Bettino Ricasoli, nicknamed the Iron Baron, was an Italian politician, mayor of Florence and second president of the Council of the Kingdom of Italy after Cavour. Born March 9, 1809 in Florence, son of Baron Luigi Ricasoli, descendant of a noble Florentine family in the process of economic decay, and Elisabetta Peruzzi, belonging to the homonymous family of bankers from Tuscany, who with his dowry raised at least partially , the precarious economic situation of the Ricasoli family.
As a child he studied at the Collegio Cicognini in Prato, where he showed a strong interest in the physical and natural sciences: after spending his early childhood with his parents in the Castello di Brolio, near Gaiole in Chianti in the province of Siena, in 1816 his father Luigi died . Then, returning from a study trip around Europe with his tutor, which lasted from 1825 to 1827 and took him to Paris and Vienna, the young Bettino was orphaned at the age of eighteen for the death of his mother , inheriting a property burdened by debts. Declared of age by special decree of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, which also assigned the power over the younger brothers, the young baron, who became a member of the Academy of Georgofili in 1834 and married to the heiress Anna Bonaccorsi, interrupted his studies and retired to Brolio in 1838, fixing his residence there. Here, with careful economic management, he managed to save the family property, making it productive in the oenological field and providing the moral and material conditions of his tenants. Driven by a strong religious spirit but not clerical, with a vision of moral and economic apostolate of which he gave the most intransigent example (for this he was called Baron of iron), he personally educated his peasants in matters of faith and religion, sometimes reciting moralizing discourses from the biblical titles or instituting prizes to the most industrious, dedicated to the patron saint of the peasants, Sant'Isidoro.
Ricasoli was a man of action, very religious and of meditative spirit, even if his temper was abrupt, reserved and angular: the fact that he earned him a new nickname, "Bear of the Apennines". His political orientation, at least at the beginning, was conditioned by the thoughts and writings of Cesare Balbo and Massimo d'Azeglio. In addition to this, he was a personal friend of the major moderate Tuscan exponents, such as Gino Capponi and Raffaello Lambruschini, a religious sympathizer of the theories of Jansenism.
Following his religious nature, Ricasoli did not adhere to the movement of neo-Guelphism advocated by Vincenzo Gioberti, the most beloved patriotic thinker of that moment, because he considered the neo-Guelph project (an Italian Confederation under papal guidance) very unrealistic, coming to the conclusion that the papacy it would have to be reformed because, "devoid of religion, Italian society had no basis". The descent into the political field for the Tuscan noble occurred in February 1846, when he sent a courageous memorial to the Grand Duke Leopold II to incite him to promulgate the reforms requested by the liberal circles, while recalling the reforming role that the Tuscan clergy should have invested, better play its role of apostolate.
In 1847, Ricasoli founded the newspaper "La Patria", whose program aimed to define the "constitution of Italian nationality". In October of the same year he was commissioned to mediate between Tuscany and Modena in a conflict broke out due to the annexation of the territory of Lucca to Tuscany, going to the court of the King of Sardinia Carlo Alberto di Savoia in Turin to convince him to act as a mediator between the parties involved. This fact convinced him that it was necessary to lay the foundations for a new Italian policy, as well as to esteem the Piedmontese state and its monarch for the role they might have in the process of national unification. In 1848, after the granting of the Constitution by the grand-ducal government, Ricasoli was elected Gonfaloniere (or mayor) of Florence, proving to be a fervent supporter of armed intervention alongside the Piedmontese in the First War of Independence. Resigned after the seizure of power in Tuscany by the radical democrats Giuseppe Montanelli and Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, who had forced the Grand Duke Leopold II to flee and find shelter to Gaeta and proclaimed the Republic, Ricasoli was persuaded by the excesses and demagogy of the two politicians to be part of those who asked, after the conclusion of the war and the restoration of Austrian dominance in Northern Italy in 1849, the return of the Grand Duke. Deeply disappointed by the new anti-liberal attitude of Leopoldo and the support of the Austrian army for the reconquest of the throne, the baron preferred to emigrate with his family to Switzerland, from where he returned only in 1851, to retire again to Brolio without even passing through Florence , to avoid seeing the Austrian troops quartered.
After the death of his wife, Ricasoli continued in the management of his estate and the reclamation of his property in Maremma, where he was the first, among the great landowners, to introduce agricultural machinery for the cultivation of the fields. Strong in its mission, in spite of the disasters of 1849 occurred in Italy, Ricasoli placed great confidence in Piedmont as a "State" capable of politically coagulating others, including Tuscany, in a single and future Italian nation. However, he remained outside the political context until 1856, when he approached more and more the liberal positions of Cavour, prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia, sympathizing with the creation, that same year, of the National Society, which gathered all the Italian patriots of different extractions. ideologies around the program of the Italian national unity around the emblem of the Savoy. To this was added the personal esteem between the two Italian politicians, both conservative, although Ricasoli detested the hidden maneuvers and secret diplomacy, the cornerstone of Piedmontese foreign policy of those years.
Cavour's esteem for the Tuscan baron was not long in coming. On April 27, 1859, after the definitive departure of Leopoldo from Florence and the appointment of the Provisional Government of Tuscany with Carlo Bon Compagni of Mombello as royal commissioner, Ricasoli entered as interior minister, and then took over after the armistice of Villafranca, the central power with the rank of prodigator. In this capacity he organized the plebiscite of 11 and 12 March 1860 which sanctioned the union of Tuscany with the Kingdom of Sardinia, with 366,571 favorable votes and 14,925 against, bringing the results personally to King Vittorio Emanuele II in Turin. Ricasoli was then appointed by the Piedmontese government as temporary governor of Tuscany, often clashing with official government policy, aimed at maintaining the international balance to resume the unitary process by diplomatic means. In fact, the Tuscan governor gave hospitality to Giuseppe Mazzini, on whom the death sentence was still pending for the attempted upheaval of Genoa in 1857, he sent arms to Viterbo and the Marches to foment the revolt against Pius IX and, after the entry of Garibaldi to Naples in September 1860, wrote an imperious letter to Cavour and the government to ask to mobilize the army to assist the volunteers of Garibaldi. Also in 1859, Ricasoli played a decisive role in the foundation of the new La Nazione newspaper, which placed the national theme at the center of its own interest.
After having been elected deputy in January 1861 and having voted in favor of the law proclaiming, on March 17, 1861, the birth of the new Kingdom of Italy, Ricasoli succeeded, on June 12 of the same year, to Cavour, who died six days earlier, in the position of Prime Minister. After forming a government in which he assumed, besides the presidency, also the dicasteries of the War and Foreign Affairs, he marked his activity of government to a strong unitary drive in the administrative management of the State and in an attempt to resolve the Roman question with the Holy Headquarters and France.
The problems for the newborn state were in fact enormous both in domestic and foreign politics: apart from England, no European power had recognized the new Kingdom, Rome and the Veneto still lacked national unity, while inside it was necessary to proceed to economic, cultural and administrative assimilation of the various regions through the unification of administrative, legal, scholastic and economic systems. In addition to this, in the South the brigandage raged with virulence, fomented by the pope and the Bourbons in exile in Rome to destabilize the Kingdom of Italy and try to regain possession of the Neapolitan crown. Ricasoli faced everything with extreme authority and decision: on July 15, 1861 he entrusted the full powers to General Enrico Cialdini to crush the brigandage in the South, which he saw as a phenomenon of common delinquency without understanding the real problems of southern reality; On 9 October the decrees of his cabinet extended to all of Italy the orders of the Savoy state, including the subdivision into provinces and municipalities, with a view to a centralized state structure that the prime minister claimed to the detriment of the regional project proposed by Marco Minghetti, while in the financial field was instituted by the Minister of Finance Pietro Bastogi, the Great Book of Public Debt, which unified all public debts of the pre-unification States, in addition to the imposition of new taxes to rehabilitate the state deficit created the day after unification. He also admitted most of the Garibaldini volunteers to the regular army and revoked the exile to Mazzini.
In foreign policy, the President of the Italian Council obtained, on June 15, 1861, the diplomatic recognition of France and tried in vain reconciliation with the Holy See, resuming negotiations with Napoleon III already initiated by Cavour for the withdrawal of the French garrison from Rome and its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy. In fact, on September 10 Ricasoli sent to Paris a project of reconciliation with the pope, which included the annexation of Rome to Italy in exchange for Pius IX's personal sovereignty over the capital, an annual donation to the Vatican and papal autonomy for the appointment of bishops. However, the French government refused the proposal, and then Ricasoli tried to deal directly with the pontiff, adding to it, however, a more rigid statism and a certain vein of reformism, as the request to the ecclesiastical hierarchy to reconcile the Church with civil society. . The lack of tact and diplomacy of Ricasoli, however, gave space to the personal maneuvers of King Vittorio Emanuele II, who put forward the ambitions for the Veneto region in Rome and planned landings in Dalmatia with the aim of destabilizing the Abburg Empire, a project endorsed by the French emperor himself , pleased to address the initiatives of Italian foreign policy elsewhere.
Disdainful of the intrigues of his rival Rattazzi, not very malleable to the interventions of the court in foreign policy and unable to dominate a parliamentary majority in which groups oriented by regional rivalries emerged, Ricasoli, after February 28, 1862 he had sent to the sovereign, who accused him of being too waiting, a bitter letter of leave, he was forced to resign the following March 3.
In the United Kingdom, in the United Kingdom and in the United Kingdom and administrative assimilation of the various regions through the unification of administrative, legal, scholastic and economic systems. In addition to this, in the South, the film is published in Rome, in Rome, in Rome, from the pope and the Bourbons in Rome to the end of the Neapolitan crown. Ricasoli faced with extreme authority and decision: on July 15, 1861 he entered the full powers of General Enrico Cialdini to crush the brigandage in the South, which he saw as a phenomenon of common delinquency; On the 9th October the orders of the Savoy state, including the subdivision into provinces and municipalities, with a view to a centralized state structure Pietro Bastogi, The Great Book of Public Debt, Marco Minghetti, The Public Book of Public Debt, as Unified All Public Debts of the Pre-Unification States created the day after unification. He also admitted to the regular army and revoked the exile to Mazzini.
In foreign policy, on June 15, 1861, the Diplomatic Recognition of France and tried in vain reconciliation with the Holy See, resuming negotiations with Napoleon III already initiated by Cavour for the withdrawal of the French garrison from Rome and its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy. In fact, on September 10, with the inclusion of a pope, as an addition to the annexation of the United States in bishops. However, the French government refused the proposal, and then, to a strict rigid statism and a certain vein of reformism, as the request to the ecclesiastical hierarchy to reconcile the Church with civil society. . The lack of tact and diplomacy of Ricasoli, however, gave space to the personal maneuvers of King Vittorio Emanuele II, who projected the ambitions for the Veneto region into Rome and planned landings in Dalmatia with the aim of destabilizing the Abburg Empire, a project endorsed by the French emperor himself, pleased to address the Italian foreign policy.
Rattazzi, not very malleable to the interventions of the court in a foreign policy and in which he dominated a parliamentary majority in which groups oriented by the regional rivalries emerged, Ricasoli, after February 28, 1862, and had heard to the sovereign , who is accused of being too waiting, a bitter letter of leave, he was forced to resign the following March 3.