|The Growth of the British Empire|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book V of the Story of the World Series. Treats the revolutions in South America and Mexico, the Boer War in South Africa, and the exploration of Central Africa, the Greek and Italian wars for independence, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the opening of trade with Japan and China, and the rebellion in India. Ages 13-18 |
THE AWAKENING OF ITALY
Mother of heroes, from thy death-like sleep."
ITALY, since the famous days of old, had been wrapt in sleep. The land of Dante
was dead, as far as Europe was concerned. She was only a
 name, only a "geographical expression." The Italians were practically the slaves of Austria. At the famous
Congress of Vienna,
the land had been parcelled out into dukedoms and provinces, "like so many slices of a ripe Dutch cheese."
Let us tell the wonderful story of her awakening.
When she yet lay in the fetters of Austria, early in the nineteenth century, one man—the pale, fiery-eyed
Joseph Mazzini—arose from among the people. And he saw, as no other saw at this time, the vast
possibilities that lay before her. As a child, he had wept tears of pity for his fellow-countrymen in poverty
or trouble; as a young man, he fancifully dressed in black, mourning for his dead country, whose woes had taken
such deep hold of him. The task of Italy was not yet done, he told himself, she must yet arise from her
glorious past and speak to nations "the gospel of humanity." A tremendous sacrifice was required. To make a new
Italy meant war with Austria; it meant loss of thousands of lives, exile, prison, and misery. Men could only
face it at the call of duty. So Mazzini taught his countrymen, and out of his teaching and enthusiasm sprang
the society known as "Young Italy."
"Young Italy," he says, "is a brotherhood of Italians, who believe in a law of progress and duty, and are
convinced that Italy is destined to become a nation."
As a nation, this mission was given them by
 God; God's law of progress promised its fulfilment. "God and the People" was the watchword of the new society,
which by the summer of 1833, numbered some 60,000 young Italians. Amongst them was Garibaldi, the man who was
later to play such a large part, in the liberation of his country.
But the founder of Young Italy was by this time an exile, and taking refuge in England, the land that has never
refused shelter to the political outlaws of foreign countries.
"Italy is my country, but England is my home," he used to say in after days.
As the years rolled on, Italy grew more and more determined to throw off the yoke of Austria. In 1848, the
second French Revolution broke out. It was followed by the Hungarian rebellion; and the enthusiasm of Italy now
burst forth in all its newly-found glory. At Milan, after five days' heroic struggle, the Austrians were driven
out and Venice won her liberty. From mountain and valley, town and village, volunteers poured forth to enlist
under Garibaldi. Mazzini himself hurried home to enrol as a volunteer, and carry the flag bearing his own
watchword—"God and the People."
" 'Italia Una!' now the war-cry rang
From Alp to Etna: and her dreams were done,
And she herself had wakened into life,
And stood full-armed and free: and all her sons
Knew they were happy to have looked on her,
And felt it beautiful to die for her."
 Events now moved fast. The northern states threw off the yoke of Austria; the Pope fled from Rome on February
9, 1849; a Republic was proclaimed, directed by Mazzini himself. But Austrian power was yet strong. Neither the
enthusiasm of a Garibaldi nor the lofty ideal of a Mazzini, could save Italy at this moment. On March 23 a
battle was fought at Novara, in northern Italy, between the Austrians and Italians. With the latter, Charles
Albert, King of Sardinia, had thrown in his lot, only to be utterly defeated. When evening fell, he called his
generals around him and abdicated his crown.
"This is your king," he said miserably, as he bade farewell for ever to his young son, Victor Emmanuel, who
knelt weeping before him. So saying, he passed from his kingdom and journeyed alone to exile and death. He did
not live to see that son crowned the first King of United Italy.
Meanwhile Prince Louis Napoleon and most of the French people took up the cause of the Pope, and sent an army
to Rome. In the face of danger, Mazzini's little Republic stood firm.
"Rome must do its duty and show a high example to every people," he said.
And heroically Rome prepared to resist overwhelming odds. The "Eternal City" was defended by Garibaldi and his
fierce band of volunteers. They were dressed in red woollen shirts and small caps—a strange company, with
their long beards
 and wild black hair. The first shot was fired, and "a thrill of deathless passion ran through Rome." Week after
week Garibaldi and his band kept the well-disciplined French army at bay. But the end was certain. At the last,
Rome sullenly surrendered, and the French army entered into possession. But not before Garibaldi with his
faithful 4000 followers had started off on his famous retreat. It was the last desperate venture of men, who
knew not how to yield to the foe. On a warm night in June they left the fallen city.
"Hunger and thirst and vigil I offer you," Garibaldi had told them, "but never terms with the enemy. Whoever
loves his country and glory may follow us."
And into the darkness of the summer night rode the red-shirted band with Garibaldi, Anita his wife, and Ugo
Bassi, his faithful monk-friend. Foot-sore, hungry, and weary, they made their way amid the Tuscan hills, until
they reached the Appenines, into whose depths they plunged. Eagerly they tried to reach Venice, but, driven to
the coast and surrounded by the enemy, Garibaldi was obliged to put to sea. He landed again, only to be hunted
over mountain and plain. His wife died in his arms. The faithful Ugo Bassi was captured, but Garibaldi escaped
from his pursuers at last and retired into silence, till the next crisis of his country's history called forth
his most heroic efforts.
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