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THE INTERVENTION OF ITALY.
ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE-ITALY'S POSITION AND RELATIONS WITH OTHER POWERS-THE TRIPOLI AND BALKAN WARS-ITALIAN POLICY IN 1914-HER PROTESTS AGAINST AUSTRO-GERMAN ACTION-HISTORY OF THE NEGOTIATIONS WITH AUSTRIA-REASON OF THEIR FAILURE End of the TRIPLE ALLIANCE-OPINION IN ITALY-THE GIOLITTI INTRIGUES-ITALY JOINS THE ALLIES-PUBLIC ENTHUSIASM.
OR a dozen years at least before the Great War it had been one of the commonplaces of European politics that the Italian alliance with Germany and Austria was unnatural, and against the best interests of Italy. The old unforgotten enmity with Austria and the persistence of the Irredentist problem were alone enough to prevent anything more than a formal bond between Rome and Vienna. Italy, moreover, was a democratic State, in a sense perhaps even more democratic than republican France, while the Central Empires were politically unfree, still based essentially upon royal and aristocratic domination of the people. Ties of race and of culture suggested France as a natural ally. Great Britain, France, and Italy held, broadly, similar ideals of liberty and progress.
Between Great Britain and Italy there existed a long tradition of sympathy and friendship, which was strengthened by the factor of common interests in the Mediter ranean.
Such arguments were sound as far as they went, but they ignored the history of the Triple Alliance and the events which led up to it. They ignored, moreover, the dangers which threatened Italy if she should endeavour to resume liberty of action.
During the ten years which followed the occupation of Rome by the troops of united Italy, the foreign policy of Italy was directed Vol. V.-Part 53.
rather to preserving good relations with all her neighbours than to cultivating special friendship with any one Power. The party of the Right, which fell in 1876, had always maintained its Francophil tradition, though the attitude of France under Thiers had put a severe strain upon the relations between the two countries. The accession to power of the Left, under Depretis, might have been expected to bring about a change in Italian foreign policy. For ten years the Left had advocated an alliance with Prussia, and Bismarck had on more than one occasion practised the policy of maintaining direct relations with the Italian opposition, which was to prove so disastrous to German influence when attempted in the hour of crisis that saw the final exit of Italy from the Triple Alliance.
The Left disappointed the expectations of Berlin and Vienna. Depretis adopted an extremely conciliatory attitude towards France, in spite of the provocation given by French Clericalism on the still living question of the Temporal Power. The idea of the Left seems to have been that Italy could rely upon the rivalry of her neighbours to secure her own interests. The results of the Berlin Congress might well have shattered the dream, for the Austrian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Anglo-Turkish agreement, which placed Cyprus in the hands of Great Britain, were both in clear opposition to Italian policy. But the
dream persisted for a few years more. Though Italy had long had her eyes fixed on the North African littoral, her rulers could not see that she was in danger of being anticipated. They went so far as to refuse the suggestion of Austria, Germany and Russia that Italy should occupy Tunis, and perhaps believed that this offer practically amounted to an Italian lien upon the Regency. They did not know their Bismarck. The suggestion was inspired by the idea of embroiling Italy and France, and when Italy declined to follow his advice, Bismarck turned round and made the same proposal to France. Before the Berlin Congress broke up, Tunis was lost to Italy. A verbal agreement had been made between Lord Salisbury and M. Waddington that France should be free to occupy Tunisia, "when convenient."
During the years immediately following Italy had fair warning of French intentions regarding Tunis, and it was even indicated to
[Guigoni & Bossi. the Italian Ambassador in Paris where she might look for compensation. In July, 1880, Freycinet spoke very clearly: "Why will you persist in thinking of Tunis, where your rivalry may one day cause a breach in our friendly relations? Why not turn your attention to Tripoli, where you would have neither ourselves nor anyone else to contend with?"
Cairoli and Depretis, who shared power between them during this period, failed to recognize the inevitable trend of events. In the spring of 1881 France sent an expedition to Tunis on the pretext of punishing the Krumir tribe for an attack upon a French force on the Algerian frontier, and on May 12 the signature of the treaty of Bardo established a French protectorate over Tunisia.
Italian resentment was naturally very keen. Tunis had long been regarded, by informed opinion in Italy, as a legitimate sphere of Italian influence. More than 50,000 Italians
[Guigoni & Bossi. with Great Britain regarding the Mediterranean. This policy was first put before the public on May 29, 1881, in the Rassegna Settimanale, in an article attributed to Sonnino himself.
THE QUEEN OF ITALY. had settled in the Regency, and Italy's claim to eventual annexation, or to the declaration of a protectorate, was certainly stronger than that of France, which was founded upon the necessity of protecting the Algerian frontier from real or fancied disturbance.
The Cairoli Government fell immediately. The policy of isolation had proved a disastrous failure, and the conviction rapidly grew that the only way to safeguard Italian interests was to cultivate close relations with Germany and Austria. Depretis, who had succeeded Cairoli, perceived the necessity of a move in this direction, but he was loth to relinquish his belief that Italy could at the same time maintain cordial relations with France. The strongest line was taken by the centre, a small group led by Sidney Sonnino, who maintained that Italy's best course was to conclude a definite alliance with the Central Empires, and at the same time come to an understanding
Mancini, Foreign Minister in the Depretis Cabinet, was for a time unwilling to alienate France by a definite adhesion to the AustroGerman alliance which had been formed in 1879. But the policy of isolation, of equal friendship with all the Powers, daily became more clearly untenable. The Tunis question seemed to make a rapprochement between France and Italy impossible, but Bismarck feared that Gambetta, who had succeeded Ferry, might take steps to conciliate Italy. He arranged for a German Press campaign in favour of reopening the Roman question, and though the Italian Government faced the threat with spirit, the conviction grew that an alliance with Germany and Austria was the only means of securing the position of Italy in