Count Cavour and Nationality

In “The Program of Count Cavour” from 1846, around the beginnings of the Italian Unification, Count Cavour expresses that “no people can attain a high degree of intelligence and morality unless its feeling of nationality is strongly developed. This noteworthy fact is an inevitable consequence of the laws that rule human nature”. As a powerful figure in the unification of Italy, Cavour makes purposefully strong statements such as these to fuel a sense of determination and obligation in the peoples of Italy. In order to prompt in his people a feeling of duty, Cavour subtly suggests that those who have not cultivated a sense of nationality will not achieve intelligence or morality. He insinuates that a sense of nationality and belonging has always been present in human nature, and that awareness of this sense of nationality has always been the key to reaching “a high degree of intelligence and morality”, or in other words, enlightenment. In this manner, Cavour cleverly encourages nationalism in Italians. In a way, he makes those lacking in nationalistic values out to be ignorant and unconscionable. Cavour chooses to tie morality to nationalism because one who is patriotic has a sense of loyalty to a greater population, rather than just himself. Therefore when someone thinks only of himself, and not of his country too, he has a lower standard of morality.

I definitely understand Cavour’s sentiments in relating intelligence and morality to nationalism, but it definitely is not true in many situations. Nations which employ immoral practices should not feel entitled to feelings of nationalism from its people, particularly if there are laws or policies that do not protect the welfare of its people. Sometimes the most intelligent and moral people are those who speak out against a nation, questioning certain practices and systems in place. A sense of nationalism can also be a detrimental thing for a nation’s people. Governments can convince and/or force its people to perform immoral, inhumane acts in the interests of the country. Nationalism may be the best thing for an individual country, but may hurt its people and affect other countries in a negative manner. Is Cavour right in saying that nationalism is tied to high levels of intelligence and morality? Is this relevant in any nations today? Was it only relevant at the time for Italy?

Day by Day Nationalism

“Nationalism has become general; it grows daily and it has already grown strong enough to keep all parts of Italy united despite the differences that distinguish them.”

-Count Cavour (Camillo Benso)

While this quote from Benso, who would become Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia, applies to Italy it could be applied to many different countries in Europe at the time.  Nationalism is no longer a fad at this time, it is assumed now.  Unity is now a key word in the development of new countries.  Giuseppe Mazzini wrote “unity is a necessity in the world.”  As Count Cavour wrote unity has become strong in Italy but it is needed everywhere.  Unity comes with nationalism and the two words are very important together. Count Cavour touches on it briefly and the important part of his quote is that nationalism is continuing to grow.  It is growing on a daily basis, the people are becoming more unified.  Mazzini also wrote “The question of Nationalities, rightly understood, is the Alliance of Peoples”.  This quote is the basis for what Cavour is seeing put into action.  Cavour says nationalism has become general but he is thinking too general.  While he is looking just at Italy, many other places in Europe are becoming more unified.  This is not a separated occurrence in Italy, many people are taking Mazzini’s words to heart.  Count Cavour did not know it but his writing was a base point of what nationalism is.  Italy is just one of the many in Europe who were “unified despite the differences that distinguish them.”