Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page


FEDERALISM As an ideology and a political force, federalism played an important part in the revolution of 1848 in Italy. Indeed, the revolutionary govern ments of 1848-49, especially in Milan, Rome, and Venice, were testing grounds for several different federalist ideologies.

A strong federalist current existed among Italian intellectuals in the eighteenth century. This became obvious in 1796 when several federalist entries were submitted for competition on the theme "Which form of government is best suited to the welfare of Italy." In contrast to Giuseppe Mazzini, who advocated a unitary republic, Vincenzo Gioberti favored a federation of Italian states under the aegis of the Pope. His fellow Piedmontese, Count Cesare Balbo, preferred accommodation with the interests of the Habsburg Empire. The failure of Gioberti's neo-Guelf federalism in the late 1840s gave way to a new democratic and anticlerical formula of which the Lombards Carlo Cattaneo and Giuseppe Ferrari were the leading theorists. The former believed that the creation of small republics on the Swiss model would make it easier for Italy's democratic leaders to raise the level of political sophistication of the masses and to teach them self-government. Both were convinced that Italy's traditions, especially the continued vitality of ancient, once autonomous cities, were not conducive to the growth of a centralized nation-state on the French or Spanish model. When just this type of state was established in 1860, democratic federalists shifted their strategies to a defense of local autonomies via-à-vis the central government. Cattaneo's disciples Gabriele R osa and Arcangelo Ghisleri became the chief theorists of this new version of federalism which became the common intellectual heritage of post-unification republican, radical, and socialist movements.
Clara M. Lovett

Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

JGC revised this file (http://www.ohiou. edu/~chastain/dh/federalm.htm) on October 14, 2004.

Please E-mail comments or suggestions to

© 1997, 2004 James Chastain.