There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel. — Vladimir Lenin

Garibaldi and his Red Shirts - F. J. Snell




Jack of All Trades

There was now no room for Garibaldi in Italy, nor even in Europe; but this bitter fruit of failure only showed itself to him gradually. At first he believed that in Piedmont, his own free native state, he would enjoy all needed security. Piedmont, however, was a small power over-shadowed by two mighty empires—on the one hand by France, and on the other by Austria; and to both Garibaldi was an obnoxious firebrand. Even in Piedmont itself the aristocratic and clerical parties bore him no love, although the mass of the population was enthusiastically in his favor.

At Chiavari the national hero was placed under arrest; and having been marched to Genoa, was consigned to a cell in the ducal palace. The citizens were furious, and a huge crowd gathered outside his prison, loudly demanding his release. The Radical deputies in the Piedmontese Parliament were on the alert, and a motion was proposed, and carried by an immense majority, denouncing the arrest of Garibaldi and his threatened expulsion from Piedmont as illegal, unnatural, and a violation of Italian glory. After that the Government had no option but to set Garibaldi free and implore him as an act of generosity to leave the country. He at once assented. Money was offered him, which he refused for himself, but accepted for his aged mother.

The authorities were anxious to avoid anything in the shape of a popular demonstration, so Garibaldi was conducted by night on board the San Michele, from which he was transferred to the San Giorgio. On September 12, at eight o'clock in the morning, the steamship cast anchor at Nice, and Garibaldi landed. He showed his passport to the carabiniers, who pronounced it correct, but hardly had this happened when the Intendant of Nice appeared and ordered Garibaldi to return to the ship. The reason for this procedure was that the people of the place had got wind of the arrival of their illustrious fellow-citizen, and were rushing pell-mell to the pier, and leaping into boats, from a frantic desire to touch or at the very least to see the brave soldier, who was not more admired than beloved by the general body of the inhabitants. Fearing the effect of such a welcome, the politic rulers interposed delay, but at length Garibaldi was allowed to go ashore and proceed to the house where his mother and children were awaiting him. He was accompanied by a friend, Paolo Antonini, who has penned a pathetic account of the meeting:

"The scene was the most touching I have ever witnessed. The mother was speechless; an old uncle and cousins contended for his kisses and handshakes. Menotti and Ricciotti clung to his legs, till Giuseppe Deideri, who had adopted little Teresita, came to claim a visit. The child greeted him with the words, 'Mamma will have told you in Rome how good I was. Where is Mamma?' The children had been kept in ignorance of their loss. The father turned pale, and only clasped his motherless little ones closer to his heart. He was compelled to take a hasty leave of all, as he had passed his word that he would be on board the San Giorgio at 6 P.M. On that 12th of September he received his mother's last blessing and bade her his last farewell."

Some men would have deeply resented the official coldness and hostility to which Garibaldi was subjected; and, had he set himself to overturn the Government and dethrone the King, who "had come to terms with Austria," there would have been thousands to answer his call. But it was not like Garibaldi to embroil his country in a purely personal quarrel; and bowing submissively to his hard fortune, he fixed upon Tunis as his place of exile. Garibaldi might propose, but, in this instance, the French Government disposed, and put pressure on the Bey to refuse him permission to land. From Tunis he was conveyed to the island of the Maddalena, but the Government of Piedmont signified disapproval, and Garibaldi was taken on to Gibraltar. The English nation has always been distinguished for its tenderness to political refugees, and an intimation from the Governor that he must leave within six days must have fallen on Garibaldi's ears like a thunderbolt. This was indeed "the most unkindest cut of all."

The hospitality refused him by civilized countries was afforded at Tangier. There he remained for six months, receiving every kindness from the British and Piedmontese consuls, but on African soil he labored under the disadvantage of being unable to earn his own living. Across the broad expanse of the Atlantic lay a land of liberty, where honest toil furnished a prospect of independence; and he made up his mind to enter on a new career under the protection of the Stars and Stripes.

In the United States Garibaldi supported the obscurity of his lot with a patience and cheerfulness very different from the querulousness so often shown by political exiles. At first he followed the humble occupation of a candle-maker; and afterward he found employment as a sea-captain. On the ocean Garibaldi was in his element; and one of his voyages took him to China, and thence to Australasia.

Perhaps sailors are more subject than most people to what is known as telepathy. The writer has heard of many instances of simultaneous visions and messages received on board ship and transmitted apparently from immense distances; and one of Garibaldi's manuscripts proves that he had an experience of second sight when thousands of miles from the relative event:

"Once—and I shudder when I remember it—on the immense Pacific Ocean between the American and the Asiatic continents when on the Carmen, we were caught in a typhoon, not as formidable as those off the coast of China, but sufficiently severe to oblige us to keep, on March 19, 1852, our port-holes closed. I call it a typhoon, because the wind veered entirely round the compass, which is a characteristic sign, and the sea was terribly agitated, as it is during a typhoon. I was laid up with rheumatism, and in the midst of the tempest was asleep in my berth upon deck. In dreams I was transported to my native land, but instead of that air of Paradise, which I always used to find in Nice, all seemed gloomy as the atmosphere of a cemetery. In the midst of a crowd of women whom I discerned in the distance, downcast and sad of aspect, I seemed to see a bier, and those women, moving slowly, advanced gradually towards me.

"With a fatal presentiment, I made an effort to draw near to the funeral convoy. I could not move; I had a mountain on my chest. The procession, however, came up to the side of my berth, laid down a coffin beside it, and withdrew. Sweating with fatigue, I had tried in vain to raise myself upon my arm. I was suffering terribly from nightmare, and when I began to move and felt close to me the cold contact of a corpse, I recognized the saintly face of my mother. I was awake, but the impression of a frozen hand remained on my hand. The wild roaring of the tempest and the moanings of the poor Carmen, pitilessly lashed by the waves, could not dispel the terrible effects of my dream. On that day, and in that hour, I was assuredly bereft of her who gave me birth—of the best of mothers."

Singularly enough, when Garibaldi wrote this description, he did not know that his mother had actually died on March 19, 1852, nor that the ladies and women of Nice had followed her remains to the tomb. This attention was not usual, and was a special mark of respect for the virtues of the dead Rosa and those of her heroic son.

In January 1854 Garibaldi sailed in the Commonwealth, a fine vessel belonging to a firm of Italian ship-owners at Baltimore, with a cargo of goods for Newcastle. On his way he cast anchor in the Thames and spent a month in London, where he met Mazzini. On April 11, at Shields, he was presented on board his ship with an address of welcome, together with a sword of honor and a telescope for which hundreds of workmen had subscribed their pence. The deputation was headed by Mr. Joseph Cowen, a notable orator of the day, and Garibaldi replied to that gentleman's speech in excellent English.

"You more than reward me," he said, "for any sacrifices I may have made in the cause of freedom. One of the people—a workman like yourselves—I value very highly these expressions of your esteem, the more so because you testify thereby your sympathy for my poor, oppressed, and down-trodden country. . . . The future alone will show how soon it will be before I am called on to unsheathe the noble gift I have just received, and again battle in behalf of that which lies nearest my heart—the freedom of my native land. But be sure of this: Italy will one day be a nation, and its free citizens will know how to acknowledge all the kindness shown to her exiled sons in the days of their darkest troubles."

Julian Harney, a well-known Chartist, then proposed the health of "Joseph Mazzini, the illustrious compatriot of Garibaldi," and the toast was honored with the greatest enthusiasm.

One result of Garibaldi's stay in this country was his betrothal to an English lady. The engagement lasted two years and was broken off at Garibaldi's desire. The lady in question was a widow, to whom a large fortune had been left by her deceased husband, and she had several children. For these reasons Garibaldi entertained scruples on the subject of marriage with her, but he and she remained on the best of terms to the day of her death.

Meanwhile the Commonwealth proceeded with a cargo of coals to Genoa, but as Garibaldi was not an American citizen, he did not think fit to accompany her and placed an American captain in command. He himself returned to Nice, where his children had been left in the care of kind friends. He taught his younger boy to write, and his elder son Menotti often went with him as cabin-boy in short cruises to Marseilles, Civita Vecchia, and elsewhere. According to another account—not necessarily a contradiction—Menotti attended the Royal Military College. Ricciotti was taken entirely into his father's charge, and every day, it is said, the hero of a hundred fights washed "the squealing urchin" under the pump.

Garibaldi had settled at Nice without leave, but his simple life there was not calculated to arouse suspicion. He rose early, and tramped for four hours over the mountains. He dined at twelve, and after a nap was ready to play at bowls with any chance comer; once a day he paid a visit to his daughter Teresita, who, as we have seen, had been adopted by his old friends, the Deideri. His evenings were usually passed with the English lady to whom he was engaged, who was renting a cottage, since called the 'Garibaldi House,' in his native city. There he would either listen to her beautiful music or play at draughts.

In 1855 Garibaldi came into possession of a legacy of 1400 from his brother, and this and his own savings he invested in an estate in the small island of Caprera, of which he secured the northern half. Thither he removed with his son Menotti in 1856, and the two kinsmen, assisted by Garibaldi's faithful secretary Basso, and others, employed themselves in building a house, cultivating the soil, and tending their cows and goats. There also, as soon as was practicable, Garibaldi was joined by his idolized daughter, Teresita.

Hitherto we have shown our hero chiefly as a stern warrior. He had, however, the kindest of hearts; and this quality was in constant exercise at Caprera, where he was genuinely hospitable to his kind and revealed a rare tenderness to dumb animals, and even plants. On one occasion a new-born lamb had been lost among the rocks, and a persevering search with lanterns, both before and after supper, failed to disclose its whereabouts. Still Garibaldi would not give up the quest.

"It was nine o'clock and raining," says Vecchi, "and we were very tired, so we once more returned to the house. An hour afterward we heard the sound of footsteps in the next room, and the house door opened . . . About midnight we were roused by a voice; it was our hero returning, joyfully carrying the lost lamb in his arms. He took the little creature to his bed, and lay down with it, giving it a bit of sponge dipped in milk to suck to keep it quiet . . . and he spent the whole night caressing and feeding the foolish creature. . . . At five in the morning we found him planting potatoes in the garden. We took our spades and began to work also."