The Carbonari (charcoal burners) were groups of secret revolutionary societies founded in early 19th-century Italy. The Italian Carbonari may have further influenced other revolutionary groups in Spain, France, Portugal and possibly Russia. Although their goals often had a patriotic and liberal focus, they lacked a clear immediate political agenda. They were a focus for those unhappy with the repressive political situation in Italy following 1815, especially in the south of the Italian Peninsula. Members of the Carbonari, and those influenced by them took part in important events in the process of Italian unification (called the Risorgimento), especially the failed Revolution of 1820, and in the further development of Italian nationalism.
In the north of Italy other groups, such as the Adelfia and the Filadelfia, were more important.
- 1 Organization
- 2 Origins
- 3 History
- 4 Uprisings of 1820–1821
- 5 The uprisings of 1831 and the end of the Carbonari
- 6 Aftermath
- 7 Relations with the Catholic Church
- 8 Prominent Carbonari
- 9 In literature
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
The carbonari were organised in the fashion of Freemasonry, broken into small covert cells scattered across Italy. Although it is inappropriate to say that they had one unified mission, evidence suggests that despite regional variations, most of the membership sought the creation of a liberal, unified Italy.
Although some of the society's documents claimed that it had origins in medieval France, and that its progenitors were under the sponsorship of Francis I of France during the sixteenth century, this claim is hard to substantiate. Although a plethora of theories have been advanced as to the origins of the Carbonari, the organization most likely emerged as an offshoot of Freemasonry, in reaction to the spread of liberal ideas from the French Revolution; it first became influential in the Kingdom of Naples (under the control of Gioacchino Murat) and in the Papal States, the most resistant opposition to the Risorgimento.
As a secret society that was often targeted for persecution, the Carbonari operated largely in secret, and hence much of the work that has been done on the origins of the Carbonari depends upon a very small selection of contemporary documents. The name Carbonari identified the members as rural “charcoal-burners”; the place where they met was called a “baracca”, the members called themselves “good cousin” while people who did not belong to the Carbonari were “pagani”. There were special ceremonies to initiate the members.
The aim of the Carbonari was the creation of a constitutional monarchy or a republic; they wanted also to defend the rights of common people against all forms of absolutism. Carbonari, to achieve their purpose, were ready to commit assassinations and foment armed revolts.
The membership was separated into two classes—apprentice and master. There were two ways to become a master: through serving as an apprentice for at least six months or by already being a Freemason upon entry. Their initiation rituals were structured around the trade of charcoal-selling, suiting their name.
In 1814 the Carbonari wanted to obtain a constitution for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by force. The Bourbon king, Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, was opposed to them. The Bonapartist Joachim Murat had wanted to create a united and independent Italy. In 1815 Ferdinand I found his kingdom swarming with them. Society in the Regno comprised nobles, officers of the army, small landlords, government officials, peasants and priests, with a small urban middle class. Society was dominated by the Papacy. On 15 August 1814, Cardinals Ercole Consalvi and Bartolomeo Pacca issued an edict forbidding all secret societies, to become members of these secret associations, to attend their meetings, or to furnish a meeting-place for such, under severe penalties.
In 1817 there was a revolt against Macerata, Ancona and other parts of the papal states which had been arranged by the Carbonari of Romagna and the Marches. They published a lot, mostly pamphlets, several of them in England.
Uprisings of 1820–1821
They began by resisting the French occupiers, notably Joachim Murat, the Bonapartist King of Naples. However, once the wars ended, they became a nationalist organisation with a marked anti-Austrian tendency and were instrumental in organising revolution in Italy in 1820–1821 and 1831. The 1820 revolution began in Naples against King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, who was forced to make concessions and promise a constitutional monarchy. This success inspired Carbonari in the north of Italy to revolt too. In 1821, the Kingdom of Sardinia obtained a constitutional monarchy as a result of Carbonari actions, as well as other reforms of liberalism. However, the Holy Alliance would not tolerate this state of affairs and in February, 1821, sent an army to crush the revolution in Naples. The King of Sardinia also called for Austrian intervention. Faced with an enemy overwhelmingly superior in number, the Carbonari revolts collapsed and their leaders fled into exile. The Carbonari passed for the first time from words to action in 1820 in Naples by organizing anti-absolutist and liberal constitution riots that took inspiration from the one made at Cadiz on 1 January of the same year: the two officers Michele Morelli and Joseph Silvati (which had the membership of former General Murat, as Guglielmo Pepe) on July 1, marched towards the town of Nola in Campania at the head of their regiments of cavalry.
Worried about the protests, King Ferdinand agreed to grant a new constitution and the adoption of a parliament. The victory, albeit partial, illusory and apparent, caused a lot of hope in the peninsula and local conspirators in Turin, led by Santorre di Santarosa, marched toward the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia and 12 March 1821 obtained the democratic constitution.
However, the Holy Alliance did not tolerate such behavior and since February 1821 sent an army that defeated the insurgents in the south, outnumbered and poorly equipped. Even in Piedmont, King Vittorio Emanuele I, undecided what to do, abdicated in favor of his brother Charles Felix of Sardinia, who asked Austria to intervene militarily: April 8, the Hapsburg army defeated the rebels and the uprisings of 1820 - 1821, triggered almost entirely by the Carbonari, ended up in a total failure.
On September 13, 1821 Pope Pius VII with the bull Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo condemned the Carbonari as a Freemason secret society, excommunicating its members.
Among the principal leaders of the Carbonari, Morelli and Silvati were sentenced to death; Pepe went into exile; Confalonieri, Pellico Maroncelli were imprisoned.
The uprisings of 1831 and the end of the Carbonari
The Carbonari were defeated but not beaten, part in the revolution of July 1830 that supported the liberal policy of King Louis Philippe of France on the wings of victory for the uprising in Paris, even the Italian Carbonari took up arms against some states in central and northern And particularly the Papal States and Modena.
Ciro Menotti was to take the reins of the initiative, trying to find the support of Duke Francis IV of Modena, who pretended to respond positively in return for granting the title of King of Italy: but the Duke made the double play and Menotti, remained virtually unarmed, was arrested the day before the date fixed for the uprising. Francis IV, at the suggestion of the Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich, had condemned him to death and many others among its allies.
In 1820, the Neapolitan Carbonari once more took up arms, in order to wring a constitution from King Ferdinand I. They advanced against the capital from Nola under a military officer and the Abbot Minichini. They were joined by General Pepe and many officers and government officials, and the king took an oath to observe the Spanish constitution in Naples. The movement spread to Piedmont, and Victor Emmanuel resigned the throne in favour of his brother Charles Felix. It was only through the intervention of Austria. The Carbonari secretly continued their agitation against Austria and the governments in friendly connection with it. They formed a vendita. Pope Pius VII issued a general condemnation of the secret society of the Carbonari. The association lost its influence by degrees and was gradually absorbed into the new political organizations that sprang up in Italy; its members became affiliated especially with Mazzini's "Young Italy". From Italy the organization was carried to France where it appeared as the Charbonnerie, which, was divided into ventes. Members were especially numerous in Paris. The chief aim of the association in France also was political, namely, to obtain a constitution in which the conception of the sovereignty of the people could find expression. From Paris spread rapidly through the country, and it was the cause of several mutinies among the troops. The movement lost its importance after several conspirators had been executed, especially as quarrels broke out among the leaders. The Charbonnerie took part in the Revolution, 1830; after the fall of the Bourbons, its influence rapidly declined. After this a Charbonnerie démocratique was formed among the French Republicans; after 1841, nothing more was heard of it. Carbonari were also to be found in Spain, but their numbers and importance were more limited than in the other Romance countries.
In 1830, Carbonari took part in the July Revolution in France. This gave them hope that a successful revolution might be staged in Italy. A bid in Modena was an outright failure, but in February 1831, several cities in the Papal States rose up and flew the Carbonari tricolour. A volunteer force marched on Rome but was destroyed by Austrian troops who had intervened at the request of Pope Gregory XVI. After the failed uprisings of 1831, the governments of the various Italian states cracked down on the Carbonari, who now virtually ceased to exist. The more astute members realised they could never take on the Austrian army in open battle and joined a new movement, Giovane Italia ("Young Italy") led by the nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini. Independent from French Philadelphians were instead the homonymous carbonara group born in Southern Italy, especially in Puglia  and in the Cilento, between 1816 and 1828. In Cilento, in 1828, an insurrection of Philadelphia, who called for the restoration of the Neapolitan Constitution of 1820, was fiercely repressed by the director of the Bourbon police Francesco Saverio Del Carretto : among the interventions we remember the destruction of the village of Wood.
This defeat made them clear to many Carbonari that militarily, especially if alone, they could not compete with Austria, one of the greatest powers of the Old Continent: Giuseppe Mazzini, one of the most acute Carbonari. They founded a new secret society called the Young Italy in which many members would be channeled to the Carbonari, whole without supporters, practically ceased to exist, although the official history of this important company had continued wearily until 1848.
The Carbonari (Carbonária) was first founded in Portugal in 1822 but was soon disbanded. A new organization of the same name and claiming to be its continuation was founded in 1896 by Artur Augusto Duarte da Luz de Almeida. This organisation was active in efforts to educate the people and was involved in various antimonarchist conspiracies. Most notably, Carbonari members were active in the assassination of King Carlos I of Portugal and his heir, Prince Luís Filipe, Duke of Bragança in 1908. Carbonari members also played a part in the Republican 5 October 1910 revolution. One commonality among them was their hostility to the Church and they contributed to the republic's anticlericalism.
From the European Point of View
Two results of great importance in the progress of the European Revolution (Revolutions of 1848) proceeded from the events that occurred at Naples in 1820-21. One was the reorganization of the Carbonari, consequent upon the publicity given to the system when it had brought about the revolution, and the secrecy in which it had hitherto been enveloped was no longer deemed necessary; the other was the extension of the system beyond the Alps. When the Neapolitan revolution had been effected, the Carbonari emerged from their mystery, published their constitution statutes, and ceased to conceal their patents and their cards of membership.
In particular, the dispersion of the Carbonari leaders had, at the same time, effect of extending the system in France. General Pepe proceeded to Barcelona when the counter-revolution was imminent at Naples, and his life was no longer safe there; and to the same city went several of the Piedmontese revolutionists when the country was Austrianized after the same lawless fashion. The dispersion of Scalvini and Ugoni that took refuge at Geneva and others of the proscribed that proceeded to London added to the progress which Carbonarism was making in France, suggested to General Guglielmo Pepe the idea of an international secret society, which would combine for a common purpose the advanced political reformers of all the European States.
Relations with the Catholic Church
The Carbonari were anti-clerical in both their philosophy and programme. The Papal constitution Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo and the encyclical Qui Pluribus were directed against them. The controversial document, the Alta Vendita, which called for a liberal or modernist takeover of the Catholic Church, was attributed to the Sicilian Carbonari.
Prominent members of the Carbonari included:
- both were imprisoned by the Austrians for years, many of which they spent in Spielberg fortress in Brno, Southern Moravia. After his release, Pellico wrote a book Le mie prigioni, describing in detail his ten-year ordeal. Maroncelli lost one leg in prison and was instrumental in translating and editing of Pellico's book in Paris (1833).
In Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White" the character of Professor Pesca is a member of 'The Brotherhood', an organisation placed contemporaneously with, and similarly featured as, the Carbonari. Clyde Hyder suspects that the model for Prof. Pesca was Gabriele Rossetti, who was a member of the Carbonari, as well as an Italian teacher resident in London during the 1840s.
Anton Felix Schindler's biography of Beethoven "Beethoven as I Knew Him" states that his close connection with the composer was begun in 1815 when the latter requested an account of Schindler's involvement with a riot of Napoleon's supporters in Vienna, who were agitating against the Carbonari uprisings. Schindler was arrested and lost a year at college. Beethoven was sympathetic and, as a result, became a close friend of Schindler.
The Carbonari are mentioned in The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian, part of the Aubrey-Maturin series.
- "CARBONARI (an Italian word meaning charcoal-burners)" from the Carbonari article in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
- Galt, Anthony (December 1994). "The Good Cousins' Domain of Belonging: Tropes in Southern Italian Secret Society Symbol and Ritual, 1810-1821". Man, New Series 29 (4): 785–807. JSTOR 3033969.
- Denis Mack Smith, in The Making of Italy (1968) refers to their 'thoroughly indeterminate' political program and to carbonari as a 'generalized movement of protest'
- Denis Mack Smith, in The Making of Italy (1968) and Christopher Duggan, in The Force of Destiny (2008)
- Rath, John (January 1964). "The Carbonari: Their Origins, Initiation Rites, and Aims". The American Historical Review 69 (2): 353–370. JSTOR 1844987.
- "apprentice could rise to the grade of a master before the end of six months." From Carbonari in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- "Freemasons could enter the Carbonari as masters at once." From Carbonari in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Bertoldi (1821). Memoirs of the secret societies of the south of Italy: particularly the Carbonari. J. Murray.
- "It is not certain whether the Carbonari, as a political society, had its first organization in France or Italy." From the Carbonari article in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- "The Carbonari were probably an offshoot of the Freemasons, from whom they differed in important particulars, and first began to assume importance in southern Italy during the Napoleonic wars." From the CARBONARI article in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
- McCullagh, Francis. "Some Causes of the Portuguese Revolution," The Nineteenth Century and After, Vol. LXVIII, N°. 405, 1910.
- Birmingham, David, A concise history of Portugal, p. , Cambridge Univ. Press 2003
- Frost, Thomas (2003). Secret Societies of the European Revolution. Kessinger Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7661-5390-5.
- Frost, Thomas (2003). Secret Societies of the European Revolution. Kessinger Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7661-5390-5.
- “The Life of a Conspirator,” The Rambler, New Series, Vol. I, May 1854.
- Blanc, Louis. The History of Ten Years, 1830-1840, Chapman and Hall, 1844.
- Heckethorn, Charles William. "Carbonari." In The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries, Vol. II, Bk. XIII, Richard Bentley and Son, 1875.
- Martinesco-Cesaresco, Countess Evelyn. "The Work of the Carbonari." In The Liberation of Italy, 1815-1870, Seeley & Co, 1895.
- Radice, Fulke R. "An Introduction to the History of the Carbonari," Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. LI, 1940.
- Spitzer, Alan B. Old Hatreds and Young Hopes: The French Carbonari against the Bourbon Restoration, Harvard University Press, 1971.