Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact:Jeff Matthews

 © Jeff Matthews   Jan. 2011
U.S. Reaction to Garibaldi

These two items appeared separately in the original version of the Around Naples Encyclopedia on the dates indicated and have been consolidated here onto a single page.

entry Aug. 2003

1. Garibaldi  (U.S. reaction) 

frontispiece from Marraro bookI'm reading another one of Howard Marraro's interesting books (also see here), this one entitled American Opinion on the Unification of Italy, 1846–61, first published in 1932 (frontispiece, photo). He stitches together and comments upon newspaper items, magazine articles, pamphlets, and speeches and messages of American public figures from those years to show what the public in the United States felt, generally, about the broad issue of Italian unity and, specifically, how it reacted to the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by Garibaldi

Public opinion in the United States was overwhelmingly behind the Risorgimento, the drive to unite Italy. There was some dissent among Roman Catholics and in the Catholic press, which knew that the unity of Italy would mean the end of the1000-year-old Vatican States, the broad buffer zone between northern and southern Italy, and, thus, the end of the "temporal power of the Pope". Other than that, opinion was enthusiastically behind Garibaldi and his daring campaign to free the long-suffering peasantry of the Kingdom of Naples from the yoke of centuries of oppression — (yes, just such rhetoric). It was common to see and hear Garibaldi referred to as the "Washington of Italy," high praise, indeed, from Americans. They sent more than their good wishes, too. Americans sent money and even material help; a number of US citizens residing in Italy at the time actually fought with Garibaldi, and some American merchant captains put their vessels at Garibaldi's disposal to cross the straits of Messina to begin his march towards Naples in 1860.

Strangely related to that is an item I found about the recent addition to the library of the University of South Carolina of the Anthony P. Campanella Collection, a formidable array of material about Garibaldi. The text describing the collection and donation contains this paragraph:

There can be no doubt that the March, whose progress was eagerly followed in a United States ideologically opposed to European dynastic "tyranny," was viewed in this country as a powerful vindication of the right of the individual to political self-determination. It also encouraged Southern leaders in their move towards secession at precisely the time when accounts of Garibaldi's exploits appeared in the American press. Nor is it coincidental that in 1876 Wade Hampton's followers, in their resistance to the continued presence of Federal troops in South Carolina, appropriated the name of Garibaldi's followers—Red Shirts—for themselves.

[The entire item is on the internet at http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/hist/garib/garib.php ]

I find at least some of that strange. I am prepared to take the word of the gentleman who wrote those lines that there might have been something inspiring in the heroics of the anti-tyrant, Garibaldi, something that appealed to those in the south who felt they, too, were suffering under tyranny —the tyranny of federalism. (Indeed, a year later, those southerners commonly referred to their cause as The Second American Revolution). (At the risk of being really wrong, I wonder, too, if there is not parochialism in that paragraph. He is writing on behalf of the University of South Carolina, the birthplace of the Confederacy.) 

Also, I strain to believe that any southerners after the Civil War would have appropriated Garibaldi's name or symbols to their lost cause. Surely, they knew that Lincoln, in 1861, had offered Garibaldi the position of a general in the field for the Union armies, and that the reasons Garibaldi turned Lincoln down were (1) that Lincoln wouldn't make him commander-in-chief (Abe already had that job) and (2) that Lincoln wouldn't let him free slaves wherever he found them during his military campaigns. (Invading plantations and liberating slaves in South America had been one of Garibaldi's favorite things to do during his younger days, when he was abroad and training for the big fight).


entry Sept. 2003, revised Nov 2013
2. Garibaldi (U.S. reaction)

          Garibaldi, cover of Harper's Weekly.
I have come into possession of a fascinating bit of historical memorabilia: an original copy of Harper's Weekly from June 9, 1860. There is a short story by Wilkie Collins, a note on the passing of Lady Byron, some news from Ireland and Mexico, an ad for Sweet's Infallible Liniment, and one of those 19th century cartoons that I never understand. But the body of the journal is given over to the "coming war in Italy". By the time this issue of Harper's went to press, that war was in full swing, for Garibaldi had landed in Sicily on May 11 to begin the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples. 

The journal is in large tabloid format, 8 large sheets folded into 16 pages of newsprint.  The front cover displays a woodcut of "General Giuseppe Garibaldi [from a recent picture]" posed heroically astride a horse. On the inside pages, there are other illustrations of the bay of Naples, Messina, and a map of The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  By rough count, the journal has at least 7,000 words of text (in excruciatingly small type!) about the beginning of the military campaign that eventually united Italy. All of it is unabashedly pro-unification, pro-Garibaldi, and anti-Bourbon. That would be in keeping with Howard Marraro's observations in his American Opinion on the Unification of Italy, 1846 –61, about the US press, in general, at the time. 

Besides a glowing biographic sketch of Garibaldi, there is an editorial that "makes no apology for devoting so much of our space this week…to the impending war in Southern Italy." It concludes: 

...Garibaldi may be killed; but if he can hold out a few weeks longer, we believe he will have kindled a flame which all the powers of Rome and Naples will be insufficient to quench. We look hopefully forward to see that glorious country—Southern Italy—purged of the pests and curses which have so long defiled it, and fulfilling the destiny for which it was created, by becoming one of the noblest, happiest, richest portions of the world.

There is a brief history, along with a map, of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, depicting the land as one incredibly blessed with natural resources and, at the same time, totally in the clutches of corrupt kings and greedy priests. The description of Naples is almost a caricature of vitriol:

...Fancy a city of some 450,000 inhabitants, of whom 18,000 are priests, 40,000 idlers, 4000 lawyers, and nearly 30,000 prisoners of state, locked up in some of the five hundred and thirty royal prisons! Fancy this city in a state of chronic siege, with the guns of its forts constantly pointed, not upon its enemies, but upon its people! Fancy a government consisting of a priest-ridden king, cruel, treacherous, and false…so miserable an administrator that no department of the government makes the least pretense to efficiency but the police, which has its spies everywhere...Fancy a people systematically trained in idleness, servility, and ignorance; denied the privileges of wholesome education and the use of books; forced to kneel at the feet of the Jesuits, and taught from their childhood that rebellion against their authority involves not only eternal damnation but present punishment; educated in contempt for the laws and indifference to every virtue that can exalt the race! Such is Naples.

The unsigned article describes the hustle and bustle of Neapolitan street life with a cascade of chaos, a style typical of travel writers of the day when writing about Naples:

 ...The traveler who walks through the Toledo or Chiaja for the first time…is amazed at the evidence of life and happiness which he sees…Every trade under the sun is carried on in the open street. There are shoemakers and tailors at their benches; scribes inditing love-letters for amorous swains; begging monks proving clearly that all who do not give them a carline will be served up hot in another world; women plucking poultry or cleaning vegetables; quack doctors forcing their panaceas down the throats of peasants from the Abruzzi; cooks roasting and frying at great fires on the sidewalk; mothers combing their children's hair, or turning them up and whipping them; old women on crutches singing airs from Lucia, and old men reciting Ariosto with great fervor; water-sellers bawling iced water; pious minstrels playing doleful bagpipes under a statue of the virgin; Sicilian girls dancing the tarantella with uncommon vigor; friars roaring that they only want a gran more to save a soul from hell; boys fighting for watermelons; exchange tables loaded with copper; lemonade-stands mounted by triumphal arches, bedizened with gold paper and wreathes of flowers; macaroni-dealers ladling huge masses of the smoking delicacy out of cauldrons, and beseeching the crowd not to let it cool; more monks tinkling little bells, and knocking Punch and the conjuror over as they hurry past with a dead man; ladies in Parisian dresses; peasant girls in scarlet rags; lazaroni [sic] in every corner, lying, crouching squatting, running, sleeping, laughing, fighting, picking pockets; and an array of carriages, corricoli, omnibuses, cavaliers, tearing and dashing along at a furious rate, as though collisions were impossible and bones could not be broken.

This main article is spread across the centerfold accompanied by two large woodcuts, one of the city of Messina and the other of Naples, viewed from above the Royal Palace with the bay and Mt. Vesuvius in the background. The article concludes with an account of Garibaldi's landing at Marsala and says, "...As soon as Garibaldi's force is ready, he will undoubtedly march on Palermo."

It would be interesting to follow the entire campaign and subsequent unification of Italy in later editions of Harper's, if I can find them.

to history portal                  [Also see separate entry from the New York Times, 1862.]

Copyright © 2002 to 2017