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The Carbonari Their Origins, Initiation Rites, And Aims

The Carbonari Their Origins, Initiation Rites, And Aims

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The Carbonari: Their Origins, Initiation Rites, and AimsAuthor(s): R. John RathReviewed work(s):Source:
The American Historical Review,
Vol. 69, No. 2 (Jan., 1964), pp. 353-370Published by:
on behalf of the
Stable URL:
Accessed: 17/11/2011 13:41
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TheCarbonari:heirOrigins,InitiationRites,andAims
R.
JOHNRATH*
OF the numerous secret societiesthat honeycombed the Apennine Peninsuladuring the early part of thenineteenth century none aroused a greater fearamong individuals frightened bythe French Revolution than theCarbonari.Emperor Francis and otherAustrian conservatives, including Metternich,were so convinced that theCarbonariand other secret societies were dangeroustothe maintenance of the status quoand the preservation of Habsburginter-ests in Italy that they organized asecret spy network encompassing all Italytoferret them out. What were theorigins of this Carbonari society which soalarmed many a champion of lawand order during the period immediatelyfollowing Napoleon's overthrow?What rituals and symbols were associatedwiththevariousgrades of membershipinthe organization?What were itsteachings and aims? Were theCarbonari actually as perilous as variousgovernments in Europe believedthem to be? In this paper I will attempttoanswer these questions in so far as Ican from the source material availableforsuchastudy.The origins, nature, teachings,and activities of the Carbonari arestillshrouded inmystery and obscurity.Accordingtoone legend,the order wasstartedby Alexander the Great'sfather, Philip of Macedonia.' Accordingtoother myths, the society eitheroriginated in the Middle Ages as a mutualassistancesociety of Germancharcoal burners2 or else was established byliberty loving Frenchmen who fledto the Jura Mountains during the reignofCharles
VI.3
The mostfrequently repeated tradition, however, connectsthe beginnings of the sect with thelegendary eleventh-century St. Theobald,
*
Mr. Rath, thcauthor of
The VienneseRevolution of
I848
(Austin, Texas,
I957),
is
professor of history andchairman of thehistory and politicalscience department atRiceUniversity. He read asujmmaryof this paperon November9,
I962,
at the SouthernHistoricalAssociationmeeting atMiami, Florida.
1
Giovanni de Castro,11mondo secreto(9vols., Milan,
I864),
VIII,
25.2
Memoirs of the SecretSocieties of theSouithof Italy,particularly the Carbonari [hereafter
citedasMemoirsof theCarbonari], tr. fromthe original MSS(London,
i82i),I-2;
Albert
Falcionelli, Lessocitessecretesitaliennes. LesCarbonari.-LaCamorra. La Mafia (Paris,1936),
I2.
3EttoreFabietti,ICarbonariMilan,
I942),4I.
353
 
354R.John Rathwhoallegedlyounded heorganizationnSwitzerland oprovidehospitalityfor travelers.4closelyrelatedhypothesissthattheCarbonari erenothingbut the Good Cousinswhooriginated n FranceeitherduringtheMiddleAgesorinthe sixteenthcenturyandflourished ntheFranche-Comte.5Historianswho believe hatthesocietywasofFrenchorigin usuallyattributeits introduction o southernItaly during theearly partofthe nineteenthcentury osuchdifferentgroups orpersonsasNeapolitanexiles ofthe
I799
BourbonRestoration,6 renchtroops,7 r JoachimMurat'sown PoliceMin-isterMaghella.8Although,according omostCarbonariegends,medievalFrancewas thebirthplacefthesociety,variousauthorities aveinsisted hat itwas foundedinScotland9 rEngland,eitherby Scottishrite Masons10 r underthe nameofSocietyofFriends.'1Theproponents f thetheoryof Britishorigin main-tainthat thesocietyeitherspread oItalyby way of Malta,where ithad beeninstalledby theBritish, or thatLord WilliamBentinck, theBritish com-mander nSicily and theMediterraneanrom i8iito
I8I4,
orsome other
Memoirs oftheCarbonari,6-7;Giuseppe de Ninno, La Setta dei Carbonari nBarinel
1820-21.
Ricordi storici seguitidanote biografiche dei Deputati della Provincia di TerradiBarial ParlamentoNapoletanaindettaepoca(Bari,
I9II),9-I0;
Bianca Marcolongo, "Leorigini della Carboneria e lesocietasegrete nell'Italia meridionale dal
I8Io
al
I820,"
Studi
storici, XX
(19I2),
280.
5Albert Mathiez, "L'origine franc-comtoise de la Charbonnerie italienne," Annales his-toriques de la Re'volutionfranfaise,V (Nov.-Dec.
I928),55I-6I;
Jacques Godechot, "Ifrancesi el'unitaitaliana sottoildirettorio," Rivista storica italiana, LXIV (No. 4,
I952),578-79;
anon.report (n. p., June
30,
I8I7),
Haus-,Hof-,und Staatsarchiv,Vienna [hereaftercited as SA [Vienna] ],Staatskanzlei,Provinzen, Lombardei-Venedig, Fasz. XL, Kon.
i,
fol.
I90;
M. Saint-Edme, Constitution et organisation des Carbonari,ou documens exacts stir tout cequi concerne l'existence,l'origine etlebuitde cettesocicte(Paris,
I820),
5;
letter fromRome,July
I2,I8I9,
ibid.,
I92-95;
F. T. B. Clavel, Histoire pittoresque de la
franc-mnaonnerie
etdessocitte's secretes anciennieset modernes (3d ed., Paris,
I844),
379; Rossetti memoir, June
I5,I8I4,
Renato Soriga, "Gl'inizidellaCarboneriainItaliasecondo unrapporto segretodel generale Giuseppe Rossetti,"11Risorgimento italiano, XXI(Jan.-Mar.
I928),
78 (also in id.,LeSociet2 segrete, l'emigrazione politica eiprimimotiper l'indipendenza, Scritti raccoltieordinati da SilioManfredi,Vol. XXIX ofCollezionestorica delRisorgimentoitaliano[Modena,
1942], 71).
6
Pietro Colletta,Storiadel reame di Napoli dal
I734
sinoal
I825 (2d
ed., 2 vols., Florence,
I848),
II,
28I;
Giuseppe Pardi,"Nuove notiziesull'originedella Carboneria ediqualchealtraSociet'a segreta,"Nuova rivistastorica,X(Nov.-Dec.
1926), 471;
Castro,IImondosecreto,VIII,
29.
7
Falcionelli, LessocieWesecretes italiennes,
I5;
Fabietti,ICarbonari,43; Mathiez, "L'originefranc-comtoise de la Charbonnerie talienne,"
55I;
R. M. Johnston,TheNapoleonic EnmpirenSouthern Italyand theRiseofthe Secret Societies
(2
vols., London,
1904),
II, 33.
8
Piero Pieri, Le societa segreteedi moti deglianni
I820-2I
e183I.Con159illustrazionietavolefuori testo
(2d
ed., Milan,
1948), 6o-6I;
ThomasFrost,The SecrietSocietiesoftheEuropeanRevolution, 1776-1876
(2
vols., London, i876), I,
209-Io.
9During his trial in the
I820'S
Piero Maroncelliinformed the AustrianinquisitorsthattheCarbonaribeganinScotlandandwerepropagandizedinEngland. (Mfarcolongo,"Leoriginidella Carboneria," 84.)
10
Angela Valente,GioacchinoMurate l'Italia meridionale(Turin,
1941),
9I;
RenatoSoriga,"Lesocieta segretee imoti delI820aNapoli," Rassegnastorica delRisorgimento,VIII(Fascicolo straordinario,
1921),
154-55
(alsoinSoriga,LeSociet2 segrete, 8o-8I).11Testimonyof Dr.Vasani,asreportedin Anton Edler vonVogelto Count PeterGoess,Venice, Sept.15,i817,ArchiviodiStato,Milan[hereaftercited as AS[Milan] ],Presidenza digoverno. Atti secreti,
I
817,Cart.XVI,ad No.
I
oo63/geh.

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