Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 October 2009
The Neapolitan republic lasted only six months, from January to June 1799, and its failure ended any hope of introducing the political culture of the French Revolution into the south of Italy. The victory of Cardinal Ruffo's armed bands was followed by repression. Many patriots were condemned to death, an even greater number were forced into exile in France. There they met the Roman and Cisalpine exiles, also obliged to seek refuge in France after the fall of the other Jacobin republics in Italy. Together, they strongly opposed the disastrous foreign policy of the Directory, which had lost France both Naples and Italy. This contributed to the growth of the democratic movement in France, but also aided Bonaparte's coup d'état. On the other hand, many Italian patriot refugees in France supported Bonaparte's action. Italy's ‘liberator’ might have broken up the revolutionary councils and destroyed the constitution of Year III, but the young general had also taken care to present himself as the heir of the revolutionary tradition in opposition to a weak and corrupt régime, which was responsible for, among other things, the loss of the ‘sister republics’. Thus Bonaparte, waving the banner of Italian liberty and reintroducing universal suffrage into the constitution of Year VIII, retained the support of many Italian patriots, who greeted him with enthusiasm when he translated words into actions and, after his victory at Marengo in May 1800, formally proclaimed in Milan the restoration of the Cisalpine republic.