When in 1876 the Left came into power, Cairoli, then a deputy of sixteen years' standing, became parliamentary leader of his party, and, after the fall of Depretis, Nicotera and Crispi, formed his first cabinet in March 1878 with a Francophil and Irredentist policy.
Since the war of i866 the Left had advocated an ItaloPrussian alliance in opposition to the Francophil the Left, tendencies of the Right.
The irritation displayed by Bismarck at the Francophil attitude of Italy towards the end of the Franco-German War gave place to a certain show of goodwill when the great chancellor found himself in his turn involved in a struggle against the Vatican and when the policy of Thiers began to strain Franco-Italian relations.
Politically he was a pupil of Alexis Bestuzhev; consequently, when in the middle 'fifties Russia suddenly turned Francophil instead of Francophobe, Panin's position became extremely difficult.
At the same time he mitigated the Francophil tendencies of some of his colleagues, accompanied King Humbert and Queen Margherita on their visit to Homburg in September 1897, and, by loyal observance of the spirit of the triple alliance, retained for Italy the confidence of her allies without forfeiting the goodwill of France.
But the murdered patriarch was succeeded by his no less Francophil nephew Fortunatus, a strong partisan, a restless and indomitable man, who along with Obelerio of Malamocco now assumed the lead of the democratic party.
The Byzantine Doge Giovanni Galbaio attacked Grado, the see of the Francophil Patriarch Giovanni, captured it, and flung the bishop from the tower of his palace.
But on 9th November the European situation was suddenly modified by the formation of the Gambetta cabinet, and, in view of the policy of revenge with which Gambetta was supposed to be identified, it became imperative for Bismarck to assure himself that Italy would not be enticed into a Francophil attitude by any concession Gambetta might offer.