Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Joseph Mazzini:

Bern 1847

In 1844 a group of members of La Giovine Italia were encouraged by Giuseppe Mazzini in his London exile to make a raid on the Calabrian coast, but they walked into a trap and were executed by a firing squad.  Mazzini, who was blamed for this betrayal, knew that his correspondence was being read by foreign governments, but he took it for granted „that the British never interfered with private letters, until an article in The Times led him to suspect that his own were read and informations were being leaked to the press. With the help of two Chartist friends, William Linton and William Lovett, he confirmed this, checking that two letters posted simultaneously to his address always arrived at different times, if only one of them bore his name, and also that the seals and postmarks had been altered. After receiving corroboration from a friend in the Post Office, he took legal advice and made a formal protest to parliament against what he called this ‘disgraceful un-English behaviour.’ The resulting furore, as he hoped and intended, gave enormous publicity to the cause of Italian patriotism and to his own name as a victim of political persecution.“ (Denis M. Smith). 

As this German translation indicates, this scandal spread far beyond the British border. Moreover it proved to be a clever move to try to publish Mazzini´’ response in the states of the German Confederation as it revealed the much more restricted civil liberties in continental Europe. As expected, German censors prohibited the printing and it was finally published two years later in liberal Switzerland on the eve of the Europe-wide insurgencies. Berne, the place of publishing, had been a center of Mazzini’s conspiratory activities early on. From 1834 until 1836 it was the headquarter of his secret societies Junges Deutschland and Giovine Europa. In his letter to James Graham, the English Home secretary who had been responsible for this violation of privacy, Mazzini extensively discloses the lamentable conditions of human rights under the despotic regimes of the Austrians and the Pope, which Graham both had supplied with his indiscretions.