The decade of preparation (1849-1859)

The decade of preparation to the War of Indipendence was for the citizens of the Lombard-Venetian Kingdom a period of repression and represented the most dramatic and harshest phase of the relationships between the Austrian Empire and the Italian provinces. Austria modified the constitution and accentuated the centralization of power: the Governor General, with authority for both civil and military matters, substituted the Viceroy. In place of the pre-1848 governments two lieutenancies with limited and controlled authorities were arranged.

The Lombard Senate was abolished and the assembly was not convoked again until 1855. The financial administration was completely under the control of the central Ministry of Finance in Vienna. Radetzky was designed, thanks to the ambiguity of his role, as Governor General of the Lombard-Venetian Kingdom. He succeeded in imposing a sort of unaccountable military government and claimed a lot of police powers for himself.

[Massimiliano d'Austria]

In addition to the severe sanctions that the General imposed on the rebel towns, such as the seizure of the estates of the political exiles (in Bergamo these measures were taken against the Camozzis and the Ottavio Tasca); heavy war taxes, a rise in the land tax and extraordinary taxes, which were meant to hurt those social classes who were considered responsible for the uprising of 1848 (such as land-owners, tradesmen and business men) were levied. All these fiscal measures were taken in a period of economic crisis caused by an illness of the silk worm.

The state of siege was declared for all the towns and the death penalty was introduced even for the possession of arms through the adoption of the Legge Stataria. The reasons why many soldiers from Bergamo were shot in S.Agostino and at the Rocca or hanged at the Fara were not only that they refused to give up their weapons (ncessary for everyday work of many farmers), but also that they were accused of desertion and insubordination.

In Bergamo, as in many other Lombard towns, there was a series of house to house searches, false accusations, arrests, suspensions for lower court judges, doctors, teachers, and lawyers because of their real or presumed implications in the events of the years 1848-1849. So, even the professional and clerical middle class started having good reasons for opposing Austria.

In this situation there was a progressive separation between the state and the people in all its different social components which helped to increase the aspiration to independence. A change in Austrian policy, consisting in the removal of Radetzky and in the nomination of the archduke Ferdinando Massimiliano (brother of the emperor) as Governor in 1850, didn't improve the relations between the Empire and its italian subjects.

At the same time, the constitutional choice of the Savoia monarchy and the crisis of Mazzini's organization, which brought the death sentence upon all those who tried to develop it in the Lombard-Venetian territories, contributed to split the positions towards the liberal programme of Cavour.

  Picture: Massimiliano d'Austria, Governor of Lombardy.