UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vincenzo Cuoco Marampon, Lucio

Abstract

Vincenzo Cuoco was one of the first political realists of Italy. Living at Naples at the arrival of the French Army, he became accidently involved with the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799. Although he was a declared Xenophobe and a misogallic he was also an ardent patriot trying to respect the existing political order. Informed of the advance of the reactionary army toward Naples he had the occasion to foil a coup to overthrow the government of the young Republic, for which the fugitive Bourbon King placed him on the list of revolutionaries to be arrested. With the fall of the Republic in June 1799, he was arrested and sentenced to exile, the first period of which he spent at Marselles. With the victory of Marengo in 1800, he followed the Italian exiles to Milan. There, after a brief period of hardship, he published his Saggio on the Revolution of Naples and with it gained fame and the recognition of the Republican government. His fame as a political writer did not derive from his artistic ability, but from his shrewd analysis of people and governments. His mind had been formed at Naples under the influence of the French Enlightenment, but as an admirer of Machievelli and a student of Vico, he retained a detached aversion for transalpine rationalism. So strong was his sense of Italianism that while the Parthenopean was still in power he dared to criticize its democratic government as too French and, therefore, detached from Italian needs. This criticism is found in six letters (Frammenti) which he wrote to his friend V. Russo and included in an appendix to his major essay. In the Saggio storico sulla rivoluzione napoletana del '99 he reviwed "from memory" the circumstances surrounding the Revolution. He gave an objective account of the socio-economic conditions of the Neapolitan Kingdom, the political obtuseness of the Monarchy and the events of the Revolutionise analyzed in great detail the failure of the Republican government which he attributed mainly to its alienation from the people. This want of popular spirit for which he called the Revolution "passive" had doomed the Republic from its inception. The work contained,also, pertinent remarks on legislation, economics,and customs. At Milan (1800-1806) he edited the official newspaper, the Giornale Italiano, composed a brief work on statistics and wrote an epistolary novel, Platone in Italia, (1804-6). In this last work he describes an imaginary voyage of Plato through Southern Italy, presenting Vico's Etruscan thesis of an Italic culture preceding that of the Greeks. His aim, which became almost an obsession, was to instill in his countrymen a renewed pride in the Italian past. In 1806, with the return of the French to Naples he ended his exile and was appointed by the new government to several important posts. His duties were many and varied, ranging from the drafting of economic reforms to framing a new system of education, from the presidency of Molise to the directorship of the Royal Treasury. The fall of Napoleon in 1815 ended his active life. A mental disorder,already foreshadowed earlier, developed into lunacy. He lived on in a state of apathy, and died on December fourteenth 1823,without knowing how much he had contributed to the rising tide of national feeling throughout Italy.

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