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By Ashley Montagu

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Only after a ‘very long period of time’ would national wealth be high enough and the administrative structures be efficient enough for this additional tax to be introduced properly. 51 In his youth, Cavour had expressed enthusiasm for the rather unconventional idea that a truly good government would 28 Italy’s Social Revolution exempt food and necessities from tax so that the poorest could afford to feed their families. 52 It seems that the realities of power caused Cavour’s early reformist zeal to diminish somewhat.

Utterly fascinated by railways, he believed that they would become the most effective modernizing, nationalizing, and moraliz- Reform and the Risorgimento 33 ing force for Italy. 69 But the construction of an industrial infrastructure did not come cheaply, so many social problems simply went by the wayside during the Risorgimento. For all his attention to the problem of legal charity, Cavour did very little to improve the system which he inherited. Since the eighteenth century, rulers had been tinkering with the administrative framework of opere pie.

For Cavour, an essential function of the state was to promote social modernization through secularization. From as early as 1839 Cavour gave his unstinting support to attempts to secularize elementary schools in Piedmont. He defended his decision to do so by arguing that religious instruction really was the worst of all tyrannies administered to young minds. Church-controlled education was wholly incompatible with the needs of modern society and should be supplanted by a system of public schools.

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