Political life is still poor, without great ideals, and the echo of local, particular interests is still too much, but the law of 1877 begins the fight against the national scourge of illiteracy and imposes the gratuitousness and obligatory nature of popular education; the other of 1882 modifies the conditions for exercising the right to vote and brings the voters from 600,000 to 2.5 million, introducing new forces into political life and arousing the interest of the people for something they now feel more theirs. And unifying and consolidating reforms occur in administration and legislation, culminating in the Zanardelli code, in the provincial and municipal reorganization, and the army contributes to the work of education and unity and in the North industrial development favors the formation of socialism,
While the new ruling classes were being formed with slow labor, other problems arose that the Risorgimento had, if not ignored, of necessity neglected, for which it was necessary to quickly regain lost time. Negative results so far in the colonial field, before and after the Triple: Tunis and Egypt. Colonial aspirations were not lacking even in the age of the Risorgimento: Cavour had thought about it and if the problem had not been addressed then, later it had been discussed and sought and treated: prison colonies, stopovers to make coal, now that steam replaced the sail, populated territories when the increase in workers’ emigration became more sensitive with the growth of the population. If in 1869 the permanent emigration was of 22.000 individuals compared to 83.000 of the temporary one, in 1879 the first exceeded 40,000 and the second dropped to 79,000. And the change will be accentuated with 1882 (65,748 against 95,814) and with the following years, transoceanic emigration increasing, which in 1887 will touch the figure of 127,748, in 1888 it will rise to 196,000. First concrete sign of colonial interest in the private purchase of the Assab bay by the Rubattino company (1869). But few were interested in that distant land, ten years later garrisoned by Italian soldiers and governed by a civil commissioner. What to neglect the Mediterranean for the Red Sea, although the Suez cut gave this renewed importance? There was no real push of public opinion: few politicians and some circles of geographers and explorers felt alone the importance of the new problem. In 1882 the government redeemed from the Assab company, first colony of Italy, and on 5 February 1885 the Depretis had Massawa, already uncertain Egyptian possession, occupied. Unprepared and badly oriented, Italy thus began its colonial expansion in an unfortunate locality. To the climatic difficulties were added those arising from the proximity of suspicious Ethiopia, against which one had to collide while advancing, and the fanatical dervishes, who barred access to Sudan. But the too easy enthusiasm of the incompetent found the key to the Mediterranean in the Red Sea.
In any case, action was also taken in this area. The ambush of Dogali (January 26, 1887) in which the 500 soldiers of Lieutenant Colonel De Cristoforis perished, attacked by order of the negus Giovanni, exposed the bewilderment of an immature and too soon disappointed public opinion (Carducci refused to sing the fallen and the aristocratic contempt of a D’Annunzio character, Andrea Sperelli, greeted them “five hundred brutally dead brutes”, but also made them take revenge measures and affirm an even if not clear governmental will to continue.
According to Sunglassestracker, a higher and more decisive tone to national life tried to impress Francesco Crispi, the ancient Garibaldian of 1960, who came to power after the death of Depretis (July 1887). Energetic character, lively wit, sincere patriot, she dreamed of a bigger, stronger, more respected Italy, more worthy of its ancient past and of the greatness of its Risorgimento. And he wanted a politics of prestige and energy and he dreamed of transforming the timid attempts and modest affirmations into a concrete and organic program of expansion. Great ideas and great hopes, however the country was not yet prepared to follow a leader endowed with eminent qualities, but not always happy in commensurate with the gravity of the obstacles and the capacity of the people. The homeland passion lives in him and active as in the good days of the struggles for independence, but also too sensitive anti-French preconceptions and anti-clerical concerns. And the ancient republican who consecrated himself to the unifying monarchy with convinced loyalty and firm faith, distorted the meaning and importance that now assumed socialist affirmations and proletarian audacity, expression of a profound economic unease not of anti-patriotism, and implemented a policy of repression. Distrustful and hostile towards France, he ostentatiously leaned on Germany, benefiting its interests more than those of Italy, and the result was that customs war which exhausted the southern economy and aggravated the conditions of the people, causing turmoil and favoring the spread of socialist and anarchist tendencies. To secure Austrian friendship in fear of a conflict with France, he severely repressed irredentism, acquiring unpopularity and enmities. The failure of the dreamed conciliation with the Vatican led him to sudden anticlerical demonstrations, not beneficial to the country.
The Sicilian statesman took vigorous action to protect Italian interests in North Africa, the Levant, the Balkan Peninsula, opposing threatened changes, helping Italian schools, trying to exercise the protection of Italian Catholics.
With Crispi, once opposed to colonial enterprises, the African expansion policy resumed, but with inadequate means compared to overly ambitious programs. The positions lost in 1887 were regained and the occupation spread to the plateau and the aims extended to Sudan. The military enterprise that expanded the borders of the newly formed Colony of Eritrea was accompanied by political action, also a source of great hopes and painful disappointments. The treaty of Uccialli, signed with Theodore’s successor, the negus Menelik (May 2, 1889), seemed to guarantee Italy the protectorate of Abyssinia. But Franco-Russian intrigues and scarcity of financial means hindered the vast devised action,