Regional History Part 3   1700 to 1880 A.D.   

                                                                                                     Installment 3      
                                           
      REGIONAL HISTORY 1800-1816 part A

 

               BY: TOM FRASCELLA                                                                        November  2011

 

 The time period 1800-1816 is a pivotal time in the convergence of political ideology and interest between the United States and the Italian peninsula. As we have already offered southern Italy had for the briefest of moments flirted with a Republican form of government, the Parthenopaean Republic, in 1799.

 Starting around 1780 the northern latitudes of both Europe and North America began to experience a colder than average climate shift and accompanying erratic weather patterns. The results were frequent northern crop failures. Some Historians have suggested that the food shortages and food riots experienced in Europe were a substantial contributor to the revolutionary surges of the period. The crop failures of the 1780-1800 period lead to inflated food pricing and futures speculation.

 I think the best way to discuss the conditions an relevant events in Europe and the U.S. during this period is to divide them. The first part of the discussion centered on the goings on in Europe primarily and the second part what was happening in the U.S.

 The poor crop yields and failures spiked the price of food especially staples in northern Europe. In turn this created an economic opportunity to increase food production, especially grains and staples that Northern Italy jumped on. However to increase grain production required increasing farm labor, so the period also saw a slow increase in the rural population of Northern Italy. This increase in farming Northern Italian population occurred as Northern European populations were being decreased by famine and war. Later in the next several decades we will discuss how this increasing northern Italian population interacted with northern Europe.

 BY 1800 in Southern Italy King Ferdinandís Bourbon Monarchy had reasserted itself with the support of the rural masses, the lazzaroni class. the so called Sanfedisti, and the English under Lord Nelson who hoped to block Napoleonís southern European expansion plans. It should be noted that the Sanfedisti were quite ruthless on all that they perceived as ďliberalĒ or pro-Republican. Among the most aggressive were the units known as the Potenza guard. While the Bourbon Monarchy reentered Naples the victory was far from complete. Ferdinandís next several years were uneasy as Napoleonís victories against Germany and Spain mounted.

 San Fele and Potenza in general were very much in the mix of this political shifting sand. However San Fele in 1800 should also be noted as the birthplace of Guistino Jacobi in that year. Guistino, whose mother was a Muccia, would spend his formative years 1800-1816 growing up in the town. It is there that he recognized a religious vocation.

 One other interesting event that occurred in 1800 was the arrival in the United States of the first economic Ambassador to the United States sent by the Papal State, his name Giovanni Baptiste Sartori. The United States was an infant nation at the time and any sovereign recognition was important. His arrival was also important as relationships with both England and France were strained as the U.S, desperately tried to avoid getting caught up in the Napoleonic Wars. Yet the need to expand trade and commerce were important to the young nation with plenty of natural resources but limited manufacturing capacity.

 In 1801 Thomas Jefferson became President of the United States. At the time the population of the United States numbered about 3 million people and geographically hugged the eastern coastline. The countryís border was controlled on the west and south by Spain and the north by England. With Napoleonís victories in Spain, Franceís claim to New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory was revived, but it created a risk to the U.S. that Europeís war would present a renewed threat to U.S. territory.

 In 1802 a slave rebellion on the colony of Haiti lead to the forming there of the second Republic in the Americaís, the island nation of Haiti. Haiti had been a colony of France. Napoleon sent a fleet and army there to reclaim the island from the revolting slaves. The attempt failed as the army succumbed to the irregular tactics of the rebels and to disease.

 In 1803 with the loss of an army in Haiti and financial pressures from the wars in Europe the Administration of Jefferson learned that Napoleon might be interested in selling its land rights to the port city of New Orleans to the U.S. A negotiating committee was sent to France authorized to spend up to 11 million dollars on the purchase of New Orleans. To the surprise of the committee Napoleon offered to sell New Orleans and the entire Louisiana Territory to the U.S. for 15 million dollars. Although Congress and Jefferson had not agreed to the transaction the committee accepted the deal. The U.S. did ratify the purchase in 1804 but not without some concern. The deal doubled the territorial size of the U.S. but the U.S. with a population of only 3 million people hardly needed that kind of expansion. In addition, the small nationís treasury was almost bankrupt by the transaction.

 Since the 1790ís in order to the protect American commercial shipping in the Mediterranean and to open ports to U,S, in North Africa the U.S. government had been paying a tribute or tax to Tripoli of 1 million dollars a year. Unwilling to continue the practice in 1804 Jefferson with the support of Congress sent the small and under gunned U.S. fleet on a protective mission against Tripoli and the so called Barbary pirates.

 The mission represents the first time U.S. forces were sent half way around the world to protect American interests. The mission was in many ways poorly equipped and underprepared for the task it was sent on. That it had any success was due largely to the support that the fleet received from the only European nation to help, King Ferdinandís Southern Italy. The Italian Fleet in Naples supported the U.S. fleet at sea and provided port access in both Naples and Sicily. From ports in southern Italy U.S. Marine and naval forces reached the ďshores of TripoliĒ for the first time. At the conclusion of the war a negotiated peace was entered between Tripoli and the U.S. reducing the Tribute/tax to approximately $60,000 a year and the U.S. fleet withdrew.

 In 1806 Napoleon again turned his attention to the southern Italian nation of the Two Sicilies and invaded. Southern Italian forces were swept away and King Ferdinand again gathered up as much of his treasures as possible and with the aid of the English fleet abandoned Naples and relocated to Sicily. There protected by the English fleet of Lord Nelson his authority remained confined to the island while the French forces took control of the Kingdom of Naples, including Lucania.

 For a brief period of months there was a great deal of looting and spoils of wars inflicted on the southern Italians by the French army. During this time a significant amount of the art that Ferdinand had not been able to remove to Sicily from his palaces in Naples were lost. However Napoleon decided to restore order by installing a new government under the regime of his brother Joseph. In 1806 Joseph Bonaparte became King Joseph of Naples. As a result Southern Italy had endured three regime changes in just seven years however the political instability was only just beginning.

 After a brief adjustment period King Joseph Bonaparte began to institute in southern Italy civil reforms consistent with Napoleonís agenda. However before those reforms including reduction in the power and influence of the Church could be implemented Napoleon elevated his brother to King of Spain in 1808.

 Napoleon filled the newly created royal vacancy in Naples with the appointment of his brother-in-law Joachim Murat and sister Caroline as King and Queen in 1808. Within six weeks of becoming King of Naples, the fourth regime change, Joachim succeeded in capturing the island of Capri from the British.

 While Joseph Bonaparte had been content with ruling the Kingdom of Naples as a vassal government of France, complete with French ministers, Joachim and Caroline sought to create a more independent Monarchy. Joachim reduced the roles of the French ministers to his court and began to increase the roles of southern Italians, his subjects. He also slowly began to reorganize the provincial governments and increased the authority of both Provincial and local District governments.

 By 1812 Napoleonís military fortunes began to turn for the worst with his defeat and disastrous campaign in Russia. In Italy King Joachim had obtain some degree of popularity among the populace but had been unable to penetrate the protective English shield around Sicily. In 1813 Napoleon suffered another major defeat in Austria. Murat still loyal to Napoleon began to wonder if the Emperorís days were numbered. At the urging of his wife Caroline the couple began to explore separate peace negotiations with both Austria and Britain. In 1814 Murat signed an agreement with Austria guarantying him the Neapolitan throne in exchange for deserting Napoleonís cause and pledging 30,000 southern Italian troops to the Austrian side.

 The years 1812, 1813, 1814, and 1815 are interesting for series of events other than the Napoleonic Wars. In each of those four years there was a major volcanic eruption somewhere in the world. In 1815 the largest of the eruptions occurred at Mount Tambora. The Mt. Tambora eruption is said to have been the largest single eruption in 1,300 years. The eruptions deposited millions of tons of volcanic materials into the global atmosphere. As a result of the atmospheric effects there were severe weather pattern changes and crop failures for a decade. In 1815-1817 the northern Latitudes of Europe and North America suffered extremely cold winters and very late Springs. In 1815 and 1817 frost continued into June and July. 1816 was even worse with lakes in the northern Latitudes remaining frozen into August. As a result 1816 is known as the year without a summer. As an example of the reach of the pollutants from the eruptions we need only look at reports from Lucania in the winter of 1816. Lucania, although at the southern end of the Italian peninsula is quite elevated. Because of its elevation Lucania does get snow in the winter. In 1816 the snowfall in Lucania fell red in color, not white.

 Without getting into the extensive political movements that were to occur over the next several years it should suffice for our purposes to say that after Napoleonís defeat he was exiled to the island off the coast of Italy. His brother Joseph deposed as King of Spain choose exile in the United States. After Napoleon escaped Elba and returned to France, Murat once again switched his loyalty back to Napoleon and raised an army of about 60,000 southern Italians and marched against Austrian forces in northern Italy numbering about 90,000.

 It is said that his forces were outnumbered, poorly trained and lacked sufficient heavy artillery. He also placed himself between a superior force to the north and Ferdinandís British supported forces in the south. After a series of battles Muratís forces were defeated in the North. Caroline surrendered Naples in exchange for safe passage for herself and her children. Murat and some loyal officers escaped to France and offered their services to Napoleon who refused.  After a brief stay in southern France Murat went to Corsica where with the aid of an old ally he raised a small force of three hundred men and planned an attempt to retake the Kingdom of Naples now back under Bourbon control. This planned went completely bad, he was captured and executed by firing squad.

 By 1816 when Ferdinand returned to the throne of the Kingdom of Naples he entered a Kingdom very different than the one he abandoned ten years before. For one thing he had deserted the Kingdom twice in a seventeen year period. The country had experienced greater democratic self rule under the French and more liberal politics. The authority of the Church had been curtailed. But most importantly there were thousands of former Murat trained and armed soldiers now unemployed and in hiding in the rural mountains.

 

 

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