The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Mazzini, Giuseppe

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Mazzini, Giuseppe
Edition of 1920. See also Giuseppe Mazzini on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MAZZINI, Giuseppe, Italian patriot: b. Genoa, 22 June 1805; d. Pisa, 10 March 1872. He studied law at the University of Genoa and practised his profession for a time, but the strong Liberal opinions he had imbibed as a child and his conviction that the oppressed condition of his country under Austrian rule called for men of action and public spirit, and that a noble course lay open before anyone who would give himself up, heart and soul, to the work of reforming her, led him to devote himself to a political career. In his ardent aspirations for the national unity of Italy, it seemed to him that her deliverance from foreign tyranny was to be achieved only by a return to the republican glories of ancient times. His patriotic enthusiasm in this direction was fostered by his early studies, which developed in him a passionate idea of the glories of a republic, and by the success which he had achieved in literature while still little more than a youth. In 1827 appeared his maiden essay, ‘Dell' Amor Patrio di Dante,’ which was published in a Liberal journal, the Subalpino. This led him to contribute under the mask of literary critiques other historical, philosophical and critical papers to the Antologia of Florence and the Indicatore Genovese. But the authorities, perceiving that the periodical literature of Italy was becoming far too strongly tainted with advanced Liberal opinions, suppressed these journals, and hoped, no doubt, thereby to have silenced their writers also. About 1830 Mazzini became an active member of the Carbonari, and this affiliation was the introductory step to his subsequent political life; he was active, able, bold and impetuous, and he soon rose into a position which gave him great influence in the councils of that secret society. While on a mission for the society he was betrayed by a Piedmontese spy, arrested and detained for six months as a prisoner in the fortress of Savona. On his release he went to Marseilles, France, to escape the police surveillance imposed on him in Italy. Here he organized the society of La Giovine Italia (Young Italy), and established under that same title a journal to advocate his views; the purpose of the society was to liberate Italy and establish a national government, Mazzini desiring a republic. It was about this time, too, that he addressed to Charles Albert of Sardinia the celebrated letter which drew down on him a sentence of perpetual banishment from his native country. He took active part in the organization of an insurrection of which Genoa was to be the centre, but the plot was discovered and failed. For his share in it Mazzini was sentenced to death in the Sardinian courts. He then went to Switzerland, where he organized another conspiracy for the invasion of Savoy (1834), which also failed. In 1837 he quitted Switzerland and took up his abode in London, where he kept in correspondence with the revolutionary leaders on the Continent, was recognized as the head of the Young Italy party, and instigated several insurrections, which were unsuccessful. After the insurrection in Milan in 1848 he again went to Italy, was chosen a member of the Tuscan provisional government in February 1849, and in the following month, when Rome was proclaimed a republic, he was chosen first of the triumvirs. He was the mainspring of the defense of Rome against the French, and on the surrender of that city in June Mazzini escaped to Lausanne, Switzerland. At this time he addressed to M. de Tocqueville and other French statesmen some most bitter and reproachful letters on the high-handed policy pursued by France. Finding his continental residence too hot for him he returned to London, not, however, with any idea of abandoning his long-cherished hopes for Italian unity. Later he had a hand in the unsuccessful uprisings at Mantua (1852), in Milan (1853) and in Piedmont (1857), being in Italy for a short time in 1857. He assisted also in organizing the expeditions led by Garibaldi in 1860, 1862 and 1867. An ardent Republican, he refused to take his seat in the Italian Parliament under the monarchy, though repeatedly elected from Messina, as a protest against the uncanceled sentence of death against him. In 1866 this sentence was formally rescinded; in 1868 he suffered from a serious illness, the effects of which left him in impaired health. In 1870 he was arrested at Gaeta under charge of conspiracy with Garibaldi and imprisoned for two months, being released after the occupation of Rome by the Italians. He was accorded a public funeral by the Italian government.

Mazzini was a copious writer. A perfect master not only of Italian, but of French and of English literature; he was an able commentator of Dante, the author of works on philosophy and a constant contributor to some of the most delightful periodical literature in Paris and in London. He would turn from the warfare of politics to write in his Apostolato Popolari for the benefit of Italian workmen sermons ‘On the Duties of Man.’ He analyzed in masterly fashion the faults and shortcomings of the economic and socialist schools. Though his actions were sometimes politically indiscreet, he was a man of attractive character and strong personal magnetism, distinguished throughout his career for disinterested patriotism and the highest moral standards of conduct. He was interested in the labor movement, organized a workingmen's association in London in 1840 and was for a time connected with the International Workingmen's Association (q.v.), but withdrew from that society whm it declared for Socialism. During his later life especially his efforts were directed toward separating republicanism from both Socialism and atheism. No man won so many admirers as Mazzini and yet secured ao few friends. There was hardly a human being whom long familiarity had not estranged from Mazzini. With manners consummately affable and courteous he combined an overweening conceit and a narrowness and bigotry of view which hardly tolerated independent minds. He was a lonely genius, all apart from the common ways of other mortals, spurning the suggestions of the plainest common sense, professing to do all for his fellow-beings, yet nothing with them or by their aid. He gave up the idea of ever being a prophet in his own country in his own age; his only trust was in a coming generation, where the germ of his idea could alone attain full development. The best edition of his works is ‘Scritti Editi ed Inediti’ (18 vols., Milan 1861-91); a partial collection is published under the title ‘Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini’ (1891). His letters have been published in English (6 vols., London 1890-91). Consult ‘Memoir of Joseph Mazzini’ (1877), containing his two essays ‘Thoughts on Democracy in Europe,’ and ‘On the Duties of Man’; Linton, W. J., ‘Recollections of Mazzini’ (1892); Marriott, ‘Makers of Modern Italy’ (1889): MacCunn, J., ‘Six Radical Thinkers’ (London 1907); Holland, R. S., ‘Builders of United Italy’ (New York 1908); ‘Cambridge Modern History’ (Vol. XI, ib. 1909); King, Bolton, ‘Life of Mazrini’ (new ed., ib. 1912); King, H. E. B., ‘Letters and Recollections of Mazzini’ (London 1912); Thayer, ‘The Dawn of Italian Independence’ (1893); Martinengo-Cesaresco, ‘Italian Characters.’