On This Day in Napoleonic History – 16 May 1976

26Napoleon declares the creation of Lombardic Republic

Although the majority of Italians were delighted their Austrian oppressor had been expelled, they felt no real loyalty towards its French replacement. The educated elites, however, were happy to see French Revolutionary ideals impacting Italian politics and society. Unlike Catholic peasantry, they saw Napoleon as a liberator.

At the time, Italy didn’t constitute a nation. As Metternich would later say, it was ’no more than a geographical expression.’ By establishing the Republic, Napoleon encouraged the hopes of an independent nation-state and kindled the sparks of Italian nationalism. Despite his demands for contributions, Italian nationalists had no choice but to place their trust in Napoleon.

The Republic was to be governed by the Italian pro-French Jacobins. Austrian governing institutions were abolished, together with feudal privileges. Napoleon’s other reforms included the establishment of national guard, abolition of internal tariffs which helped boost economic development and financial restructuring aimed at bringing down state debt. Napoleon also ended the restrictive guild system, imposed religious toleration, closed the ghettos and allowed freedom of movement to the Jews. The progressive middle class applauded the changes and there was no mass rebellion against Napoleonic rule in Italy.

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