THE 1860 FACTS
The local situation
Bronte, in that year had a population of just over
inhabitants, many of which were
carrying agricultural or pastoral activities, (this information
comes from the so-called "riveli", that is
self declarations made under oath).
The new English masters, on the territory since
1799, had distorted the previous, precarious, social
equilibrium that had
caused further tension because of
the abolition of the "civic uses", wanted
by the Bourbon Government.
The ducal administrators, like true masters, subdued
the majority of workers, shutting the old paths that
made easier the access to their fields and asking,
with armed guardians, toll rights.
Began cutting down the
woods to make charcoal to be sold to the
people of Bronte and in the same time prohibited
the entry in those woods and in the
others, to whoever used to go there for grazing, to
pick up wood, fruits or wild vegetables.
So, land before open to grazing, were shut down,
cultivated or sown.
The transgressors, caught inside
the feuds by servile guardians, (even from Bronte), at
the Duke' service, practiced the right to whip,
heavily fine, even for the most trivial reasons, (usually for wood picked in the ducal woods), and
In few words, on the poor, disinherited
brontese peasants, the Dukedom exercised
"rights of vassalage" resting on
injustice and vexations.
Communal administrators, born in Bronte, piloted and
devoted to the "foreigners", used the "public authority"
in favor of the
English interest against that of the poor local population.
The common people then were brooding over ancient feelings of vengeance for having been wronged so
much, for the economic stagnation and the constant increasing of prices.
Barely the brontese people hide
their rage and dissatisfaction.
Writes Benedetto Radice, (Nino Bixio at Bronte):
«Were three hundred and fifty years
that Bronte was fighting for its rights, of which the fatal donations of the Pope Innocenzo VII in
1491 and of Ferdinando I in 1799 had deprived it from. Had seen its territory become smaller from day
to day, till complete disappearance for new rights, quibbles and claims…".
"Without saying - continues Leonardo
Sciascia in his book preface -, of the sexual
liberties that the gentlemen
used to take with the people's girls: and enough to
consider that in 1853 there were in Bronte, (on about 10.000 inhabitants), 38
communal wet nurses, to feed the bastards of
the ruota (the wheel)».
The occasion of the social redemption and of the end of so many centuries of injustice was given by the
arrival of Garibaldi in Sicily, by his swift victories over the Bourbons, by the proclaims of
breaking up civic councils, by the decrees regarding the land division and the abolition of the milling tax.
All this gave to the masses the cue to join
in "liberal committees" and try to
shake off, all at once, both the ducal masters and
also the "cappelli the hats"
that taking advantage of their hegemonic role under
the Bourbons, had embezzled state land.
With the breaking up of the Civic Council for dictatorial
decree, in Bronte had been also dismissed the Judge;
therefore the Governor of Catania, following the
usual pressing put on to him through
dispatches from the English General Consul Goodwin,
nominated Municipal President the citizen Sebastiano
Luca and Judge the lawyer Nunzio Cesare,
both of them friendly towards the Dukedom.
Should have kept in the proper count the just
expectations of the Communalists and of the
turbulent people that saw in the lawyer Nicola
Lombardo their chief, dividing the two important
offices in a more impartial way.
Not having been able to resist to the English
pressing, nor to ponder the delicacy of the
situation was a grave political mistake that had to
bring, shortly after, disastrous social repercussions.
In Bronte, unexplainable for the masses,
abolished the milling tax that encumbered
over the poorest, but, above all, was not divided
the land of the Dukedom, given that, fallen the
Bourbon regime in Sicily, everybody believed
would have fallen also the donation made to the
The people, tired of being subjected to further
vexations, identifies in the "cappelli"
the land owners "ducal-Bourbons",
conservatives and oppressors; while who wants to
fight for the interests of the Council and stays
with the people is considered "liberal,
Frustrated aspirations, thirst for revenge, rage and
ancient hatred push the lowest categories to extreme
consequences, and the 31st of July arrives the irreparable, even if the prudence and the
intervention of liberal citizen (among which
the same Nicolo Lombardo), try to restrain
the dreadful impetuosity of the people.