Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini

Date: 1891

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"Young Italy"





"Young Italy" is a brotherhood of Italians who believe in a law of Progress and Duty, and are convinced that Italy is destined to become one nation — convinced also that she possesses sufficient strength within herself to become one, and that the ill success of her former efforts is to be attributed not to the weakness, but to the misdirection of the revolutionary elements within her — that the secret of force lies in constancy and unity of effort. They join this association in the firm intent of consecrating both thought and action to the great aim of reconstituting Italy as one independent sovereign nation of free men and equals.

By Italy we understand — (I) continental and peninsular Italy, bounded on the north by the upper circle of the Alps, on the south by the sea, on the west by the mouths of the Varo, and on the east by Trieste; (2) the islands proved Italian by the language of the inhabitants, and destined, under a special administrative organization, to form a part of the Italian political unity.

By the nation we understand the universality of Italians bound together by a common pact, and governed by the same laws. . . .

"Young Italy" is Republican and Unitarian.

Republican — because theoretically every nation is destined, by the law of God and humanity, to form a free and equal community of brothers; and the republican is the only form of government that insures this future.

Because all true sovereignty resides essentially in the nation, the sole progressive and continuous interpreter of the supreme moral law.

Because, whatever be the form of privilege that constitutes the apex of the social edifice, its tendency is to spread among the other classes, and by undermining the equality of the citizens, to endanger the liberty of the country.

Because when the sovereignty is recognized as existing not in the whole body, but in several distinct powers, the path to usurpation is laid open, and the struggle for supremacy between these powers is inevitable; distrust and organized hostility take the place of harmony, which is society’s law of life.

Because the monarchical element being incapable of sustaining itself alone by the side of the popular element, it necessarily involves the existence of the intermediate element of an aristocracy — the source of inequality and corruption to the whole nation.

Because both history and the nature of things teach us that elective monarchy tends to generate anarchy; and hereditary monarchy tends to generate despotism.

Because, when monarchy is not — as in the Middle Ages — based upon the belief now extinct in right divine, it becomes too weak to be a bond of unity and authority in the state.

Because the inevitable tendency of the series of progressive transformations taking place in Europe is toward the enthronement of the republican principle, and because the inauguration of the monarchical principle in Italy would carry along with it the necessity of a new revolution shortly after. . . .

"Young Italy" is Unitarian —

Because, without unity, there is no true nation.

Because without unity, there is no real strength, and Italy, surrounded as she is by powerful, united, and jealous nations, has need of strength before all things.

Because federalism, by reducing her to the political impotence of Switzerland, would necessarily place her under the influence of one of the neighboring nations.

Because federalism, by reviving the local rivalries now extinct, would throw Italy back upon the Middle Ages.

Because federalism would divide the great national arena into a number of smaller arenas; and, by thus opening a path for every paltry ambition, become a source of aristocracy.

Because federalism, by destroying the unity of the great Italian family, would strike at the root of the great mission Italy is destined to accomplish toward humanity.

Because Europe is undergoing a progressive series of transformations, which are gradually and irresistibly guiding European society to form itself into vast and united masses.

Because the entire work of internal civilization in Italy will be seen, if rightly studied, to have been tending for ages to the formation of unity.

Because all the objections raised against the unitarian system do but apply, in fact, to a system of administrative centralization and despotism, which has really nothing in common with unity.

National unity, as understood by "Young Italy," does not imply the despotism of any, but the association and concord of all. The life inherent in each locality is sacred. "Young Italy" would have the administrative organization designed upon a broad basis of religious respect for the liberty of each commune, but the political organization, destined to represent the nation in Europe, should be one and central.

Without unity of religious belief, and unity of social pact; without unity of civil, political, and penal legislation, there is no true nation.

These principles, which are the basis of the association, and their immediate consequences, set forth in the publications of the association, form the creed of "Young Italy"; and the society only admits as members those who accept and believe in this creed. . . .

The means by which "Young Italy" proposes to reach its aim are — education and insurrection, to be adopted simultaneously, and made to harmonize with each other.

Education must ever be directed to teach by example, word, and pen, the necessity of insurrection. Insurrection, whenever it can be realized, must be so conducted as to render it a means of national education. . . .

The character of the insurrection must be national; the programme of the insurrection must contain the germ of the programme of future Italian nationality. Wheresoever the initiative of insurrection shall take place, the flag raised, and the aim proposed, will be Italian. . . .

Convinced that Italy is strong enough to free herself without external help; that, in order to found a nationality, it is necessary that the feeling and consciousness of nationality should exist; and that it can never be created by any revolution, however triumphant, if achieved by foreign arms; convinced, moreover, that every insurrection that looks abroad for assistance, must remain dependent upon the state of things abroad, and can therefore never be certain of victory; — "Young Italy" is determined that while it will ever be ready to profit by the favorable course of events abroad, it will neither allow the character of the insurrection nor the choice of the moment to be governed by them.

"Young Italy" is aware that revolutionary Europe awaits a signal, and that this signal may be given by Italy as well as by any other nation. It knows that the ground it proposes to tread is virgin soil; and the experiment untried. Foregone insurrections have relied upon the forces supplied by one class alone, and not upon the strength of the whole nation.

The one thing wanting to twenty millions of Italians, desirous of emancipating themselves, is not power, but faith.

1 . 6 vols. London, 1891. John Murray.

2 , vol. i, pp. 96–108.


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Chicago: "Constitution," Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini in Readings in Modern European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1926), 300–303. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . "Constitution." Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini, Vol. i, in Readings in Modern European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, D.C. Heath, 1926, pp. 300–303. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Constitution' in Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini. cited in 1926, Readings in Modern European History, ed. , D.C. Heath, Boston, pp.300–303. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from