Francesco Crispi


Francesco Crispi
Francesco Crispi
17th and 20th
Prime Minister of Italy
In office
July 29, 1887 – February 6, 1891
Monarch Umberto I
Preceded by Agostino Depretis
Succeeded by Antonio Starabba, Marchese di Rudinì
In office
December 15, 1893 – March 10, 1896
Monarch Umberto I
Preceded by Giovanni Giolitti
Succeeded by Antonio Starabba, Marchese di Rudinì
President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
In office
November 26, 1877 – December 26, 1877
Preceded by Giuseppe Branchieri
Succeeded by Benedetto Cairoli
Italian Minister of the Interior
In office
December 26, 1877 – March 7, 1878
Prime Minister Agostino Depretis
Preceded by Giovanni Nicotera
Succeeded by Agostino Depretis
In office
April 4, 1887 – February 6, 1891
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Agostino Depretis
Succeeded by Giovanni Nicotera
In office
December 15, 1893 – March 9, 1896
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Giovanni Giolitti
Succeeded by Antonio Starabba, Marchese di Rudinì
Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
July 29, 1887 – February 6, 1891
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Agostino Depretis
Succeeded by Antonio Starabba di Rudinì
Personal details
Born October 4, 1819(1819-10-04)
Ribera, Italy
Died August 12, 1901(1901-08-12) (aged 81)
Naples, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Democrat (Historical Left)

Francesco Crispi (Ribera, October 4, 1819 – Naples, August 11, 1901) was a 19th-century Italian politician of Albanian Arberesh ancestry. He was instrumental in the formation of the united country and was its 17th and 20th Prime Minister from 1887 until 1891 and again from 1893 until 1896.

Contents

Sicily

Crispi’s paternal family came originally from the small agricultural community of Palazzo Adriano, in south-western Sicily. It had been founded in later fifteenth century by Catholic Albanians (later Arbëreshë), who settled in Sicily after the Ottoman occupation of Albania.[1] Crispi himself was born in Ribera, Sicily and baptized in the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church.

He assumed an active role in the Sicilian uprising against the rule of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies at Palermo in 1848. The uprising ended in failure and the government was restored in May 1849. Unlike many, Crispi was not granted amnesty and was forced to flee the country. He lived next in Piedmont where he worked as a journalist. He was implicated in the Mazzini conspiracy at Milan in 1853 and was expelled from Piedmont. He took refuge first on Malta, then in Paris and, even he had not done so before, met up with Giuseppe Mazzini in London.

In 1860 he, alongside Giuseppe Garibaldi, led the "expedition of the thousand" which disembarked on Sicily on May 11, 1860. On the 13th, Crispi drew up the Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. After the fall of Palermo, Crispi was appointed minister of the interior and of finance in the Sicilian provisional government, but was shortly afterwards obliged to resign on account of the struggle between Garibaldi and the emissaries of Count Camillo Benso di Cavour on the question of timing of the annexation of Sicily by Italy.

Appointed secretary to Garibaldi, Crispi secured the resignation of Agostino Depretis, whom Garibaldi had appointed pro-dictator, and would have continued his fierce opposition to Cavour at Naples, where he had been placed by Garibaldi in the foreign office, had not the advent of the Italian regular troops and the annexation of the Two Sicilies to Italy brought about Garibaldi’s withdrawal to Caprera and Crispi’s own resignation.

Parliament and government

Entering parliament in 1861 as deputy of the Extreme Left for the Castelvetrano district, Crispi acquired the reputation of being the most aggressive and most impetuous member of the Republican Party. In 1864, however, he announced he was a monarchist, because as he put it in a letter to Mazzini: The monarchy unites us; the republic would divide us.

In 1866 he refused to enter Baron Bettino Ricasoli’s cabinet; in 1867 he worked to impede the Garibaldian invasion of the papal states, foreseeing the French occupation of Rome and the disaster of Mentana. By methods of the same character as those subsequently employed against himself by Felice Cavallotti, he carried on the violent agitation known as the Lobbia affair, in which sundry conservative deputies were, on insufficient grounds, accused of corruption. On the outbreak of the Franco-German War he worked energetically to impede the projected alliance with France, and to drive the Giovanni Lanza cabinet to Rome. The death of Urbano Rattazzi in 1873 induced Crispi’s friends to put forward his candidature to the leadership of the Left; but Crispi, anxious to reassure the crown, secured the election of Depretis.

In 1876 he was elected President of the Chamber. During the autumn of 1877 he went to London, Paris and Berlin on a confidential mission, establishing cordial personal relationships with British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and Foreign Minister Lord Granville and other English statesmen, and with Otto von Bismarck, by then Chancellor of the German Empire.

In December 1877 he replaced Giovanni Nicotera as minister of the interior in Depretis’s cabinet. Although his short term of office lasted just 70 days, they were instrumental in establishing a unitary monarchy. On January 9, 1878, the death of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and the accession of King Umberto enabled Crispi to secure the formal establishment of a unitary monarchy, the new monarch taking the title of Umberto I of Italy instead of Umberto IV of Savoy. On the February 9, 1879, the death of Pope Pius IX necessitated a conclave, the first to be held after the unification of Italy. Crispi, helped by Mancini and Cardinal Pecci (afterwards Leo XIII), persuaded the Sacred College to hold the conclave in Rome, establishing the legitimacy of the capital.

Bigamy scandal

The statesmanlike qualities displayed on this occasion were insufficient to avert the storm of indignation of Crispi’s opponents in connection with a charge of bigamy. When he remarried, a woman he had married in 1853 was still living. But a court ruled that Crispi’s 1853 marriage on Malta was invalid because it was contracted while another woman he had married yet earlier was also still alive. By the time of his third marriage, his first wife had died and his marriage to his second wife was legally invalid. Therefore his marriage to his third wife was ruled valid and not bigamous. He was nevertheless compelled to resign office.

For nine years Crispi remained politically under a cloud, but in 1887 returned to office as minister of the interior in the Depretis cabinet. Following Depretis’s death on July 29, 1887 Crispi assumed the premiership of his country.

First term

One of his first acts as premier was a visit to Bismarck, whom he desired to consult upon the working of the Triple Alliance. Basing his foreign policy upon the alliance, as supplemented by the naval entente with Great Britain negotiated by his predecessor, Count Robilant, Crispi assumed a resolute attitude towards France, breaking off the prolonged and unfruitful negotiations for a new Franco-Italian commercial treaty, and refusing the French invitation to organize an Italian section at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. At home Crispi secured the adoption of the Sanitary and Commercial Codes, and reformed the administration of justice. Forsaken by his Radical friends, Crispi governed with the help of the right until he was overthrown by Giovanni Giolitti in 1891.

Return to power and second term

In December 1893 the impotence of the Giolitti cabinet to restore public order, menaced by disturbances in Sicily and in Lunigiana, gave rise to a general demand that Crispi should return to power. Although Giolitti tried to put a halt to the manifestations and protests of the Fasci Siciliani, his measures were relatively mild. It was with the second Crispi regime that the repression of the Fasci turned into outright persecution. The government arrested not just the leaders of the movement, but masses of poor farmers, students, professionals, sympathizers of the Fasci, and even those simply suspected of having sympathized with the movement at some point in time, in many cases without any evidence for the accusations. After the declaration of the state of emergency, condemnations were issued for the paltriest of reasons. Many rioters were incarcerated for having shouted things such as "Viva l’anarchia" or "down with the King". At Palermo, in April and May 1894, the trials against the central committee of the Fasci took place and this was the final blow that signaled the death knell of the movement of the Fasci Siciliani.

Crispi steadily supported the energetic remedies adopted by Barone Sidney Sonnino, minister of finance, to save Italian credit, which had been severely shaken the financial crisis of 1892–1893.

In 1894 he was threatened with expulsion from the Masonic Grande Oriente d'Italia for being too friendly towards the Catholic Church.[2] He had previously been strongly anticlerical but had become convinced of the need for rapprochement with the Papacy.[3]

Crispi’s uncompromising suppression of disorder, and his refusal to abandon either the Triple Alliance or the Eritrean colony, or to forsake his colleague Sidney Sonnino, caused a breach with the radical leader Felice Cavallotti. Cavallotti began a pitiless campaign of defamation against him. An unsuccessful attempt upon Crispi’s life by the anarchist Lega brought a momentary truce, but Cavallotti’s attacks were soon renewed more fiercely than ever. They produced little effect and the general election of 1895 gave Crispi a huge majority.

In 1896 the humiliating defeat of the Italian army at Adwa in Ethiopia during First Italo-Ethiopian War, brought about his resignation. The ensuing Antonio di Rudini cabinet lent itself to Cavallotti’s campaign, and at the end of 1897 the judicial authorities applied to the Chamber of Deputies for permission to prosecute Crispi for embezzlement. A parliamentary commission of inquiry discovered only that Crispi, on assuming office in 1893, had found the secret service coffers empty, and had borrowed money from a state bank to fund it, repaying it with the monthly installments granted in regular course by the treasury. The commission, considering this proceeding irregular, proposed, and the Chamber adopted, a vote of censure, but refused to authorize a prosecution. Crispi resigned his seat in parliament, but was re-elected by an overwhelming majority in April 1898 by his Palermo constituents. For some time he took little part in active politics, chiefly on account of his growing blindness. A successful operation for cataract restored his eyesight in June 1900, and notwithstanding his 81 years he resumed to some extent his former political activity. Soon afterward, however, his health began to give way and he died at Naples on August 11, 1901.[4]

Legacy

Crispi was a colourful and intensely patriotic character. Although he began life as a revolutionary and democratic figure, his premiership was authoritarian and he showed disdain for Italian liberals.

References

  1. ^ Christopher Duggan, Francesco Crispi, 1818–1901: From Nation to Nationalism
  2. ^ Crispi to be Expelled by Freemasons, New York Times, October 10, 1894, Page 2
  3. ^ "Crispi, a Freemason of deist convictions who had opposed the Law of Guarantees, had warned Bismarck and Gambetta of the international danger of the Papacy in 1876, and had sacked Torlonia as late as 1887, gradually emerged as the leader of the effort to form an alliance with Catholics in defense of the established order." Secular Italy and Catholicism: 1848–1915, by Dr. John Rao, 2004
  4. ^ Ex-Premier Crispi Dead; Potent Factor in Italian Politics Expires After Long Illiness, The New York Times, August 12, 1901
  • Francesco Crispi, 1818–1901 : From Nation to Nationalism, Christopher Duggan, ISBN 0-19-820611-9

Books by Crispi

Political offices
Preceded by
Giuseppe Branchieri
President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
1876–1877
Succeeded by
Benedetto Cairoli
Preceded by
Giovanni Nicotera
Italian Minister of the Interior
1877–1878
Succeeded by
Agostino Depretis
Preceded by
Agostino Depretis
Italian Minister of the Interior
1887–1891
Succeeded by
Giovanni Nicotera
Prime Minister of Italy
1887–1891
Succeeded by
Antonio Starabba, Marchese di Rudinì
Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs
1887–1891
Preceded by
Giovanni Giolitti
Prime Minister of Italy
1893–1896
Italian Minister of the Interior
1893–1896

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


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