2. Bourgeois Europe
In 1848, revolutionary riots broke out in numerous places of Italy, as well in many other parts of
Europe. Charles Albert in Piedmont and Leopold II in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany had been
forced to make concessions to the democrats. When Vienna was also in revolt, both Milan and
Venice, the main cities of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia under Austrian rule, revolted.
Sicily, apart Messina, expelled the Bourbon armies. Charles II of Bourbon also was compelled to
leave the Duchy of Parma.
The Kingdom of Sardinia decided to exploit the apparently favourable moment, and declared war
on Austria, with the alliance of the Papal States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Italian
independence leaders like Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini returned to Italy to take
part in the events, but were rather coldly welcomed by the House of Savoy, who aimed to
maintain a moderate and pro-governative character to the war.
The Piedmontese army was composed of two corps and a reserve division, for a total of 12,000
troops. Artillery and cavalry were the best units. On March 21 the Grand Duke of Tuscany also
declared his entrance in the war against Austria, with a contingent of 6,700 men. The Papal
Army had a similar sized force, backed by numerous volunteers. On 25 the vanguard of the II
Piedmontese Corps entered Milan; two days later Pavia was also freed.
After an initial successful campaign, with the victories at Goito and Peschiera del Garda, Pope
Pius IX, fearing possible expansions of Piedmont in case of victory, recalled his troops. The
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies also retired, but the general Guglielmo Pepe refused to go back to
Naples and went to Venice to protect it against the Austrian counter-offensive. King Ferdinand
II's behavior was mainly due to the ambiguous conduct of Charles Albert of Piedmont, who had
not clearly refused the proposal to obtain the Sicilian crown received from representatives of the
Left alone, Piedmont was defeated by the Austrians at Custoza and forced to accept an armistice
on August 9.
The aftermath of the war was complex, but in general saw a return to the preexisting status quo.
In 1849 in Florence, Leopold II abandoned the town, which was ruled by a provisional
government; but the Grand Duke later returned. In Rome, the Roman republic was declared (with
Giuseppe Mazzini as one of the triumviri). Rome was attacked by French troops, and Giuseppe
Garibaldi's forces, after a fierce resistance, had to surrender, the republic being abolished with
the return of the pope. Venice, after an extraordinarily long resistance, also had to surrender to
the Austrians due to famine and a cholera epidemic.
The Statuto was proclaimed only because of concern at the revolutionary insurrection then
agitating Italy. Charles Albert was only following the example of other Italian rulers, but it was
the only constitution to survive the repression that followed the First War of Independence
(1848–1849). The Statuto remained the basis of the legal system even after Italian unification was achieved in 1861 and the Kingdom of Sardinia became the Kingdom of Italy. Even though it
suffered deep modifications, especially during the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini (who,
however, ruled with the tacit approval of King Victor Emmanuel III), it was never formally
abrogated until Italy became a republic in 1948.
In its original version it instituted a Parliament composed of the Senate of the Kingdom entirely
nominated by the king and an elected House of Deputies. The King retained extensive powers, as
shown in Article 5:
The King alone has executive power. He is the supreme head of the state, commands all the
armed forces by sea and land, declares war, makes treaties of peace, of alliance, of commerce,
but giving notice of them to the two Houses as far as national interest permit. Treaties which
demand any financial burden, or which would alter territorial boundaries of the state, shall not
have any effect until the two Houses have consented to them.
The King also appointed the ministers of state, who were solely responsible to him. With time, it
became virtually impossible for a Cabinet to stay in office (let alone govern) agains