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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
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Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Nations & Nationalism  > The Unity of Italy - Giuseppe Mazzini

NATIONS & NATIONALISM

The Unity of Italy

Giuseppe Mazzini
[Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini,
London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1890, vol. I, pp. 226-90]

"...The nation never has existed, said they; therefore it can never exist. But we, viewing the question from the height of our ruling synthesis, declare: The nation has not as yet existed; therefore, it must exist in the future. A people destined to achieve great things for the welfare of humanity must one day or other be constituted a nation. And slowly, from epoch to epoch, our people has advanced towards that aim. But the history of our people and of our nationality, which is one and the same thing, has yet to be written. It is sadder to me than I can say to be compelled to carry with me to the tomb the unfulfilled desire of attempting it myself according to my own design..."

"...The adversaries of Italian unity forgot the unanimous shout of Italy raised by the insurgents of every province ten years later, the earnest unitarian apóstolate of our secret societies during the years following those insur­rections, and the blood shed by the martyrs of every province of Italy, in the name of the common country. Above all, they forgot the principle that no peoples ever die, nor stop short upon their path, before they have achieved the ultimate historical aim of their existence, before having completed and fulfilled their mission. Now the mission of Italy is pointed out by her geographical conditions, by the prophetic aspirations of our greatest minds and noblest hearts, and by the whole of our magnificent historical tradition, easily to be traced by anyone who will but study the life of our people, .instead of the deeds of individuals or aristocracy.

The nation never has existed, said they; therefore it can never exist. But we, viewing the question from the height of our ruling synthesis, declare: The nation has not as yet existed; therefore, it must exist in the future. A people destined to achieve great things for the welfare of humanity must one day or other be constituted a nation. And slowly, from epoch to epoch, our people has advanced towards that aim. But the history of our people and of our nationality, which is one and the same thing, has yet to be written. It is sadder to me than I can say to be compelled to carry with me to the tomb the unfulfilled desire of attempting it myself according to my own design. He who shall write it as it ought to be written, without burying the salient points of Italian progress beneath a multitude of minute details, and keeping in view the collective development of the Italian element from period to period, will be rewarded by the fact of having sustained the unity of the country upon the firm basis of history and tradition.

Having proved, by the testimony of our ancient rec­ords, and the vestiges of past religions, the absolute independence of our primitive civilization from the Hellenic (considerably posterior), the writer will then proceed to trace the origin of our nationality from those Sabellian tribes, dwelling, as I have said, round the an­cient Amiternus; who, along with the Osques, Siculians, and Umbrians, first assumed the sacred name of Italy, and initiated the fusion of the different elements spread over the Peninsula, by planting their lance, the symbol of authority, in the valley of the Tibur, in the Campagna, and beyond. This was the first war of independence sustained by the Italian element, against that element (probably of Semitic origin) called by the ancients Pelasgic. . . . In the first period, Italy appears to assign to Rome her mission of unification, by declaring to her, I am yours, but on condition of your identifying your life with mine. . .

The second epoch—initiated in the midst of the barbarian invasions, carried on with a pertinacity ensuring its triumph, that work of social fusion which has rendered us fit to be a nation at the present day. The unitarian movement continued even after the last liberties of Italy were destroyed by the fall of Florence, when all public life was silent and at an end, and all hope of country appeared extinguished beneath foreign domination, and the rule of the petty princes who were vassals of the foreigner. Yes; unity was and is the destiny of Italy. The civil primacy twice exercised by Italy, through the arms of the Caesars and the voice of the Popes, is destined to be held a third time by the people of Italy - the nation.

They who were unable forty years ago to perceive the signs of progress towards unity made in the successive periods of Italian life, were simply blind to the light of history. But should any, in the face of the actual glorious manifestation of our people, endeavour to lead them back to ideas of confederations, and independent provincial liberty, they would deserve to be branded as traitors to their country.

It matters little that it may not now be easy to determine what the mission - I believe it to be highly religious - of Italy is in the world. The tradition of two epochs of initiation, and the conscience of the Italian people, alike bear witness that such a mission exists; and even if the World did not indicate what that mission is, the fact of this instinct among the people of a national mission to be fulfilled, and a collective idea to be developed, would be enough to prove the necessity of one sole country, with one form of organization to embody and represent it. That form of organization is unity. Federalism implies a multiplicity of aims to be realised, and resolves itself, sooner or later, into a system of aristocracies or castes. Unity is the only security for equality, and the due development of the life of the people.

Italy therefore will be one. Her geographical conditions, language, and literature; the necessities of defence, and of political power; the desire of the populations, the democratic instincts innate in our people, the presen­timent of a progress in which all the forces and faculties of the country must concur, the consciousness of an initiative in Europe, and of great things yet to be achieved by Italy for the world; all point to this aim. There is no obstacle in the way that may not be easily overcome, no objection that may not be historically and philosophi­cally met and confuted..."

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