Giuseppe Mazzini (Italian pronunciation: ; 22 June 1805 – 10 March 1872) was an Italian politician, journalist, activist for the unification of Italy, and spearhead of the Italian revolutionary movement. His efforts helped bring about the independent and unified Italy in place of the several separate states, many dominated by foreign powers, that existed until the 19th century. He also helped define the modern European movement for popular democracy in a republican state.
Mazzini's thoughts had a very considerable influence on the Italian and European republican movements, in the Constitution of Italy, about Europeanism, and, more nuanced, on many politicians of a later period: among them, men like U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, but also post-colonial leaders such as Gandhi, Savarkar, Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sun Yat-sen.
Mazzini was born in Genoa, then part of the Ligurian Republic, under the rule of the French Empire. His father, Giacomo Mazzini, originally from Chiavari, was a university professor who had adhered to Jacobin ideology; his mother, Maria Drago, was renowned for her beauty and religious (Jansenist) fervour. From a very early age, Mazzini showed good learning qualities (as well as a precocious interest in politics and literature). He was admitted to university at 14, graduating in law in 1826, and initially practiced as a "poor man's lawyer". Mazzini also hoped to become a historical novelist or a dramatist, and in the same year wrote his first essay, Dell'amor patrio di Dante ("On Dante's Patriotic Love"), published in 1837. In 1828–29 he collaborated with a Genoese newspaper, L'indicatore genovese, which was however soon closed by the Piedmontese authorities. He then became one of the leading authors of L'Indicatore Livornese, published at Livorno by F. D. Guerrazzi, until this paper was closed down by the authorities, too.
In 1827 Mazzini travelled to Tuscany, where he became a member of the Carbonari, a secret association with political purposes. On 31 October of that year he was arrested at Genoa and interned at Savona. In early 1831, he was released from prison, but confined to a small hamlet. He chose exile instead, moving to Geneva in Switzerland.
In 1831 Mazzini went to Marseille, where he became a popular figure among the Italian exiles. He was a frequent visitor to the apartment of Giuditta Bellerio Sidoli, a beautiful Modenese widow who became his lover. In August 1832 Giuditta Sidoli gave birth to a boy, almost certainly Mazzini's son, whom she named Joseph Démosthène Adolpe Aristide after members of the family of Démosthène Ollivier, with whom Mazzini was staying. The Olliviers took care of the child in June 1833 when Giuditta and Mazzini left for Switzerland. The child died in February 1835.
Mazzini organized a new political society called Young Italy. Young Italy was a secret society formed to promote Italian unification: "One, free, independent, republican nation." Mazzini believed that a popular uprising would create a unified Italy, and would touch off a European-wide revolutionary movement. The group's motto was God and the People, and its basic principle was the unification of the several states and kingdoms of the peninsula into a single republic as the only true foundation of Italian liberty. The new nation had to be: "One, Independent, Free Republic".
Mazzini's political activism met some success in Tuscany, Abruzzi, Sicily, Piedmont, and his native Liguria, especially among several military officers. Young Italy counted about 60,000 adherents in 1833, with branches in Genoa and other cities. In that year Mazzini first attempted insurrection, which would spread from Chambéry (then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia), Alessandria, Turin, and Genoa. However, the Savoy government discovered the plot before it could begin and many revolutionaries (including Vincenzo Gioberti) were arrested. The repression was ruthless: 12 participants were executed, while Mazzini's best friend and director of the Genoese section of the Giovine Italia, Jacopo Ruffini, killed himself. Mazzini was tried in absentia and sentenced to death.