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C. A. Rosetti

ROSETTI, C. A. (1816-1885) Romanian literary and political leader, born in Bucuresti into a Phanariot Greek family which had been integrated into the Muntenian upper class. Although raised in the environment of the Bucuresti elite, he later became one of its harshest critics. In his youth he was something of a dandy and eccentric, deliberately attempting to shock and annoy the members of the class from which he arose. He also gained an early reputation as a poet. At the same time, at the early age of 16, he served as an aide de camp of the Muntenian Prince Alexandru Ghica.

In 1845, Rosetti went to Paris, an experience that completely made over his personality. He was inspired by the classes of Quinet and Michelet, by the streets and plazas of Paris, and by the leftist political life of the French capital's masonic lodges. He also joined the circles of Romanian students in France, circles that would give birth to the close-knit family of the 1848 revolutionaries. He met Lamartine, the patron of the Society of Romanian Students in Paris. In 1847, he married Maria (Mary) Grant, the sister of the English consul to Bucharest, Effingham Grant.

From the publication of his first volume, Ceasuri de multumire in 1843, Rosetti seemed destined to serve the Muses. He was a genuine and passionate lyricist, close to the work of Byron, Lamartine and Beranger. (He produced the first Romanian version of Byron's Manfred.) He also founded, along with the Viennese Enric Winterhalder, a printing house and bookstore, which became a center for the publication and distribution of revolutionary literature.

Rosetti belonged to the core group of the 1848 revolutionaries. He was among the first arrested by Prince Gheorghe Bibescu, accused of plotting to kill him. After this he was greatly feared for the genius displayed in the string of plots and conspiracies he initiated. During the provisional government that came to power on June 11, 1848, he held the post of chief of police. At the same time, he was the editor of the first newspaper of the Muntenian revolution, Pruncul Roman. He served with Nicolae Balcescu, Alexandru G. Golescu and Ion C. Bratianu as a secretary of the Provisional Government until the end of June. In August, he was appointed director of the Ministry of the Interior.

Rosetti proved himself to be a dynamic force in the conduct of the revolution, deeply committed to its basic principles and an ingrained opponent of both Russian tsarism and Turkish domination. After the bloody crushing of the revolution on September 13, Rosetti was arrested along with the other leaders of the revolution for hostage purposes. His wife's intervention was crucial in the hostages' release. Rosetti, along with the Bratianu brothers, Nicolae Balcescu, and others, went into exile, where he played a key role in familiarizing the world with "la question roumaine."

Nine years later, in 1857, Rosetti returned home, among the last of the returning exiles. He immediately brought out the newspaper, Romanul, which served at the main standard bearer for the ideals of the 1848 revolutionary spirit. He lent his full support to the efforts for the unification of the two Romanian lands, Moldova and Muntenia and became Romania's premier journalist (in 1858 he became president of the Printers Society). The pages of Romanul revealed another facet of Rosetti's talents: he was a keen theater critic. This led to his appointment in 1859 at the direct or of the National Theater in Bucuresti, where he promoted the works of national playwrights.

Rosetti was soon disenchanted with the prince of the unified Romania, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as the editorials of Romanul showed. Cuza retaliated by shutting Rosetti's publications down in 1864; Rosetti became one of the main organizers of the conspiracy that led to Cuza's ouster in 1866. Two days later, Romanul resumed publication. A sworn republican and anti-monarchist, Rosetti came to support the accession to the throne of a foreign prince, Carol I of Hohenzollern. He, along with other 1848ers (such as the Bratianu brothers, the Golescu brothrs, and Ion Ghica) were the movers behind the installation of the new monarchy in Romania. In Prince Carol's first ministry, Rosetti served at Minister of Education and Religion, in which capacity he was instrumental in the foundation of the Romanian Academy. Thereafter, he was a perennial chairman of the lower house of deputies and a key leader of the National Liberal political grouping led by Ion C. Bratianu. With Bratianu and Mihail Kogalniceanu, Rosetti was instrumental in the successful outcome the war which led to independence in 1877. Romanul became one of the main instruments for focusing the public opinion in favor of the war to throw off the shackles of the Ottoman suzerainty. It was a deeply significant moment in August 1877, when Rosetti joined Bratianu and Prince Carol in the historic crossing of the Danube by the Romanian army. (His wife, Maria, was head of a war hospital and two of his sons, Vintila and Horia, fought in the war.) In May 1878, he joined the Bratianu government as minister of interior. This was the high point of Rosetti's involvement in the ruling elite of the new Romania. Thereafter, his devotion to improving the political and economic lot of the peasant majority, his ardent support for further liberalization of the structures of the Romanian state, and his continued advocacy of French liberal and radical ideas (influenced by his sons) separated him from Bratianu and the main body of the national liberals. Nevertheless, when he died in 1885, he was buried with national honors that recognized him as a pillar of modern Romania.

C. A. Rosetti will always be remembered as the founder of the free, democratic press in Romania, one of the fathers of the democratic movement in Romania, and an idealist and a visionary to the highest degree of devotion and committment. At times this became obsessive and even a fixation. However, it would not be amiss to say that Rosetti taught and educated the Romanians to a greater degree than anyone else in the 19th century about the fundamental values of the ethical, political and civil heritage of the European democratic movement.
Marin Bucur


Vasile Netea, C. A. Rosetti (Bucuresti, 1970).

Marin Bucur, C. A. Rosetti, Mesianism si Donquijotism revolutionar (Bucuresti, 1970).

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