Italy during the Revolution and the Empire Part 3
According to LOCALCOLLEGEEXPLORER, the Italian Republic was transformed into the Kingdom of Italy after Napoleon, who became emperor, took the crown of Italy (May 1805). He appointed his stepson Eugene of Beauharnais viceroy of Italy, placing a French councilor, Count Méjan next to him, and reserving much of the royal power to himself. The borders of the Italic Kingdom a few months later were extended with the annexation of the Veneto following the Napoleonic victories and the Treaty of Presburgo (December 26, 1805). And since the king of Naples had sided with the enemies of France in that war, Napoleon ousted the Bourbon, and in 1806 appointed his brother Giuseppe king of Naples. In October of that year Napoleon proclaimed the continental block; which indirectly had effects on the political order of Italy. The wall, in fact, opposed by Napoleon to British trade and political penetration in Europe, had a breach: across the Italian coasts of the Tyrrhenian Sea, of Tuscany, of Lazio and Sicily. Hence the annexation of Tuscany in 1808, and the following year of Lazio, with the deportation of the pontiff to France. Thus the coasts of the peninsula were all under the direct dominion of France, or belonged to the kingdom of Italy and the kingdom of Naples. Except that although those kingdoms had military forces, supported by those of the powerful empire, the political-military situation of other times was repeated: without its seas and without its large islands, Italy could neither politically nor economically have a great future. Sicily, where the Bourbon had taken refuge, was in the power of the English; the Sardinia of Vittorio Emanuele I, which succeeded his abdicated brother Carlo Emanuele IV, was defended by the English fleet, and, right in front of Naples, Capri was occupied by the English.
However, the years 1809-1812, years of peace and fortune of the Napoleonic empire, were prosperous for the Kingdom of Italy. Milan became a very important center of national life; the Italian Kingdom acted on Italian political thought and national consciousness. It from Trento, annexed to the kingdom in 1809, to the Tronto and from Vercelli to Venice, formed a political unit that united populations hitherto separated by political barriers and economic interests, gathered a large part of northern and central Italy, making, even against the aims and political interests of Napoleon’s France, it is increasingly necessary to include the other Italian provinces within that unity. In spite of the dispersion of forces, wealth and lives for the Napoleonic enterprises, the country progressed materially and morally; the most frequent commercial relations between the various parts of Italy and between Italy and the transalpine countries contributed to the Roman grandiose work of streets and the impetus given to private initiatives, laws and French institutions that modernized the Italy with the adoption especially of the Napoleon Code, and the increase in culture and media education. In particular, military education served to tighten the bonds of national solidarity. Napoleon educated the Italians in arms. With the exception of the soldiers of the Savoy and the sailors of Venice and Genoa, the Italians had been kept away from military life. When Napoleon imposed compulsory conscription there was no lack of riots suffocated in blood; but soon the military glory seduced the minds of not a few; the Italian regiments stood out in the battles against Austrians and Russians. From that Italian army, which was dissolved by Austria, the first conspirators and soldiers for Italian independence will emerge.
The peace and fortune of the Napoleonic empire were brief: the events from 1813 to ’15, from the disaster of the expedition to Russia to the defeat of Waterloo, had their repercussions in Italy. In October 1813, when Napoleon was defeated in Leipzig, Viceroy Eugene tried to defend the kingdom against the Austrians, and unable to oppose the enemy advance on the Tagliamento, he closed himself in Mantua (November 1813). Not only his military position was difficult, but also his political one: following Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814, Eugene could not be considered viceroy of a king who no longer existed. Eugenio then did not dare to proclaim himself king of Italy with a vote of the senate of the kingdom, as Melzi advised him. In the meantime discontent broke out: the Austrians found themselves united with the pure Italics, as the patriots loved to call themselves, intolerant of French tutelage. On April 20 Milan rose up. On 23 April Eugenio abandoned Lombardy to the Austrians. On 30 May the insignia of the Italic army were removed and the Italian militias joined the Austrians. The Napoleonic ruin overwhelmed Joachim Murat’s reign of Naples even more tragically, which happened to Joseph in 1808. After the Russian campaign, Murat negotiated with the English and the Austrians to save the crown, then with Napoleon’s return to France. February 1815 he was reconciled with him, and addressed the Italians, inciting them with a proclamation (March 30, 1815) to the war of independence, of which he proclaimed himself champion. The hopes placed in the forces of the Italian volunteers were in vain: Murat who had gone as far as the Po was forced to retire, and returned to Naples, from where on May 20 he embarked for Provence. On the same day in Casalanza an agreement was signed between the generals of Murat’s army and Austrian representatives. On 9 June Ferdinand IV entered Naples acclaimed, after 9 years of exile. In the autumn of that year, Murat, ill advised and betrayed, attempted to regain the kingdom. From Corsica, where he had taken refuge, he landed at Pizzo di Calabria in the illusion of finding supporters in the people and in the army. Instead he found death: arrested, he was, with a summary trial, condemned and shot (13 October 1815).