Life and Writings of Joseph Martini

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Strange to say, the objections raised against us generally sprang from the belief which had taken root among the men of past insurrections, and the semi-enlightened classes of the Peninsula — that unity was an impossible Utopia, and contrary to the historical tendencies of the Italians.

Facts have now decided this question between me and these opponents. But at that time, when the opinion against unity was almost universal among the so-called educated classes; when all the governments of Europe supported the theory of Metternich that Italy was a mere "geographical expression"; when the men most noted for their republican principles, revolutionary aims, and antagonism to existing treaties, were all partisans of federalism, as the only possible form of national existence for us Italians; — the causes of doubt and distrust were numerous indeed. . . .

The truth is that throughout the whole of that period of European agitation, all intuition of the future was wanting. The aim of the agitation was liberty above all things.

Few understood that lasting liberty can only be achieved and maintained in Europe by strong and compact nations, equally balanced in power, and therefore not liable to be driven to the necessity of seeking a protecting alliance by guilty concessions; or led astray by the hope of assistance in territorial questions, to the point of seeking to ally their liberty with despotism.

Few understood that the association of the nations to promote the organized and peaceful progress of humanity which they invoked, was only possible on the condition that those nations should first have a real and recognized existence.

The compulsory conjunction of different races, utterly devoid of that unity of faith and moral aim in which true nationality consists, does not in fact constitute a nation. The division of Europe, sanctioned in the treaties of 1815, by the excess of power given to some states, produced a consequent weakness in others, and placed them in the necessity of leaning upon some one of the great powers, no matter upon what terms, for support; while the germs of internal dissension that division had implanted in the heart of every people had created an insurmountable barrier to the normal and secure development of liberty.

To reconstruct the map of Europe, then, in accordance with the special mission assigned to each people by their geographical, ethnographical, and historical conditions, was the first step necessary for all.

I believed that the question of the nationalities was destined to give its name to the century, and restore to Europe that power of initiative for good, which had ceased, on the conclusion of the past epoch, by the fall of Napoleon. . . .

I occupied my time, therefore, between the writing of one article and another, in founding and spreading my secret association. I sent statutes, instructions, suggestions of every description, to those young friends I had left behind in Genoa and Leghorn. There . . . the first congregations were established.

The organization was as simple and as free from symbolism as it was possible to make it. Rejecting the interminable hierarchy of Carbonarism,1 the institution had only two grades of rank — the Initiators and the Initiated.

Those were chosen as Initiators, who, to their devotion to the principles of the association, added sufficient intelligence and prudence to justify their being permitted to select new members. The simply Initiated were not empowered to affiliate.

A central committee existed abroad, whose duties consisted in holding aloft, as it were, the flag of the association, forging as many links as possible between the Italian and foreign democratic element, and generally directing and superintending the work of the association.

There were also native committees established in the chief towns of the more important provinces, who managed the practical details, correspondence, etc.; a director or organizer of the initiators in each city, and groups of members, unequal in number, but each headed by an initiator.

Such was the framework of "Young Italy". . . .

All masonic signs of recognition were abolished as dangerous. A watchword, a piece of paper previously cut into a certain shape, and a certain fashion of giving the hand, were used to accredit the messengers sent from the central to the provincial committees, and vice versa; and these signs were changed every three months.

Each member was required to bind himself to a monthly contribution according to his means. Two-thirds of the money thus collected was retained n the provincial treasuries; one-third was paid in, or, more correctly speaking, ought to have been paid in, to the treasury of the central committee, to provide for the expenses of the general organization. It was calculated that the expenses of printing would be defrayed by the sale of the writings.

The symbol of the association was a sprig of cypress, in memory of our martyrs. Its motto, Ora e sempre, "Now and forever," indicated the constancy indispensable for our enterprise.

The banner of "Young Italy," composed of the three Italian colors,1 bore on the one side the words, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, HUMANITY; and on the other, UNITY and INDEPENDENCE.

The first indicated the international mission of Italy; the second, the national.

From the first moment of its existence, GOD and HUMANITY was adopted as the formula of the association, with regard to its external relations; while GOD and the PEOPLE was that chosen in its relations to our own country.

From these two principles, which are in fact the application of one sole principle to two different spheres, the association deduced its whole religious, social, political, and individual faith.

"Young Italy" was the first among the political associations of that day which endeavored to comprehend all the various manifestations of national life in one sole conception, and to direct and govern them all from the height of a religious principle the mission confided by the Creator to his creature — toward one sole aim, the emancipation of our country and its brotherhood with free nations.

1 , vol. i, pp. 174–180.

1 The Carbonari had an elaborate and fantastic ritual full of symbols taken from the Christian Church, as well as from the trade of charcoal-burning.

1 Red, white, and green.

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Chicago: Life and Writings of Joseph Martini in Readings in Modern European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1926), 305–307. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . Life and Writings of Joseph Martini, Vol. i, in Readings in Modern European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, D.C. Heath, 1926, pp. 305–307. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Life and Writings of Joseph Martini. cited in 1926, Readings in Modern European History, ed. , D.C. Heath, Boston, pp.305–307. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from