S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
Victor Emmanuel II.
[Vittorio Emanuele II., king of Sardinia, and first king of Italy; born at Turin, March 14, 1820; succeeded his father, 1849; sent a contingent to the Crimean war, and was represented at the Treaty of Paris; defeated the Austrians by an alliance with France, 1859; proclaimed king of Italy, March, 1861; transferred the capital to Florence, 1865; obtained Venetia, 1866, and Rome, Sept. 20, 1870, which then became the capital of Italy; died Jan. 9, 1878.]
When, after the crushing defeat of Novara, March 23, 1849, Charles Albert resigned his crown and the cause of Italian independence to his son Victor Emmanuel, the young king is said to have pointed his sword in the direction of the Austrian camp, exclaiming, Per Dio, Italy shall be! (lItalia sarà!) His purpose at this time, and throughout the long struggle, is summed up in one sentence, to the thought of which he remained true: My only ambition is to be the first soldier of Italian independence. His ambition was declared in a remark, a part of which, as applied to himself, became proverbial: I do not aspire to any other glory than that history should say of me, He was an honest king (rè galantuomo). It was one of Washingtons maxims, I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain, what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. The title of rè galantuomo was first applied to Victor Emmanuel by Massimo dAzeglio, a statesman, author, and artist, who was prime minister of Sardinia before Cavour commenced the great task of Italian unification, and eclipsed the renown of the earlier patriots. Azeglio, however, saw the magnitude of the struggle before them; and when the first Italian Parliament met at Turin, in 1860, had the courage to say, amid the general congratulations, Italy is made, but who will now make the Italians? (LItalia è fatta, ma chi farà ora glItaliani?) intimating that the freedman was yet to become a freeman. Another mot of his is worth recording: An honest man (galantuomo) has the secret of true eloquence.
My house knows the road of exile, but not of dishonor.
Victor Emmanuels reply to Marshal Rádetzky, who endeavored to bribe him, during the early years of his reign, to desert the cause of his countrys liberation. When the Neapolitan ambassador warned him of conspiracies against the Austrians in a time of peace, Victor Emmanuel proudly declared, Behind my throne there is neither treason nor perjury.
As Gen. La Marmora was setting out with the Italian contingent for the Crimean war, in 1855, the king alluded to another side of the conflict in which he was engaged, by saying, half sadly, Happy man! you go to fight soldiers, I stay to fight monks and nuns.
At the battle of Palestro, fought against the Austrians, May 30, 1859, when his soldiers remonstrated at his rash valor, the king good-naturedly replied, Do not fear: there is glory enough for all! He had announced the coming war, before its declaration, in one of those speeches that thrill a nation, at the opening of Parliament, Jan. 10, 1859, when he said, While we respect treaties, we are not insensible to the cry of anguish that comes up to us from many parts of Italy. When he came to the words, the cry of anguish (il grido del dolore), the entire assembly, senators, deputies, and spectators, sprang to their feet, and broke out into the most passionate acclamations. Twelve years later the scene was repeated, when, on the 27th of November, 1871, the first king of united Italy opened the first parliament to sit in Rome, with words which reviewed the entire struggle: The work to which we have consecrated our life is accomplished.
There is one anecdote of Victor Emmanuel which is very likely apocryphal, says a writer in a recent number of The Saturday Review, but which has always struck us as particularly characteristic. The story has it, that the king, when on a visit to Paris, went into a shop to buy a pair of braces, and was addressed with the inevitable Et avec ça, monsieur? (What is the next article, sir?) of the Paris tradesman. Avec ça, monsieur, he replied, je suspends mon pantalon.