THE " REVINDICATION" OF PIEDMONT.
AFANATIC like M. Mazzini has the world in some re- spects at his mercy. He is so sincere, so single-minded, so earnest, so disinterested, that it is impossible to suspect him of wilful falsehood, nor do people in general easily per- ceive that a man of his temperament is not preserved by very great abilities from being the dupe of very ludicrous inven- tions. The world does not quite believe him, but it thinks that one who is confessedly both clever and honest cannot possibly speak without any grounds whatever for his assertion. But this is to leave out of the account the seething-brains and shaping fantasies of a political dreamer—of one who, so to speak, thinks with his imagination, and whose imagination is stimulated by hate. Mazzini may be said to have done more for the unity of Italy than any living man. If he did not create the idea it was he who popularized it, who was instant on that text in season and out of season until it became the creed of Italy. And he had then to sit by and see his work turned to the advantage of another, his ideas adopted and his policy discarded, statecraft triumphant where popular enthusiasm had always failed, monarchy in the ascendant and the democratic republic further off than ever, Italy one for all but the prophet of unity and free for all but the devotee of freedom. A. man of this temperament and this experience believes with his wishes, believes any story, however wild, which tells against the men who have turned his labours to their own advantage, who have used him, as he thinks, and thrust him aide. His good qualities make him only the easier dupe—for sincerity is slow to suspect deception, and a quick fancy turns hints into theories. A circumstantial story is proof in itself, and even scepticism be thinks must be convinced, if when he asserts the existence of a treaty he numbers the pages and grqsa the colour of the ribbon with which they are bound. It is not therefore surprising that M. Mazzini should have been the dupe of a canard, and it is fortunate that he should have proved his own belief in it by naming the Minister who signed the treaty. We have at least a flat denial of this assertion from M. Visconti Venosta. The "one other- signature" is probably intended for that of the King of Italy,. and General La Marmora, whose integrity is above suspicion,. when he pledged his honour not only for there being no trace of such a treaty in the Foreign Office, but for its never having existed, had doubtless received instructions on which he could implicitly rely. Absurd, however, as is this last phase of the- tale, it is surprising with what pertinacity the popular appre- hension reverts to the idea of further bartering between France and Italy. It is a Proteus-Methuselah of a canard, a plant- which cut down in one place sprouts all the mote vigorously in another. Sometimes it is Liguria which is to be ceded, sometimes Sardinia ; now the valley of Aosta, and when that report is contradicted it grows into all Piedmont. Nor is it- merely in Italy that the superstition lives. In countries where a lie in foreign politics is the common resource of newspapers its vitality is comprehensible, but even here in England any similar story finds easy credence, not only with The Herald and The Standard, but in private society. Of coarse it is useless- to argue with temperaments of the Mazzini stamp, but the inclination to suspect the French and Italian Governments is found in cooler reasoners, and it is therefore perhaps worth while to consider how far Italy is likely to allow France, or France likely to desire, to extend her boundary beyond the Alps.
Why, we would ask in the first place, should any Italian: be willing to cede one part of Italy to gain another ? Why should a Lombard or a Tuscan care more about Venice than Turin or Genoa? The absorbing idea which possesses the minds of all Italians is the unity of Italy—the country which- the Alps and the sea surround. What advance do they make towards this end if when they gain Venetia they cede Pied- mont ? They positively retrograde, for at all events for the next half-century France will be a stronger foe than Austria. They may hope to tear Venice from Austria, but not Piedmont from France, and there is this additional danger, that France- conciliates her subject populations and Austria does not. However long the acquisition of Venice be deferred, she will always be only too eager to second the efforts of an' invading army. The cession of Savoy proves nothing. The-- Savoyards were not Italians either in blood, or speech, or feeling. From the moment Cavour began a national policy they were discontented, and unable to become Italian ceased to be even Piedmontese. All their material interests, too, united them either to France or Switzerland, and if Savoy had become a canton of the latter country there would 'have been nothing in the transfer which the most ardent patriot need have regretted. But all these arguments tell against the cession of Piedmont. Even though Turin has ceased to- be the capital, Piedmont is still the cradle of Italy. Pied- montese statesmen made her, Piedmontese soldiers fought for' her, a Piedmontese dynasty governs her. -United to France- she would be severed from Marseilles by the Alps, and from. Genoa by custom-houses. It is true indeed that Napoleon annexed the territory west of the Sesia, but it was in 1802,. when the dream of re-establishing the Empire of Charlemagne- had began to lure him to his rain, and, what is more un- portant, he annexed Liguria too. In these days the two are more inseparable than they were then, for the railway has made- Genoa the port of Turin. But Piedmont and Liguria together- form a province larger, more populous, and more wealthy than Venetia and Rome together. Italy would positively lose by the exchange, and Lombardy would be deprived of her only port in the Mediterranean. Venice as a commer- cial port has been supplanted by Ancona. If, again, Aus- tria in the Quadrilateral threatens the new kingdom, so- would France in Alessandria, for if she crosses the Alps it will not be as a conservative power, and the movement will indicate a desire to annex the whole peninsula. Looked at calmly it is evident that the bargain would be in every way- a bad one for Italy, and that if she can only get Rome and Venetia by ceding her western provinces she had better do- without them. The chapter of accidents will probably not drive so hard a bargain. But if Tuscans or Lombards are little likely to favour such a compact, it is absolutely mon- strous to suppose that it could find favour in the eyes of Victor Emanuel or the Piedmontese statesmen. What on, earth is Venice to them compared with their native pro- vince, their property, their homes ? Is it La Marmarik who wants to become French ? Extravagance can go no further when it supposes such a scheme carried out by such instruments. But one may go further. It is not merely that Italy would lose by the bargain far more than she would gain, we do not believe that France desires the acquisition. The national idea of the French has always been that the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees are their natural boundaries. Take up M. Dumas' lively book of travels in Belgium and the Rhineland, and you will find him constantly harping on the notion that all this somehow belongs to him. When he sees the Moselle at Coblentz he breaks out into wailing- over this "French river in bondage." Who ever heard a Frenchman tailing in this way of the Po or the Dora ? And it is to be remembered that Napoleon III. does not desire conquests except so far as they secure his dynasty by making it the instrument through which the nation attains its wishes. Again, there could scarcely be a better representative of the vulgar upper-class love of territorial aggrandizement than M. Thiers. What is his view ? If there is one thing on which he insists with more earnestness than another in the later volumes of his Consulate and Empire, it is the folly of the policy which by extending the boundary of France beyond the Alps had undertaken to defend a foreign country at the cost of weakening the gar- risons on the Rhine. Piedmont would be to France only an additional recruiting-ground. Let her be pressed by victorious armies on her north-east frontier and she would be compelled to abandon it without a blow. It would in case of a great European war be as complete a source of weakness as Algeria. Liguria would be more useful, for France needs sailors, and the Genoese are good sailors. Bat it would be harder to hold for two reasons,—first, because the national feeling which did not exist in 1802 is stronger there than anywhere—Genoa claims the epithet of Italianissimo ; secondly, because being a mere strip of coast a maritime power like England might give a national party effectual assistance—a consideration which would not only make France slow to demand, but Italy bold to deny. Besides, in these days decency must be observed, and we do not believe that a popu- lar vote could be obtained either in Piedmont or Genoa. Whenever French ambition stirs it will aim at the Rhine, not at the Sesia, and territorial acquisitions in Italy would probably be rather a hindrance than a help. Nothing in truth can suit France better than the existing state of affairs in Venetia, for so long as it lasts she is always sure of having Italy for an ally against Germany whenever she pleases.
It does not therefore seem possible that France should propose, or Italy entertain such a cession as M. Mazzini is dreaming of. Nor is there, so far as we know, the least reason to think that there was in fact any more truth in the old story about Sardinia. But we are free to confess that that cession is-possible. If Italy can do without Corsica it would seem she may also dispense with Sardinia and France as a nation of logicians might be anxious to prevent a powerful Italy from reversing the argument, and contending that because Sardinia was within her natural boundaries so also was Corsica. The Sardinian population is still quite provincial in feeling, and for the next half-century Italy will neglect their material interests, whereas France would make the whole island a great public workshop. In case of war, too, its sailors and harbours would be an immense boon to France, and no one knows what the mineral wealth of the island is. Italy might not unprofitably in a material point of view cede Sardinia and its 600,000 inhabitants for Venice and its 2,000,000, or even for Rome and the extirpation of that devouring sore of brigandage. Sar- dinia, however, is an island, and third parties might in- tervene in the transaction. Indeed it is fortunate that the possibility of these cessions varies inversely as their probability. The cession of Piedmont could not be pre- vented, that of Liguria might be, and that of Sardinia certainly would. But then the cession of the last is not likely, of the second barely possible, and of the third abso- lutely ridiculous.
We have said nothing of these barterings of territory in their moral aspect, and indeed there is no necessity. The cession of Nice was without excuse, and Savoy should at least have been left free to choose between France and Switzer- land. The manner in which they were ceded, too, was even worse than the transaction. AU these insulting canards are therefore but the penalty which Italy must pay for her mis- doing. If they wound French vanity less they threaten more,—and prove the soundness of the warning which Lord Russell gave to the Emperor—that it would be easier to rouse than lay the distrust of Europe. It is consoling to know that France gained Savoy at the cost of isolation, and perhaps, all things considered, bought it rather dear.