Front Page Titles (by Subject) MAZZINI. ( From The Economist, 16 th March, 1872.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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MAZZINI. ( From “ The Economist, ” 16 th March, 1872.) - 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 Mazzini means the suppression of a great political force which had latterly been used, certainly not for unworthy, but for impossible, and therefore anarchical ends, but which undoubtedly had revivified the political life of Italy, and furnished the raw materials of which the great political strategy of Count Cavour was able to make such wonderful use. Cavour without Mazzini would have been an engineer without a supply of force. Mazzini without Cavour would have been a great force without any guarantee for its successful organisation.
And yet Mazzini was by no means like Garibaldi—a man without political sense and judgment. He was a sort of halfway house between “the inspired idiot” of Caprera and the wily diplomatist of Turin. Mazzini had a very great and powerful governing mind. His personal influence over young men was something rarely paralleled. When he could choose his own instruments, and choose such as were susceptible of being impressed by his own ardent enthusiasm, he was a man of very rare administrative power. The Association of Young Italy bore wonderful testimony to his extraordinary capacity for diffusing his own disinterestedness and his own faith in national life and unity, with even thrilling intensity, through a widely-spread network of political societies. More than this, his administration of Rome during the dangerous months in which the triumvirs ruled it in 1849 was, as everybody who has heard the details of it admits, a perfect marvel of sagacity and moderation. Mazzini’s administrative power was indeed very great when he could act through men whose loyalty to himself he had secured by possessing them with his own patriotic idealism. His lofty and just, if deeply prejudiced, type of character was wonderfully rich in personal insight, and in days of great national enthusiasm and danger such as befell Rome during his administration, he had every advantage for displaying his highest qualities. It was only when he had to act with men of equal power with himself, but possessed with radically different notions of political equity and patriotic duty, that Mazzini failed. He was an idealist who could allow generously for the deficiencies and selfishness of the people so long as he was not asked to work himself through the lower order of motives. In Rome his magnanimity of policy, and his tolerance for the beliefs which he held to be dangerous superstitions, excited the admiration even of Conservative statesmen like Lord Palmerston. But Mazzini, like all men whose belief is essentially of the ardent religious type, could not endure to appeal to the low worldly motives and the self-indulgent impulses of “such creatures as we are in such a world as the present”. His horror of the adroit arts of statesmanship was profound. He could bear to labour for the debased and the ignorant, for selfishness and vice, but he could not bear to take its opposition into account when considering what he ought to do. He was, it is said, in 1849 offered the Premiership by Charles Albert, on condition that he should give up his larger schemes for Italy, and get the Republicans of Lombardy (then for a moment conquered from Austria) to accede to the surrender of Lombardy to the Piedmontese King. He refused, and would have thought himself for ever degraded if he had acceded to the idea, and he at least would have been really debased by the compromise, for his life was lived in the ideal world, and if he was not to preach a united and glorified Italy, he was nothing. Yet it was a weakness, and a great weakness, in his character, that he could hardly conceive of the honesty of statesmen who took a very different and far more historical view of Italian progress, who were content to develop the only popular Monarchy of the Peninsula into an Italian Monarchy, and to do so by degrees, pausing for long intervals to wait for better opportunity and stronger aid. That to him was no better than the worldly wisdom of an apostle sent to preach a gospel to a great race, who should have accepted a rich bishopric offered him on condition of his ceasing to stir beyond a particular province, and should have settled down in it to enjoy the world instead of invading and conquering it. Mazzini was quite statesman enough to know that Italy could not in a moment, no nor in many years or generations, even approach the type of his own ideal republic, that she must for many generations be more or less swayed by the historical conceptions of the past, and that the less abrupt and violent the change of outward form proposed, the more chance of stability there would be. He knew this so well that while throwing his own influence most enthusiastically into the Republican scale, he more than once offered to leave Italy to decide for herself on the new form of Government, when once she should be free and united, and in a position to judge calmly of her own wishes. Yet this concession was really formal, and was nothing but the sacrifice made by his own strong prepossessions to his intellect. Mazzini might have known, and somewhere deep down in his mind probably did know, that this sort of concession was perfectly empty, that you cannot hold-over these sort of questions till a nation is ready to decide them—that the pretence of holding them over gives a shock to “the historical consciousness” of the people, that you must work with the constitutional materials you have, without throwing the slur on them of proclaiming to the whole people that they are but provisional and liable to a speedy repudiation.
The truth was that Mazzini’s own historical sense was completely at issue with his religious or politico-religious convictions, and that the latter were too strong for the former. Had he been wise he would have accepted in his latter days the rôle of a political teacher rather than a practical intriguer. Italy had won, under the certainly by no means stainless political character of Victor Emanuel and his statesmen, a far larger measure of unity and freedom than anyone but a fanatic had any right to hope for. To improve the standard of political faith in Italy, to disseminate higher ideas of freedom, purer notions of political duty and manliness, might have been left to Mazzini, in spite of his accepting the actual régime, as any practical politician would have accepted it in his place. But Mazzini could not bear to admit that “the logic of facts” is one of compromise, which must admit very mixed motives if it will win anything at all in the sphere of practice. He almost created the force which did so much to regenerate Italy; but in Italy itself he could not endure to admit that the regeneration was full of alloys, and that Italy remained only an earthly country in very decidedly earthly moral conditions. He almost undid—at any rate he did his best to undo—the great good he had done, because he could not recognise in it his own ideal. In England, in France, in Germany, his political conceptions were far soberer and saner; there he could bear to see that perfection was impossible, and that even imperfection must not be too often disturbed if the imperfect elements were to be lessened. But in Italy he was a dreamer—a dreamer even in his creative work—and still more a dreamer when he tried to destroy what he himself had created because it did not shadow forth to his exacting eyes any of the beauty and glory of his own dream.