Interesting from Sicily. Garibaldi's Quarrel with La Farina. A Letter from Garibaldi

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 23 July 1860

First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 6018, August 8, 1860
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 17 (pp.421-424), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
Collection(s): New York Tribune

London, July 23, 1860

According to a telegram received to-day from Palermo, Col. Medici's impending attack on Milazzo had decided the King of Naples[1] to give orders for the complete evacuation of Sicily by the Neapolitan army, and their withdrawal to his continental dominions. Although this telegram stands in need of confirmation, it seems beyond dispute that Garibaldi's cause is working on, despite the disease his troops suffer from, and the diplomatic intrigues his Government is pestered with.

Garibaldi's open breach with the Cavour party, viz.: the expulsion from Sicily of La Farina, the notorious marplot, and of Signors Griscelli and Totti,[2] Corsicans by birth, and Bonapartist police agents by profession, has given rise to very contradictory comments on the part of the European press. A private letter of Garibaldi's to a London friend,[3] which has been communicated to me with the permission to state its principal contents in the Tribune, will leave no doubt as to the real bearing of the case. Garibaldi's letter is of a date anterior to his decree of the 7th inst., by which the three aforesaid plotters were summarily removed from the island, but it fully explains the points at issue between the General and the Minister—between the popular Dictator and the dynastic Grand Vizier; in one word, between Garibaldi and Cavour. The latter, in secret understanding with Louis Bonaparte, whom Garibaldi stigmatizes as "cet homme faux" (that false man), and with whom he foresees "the necessity of measuring his sword some fine morning"—Cavour, then, had determined upon annexing, piece-meal, such slices of Italian territory as Garibaldi's sword might cut out, or as popular risings might sever from their old allegiance. This process of piece-meal annexation to Piedmont was to be accompanied by a simultaneous process of "compensation" for the second Empire. As Savoy and Nice had to be paid for Lombardy and the Duchies, so Sardinia and Genoa were to pay for Sicily; every new act of separate annexation calling for a new separate diplomatic transaction with the protector of Piedmont. A second dismemberment to the benefit of France, quite apart from the outrage on the integrity and independence of Italy which it involved, would at once have put an extinguisher on the patriotic movements at Naples and Rome. The conviction spreading that . to coalesce under Piedmontese auspices, Italy must grow less and less, would have enabled Bonaparte[4] to maintain at Naples and Rome separate governments, independent in name, but for all practical purposes, French vassalages. Hence Garibaldi thought it his principal task to cut off all pretext for French diplomatic interference, but, as he understood, this could only be done by preserving to the movement its pure popular character, and divesting it of all appearance of connection with mere schemes of dynastic aggrandizement. Sicily, Naples, and Rome once liberated, the moment would have come for merging them into the kingdom of Victor Emmanuel, if the latter would take upon himself to keep them, and defend them, not only from Austria, the enemy in front, but also from France, the enemy in the rear. Relying, perhaps, somewhat too much on the good will of the English Government, and the necessities of Louis Bonaparte's situation, Garibaldi presumes that so long as he does not annex to Piedmont any territory, and exclusively relies for the liberation of Italy upon Italian arms, Louis Bonaparte will not dare to interfere in open violation of the pretexts upon which he commenced the Italian crusade. However that may be, this much is sure—that Garibaldi's plan, whether successful or not, is the only one that, under present circumstances, holds out any chance of rescuing Italy, not only from its old tyrants and divisions, but also from the clutches of the new French protectorate. And to baffle this plan was the special errand upon which Cavour had dispatched La Farina to Sicily, supported by the two Corsican brothers.

La Farina is a native of Sicily, where, in 1848, he distinguished himself among the Revolutionists by his hatred against the Republican party and his intrigues with the Piedmontese doctrinaires rather than by real energy or memorable exploits. After the failure of the Sicilian revolution and during his stay at Turin, he published a voluminous history of Italy[5], in which he did his best to exalt the Savoy dynasty, and to slander Mazzini. With soul and body bound to Cavour, he imbued the "National Association for Italian unity"[6] with a Bonapartist spirit; and having become its chairman, handled it as an instrument not for furthering but for impeding all attempts at independent national action. It was quite in keeping with these antecedents that, when the first rumor got afloat of Garibaldi's intended expedition to Sicily, La Farina ridiculed and reviled the very idea of such an expedition. When, nevertheless, immediate steps were taken in preparation of the bold adventure, La Farina put in movement all the resources of the "National Association" with a view to obstruct it. When his opposition had failed in discouraging the general and his men, and when at last the expedition sailed, La Farina, with cynical sneers, indulged in forebodings of the most sinister kind, making himself bold to predict the immediate and total failure of the enterprise. So soon, however, as Garibaldi had taken Palermo and proclaimed himself Dictator, La Farina rushed to join him, being provided with a commission from Victor Emmanuel, or rather from Cavour, which gave him power to assume the command of the island in the name of the King, directly after the annexation had been voted. Being, as he himself admits, despite his ill-omened antecedents, at first most courteously received by Garibaldi, he at once began to assume the airs of the master, to intrigue against the Ministry of Crispi, conspire with the French police agents, rally around himself the aristocratic liberals eager to close the revolution by a vote of separate annexation, and propose, instead of the necessary steps for the expulsion of the Neapolitans from Sicily, plans for the expulsion from the public administration of the Mazzinians, and other men not to be relied on by his master, Cavour.

Crispi, with the undermining of whose Ministry La Farina opened his intrigues, had for a long time been an exile in London, where he was counted among Mazzini's friends, and made the deliverance of Sicily the all-absorbing subject of his exertions. In the Spring of 1859 he went under a Wallachian name and character to Sicily at great personal risk, visited every great town there, and planned an insurrection for the month of October. The events of the Autumn delayed the insurrection, first till November, and then till the present year. In the mean time Crispi applied to Garibaldi, who, while refusing to excite an insurrection, gave the promise to aid it after it had once broken out and so far consolidated itself as to prove what were the real feelings of the Sicilians. During the expedition Crispi, with his wife, the only woman of the expedition, accompanied Garibaldi and fought in every action, his wife superintending the attendance on the sick and wounded. It was this man whom Signor La Farina wanted first to throw overboard, with the secret hope, of course, of flinging the Dictator after him. Garibaldi, out of consideration for Victor Emmanuel, and under the high pressure of the aristocratic liberals, consented, although under protest, to form a new Ministry and dismiss Crispi, whom he, however, retained as a personal counselor and friend. But Garibaldi had hardly made this sacrifice when he became aware that the dismissal of the Crispi Ministry had only been insisted upon in order to quarter upon him a Cabinet which, in all but name, was not his, but La Farina's or Cavour's Cabinet, and which, encouraged by the presence of La Farina, and relying upon Cavour's protection, would in a very short time counteract his whole plan of liberation, and turn all their influence throughout the country against the Nizzardist intruder, as Garibaldi was already nicknamed. It was then that he saved his own cause, not less than that of Sicily and Italy, by the expulsion of La Farina with the two Corsican brothers, the acceptance of the resignation of La Farina's ministerial nominees, and the appointment of a patriotic Ministry, among whom we may name Signor Mario.

  1. Francis II.—Ed.
  2. "Affaires des deux Siciles", Le Constitutionnel, No. 198, July 16, 1860.—Ed.
  3. The letter which Garibaldi sent in the summer of 1860 to Mr. Green, an English acquaintance of Marx, shows that Garibaldi wanted the struggle waged by the Italian people for the national unification of the country and its liberation from foreign rule to be independent of Napoleon III's policy. Marx is referring to this in his letters to Engels of July 9 and to Lassalle of September 15, 1860.
  4. Napoleon III.—Ed.
  5. Giuseppe La Farina, Storia d'Italia dal 1815 al 1850, Vols. I-VI, Torino, 1851-1852.—Ed.
  6. A reference to the Società Nazionale Italiana, a political organisation of a liberal monarchist trend founded in 1856 in Turin and 'other towns by G. Pallavicino, an Italian political figure, and La Farina, an agent in the pay of Cavour. Its aim was to popularise the ideas of Italy's unification under the aegis of the Savoy dynasty and to enlist the country's national forces for this cause. Garibaldi was an active member of this association and represented its revolutionary wing, but the decisive role in the organisation was played by Cavour's accomplices.