian liberals, now established H Risorgimento, (the Resurrection,) a journal exponent of those principles to which he and his party have always been pledged. As the storm grew thicker he became the mouthpiece of all modern liberals, and was the first to proclaim Sardinia's great want — a constitution. Cavour himself wrote to the King, strongly arguing the necessity of that measure, and within a week afterwards Carlo Alberto, as we know, granted it

Cavour entered the Sardinian Chamber of Deputies in 1849 and seated himself among the moderate opposition. Soon after the Ministry of Agriculture and Commence was conferred upon him, to which, in 1854 was added that of Finance. In 1852 he became President of the Council, and, with the exception of a short retirement, in 1855, has filed that place ever since. In the Crimean war he took sides against Russia. He signed the mannites to or Sardinia during this latter period, and was one of her two representatives at the Peace Congress of Paris, in 1856.

From that time his ministry has uniformly supported France, and set itself against the policy of Austria. His strong support of Napoleonic ideas, hardly less than the unequivocal indications of selfish interest, have procured and continued the powerful aid of the French arms in the struggle of united Italy; while his policy of caution in the matter of Rome and Venice may have been the reflex of the Napoleonic mind, no less than his strong natural proclivity to the use of diplomatic means.

Cavour's part in the last Italian struggle is too fresh in every mind to need re-writing.--His record is especially memorable in a single point — he did not hesitate to dissent from that ex parte settlement of a great question involved in the peace of Villafranca. Napoleon was the friend of Cavour, but Cavour indignantly resigned the day after the treaty was signed.

He dies at a strange time. Italy needed him more than ever before — unless, perhaps, it be within the plans of Providence that the vast results expressed in Italian unity are to be attained by the rude sword of the soldier rather than the subtle pen of the diplomatist. If this be so, he died opportunely. But be this as it may, his country mourns the noblest statesman she has known since the Di Medici.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Turin (Italy) (2)
Venice (Italy) (1)
Russia (Russia) (1)
France (France) (1)
Austria (Austria) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Camillo Di Cavour (14)
Garibaldi (4)
Italian (3)
Victor Emanuel (3)
Louis Napoleon (2)
Villafranca (1)
Theseus (1)
Paris (1)
Palmerston (1)
Camillo (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1842 AD (2)
1856 AD (1)
1855 AD (1)
1854 AD (1)
1852 AD (1)
1849 AD (1)
1847 AD (1)
July 14th, 1809 AD (1)
June 6th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: