Few men come to greatness. Most drift on with the current, having no
special plan nor aim. They live where their fathers lived, taking no
thought beyond their neighborhood or city, and die in their little round
of social life.
Not so a boy born in Southern France, in 1807. Giuseppe Garibaldi was
the son of humble parents. His father was a sailor, with a numerous
family to support, seemingly unskilled in keeping what little property
he had once acquired. His mother was a woman of ambition, energy, and
nobility of character. If one looks for the cause of greatness in a man,
he seldom has to go further than the mother. Hence the need of a highly
educated, noble womanhood all over the world. Such as Giuseppe Garibaldi
are not born of frivolous, fashionable women.
Of his mother, the great soldier wrote in later years, "She was a model
for mothers. Her tender affection for me has, perhaps, been excessive;
but do I not owe to her love, to her angel-like character, the little
good that belongs to mine? Often, amidst the most arduous scenes of my
tumultuous life, when I have passed unharmed through the breakers of
the ocean or the hail-storms of battle, she has seemed present with me.
I have, in fancy, seen her on her knees before the Most High--my dear
mother!--imploring for the life of her son; and I have believed in the
efficacy of her prayers." No wonder that, "Give me the mothers of the
nation to educate, and you may do what you like with the boys," was one
of his favorite maxims.
Giuseppe was an ardent boy, fond of books, loving to climb the lonely
mountains around his home, and eager for some part of the world's
bustle. Sometimes he earned his living among the fishermen on the
Riviera; sometimes he took sea-voyages with his father. He had unusual
tenderness of heart, combined with fearlessness. One day he caught a
grasshopper, took it to his house, and, in handling it, broke its leg.
He was so grieved for the poor little creature, that he went to his room
and wept bitterly for hours. Another time, standing by a deep ditch, he
discovered that a woman had fallen from the bank as she was washing
clothes. With no thought for his own life, he sprang in and rescued her.
His parents, seeing that he was quick in mathematics and the languages,
desired him to study for the ministry; but he loved the sea and
adventure too well for a sedentary life. Becoming tired of study, at
twelve years of age, he and some companions procured a boat, put some
provisions and fishing-tackle on board, and started to make their
fortune in the East. These visions of greatness soon came to an
inglorious end; for the paternal Garibaldi put to sea at once, and soon
overtook and brought home the mortified and disappointed infantile crew.
At twenty-one, we find Garibaldi second in command on the brig
"Cortese," bound for the Black Sea. Three times during the voyage they
were plundered by Greek pirates, their sails, charts, and every article
of clothing taken from them, the sailors being obliged to cover their
bodies with some matting, left by chance in the hold of the ship. As a
result of this destitution, the young commander became ill at
Constantinople, and was cared for by some Italian exiles. Poor, as are
most who are born to be leaders, he must work now to pay the expenses
incurred by this illness. Through the kindness of his physician, he
found a place to teach, and when once more even with the world
pecuniarily, went back to sea, and was made captain.
He was now twenty-seven years old. Since his father had taken him when a
mere boy to Rome, he had longed for and prayed over his distracted
Italy. He saw what the Eternal City must have been in her ancient
splendor; he pictured her in the future, again the pride and glory of a
united nation. He remembered how Italy had been the battle-ground of
France, Spain, and Austria, when kings, as they have ever done,
quarrelled for power. He saw the conqueror of Europe himself conquered
by the dreadful Russian campaign: then the Congress of Vienna parcelling
out a prostrate people among the nations. Austria took Lombardy and
Venice; Parma and Lucca were given to Marie Louise, the second wife of
Napoleon; and the Two Sicilies to Ferdinand II., who ruled them with a
rod of iron. Citizens for small offences were lashed to death in the
public square. Filthy dungeons, excavated under the sea, without light
or air, were filled with patriots, whose only crime was a desire for a
free country. The people revolted in Naples and Sardinia, and asked for
a constitution; but Austria soon helped to restore despotism. Kings had
divine rights; the people had none. No man lessens his power willingly.
The only national safety is the least possible power in the hands of any
one person. The rule of the many is liberty; of the few, despotism.
Garibaldi was writing all these things on his heart. His blood boiled at
the slavery of his race. Mazzini, a young lawyer of Genoa, had just
started a society called "Young Italy," and was looking hopefully, in a
hopeless age, toward a republic for his native country. Garibaldi was
ready to help in any manner possible. The plan proposed was to seize the
village of St. Julien, and begin the revolt; but, as usual, there was a
traitor in the camp: they were detected; and Garibaldi, like the rest,
was sentenced to death. This was an unexpected turn of events for the
young sea-captain. Donning the garb of a peasant, he escaped by mountain
routes to Nice, his only food being chestnuts, bade a hasty farewell to
his precious mother, and started for South America. He had learned,
alas, so soon, the result of working for freedom in Italy!
He arrived at Rio Janeiro, an exile and poor; but, finding several of
his banished countrymen, they assisted him in buying a trading-vessel;
and he engaged in commerce. But his mind constantly dwelt on freedom.
The Republic of Rio Grande had just organized and set up its authority
against Brazil. Here was a chance to fight for liberty. A small cruiser
was obtained, which he called "The Mazzini," and, with twenty
companions, he set out to combat an empire. After capturing a boat
loaded with copper, the second vessel they met gave battle, wounded
Garibaldi in the neck, and made them all prisoners.
A little later, attempting to escape, he was brutally beaten with a
club, and then his wrists tied together by a rope, which was flung over
a beam. He was suspended in the air for two hours. His sufferings were
indescribable. Fever parched his body, and the rope cut his flesh. He
was rescued by a fearless lady, Senora Alemon, but for whom he would
have died. After two months, finding that he would divulge nothing of
the plans of his adopted republic, he was released without trial, and
entered the war again at once.
After several successful battles, his vessel was shipwrecked, nearly all
his friends were drowned, and he escaped as by a miracle. His heart now
became desolate. He says in his diary, "I felt the want of some one to
love me, and a desire that such a one might be very soon supplied, as my
present state of mind seemed insupportable." After all, the brave young
captain was human, and cried out for a human affection. He had "always
regarded woman as the most perfect of creatures"; but he had never
thought it possible to marry with his adventurous life.
About this time he met a dark-haired, dark-eyed, young woman, tall and
commanding, and as brave and fearless as himself. Anita belonged to a
wealthy family, and her father was incensed at the union, though years
after, when Garibaldi became famous, he wrote them a letter of
forgiveness. They idolized each other; and the soldier's heart knew
desolation no longer, come now what would. She stood beside him in every
battle, waving her sword over her head to encourage the men to their
utmost. When a soldier fell dead at her feet, she seized his carbine,
and kept up a constant fire. When urged by her husband to go below,
because almost frantic with fear for her safety, she replied, "If I do,
it will be but to drive out those cowards who have sought concealment
there," and then return to the fight. In one of the land-battles she was
surrounded by twenty or more of the enemy; but she put spurs to her
horse, and dashed through their midst. At first they seemed dazed, as
though she were something unearthly; then they fired, killing her
animal, which fell heavily to the ground; and she was made a prisoner.
Obtaining permission to search among the dead for her husband, and, not
finding him, she determined to make her escape. That night, while they
slept, she seized a horse, plunged into the forests, and for four days
lived without food. On the last night,--a stormy one,--closely pursued
by several of the enemy, she urged her horse into a swollen river, five
hundred yards broad, and seizing fast hold of his tail, the noble
creature swam across, dragging her with him. After eight days she
reached her agonized husband, and their joy was complete.
After a year or more of battles and hardships, their first child,
Menotti, was born, named for the great Italian Liberal. Garibaldi,
fighting for a poor republic, destitute of everything for his wife and
child, started across the marshes to purchase a few articles of
clothing. In his absence, their little company was attacked by the
Imperialists, and Anita mounted her saddle in a pitiless storm, and fled
to the woods with her twelve-days-old infant. Three months later the
child came near dying, the mother carrying him in a handkerchief tied
round her neck, and keeping him warm with her breath, as they forded
swamps and rivers.
After six years of faithful service for the South American Republic,
Garibaldi determined to settle down to a more quiet life, with his
little family, and sought a home at Montevideo, where he took up his
former occupation of teaching. But he was soon drawn into war again, and
his famous "Italian Legion," of about four hundred men, made for
themselves a record throughout Europe and America for bravery and
success against fearful odds. The grateful people made Garibaldi
"General," and placed a large tract of land at the disposal of the
Legion; but the leader said, "In obedience to the cause of liberty alone
did the Italians of Montevideo take up arms, and not with any views of
gain or advancement," and the gift was declined. Yet so poor was the
family of Garibaldi, that they used to go to bed at sunset because they
had no candles; and his only shirt he had given to a companion in arms.
When his destitution became known, the minister of war sent him one
hundred dollars. He accepted half for Anita and her little ones, and
begged that the other half might be given to a poor widow.
Fourteen years had gone by since he left Italy under sentence of death.
He was now forty-one, in the prime of his life and vigor. Italy had
become ripe for a revolution. Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, had
declared himself ready to give constitutional liberty to his people, and
to help throw off the Austrian yoke. Garibaldi believed that his hour
had come, and saying good-bye to the Montevideans, who were loathe to
part with him, he took fifty-six of his brave Italian Legion, and sailed
for Nice, in the ship Esperanza. His beloved Anita improvised a
Sardinian flag, made from a counterpane, a red shirt, and a bit of old
green uniform; and the little company gave themselves to earnest plans
and hopes. They met a hearty reception on their arrival; Garibaldi's
mother taking Anita and her three children, Menotti, Meresita, and
Ricciotti, to her home. General Garibaldi at once presented himself
before Charles Albert, and offered his services. He wore a striking
costume, consisting of a cap of scarlet cloth, a red blouse, and a white
cloak lined with red, with a dagger at his belt, besides his sword. The
King, perhaps remembering that the brave soldier was once a Republican
in sentiment, made the great mistake of declining his aid. Nothing
daunted, he hurried to Milan, only to find that the weak King had
yielded it to Austria. Charles Albert soon abdicated in favor of his son
Victor Emmanuel, and died from sorrow and defeat.
Meantime Rome had declared herself a Republic, and Pius IX. had fled the
city. Garibaldi was asked to defend her, and entered with his troops,
April 28, in 1849. England and France were urged to remain neutral,
while Rome fought for freedom. But alas! Louis Napoleon, then President
of the French Republic, desired to please the Papal party, and sent
troops to reinstate the Pope! When Rome found that this man at the head
of a republic was willing to put a knife to her throat, her people
fought like tigers. They swarmed out of the workshops armed with weapons
of every kind, while women urged them on with applause. For nearly three
months Rome held out against France and Austria, Garibaldi showing
himself an almost superhuman leader, and then the end came. Pius IX.
re-entered the city, and the Republic was crushed by monarchies.
When all was lost, Garibaldi called his soldiers together, and, leaping
on horseback, shouted, "Venice and Garibaldi do not surrender. Whoever
will, let him follow me! Italy is not yet dead!" and he dashed off at
full speed. By lonely mountain-paths, he, with Anita and about two
hundred of his troops, arrived on the shore of the Adriatic, where
thirteen boats were waiting to carry them to Venice. Nine were soon
taken by the Austrians, the rest escaping, though nearly all were
finally captured and shot at once. The General and his wife escaped to a
cornfield, where she lay very ill, her head resting on his knee. Some
peasants, though fearful that they would be detected by the Austrians,
brought a cart, and carried the dying wife to the nearest cottage,
where, as soon as she was laid upon the bed, she breathed her last,
leaning on Garibaldi's arm. Overwhelmed with the loss of his idol, he
seemed benumbed, with no care whether he was made a prisoner or not. At
last, urged for the sake of Italy to flee, he made the peasants promise
to bury Anita under the shade of the pine grove near by, and, hunted
like a robber from mountain to mountain, he found a hiding-place among
the rocks of the Island of Caprera. There was nothing left now but to
seek a refuge in the great American Republic.
Landing in New York, the noble General asked aid from no one, but
believing, as all true-minded persons believe, that any labor is
honorable, began to earn his living by making candles. What a contrast
between an able general working in a tallow factory, and some proud
young men and women who consent to be supported by friends, and thus
live on charity! Woe to America if her citizens shall ever feel
themselves too good to work!
For a year and a half he labored patiently, his children three thousand
miles away with his mother. Then he became captain of a merchant vessel
between China and Peru. When told that he could bring some Chinese
slaves to South America in his cargo, he refused, saying, "Never will I
become a trafficker in human flesh." America might buy and sell four
millions of human beings, but not so Garibaldi. After four years he
decided to return to Italy. With the little money he had saved, he
bought half the rocky island of Caprera, five miles long, off the coast
of Sardinia, whose boulders had once sheltered him, built him a
one-story plain house, and took his three children there to live, his
mother having died.
Meantime Cavour, the great Italian statesman, had not been idle in
diplomacy. The Crimean War had been fought, and Italy had helped England
and France against Russia. When Napoleon III. went to war with Austria
in 1859, Cavour was glad to make Italy his ally. He called Garibaldi
from Caprera, and made him Major-General of the Alps. At once the red
blouse and white cloak seemed to inspire the people with confidence.
Lombardy sprang to arms. Every house was open, and every table spread
for the Liberators. And then began a series of battles, which, for
bravery and dash and skill, made the name of Garibaldi the terror of
Austria, and the hope and pride of Italy. Tuscany, Modena, Parma, and
Lucca declared for King Victor Emmanuel. The battles of Magenta and
Solferino made Austria bite the dust, and gladly give up Lombardy.
At last it seemed as if Italy were to be redeemed and reunited.
Garibaldi started with his famous "Mille," or thousand men, to release
the two Sicilies from the hated rule of Francis, the son of Ferdinand
II. The first battle was fought at Palermo, the Neapolitans who
outnumbered the troops of Garibaldi four to one being defeated after
four hours' hard fighting. Then the people dared to show their true
feelings. Peasants flocked in from the mountains, and ladies wore red
dresses and red feathers. When the cars carried the soldiers from one
town to another, the people crowded the engine, and shouted themselves
hoarse. Drums were beaten, and trumpets blown, and women pressed
forward to kiss the hand or touch the cloak of the Lion of Italy. He was
everywhere the bravest of the brave. Once when surrounded by four
dragoons, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his sword, and said,
"I am Garibaldi; you must surrender to me."
And yet amid all this honor and success in war, and supremacy in power,
as he was the Dictator, he was so poor that he would wash his red shirt
in a brook, and wait for it to dry while he ate his lunch of bread and
water, with a little fruit. No wonder the Sicilians believed him to be a
second Messiah, and the French that he could shake the bullets from his
body into his loose red shirt, and empty them out at his leisure! The
sailor boy had become the hero of all who loved liberty the world over.
When the war was ended, he resigned his Dictatorship, handed the two
Sicilies over to his sovereign, distributed medals to his devoted
soldiers, and returned to his island home at Caprera, with barely three
dollars in his pocket, having borrowed one hundred to pay his debts. How
rarely does any age produce such a man as Garibaldi!
But Rome was not yet the capital of Italy. The hero could not rest while
the city was governed by a Pope. At last, tired of waiting for the king
to take action, he started with three thousand men for Rome. Victor
Emmanuel, fearing to offend France, if the Pope were molested, sent the
royal troops against Garibaldi at Aspromonte, who badly wounded him,
and carried him to a prison on the Gulf of Spezzia. The people,
indignant at the Government, crowded around him, bearing gifts, and
kissing the hem of his raiment. They even bored a hole in the door of
the prison, that they might catch a glimpse of their idol, as he lay on
his iron bedstead, a gift from an English friend.
After his release and return to Caprera, he visited England in 1864, the
whole country doing him honor. Stations were gaily decorated, streets
arched with flowers, ladies dressed in red; the Duke of Sutherland
entertained him; London gave him the freedom of the city; Tennyson made
him his guest at the Isle of Wight; and crowds made it scarcely possible
for him to appear on the public thoroughfares. He refused to receive a
purse of money from his friends, and went back to Caprera, majestic in
Again Italy called him to help her in her alliance with Prussia against
Austria in 1866, and again he fought nobly. The year following he
attempted to take Rome, but was a second time arrested and imprisoned
for fear of Napoleon III. When that monarch fell at Sedan, and the
French troops were withdrawn from the Eternal City, Victor Emmanuel
entered without a struggle, and Rome was free.
In 1874, after helping the French Republic, the brave Spartan was
elected to Parliament. He was now sixty-seven. As he entered Rome, the
streets were blocked with people, who several times attempted to remove
the horses, and draw the carriage themselves. Ah! if Anita had only
been there to have seen this homage of a grateful nation. He entered the
Senate House on the arm of his son Menotti, and when he rose in his red
shirt and gray cloak to take the oath, so infirm that he was obliged to
be supported by two friends, men wept as they recalled his struggles,
and shouted frantically as he took his seat.
Seven years longer the grand old man lived at Caprera, now beautified
with gifts from all the world, the recipient of a thank-offering of
$10,000 yearly from Italy. Around him were Francesca, whom he married
late in life, and their two children whom he idolized,--Manlio and
Clelia. He spent his time in writing several books, in tilling the soil,
and in telling visitors the wonderful events of his life and of Anita.
On June 2, 1882, all day long he lay by the window, looking out upon the
sea. As the sun was setting, a bird alighted on the sill, singing. The
great man stammered, "Quanti o allegro!" How joyful it is! and closed
his eyes in death. He directed in his will that his body should be
burned; but, at the request of the Government and many friends, it was
buried at Caprera, to be transferred at some future time to Rome, now
the capital of united Italy. Not alone does Italy honor her great
Liberator, whom she calls the "most blameless and most beloved of men."
Wherever a heart loves liberty, there will Garibaldi's name be cherished