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7. The Constitution of the Roman Republic, 3rd July 1849


1. Sovereignty is in the people by eternal right. The people of the Roman State form a democratic republic.

2. The democratic regime has the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity. It does not recognise noble title nor privilege of birth or caste.

3. The Republic through its laws and institutions promotes the betterment of the moral and material conditions of all citizens.

4. The Republic regards all peoples as brothers. It respects every nationality. It champions the Italian nation.


7. The exercise of civil and political rights do not depend on religious belief.

8. The Head of the Catholic Church will have all the guaranties necessary from the Republic for the independent exercise of spiritual power.


Art. 1. – They are citizens of the Republic:

Those born in the Republic;

Those who have acquired citizenship under prior existing laws;

Those other Italians with six months domicile;

Those foreigners with ten months domicile;

Those naturalised by decree of the legislative authority.


Art. 3. – Persons and property are inviolable.


Art. 5. – The penalties of death and confiscation are proscribed.

Art. 6. – The domicile is sacred: entry therein is not permitted except in those cases and in those ways determined by the law.

Art. 7. – There is free expression of opinion; the law will punish the abuse of this without any preventive censorship.

Art. 8. – Education is free of controls. For those who intend to teach, the conditions regarding morality and capacity are determined by law.


Art. 11. – There is freedom of association where this is unarmed and without the objective of committing a crime.


Art. 15. – All power comes from the people. It is exercised in the Assemblies, the Consulate and in the Magistracy.


Art. 16. – The Assembly is composed of Representatives of the populace.

Art. 17. – Every citizen who enjoys political rights at 21 years of age is an elector and at 25 is able for election.


Art. 26. – The representatives of the people may not be pursued for opinions expressed in the Assembly; any investigative enquiry whatever is forbidden.


Art. 28. – Each representative of the people will receive an indemnity , which he may not refuse.

Art. 29. – The Assembly has legislative powers: it decide on peace, on war and on treaties.

Art. 30. – The power to propose laws belongs to the assembly and to the Consulate.



Art. 49. – In the exercise of their function, the Judges do not depend upon other State powers.

Art. 50. - They are nominated by the Consuls and in the Council of Ministers: they may not be removed, nor promoted, nor transferred except with their consent; nor can they be suspended, demoted or removed from office except following proper procedure or sentence.




Art. 57. – The army will be recruited by voluntary enrolment or in the form determined by law.

Art. 58. – No foreign troops may be enrolled nor introduced into the territory of the Republic without decree by the Assembly.

Art. 59. – Generals are nominated by the Assembly on the basis of proposals by the Consulate.


Art. 61. – Every rank in the National Guard is awarded by election.

Art. 62. – The National Guard is principally entrusted with the maintenance of internal order and the Constitution.

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Source: The Constitution of the Roman Republic, 3rd July 1849.

The defence of Rome: the Garibaldi legend is born

Gerolamo Induno, Garibaldi on the Gianicolo Click image to enlarge
Source: Gerolamo Induno, Garibaldi on the Gianicolo, oil on canvas, 1849, Museo del Risorgimento, Milano.

The Roman Republic

In Rome, during the summer of 1848, the Pope and the moderate elements struggled to keep a lid on the aspirations of the popular democratic groups who were asking for greater concessions in terms of reform. Taking advantage of the summer break in the sessions of the Chamber, elected through a restricted suffrage in the spring, the Pope nominated as head of a new government Pellegrino Rossi, who had been ambassador of the French government of Guizot and Louis Philippe to the Holy See and represented the opinion contrary to a further commitment by the Papacy to the Italian cause. As soon as word spread there were attacks in the press and protests by the most radical groups until the situation deteriorated and Rossi was assassinated on 15th November by a group of young men, supporters of Mazzini. The next day the Quirinale (The Pope's residence) was occupied by a mob that demanded a more democratic government and, on the 24th, the Pope, by now convinced that he had lost control of the situation, fled the city and took refuge in Gaeta in the territory of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In Rome a constituent assembly was elected to decide the form of the new state. The election was held by direct universal male suffrage and on 9th February the assembly approved the establishment of a republic which was to last, with ups and downs, until the arrival of French troops under General Oudinot who finally occupied Rome on 3rd July 1849.


  1. Which were the principal measures taken by the Roman Republic?
  2. In what way was the Pope's role scaled down?
  3. In what context was the Constitution of the Roman Republic promulgated?
  4. Which values are upheld by this constitutional charter and which rights are granted to citizens?
  5. Which bodies are designated which governing powers? Are they shared in the same way as in the Albertine Statute?
  6. Which event gave rise to the “Garibaldi legend”?
  7. Why did Garibaldi become the symbolic hero of the Risorgimento?

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Description and Analysis

As summer 1848 passed the situation in Rome steadily worsened following the killing of Pellegrino Rossi, who had been appointed by the Pope to head a government that would not back the continuation of the national war. On November 15th the city is raided by pro-Mazzini republican groups and groups of common people demanding a democratic government. The day after an angry mob stormed the Pope's residence, where a hundred or so Swiss guards on duty safeguard the Pope who, afraid that the unrest could spread, yielded and allowed a democratic ministry to be appointed. This, however, was not enough to quell the violence, and on November 24th the Pope fled to Gaeta in an area held by the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Following a flood of heated debate and political dispute between the moderate groups and those with more radical opinions, elections were held, with universal male, direct suffrage, to vote in a constitutional assembly. A few days later the assembly began proceedings, announcing the founding of the republic following a decree which announced the de facto and rightful cessation of the Papacy's temporal powers. At the same time the Court of the Holy Office was also abolished, press censure was eliminated and all the properties owned by ecclesiastical bodies were nationalized. Mazzini is nominated head of the Assembly, which immediately pushes for the recommencement of the war against Austria, as a national effort. The Assembly votes to send 10,000 men to back the Piedmont army. Soon after, however, news reaches Rome that the Savoy troops have been defeated at Novara and the Papacy has requested France, Austria, Spain and the Kingdom of Naples to send forces to restore the Pope; news that crushes the hopes for a speedy national triumph. The Assembly thus decides to nominate a 'triumvirate' made up of Mazzini, Armellini and Saffi, who are granted “unlimited powers to lead the war for independence and in defence of the Republic”. Concurrently, the government of the Republic passes the first and most progressive social laws of all the constitutional governments of the the revolutionary period, noteworthy considering how backward the country was at the time. For example, the laws stipulate that land confiscated from the Church and nationalised would be broken up into small plots and rented to “families with no other means of sustenance” on a permanent lease paying a low rent State. The norm was never actually put into practice due to the dramatic fighting that was just about to break out and that would force the Republic to channel all of its resources into holding off the French troops sent by the new government headed by Louis Bonaparte in support of the Pope. Mazzini's call to keep up the fight to the very end is unanimously supported by the Assembly. The Republic's army is made up of volunteers hailing from all over the peninsula and includes those of the Italian legion led by Giuseppe Garibaldi as well as the Lombardy Rifle Regiment under Luciano Manara. Garibaldi, who would later become one of the figureheads of the Risorgimento, led the first heroic counter-attack, as Ferdinand II's troops were closing in on Rome from the south. At this point the republican government negotiates a ceasefire with the French, who use the lull in fighting to let reinforcements reach the deployment and get ready for a new offensive. On June 3rd, one day prior to the end of the ceasefire, the French troops begin a new onslaught lasting a whole month until the final assault at the end of June. A few days later the city falls into their hands, overwhelmed. Genral Oudinot thus declares the restoration of pontifical authority. Many patriots were forced to beat a hasty retreat, other died during the fighting, some, like Mazzini, stay on in the city as mere citizens with no political role. (questions 1 -2 – 3).

During the French offensive the defence of Rome was organised by General Avezzana, who created four divisions. The First Division, commanded by Garibaldi, had the task of defending the area of Gianicolo, one of the last parts of the city to capitulate under the shelling of the French army, after two weeks of fierce resistance by citizens and volunteer troops. Before the capitulation, Garibaldi gathered 4,000 men in Saint Peter’s Square and had a leaflet distributed which had the message: “Soldiers! This is what I offer those who want to follow me: hunger, cold, the heat of the sun: not pay, not barracks, no regular supplies: but continuous skirmishing, forced marches and sentry duty with bayonets fixed. Who loves the fatherland and glory, follow me!”. In the course of events which led up to the Unification, there would be many volunteers who would follow Garibaldi in his adventures, even after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 when the general clashed with regular troops of the Italian army to “liberate” Rome from the authority of the Pope and allow it to become the “natural” capital of the new state. His military undertakings, always victorious, his self-denial in the patriotic cause, his sincere belief in democracy and his revolutionary spirit gave him an undisputed fame which personified the very spirit of the national uprising. On the bicentennial of his birth, in Nice on 4th July 1807, the commemorative events, the biographies, the articles, more or less romanticised, about his deeds and his adventurous life were numerous. After a period of momentary oblivion during which his figure was subjected to a historiographic reassessment, “the hero of the two worlds” struck the imagination of Italians anew, pulling audiences and readers, keeping intact the myth of the legendary personality, which he, himself, had helped to create and had made him famous and loved throughout the world, even before his death. His portrait, presented almost as a holy image, was reproduced everywhere, in Italy and abroad throughout the whole of the 19th Century on everyday goods, pieces of furniture, paintings, posters, teacups and plates, a genuine icon of the struggle for popular freedom. (questions 4 -5).

Garibaldi represented the popular soul of the Risorgimento, the revolutionary aspect, its most genuinely patriotic and idealistic aspirations, because he was a man of action, not of diplomacy, because he knew how to communicate with the majority of the Italian people, picking up on their hopes for liberty and emancipation. This was evident not only during the popular uprisings in 1848 but above all following the landing of Garibaldi’s troops in Sicily, where the tumultuous advance of “The Thousand” (May-October 1860) was preceded by a general insurrection which preceded their arrival in many cases. (questions 6-7).

Other Information

For the events of the Roman Republic, a miscellany of documents can be consulted in http://www.archiviocapitolino.it/ita/struttura_archivio/pdf/3%20(Repubblica%20Romana).pdf

The photographic exhibition “The Risorgimento of the Romans. Photographs from 1849 to 1870”, which brings together 100 images of the events of those years is on display at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere. The catalogue (in Italian) can be consulted on: http://museiincomuneroma.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/il-risorgimento-dei-romani-fotografie-dal-1849-al-1870/

The catalogue “The Risorgimento in colour: painters and patriots in Roma in the XIX century”, in English, is available at : http://:en.museodiroma.it/il_risorgimento_a_colori_pittori_patrioti_e_patrioti_pittori_nella_roma_del_XIX_secolo