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Cattaneo, Carlo

CATTANEO, CARLO (1801-1869), Italian philosopher and patriot. A republican in his convictions, during his youth he had taken part in the Carbonarist movement in Lombardy. He devoted himself to the study of philosophy, hoping to regenerate the Italian people by withdrawing them from romanticism and rhetoric, and turning their attention to the positive sciences. He expounded his ideas in a review founded by him at Milan in 1837, called Il Politecnico. But when the revolution of 1848 broke out he threw himself heart and soul into the fray, and became one of the leading spirits of the insurrection against the Austrians, known as the Five Days of Milan (March 18-22, 1848). Together with Terzaghi, Cernuschi and Clerici he formed a council of war which, having its headquarters at Casa Taverna, directed the operations of the insurgents. He was second to none in self-sacrificing energy and heroic resolution. When on the 18th of March Field Marshal Radetzky, feeling that the position of the Austrian garrison was untenable, sounded the rebels as to their terms, some of the leaders were inclined to agree to an armistice which would give time for the Piedmontese troops to arrive (Piedmont had just declared war), but Cattaneo insisted on the complete evacuation of Lombardy. Again on the 21st, Radetzky tried to obtain an armistice, and Durini and Borromeo were ready to grant it, for it would have enabled them to reorganize the defences and replenish the supplies of food and ammunition, which could only last another day. But Cattaneo replied: "The enemy having furnished us with munitions thus far, will continue to furnish them. Twenty-four hours of victuals and twenty-four hours of hunger will be many more hours than we shall need. This evening, if the plans we have just arranged should succeed, the line of the bastions will be broken. At any rate, even though we should lack bread, it is better to die of hunger than on the gallows." On the expulsion of the Austrians the question arose as to the future government of Milan and Italy. Cattaneo was an uncompromising republican and a federalist; so violent was his dislike of the Piedmontese monarchy that when he heard that King Charles Albert had been defeated by the Austrians, and that Radetzky was marching back to reoccupy Milan, he exclaimed: "Good news, the Piedmontese have been beaten. Now we shall be our own masters; we shall fight a people's war, we shall chase the Austrians out of Italy, and set up a Federal Republic." When the Austrians returned Cattaneo had to flee, and took refuge at Lugano, where he gave lessons, wrote his Storia della Rivoluzione del 1848, the Archivio triennale delle cose d' Italia (3 vols., 1850-1855), and then early in 1860 he started the Politecnico once more. He bitterly attacked Cavour for his unitarian views, and for the cession of Nice and Savoy. In 1860 Garibaldi summoned him to Naples to take part in the government of the Neapolitan provinces, but he would not agree to the union with Piedmont without local autonomy. After the union of Italy he was frequently asked to stand for parliament, but always refused because he could not conscientiously take the oath of allegiance to the monarchy. In 1868 the pressure of friends overcame his resistance, and he agreed to stand, but at the last moment he drew back, still unable to take the oath, and returned to Lugano, where he died in 1869. As a writer Cattaneo was learned and brilliant, but far too bitter a partisan to be judicious, owing to his narrowly republican views; his ideas on local autonomy were perhaps wise, but, at a moment when unity was the first essential, inopportune.

Bibliography. - A. and J. Mario, Carlo Cattaneo (Florence, 1884); E. Zanoni, Carlo Cattaneo nella vita e nelle opere (Rome, 1898); see also his own Opere edite ed inedite (7 vols., Florence, 1881-1892), Scritti politici ed epistolari (3 vols., Florence, 1892-1901), Scritti storici, letterari (Milan, 1898, etc.).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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