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Encouraged by Russell's support, the Tuscan ministry on July 15, immediately after Villafranca, and in order to attest their wishes before Europe, issued a decree convoking a representative assembly, competent to pass a legitimate vote as to the definitive fate of Tuscany. The decree was signed by both the Sardinian commissioner and the provisional government. Instead of universal manhood suffrage, the decree provided for a qualified suffrage similar to that in Sardinia, based on a fairly low property, educational or professional qualification. In Modena, Parma, Piacenza, and Romagna similar assemblies were convoked on the basis of adult literate male suffrage. The voting was not by signing a register, as in '48, but by secret ballots cast in primary assemblies. The election machinery was in the hands of the provisional governments, the details of registration to be administered by the mayors.
The period for compiling the lists and for claims to be entered appears to have been somewhat short, - eight days for lists and three for claims after posting, with appeal from decisions to a higher court.
In default of any definite information it is probable that the voting was by procedure similar to that established for electoral colleges by the Sardinian electoral law of March 17, 1848. By this law a card of identification was necessary for each voter to enter the voting place. A list of names of those qualified was posted in the hall, another copy was in the hands of the presiding officer. Each elector answering to his name, called from the list, received from the President a printed ballot on which he wrote his vote, or, if illiterate, got another man to write it. He then folded the ballot and gave it to the President who placed it in an “urn or ballot-box.
The British Foreign Office kept a close watch over the conditions surrounding the vote. In answer to reports from Corbett, British representative at Florence, that oppressive measures were being used against partisans of the Grand Duke, Russell instructed him to inform the provisional government that attempts to repress a free declaration of opinion in a matter of such vital interest to the government of the country would be unjust and illiberal. On July 26 Corbett wrote that almost all who have the right to vote had registered, and that he had been assured by the government of a full and free expression of opinion. By a decree of July 29 the date of the elections was fixed for August 7. On August 1 Boncompagni in order to disarm criticism, resigned office and retired from Tuscany, an act at which Russell expressed the great satisfaction of the British Government as representing the intention of Sardinia to leave Tuscany wholly unfettered in her future choice.1
endeavoring to discount the feeling for union in his dispatches to the Foreign Office, “ It is much to be desired that a representative assembly should be convoked in Tuscany in order that the wishes of the people in favor of the autonomy of that country may be regularly and freely expressed.” Documents, post, p. 449. See also Russell to Cowley (at Turin) July 25, Parliamentary Papers, Affairs of Italy, 1860, vol. 68 (2609), p. 20.
1 Parliamentary Papers (2609), p. 28. Corbett also quotes one of the government as saying that it had been necessary to warn some of the ducal party who had shown a disposition towards disturbance. Ibid., p. 44.
Ricasoli, a native of Tuscany, had been appointed by Boncompagni as President of the Council of Ministers. By a decree of August 2, Ricasoli ordered the president of each electoral college to inform the electors that the college was to elect a representative “ for the sole purpose of expressing the legitimate vote of the Tuscan people as to the definite fate of the country.” 2 The elections were held on August 7. No complete official figures of the result are available, but Corbett in a dispatch of August 10 % gives the returns as follows: Those qualified
According to Corbett probably three-fourths of the entire electorate went to the polls in spite of the efforts of the priests, who, though no longer election officials, made full use of their religious power to persuade them to abstain. This was more successful in the country districts than in the towns. The archbishop of Florence had shown his discountenance to the elections,4 but this attitude was not universally followed, for in other districts four priests were themselves elected. The testimony of both Hudson from Turin, and Corbett from Florence, is to the effect that the elections were carried on throughout the country in the most orderly manner, and that the result was received with such lively enthusiasm as to indicate that the Grand Duke had few friends. The enthusiasm appeared to be from all classes, though, Corbett adds, had the vote been by universal suffrage the result might well have been different as the lower orders had taken little interest in politics, and, in the country places, where there was no dislike of the Grand Duke, the people might have been induced to give their votes for restoration. But, he concluded, such a result would have been wholly at variance with the desires of the upper and middle classes. The Grand Duke's cause had been destroyed for these by his presence with the Austrian forces at the battle of Solferino, and the common danger had awakened a community of feeling with Central Italy, the party of union with Piedmont in each province gaining courage from the strength of similar parties.
Corbett adds that another reason for the apparent unanimity is that many 1 Parliamentary Papers (2609), pp. 33, 36 and 44. 2 Documents, post, p. 453. 3 Parliamentary Papers (2609), p. 54. 4 Ibid.
of the legitimists abstained from voting on the ground that the right of the Grand Duke to the throne could not be affected by the vote of a popular legislature. Groundless fear on the part of others kept them from the polls, or, if they voted, led them to do so against their convictions. But, he concludes, as far as can be ascertained the vote of union represented the desire of the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the Duchy. Even the officers of the Tuscan army appear to have been wholly against the restoration of the Grand Duke. 2
In other duchies the Sardinian commissioners, on retiring, had been appointed by the provisional governments as dictators or governors, and decrees convoking the primary assemblies had been at once issued. Everywhere perfect order was enjoined in order that nothing should detract from the authoritative character of the vote and its effect on Europe. Throughout Italy the elections were orderly and decisive. While there were Sardinian troops in Modena, placed there by Boncompagni to maintain order, there were no charges of coercion or disorder. Everywhere the victory of the Sardinian party was unquestionable.
In Tuscany the delegates, through birth, scientific, literary or industrial pursuits, were among the chief citizens of the province. The Tuscan Assembly thus elected considered itself a representative rather than a deliberative body,4 the deputies having been elected on the platform of union. The assembly of 171 delegates met on August 11. After high mass in Santa Croce where divine inspiration was invoked for the deliberations of the assembly, the delegates marched to the Palazzo Vecchio where the Hall of the Cinque Cento had been prepared for their sittings. The crowds collected in the streets greeted them with wild enthusiasm as they passed, preceded by ministers of state, and followed by the Municipal officials of Florence. Bands played, cannon boomed. The session opened at 10 A. M. with an address read by Ricasoli as President of the Council of Ministers, explaining the political situation. The eldest member was elected president, the four youngest members were named secretaries 5 and the usual formalities of verification of powers and adoption of rules were carried out.
The method of voting was as follows. Each deputy was given two small
1 The Grand Duke had abdicated in favor of his son on August 4, but it was too late to affect the result.
2 Corbett forwarded a letter signed by them protesting against charges of attachment to the old dynasty. Parliamentary Papers (2609), p. 270.
3 Corbett to Russell, Parliamentary Papers (2609), p. 54.
* Their names are given in full in Le assemblee del risorgimento, vol. 5, p. 657, “To Florentines ever mindful of their glorious past, it seemed as if three centuries and a half had been bridged; for when the clerk read the rolls, name after name rang out of the men who had made Florence great.” Thayer, vol. 2, p. 132.
6 Corbett to Russell, August 11, Parliamentary Papers (2609), p. 55.
balls; one black, the other white. The black signified approval. As their names were called in alphabetical order, each deputy advanced to the urn, dropped in the ball representing his vote and dropped the discarded ball into another urn.
The counting was done in public. On the fifth day of the session a resolution for the dethronement of the House of Lorraine was introduced and referred to all the committees into which the assembly was divided. Each committee named a representative to confer upon the resolution, which was adopted. The assembly, after a detailed indictment of the misrule of the dukes and a statement of the absolute incompatibility of the Austrian House of Lorraine, and the Italian desires of Tuscany, unanimously decreed the Austro-Lorraine dynasty to be deposed, and declared that the dynasty could never be either recalled or received to reign again over Tuscany.1
At this same session of August 16 a resolution was introduced for the annexation of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Victor Emanuel II. It was reported on August 20, and was adopted without a dissenting voice. In the duchies of Parma and Modena each assembly as it met passed similar decrees dethroning their dukes and asking for union with Sardinia.
The attitude of Napoleon had not been changed by the vote. Unable to attack the principle of popular sovereignty, he alleged that the vote had been due to pressure from Sardinia, to the momentary enthusiasm of the emotion accompanying war, and was not the cool expression of the popular will. He further asserted that there was ample reason to believe that Tuscany really wished independence, and that the vote had been due not to desire for union with Sardinia, but to fear of the return of Austrian domination. Although the British representatives in Italy refuted these allegations, in the face of Napoleon's opposition Victor Emanuel was forced to delay the union to an indefinite future. The provisional governments of the duchies endeavored to cement the union by forming a League of Central Italy composed of Parma, Modena, and Rómagna, which were henceforth united under the name of Emilia and, by electing as regent a prince of Savoy, Eugene of Carignano. He, too, was forced to refuse by the opposition of Napoleon, who was still hoping for the establishment of the provisions of Villafranca, which had now been embodied in the Treaty of Zurich.
1 Documents, post, p. 457. 2 There were two abstentions, one being due to a desire for a Bonapartist kingdom.
3 The ducal party asserted that the whole movement had been directed from Turin; that Boncompagni, the Sardinian commissioner, although sent for purely military purposes, had at once become the chief figure in the provisional government, had fomented the revolt against the Grand Duke and had tried to win over the Tuscan troops to the Italian cause through gifts of money and free quarters. The initial revolt, however, appears to have been spontaneous and Boncompagni, instead of falling in with the original purpose of Ricasoli to effect an immediate union with Sardinia, appears to have exerted every effort to force delay, a course in which he was supported by the Sardinian government, which on his inquiry, instructed him that the initiative should not come from the Tuscan government when the royal commissioner was at its head. Le Assemblee del risorgimento, vol. 3, p. lxii. For a presentation of the other side, and especially the Sardinian plot in Parma, see Marquis of Normanby, A vindication of the Duke of Modena from the charges of Mr. Gladstone. Normanby was the British Minister at Florence.
* Russell on December 12 wrote to Hudson at Turin asking for the truth of the charges of terrorism and Sardinian agency in the duchies and Romagna, and for proofs, further than the recorded votes of the assemblies, of the satisfaction of the people and the tranquillity of the country (Parliamentary Papers (2609), p. 252). To this Hudson answered on December The British proposal had left the matter of suffrage vague and Russell had recommended that the Government of Tuscany ascertain the views of France on the point. Russell made no objection to the French stipulation of universal suffrage but was content to leave it to the states themselves to decide, the matter of first importance being, to his mind, that the elections should be carried out under circumstances free from any reproach of intimi25 that the imputation of terrorism by Sardinia was purely gratuitous and imaginary, that the Tuscan vote had been clear and explicit, that the Piedmontese troops had been scrupulously recalled from the duchies and Romagna, and that the Piedmontese party had thereupon greatly increased. He attributed the vote for Sardinia directly to popular indignation at the terms of Villafranca. If all the supporters of annexation had been paid, Piedmont would now be insolvent, he added. Ibid., p. 444.
THE ITALIAN PLEBISCITES OF 1860–1870
Tuscany and Emilia, 1860
Napoleon was busily endeavoring to secure a European Congress to settle the question of the method of restoring the dukes and the Pope to their dominions. This did not satisfy the British Cabinet. As a solution of the difficulty presented by Napoleon's attitude, Lord John Russell, on January 15, 1860, proposed that the matter be settled by another vote of the Italians themselves, and presented his proposal of the “ Four Points" to the French Government. By this plan Great Britain and France were to invite the King of Sardinia to agree not to send troops into Central Italy “ until its several states and provinces had, by a new vote of their assemblies, after a new election, solemnly declared their wishes as to their future destiny.” Thus did Russell corner Napoleon who could do no less than accept the proposal with the reservation, however, that the vote should be by universal suffrage.?
1 Documents, post, p. 499.
2 Thouvenel declared that the French Government could not divest itself of the moral responsibility arising from the treaty of Zurich unless the principle of universal suffrage, which constituted its own legitimacy became also the foundation of the new order of things in Italy. Annuaire des deux mondes, 1860, p. 103.
3 Russell to Corbett, February 6, Parliamentary Papers, Affairs of Italy, 1860, vol. 67 (2636), p. 36.