Cavour and Realpolitik Essay

Napoleon III agreed to help Cavour in planning Piedmont’s war against Austria. The Emperor wanted to drive the Austrians out of Italy once and for all but did not want a revolution because then he would not end up as the legal sovereign of the richest and most powerful half of Italy, and hence would in practice dominate the whole peninsula. Camillo di Cavour wanted the principle of nationalities to be realized and that Savoy, be reunited with France.

He wanted The Emperor to supply munitions and aid in obtaining money to support the war effort. Cavour and Napoleon thought it was important to consider public opinion in devising the grounds for war. They agreed on the grounds of war that would not cause the end result of a revolution of the people of France and too much attention from England. They also did not want to have to fight against England, Prussia or Russia. He counted on apathy from the Prince of Prussia, Russia to keep promises of non-interference and England’s neutrality.

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The Emperor observed that they would have to isolate Austria so that she would be their sole opponent. That was why he deemed it so important that the grounds for war would be such as not to alarm the other continental powers. The two men thought Italy should be organized after the war. The valley of the Po, the Romagna, and the Legations would form a kingdom of Upper Italy under the House of Savoy and reunited with France.

Rome and its immediate surroundings would be left to the Pope. The rest of the Papal States, together with Tuscany, would form a kingdom of central Italy. The Neapolitan frontier would be left unchanged. These four Italian states would form a confederation and the presidency would be given to the Pope to console him for losing the best part of his estates. This plan conforms to others to obtain sovereignty and control of Italy with allies in states under The Church.

This plan for state building reveals methods to consolidate power with allies and a “pick and choose” plan. Winning a war not from emotional retaliation but from learning the best way to “divide and concur” to create a whole union made of many pieces of the puzzle. It seems clever and well thought out, makes concessions that are necessary to gain control desired. by Linda Babb


Smith, D. M. (1968). The making of Italy, 1796-1870. (pp. 238-42). New York: Harper & Row.


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