Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE DEATH OF COUNT CAVOUR. ( From The Economist, 8 th June, 1861.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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THE DEATH OF COUNT CAVOUR. ( From “ The Economist, ” 8 th June, 1861.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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THE DEATH OF COUNT CAVOUR.
The foremost statesman in Europe,—the man whose life was of the highest political value to the world, and second only in importance to that of the Emperor of the French,—is no more. The death of Count Cavour is felt to be an event of the same unspeakable moment, though, as it seems to Englishmen, of exactly opposite tendency, with that which so suddenly snatched away the late Czar in the middle of the Crimean war. The death of Nicholas was the death-blow of the aggressive policy in Russia; and the enemies of Italy will no doubt dare to hope that the removal of the great leader of Italian regeneration will prove a catastrophe as fatal to the hopes which he inspired, and the far-sighted policy by which he advanced with sure and equal step to their realisation. But the parallel is utterly delusive. Count Cavour was the leader of an advancing age, and did but represent a moral force which secured for his country the sympathy of all advancing nations, and the fear or respect of even the most retrograde. The power by which he worked was not his own, and does not die with him. Nicholas, on the other hand, represented a policy which belonged to the past rather than to the present; with strong unflinching determination he strove to stem the tide of European opinion, and he rallied for this purpose the forlorn hope of Russian barbarism. For his death, therefore, there was no remedy;—the power by which he had worked was dwindling fast even beneath his hands, and faded rapidly away when he was struck down. He restored and represented a dying tradition; Count Cavour created and represented a new spring of national pride and hope which will constitute the tradition of unborn generations.
The events of his short but crowded political career, which extended only over eleven years,—and the most important part of it during which he was Prime Minister only over nine,—have been too often recapitulated within the last two days to need formal narration here. Those years of his life in which the political character is chiefly formed were passed in England: he did not return to Piedmont until he was thirty-two years old; and hence it has been the greatest pride of English statesmen to point to Count Cavour’s wonderful success as in some sense a graft taken from a British stock. Nor is it mere national egotism to believe this. It was his clear-sighted financial creed, and a great financial speech in 1850, which first introduced him to power; and he had learned his political economy from Adam Smith. It was a speech on ecclesiastical jurisdiction, expressing his deep conviction that all Churches should be zealously restrained from interference with secular affairs, which first gained him extensive popularity in Italy; and such a Church he had seen in England and England alone. It was his steady belief in a Constitution worked by the natural aristocracy of a country, but yet in close connection with the popular mind, which gave him an instrument at once sufficiently powerful and sufficiently under control to carry out his great designs; and such a Constitution he had seen only in England.
Yet, though England may have supplied him with political principles suited to his needs, it certainly could not have given him the consummate power with which he used them. Probably no English statesmen that ever lived would have exhibited, under such circumstances, so striking a combination of audacity and tact,—of courage to incur a great risk, and sagacity in measuring what risk would be too great,—of equal power to strike, and to hold back his own supporters from striking, according to the circumstances, as Count Cavour. No statesman known to history has ever counted the cost of such great dangers with so cool and strong a mind. He was as strong in defeat as in success. It was nearly the first act of his political career, after the great disaster of Novara, to urge the duty of cordially strengthening Charles Albert’s Government instead of indulging in useless recriminations. And his first great venture as a Minister was so contrived as to be a cordial to the Italian spirit,—a stimulant to the exhausted hopes of a long oppressed nation. The master-stroke of forcing Sardinia into a favourable comparison with Austria by sending an army to the Crimea, while Austria remained sullen and passive in the Principalities, gained him even far more power at home than abroad, because it raised the hopes and animated the national pride of Italy. Nor was it Count Cavour’s fault if he was subsequently obliged to wound that national spirit in the equivalent rendered for the aid of France. Had England been willing in 1856 to unite with France and Sardinia in resolutely curbing the influence of Austria in Italy, the same great result might possibly have been obtained without the same humiliating price. It is well known that Count Cavour applied, and applied in vain, to England for a counterweight to the influence of France,—and that the great debt of exclusive obligation afterwards incurred, was incurred in consequence of our refusal to interfere.
But neither in sending a Sardinian contingent to the Crimea, nor in the negotiation of the French alliance, did Count Cavour display so happy a combination of sagacity and daring, as in the occupation of the Umbrian Marches last year, and the summons to the Pope to dismiss his foreign auxiliaries. Had Garibaldi been permitted to push on into the Roman territory, the revolution would have passed beyond the control of Sardinia, and an anarchy risked which would have brought down either an Austrian or an extended French intervention. Had Sardinia prohibited Garibaldi’s movement upon the Roman territory, as she did the further movement upon Venetia, the unpopularity incurred would have probably overthrown the Sardinian Ministry and seriously risked the Sardinian leadership. The reasons for the movement were urgent and weighty, but the danger confronted was enormous. The Pope was driven to extremities,—Austria had a new and almost unanswerable excuse for marching to his aid, since the moral logic of the step would certainly have justified quite as well the invasion of Venetia,—and the Ultramontane party in France was irritated into an opposition so vindictive, that it was far from certain whether the Emperor might not be obliged to withdraw his countenance. It cannot be doubted that in discriminating the true moment to defy the Pope and take the formal guidance of the Neapolitan revolution, Count Cavour gave proof of the rarest and highest statesmanlike genius. He had before him a problem in which all the alternatives seemed equally menacing. He instinctively chose for his country the solution which involved danger indeed, but no humiliation,—not the loss of that leadership which had been, during so many months of Garibaldi’s enterprise, in partial abeyance; and the resolve raised him to a place in the nation’s affections of which he can now never be deprived.
That such a statesman should be cut off while Rome is still in the hands of France, and Venetia still in the hands of Austria, is more than tragic,—for in tragedy the intertwining threads are all cut together,—but here the country’s need continues, though the man who could best satisfy it is gone. In no one else can the same powers be found united;—the capacity for ruling rightly, and the capacity for convincing a free people that they are ruled rightly;—the power to win the confidence of an Italian Parliament as no one else could win it, and the power to use the authority so gained as no one else could use it. No English statesman except Pitt has ever gained a power so nearly equivalent to a dictatorship as Count Cavour has exercised for the past nine years over the growing State of Sardinia. Nor is such a combination of practical sagacity and intellectual sagacity,—of the passion that sways, the reasoning that guides, the strength that retains, and the humour that fascinates men,—often seen combined in the same person. Ricasoli, Minghetti, Ratazzi, all seem dwarfed beside the great intellect and will which have so recently been put forth in all their power, not only to grasp new conquests, but to restrain his countrymen from snatching at the inaccessible. But that firm faith in the destinies of his country expressed in his last hour by the dying statesman has been sown by him in so many Italian hearts that it will be impossible for them to despond. It was the last crowning triumph of his life to reconcile all the great men who had assisted him in the glorious work. And now, though in the bitterness of their loss, when they look at Rome and Venetia, many may feel inclined to echo the melancholy old words of patriotic despondency, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved,”—they will not allow themselves to doubt that the same Power which raised up Count Cavour for his work, and engraved its purposes on the marvellous triumphs of his short administration, will find instruments noble enough to complete what he has so nobly begun.