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Agostino Depretis (January 31, 1813 – July 29, 1887) was an Italianmarker statesman.


Depretis was born at Mezzana Corte, near Stradellamarker, in the province of Pavia (Lombardy).

From early manhood a disciple of Giuseppe Mazzini and affiliated with the La Giovine Italia, he took an active part in the Mazzinian conspiracies and was nearly captured by the Austriansmarker while smuggling arms into Milanmarker. Elected deputy in 1848, he joined the Left and founded the journal Il Diritto, but held no official position until appointed governor of Bresciamarker in 1859. In 1860 he went to Sicily on a mission to reconcile the policy of Cavour (who desired the immediate incorporation of the island in the kingdom of Italy) with that of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who wished to postpone the Sicilian plebiscite until after the liberation of Naplesmarker and Romemarker.

Though appointed pro-dictator of Sicily by Garibaldi, he failed in his attempt. Accepting the portfolio of public works in Urbano Rattazzi's cabinet, in 1862, he served as intermediary in arranging with Garibaldi the expedition that ended disastrously at Aspromonte. Four years later, on the outbreak of war against Austriamarker, he entered the Ricasoli cabinet as minister of navy, and he insisted with admiral Carlo Persano in the attack to the island of Lissamarker as a revenge for the Italian defeat of Custozamarker, in this occasion he also refused to give to admiral Persano detailed order about the expedition in the Adriatic Seamarker against the fleet led by Wilhelm von Tegetthoff. His apologists contend, however, that, as an inexperienced civilian, he could not have made sudden changes in naval arrangements without disorganizing the fleet, and that in view of the impending hostilities he was obliged to accept the dispositions of his predecessors.

Upon the death of Rattazzi in 1873, Depretis became leader of the Left, prepared the advent of his party to power, and was called upon to form the first cabinet of the Left in 1876. Overthrown by Benedetto Cairoli in March 1878 on the grist-tax question, he succeeded, in the following December, in defeating Cairoli, became again premier, but on July 3, 1879 was once more overturned by Cairoli. In November 1879 he, however, entered the Cairoli cabinet as minister of the interior, and in May 1881 succeeded to the premiership, retaining that office until his death.

During the long interval he recomposed his cabinet four times, first throwing out Giuseppe Zanardelli and Alfredo Baccarini in order to please the Right, and subsequently bestowing portfolios upon Cesare Ricotti-Magnani, Robilant and other Conservatives, so as to complete the political process known as trasformismo. A few weeks before his death he repented of his transformist policy, and again included Francesco Crispi and Zanardelli in his cabinet.

During his long term of office he abolished the grist tax, extended suffrage, completed the railway system, aided Mancini in forming the Triple Alliance, and initiated colonial policy by the occupation of Massawamarker; but, at the same time, he vastly increased indirect taxation, corrupted and destroyed the fibre of parliamentary parties, and, by extravagance in public works, impaired the stability of Italian finance.

Depretis and Conte di Cavour, Italy's first prime minister, are the only Italian prime ministers who died at office.


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