THE OPPOSITION TO AUSTRIA AND THE 1848 REVOLUTION


[A 1848 helmet]  

The socially and politically relevant events that took place in Naples and in Piedmont in 1820-21 did not find a noteworthy echo in this area; some people were arrested and questioned, but usually they did not belong to any political organization and were rather isolated. On the other hand, conspiracies were starting to take root mostly in the provinces and particularly near the Iseo Lake, on the border with Brescia.

The Giovine Italia (“Young Italy”) movement founded by Giuseppe Mazzini, spread throughout the Bergamo area in 1832 thanks to the entrepreneur G.B.Cavallini, to Gabriele Rosa - both from Iseo - and to the lawyer Bargnani from Sarnico who was followed by some among the professional bourgeoisie. A club was founded in Bergamo but few people joined it. Indeed it was more successful in the provinces where many members were questioned, then freed or sentenced to exile. Many people, especially professional men, university students, tradesmen and artisans expressed their strong dissent about the government policy, particularly in the valleys.

Bergamo did not seem to be interested in conspiracy activities, but from the 40's onwards, the ruling class began to be attracted particularly by the liberal and moderate tendencies, which refused the revolutionary ideas; on the contrary, it had a reform based project. In December 1847, during a period of great tension in the Lombard-Venetian Kingdom, G.B.Nazzari submitted to the Central Congregation in Milan a motion whereby people expressed their intention to inform the Emperor about the general dissatisfaction caused by the government policy. This fact was followed by many similar events in Lombardy and in Milan in particular and Bergamo was "solemnly praised" for the initiative.

In 1848 Bergamo organized its first important opposition to Austria. In February the tension and the dissent increased in the city: many patriotic manifestations (such as the diffusion of pamphlets coloured in the three national colours at the Teatro Sociale and of revolutionary poems and songs) and various episodes of insubordination of students against soldiers took place. After the Milanese revolt even Bergamo arose and fought for 5 days from May 18th to 22nd in Borgo San Lorenzo at Broseta Gate, in the barracks of Santa Marta and Sant'Agostino, in the prison of San Francesco and in the powder magazine near the graveyard of San Maurizio. Most of the urban population together with men from the valleys and farmers took part in these tough revolts; in Piazza Vecchia the tree of freedom, crowned with the Tricolore, was raised on March 20th. All the Austrians armies, such as 1600 soldiers divided into 15 companies, had to leave the town within March 23rd.

At the same time groups of volunteers left from Bergamo and from its province to Milan; their help was decisive for the victory of Porta Tosa (today known as Porta Vittoria). Among those volunteers there were also Francesco Nullo, Giovan Battista and Gabriele Camozzi, Vittorio Tasca, Federico Alborghetti, Daniele Piccinini, who were leading figures of the town Risorgimento. On March 23rd a provisional government was established: it was composed of landowners from the local aristocracy and not and of the industrial and commercial middle class. The President was F. Roncalli while the other members were: G.A.Piazzoni, C.Steiner Saluzzi, G.B.Berizzi, P.Moroni, L.Terzi, G.Camozzi and L.Ferrari. Toward the half of April the local provincial Congregation took over the town administration. The passage of the administrative direction from the Congregation to the deputies, who had been nominated before the revolution, represented a political shift in favour of the Conservative Government rather than of the provisional one. In fact, on April 12th Count Pietro Moroni was nominated as representative of the province in the Central Government of Lombardy. This nomination met with protests from some political groups but, having the political control of the town, the Liberal-Monarchs succeeded in imposing their authority on the Republican-Democrat parties shortly afterwards without significant trouble.



Picture: helmet of the Civic Guard of Rome used in 1848.