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Francesco Crispi 1818-1901From Nation to Nationalism$

Christopher Duggan

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206118

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206118.001.0001

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(p.670) 19 Adua
Francesco Crispi 1818-1901


Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The scramble to get hold of potentially incriminating documents from the Banca Romana had been intense. Giovanni Giolitti had been desperate to secure as much material as he could. Giolitti decided to make the documents in his possession public, placing a sealed file — the famous ‘plico’ — in front of Biancheri, the Chamber President. The general feeling in political circles was that Giolitti had shot himself in the foot, but also damaged Francesco Crispi. Crispi's opponents got a platform from which to launch a general attack on his morality. This chapter looks at the plico controversy, the proroguing of parliament that was denounced by Crispi's opponents in politics as an act of violence, Crispi's series of victories in Africa, the 1895 elections, Crispi's view of the cataclysm of war as a crucial agent of patriotism, and the Battle of Adua on March 1, 1896 pitting Italy against Ethiopia.

Keywords:   Francesco Crispi, Italy, war, Ethiopia, parliament, Giovanni Giolitti, Banca Romana, Africa, elections, Battle of Adua

Giolitti's Plico

The scramble to get hold of potentially incriminating documents from the Banca Romana had been intense. Quite how many had gone missing was unclear. Tanlongo's son had passed a tranche of papers to Crispi. Giolitti had been desperate to secure as much material as he could, including, apparently, some that compromised Rattazzi and the king (‘[Giolitti] has extremely damaging documents on the Royal Household’, Farini was reliably informed in December 1894) and the President of the Chamber, Biancheri.1 He had also got hold of letters from Crispi's house, through sequestrations (and, it seems, Crispi's feckless son, Luigi). Among them were more than a hundred private letters that Lina had written to Crispi's former valet, now dead. He also had other items referring to loans contracted by Crispi and Lina with the Banca Romana, and some recommendations by Crispi on behalf of friends.

Tanlongo and Giolitti were in the most serious trouble. Both could feel—with justification—that they were victims of a system that was demanding their heads on a plate to save the monarchy. Tanlongo's defence was a clever one. His claim that the missing millions of the Banca Romana had been used on behalf of the government, but that the documents showing this had been removed, may not have been strictly true—Giolitti always maintained he had never materially subtracted any such documents from the trial2—but many documents had indeed been removed, or at any rate had not been released, and Tanlongo's allegation therefore risked opening a can of worms. Crispi was under pressure from the king to prevent a public trial. He claimed to Umberto that he would do his best to achieve this.3 But he knew that if he did gag the courts, there would be cries of a cover up. The finger of suspicion would then point at him (and still leave the king vulnerable). What he needed, therefore, politically, was an investigation that pinned the blame squarely on Giolitti. The risk was that Giolitti would counter-attack.

The enquiry into the subtraction of documents in the late summer and autumn of 1894 focused on four policemen who had been involved in the original sequestration of papers from Tanlongo's house at the time of his arrest. They were under pressure to state that they had been acting on Giolitti's orders.

(p.671) The Minister of Justice, senator Calenda di Tavani, kept a firm grip on proceedings, removing magistrates who might prove to be unduly sympathetic to Giolitti.4 Giolitti bared his teeth, however. He knew that he was facing moral assassination, and in an attempt to scare off the investigators he let it be known to the examining magistrates that if he had subtracted documents he had done so on orders from above to ensure the king was not compromised. Umberto was furious.

Crispi was now in a strong position vis-à-vis the king: the king needed him as a shield. Crispi took advantage of this to exact a pound of flesh. In August he struck at one of his main opponents among the senior ambassadors, Count Tornielli, in London, and bullied the king into moving him: Tornielli was a close friend of di Rudinì, whose sympathies were with France and Russia. Crispi hoped that Catalani could take his place: he had apparently promised the post to him.5 But the feeling against Catalani in London was too strong. Blanc thought of going to London—he was not happy at the Consulta—in which case, it was rumoured, Catalani might become Foreign Minister.6 In the end, though, Catalani went to Constantinople (the Turkish government protested—in vain), and General Annibale Ferrero to London. Crispi and Blanc wanted to get rid of Ressman in Paris at the same time as Tornielli. He was deemed too Francophile. A first attack in August failed: Ressman was strongly backed at court (and by Nigra). A second attack in January 1895 dislodged him—but Crispi had to agree to Tornielli in his place.7

Meanwhile, Crispi's opponents were manoeuvring against him. Already in June di Rudinì, Giolitti, and Cavallotti had been together at Zanardelli's house.8 Over the next few months this curious alliance began to firm up. Rattazzi hovered in the background. For Giolitti it was a question of revenge—and trying to save his skin: if he could shift the burden of moral opprobrium onto Crispi and bring him down, he had a reasonable chance of rehabilitation (and staying out of prison). Di Rudinì was ambitious to return to power and had considerable backing at court and among conservatives generally—particularly those favouring closer ties with France and Russia and reduced military spending. He also had the support now of the threatened Sicilian landowners and their allies.

Cavallotti had broken with Crispi politically in February, but the rupture had been far from total. Cavallotti's relations with Crispi went back nearly thirty years, and he felt enormous respect and admiration for him. Indeed, like (p.672) Pisani Dossi, Levi, and the other intellectuals born in the 1840s for whom Crispi embodied the grandeur of the ideal in politics, he nurtured almost filial feelings for the great man.9 Early in July, during the heated debates over the antianarchist laws, Cavallotti attacked Crispi and called him ‘emperor’. This, for Crispi, was the last straw: he would never speak to him again, he said. Cavallotti then wrote to Crispi upbraiding him for his pride and saying that he had used the word ‘emperor’ in jest. He reminded Crispi of their long friendship and of how in 1878, when everyone else was attacking him, ‘one person openly defended you … and that was me … and I owed you nothing and had never accepted your hospitality (except on one occasion when you gave me some excellent maccheroni with exquisite cheese and tomato, and at the time you were not a minister and did not look like becoming one)’. He had remained a good friend after 31 January 1891, when he had told him: ‘Think of your name’.

And today … in private, I repeat those words to you. If you think about it, if you go back over your life and reread what you have written—your name cannot be, and must not be, associated in the country with the two laws that Calenda has cooked up for you. These are not laws—they are sunstrokes—and the sunstrokes of July are dangerous. If I were the ferocious enemy that you like to imagine and depict me, I would not be writing you this letter … The day will come when you will say that I was right and that my harsh words were useful to you, and seemed kinder than the many, many adulations with which you are surrounded. As for myself, I will pursue this battle, too, to the bitter end, but with a heavy heart and knowing that I have done everything I can to spare myself, and the country and your reputation, from it. And if, to use your words, we must in the future no longer know each other, it is better and more worthy of us both that our last words in private should be these—and not those others … of our last exchange.10

The main weapon at the disposal of Cavallotti, di Rudinì, and the other enemies of Crispi was Giolitti's cache of papers. Parliament was due to reopen at the beginning of December. On 25 October Giolitti sent a letter to a political ally, ostensibly to help the defence of the four policemen accused of subtracting documents. In it he said that papers ‘that could shed some not very favourable light on a certain politician’ had indeed reached him while he was Minister of the Interior, but only some time after the original sequestrations; and they had not been germane to the Banca Romana trial. This letter should have remained sub judice. However, it was ‘leaked’ to the press.11 Immediately there were demands for Giolitti to hand over the papers in his possession. Speculation mounted, and by the time the Chamber reconvened the country was agog. There was a feeling that Crispi might be in serious trouble. ‘For a third year we will be dragging the country through the mire of gossip and scandal’, Farini told a friend disconsolately on 2 December.12

(p.673) The issue now was whether Giolitti's documents would be made public. On 7 December Colajanni rose in the Chamber. He asked what measures should be taken against a citizen who had declared he had important documents relating to the administration of justice and the political and moral life of the nation. Crispi said it was none of parliament's business: the individual concerned should hand them over to the judicial authorities. Colajanni rose again. He was referring, he said, to the documents spoken of by Giolitti in his letter: since Giolitti had acquired them when prime minister and Minister of the Interior, was it right for him to keep them? Crispi parried once more: he did not know what these documents were. ‘It will be said that you are afraid to proceed!’, cried Colajanni. ‘The word afraid does not figure in my dictionary! I have never run away!’, retorted Crispi. Disorder ensued, with members of the estrema shouting loudly.13

Giolitti consulted parliamentary colleagues. On 11 December he announced to the Chamber that he had decided to make the documents public. He then walked down from his seat and placed a sealed file—the famous ‘plico’—in front of the President, Biancheri. For a moment there was silence. Biancheri looked embarrassed. He could not accept the file, he said, and proposed it be placed unopened in the safe of the Chamber. A heated discussion ensued. At the end of it Crispi put his case. It was a legal one. It was also a threat. Who would take responsibility for publishing the documents? If parliament did, and the contents turned out to be libellous, the Chamber would have placed itself in a very embarrassing position. Giolitti should publish the documents himself or else hand them over to the judicial authorities: ‘Assemblies that are respected should examine and judge, and not make blind deliberations.’ There were cheers from the centre and the right.14

It was Cavallotti's suggestion that was accepted, however. A commission of five deputies, including Cavallotti, was to look at the file and report back. It delivered its report on 13 December. It was an anti-climax. Even Cavallotti apparently spoke of his ‘disillusion’.15 There were 102 private letters of Lina to Crispi's former valet: Giolitti's intention was presumably to remind people of Crispi's ‘immoral’ private life by embarrassing Lina. These and a few other purely personal letters were immediately returned to Crispi. The other documents referred to loans contracted by Crispi and Lina with the Banca Romana, and a few letters of recommendation from Crispi on behalf of friends and relatives. This material was not new: it had been looked at by Mordini's Committee of Seven and cleared as legal. (The one query was whether, ethically, Crispi should have borrowed from a bank when he knew of its grave irregularities.) The only novelties were some letters sent by Tanlongo to Giolitti from prison: but for the most part these repeated claims already investigated. There was also a telegram (p.674) from the prefect of Milan to Giolitti of 26 March 1893 reporting a meeting of Lucien Reinach with Crispi. The aim here was to try and breathe new life into the Herz affair.

The general feeling in political circles was that Giolitti had shot himself in the foot.16 Nonetheless, Crispi was damaged—not so much by the contents of the file, as by the way in which the whole affair, with its calculated theatricality, had given the impression that some monstrous new evidence had been unearthed. As Farini noted on 15 December:

I realize that the attempt to damage Crispi has succeeded, for although most of the revelations come from documents acquired for the Banca Romana trial and made known through leaks to the press or through being published in the proceedings of the Committee of Seven … the fact that nobody or few people have gone through those weighty reports means that the present revelations are regarded as new.17

More important, perhaps, was the suspicion created of no smoke without fire. And Crispi's opponents now had a platform from which to launch a general attack on his morality.

The king, as usual, was looking for the safest way out. Early in December he had told Farini that if Crispi fell it probably would not matter: Crispi was old and would soon be abandoned, and he would thus not present much of a threat out of office. (The king had ‘little goodwill’ for Crispi, Farini concluded.)18 The lack of substance to Giolitti's attack, however, and the immediate support shown for Crispi by many leading political figures and much of the Chamber, made it hard for Umberto to turn against his prime minister. Furthermore—and crucially—if Crispi went, it would be a victory for the estrema: and what was to guarantee that Cavallotti and his friends would not raise the stakes and go for the monarchy? ‘[ I ]t [ is] impossible to run the chance of the government falling into the hands of the extremists & agitators in whose hands Rudinì would be, as before, only potter's clay’, wrote Stillman on 19 December. And he added: ‘I never felt so hopeless for Italy as I do now, but somehow nations do not die.’19

The report of the Commission of Five was published on 15 December. There were tumultuous scenes in the Chamber. ‘The publication that has been distributed today is a tissue of smears and lies’, said Crispi. ‘And lies!’, he repeated forcefully. Crispi's name, shouted Imbriani, figured on every page of the report; and he and Cavallotti demanded an immediate discussion. Their motion was narrowly defeated: the discussion would take place the next day.20 Three hours later, however, a decree was issued signed by the king: parliament was prorogued. The reason given was that the Chamber was being sabotaged by ‘a handful of rabblerousers’ and that the prestige of the institutions needed to be protected. That (p.675) same evening Giolitti fled to Berlin: once his parliamentary immunity lapsed, Crispi could have him arrested. He had been indicted on 13 December on fourteen charges, including defamation, by Crispi, Lina, and others.21

‘In Italy Parliamentary Government is not Possible …’

The proroguing of parliament was denounced by Crispi's opponents—Cavallotti, di Rudinì, Zanardelli, and their supporters; in all, perhaps, about a third of the Chamber—as an act of violence. Their newspapers and those of the Lombard right castigated Crispi for his dictatorial or ‘Jacobin’ behaviour. During the weeks that followed they condemned his use of decree-laws as unconstitutional. In the country as a whole, however, the proroguing (and on 13 January, closure) of parliament was greeted with a measure of calm. Most conservative newspapers, including some that had formerly been hostile to Crispi, supported the action as necessary to protect the institutions.22 The journalist Leone Fortis said that on 15 December Crispi had closed the door on the ‘filthy stream’ of scandals: ‘It was a Jacobin action—just as Crispi's political character is Jacobin … I note, moreover, that the country has not been disturbed by it in any way.’23

The cabinet rallied behind Crispi (at least in public: Saracco secretly began to plot against him).24 The court suspended much of its hostility. The king expressed his gratitude to Crispi for his ‘tireless work’ and ‘selflessness’ (and started referring to him fondly as ‘the great lama’).25 The queen deplored the opposition's campaign: Crispi was a great patriot, she said, whose enemies simply wanted power.26 In many quarters there was a sense of acute foreboding, a feeling that Crispi was holding at bay the barbarian hordes who threatened to tear down the national edifice—the monarchy first and foremost. Respect for the king had plummeted in recent years; and his involvement in the banking scandals had become the subject of much café gossip. But better a corrupt monarchy than no monarchy at all. And better, too, a strong man at the helm—albeit one with vices—than no pilot at all. ‘It is my impression’, wrote Farini on 29 December, a few days after Cavallotti had published an open letter listing the counts against Crispi—including his supposedly unscrupulous dealings with Reinach and Herz,

that the majority of Italians want Crispi, and are hoping—indeed longing—for him, as he guarantees them calm; they fear that Crispi will be defeated in the vicious personal war being waged by the radicals, and will have to go. A senator, Chigi, said to me yesterday: ‘We all knew, everyone knew, that Crispi's life was indelicate. But he gives us peace; and we would have to be convinced that those who succeeded him would be less indelicate, which no-one believes.’27

(p.676) What of the challenge being presented to parliament? For many years Crispi had been highly pessimistic about Italy's parliamentary system. In the early 1890s his despondency deepened. La Riforma carried frequent articles decrying the behaviour of deputies. ‘Uproars had become a daily occurrence’, it wrote in July 1893 of the session that had just ended, ‘and they threatened to go beyond simple shouting and turn the chamber of the old palace [of Montecitorio] into a huge national boxing arena.’28 The experiences in 1894 intensified Crispi's anger. La Riforma deplored the ‘theatrical insults’, the ‘petulant virulence’, the ‘sensational episodes’, and the ‘calculated abuse’ that made normal debate more and more difficult, polluted ‘the consciousness and political education of the country’ and reduced the Chamber to a ‘vomitory of insults’.29

La Riforma suggested as a possible solution that the President should be given sufficient powers to ensure the dignity of the Chamber. In private, however, Crispi began to express the view that parliamentary government in Italy was now beyond redemption. ‘I have no reason to reproach myself’, he wrote to Lina a few days after proroguing the Chamber:

I have lived a hard-working life and harbour no regrets. I have done good even to those who did me harm, and this is a merit that God must take into account … There has been no political education in the thirty-four years of the new kingdom, and there are no feelings of love for the fatherland. Everything is about interests, and the worst of interests … Parliamentary government is not, as I wanted it to be, a government of virtue, but an assembly of intriguers. When an honest government happens to be formed, the intriguers are prepared to resort even to criminal actions to destroy it.30

Elsewhere he was more forthright. Farini recorded in his diary on 19 December:

[Crispi] starts discussing the situation, which demonstrates that in Italy parliamentary government is not possible. When I protested at this remark, saying that Unity, Monarchy and Parliament are three inseparable elements … he went on: ‘I will not do anything against parliament, but whoever comes after me will not be able to govern with it.’31

A fortnight later, talking with the queen and Farini, he said:

Luckily we have the Senate, and heaven help us if the Senate were elective. This is one of my ideas that I have gone back on. In this way you could replace the Chamber of Deputies with a consultative body … When you have the likes of Imbriani in parliament, Chambers become impossible—and all Chambers become like this with universal suffrage. It was for this reason that the English never wanted universal suffrage …32

What was Crispi thinking of? The fact that these remarks were made to two supporters close to the king suggests he was looking to put pressure on Umberto (p.677) to act. But what exactly did he want Umberto to do? Constitutionally, the king was head of the executive: if he opted for a German-style Chancellor, theoretically he could have one. The Kaiser seemed to think Crispi aspired to this arrangement;33 and certainly by the beginning of 1897 Crispi was explicit in proposing it. Talking to the queen on 2 January he said: ‘Following the levelling of the classes—which we have inherited from the French Revolution—the parliamentary system is not suited to the Latin peoples.’ What was the most appropriate system, the queen asked? ‘The constitutional: parliament for the laws, the king for the government. When parliament participates in government, it leads to disaster. The king is bound by formulas. He does not rule, he is ruled by others … And this is wrong. An entirely new system is needed. It exists in Germany. If we continue with the present system we will end up with revolution.’34

Crispi's feeling that parliamentary government was unworkable in Italy in its present form, and that a much stronger executive was needed, was widely shared in political circles. Sonnino echoed Crispi's view famously in his article Torniamo allo Statuto (‘Let us return to the constitution’) at the beginning of 1897 (the article, Guiccioli noted in his diary on 9 January, had created a huge impression because, ‘it reflects the general feeling … Many people agree with his criticisms of the parliamentary regime, and its degeneration, though they do not dare say so’).35 In and around Montecitorio, and at court, denunciations of ‘parliamentarism’ abounded, and Farini—who was a committed supporter of the Chamber—at times found himself conducting a one-man crusade on its behalf. A few days after the proroguing of parliament, for example, he was in Palazzo Braschi with Crispi, Mordini, Saracco, Tabarrini (President of the Council of State), and Biancheri, and ‘all, without exception, began vehemently to denounce parliamentarism’.36 In March 1895 he encountered Guiccioli and a group of deputies and senators, ‘who were all tut-tutting about parliamentarism’. Farini argued on this occasion that rule by parliament was preferable to rule by one man, as the latter would be much easier to discredit.37

These anti-parliamentary views were fashionable. Since the beginning of the 1890s, many leading Italian academics—sociologists, criminologists, anthropologists—had begun to apply crowd psychology and theories of race to the study of Italy's political system. They argued that parliament was an inherently degenerate institution, particularly ill-suited to the Latin peoples, who were morally weaker (less self-disciplined, more individualistic, more emotional) than Anglo-Saxons. The Panama scandal in France and the banking scandals in Italy gave them plenty of ammunition. Parliaments, it was suggested, like crowds, had a low standard of collective moral behaviour. And their vices were (p.678) essentially incurable, said Lombroso in 1893, because ‘that whole substratum of prejudices and vices that can be held in check through culture in the individual, wells up and turns into a vicious poison in assemblies’.38 The conservative instincts of mass electorates (another form of crowd) added to the problem: they felt most comfortable with mediocrities, and thus tended to return deputies of relatively poor quality to parliament.

In tandem with these debates on parliamentarism went a debate on ‘Caesarism’. Crispi's extraordinary grip on parliament and the public imagination in 1887–91 led political scientists and sociologists to search for a theoretical explanation for his success. His return to power in 1893 and his growing authoritarianism fuelled their discussions. For Vilfredo Pareto the key issue was the disharmony between society and the political institutions. In France this had produced Napoleon III; in Italy, Crispi. The weakness of the parliamentary system in coping with threats—especially those from the far left—drove the naturally timid middle classes into the arms of a strong man, who played on their fears and exaggerated the dangers in order to increase his authority and power.39

Probably the most famous exposition of the Caesarism thesis in relation to Crispi was an essay by Guglielmo Ferrero entitled La reazione. It was published early in 1895. Its starting point was ‘the Crispi phenomenon’, and the way in which ‘an almost regal aura has been growing up around [Crispi], his family, and his household’:40

The Crispi phenomenon will remain among the strangest and most curious aspects of Italian history this century; and his dictatorship will be one of the problems that will most occupy historians in the future. No man this century has ever enjoyed as much power in Italy. Nobody has been able to impose his own personality on the entire country as he has, or stamp the political life of the nation so forcefully with his character, or arouse such enthusiasm, such hopes, such hatred. Nobody has so completely eclipsed the political world around him.41

Ferrero explained the success of Crispi in terms of his extraordinary personality and the political immaturity of Italian society. Crispi was impulsive, emotional, and self-contradictory. He was authoritarian, and used the machinery of the state as if in a revolution. He pursued politics, ‘as a poet writes or a musician composes, through impulses and flashes of inspiration’. Nothing about him was cold: ‘Suffice it to see him when he makes a speech: his face grows bright, his eyes blaze, his gestures become taut, his curt and unadorned language bursts into flashes of true eloquence … Every idea of his is tinged with a sentiment: with enthusiasm, with hatred, with scorn, with love.’ He had ‘fictive imagination’, which enabled him to believe in fantastic plots—by the French, for example.42 In all this Crispi was successful, Ferrero argued, because he was so unrepresentative. He (p.679) was passionate, resolute, and energetic where most Italians were indifferent, sceptical, and lazy. Above all he was endowed with great ‘will’: the average Italian was ‘listless’. Crispi also appealed to the primitive ‘messianic illusion’ of many, the longing for salvation in times of difficulty (‘that tendency to trust in miracle-workers’). His attraction was particularly great to the country's middle classes, who lacked independence and strength, and were largely indifferent to questions of freedom (‘Italy is not mature enough for liberty; it is not aware of it and does not understand it’).43

Ferrero was not a supporter of Crispi. His sympathies were with socialism, and his hope was that Italy would find a leader who could articulate the modern in Italian society rather than the archaic—just as Gladstone and Disraeli had done in Britain after Wellington. However, Ferrero's work—like that of Lombroso, Sighele, and the other writers on parliamentarism and Caesarism at this time—tended inevitably to provide Crispi with legitimation: Crispi became the ‘natural’ leader for Italy in its present phase (Georges Sorel described Ferrero's essay as ‘a small masterpiece’ because it showed how Crispi's dictatorship was not against parliament but an expression of it.)44 Sighele was inclined to regard Crispi as a stroke of good fortune. In his short work Contro il parlamentarismo, published in 1895 and reprinted several times, he argued that rule by an exceptional individual, a man of genius who could embody the hopes of the masses, and draw them behind him, was the best antidote to parliamentary degeneracy.45 Two years later he wrote:

A people that is still in many respects barbarous, inevitably wishes to be guided, commanded and led by somebody … For this reason, when, above the stagnant waters of parliamentary mediocrity, there arises an individual who possesses—albeit with many faults—the qualities most admired by the masses—strength, self-confidence and courage—he will sooner or later find himself at the head of the government, carried there … by that deep-seated instinct for servility that is the hallmark of the psychology of Latin and southern peoples.46

Did Italy's parliamentary system have many committed defenders? Outside the ranks of Crispi's immediate opponents—especially (and ironically) the estrema—probably not. Pasquale Villari told Guiccioli in September 1892 of his deep concern at the rising tide of political immorality in Italy: ‘Parliament is a real cesspit of baseness and immorality, and if the head of state were to kick out the occupants of the filthy stable of Montecitorio tomorrow, the whole nation would applaud.’47 Many foreign observers felt similarly. The British ambassador told Lord Kimberley in December 1894 that the proroguing of parliament was ‘thoroughly justified when one considers the scandalous scenes which would have been … enacted’. He noted the calm with which the news was (p.680) greeted in Rome and added: ‘[ I ]t is no doubt a matter of considerable relief to many to be spared the daily scenes of uproar which were being enacted in the precincts of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.’48 Stillman, who had become increasingly disgusted by the ‘wrangles and intrigues … and want of all principle and patriotism’ in Italian politics, suggested in January 1895 that the best hope for Italy was ‘ten years of a dictatorship to educate Italy, & Crispi as dictator’.49 Another journalist, the naturalized Englishman and former correspondent of The Times, Antonio Gallenga, echoed this. Writing to Crispi (the only ‘man’ left in Italy, he said) on 22 December, he applauded the attack on parliament: ‘I was hoping for a Crispi Dictatorship, and we are close to it, in words and deeds … If Crispi does not save us, we are going to have to be ashamed to be Italians.’50

The Wedding of Giuseppina

For some time Crispi had been eager to secure the future of his daughter. His main concern was that she should be happy and provided for. Lina also had pronounced social ambitions: she had long courted the Neapolitan and Sicilian aristocracy. In 1894 Giuseppina was engaged to Francesco di Paola BonannoChiaramonte e Cattaneo, Prince of Linguaglossa. The Bonannos were an ancient Sicilian family, originally, perhaps, from Pisa, whose fortunes and titles dated primarily from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They were not particularly distinguished: they had occupied various positions at court and administrative posts, but could claim no illustrious forebears.51 They had large estates, mainly in the province of Siracusa. Crispi believed that they were wealthy: they turned out to be considerably less wealthy than he had supposed.

The civil ceremony took place in Naples on 10 January 1895. Crispi's recent opening to the Catholic Church gave him the political freedom to indulge in a full-blown religious ceremony (the presence of two cardinals nevertheless caused some mirth).52 This took place the next day at the fashionable church of the Ascension in the Chiaia district. It was a glittering occasion (‘overblown celebrations’ and ‘buffoonery’, according to the king, who was no doubt echoing the snobbery of many at court),53 with ministers, dignitaries, and members of the aristocracy. Carducci wrote an ode specially for the occasion: it was reproduced on the front of the programme. Carducci presented Giuseppina with a copy in his own hand and accidentally wrote ‘Procida … maggiore’ instead of ‘migliore’, thereby giving rise to humorous comments about ‘Major (maggiore) Francesco Crispi’.54 The orchestra of the San Carlo opera house provided the (p.681) music, and two well-known singers the Ave Maria and the prayers. At the reception the writer Matilde Serao conveyed the greetings and congratulations of the women of Naples to the bride.55

The marriage proved loveless and the unhappiness of his daughter added to the wretchedness of Crispi's last years. A boy, called Placido, was born early in 1896, but it died after a few weeks: Guiccioli, Blanc, and others went to console Crispi and found him weeping bitterly.56 No other children were born to the couple, who rapidly drifted apart. By the end of 1896 there was embarrassing gossip about their matrimonial difficulties, and a French newspaper reported (incorrectly) that Giuseppina had eloped with a coach-driver. Equally galling for Crispi was the fact that Francesco (‘Franz’) had no money. Crispi had struggled to put together a huge dowry, but within months of the wedding he was having to negotiate a large loan for Franz with Adriano Lemmi.57 The Linguaglossa estates were already heavily mortgaged and Crispi feared for his daughter's financial security. ‘What a wretched marriage!’, he wrote to Lina in May 1897.58

His son, Gigi, was also a continuing source of distress. After the episode of the stolen letters in 1893, Crispi did his best to steer him into the paths of righteousness, and for a while Gigi rewarded him by concentrating on his legal studies. Gambling, prostitutes, and mistresses soon took their toll, however. The last straw came in the spring of 1895 when Gigi's lover—a member of the Catholic aristocracy—alleged that the young man had stolen her jewellery. Crispi is said to have confronted Gigi, and when he confessed, pointed to a pistol and suggested he do the honourable thing.59 It later transpired, though, that the theft was fabricated and that the mistress was trying to blackmail Crispi using the malleable Gigi as her accomplice. The affair rumbled on for several years, with Cavallotti doing his best to milk it for all he could. It ended in 1900 with Gigi being sentenced to four years in prison. He had already emigrated to Brazil in 1896.60

Success in Africa

Crispi was fortunate that the proroguing of parliament coincided with a series of victories in Africa. For several months after the capture of Kassala, Baratieri had been unaware that ras Mengesha had abandoned Italy and gone over to Menelik. Early in December, however, he noted an alarming build-up of Ethiopian troops in Tigré, and began to suspect the truth of the situation. In (p.682) mid-December an ally of Mengesha, a warlord called Batha Agos, went onto the offensive. He took a number of Italians hostage and then launched an attack on an Italian fort at Halai. A relief column arrived just in time, and Batha Agos was killed and his army dispersed. Italian losses were minimal.

Baratieri called on Mengesha to disband his forces. Mengesha temporized. Baratieri advanced to Adua to deter the arrival of enemy troops from the south. He occupied the town successfully for several days, and then withdrew north again. The Foreign Ministry asked if he needed reinforcements: Baratieri's Garibaldian instincts inclined him to say no, but on 4 January he accepted the offer of an extra battalion. Mengesha was now on the march, and on 12 January Baratieri saw his army advancing along the road towards Koatit. He sent an advance guard to occupy the town, and at first light on 13 January the Italian forces launched a surprise attack on Mengesha's camp, pushing the numerically superior Ethiopian forces back after a hard-fought battle. Two days of skirmishing followed. Mengesha then retreated. Baratieri set off in pursuit and routed his army near Senafe. Suddenly Italy found itself in almost complete control of Tigré. It had been deceptively easy: the cost had been low and the casualties few.61

The news from Africa produced much excitement in Italy. ‘I am extremely nervous’, wrote Guiccioli in his diary after the first reports of the inconclusive engagement at Koatit, ‘and for two nights I have been sleeping badly, thinking of Africa. If only we could win! To turn this Italy, sunk in gossip, sordidness, and partisan hatreds, towards an ideal of glory and power! For that I would sacrifice many years of my life.’62 The court was delighted (the queen in particular) at the victories. Congratulations poured in from foreign governments, and Umberto felt quite elated. He even put up benignly with Crispi's extreme brusqueness: now that he was in a stronger position than ever, Crispi dispensed with any pretence at etiquette, demanded audiences when it suited him, entered and left the king's presence without bowing, and harangued Umberto loudly.63

Crispi had great faith in Baratieri. He had him promoted to Lieutenant General. The glories of 1860 seemed to have come again. ‘You managed, like a true Garibaldian, to defeat a stronger enemy with smaller forces’, he wrote to him on 18 January. He urged him to proceed to the occupation of the whole of Tigré.64 Baratieri's confidence in his own abilities—and the weakness of the enemy—was also considerable. He declined an offer of four battalions of reinforcements from a rather nervous Minister of War: two would be enough, he said. He was sceptical about the suitability of Italians as front-line troops in the mountainous terrain of Ethiopia. He preferred to trust instead to indigenous recruits.65

Crispi's desire to occupy Tigré was not shared by most of his colleagues: they (p.683) regarded the military and financial risks as too great. Crispi very reluctantly agreed to moderate his aspirations (‘Crispi would have liked to occupy everything, including China and Japan’, the king told Farini on 4 February. ‘He seems persuaded now.’).66 One of the main problems facing Italy was its diplomatic isolation. Crispi had struggled in 1894 to get closer to France: but France saw no reason to be conciliatory. Apart from anything else it had its own ambitions in Harar, in the southern Red Sea, and in the upper Nile valley, and thus looked to support Menelik—militarily and diplomatically—against Italy as a way of its extending its influence in the region.67 Britain was trying to humour France. So, too, was Germany at this time. No power had any need or desire to assist Italy in Africa: and Italy was too weak for any power to be afraid of incurring its displeasure.

Baratieri's own ambitions were considerable, and with all the key players in Rome—Crispi, Blanc, Mocenni, Sonnino, the king—singing from slightly different hymn sheets, he felt justified in taking some decisions unilaterally. Early in March ras Mengesha made overtures of peace. Baratieri called on him to disband his forces. When he failed to do so, Baratieri marched into the town of Adigrat, and then, for strategic reasons, pushed on to Adua. In a rare show of solidarity, Crispi, Blanc, and Mocenni sent a joint telegram telling Baratieri that a permanent occupation of Adua (and hence Tigré) was not possible: he should stop at Adigrat.68 Baratieri protested: without Adua, Adigrat would be continually under threat. Crispi had to insist: ‘All further expansion in Africa faces opposition in northern Italy, even among government supporters.’69

The problem for Crispi at this time was that he was about to announce general elections. He could not risk financial commitments in Africa beyond the nine million lire earmarked by Sonnino. Military considerations had to be subordinated to political expediency. (The Minister of War found himself sidelined: on 8 April he wrote to Crispi to complain of not being allowed to see Baratieri's telegrams and having to rely on newspapers for his information.)70 Baratieri was furious at being made to withdraw from Adua and he offered to resign: ‘There was no more favourable moment in Africa to resolve the Ethiopian question, no more unfavourable one in Italy. I have therefore been stopped in mid tracks, and I do not know what I am allowed to do.’71 Crispi refused to accept his resignation. Baratieri was, after all, a victorious general and a great national hero.

The 1895 Elections

Crispi may have become profoundly disenchanted with parliament. He may have hoped that Umberto would take some ‘constitutional’ initiative. But (p.684) Umberto was not a man to rock the boat—unless violently pushed. And anyway, Crispi's instincts, for all his vituperativeness and frustration, were those of a parliamentarian. He had a new electoral law, passed almost unanimously the previous year and published at the end of March, that would reduce the electorate by about a quarter.72 He had been working hard at a pact with the Church, especially in Lombardy. He thus had reasons to believe that a new Chamber would prove more manageable than the last one. On 27 April the Council of Ministers agreed to dissolve the Chamber. Elections were fixed for the end of May.

Crispi's main aim was to weaken the estrema. He was optimistic: the results in the administrative elections in Milan in February had been very heartening. But his endeavours to secure the support of the Church were effectively dashed with the Pope's letter of 14 May reconfirming the non-expedit. Moreover, the battlelines between the far left and Crispi were deeply drawn, and in Lombardy in particular the socialists and the radicals could count on an effective party organization. The hostility of the wealthy conservative areas of the North to Crispi was entrenched. Crispi's intemperate electoral address in Rome on 23 May did not help his cause. In it he lambasted his enemies without offering any clear government programme. Even Farini was appalled by its ‘unprecedented violence’: ‘They are trying to justify it by pointing to the attacks that had been made on him … But what virtue is there in calling the opposition ‘shameful’ (Giolitti), ‘inept’ (Rudinì), and ‘weak’ (Zanardelli), as if after him Italy was destined to collapse?’73

Crispi certainly felt embattled. He was risking moral and political assassination. He was protecting the monarchy and, in his view, the nation that he had given so much of his life to building. He had always been a fighter, and never felt more energized than when under attack. But he was now 76, and the strains were beginning to tell. There was a certain coarsening of his nature, an inevitable tiredness, a growing irritability and impatience that he struggled to control, a want at times of judgement and perspective, a tendency to see the world in Manichaean terms. In his desperation to thwart his opponents he was prepared to take risks that he perhaps might not have countenanced before. Against the advice of Sonnino, for example, he contracted a large loan to meet electoral expenses with a certain Favilla, director of the Bologna branch of the Banco di Napoli—a banker with whom he had already had private dealings. The secret funds of the Ministry of the Interior—the usual source for electoral expenses—were not sufficient, it would seem.74 This loan was to cause him problems after his fall from power.

(p.685) The election results were good for Crispi, but not as good as he would have liked. The government secured around 320 seats, an increase of about thirty deputies. Giolitti, Zanardelli, and di Rudinì all lost ground. There was a clear geographical split, with Crispi winning a huge majority in the South, Liguria, and much of the centre, but the opposition prevailing in Lombardy, the Veneto, Emilia, and Piedmont. The biggest disappointment was the estrema. The radicals won about forty-five seats, only slightly less than before, while the socialists went up from five to fifteen. Among the latter were three who had been sentenced to prison for their part in the troubles the previous year.75

The Chamber was due to reopen on 10 June. It was widely expected that the session would be stormy. Cavallotti had spent much of the spring digging around for mud to sling at Crispi, and his findings were eagerly anticipated. The speaker, Giuseppe Biancheri, was nervous, and was reluctant to be reappointed. ‘I feel powerless to hold in check the angry passions, to assuage the eviltempered insults’, he told Crispi on 28 May.76 The first few days of the new parliament were indeed unsettled. Crispi was infuriated by Cavallotti's appointment to the electoral review board: this placed ‘my calumniator among my judges’, he said.77 However, he urged calm—on his followers and on himself: ‘Any gesture of impatience would be unwise’, he told Lina on 16 June. ‘… If I lose my self-control, my enemies will profit and secure what they are after; and I must not give them that satisfaction … My conscience is absolutely clear; and I am not afraid of the honourable rogues.’78 The Chamber was largely behind him, he felt, and so was the king.

The first violent outbursts came on 19 June when Crispi spoke in the debate on the speech from the throne. Costa, Prampolini, Imbriani, and others interrupted him, demanding to know when an amnesty would be issued for the socialists. Crispi said that was up to the king; and anyway it would be far more worthwhile to have an amnesty for ‘the deceived and credulous masses’. To loud applause he declared: ‘You are the aristocrats of democracy even when it comes to pardons.’ And to even louder applause: ‘But we will think above all of the poor peasantry which has been taken in and seduced … without leading it down the path of crime.’ Barracking followed, and the sitting had to be suspended. Never before, said the speaker, had there been such ‘acts of violence’ in the Chamber.79 Crispi was proud of his own behaviour: he had kept calm and had managed to keep on speaking lucidly despite the efforts of the radicals to shout him down. But it was not a struggle he enjoyed, he told Lina: ‘My soul is made for honest struggles that will be of benefit to this Italy of ours.’80

(p.686) Cavallotti's attack on Crispi, Agli onesti di tutti i partiti (‘To the honest of all parties’), was published on 22 June. Cavallotti himself had been ill for several days with ice-packs on his head: delirium tremens, according to some (his drinking was certainly a problem).81 The aim of the attack was to show that Crispi had always been immoral and dishonest. (To fend off the obvious question of why, in that case, Cavallotti had been Crispi's friend and admirer for so long, Cavallotti claimed, unconvincingly, that he had only known him properly since 1894.) The issue of Crispi's bigamy was resurrected: Cavallotti had got a copy of the marriage certificate from Malta. The various loans from the Banca Romana involving Crispi and other members of his family were listed. The Herz affair resurfaced with details (furnished by Rattazzi) of how early in 1891 Rattazzi had gone to get the decree giving Herz the cordone mauriziano back from Crispi and how Crispi had shown him a cheque for 60,000 lire. (Umberto was furious with Rattazzi for telling Cavallotti about the king's own role in the Herz affair: this was potentially very embarrassing.)82

Elements of Crispi's youth were dredged up. (The odes he had published in L'Oreteo more than fifty years earlier were paraded by his enemies at this time as evidence of ‘clerical’ and ‘Bourbon’ sympathies.) Cavallotti published a notarial document drawn up in Naples in 1845 in which a certain Vassallo Paleologo apparently promised to pay Francesco Crispi 300 ducats if he managed to procure him an administrative post within four months. This was intended to indicate Crispi's venality and bolster the Herz allegation. The fact, however, that the document was an official public one does not suggest that anything very unethical had been involved. Moreover, as Tommaso Palamenghi Crispi later showed, the original signatory was not Vassallo Paleologo but one Francesco di Rudinì. To have revealed this would of course have been to reveal Cavallotti's source for the document. It would also have attenuated somewhat the ‘venal’ character of the transaction.83

Di Rudinì, Giolitti, and Rattazzi were Cavallotti's principal accomplices—an indication that many around Umberto, and to some extent Umberto himself, were quite willing to see Crispi damaged. In the spring there had been talk of a possible reconciliation between Crispi and Giolitti. This would effectively have drawn a line under the scandals and may have been one reason why Rattazzi held back from divulging to Cavallotti all that he knew about the Herz affair. No reconciliation took place, however: Giolitti rather than Crispi was the more intractable party, it seems.84 And once the elections were over and a (p.687) relatively safe conservative Chamber had been returned, Crispi's enemies were ready to furnish Cavallotti with the ammunition that he needed.

Umberto was privately quite pleased that Crispi was in trouble. It tipped the balance of power in his favour: Crispi needed the king now as much as the king needed Crispi. And if Crispi fell there was a good prospect of a safe conservative government that would keep the estrema at bay. Umberto exuded schadenfreude in these days, and spoke disparagingly of his prime minister—to underline that he was in control and to make the point that he was tolerating Crispi from necessity. ‘And to think that all this is so true … and that I know worse things!’, he told his aide-de-camp after Cavallotti's letter came out. ‘Every day I receive a pile of letters from people asking me: why do you keep that pig?’ But he had to keep Crispi, he said: he could not have di Rudinì, Brin, or Zanardelli just yet: ‘… I am keeping Crispi. He is a pig, but a necessary pig. He is strong and responds when the need arises … I know Crispi is a good-for-nothing, but I have to support him at this time for the sake of the country's higher interests. Everything else is irrelevant.’85

To Crispi, himself, of course, he sang a different tune. He had not bothered to read Cavallotti's libel, he told him on 23 June, ‘because I know it is the usual rehash’. ‘And I do not want to read it. They have told me about it, and there is no reason for you to be concerned. As you know, this sordid publication cannot destroy my affection for you, nor weaken my friendship, which remains constant. Do not be worried; and press on … Lies do not last. You are strong!’ He embraced Crispi and kissed him.86 This was certainly reassuring, but Crispi wanted more. In particular he wanted the king to make a gesture of public repudiation towards Rattazzi by filling the vacant post of Minister of the Royal Household. That Rattazzi still enjoyed the king's ear was well known to Crispi: Rattazzi would often wait behind a hedge in the garden of the Quirinal to overhear what Umberto was saying or buttonhole him for a secret conversation (in dialect) when he returned from a drive.87 But Umberto was not willing to comply: he was annoyed with Rattazzi, but not that annoyed. He told Crispi he was happy to continue without any minister.88

How was Cavallotti's attack received in parliament? The far left immediately declared the accusations to be incompatible with Crispi continuing in office, and tabled motions calling on Crispi either to prosecute Cavallotti for defamation or else set up a commission to investigate the charges. Crispi was scornful and refused to countenance either option: ‘At my age, after having served the country for fifty-three years, I am entitled to believe I am beyond the reach of insults and defamations and immune to them! Let the Chamber decide.’89 The (p.688) ensuing vote of confidence resulted in a clear victory for Crispi by 283 votes to 115. The Chamber agreed that the whole question should be shelved for six months.

The battle-lines were clearly drawn, and despite fresh allegations by Cavallotti in the course of the next few weeks—for example, that Crispi had not been present at the Battle of Calatafimi in 1860 and had merely watched it in safety through a pair of binoculars—and smears and insinuations in the opposition (and French) press (for example that he had married Felicita Vella and thus might be a trigamist) Crispi's majority remained intact. Saracco continued to plot quietly and boasted in July that he had 200 supporters: but there was a general feeling that Saracco lacked the necessary steeliness to survive long in the present climate.90 Crispi's support was partly due to a sense that the campaign against him was base and unfounded. More important, though, in all likelihood, was a widespread fear of Cavallotti and a belief, as Stillman said, that Crispi was, ‘a breakwater which makes an insurmountable obstacle to the disorderly element’.91

The disorderliness in parliament certainly continued, and Crispi did all he could to stay calm and secure the completion of business before the summer recess. It was a studied performance. ‘Crispi … fanned himself tranquilly—took all the insolence of the Rudi[nisti] & never turned a hair—spoke ten minutes as if he were making an exception in the tribunal & went on fanning himself again’, wrote Stillman after a particularly stormy session on 10 July.92 It was not easy for Crispi to control his feelings, however. ‘The debates in the Chamber have nothing civil about them any more’, he wrote to Lina on 14 July. ‘These bitter and vituperative verbal battles, these insidious attacks, are a new form of barbarism created by civilization …’93 A few days later he said: ‘If I continue to be patient, so as not to play into the hands of my enemies, I will end up looking like a coward. And I am not a coward.’94 On 23 July he contemplated resigning: but that would be a victory for his enemies, he felt, ‘and a disaster for our poor country’.95 One crumb of comfort was the loyalty of his majority: 294 deputies remained in Rome till the end of July: ‘It is a wonderful display of devotion to me.’96 They remained to support Crispi and behind him, the king. When on 30 July Imbriani questioned the size of the civil list, Crispi declared: ‘The king is the symbol of unity, and such discussions should not occur!’ His words were drowned in thunderous applause.97

How did Italian public opinion respond to Cavallotti's onslaught? The general reaction in the press (Il Secolo and other radical organs, excepted) was one of mild anti-climax: it was widely felt that there was nothing in the documents (p.689) published by Cavallotti that drew any serious blood.98 The one allegation of substance was that regarding the Herz affair; and this was the one allegation that La Riforma deigned to reply to, repeating the explanations given in 1893, stating that the 50,000 lire had been for professional legal services and denying in the strongest possible terms the existence of any cheque for 60,000 lire: ‘The Honourable Cavallotti has lied, knowingly lied … If Cavallotti has not stupidly misconstrued Rattazzi's words, then it is the latter who is the liar. But, probably, the two distinguished gentlemen will have concocted the lie together.’99

The problem for Crispi, though, was not so much the specific charges as the general climate of smear, suspicion, and faint ridicule generated, which was bound to leave his image tarnished. And however petty some of the allegations, his unwillingness to refute them left him vulnerable to gossip-mongers and unscrupulous journalists eager to boost newspaper sales. Crispi's reticence was born partly of scornful pride.100 But he was also aware that there were genuine moral and ethical question marks over his behaviour which he could not expect to erase completely—as with the bigamy accusations or the Banca Romana loans; and though it was grotesquely unfair to query his role in the Battle of Calatafimi, the fact was he had not actually been involved in the fighting and had not bothered to correct those biographers who had made out that he had been.

But he was also disarmed for another reason. To take Cavallotti to court would be to risk compromising the king: any full enquiry into Crispi's relations with Tanlongo and the Banca Romana would mean exposing Umberto's vulnerable position. And any thorough explanation of the Herz affair could have serious repercussions for the Triple Alliance. Cavallotti was quite happy to risk the courts: on 19 July he brought four charges against Crispi in relation to the Banca Romana and Herz. The judiciary, however, quickly passed the buck back to parliament; and parliament let the matter drop.

Crispi thus had to suffer the assaults on his reputation largely in silence. Cavallotti's virulence embarrassed many; and many also knew that the attacks were unjust. Few, though, had the courage to say so at the time.101 Colajanni confessed a few years later that he had always disapproved of his colleague's crusade: Crispi certainly had his faults, but he was too great a man to deserve the base accusations to which he was subjected. ‘Passion, righteous anger, and love of liberty and Italy, blinded Cavallotti—I told him so on several occasions, both verbally and in writing.’102 Another leading figure of the estrema, the Neapolitan economist Arturo Labriola, felt likewise. Writing in 1910 he said:

Crispi was not the rogue the democrats liked to make him out to be … I was a victim of his exceptional laws (1894), but I readily admit that Crispi was the only Italian politician to have had an exalted vision of his country … The convolutions and confusions of the (p.690) southern temperament … left question marks hanging over Crispi's politics in a way that often made him appear a scoundrel; and yet no one, perhaps, entered government with more sincere intentions and with a greater rectitude of personal conduct.103

Even Giolitti felt obliged to admit in his memoirs in 1922 that in his view Crispi ‘personally was honest and disinterested’. ‘There is no question in my mind that he ever thought of exploiting his position in order to make money. He was honest, but disorganized, or more correctly, perhaps, he had to shoulder the burden of domestic irregularities and take responsibility for them …’104 Many were inclined, a little unfairly perhaps, to attribute the bulk of Crispi's financial difficulties to the extravagance (and unscrupulousness) of Lina.105

If Crispi's reputation was inevitably tainted by Cavallotti's attacks, his overall popularity does not appear to have been seriously damaged. Among those groups (especially in the North) that were already hostile to him, the ‘moral question’ served mainly to provide additional grounds for anger and abuse. Elsewhere—and especially in the South, where the campaign against Crispi could easily be seen as an essentially ‘northern’ conspiracy—he was as fêted as ever, it would seem. In part, and ironically, Crispi may have been shielded by the deepseated cynicism about politics and politicians that he more than anyone else since 1860 had struggled to correct—a cynicism that all too often afforded an easy excuse for civic irresponsibility. ‘The truth’, Vilfredo Pareto wrote to Colajanni in July 1895, ‘is that in Italy morality is known only by name. It is pointless demonstrating that Crispi is a rogue. Everyone knows it. But the more he is a rogue, the more he is liked.’106

20 September 1895

For many the events of the early 1890s were profoundly dispiriting. The prolonged financial crisis, the banking scandals, the chaos in Sicily, the declaration of martial law, terrorism, the growth of extremism, the disorderliness of parliament, the petty rivalries and intrigues of deputies, the weakness of the monarchy, the continued challenge from the Church, the resurgence of regionalism—all this seemed a far cry from the Italy that had been dreamed of by patriots in the Risorgimento. ‘Poor Italy’, wrote Farini in his diary in July 1895, ‘it is hurtling towards disintegration. Rome, unity—perhaps they were the ideas of madmen and poets! … There is no ideal of patriotism or liberty to soar above material interests and breathe its spirit on them … Unless a stronger will, a firmer conscience, arises, we are lost.’107 Where was the collective faith to save Italy (p.691) from its ‘decadence’? ‘Strong hatreds and strong loves can bring about the revival of peoples. Indifference consigns them to the grave.’108

The attainment of moral unity to complement Italy's material unity seemed as remote as ever. For Carlo Tivaroni, writing the final volume of his monumental history of the Risorgimento in 1895, ‘moral unity’—that indispensable ingredient of a modern state, without which there could be no nation, only a ‘collection of individuals easily dissolved’—had eluded Italy:

When the conscience of the ruling classes becomes universal, when a sense of patriotism pervades the rural masses, when all the provinces of Italy have these attributes in equal measure, then, and only then, will Italy be able to look ahead with confidence and faith. Otherwise the work of the Risorgimento will have been in vain and will have served no other purpose than to demonstrate the physiological inability of Italy to be a nation.109

Another historian, Vittorio Bersezio, concluded the eighth and final volume of his biography of Victor Emmanuel II in 1895 with a passionate plea to all—‘rulers, magistrates, teachers, heads of households; every man monitoring himself’—to ‘make Italians’: ‘Deplorable events have shown that this work is still far from being completed.’110

For Crispi, too, the events of 1894–5 confirmed him in his long-standing belief that Italy's fundamental problem was its lack of patriotism. ‘Political education’ was still needed. La Riforma returned repeatedly to the theme at this time; and during the final few years of his life Crispi jotted down numerous reflections on the failure of Italy to overcome the legacy of the pre1860 states and fuse itself into a nation. For example:

Italian unity was the result of a mere aggregation of seven states, and not of a revolution. Apart from the wars of 1859 and 1866, fought to drive out the enemy princes, there was no violence, no change. The peoples remained as they were prior to the constitution of the new kingdom, with their former practices and their faults, tenaciously holding on to their local traditions, with no fusion or mingling of races, and in some places keeping the old antipathies and the old prejudices, without any hope of nationalizing those characteristics that act to keep the peoples of the peninsula divided.111

As these observations suggest, Crispi still saw the cataclysm of war as a crucial agent of patriotism, the ‘baptism of blood’ that would bolster the institutions—the monarchy especially—generate national sentiment and ‘make Italians’. During his last months in power in 1895–6 Crispi pressed one last time for military glory. His motives were of course mixed: at one level he was simply looking to confound Cavallotti. (‘If Baratieri won in Africa, Crispi would become a saint for the Italians’, wrote Giolitti disconsolately in February 1896, lamenting the political levity of his countrymen.)112 But the belief that war could (p.692) engender Italy's long sought after ‘moral unity’ was certainly strong. As La Riforma said in an article entitled L'Italia nuova (New Italy) on 17 January 1896, discussing the beneficial effects that the campaign in Africa was having on the nation,

We should register in the mean time the great victory we have secured over ourselves. And praise be even to war, if it has served to make us realise it! … When we remember how Italy seemed yesterday and how it appears today, we cannot avoid repeating just once—and let it be only once—the hymn that was raised to war one day in the Reichstag by Marshal Moltke, like the priestly evocation of the cult of Odin in the depths of the forests of Germany. ‘War’, said the marshal, ‘has been instituted by God, and is a principle of order in the world. In it, and through it, the noblest human virtues are enhanced: courage, selflessness, devotion to duty, love of sacrifice. Without war, the world would slide into putrefaction and drown in materialism.’ And look, indeed, at how many cubits the Italian people has grown by since the war in Africa began … No, this people is no longer the starving eunuch, forced or condemned, as some would have liked, for ever to watch over the harems of French policy … Rather, this is a people of mature political conduct, conscious of its rights and duties … Oh, what good blood, good blood that does not lie, is Latin blood! And so it is that, in the face of a thousand obstacles and dangers, through many careless slips and errors … the primal and essential element of our race has triumphed … and the new Italy has begun to be formed … When the moment of truth, the supreme test, arrives … we find ourselves … a serious and mature people, a truly superior people … May victory soon shine on the heroes of Africa … But in the mean time let us note that, thanks to them, the old wish, too often made a mockery of since 1860, can now be said to have been fulfilled. With pride, we can now claim that not only Italy, but also Italians, have been made!!113

In the late summer of 1895 Crispi sought to promote patriotic sentiment with two major events. The first was a national shooting competition, inaugurated in Rome amidst great publicity and in the presence of the king on 18 September. Crispi's interest in military training and the nation in arms was of course of long standing. It had received new impetus in the early 1890s as a result of the pressure on governments to cut the defence budget: Crispi argued that the size of the standing army could be safely reduced if all citizens were regularly instructed in weaponry. In the first half of 1895 the Ministries of War, Public Instruction, and the Interior submitted proposals to strengthen the country's existing network of 700 gun clubs and 300 ranges—weakened by spending cuts in 1891–3—and in July a bill on target shooting reached the Chamber. It did not get discussed, however. Crispi planned to present another bill in the autumn session.114

Inaugurating the competition, Crispi underlined how much military training was part of ‘the civil tradition of our Risorgimento’. Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi had exercised ‘the practical apostolate of the redemptive virtue of arms’ and had made clear that liberty and independence could best be (p.693) safeguarded by making every citizen a soldier. What was needed now was to promote as widely as possible, throughout all classes, ‘the martial spirit’; and in the modern age that meant developing mind and body: ‘We want sound minds in sound bodies. Therefore, just as minds are trained elsewhere in intellectual gymnasiums, here we will train the bodies of Italian citizens with the most synthetic of gymnastic activities—for the honour of the fatherland, for your glory, Sire, for your hope, Royal Highness.’115

Two days later, on 20 September, came a much more important occasion: the celebrations to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the taking of Rome. Crispi's efforts to win the support of the Church had foundered during the elections in May, and he was now keen to restore his standing with his old anti-clerical friends on the left (and take his revenge on the Vatican). A bill was submitted to parliament early in July (not by Crispi, but with his blessing) to make 20September into a national holiday. To Crispi's horror, it faced opposition, and he had to implore deputies to act with dignity and avoid ‘an insult to the national conscience’.116 The new holiday, according to La Riforma, would provide ‘fresh bonds of concord between all parts of the peninsula’. It noted, however, that Italy was still behind France in the commemoration of patriotic events.117

The festivities began with the inauguration of the statue to Garibaldi on the Janiculum. The huge equestrian figure had taken nearly ten years to complete: it could have taken two years longer had Crispi not pressed the sculptor, Gallori, to finish it quickly. As it was, the casting had only started on 28 July. It was allegedly the largest monument of its kind ever constructed in Europe, weighing nearly 8,000 tonnes, employing 180 workmen, and costing one million lire.118 The image was restrained: Garibaldi, seated on his horse, wearing a poncho and Hungarian cap, gazing out over the city, guarding it. ‘The artist has done well to depict the Hero with his eye towards the north, between the Vatican and Parioli’, said La Riforma in a special illustrated supplement: ‘the Vatican, where the bloody she-wolf snarls; Parioli, where you, Giovanni Cairoli, fell, flower of youth. And perhaps that eye gazes further still, out to that ill-starred northern way, along which the barbarian descended, and along which some new enemy could descend to strike at the heart of the fatherland.’119

Early in the morning of 20 September 10,000 carriages and more than 20,000 people ascended the Janiculum. Around the base of the statue stood two hundred Garibaldian veterans with red shirts and banners. A pavilion had been erected for the king and other dignitaries. There were speeches by the mayor of Rome and by Crispi. Crispi's caused a sensation. He knew that it would be provocative, and he told Guiccioli a few days later that he had been uncertain whether to deliver it. ‘Then I decided to. Like Socrates, I have a kind of familiar (p.694) demon whose voice I listen to.’120 It began with a deliberate snub to Cavour: the history of the Risorgimento was summed up in three names, he said: Victor Emmanuel, Garibaldi, and Mazzini. He then launched into a polemic about the temporal power: the spiritual authority of the Pope (‘a demigod’) could only be damaged by material encumbrances, and Catholics ought to be grateful that the temporal power had been destroyed. Its destruction was divinely ordained: ‘It was the fulfilment of God's will, just as it had been the will of the Almighty that Italy … should be restored to unity …’121 The king was not pleased: ‘What a speech, here in front of the Vatican.’ Even the staunchly anti-clerical Farini pronounced it ‘too polemical’.122

Crispi wanted the celebrations to have a plebiscitary character—like the funeral of Victor Emmanuel (but unlike the ‘pilgrimage’ of 1884, which he had criticized for its timid attempts to control the influx of people); and the inauguration in the afternoon of the monument at Porta Pia—an ancient column, eight metres high, with a statue of victory on the top—was organized in such a way as to stress the idea of spontaneous popular enthusiasm. Some 50,000 people gathered around Piazza del Popolo, moved up the Corso to Piazza Venezia, and then along the via Nazionale, towards Porta Pia, swelled as they went, like a huge river, by fresh crowds that had gathered along the route.123

The celebrations carried on for several more days. Rome was festively decorated with gas and electric lighting. Various cultural events were staged, and two more monuments were inaugurated: one to Cavour, another to Minghetti. It was a great celebration, an affirmation of Crispi's vision of the Risorgimento as the union of people and monarchy in the name of Italy against the temporal claims of the Papacy. The events were slightly soured for him, however, by Lina's refusal to join him in Rome and by a burglary: when he went to his house in via Gregoriana to get ready for a banquet on the evening of 20 September he found that his ten parliamentary medals had been stolen along with his pearl buttons and various other items:124 a depressingly symbolic comment, perhaps, on the relationship of material self-interest and patriotism in Italy.


Garibaldi had bequeathed a dangerous legacy to his followers: a belief that victories were won primarily through strength of spirit, not material force. The Battle of Lissa, Crispi said in 1875, was proof, ‘that it is not science … that secures victories, but the hearts of those who fight against the enemy’.125 The (p.695) caution (and incompetence) of many court-promoted generals, the pacific inclinations of the diplomatic corps, and the timidity of most deputies reinforced Crispi in his feeling that Italy's lack of success on the world stage (and domestically) was due in large measure to a lack of energy and will. In the case of Africa, he also dangerously under-estimated the enemy: like many on the left (the far-left included) who subscribed to the gospel of progress, Crispi regarded the Ethiopians as barbarians, and morally inferior to Europeans. What match could a primitive, ramshackle slave-trading kingdom be to a modern liberal state like Italy?

Baratieri arrived in Rome from Africa towards the end of July. He was greeted as a national hero. In his absence he had been elected to parliament, and when he went to take his seat in the Chamber on 26 July, he received a standing ovation. The radicals had thought about booing, but decided it was politically wiser to join in the applause instead.126 A few days later Crispi told parliament that the government's policy in Africa was a defensive one: ‘It has never been our intention to conduct a policy of war, much less of conquest.’ Italy had acquired the Ethiopian plateau under the Treaty of Uccialli, and the advances into Tigré had been strategic responses to enemy aggression. However, he went on to muddy the waters by talking of Ethiopia as a training-ground for Italian soldiers and saying that Italy was fighting for ‘the fatherland’ in Africa as it was engaged there in a struggle with other European powers. He also pointed out that the Treaty of Uccialli obliged Menelik to stop trading in slaves: Italy was thus involved in an ‘act of civilization’.127 The frontier between defence and offence in Crispi's mind was not very clear.

Privately, indeed, Crispi was prepared to make some extravagant claims. When Finali spoke to him once of the risks involved in Africa, Crispi reassured him by saying that the proper preparations had been made and that within ten months, ‘Ethiopia will not be spoken of any more’—by which Finali understood that Crispi intended to wipe Ethiopia off the political map.128 Silver coins had already been minted, it seems, for use in Ethiopia showing Umberto wearing the imperial crown.129 Baratieri, like Crispi, spoke in public of having purely defensive aims; but the impression he gave in private was often rather different. Finali sat next to him at a reception in Rome and quizzed him about the limited forces at his disposal in Africa. Baratieri smiled and talked of the Mille and the colonial expeditions of the Spanish in South America. ‘Other times and other peoples, my dear general’, Finali pointed out. ‘We are dealing with a country that has been in existence for more than thirty centuries.’ Their conversation was then interrupted by the toasts.130

Baratieri certainly did not press for many additional resources when in Rome—partly because he knew it would be politically unwise to do so. When (p.696) he saw Sonnino he asked for just three million lire more for 1895–6 (two million, he said, if hostilities had not broken out by December). Sonnino agreed.131 Sonnino was probably the most hard-headed of Crispi's cabinet colleagues, who believed strongly—for financial reasons—in retrenchment in Africa. Other ministers were less decided in their views, however—not least because they were well aware of the king's eagerness for military glory. By the time Baratieri set sail again for Africa in mid-September he had received plenty of encouragement to treat the idea of ‘defence’ in a suitably flexible way: after all, as the Minister of War told a friend in November, the best way to defend yourself was often to attack.132

One major problem facing Italy's ‘defence’ of its colony was the flow of French arms to Menelik. These were shipped in at Djibouti, and for some time Blanc and Crispi had been begging the British government to allow Italian troops into the nearby port of Zeila, from where they could disrupt Menelik's supply line and threaten a second front. Lord Rosebery had turned a deaf ear.133 When Salisbury returned to power in June 1895, Blanc tried again. He asked Berlin for assistance. Berlin intervened with London, but not very forcefully: Germany's main concern at this time was to keep in with Russia and France. Salisbury was unhelpful: as always, he could see little reason to help Italy and he did not want to antagonize France. He passed the buck back to Germany: what about Tripoli or Albania as alternatives for Italy to Ethiopia? Neither, as he well knew, was realistic.134

Crispi and Blanc felt trapped. French hostility to Italy had been increasing since the beginning of the year; and Russia—which had ambitions on the Red Sea (and claimed religious links with Ethiopia)—was making diplomatic overtures to Menelik. One way of breaking free was to try and precipitate a European war. The Eastern crisis had resurfaced in the first half of 1895 following fresh Turkish atrocities against the Armenians. There were calls from public opinion to sort out the ‘sick man of Europe’. Russia talked of taking Constantinople; Salisbury talked of letting Russia have it. This caused panic in Berlin and Vienna. The feeling was, though, that if the Triple Alliance pledged military support to Britain, Salisbury would be willing to take a stand against Russia.135

Talk of a European war, however, alarmed the Italian military. Fighting against Ethiopian tribesmen was one thing; taking on Russia (and probably France, too) was another. While Blanc was doing his best to encourage British and German aggression in the east, the Ministry of War and the General Staff were making it clear that they did not think Italy was in a fit state to confront a major conflict. Blanc grew frustrated. Early in October he vented his spleen on Primo Levi. ‘The Foreign Minister’, he wrote,


has to deal with the persistent diffidence of Berlin and London brought about by our inflexible military policy … It would be culpable negligence on my part if I did not recognize that such constant and invariable hostility by the Ministry of War and the General Staff was paving the way for certain failure in our foreign policy, hostility (and it is surely not coincidental) intended to undermine the policy of alliance with Germany and England. As a result we are being placed in a position of isolation, mistrusted by our friends and despised by our enemies. And while in the east the situation is growing more critical, we are being reduced militarily to the position, in Europe, of Spain.136

On 24 October a meeting was held in Palazzo Braschi attended by Crispi, Blanc, Mocenni, Sonnino, and the Chief of General Staff, Domenico Primerano. The main issue was war with France. ‘War is probable’, said Crispi; and he spoke of the French army being mobilized and ‘ready to march’. How long would it take to get the Italian forces to the frontier, ‘to stop an invasion and to fight’? Twenty-one days, said Mocenni. Crispi talked of the urgency of making good Italy's defences and increasing the armaments programme. This was financially impossible, Sonnino said. Blanc voiced his annoyance: ‘Our weakness is damaging us abroad, especially in Germany. It is also harming us in England, where they are asking insistently what our forces are and how long we need to mobilize them.’ Blanc and Crispi were frustrated: ‘The discussion drags on, but no decisions are made about preparing us for war.’137

The next day Sonnino set out in writing for Crispi his economic objections to increased spending. The government had to stick to a balanced budget; all conceivable savings had been made; and, politically, it was impossible to ask for new taxes when war was not imminent. He expressed horror at what he had learned: since 1877, 740 million lire had been allocated to extraordinary military works, ‘and it is truly deplorable that the military experts now come and tell us that a large part of the works that have been completed need to be redone because they are no longer of any use’. He felt they had no choice but to make the best of a bad situation. They should remove the incompetent commanders, concentrate their forces in the Alps (and leave defence of the South largely to the navy), focus all arms production at Terni, have smaller, better organized battalions, and promise their allies only two army corps that would be fully mobilized and ready for action swiftly.138

In November the Eastern question reached its climax. Italy and Austria looked to mobilize the Triple Alliance (and Britain) against Russia. Germany felt obliged to support Austria, but wanted Britain to take the initiative. Vienna suggested a joint operation at Constantinople by the fleets of the six great powers. Crispi and Blanc backed the idea strongly. London hesitated. Berlin tried to push London on. Russia and France were against the proposal—as it (p.698) was known they would be.139 Blanc turned up the pressure on Berlin: this was the last chance for Britain to show its resolve in the Mediterranean, he told the German ambassador: ‘If England backs down, Italy will have to change its tack, and pursue alternative policies’ (i.e., abandon the Triple Alliance).140

On 13 November a ‘war cabinet’ of Crispi, Blanc, Mocenni, Sonnino, and the Minister of the Marine, Enrico Morin, met to discuss the situation. Sonnino agreed to an additional three million lire for the army and a million for the navy.141 On 15November Giovanni Bettolo, one of the commanders of the fleet sailing to the east, addressed a meeting of deputies in the library of Montecitorio: ‘Give the ministry your firm support’, he said. ‘With Crispi in power we feel confident, and if war breaks out we will win. Avenge 1866.’142 The next day Bettolo and Vice-Admiral Accinni met Crispi. Crispi stressed that the six powers were going to Constantinople ‘united’ and that at this stage they should display ‘total cordiality’ towards France. What if it came to a division of the Ottoman Empire, asked Bettolo: what should Italy take? ‘Tripoli!’ As they left, Crispi said: ‘God bless you. The fate of our fatherland rests in your hands.’143

Berlin was terrified that Crispi would precipitate a war before Salisbury was committed. In no circumstances, according to the Kaiser, was the Italian fleet to enter the Dardanelles before the British had opened fire: the presence of Italian ships there would be like ‘a firebrand next to a barrel of gunpowder’.144 Blanc reassured the German ambassador that Italy would indeed wait for Britain to act first. Crispi held back, and the Italian battleships cruised in the waters off Smyrna.145 But he told Stillman on 19 November that he believed there was little chance now of preserving peace given that France and Russia were not willing to accept a partial solution to the Turkish problem.146 Two days later he briefed the king: Salisbury wanted to act with Italy, he said, and if the Dardanelles were forced, it would be Italy's task to occupy the Turkish forts. Mocenni had promised to mobilize 35,000 troops in five days without touching the forces on the Alpine border. ‘I am hoping for peace. I have prepared as best I can for the eventuality of war.’147

Britain, however, was not committed to going to Constantinople. The navy was unwilling to breach the Dardanelles without a firm guarantee of French neutrality. And Salisbury might anyway have been bluffing all along, hoping to push the Triple Alliance into acting on its own with assurances of British support. This is what the Germans suspected; and they looked to repay Salisbury for his chicanery a few weeks later with the famous Kruger telegram. Salisbury (p.699) may have been calculating that Crispi and Blanc, in their desperation to precipitate a war, would do something rash. He was not far wrong, it seems. At the beginning of December Crispi talked of forcing the Dardanelles. At one point he summoned Morin and ordered him to send the fleet to Trebizond. Morin refused: that would mean war with Turkey and probably Russia, too, he said.148

There was not going to be war. The German Chancellor, Hohenlohe, told his ambassador in Rome on 17 December that it was now clear that the British were looking for a peaceful solution to the crisis and that the Italian government would have the dissatisfaction of seeing its fleet return unblooded.149 Salisbury was careful not to kill off Crispi's hopes too quickly, however: he knew that Crispi and Blanc felt let down and would be strongly tempted to turn towards France and Russia. He thus continued to make clear his concern about the situation in Constantinople and hinted to Crispi that he was considering a joint action with Italy and Austria (Crispi even promised to keep ten battalions and artillery ready in Naples, ‘under the pretext of Eritrea’).150 In late January, according to the German ambassador in Rome, Crispi was still optimistic about ‘the duel between the whale and the bear that both [he] and Blanc in petto long for’.151

Meanwhile, though, Crispi's attention had switched back to Africa. It had become clear in the autumn of 1895 that Menelik was considering a major offensive. Baratieri telegraphed on 7 October: ‘I will act with prudence and energy to prevent a possible invasion.’152 His ‘energy’ was not questionable; his ‘prudence’ was. He had only about 10,000 soldiers at his disposal (Menelik soon had more than ten times as many) but nonetheless decided to advance. He took the position of Debra Haila after a minor engagement, and proceeded to Makalle, where he set about constructing a small fort in the grounds of a church, using the gravestones for the outer walls. Ras Mengesha had in the mean time wisely withdrawn. Baratieri issued a proclamation annexing Tigré to Eritrea.153

Hubris was soon followed by nemesis. Baratieri's intelligence was woefully deficient, and he greatly underestimated the strength of Menelik's growing army. In mid-October he talked of the need to augment his own forces: but only with 2,000 additional local conscripts. In November he established a forward post at Amba Alagi, more than fifty kilometres ahead of the most southerly Italian defensive position. On 7 December it came under attack from an advance guard of Menelik's army. A column of some 2,000 men faced an army perhaps twenty times its size. As a result of a telegraphic error, the commander, Major Pietro Toselli, engaged the enemy, believing that a relief force would soon be (p.700) arriving. The result was a massacre. Twenty Italian officers and well over a thousand indigenous soldiers were lost. Toselli himself was killed.154

Blanc was inclined to blame the British for the disaster: if only Italy had been given access to Zeila, he told the German ambassador, Menelik would have been less free to move north and the French might have been frightened off supplying money and weapons.155 He had a point, and in the second half of December he renewed his efforts to get a concession out of Salisbury. Salisbury, as ever, exuded affability—he wanted to be helpful, he said. He could not let Italian troops stay in Zeila, but he could see no reason why they should not pass through the port. Blanc got excited. But with customary sly finesse, Salisbury then slipped in a proviso that killed the proposal stone dead: they ought just to make sure first that Paris had no objections. Paris, of course, did.156

Mocenni felt that Baratieri was to blame for Amba Alagi. He discussed the situation with General Baldissera on 11 December, and Baldissera said Baratieri lacked judgement.157 One of Baratieri's colleagues (and rivals) in Ethiopia, General Arimondi, was even more damning. In a telegram of 19 December he told Mocenni that Baratieri ‘never listened to my views about the inappropriateness of occupying territories that made the situation difficult defensively … and he was not concerned at all about the possibility of an impending war’.158 On 23 December Mocenni wrote to Crispi in strict secrecy. Baratieri had just asked for an extra eighty quadrupeds per battalion when other reinforcements were already on their way: this proved, ‘that he only has an intermittent grasp of his situation’. He had looked back at Baratieri's telegrams and was not impressed: ‘This man no longer inspires my confidence and it seems he does not have confidence in himself.’ He was ‘energetic and brave’, but ‘of weak character’. He should be replaced. Crispi concurred: ‘Dispatch Baldissera, from Trieste if necessary.’159

Crispi's faith in Baratieri, like Mocenni's, had plummeted in the fortnight following Amba Alagi. Immediately after the disaster, Crispi and Mocenni had pressed Baratieri to specify what reinforcements he needed. Baratieri had been vague: it depended on what the enemy intended to do, he said lamely.160 He continued to be vague. Crispi telegraphed him on 17 December: ‘This is a critical moment for you and for us. We have sent you—and are sending—more than you have asked for. If reverses occur through insufficient supplies or lack of foresight, we will not be to blame. The country is waiting to avenge the victims of 7 December and maintain the prestige of our flag.’161

(p.701) Tragically, Baratieri was not removed. On 24 December Crispi had a decree ready to replace him with Baldissera; but when Mocenni saw Baldissera the following day, Baldissera raised objections. Given his character Baratieri might attempt ‘some precipitate action’ if he learned he was being stripped of his command; the present campaign was likely to prove short and be more diplomatic than military; and the fact was that Baratieri had won a number of brilliant victories recently, and had not himself been present at Amba Alagi. Mocenni reported these observations to Crispi. Crispi said that they were sound. Presumably Baldissera had conferred with the king and was relaying his wishes (there was certainly speculation that Baratieri was being protected by the court). Crispi agreed to keep Baratieri on. ‘I confirm nothing should be done for now.’162

Why did Crispi decide not to take a firm stand? In part because the case against Baratieri was not clear-cut yet, and neither parliament nor public opinion would easily understand a decision to remove him. But there was probably another consideration, too. For all his weaknesses, Baratieri was an ex garibaldino with a strong sense of patriotism, who offered Crispi (and behind him the king) the possibility of securing what he craved above all else—a brilliant victory. The quest for military glory, as Sonnino, perhaps the most clear-sighted of Crispi's colleagues, repeatedly indicated, was the Achilles’ heel of the campaign in Africa. The logic of the situation suggested a strategy geared simply to defending the colony. Largely for political reasons, however, Crispi wanted to defeat Menelik decisively. The two requirements were not necessarily incompatible, but in practice, given Italy's limited resources, they were always likely to be.

Immediately after Amba Alagi, Crispi and Mocenni made plans to call up an additional 25,000 men. Sonnino was annoyed and offered his resignation. First, because he had not been consulted on the financial implications, and second, because the issue of ‘goals’ had not been clarified. He told Crispi on 15 December that he had given Baratieri what he had requested in July to defend the colony: if Baratieri had gone beyond his original plans, that was not his responsibility. Any Treasury Minister would find what was needed for defence: ‘However, it is important to clarify what is meant by the word “defence”.’ Crispi rejected his resignation. Sonnino agreed to stay on, but only if ‘defence’ was stipulated as the clear objective. He was unhappy about the idea of opening a second front through Zeila: ‘I consider it inopportune, impolitic, and dangerous to think at this time of military expeditions into the Abyssinian interior to “break the Ethiopian Empire”.’163

(p.702) Crispi agreed to stick to ‘defence’. In a disorderly session in the Chamber on 16 December, in which the opposition called for his head, he described Amba Alagi as a minor misfortune of the kind that often happened in colonial wars. He denied it was the result of any policy of expansion: every Italian advance since December 1894 had been dictated by strategic considerations of defence.164 The next day he submitted a bill for an extra 20 million lire for Africa. The opposition rounded on him again. ‘I have never had plans for expansion and I have never forced them on General Baratieri’, he said. If the bill was approved, he would give a promise, ‘that there would be no policy of expansion (Bravissimo!) but simply one of robust defence when necessary, to ensure that the Italian flag flies forever gloriously in those distant lands. Neither cowardice nor imprudence.’165 The bill was passed.

On 19 December Crispi sent Baratieri a telegram drawn up by Sonnino in the Council of Ministers: ‘The government has no intention of conducting a policy of expansion, nor of sending military expeditions to the interior of Abyssinia. It proposes to ask parliament only for those sums that are needed to defend the colony and repel the enemy.’166 However, in other telegrams to Baratieri at this time Crispi put the accent firmly on the need for a victory—and a decisive victory at that. ‘The country expects a victory’, he wrote on 7 January, ‘and I am expecting one that will settle the Abyssinian question once and for all. Think carefully about what you are doing … I am not asking you for a plan of campaign. I am only asking that you do not repeat the defeats.’167

But Baratieri was currently in no position to think of victory. The outpost at Makalle, with a small garrison of about a thousand men under the command of Major Giuseppe Galliano, was impossibly exposed. Its fortifications were incomplete, and no thought had been given to a siege. It was not fully provisioned and, crucially, its water supply was vulnerable. On 7 January Menelik's massive army appeared outside the fort. Its fall was inevitable: its water was cut off on the first day. Baratieri, based at Edaga Hamus, now had around 20,000 troops at his disposal; but he could not risk a direct attack on Menelik. Galliano was faced with a stark choice of surrender or massacre.168

This new setback pushed Crispi to the brink of despair. He felt trapped. He had an incompetent commander in Africa and colleagues who insisted on defence. France and Russia were assisting Menelik: Britain and Germany were giving Italy no help at all. And to make matters worse Britain and Germany had just fallen out over the Kruger telegram. When Crispi saw the king on 8January, he was in a stormy mood. ‘He was beside himself. He said that everyone wanted to shackle him; that he wanted to strike deep into Abyssinia and capture Menelik; that he wanted to increase the budget of the Ministry of War (p.703) by fifteen millions.’169 A few days later his anger was unabated. He railed against his colleagues. ‘You and I together can do everything’, he told Umberto. He even suggested Umberto should try to mediate between Germany and Britain. Umberto refused: Crispi could try himself, if he wished.170

Crispi felt isolated: but the isolation was largely self-inflicted. On 12 January he prorogued parliament: deputies and ministers alike were too distracted by the war, he claimed.171 He started withholding information from his colleagues. He told Mocenni to be very selective in what he passed on to Blanc and to divulge nothing at all of what he received in dispatches from Africa to other members of the cabinet. Blanc was soon complaining bitterly.172 Sonnino told the king on 23 January that he would resign if it were not for the war, ‘given the complete lack of respect in not passing on information to me’.173

One particular reason for this secrecy was that Menelik was beginning to think about peace. He currently had the upper hand, but he could not keep his massive army fed and watered indefinitely; and unless Baratieri moved into the open, it would be difficult to defeat him. Moreover, Baratieri was receiving reinforcements all the time, and his position would soon be impregnable. Menelik decided on a magnanimous gesture. He offered the garrison at Makalle an honourable surrender (the radicals later claimed maliciously that Umberto secretly paid Menelik to spare them), and Galliano and his men were allowed to march out of the fort, keeping their weapons, and join the rest of the Italian forces at Edaga Hamus. Menelik then wrote to Umberto suggesting peace.174

Crispi, however, wanted victory, not peace. The avoidance of a disaster at Makalle made him feel euphoric: ‘With soldiers like these’, he told Lina on 20 January, ‘and a nation that produces soldiers of such strength, one could achieve anything.’175 La Riforma turned Makalle into a triumph and Galliano into a hero: ‘The garrison of Makalle is safe!’, ran a six-column headline.176 Other newspapers followed suit. In this climate, Crispi was in no mood to negotiate. Already on 18 January Blanc had set out wildly unrealistic terms to Baratieri for any peace deal: recognition of the Treaty of Uccialli (including article 17), annexation of Tigré, a protectorate over Harrar.177 A telegram of 26January to Baratieri put the issue more bluntly: the government did not want to treat with Menelik, ‘until Italy has secured a victory over the enemy … We need to resolve the question in such a way that the hostilities are not repeated each year …’178

Crispi was becoming frantic. His will and ambition were getting the better of him. He talked of the need to send reinforcements and win decisively. ‘A defeat (p.704) in Abyssinia … will remove any claim we might have to be regarded as a great power in Europe … A good victory will solve all our problems.’ Would this be possible with Baratieri, enquired Saracco on 3 February? Crispi was clearly not sure; but it would be dangerous to replace him, he said.179 He planned sending a battalion to Assab: only Mocenni was consulted. Sonnino sensed the country was being financially ruined. He confronted Crispi. What were Italy's objectives in Africa, he enquired? ‘I received no answer to this question … Crispi said we had to win, and to settle things once and for all …’180

Matters came to a head at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 8 February. Sonnino called it ‘intensely stormy’. The previous day Menelik's conditions for peace had been relayed to Rome: withdrawal to the frontier laid down by Uccialli and a new treaty between Italy and Ethiopia (with no clause 17). It was also indicated secretly that Menelik would allow the temporary occupation of the other territories that Italy had secured.181 All this was reasonable; and precisely because of that, Crispi sought to conceal it from his colleagues. Sonnino smelled a rat. He demanded to see the telegrams. How could Baratieri negotiate if he had been told on 26 January to secure a victory first, he asked? Recriminations flew. Saracco supported Sonnino. Assab came up: Saracco would resign if an expedition was sent there. Sonnino said they had two choices: to defeat Menelik decisively or adopt a modest ‘artichoke’ policy of piecemeal conquest. The last two months had shown that only the latter was possible. After further violent arguments it was decided to abandon the Assab expedition and authorize Baratieri to negotiate with Menelik: the bottom line was to be the annexation of territories held in August 1895 and acceptance of the Treaty of Uccialli—including clause 17. This latter point was at Crispi's insistence. It made serious negotiations impossible.182

Meanwhile, Crispi was desperately trying to secure international support. He tried to reach an accord with France and sent his friend Luigi Bodio off to Paris to talk to the French government. Tunis and a commercial treaty were the main bargaining counters. Bodio returned at the beginning of February emptyhanded: there was no chance of a deal, he reported, as long as Italy was still allied to Germany. All eyes in France were on Alsace and Lorraine.183 Crispi contemplated withdrawing from the Triple Alliance: it had been renewed in 1891 for twelve years, but there was an option of withdrawal after six. To withdraw, though, would mean to incur the mistrust of Germany and Austria without necessarily securing the friendship of France. The best thing, he told Sonnino on 27 January, would be to try and renew the alliance on better terms.184

(p.705) Crispi put pressure on Germany. If Germany did not help, public opinion in Italy could turn fatally against the Triple Alliance, he pointed out. But Germany, like Britain, did not want to antagonize Russia—which was now backing Menelik strongly. It was true, the German Chancellor told Bülow on 15 February, that the situation in Ethiopia did pose a threat to the peace of Europe: but he did not think Crispi would push things so far as to risk provoking a FrancoRussian naval intervention without having the support of Britain. Most likely, he would end hostilities as soon as he had achieved a military success.185 The truth was there was no desire in Germany to help Italy—and not much good will, either: it was not the Triple Alliance that had encouraged Italy to go to Africa, commented the Kaiser, and if anything happened to Italy, it was Italy's fault.186

In Rome, Crispi was facing acute pressure from his opponents. Saracco had for a long time been uncomfortable in the cabinet (‘when he was not voicing his dissent at meetings, he was muttering under his breath, or relaying his opposition to the person next to me’, Crispi later recalled).187 He wanted parliament reconvened. On 11 February he tendered his resignation. Crispi saw the king and agreed to summon parliament for 5 March. It had never been his intention, Crispi told Saracco, to ‘avoid having our transactions submitted to the judgement of parliament’. Saracco agreed to withdraw his resignation.188 He and Crispi continued at odds, however—Crispi suspected Saracco of leaking details of cabinet meetings to the press. Their quarrel was only resolved when Crispi shook hands with Saracco on 7 March.189

While sections of the cabinet opposed Crispi and his prosecution of the war, so too did other cogs in the state machine. The most obvious successor to Crispi was di Rudinì, whose sympathies were strongly with France and Russia. He had powerful support at court, in the army, and among the diplomatic corps. How far di Rudinì and his followers worked actively to weaken Crispi's position is unclear, but there was certainly talk about them having secret channels to the French government. Stillman—who was admittedly inclined to see Machiavellian plots almost everywhere after several years in Rome—believed that di Rudinì had told Paris he would abandon Ethiopia and that this was one reason why Crispi had no chance of stopping French aid to Menelik. Stillman wanted ‘this treason’ officially unmasked, but Sonnino, he said, was against it, as it would lead to unhelpful recriminations.190

In late-January Baratieri had moved his forces to the Sawriya heights to the east of Adua. Menelik had withdrawn to Adua itself. Reinforcements were pouring (p.706) in from Italy, and in the course of February the number of Italian soldiers in Ethiopia nearly trebled to 30,000. However, Baratieri faced a major problem with his supplies, which had to be transported 200 kilometres from Massaua by caravan. For this he needed 9,000 camels; by the end of February he had just 1,700. To make matters worse two of Baratieri's most important Ethiopian allies went over to Menelik on 13 February taking with them their 600 followers. This was extremely damaging to morale and risked triggering further desertions. Moreover, the defectors took with them a detailed knowledge of the Italian lines of communication, which they now proceeded to harass relentlessly.191

The pressure on Baratieri was building. Many of the new officers arriving from Italy were eager to take the offensive. However, they lacked experience of conditions in Africa and knowledge of the enemy. In Italy, Baratieri's inaction was generating increasingly unfavourable comments in a press inflamed by jingoistic expectations and ill-informed about the situation on the ground in Africa.192 Crispi's impatience was growing. On 9 February he telegraphed Baratieri: ‘Remember that Amba Alagi and Makalle are two military failures, albeit glorious ones, and that the honour of Italy and the monarchy are in your hands.’193 Even Sonnino was becoming infuriated. He told the king that Baratieri's failure to go and help Galliano at Makalle had been ‘shameful’; and on 29 January he wrote in his diary: ‘From now on the army's inaction becomes ridiculous.’194

On 20 February Mocenni asked Baratieri to state what he intended to do. He added: ‘The government is determined to give you every additional reinforcement necessary.’ Baratieri replied saying he might have to retreat. This was the last straw.195 On 21 February at a meeting of the Council of Ministers it was agreed to replace Baratieri with Baldissera. It was also agreed to send a further 10,000 troops to Ethiopia. Neither Sonnino nor Saracco protested. Crispi was amazed. He wrote to Sonnino to express his gratitude at their conversion ‘to the party of war’. He then tried his luck with his cherished scheme of a second front. Why not send the 10,000 troops to Harrar or Somalia? This would force Menelik to withdraw immediately from Tigré. ‘The term expansion has been coined in order to stop us conducting a logical war. But intelligent men must not allow themselves to be ruled by prejudices.’196 Sonnino would have none of this. He had not been converted ‘to the party of war’, he said; and he was firmly against an expedition to Harrar. They should do simply what was necessary to defend the existing colony of Eritrea.197

(p.707) Baldissera left for Africa under an assumed name on 23 February. It was feared that Baratieri might do something rash if he heard he was being replaced. Rumours of his dismissal circulated in Italy almost immediately, but Baratieri himself apparently did not learn of his fate until 5 March.198 Meanwhile he was engaging in sorties towards Adua. These achieved nothing. On 25 February Crispi sent a curt telegram: ‘This is military phthisis, not a war. Minor skirmishes in which we always find ourselves numerically inferior to the enemy, a futile dissipation of strength, and heroism without success …’ Baratieri seemed to have no clear strategy, he said. This needed to be remedied. ‘We are ready to make any sacrifice to save the honour of the army and the prestige of the monarchy.’199

This telegram was used after the disaster of Adua to show that Crispi had goaded Baratieri irresponsibly into action. Crispi had certainly in the preceding weeks put enormous, and in many respects unfair and injudicious, pressure on Baratieri to secure a victory; and this telegram did nothing to reduce that pressure. But Crispi did not intend it as an ultimatum. Baldissera was on his way out to Africa; and the fact of a change of command would probably have been enough to hold the opposition at bay when parliament reopened. Crispi's aim (as he later maintained) was, first, to indicate to Baratieri his intense anger at his current tactics—and so prepare the ground for his impending dismissal—and, second, to get him to focus on strategic planning rather than action.200 With hindsight, though, it would have been wise to have ordered Baratieri not to move.201

Baratieri was no longer able to think clearly. For some time he had hardly been able to eat or sleep. On the evening of 28 February he summoned a council of war with his four brigade commanders and his Chief of Staff. He asked whether they should retreat or attack. They spoke unanimously in favour of attack. The plan devised was not a bad one: to occupy three hills close to the enemy camp, from where, if Menelik risked an engagement, they could deploy their artillery effectively and probably win. A series of errors proved fatal, however. Baratieri's intelligence was faulty: he had heard, incorrectly, that a large part of Menelik's army was far away foraging. His orders were unclear. And he produced a sketch map with the wrong hill indicated on it: as a result one of the three columns got completely separated from the rest of the army and blundered into 30,000 Ethiopian troops deployed on higher ground.202

The Battle of Adua on 1 March 1896 was a military catastrophe. Baratieri's army of 17,700 men was annihilated by Menelik's forces of perhaps 100,000: 289 Italian officers and 4,600 men were killed. About 2,000 native troops also perished. Total losses including prisoners and wounded, amounted to at least (p.708) 50 per cent. The dead and some of the prisoners, in traditional Ethiopian fashion, were castrated. Ethiopian losses were estimated at 4,000–6,000 dead and about 8,000wounded. Baratieri himself survived the engagement. With appropriate symbolism, he was unable to see very much of what happened as he had lost his pince-nez in the confusion. He was led off the battlefield on a horse.203

News of the defeat began to filter through to Italy on 2 March. Crispi called a meeting of the Council of Ministers at 11.30 p.m. He passed on what information he had and talked vaguely of proroguing parliament. At this stage the magnitude of the disaster was unclear. The meeting resumed the following morning. There was total incredulity at Baratieri's behaviour and a general determination to continue the war. Sonnino felt they should go to the Chamber, spell out their limited objectives, appeal to the patriotism of deputies, and ask them to vote 100 million lire and emergency taxes immediately. Crispi was reluctant to confront parliament without a victory. At 1.27 p.m. the king arrived. Everything now depended on him. As usual he had no idea what to do.204

Meanwhile, across Italy demonstrators were beginning to take to the streets to voice their anger. Lombardy—the region that had been most strongly opposed to colonialism (and to Crispi)—saw by far the worst riots. Milan and Pavia were especially disturbed. In places railway tracks were torn up to prevent trains carrying conscripts for Africa from leaving. The supporters of the radicals and the socialists were among the most vocal demonstrators, and they helped ensure that public fury was directed chiefly against Crispi. In places, though, the king was also denounced. In the centre and south of Italy the reaction to Adua was more muted. In Messina and Catania there were even to be demonstrations in favour of continuing the war in Africa.205

Against this backdrop the government's position looked increasingly hopeless. ‘I could never have imagined an enormity like that of 1 March in Africa’, Crispi wrote to Lina on 3 March. ‘Baratieri was either insane or culpable. I would prefer it if he were insane … I cannot deny to you that the government is feeling the effects of it.’206 The main problem facing Crispi was parliament. In the current climate he knew that he would not survive a vote of confidence. His main concern thus became to limit the damage and make it hard for di Rudinì and the radicals to take over. On the afternoon of 4 March he announced to the Council of Ministers his conviction that they should resign, ‘in order not to create, with a vote, a false parliamentary situation, that would necessitate the formation of a coalition government with subversive elements’. The cabinet unanimously agreed.207

(p.709) Did Crispi believe that the king would refuse to accept his resignation? Not seriously. He would certainly have loved Umberto to have displayed courage for once in his life, and to have defied the demonstrators and sections of the Chamber, placed his faith in Crispi, and called on the nation to rally together and avenge Adua. But that was not Umberto: he was too timid, and from Crispi's point of view too ‘unpatriotic’. When some months later the queen asked Crispi why he had resigned, he said: ‘To avoid extreme measures. It would have been necessary to close the Chamber, and arrest a hundred or so people, including a few deputies. My colleagues would not have been happy with this, and I do not know if the king would have agreed. So I left it to the king to decide. And we fell.’ What else could the king have done, the queen enquired? Did the present government not command a majority in the Chamber? That Chamber, Crispi replied scornfully, had also given him a majority. And the fact that the same group of deputies could support two governments with completely different policies showed, ‘that the parliamentary system is not working’. The current government, he added, was imposed by ‘the rioters of Rome, Pavia and Milan’: ‘Another time, given this precedent, things could be worse.’208

On the afternoon of 5 March Crispi drove to parliament. A large crowd was gathered in front of Montecitorio and troops were drawn up around the piazza. About three hundred deputies were present in the Chamber. When Crispi rose to speak he betrayed no emotion and stood erectly. ‘I have the honour to announce to the Chamber that the government has placed its resignation in the hands of the king.’ He paused. ‘His Majesty has accepted it.’ Cheering broke out, with cries of ‘Long live Italy!’ and ‘Long live the king!’ ‘Uproar from the estrema. A few maniacs on the right as well and in the third sector’, recorded Sonnino.209 From the court box, the Countess of Santa Fiora cried, ‘Bravo!’ Crispi glared at her.210

The sitting lasted just ten minutes. Outside the crowds were still gathered. There was a demonstration. Guiccioli saw it, but was unimpressed. Elsewhere in the city pockets of protesters stood in piazzas or roamed the streets. They seemed to sum up for the disillusioned patrician the moral decadence into which Italy had fallen: the apathy of the majority, the malicious activism of a few. ‘Some buffoons—radical and socialist deputies—harangued the people here and there like tooth-extractors, but to little effect. A crowd of urchins, criminals and good-for-nothings rushed through the streets of the centre, and tried to reach Crispi's house. A few shouts, the odd punch, some broken windows. Luckily it began to rain, and everything returned to normal—and to mud.’211


(1) Farini, p. 575 (4/12/94).

(2) Cf. Giolitti, Memorie, vol. 1, p. 79.

(3) Farini, pp. 539, 551, 556 (6/7/94, 13/7/94, 23/7/94).

(4) Giolitti, Memorie, vol. 1, p. 105.

(5) BL, Kimberley Papers, MS Eng. C. 4404, Clare Ford to Kimberley, 27/4/94; NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 27/8/94; ASMAE, Carte Levi, b.5, Levi to Blanc, 11/8/94.

(6) BL, Kimberley Papers, MS Eng. C. C. 4404, Edwardes to Kimberley, 27/9/94.

(7) Ibid.; FO 45 733, Clare Ford to Kimberley, 7/1/95; DDF, I ser. (1871–1900), Tome XI, pp. 520–3, 537–9 (Billot to Hanotaux, 10/1/95, 16/1/95); MRR, b.667, fasc. 34, diary notes of conversation with king, 6/1/95; Serra, Alberto Pisani Dossi, p. 83.

(8) Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1894’, p. 76 (6/6/94).

(9) Cf. ACS, CC, DSPP, b.147, fasc. 1259, letters, etc., of Cavallotti to C., 1874–94.

(10) Ibid., Cavallotti to C., 7/7/94.

(11) Palamenghi Crispi, Giovanni Giolitti, pp. 79–81; Giolitti, Memorie, vol. 1, p. 109.

(12) Farini, p. 573 (2/12/94).

(13) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 7/12/94 (pp. 37–9).

(14) Ibid., 11/12/94 (pp. 105–10); Romano, p. 205.

(15) La Riforma, 28/12/94 (‘La lettera Cavallotti’).

(16) Cf. Farini, p. 585 (13/12/94); PRO, FO 45 718, Clare Ford to Kimberley, 17/12/94.

(17) Farini, p. 588 (15/12/94).

(18) Ibid., p. 577 (6/12/94).

(19) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 19/12/94.

(20) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 15/12/94 (pp. 219–20).

(21) Cf. Sagrestani, p. 186.

(22) Cf. NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 23/12/94. Cf. Farini, p. 604 (24/12/94).

(23) Fortis, p. 252.

(24) Cf. Farini, p. 604 (24/12/94).

(25) Ibid., pp. 596, 616 (19/12/94, 15/1/95).

(26) Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1894’, p. 177 (19/12/94).

(27) Farini, p. 608 (29/12/94).

(28) La Riforma, 10/7/93 (‘Sintesi’).

(29) Ibid., 21/2/94 (‘Al primo fuoco’), 6/12/94 (‘Per la dignità parlamentare’), 9/12/94 (‘Dolce stil novo’).

(30) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 21/12/94, 22/12/94, 23/12/94.

(31) Farini, p. 594 (19/12/94).

(32) Ibid., pp. 611–12 (1/1/95).

(33) Cf. GP, vol. 9, n. 2138 (Eulenburg to Caprivi, 20/12/93, note of Kaiser).

(34) MRR, b.668, fasc. 5, diary notes of conversation with queen, 2/1/97.

(35) A. Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1897’, Nuova antologia, 1/4/1941, p. 277 (9/1/97).

(36) Farini, p. 598 (21/12/94).

(37) Ibid., pp. 658–9 (12/3/95).

(38) Mangoni, Una crisi fine secolo, p. 162.

(39) Ibid., pp. 180–2. Cf. Bonini, Francesco Crispi e l'unità, pp. 96–100.

(40) G. Ferrero, La reazione, Olivetti, Turin 1895, p. 10.

(41) Ibid., p. 7.

(42) Ibid., pp. 12–15, 18–20, 28.

(43) Ibid., pp. 31, 35–8, 44–5.

(44) Mangoni, Una crisi fine secolo, p. 195.

(45) Sighele, ‘Contro il parlamentarismo’, pp. 270–1.

(46) Sighele, La delinquenza settaria, pp. 176–7.

(47) Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1892’, p. 375 (16/9/92).

(48) PRO, FO 45 718, Clare Ford to Kimberley, 17/12/94, 19/12/94.

(49) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 19/10/94, 22/1/95.

(50) Carteggi politici, p. 521 (Gallenga to C., 22/12/94).

(51) Cf. V. Spreti et al., Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana, Ed. Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana, Milan 1929, vol. 2, pp. 114–15.

(52) Paulucci, p. 119 (11/1/95).

(53) Ibid., p. 119 (12/1/95).

(54) Illustrazione italiana, 20/1/95.

(55) La Riforma, 11/1/95, 13/1/95.

(56) A. Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1896’, Nuova antologia, 1/3/1941, p. 74 (23/2/96).

(57) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 18/9/95, 1/1/97, 13/2/98, etc; A. Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1897’, Nuova antologia, 1/4/1941, p. 277 (10/1/97).

(58) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 15/5/97.

(59) Inglese, p. 244.

(60) A. Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1900’, Nuova antologia, 1/2/1942, pp. 266–7 (11/1/1900); id., ‘Diario del 1897’, p. 278 (18/1/97); ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 4/6/96.

(61) Marcus, p. 156; R. Battaglia, La prima guerra d'Africa, Einaudi, Turin 1958.

(62) Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1895’, Nuova antologia, 1/2/1941, p. 261 (15/1/95).

(63) Cf. Paulucci, pp. 121–3 (17/1/95, 19/1/95).

(64) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.103, fasc. 651, C. to Baratieri, 18/1/95.

(65) Prima guerra d'Africa, pp. 297–9.

(66) Farini, p. 628 (4/2/95).

(67) Cf. Questioni internazionali, pp. 164–74.

(68) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 300.

(69) Ibid., p. 301.

(70) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.156, fasc. 1743, Mocenni to C., 8/4/95.

(71) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 303.

(72) Cf. La Riforma, 31/3/95 (‘Per le elezioni politiche’), 14/4/95 (‘Le querimonie per le liste’).

(73) Farini, p. 682 (23/5/95). Cf. Arangio Ruiz, p. 519; Ultimi scritti, pp. 193–209 (‘Agli elettori italiani’, 23/5/95).

(74) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, pp. 291, 296, 373–4 (12/5/96, 4/6/96, 23/1/98).

(75) Cf. Fonzi, Crispi e lo ‘Stato di Milano’, pp. 453–64; Sagrestani, pp. 218–20.

(76) Carteggi politici, p. 525 (Biancheri to C., 28/5/95).

(77) MRR, b.667, fasc. 34, diary notes, 14/6/95.

(78) ACS, CC, RE, sc.7, fasc. 14, C. to Lina, 16/6/95.

(79) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 19/6/95 (p. 136).

(80) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 21/6/95.

(81) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 20/6/95.

(82) Paulucci, pp. 135, 138 (25/6/95, 27/6/95); F. Cavallotti, ‘Lettera agli onesti di tutti i partiti (15/6/1895)’, in Per la storia. La questione morale su Francesco Crispi nel 1894–1895 esaminata da Felice Cavallotti, Aliprandi, Milan 1895, pp. 148–99.

(83) Ibid., pp. 200–1; Carteggi politici, p. 492.

(84) Damaso Marengo, pp. 497–8; Sagrestani, p. 191. Cf. Dalle carte di Giovanni Giolitti, vol. 1, pp. 244–5 (Galimberti to Giolitti, 29/4/95, 30/4/95).

(85) Paulucci, pp. 133, 137 (24–5/6/95).

(86) Ibid., p. 133 (23/6/95); MRR, b.667, fasc. 34, notes of conversation with king, 23/6/95.

(87) Paulucci, p. 21.

(88) MRR, b.667, fasc. 34, notes of conversation with king, 27/6/95.

(89) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 25/6/95 (p. 242).

(90) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 14/7/95.

(91) Ibid.

(92) Ibid., Stillman to Wallace, 11/7/95.

(93) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 14/7/95.

(94) Ibid., C. to Lina, 20/7/95.

(95) Ibid., C. to Lina, 23/7/95.

(96) Ibid., C. to Lina, 29/7/95.

(97) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 30/7/95 (p. 2253).

(98) Cf. La Riforma, 25/6/95 (summary of press reaction).

(99) La Riforma, 24/6/95 (‘La tempesta di fango’).

(100) Cf. Vaccaro, p. 124.

(101) Cf. NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 4/2/95, 9/2/95.

(102) Colajanni, ‘Francesco Crispi’, p. 286.

(103) Labriola, Storia di dieci anni, p. 22.

(104) Giolitti, Memorie, vol. 1, p. 49.

(105) Cf. SP, 3M A/125, Edwardes to Salisbury, 29/7/95.

(106) Democrazia e socialismo, p. 359 (Pareto to Colajanni, 20/7/95).

(107) Farini, p. 734 (11/7/95).

(108) Ibid., p. 747 (21/7/95).

(109) Tivaroni, vol. 3, p. 207.

(110) V. Bersezio, Il regno di Vittorio Emanuele II. Trent'anni di vita italiana, vol. 8, L. Roux, Turin 1895, p. 581.

(111) Levra, p. 340.

(112) Frassati, vol. 1, p. 267 (Giolitti to daughter, 23/2/96).

(113) La Riforma, 17/1/96 (‘L'Italia nuova’).

(114) Cf. ACS, CC, Roma, fasc. 215, proposals for law on ‘tiro a segno’, 1895; La Riforma, 11/3/95 (‘Per l'addestramento alle armi’), 28/9/95 (‘L'addestramento alle armi’).

(115) Ultimi scritti, pp. 213–15 (‘Per una gara del tiro a segno nazionale’, 18/9/95).

(116) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 11/7/95 (p. 1014).

(117) La Riforma, 13/7/95 (‘La festa civile’).

(118) Ibid., 21/9/95 (‘Roma intangibile’), supplemento straordinario illustrato.

(120) Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1895’, p. 380 (25/9/95).

(121) Ultimi scritti, pp. 219, 221–3 (‘Per l'inaugurazione del monumento a Garibaldi sul Gianicolo’, 20/9/95).

(122) Farini, p. 776 (20/9/95).

(123) Tobia, pp. 145–7.

(124) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 20/9/95, 21/9/95.

(125) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 3/3/75 (p. 1747).

(126) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 27/7/95; Jemolo, Crispi, p. xxviii.

(127) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 29/7/95 (pp. 2155–6).

(128) Finali, p. 411.

(129) Ibid., p. 559; Labriola, Storia di dieci anni, p. 17.

(130) Finali, p. 560.

(131) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 305.

(132) Gooch, p. 84.

(133) Marcus, pp. 157–8.

(134) GP, vol. 10, n. 2369 (Bülow to Hohenlohe, 15/7/95); Salvatorelli, Triplice Alleanza, pp. 197–9.

(135) Taylor, pp. 359–61.

(136) ASMAE, Carte Levi, b.19, fasc. 5, Blanc to Levi, 9/10/95.

(137) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.105, fasc. 667, notes of meeting, 24/10/95.

(138) ACS, CC, RE, sc.12, appendice C, Sonnino to C., 25/10/95, 26/10/95, 28/10/95.

(139) Taylor, p. 361.

(140) GP, vol. 10, n. 2504 (Bülow to Foreign Office, 11/11/95).

(141) MRR, b.667, fasc. 35, notes of meeting of 13/11/95.

(142) Ibid., notes of meeting with Bettolo and Accinni, 16/11/95.

(144) GP, vol. 10, n. 2502 (Bülow to Foreign Office, 9/11/95).

(145) Ibid., nn. 2504, 2509, 2512 (Bülow to Foreign Office, 11/11/95, 13/11/95, 15/11/95).

(146) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 20/11/95.

(147) MRR, b.667, fasc. 35, notes of meeting with king, 21/11/95.

(148) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, pp. 209, 213 (10/1/96, 15/1/96).

(149) GP, vol. 10, n. 2564 (Hohenlohe to Bülow, 17/12/95).

(150) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, p. 214 (18/1/96).

(151) The Holstein Papers, vol. 3, p. 590 (Bülow to Holstein, 31/1/96).

(152) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 375.

(153) Marcus, pp. 163, 166.

(154) Marcus, p. 164; Prima guerra d'Africa, pp. 377–8.

(155) GP, vol. 11, n. 2748 (Bülow to Foreign Office, 9/12/95). Cf. NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 9/12/95, 12/12/95, 13/12/95, 15/12/95, etc.

(156) Ibid., Stillman to Wallace, 29/1/96.

(157) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.105, fasc. 655, Mocenni to C., 11/12/95.

(158) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 378.

(159) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.105, fasc. 655, Mocenni to C., 23/12/95; C. to Mocenni, 23/12/95.

(160) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 380.

(161) Ibid., pp. 381–2.

(162) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.105, fasc. 655, Mocenni to C., 25/12/95, C. to Mocenni, 25/12/95. Cf. La Riforma, 17/6/96 (‘Processo Baratieri’); Stillman, Francesco Crispi, pp. 211–15; Mack Smith, Italy and its monarchy, pp. 117–18.

(163) ACS, CC, RE, sc.12, appendice C, Sonnino to C., 14/12/95, 15/12/95 (copies).

(164) AP, Camera dei Deputati, Discussioni, 16/12/95 (pp. 3220–1).

(165) Ibid., 19/12/95 (pp. 3393–4).

(166) ACS, CM, Verbali 22/4/1894–7/9/1898, 19/12/95; Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 383.

(167) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.103, fasc. 651, C. to Baratieri, 7/1/96.

(168) Marcus, pp. 166–7.

(169) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, pp. 207–8 (9/1/96).

(170) Ibid., p. 212 (15/1/96).

(171) Cf. La Riforma, 14/1/96 (‘La proroga della Sessione’).

(172) Ibid., pp. 212–14 (15/1/96, 16/1/96, 17/1/96).

(173) Ibid., p. 216 (23/1/96).

(174) Marcus, pp. 167–9.

(175) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 20/1/96.

(176) La Riforma, 26/1/96.

(177) Del Boca, p. 610.

(178) Prima guerra d'Africa, p. 386.

(179) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.105, fasc. 667, notes of meeting with Saracco, 3/2/96.

(180) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, p. 231 (7/2/96).

(181) Marcus, p. 169.

(182) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, pp. 234–6 (8/2/96); ACS, CM, Verbali 22/4/1894–7/9/1898, 8/2/96; Prima guerra d'Africa, pp. 387–8.

(183) MRR, b.668, fasc. 1, diary notes, 4/2/96. Cf. GP, vol. 11, n. 2764 (Bülow to Hohenlohe, 9/2/96).

(184) MRR, b.668, fasc. 1, diary notes, 27/1/96.

(185) GP, vol. 11, n. 2766 (Hohenlohe to Bülow, 15/2/96).

(186) Ibid., n. 2658 (Bülow to Hohenlohe, 18/2/96, note of Kaiser).

(187) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.105, fasc. 667, notes on Saracco.

(188) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.160, fasc. 2004, Saracco to C., 11/2/96, 12/2/96, C. to Saracco, 12/2/96. Cf. Frassati, vol. 1, p. 267 (Giolitti to daughter, 23/2/96).

(189) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.160, fasc. 2004, Saracco to C., 13/2/96, C. to Saracco, 13/2/96, 23/3/96.

(190) NI, Stillman Papers, Stillman to Wallace, 18/1/96. Cf. Stillman, Francesco Crispi, p. 215.

(191) Marcus, p. 169; Del Boca, p. 635; Labanca, p. 338.

(192) Gooch, p. 88; Labanca, pp. 329–36, 351–2.

(193) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.103, fasc. 651, C. to Baratieri, 9/2/96.

(194) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, pp. 216, 223 (23/1/96, 29/1/96). Cf. A. Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1896’, Nuova antologia, 1/3/1941, p. 71 (23/1/96).

(195) Prima guerra d'Africa, pp. 397–8.

(196) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.161, fasc. 2061, C. to Sonnino, 22/2/96.

(197) Ibid., Sonnino to C., 22/2/96.

(198) Cf. Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1896’, p. 75 (25/2/96); Pelloux, pp. lii–iii; Gooch, p. 87.

(199) ACS, CC, DSPP, b.103, fasc. 651, C. to Baratieri, 25/2/96.

(200) Cf. La Riforma, 13/3/96 (‘Difese anticipate’).

(201) Cf. Corriere della Sera, 10/3/1931 (‘L'azione di Francesco Crispi’).

(202) Marcus, pp. 171–2; Gooch, pp. 90–2; Del Boca, pp. 645–8.

(203) Del Boca, pp. 652, 691–2; Marcus, pp. 172–3.

(204) Sonnino, Diario, pp. 255–6 (2–3/3/96).

(205) Cf. ACS, CC, DSPP, b.104, telegrams from prefects etc. on popular reaction to Adua; Labanca, pp. 363–5; Ganci, Da Crispi a Rudinì, pp. 86–7.

(206) ACS, Carte Palumbo Cardella, b.6, fasc. 84, C. to Lina, 3/3/96.

(207) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, p. 258 (4/3/96).

(208) MRR, b.668, fasc. 5, diary notes of conversation with queen, 2/1/97.

(209) Sonnino, Diario, vol. 1, p. 259 (5/3/96).

(210) Bülow, Memoirs, vol. 1, p. 671; Margiotta, p. 227.

(211) Guiccioli, ‘Diario del 1896’, p. 77 (5/3/96).