Assess the view that Rome was essential to the unification of Italy

To some extent it can be seen as wholly plausible to accept the fact that without Rome, Italy would geographically have remained a disunited country. The city of Rome was the obvious natural capital of Italy, the Catholic Church had always been the countries main unifying element. Thus, it makes logical sense that Rome being the countries religious capital was essential for the Italian public to feel that unification had been successfully achieved.

This belief had previously been enforced by Mazzini, who was Head of the Roman Republic together with the help of his associate Garibald(1849) in the attempt to make Italy an independent nation and drive out the French garrison in Rome. Many Italian liberals also shared this view, they were disappointed that Rome had failed to be included in 1860. Every state had been united apart from Venetia until 1866, and finally Rome in 1870 when Napoleon III ordered his occupying troops to withdraw form the city, because they were needed to defend France in the Franco-Prussian war.

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It is also important to acknowledge the three attempts that Garibaldi made on Rome in 1860, 1862 and 1867. Clearly Garibaldi had always tried to justify his mentor Mazzini’s principle of the ‘Young Italy’ in his bid to uphold it’s belief that without complete unity (Rome’s inclusion) then there would never be unification. Garibaldi could have made himself a dictator of an independent southern Italy when he conquered Sicily, however the idea of national unity was important to him. His three consecutive quests on Rome indicate that Rome was a necessary factor for Italian Unification.

Also, it should not be forgotten that if Cavour had not intervened at the Papal States to stop Garibaldi marching in on Rome, there would have been a likely chance of a civil war breaking out. Ultimately, this would have slowed the unification process and quite possibly would have ended it. Garibaldi’s plans to take Venetia and Rome would undoubtedly have provoked France to protect it’s garrison in the city and probably would have encouraged Austria to retain her hold on Venetia.

Italy was definitely not capable of defeating such a double attack, therefore both Cavour’s intelligent quick thinking and Garibaldi’s courageous capture of the south were both essential to unification. However, it cannot be disputed that without a state, and a state such as central as Rome there would not have been full unification. Although, the Austrian control had been ousted, without Rome, it is clear that unification could not have been declared.

Contrary to this, there was an evident north and south divide which Cavour had even claimed that to join the two together was a greater task than fighting Austria and dealing with Rome. The Piedmontese imposed government on the South obviously did not work and was deepening the division. Particularly when they introduced higher taxation in the impoverished South. This combined with complicated legal systems and perhaps worst of all the conscription.

Consequently this meant that the men had to leave the farms where they were needed, intensifying the hatred for the Piedmontese government. The result was an increased growth in industry in the north and a social, economical struggle in the south. This highlights the issue that although the country may have been fully united geographically, there was tremendous hostility throughout the entire country causing an enormous division between the north and south.

This also, combined with the fact that the harmony between the Church and State which had in the past been balanced no longer existed, when the Pope IX declared himself prisoner of the Vatican. With the Pope’s announcement that any Catholics that took part in Catholic politics or worked for the new state, they would be excommunicated. This again caused divisions as the country was predominantly catholic, I have previously stated that the catholic church had always been considered the main unifying element.

Therefore the pubic found themselves in a difficult position in choosing to maintain their faith or follow the principles of their new government. To some degree, Rome was essential as the countries final milestone in unification, Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the feeling within the country was not united socially, economically and spiritually. Perhaps that for complete unity to take place would only start to change once the Pope accepted Piedmont’s public apology in further years.