Crispi, Francesco

Crispi, Francesco fränchāsˈkō krēsˈpē [key], 1819–1901, Italian premier (1887–91, 1893–96), b. Sicily. After participation in the Sicilian revolt of 1848 against the repressive rule of Ferdinand II of Sicily, he went into exile to Piedmont, then to Malta and England, where he met Mazzini, and to France. He returned to Italy and joined Garibaldi in his expedition to Sicily, which resulted in the proclamation of the kingdom of Italy (1861). A deputy to the Italian parliament from 1861, he was at first a republican, but later became an outspoken monarchist. In a letter to Mazzini he declared, “The monarchy unites us; the republic would divide us.” He became minister of the interior (1877–78) in the Depretis cabinet. A charge of bigamy hindered his political career for the next nine years, but he returned to the Depretis cabinet in 1887 and became premier upon Depretis's death. He strengthened Italy's commitment to the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but thereby helped cause Italian relations with France to deteriorate still further, leading to a tariff war between the two countries from 1888 to 1892. He also pressed a forward policy in NE Africa and organized the colony of Eritrea. He was overthrown in 1891 by the Giolitti, but returned to power in 1893 when bank scandals and the labor crisis in Sicily led to demands that a strong person assume office. He was reelected by a huge majority in 1895. However, resentment over his reactionary policies and, above all, the terrible defeat that Italian forces seeking to expand into Ethiopia suffered at Adwa (1896) soon forced him from office. Colorful, controversial, and intensely patriotic, his attacks on Italian liberalism have led him to be seen by some as a precursor to Mussolini.

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