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Irish public opinion and the Risorgimento, 1859–60

  • Jennifer O’Brien (a1)
Abstract

In 1859–60 the Risorgimento culminated in the unification of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia. Irish public opinion watched the process of unification with intense interest, largely because of the papacy’s involvement. The movement for unification directly threatened Pope Pius IX’s hold over the Papal States, and by 1860 he had lost all his dominions but Rome. As a result, Irish public opinion on the Risorgimento divided along the religious fault-line. Protestant identification with the struggle for unification was mirrored by passionate Catholic support for Pius IX, and Ireland’s longstanding religious animosities were projected onto the struggle between the pope and the Piedmontese. Perugia became Scullabogue, Spoleto Limerick. This sense of identification explains why events in Italy resonated so powerfully in Ireland. For religious ultras on both sides, the Risorgimento was essentially a religious struggle, a strategically important battle in the ongoing war between true religion and the powers of darkness.

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1 Nowlan Kevin, ‘The Risorgimento and Ireland, 1820–48’ in Edwards R. Dudley (ed.), Ireland and the Italian Risorgimento (Dublin, 1960), pp 279.

2 Woolf S.J., A history of Italy, 1700–1860 (London, 1979), pp 45055.

3 Sullivan A. M., New Ireland (2 vols, London, 1878), ii, 31.

4 Woolf , Hist. Italy, pp 447-52, 453.

5 Comerford R. V., The Fenians in context: Irish politics and society, 1848–82 (Dublin, 1985), p. 60.

6 Catholic Directory (1861), p. 213.

7 Comerford, Fenians in context, p. 60. To put this amount in context the entire annual expenditure of the Irish Catholic church in 1868 was estimated at £762,030 (Norman E. R., The Catholic church and Ireland in the age of rebellion, 1859–73 (London, 1965), p. 15).

8 Abp Cullen, quoted in Catholic Directory (1861), p. 267.

9 Lines written on the pope’s meetings (T.C.D., John Davis White ballad collection, OLS/X/1/530, no. 107).

10 The Irishman, 7 Jan. 1860.

11 Dean Michael Kieran, parish priest of Dundalk, quoted in Dundalk Democrat, 14 Jan. 1860.

12 Rev. Dr Thomas Bennett, head of the Carmelite Order in Ireland, quoted in Freeman ‘s Journal, 6 Dec. 1859.

13 Nowlan, ‘Risorgimento & Ireland’, p. 27.

14 Freeman’s Journal, 7 Dec. 1859.

15 Comerford, Fenians in context, p. 63.

16 Ibid., p. 62.

17 On 11 Jan. 1860 the Cork Examiner reported that a local man had extracted money from gullible passers-by on the pretence that he was collecting for the pope.

18 Richard More O’Ferrall, M.P., to Abp Cullen, 21 Jan. 1860 (D.D.A., Cullen papers, 333/4/II).

19 Norman, Catholic church & Ireland, p. 47.

20 The Irishman, 17 Mar. 1860.

21 For Stephens’s admiration for Mazzini see Ryan Desmond, The Fenian chief: a biography of James Stephens (Dublin, 1967), p. 51. For Charles J. Kickham’s attitudes see Comerford R.V., Charles J. Kickham: a study in Irish nationalism and literature (Dublin, 1979), pp 512.

22 Freeman’s Journal, 5 Nov. 1859.

23 Bp John McEvilly of Galway, quoted ibid., 19 Dec. 1859.

24 Ibid., 28 Dec. 1860.

25 Ibid., 6 Dec. 1860.

26 Dean Michael Kieran, parish priest of Dundalk, quoted in Dundalk Democrat, 14 Jan. 1860.

27 Ibid.

28 See, for example, William Johnston, ‘The Vice-God of the Vatican, or The papacy, past, present, and to come’ (P.R.O.N.I., D/880/7/3).

29 Idem, ‘Piety in politics, or Practical Protestantism’ (ibid.).

30 This belief was supported by the undoubted anticlericalism of many of those involved in the Risorgimento, including Mazzini, Garibaldi and the Piedmontese prime minister, Count Cavour.

31 Ballymena Observer, 5, 19 Mar. 1860. For Gavazzi’s career see Hall Basil, Humanists and Protestants (Edinburgh, 1990), pp 31363.

32 See Bowen Desmond, The Protestant crusade in Ireland, 1800–70 (Dublin, 1978).

33 Belfast News-Letter, 21 Jan. 1860.

34 Ibid., 11 Sept. 1860.

35 Kickham celebrated the Irishmen who volunteered to fight for the pope in the war of 1860 in his ‘Song for the Irish Brigade’, which appeared in The Irishman on 29 Sept. 1860.

36 For a good summary of the liberal Protestant outlook see Gibson Edward, The future of Italy (Dublin, 1859).

37 McCartney Donai, W. E. H. Lecky: historian and politician, 1838–1903 (Dublin, 1994), p. 18.

38 Belfast News-Letter, 26 Jan. 1860.

39 Londonderry Standard, 20 Sept. 1860.

40 William Smith O’Brien’s diary of his travels in Italy in 1862 (N.L.I., MS 32715).

41 See, for example, a Freeman’s Journal editorial published on 5 Nov. 1859.

42 Mitchel outlined his views on the papal question in two articles published in The Irishman, 22 Sept., 10 Nov. 1860.

43 Woolf, Hist. Italy, pp 455–6. The plebiscites were accompanied by much interference and intimidation by supporters of Piedmont.

44 Downshire Protestant, 12 Oct. 1860.

45 Larkin Emmet, The consolidation of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland, 1860–70 (Dublin, 1987), p. 15.

46 On 26 May 1860 The Nation advised its readers that ‘We could never hope to be able to ... write a letter of instruction to each of the thousands of persons all over Ireland now burning with anxiety to reach the Pontifical States.’ It urged them to apply first to their priests, who would then be supplied with information for the entire parish.

47 Larkin, Consolidation, p. 37. The entire strength of the papal army in September 1860 was 18,300 (Berkeley G.F-H., The Irish battalion in the papal army of 1860 (Dublin, 1929), p. 31).

48 Larkin, Consolidation, pp 15, 18.

49 The Nation, quoted in Dublin Evening Mail, 11 May 1860.

50 Although the official name for the Irish contingent was the Battalion of St Patrick, it was generally referred to as the Irish Brigade.

51 The Nation, 26 May 1860.

52 A new song called The Irish Brigade in battle (T.C.D., John Davis White ballad collection, OLS/X/1/532, no. 218).

53 The Nation, 22 Sept. 1860.

54 Dundalk Democrat, 7 June 1860.

55 The Irishman, 19 May 1860.

56 Comerford, Kickham, p. 51; Rice C.T., ‘Fenianism in Monaghan’ in Clogher Rec., no. 4(1956), p. 31.

57 Abp Cullen to Tobias Kirby, 26 May 1860, quoted in Larkin, Consolidation, p. 19.

58 Sullivan, New Ireland, ii, 44.

59 Berkeley, Irish battalion, p. 39.

60 Hansard 3, clviii, 1394–1403 (17 May 1860).

61 Dublin Evening Mail, 12 Sept. 1860.

62 Northern Whig, 5 June 1860.

63 Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 26–39.

64 Larkin, Consolidation, pp 19–24; see also Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 53–70.

65 Major Myles O’Reilly to Abp Cullen, 12 July 1860 (D.D.A., Cullen papers, 333/3/1).

66 Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 64, 69–70.

67 Ibid., pp 60–62.

68 Ibid., p. 51.

69 Ibid., p. 92.

70 Abp Cullen to Tobias Kirby, 11 Sept. 1860, quoted in Larkin, Consolidation, p. 33.

71 A new song called The Irish Brigade in battle (T.C.D., John Davis White ballad collection, OLS/X/1/532, no. 218).

72 Ibid.

73 Berkeley, Irish battalion, p. 110.

74 For the Irish at Perugia see ibid., pp 111–22.

75 Belfast News-Letter, 17 Sept. 1860.

76 Freeman’s Journal, 17 Sept. 1860.

77 For the Irish at Spoleto see Crean C. P., ‘The Irish Battalion of St Patrick in the defence of Spoleto, September, 1860’ in Ir. Sword, iv (1959-60), pp 5260, 99–107; Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 129–69.

78 The Irish role in the battle is described in Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 170–89.

79 For the Irish at Ancona see ibid., pp 190–216.

80 Norman, Catholic church & Ireland, p. 34.

81 Cork Constitution, 5 Nov. 1860.

82 See Northern Whig, 29 Sept. 1860.

83 Ibid., 10 Nov. 1860.

84 A new patriotic song: Welcome home our brave brigade (T.C.D., John Davis White ballad collection, OLS/X/1/532 no. 219).

85 Catholic Directory (1861), p. 265.

86 The Nation, 10 Nov. 1860; Dublin Evening Mail, 5 Nov. 1860.

87 Comerford, Kickham, p. 52. Kickham’s ‘Song for the Irish Brigade’ appeared in The Irishman, 29 Sept. 1860.

88 The Irishman, 3 Nov. I860.

89 Archbishop Cullen’s view of the Irish Brigade is given in his sermon at the requiem mass for the fallen volunteers (Catholic Directory (1861), pp 264–7).

90 See, for example, The Nation’s, furious reaction to an article in The Times accusing the Irish at Spoleto of cowardice (The Nation, 29 Sept. 1860).

91 Northern Whig, 29 Sept. 1860.

92 Dublin Evening Mail, 12 Nov. 1860.

93 Belfast News-Letter, 21 Sept. 1860; see also Londonderry Standard, 27 Sept. 1860; Downshire Protestant, 28 Sept. 1860.

94 Belfast News-Letter, 21 Sept. 1860.

95 Londonderry Standard, 27 Sept. 1860.

96 Belfast News-Letter, 11 Sept. 1860.

97 Ibid., 26 Sept. 1860.

98 Downshire Protestant, 26 Oct. 1860.

99 Ibid.

100 R. Dudley Edwards, ‘The Risorgimento and Ireland, 1848–70’ in idem (ed.), Ireland and the Italian Risorgimento (Dublin, 1960), p. 42.

101 Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 210, 218.

102 Larkin, Consolidation, p. 39.

103 Berkeley, Irish battalion, pp 218–20. For Keogh Myles see ‘The hat of an Irish soldier of the papacy’ in Ir. Sword, iv (1959-60), pp 34.

104 Edwards, ‘Risorgimento & Ireland, 1848–70’, p. 42; The Irishman, 29 Sept. 1860.

105 Comerford, Fenians in context, pp 65–7.

106 T. D. Sullivan (A.M. Sullivan’s brother) and J. A. Joyce, secretaries of the Dublin Committee for the National Petition, to Abp Cullen, 30 Nov. 1860 (D.D. A., Cullen papers, 333/4/1).

107 Comerford, Fenians in context, p. 67.

108 The Nation, 10 Nov. 1860.

109 The Irishman, 27 Oct. 1860.

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Irish Historical Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-1214
  • EISSN: 2056-4139
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