The 1800s and Garibaldi
Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo (June 18, 1815) did not affect the freedom of San Marino, which, thanks to the somewhat ambiguous attitude adopted up to that time, managed to maintain its independence even after the Congress of Vienna (1815), as it could not be defined as an ally of France, thanks to its prescient refusal to expand its territory at Napoleon’s proposal in 1797.
The rebirth of San Marino during this troubled period can be attributed to Antonio Onofri, the Captain Regent, to whom would later be attributed the epithet “father of the Fatherland” (he died on February 25, 1825).
During the Italian Resurgence, San Marino constituted a safe haven for many of the people who participated in the liberal uprisings of those years, in which, among other things, some San Marino citizens also took part.
Total is San Marino’s support for those fighting for the affirmation of the principles of freedom and independence that have always been defended in the Republic.
This position turns out not to be easy to maintain when faced with Austria and the Papal State, which is why Garibaldi’s request to be allowed to transit within San Marino, which came in July 1849 after the capitulation of the Roman Republic, was not immediately granted. Garibaldi at that time attempted to reach Venice, the only surviving republic that still managed to resist the Austrians, but near Macerata Feltria he found himself surrounded by four armies.
The only chance of salvation was the small Republic. Therefore Garibaldi repeated his request by sending two messengers and, without waiting for a reply, with his wife Anita and the remaining 1,500 men crossed the borders of San Marino.
Having arrived on the Titan, he presented himself at the Public Palace to request political asylum with the famous phrase “I ask for asylum and some bread.” The episode will go down in history as the Garibaldian escape.
Captain Regent Domenico Maria Belzoppi, formerly a participant in the liberal uprisings, welcomes and rescues Garibaldi and his men, asking in return to prevent San Marino from being involved in armed clashes. Garibaldi accompanies his men to the Convent of the Capuchin Friars where he disbands the army. Some soldiers found refuge with San Marino families; others left in small groups.
On the night of July 31, 1849, with the help of a local guide, Garibaldi, Anita and 150 loyalists leave the country, managing to evade the surveillance of 12,000 Austrian soldiers surrounding the Titan, and move toward Cesenatico to reach Venice by sea.
The episode does not go unnoticed: the Austrian army violates San Marino’s borders without authorization (August 2, 1849) by searching homes for refugees and intimating the surrender of the Garibaldians’ weapons.
Despite the intimidation, San Marino continued to give asylum to refugees and to support the uprisings, but this attracted the suspicions of the Papal States and Austria, which resulted in an attempt at an armed occupation that would reduce the country’s freedom.
The intervention of Napoleon III and France (1854) averted its success.
After the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy (March 17, 1861) on several occasions Garibaldi recalls and praises San Marino’s hospitality in times of need.
On April 24, 1861, Garibaldi received San Marino citizenship “ad honorem “and declared, “I am proud to be a Citizen of so virtuous a Republic”; on June 13, 1864, “I thank you for the gift that will always renew in my memory the generous hospitality of San Marino in an hour of supreme misfortune for me and for Italy.”
On May 7, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America, also wrote a cordial and congratulatory message to the Captains Regent: “Great and Good Friends. Though the extent of your dominions is small, your State is nevertheless one of the most honored in all history. It has proved by its experience the truth, so full of encouragement to the friends of Humanity, that a Government founded on republican principles can be administered so as to be secure and durable.”
On March 22, 1862, San Marino signed a convention with the Kingdom of Italy to regulate mutual relations of respectful esteem and good neighborliness, an agreement that enshrined the sovereignty and independence of the San Marino state.
San Marino’s history continues with the events of the 20th century and the two World Wars.