Camillo Benso di Cavour

Camillo Benso di Cavour

Count, Italian statesman
Date of Birth: 10.08.1810
Country: Italy

  1. Count Camillo Benso di Cavour: A Biography
  2. Early Life and Military Career
  3. Political Career and Reforms
  4. Parliamentary Career and Legacy

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour: A Biography

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour was an Italian statesman and the first Prime Minister of Italy. He played an exceptional role in the unification of Italy under the rule of the Sardinian monarch. Cavour was born in 1810, the second son of Marquis Michele Benso, Count of Cavour.

Early Life and Military Career

During his education at the Royal Military Academy in Turin, Cavour served as a page to the heir apparent (later King of Sardinia-Piedmont) Charles Albert. His independent character led him to resent this position, and upon completing his studies and becoming a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, he openly expressed his pleasure in shedding his "livery," causing displeasure to the prince.

Cavour dedicated his early years of service to the construction of military fortifications. Dreaming of a better future for his homeland, he hoped for a rise in patriotic sentiment in Italy inspired by the July Revolution in France. Disillusioned by his hopes, he bitterly acknowledged that his country, crushed by Austrian bayonets on one side and papal excommunications on the other, was incapable of solving its own problems. His political views resulted in his assignment to Fort Bard to oversee simple construction works. In 1831, he resigned from military service and primarily engaged in agricultural activities on his father's estates.

Political Career and Reforms

In 1834, Cavour visited Switzerland, France, and England. His time in France solidified his belief in the inevitability of democracy, while England inspired him with its free political structure and well-developed spirit of private initiative. From 1837 to 1839, Cavour energetically worked on the establishment of schools and shelters. In 1842, he participated in the founding of the Agricultural Association, which greatly contributed to the revival of public activities.

Cavour's first literary work was an article on the poor tax in England (1834). He then wrote several articles on agronomic issues, English legislation in the grain trade, and railways.

In 1847, when King Charles Albert showed readiness to undertake reforms, Cavour immediately arrived in Turin and, with the assistance of Cesare Balbo and other reformists, founded the newspaper "Il Risorgimento." In January 1848, at a meeting of journalists and political activists convened to support the Genoese petition for the establishment of a national guard and the expulsion of the Jesuits, Cavour made a statement that the first and foremost requirement was a constitution that would strengthen the government's power. His demand was supported by influential reformists who managed to put an end to Charles Albert's indecisiveness. In March 1848, the constitution was published, and Cavour was appointed a member of the commission responsible for developing electoral laws. After the revolution in Milan, Cavour strongly advocated for a war against Austria.

Parliamentary Career and Legacy

In the first elections to the representative assembly in April 1848, Cavour suffered a defeat but was subsequently elected from four districts in the supplementary elections held in June. Despite lacking brilliant oratory skills, Cavour quickly gained influential positions in parliament due to his thorough knowledge of various management issues. Belonging to the right-wing faction, he fervently supported the government in parliament and in the press during troubled times of military failures, which led many to perceive him as a reactionary. In the elections held in January 1849, Cavour was nominated but soon reelected from Turin. Defending press freedom, Cavour gathered a significant number of supporters for liberal policies and became the leader of the moderate right-wing group.

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour's political career was marked by his instrumental role in shaping Italy's path towards unification. His efforts, including his advocacy for reforms, support for war, and dedication to liberal principles, laid the foundation for the creation of a united Italian state. Cavour's contributions as the first Prime Minister of Italy remain an important part of the country's history.