A Middle-Class Revolutionary Institution:
The National Guard in the Italian Mezzogiorno (1799-1861)
This article intends to contribute to the reconstruction of the Risorgimento movement with a double aim: to put in evidence the southern situation, not deeply investigated, and to adopt a long time perspective. In fact, this work analyzes the introduction of National Guard (N. G.) in a such complex reality as the Italian Mezzogiorno and the function that liberal southern movement attributed to this institution in the period of revolutionary caesuras from 1799 to 1861, that is from the Neapolitan Republic to the Italian Unification. During the Italian Risorgimento the N.G. has had an important role, surely much more than historiography reveals. So far the fundamental contribution that the N.G. has given to the birth and the development of the Italian southern liberal movement has been neglected, wrongly considering it as an institution strictly finalized to the public control. From the Republican Triennium, the forces interested to the political change saw the N.G. as an institution where the principles of the French Revolution were met. For this reason it can be defined as a middle-class revolutionary institution. Fidelity to revolutionary and national-patriotic ideas, profit and properties, were all elements that characterized the institution. To all this it can be added an innate repugnance towards that part of population which constituted the lower classes and which frightened the liberals so much as the absolute power of the Crown. The N.G., in short, faithfully reflects all the phenomena and the potentialities of the Italian Risorgimento together with its limits and contradictions.