The new kingdom started out with the asset of favorable public opinion. Italian national unity seemed natural and desirable, and it had been achieved with little bloodshed through a mixture of Garibaldian romance and Cavourian realism. The enthusiasm that had brought the Risorgimento to fruition was now in the service of a united Italy.
Yet striking liabilities also impeded the new Italy. The Italians, like the French, were divided between Catholics and anticlericals. Ardent Catholics were deeply embittered by the annexation of the Papal States without papal consent. Italy lacked coal and iron; in terms of modern economic competition, Italy was a “have-not” country.
Much of mountainous central Italy and all southern Italy were marginally productive, with a poverty- stricken, illiterate peasantry and a small but tenacious feudal aristocracy. Neapolitans and Sicilians resented the new political preponderance of northern Italians in the unified kingdom. At least half of Italy lacked experience in self-government. It was also a land of deep-seated class antagonisms, profound mistrust of governments, and fervent localism.
Consequently, united Italy moved very cautiously toward greater democracy. Its constitution remained that granted to Piedmont in 1848 by Charles Albert; it put effective checks on the power of the king by making the from 1862 to 1871, and over the German Empire thereafter until 1890. Yet his efforts could not have succeeded had they not met with general approval from the German people, who had long hungered for unity.