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Roman Republic

ROMAN REPUBLIC 1849 (February 9, 1849 - July 3, 1849): Faced with growing popular agitation after the assassination of his Prime Minister Pellegrino Rossi, Pope Pius IX left Rome on November 24, 1848, for the protection of King Ferdinand II of Naples at Gaeta. On December 29, 1848, the provisional government, established after the Pope's departure, called for the election on January 21, 1849, of a constituent assembly to prepare a constitution for the newly established Roman Republic, but so to word it that it could be extended to all of Italy once unity was achieved. It also decreed universal manhood suffrage for all males over twenty-one and declared any male over twenty-five eligible for office. Elections saw a large turnout of voters, despite a papal edict censuring the convocation of a constitutional assembly and forbidding participation in the elections. The assembly convened on February 5, 1849. Four days later, it abolished the temporal power of the pope and proclaimed the Roman Republic. It then proceeded to designate a ruling Triumvirate as executive. It also made Giuseppe Mazzini an honorary Roman citizen and invited him to come to Rome. Shortly after his arrival on March 5 he was elected to the Triumvirate together with Aurelio Saffi and Carlo Armellini. The republican government faced a threefold task: to introduce needed socio-economic and political reforms, to redact a constitution suited to the immediate needs of the republic, but which could be extended to a future united Italy, and to prepare a defense of the republic against the pope's supporters. The last proved to be the most urgent. The Catholic powers of Europe responded with troops to the pope's appeal from Gaeta for help in putting down his rebellious subjects and restoring his temporal power. Austrian forces threatened the Roman Republic's northern borders. The French Second Republic, now under the firm control of the conservatives and its newly elected president, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, dispatched an expeditionary force which landed at the Roman port of Civitavecchia at the end of April. Neapolitan troops, led by their king, massed to the south, and Spain disembarked four thousand soldiers at Gaeta in preparation for marching on Rome. With French troops a few kilometers from Rome in Civitavecchia, tortuous negotiations ensued between Roman republican leaders and the French. Finally, after two months the French began their attack on the capital. Outnumbered and outgunned by superior French forces, Rome put up a brave but futile resistance which ended on July 1, 1849. Despite the battles raging on the city's perimeters, the assembly continued to discuss the provisions of the constitution and on July 1 approved it. Written by the only Italian assembly elected by universal suffrage in 1848-49, the Roman charter was truly the people's constitution. At noon on July 3 it was solemnly proclaimed in the Campidoglio, Rome's city hall. That evening French troops entered the city. Garibaldi led a small detachment of his men north towards Venice to help in its defense, but pursued by Austrian troops, he barely escaped with his life. Other republican leaders avoided arrest and imprisonment with the help of foreign passports given them by the American and English consuls in Rome. Mazzini remained unmolested in the city until the middle of July, after which he returned to his foreign exile. Meanwhile Pope Pius IX appointed a Commission of Cardinals to govern Rome while he remained under the protection of King Ferdinand II. The commission abolished all republican measures, instituted a repressive regime, and worked to root out the last vestiges of radicalism. Pius IX finally returned to Rome in April 1850 guarded by a French garrison. Thus ended what some historians consider to be the most advanced experiment in republicanism and representative government in Italy during 1848-49.
Emiliana P. Noether


Ivanoe Bonomi. Mazzini, triumviro della Repubblica romana. (2d ed., Milan, 1946).

Domnico Demarco. Una rivoluzione sociale: La repubblica romana del 1849. (Naples, 1944).

G. Demarco. Pio IX e la rivoluzione romana del 1848-49. (Modena, 1947).

Giuseppe Leti. La rivoluzione e la repubblica romana. (2d ed., Milan, 1948).

Luigi Rodelli. La Repubblica romana del 1849, con appendice di documenti,. (Pisa, 1955).

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