Verona 1796-1797: a Case of Popular Rejection through the Pages of Valentino Alberti
By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy
The tumultuous years of the first Italian campaign of 1796-1797, and the imposed military occupation by French-Republican troops in the Stato Veneto (i.e. Veneto State), proved a shocking time for the region’s constituted order. To soothe that period of austerities and social turmoil, the Venetians were doing their utmost in duty and bravery to protect their families and the homeland against the largely aggressive military expansionism and conquering ambitions of a transalpine power: Directorial France.
The despotic French-Republican units, which had invaded through the Austrian Lombardy, reached the peak of strategic irreversibility, and the Venetians became more determined and warlike in their attitude toward the outrages of the foreign hordes. By then not a young nation – defending against enemy hosts dated previously almost to the time of Attila (406-453) the Hun invading the Northern plains of the Venetia, in the Vth century of the Christian era –, Venice had fought so many conflicted emergencies over the centuries; however, in her time of annoying decadence (XVIIIth century), the spirit of the past glories had not affected the heritage and the popular will to stand in arms and fight any major threat.
In his newly composed research work, the author has delved deeper into an almost neglected historical period and provides a translated selection of one diary written by an innkeeper of the town of Verona. Selected excerpts of this private writing illustrate life conditions under the French invading forces for the ordinary, non-military person.
Most postmodern history publications do not give the reader any insight into the day-to-day life of an occupied territory. It is through the captivating pages of Valentino Alberti’s narrative that we learn of the probity and devotion of this Venetian citizen as he lived and served under the French regime, and how the troops took advantage of his private status and economic difficulties caused instead by their own dishonourable excesses.
Sometimes we can only see the true picture after so many long years. Events, decisions and battles which were fought two hundred years ago or more, such as the strenuous confrontation against General Bonaparte’s conquering efforts in the Venetian territories, now from the modern perspective of study appear to have been fought on the grounds of excellent social reasons: the defence of the popular identity, and the defence of the civic liberties.
But most grievous was the social frame that the writings painted of the differences in the uneducated, uncouth French soldiers and the hospitality, social accomplishments and religious fervour of the residents of Verona.
One question does soon rise: why was there such a wide difference in two peoples?
Undeniably the answer is that the collapse of the 1789 French Revolutionary convulsions, the secularism and suppression of religion, and lack of education and esprit de finesse (i.e. properly taught manners), made the French soldiers unfeeling, brutal, and to connive in continued abuses of power.
This is the reason why they intentionally failed to respect the private and moral dignity of the popolo (i.e. people) Veronese.
One amazing diary entry depicts the French troops’ attempt to assault the convent of the Holy Spirit, a blameful episode which happened in March 1797.
When events got out of hand, the church bells were rung and the citizens responded; even the lower classes (the peasants) in the countryside reacted with urgency to defend their city against further ravages by the French occupation forces. In August 1796, it had already happened the desecration of the church of Saint Eufemia; the nuns and clergy had to remove all statues, the Eucharist and everything of value to prevent the theft of sacred articles.
This history is important because it illustrates what inevitably has happened in most wars since the beginning of the human race: the victors impressing their will upon the vanquished.
Under the trying circumstances of the military regime, Alberti’s diary reflected the difference in social standing, training, and education between the Venetian citizens and the post revolutionary French army, and how the obnoxious mistreatments of the citizens which lived in the neighbourhood and in the urbic aggregation of Verona caused the fiercest resistance to the invader.
This is a revealing and eye-opening diary; it would be a profitable cultural addition to read the entire work in a properly rendered English translation.
That is the reason why the study of history and researching primary sources is so important – to learn the truth of what actually happened because eye witnesses are no longer available to shed light on events and people.
On June 1, 1796, French-Republican army divisions of the Armée d’ Italie detrimentally invaded the territories of the Serenissima Repubblica di San Marco (i.e. Most Serene Republic of Saint Mark).
Paradoxally contained in the austere, expression of consolidated political conformity and non-belligerency, the Stato Veneto had defended a compromise of declared neutrality between the contending powers of the French Executive Directory  and the Empire of the Habsburgs.
To overcame the prudential limits of the senatorial Oligarchy and the probity of the Venetian diplomatic behaviourism, a casus bellis was intentionally devised by an unscrupulous General of Corsican extraction: Napoleon Bonaparte.
Used at mendacious forgeries, the Général en Chef (i.e. commander-in-chief) claimed a felonious pretex: the right of asylum offered by the Most Serene Republic to the count of Lille, the pretender to the throne of France, Louis of Bourbon (Louis-Stanislav-Xavier, Versailles, November 17, 1755- Paris, September 16, 1824), eighteenth of his name.
General André Massena’s divisional units were imparted orders by the daring generalissimo to pass through the jurisdictional limitations, invading the territories of the Dominante (aka Venice), and to promptly occupy the ramparted-town of Verona, a strategically built location on the Adige River which could withstand most modern dynamics of artillery siegecraft.
For centuries, the stronghold had been part of the political establishment of a major European potentate, the Repubblica Marciana (i.e. Saint Mark Republic).
The invading French army ushered through the town’s gates with cannon shots, and in the surrounding country the constituted order of the Venetian people and the legitimate governmental institutions were imposed heavily on the power of arms. The armed invasion subjected Verona to her ultimate feverish convulsion of political and social surviving. The villainous overthrow of the constituted power, and the infringement of the popular sovereignty, were reversed by increasing outbursts of violence. However difficult were the operative contingencies against regular Venetian troops (worth mentioning is the battle of San Massimo, and Santa Lucia, on April 20, 1797), the ascendancy was rapidly gained, and it soon turned into overwhelming military occupation.
Seemingly animated by the pseudo-libertarian revolutionary predicaments and theorematic postulations of liberté, egalité, fraternité (i.e. liberty, equality, fraternity) 12,000 field equivalences were sent to garrison the strategically positioned Venetian territories in the west.
The co-essence of foreign power (Directorial France, and her osmotic military pushings) notably implemented the final collapse of a nation, and the wrecking of geo-strategies in southern European Countries.
The Ambivalence of Military Conquest: Vexations of the People’s Identity
How social inter-actions really turned out in their vicious recrudescence, can easily be traced back through the enthralling narrative – diario (i.e. diary) – written by Valentino Alberti; a most humble inn-keeper of the Tre Corone (i.e. Three Crowns) inn – in corte Mòlon (nowadays Melone) – who left one of the most appealing coeval record of those events of misery and moral ineptitude.
Reading through his vivid reminiscences, there can be traced quite a number of abuses of power related to the economic intemperances and unrepentant haughtiness of the invading French military – who exceedingly imposed their will beyond the limits of decency and mind’s evanescences.
The private writings of Valentino Alberti are a valuable literary addition (and remarkable history source) for better understanding the social life, the conflicted tide of the Napoleonic war emergencies, as well as the turn in politics which happened at Verona between the eighteenth and ninenteenth centuries.
It is a convulsive page of history, lived in first person; and, in a renewed horizon of hopes, consumed by the heart of daily experience.
25 Agosto 1796 – «Due militari francesi mi vennero a riverire e mi han bevuto e mangiato per 19 soldi.
Poi addio, tutto pagato!».
Transl.: 25 August 1796 – «Two French soldiers came to pay me reverence and they have well drunk and eaten on me for 19 soldi.
Then farewell, all paid!».
Comment: the reverence is a denotative word to remark the respect – and the trick had been conceived by the soldiers before entering in the inn. They graced the innkeeper through honeyed words and exortatory attitudes. As they entered, the French equally left the place, a fairly stringent connotation of military authority and imposed necessity to “show” reverence to the foreign occupier. Especially good was the farewell, and, between friends (conquerors) all was paid by the lesser brother.
* * *
20 Settembre – «Cinque altri han bevuto per soldi 15 e poi via.
Andate in pace, che il vostro peccato è solamente veniale!
Tre soldi a testa!
Si conosce che non avevano mondo».
Transl.: 20 September – «Five others have drinken for soldi 15 and then away.
Go in peace, that your sin is only venial!
Three soldi each!
It is known that they had no world».
Comment: the usual drinking time of the victors – at the generous expense of the people (aka the innkeeper). The post-revolutionary attitudes are largely based on the lacking essence of respect and moral attitudes, a neo-paganism of free will.The innkeeper (a devout believer in the Catholic faith), in the observance of God’s holy Commands considered through a spiritual analysis that the French have not respected the necessity to pay the drink – and to him, this meant an abuse to the Command not to steal. His spirit was not disheartened, and Valentino gave his pardon: Go in peace. The peace of the soul, of a cleaned soul, is opposed to the dishonesty. It is not a sarcasm: they had no world, implies the fact that the innkeeper had well understood that the soldiers had not received the pillars of education (social, and religious), which were the customary habits of good people. The uncivilized "soldiers" did not even belong to themselves, because they did not even know the meaning of the word respect. Therefore, is this full evidence of how could they respect the others?
* * *
21 detto – «Otto militari mangiarono da cena un dindio per il valor, col pane e il vino, di Troni 12:5, e poi gentilissimamente partirono».
«Tre detti, pranzato saporitamente, e poi per Troni 9,9: Bon ami, tu pajè!».
Transl.: 21 September – «Eight soldiers ate at dinner a turkey for the value, with the bread and the wine, of Troni 12:5, and then very gently left».
«Three soldiers, eaten tastily, and then for Troni 9,9: Good friend, all paied!».
Comment: dinner time, and marvellous eating: a turkey. A gourmet meeting, to taste the delicious cuisine à la Venetienne (i.e. the exquisite Venetian cooking). Palatable appetite,… Other soldiers: Good friend, all paied ! – that is a straight compliment: you are a good friend "of us the conquerors", we appreciated, and because of this "shared friendship" it is you that have to honour and pay the good friends. A masterful delicacy. There is always time to learn, especially from the transalpine post-revolutionary civilisation.
* * *
27 detto – «Sette detti, invidiando l’ esempio dei primi, cenarono: e per il conto di Troni 6:10 brusarono essi pure il pajon!».
Transl.: 27 September – «Seven soldiers, envying the example of the firsts, they had dinner: and for the bill of Troni 6:10 they too escaped!».
Comment: the generosity of the innkeeper became a bright mark of distinction, especially among the foreign customers (aka occupiers), and the French thought well to have themselves invited at the Venetian table. In a continued study and application of the military art, and not to frontally collide with the innkeeper, the soldiers chose a strategic withdrawal – gliding away in the open track of honourability.
* * *
13 dicembre – «Due militari cenarono e dimenticarono di pagare: Dio li ammazzi».
Transl.: 13 december – «Two soldiers had dinner and forgot to pay: […] killed them».
Comment: at Verona, this day was dedicated to the martyred Christian virgin named Santa Lucia. Consequentially, it was a celebrated festivity. With consumed traits of behaviourism, the affectionate customers largely relied on the established kindness of the innkeeper – still a feast for the poor Valentino, inside the true spirit of the military bullying. The theft, and the usual scroungers. The comparison with a social martyrdom is fairly denotative. And Alberti flew into a temper loosing his ordinary aplomb (i.e. control); severe words of reproach are proffered: enough!
* * *
8 detto – «Cinque detti di cavalleria hanno cenato e fatto un conto di Troni 20.
Al momento di pagar han fatto finta di baruffar e in mezzo di siracche e sacranoni, mi hanno rotto quattro gotti, un tavolino ed una candela.
Qua ho fatto i miei interessi! Bricconi!».
Transl.: 8 December – «Five soldiers of cavalry had dinner and ran up a bill of Troni 20.
At the moment to pay they have feigned to squabble and in the middle of shouting and blasphemies, have broken me four glasses, a table and one candle.
Here I have done my interests! Rascals!».
Comment: the “generosity” of the Venetian Alberti rapidly spread in the ranks of the French, from the infantry cadres, to the cavalry squadrons. The comedy of the imposed Franco-Republican liberties reached the zenith of its outrageous deception. Further, there were a number of material damages – all at the expense of imposed abuses of power. The quality of the cavalry troopers were largely aggressive, even resembling to an impious provocative attitude: the horrid blasphemies, against the religious devotion of the local population.
* * *
18 detto – «In otto altri, dopo una cena di Troni 10:14 pagarono come sopra.
Poi due altri, fecero lo stesso per Troni 3:10.
Benedetti questi avventori!
Vi prego a non farmi torto».
Transl.: 18 December – «Other further eight, after a dinner of Troni 10:14 paid as above cited.
Then a further two, did the same for Troni 3:10.
Blessed these customers!
I pray you not to make me wrong».
Comment: the usual practice of payment, and the same reiterated abuses of the French. And Alberti blessed these exemplary customers, to even avoid imperiling his own life. The time of despondencies continued – and the innkeeper worried not to fall under any further volitional impositions of the French.
* * *
24 detto – «Dodici di cavalleria han cenato e bevuto per Troni 35 e poi guardandomi fisso fisso se ne andarono.
Il salasso mi è parso gaiardo, ma ho creduto ben di usar prudenza perchè io non avevo la sabala al fianco».
Transl.: 24 December – «Twelve of cavalry have had dinner and drunk for Troni 35 and then looking at me fixed left.
The bleeding appeared to me vigorous, but I have believed to use prudence because I had not the sword at my flank».
Comment: another vigorous charge home, and the consumed valour of honour. The fixed glories of the French, and the face of the innkeeper met in silence. The economic loss is quite strong – and with irony, Alberti claimed that this happened because he was unarmed: that meant that to the abuse of force the French strengthened the violation of the individual rights, which one had to accept to avoid major troubles and save theirs lives.
* * *
25 detto (Natale) – «Di tutti i sopradetti però i più buoni galantuomini furono quei cinque di cavalleria che mi hanno favorito di venir a cena questa sera.
Oh, che galantuomini!
All’ inferno ve ne son dei migliori.
Costoro hanno mangiato e bevuto come fioi d’ animali e poi, negri dal vino come folpi, hanno messo mano alla sabala e si son battuti rompendo tutti i vetri, spaventando le donne e tutti, persino i gatti che scappavano in caneva».
Transl.: 25 December (Christmas) – «Of all the above mentioned nevertheless the most good gentlemen were those five of cavalry that have favoured me to come to dinner this evening.
Oh, what gentlemen!
In the hell there are far better of them.
These people have eaten and drunk as sons of animals and then, black by the wine as polyps – this means that they were blind drunk –, have put hand to the sword and have beaten themselves breaking all the glasses, frightening the women and all, even the cats that escaped in the cellar».
Comment: Christmas time, the holy Nativity of the Lord. Another cavalry battle at the Alberti’s inn. And the usual simulation for not having to pay the bill – a time of savage disputing. No peace, in terris (i.e. on earth), for God-fearing men and women, and animals as well.
* * *
In the new year, the social discordances of the French-Republican occupation got worse, and perilously turned into an offence towards the pity and the popular sentiment. Even the female religious houses were assaulted. A reproachable episode happened on March 8, 1797, when the soldiers tried to storm the monastery of the Holy Spirit. The nuns, as soon as they became aware of the oncoming danger, had the bells ring the alarm. To the echoing sounds of the bells, the Veronese citizens ran up on the spot; and the French, dismayed at the convulsive popular reaction, thought it much wiser leaving their steps from committing a sacrilegious venture. However, unwilling to bear any longer the hard yoke of a foreign imposed domination, the Veronese people rose up to arms to defend the political liberties and centuries long traditions of religious belief.
From 17 (Easter Monday) to 25 April 1797 it began the general popular uprising which would have passed in the annals of history and in the pages of historiography with the peculiar denomination of Pasque Veronesi (i..e. Veronese Easters). It was the insurrection against Bonaparte’s troops and their reiterated plunderings in the conquered Venetian territory. Unable to withstand the overwhelming numbers of the Venetians subjects, the French garrison units hastily retired inside the walled perimeter of Castel Vecchio, and in the nearby strongholds of San Felice and San Pietro. From these impregnable fortified positions, the town of Verona was bombarded for some days.
The blowing winds of the insurrectional movement had equally spread through the countryside, and armed peasants flocked in swarms to support the fighting. The insurgents were leaded by a distinguished personality of the local aristocracy: Count Francesco Emilei. During the consuming strife, the Rengo, an old bell in the tower of the Lamberti, rang as it was rung during the dissensions of the comuni, in the Middle Ages.
* * *
The calamitous string, the uncontained display of fury and the ravages of the French invaders, had not stop from imposing on the people from the year before. On the date of August 11, 1796, Alberti wrote:
«Hanno messo l’ ospital nella Chiesa di Sant’ Eufemia, mettendo tutti li ammalati francesi parte in convento e parte in Chiesa.
Hanno portato via tutto, i santi, le madonne e il Santissimo, in San Simonetto vicino, perché li francesi rovinano tutto […].
Ma non ostante, hanno fatto mille sorte di malanni perché hanno rotto le cantorie, i confessionali, il pulpito, e il coro.
Era solo la statua di San Nicola da Tolentino sul suo altare, e i francesi volendola distruggere, li gettarono una soga al collo e si misero in diversi per tirarla abbasso a buttarla in pezzi, ma non fu possibile lo smoverla dal suo nicchio; la qual cosa fu miracolosa.
Ed un soldato francese, arrabbiato per questo, dopo tanti sforzi per tirare in terra il santo, non so se con lo schioppo, con bastone o con altro, gli diede tanti colpi: ma tutto fu inutile […].
I francesi in quella Chiesa hanno fatto di tutto, perché hanno spezzato fino le laste delle sepolture, disturbando anche i poveri morti.
Anzi avendone trovato uno vestito di ferro in un sepolcro, con una spada da una parte che erano centinara e centinara di anni che era stato seppellito, hanno portato via anche quello e non si sa che cosa ne abbiano fatto».
Transl.: «have placed the hospital in the Church of Saint Euphemia, placing all the French ill part in convent and part in church.
Have brought away all, the saints, the madonnas and the Eucharist, in Saint Simonetto near, because the French ruin all […].
But nevertheless they have done a thousand kinds of damages because they have broken the choirs, the confessionals, the pulpit, and the choir.
It was only the statue of Saint Nicolas from Tolentino on its altar, and the French that wanted to destroy it, there throw one rope at the neck and tried many of them to draw it down and break it in pieces, but it was not possible to have it moved from its niche;
that thing was miraculous.
And one French soldier, angry for this, after many efforts to draw on earth the saint, I do not know if with the musket, with stick or else, gave it a lot of hits: but all was useless […].
The French in that Church have done quite everything, because have broken the slabs of the graves, disturbing also the poor dead.
In fact, having found one clothed with iron in one grave, with a sword on one side that they were hundred and hundred of years that he had been buried, have brought away also that, and it is not known what they have done of him».
Comment: the above mentioned episode speaks for itself. It is the compendium of the desecrated attitudes towards religion, and the sacrilegious taste for hidden treasures hunting. The miraculous interpretation is fairly denotative, and it almost signals the vigilant but reassuring presence of the Trinitarian Divinity. God’s endless Mercy, a distinct attribute of the Almighty, is preserving the town, even against the most malicious and irreverent attitudes of the French. Nicola da Tolentino (Nicola di Compagnone, Sant’Angelo in Pontano, 1245-Tolentino, September 10, 1305) was a famous exorcist of the Augustinian order. Notwithstanding the ferocious repression of the Veronese Easters, the French fighting against the people’s liberties and traditions still continued with renewed perfidiousness and brutality.
* * *
Cases of compared brutality continued in the year 1801, when the French came back in the Veronese. On January 3, 1801, Alberti reported that:
«Nel paese di Avesa, – in the north of Verona – sono andati molti Francesi nel convento delle moneghe e hanno fatto quello che hanno volesto di suo cappriccio, perché le hanno trovate in letto».
Transl.: «In the village of Avesa, there have gone a lot of French in the convent of the nuns and have done what they wanted of their own caprice, because they have found them in bed».
Comment: no comment at all.
* * *
The sorrowful circumstances of this regrettable incident notably conditioned the sensibility of good people, originating a source of uncontained moral uneasiness. For days, this molest event had a reverberating splash; and Alberti, with sobriety of language, on January 14, 1801, still recalled:
«E poi quando sono stati li Francesi al paese di Avesa, sono entrati dentro nel convento delle moneghe e hanno fatto quello che hanno voluto lori, perché le han trovate in letto che dormivano; e sono stati dentro in convento per ore otto; onde pensare quello che han fatto a suo cappriccio con le povere moneghe».
Transl.: «And then when the French have been in the village of Avesa, they have entered in the convent of the nuns and have done what they wanted, because they have found them in bed sleeping; and they have remained inside the convent for eight hours; so to think what they have done at their whim with the poor nuns».
Comment: a brief observation. The assault at the convent was a carefully planned action, as no one goes in a convent at night time, neither asking for food victualling, nor for invitation and hospitality. Excepted these conditioning factors, what else could have pushed the soldiery to stay so many long hours in a consecrated-life building? No answers are searched in this reflection, except that the words honour, probity, respect, duty and bravery did not belong to the lifetime dictionary of those scoudrels.
2 March: Bonaparte appointed at the head of the French army in Italy
14 January: Battle of Rivoli
Alberti, Valentino. Raccolta storica, cronologica di tutti gli avvenimenti, sì politici, che particolari, accaduti, dalla venuta de’ Galli in Italia, nell’ anno 1796. Biblioteca Civica di Verona, ms. 950.
1. Italian works:
Agnoli, Francesco Mario. Le Pasque veronesi: quando Verona insorse contro Napoleone. Rimini, Il Cerchio, 1998.
Agnoli, Francesco Mario. I processi delle Pasque veronesi: gli insorti veronesi davanti al tribunale militare rivoluzionario francese. Rimini, Il Cerchio, 2002.
Agnoli, Francesco Mario. Napoleone e la fine di Venezia. Il Cerchio 2006.
Alberti, Valentino. Il Diario dell’ Oste. La Raccolta Storica Cronologica di Valentino Alberti (Verona, 1796-1834). Cierre Edizioni.
Bacigalupo, G.. Le Pasque Veronesi: sonetti. Bologna, Libr. Beltrami, 1914.
Bevilacqua, Enrico. Le Pasque Veronesi: monografia storica documentata. Verona, Remigio Cabianca Libraio Editore, Verona 1897.
Bonafini, Ferruccio. Verona 1797: il furore di una città. Verona, Morelli editore, 1997.
Burattin, Silvio. Tramonto veneziano. 1796-1797. La fine della Repubblica di Venezia. Moretti & Vitali, Bergamo 1994.
Cenni, Nino. Verona con la Serenissima: dal concilio di Trento alle Pasque veronesi. Cassa di Risparmio di Verona, Vicenza e Belluno, Verona 1983.
Cessi, Roberto. Un millennio di storia Veneziana. Per cura della Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia sotto gli auspici dell’Ateneo Veneto, 1964.
Faccioli, Giovanni. Le “Pasque veronesi” . Verona: s.n., s.d..
Fancelli, E. L’ ussero di Napoleone o le pasque veronesi. Firenze, G. Nerbini, 1931.
Fasanari, R.. Gli albori del Risorgimento a Verona (1785-1801). Verona 1950.
Fasanari, Raffaele. Le Pasque veronesi in una relazione inedita. Verona, Linotipia Veronese, 1951.
Fasanari, R.. Le deputazioni veronesi a Napoleone Bonaparte nel 1797. Verona 1953.
Fasanari, R.. Il Risorgimento a Verona 1797-1866. Verona 1958.
Fasanari, R.. Il Risorgimento a Verona 1797-1866. Verona 1958.
Fasanari, R.. Le vicende territoriali di Verona durante l’ epoca napoleonica (1796-1814). Verona 1960.
Frigo, R. M.. Le Pasque veronesi nella relazione, inedita, di un generale napoleonico. Verona, Fiorini, 1980.
Lembo, Alberto. Prodromi delle Pasque Veronesi e la caduta di Venezia. In: AA. VV., Le insorgenze antifrancesi nel triennio giacobino, Apes, Roma 1992, pp. 81-89.
Lumbroso, Giacomo. I moti popolari contro i francesi alla fine del secolo XVIII (1796-1800). Minchella, Milano 1997, pp. 75-99.
Maffei, Antonio. La fine della dominazione veneziana in Verona (marzo 1797-gennaio 1798). Il Cerchio, Rimini 2005.
Maffei, Antonio. L’ oppressione giacobina in Verona e la caduta di Venezia (marzo 1797-gennaio 1798). Il Cerchio, Rimini 2006.
Manin, Lodovico. Io, l’ ultimo doge di Venezia. Con un’introduzione di Giovanni Scarabello. Canal & Stamperia editrice, Venezia 1997.
Menin, I. Breve storico compendio della Guerra d’ Italia dell’ anno 1796-1797. Verona, Biblioteca civica.
Montanari Benassu. Vita di Silvia Curtoni Verza Veronese. Verona, Ramanzini, 1851.
Pighi, Antonio. Cenni Biografici del P. Luigi Maria da Verona Cappuccino, fucilato dai Francesi nel 1797. Verona, Pozzati, 1897.
Zorzi, Alvise. La Repubblica del Leone. Storia di Venezia. Rusconi, Milano 1979, pp. 483-532.
 In case of declared hostilities and war resolution against post-revolutionary France, the Saint Mark Republic could not rely on the prompt support of regular field troops, and was equally deprived of major strongholds and heavy artillery parks. Pertaining the feasibility of active field operations, the cernide (i.e. the rural militias) were instead destabilized of their original efficiency and strategic role; further, their tactical proficiency was not functional at all in a scheme of longer range geo-strategic applications. It seemed a strident paradox, and quite a limitative choice, that the Senatorial Oligarchy had to take correct decisions acting on the principle of neutrality between the contending Powers of France and the Empire of the Habsburgs. In the frame of the above mentioned political troubles, a profitable executive disposition was to urgently provide strong defensive assets to the walled towns, and that meant to cover in arms the fortified emplacements. However, on the reverse of this pre-determined preference, it had not been taken into account the defence of the mainland provinces, which would have been shamefully abandoned to the rapacious excesses and pillaging of the enemy hosts. Essentially, this political dichotomy was a misleading effort. Two addresses (political options) were to represent a damaging division: in primis, the unarmed neutrality adopted as an irrevocable necessity by the Venetian government; second, the character of armed neutrality so much advocated by the influential and bombastic patrician Pesaro. Worst of all, the maxims of declared neutrality meant abandoning the territories on land to the military avalanche of the foreign contenders, while most adequate dispositions to ensure the defence of the Terra Ferma Veneta (i.e. Venetian mainland towns) had to be taken.
 The Directoire Exécutif (i.e. Executive Directory) was the supreme magistracy of the French Republic. Holder of the executive power, in accordance to the constitution of the year III (5 fructidor = 22 August 1795), the Directory was a five-man standing committee whose members were elected in the assemblies on October 30, 1795: Paul-François-Jean-Nicolas de Barras (1755-1829; service date: 2 November 1795-10 November 1799); Louis-Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux (1753-1824; service date: 2 November 1795-18 June 1799); Charles-Louis-François-Honoré Letourneur (1751-1817; service date: 2 November 1795-26 May 1797); Jean-François Reubell (1747-1807; service date: 2 November 1795-19 May 1799); and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748-1836), substituted by Lazare-Nicolas-Marguerite Carnot (1753-1823; service date: 4 November 1795-5 September 1797). In France, it held the executive functions from November 2, 1795, until November 10, 1799, and it was superseded by General Bonaparte’s coup d’ Etat on 18 Brumaire An VIII (9 November 1799).
Vide: Guyot, Raymond, Documents biographiques sur J. F. Reubell, membre du Directoire exécutif (1747-1807), Paris, Nancy, Berger Levrault, 1911; Henry, Pierre-François,Histoire du Directoire Exécutif de la Republique Française depuis son installation jusqu’ au Dix-Huit Brumaire inclusivement, suivie de pièces justificatives, chez F. Buisson 1801; La Révellière-Lépeaux, Louis-Marie, de, Mémoires de Larevellière-Lépeaux, membre du Directoire exécutif de la République française et de l’ Institut national, publiés par son fils sur le manuscrit autographe de l’ auteur et suivis des pièces justificatives et de correspondances inédites, Plon, s.d., 1895; Normand, F., Barras (1755-1829) député à la convention, membre du directoire exécutif, Les Contemporains N. 915, 24 april 1910 ; Vergnet, Paul, Mémoires de Barras, Présentées par Paul Vergnet, Paris, Editions Litteraires et Artistiques, 1946.
 On June 11, 1796, two high determined personalities, Tomà Mocenigo Soranzo and Alvise Mocenigo asked the Senate to vote a motion which had to compel the government to propose an armed neutrality – arming the Terra Ferma, and fortifying the places. This inspired propositional attitude was entirely rejected by the great majority of the senatorial college: in favour, 160 heads; opposition, 53. The aged members of the senate were only preoccupied not to present to General Bonaparte occasions of political attrite and rupture.
 The Count of Provence had reached Verona on May 25, 1794. And he was kindly guested in the Casino of Count Giambattista Gazzola. After having left the court of his father-in-law (Vittorio Amedeo III of Sardinia) at Torino, the Emperor of Austria did not grant him permission to reach the emigrants in Baden. On account of the present prohibition, he sojourned a couple of years at Verona, with the distinctive title of Count of Lille, and kept going a little court apparatus mostly composed of exiles. The French government did not hesitate to make a lot of complaints with the Venetian representative in Paris, and the same instructions were equally sent to the French representative in Venice thus growing always more pressing to attain theirs anti-aristocratic aims.
In 1796, the Venetian Senate voted the expulsion of the illustrious aristocrat; considering this steadly affirmed resolution as a direct affront to his family, he promptly requested the cancellation of the Bourbons name from the Albo d’ oro (i.e. Golden Register) of the Venetian nobility, and to have the armour offered by Henry III to Venice returned. In 1814, thanks to the Allied Powers and good supporting offices of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, he was enthroned in France – on direct application of the principle of legitimacy.
 At the pugnaciously fought battle of San Massimo, mobile Venetian equivalences on ground counted the following military deployment: 500 Italians, 400 oltremarini (i.e. Schiavoni, or Slavonians of Dalmatian extraxtion), 250 Dragoons, and Croats, plus an artillery support of eight pieces. On account of the heroic deeds of the Venetians, this battle set a standard of duty on the line of honour and determination in action.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2008
© Copyright 1995-2012, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.