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.
The most successful feature of Crispis term of office was his strict maintenance of Order and the suppression of Radical and Irredentist agitation.
The unrest in Macedonia threatened to reopen the Eastern Question in an acute form; with Italy the irredentist attitude of the Zanardelli cabinet led in 1902-1903 to such strained relations that war seemed imminent.
The former at Pavia (15th October I 2878), and the latter at Arco (3rd November), declared publicly that Irredentist manifestations could not be prevented under existing laws, but gave no hint of introducing any law to sanction their prevention.
Minister of public works in the first Depretis cabinet of 1876, and minister of the interior in the Cairoli cabinet of 1878, he in the latter capacity drafted the franchise reform, but created dissatisfaction by the indecision of his administrative acts, particularly in regard to the Irredentist agitation, and by his theory of repressing and not in any way preventing crime, which led for a time to a perfect epidemic of murders.
After his marriage with the countess Elena Sizzo of Trent, he permitted the Irredentist agitation to carry the country to the verge of a.
Robilants opposition to a precipitate acceptance of the Austrian hint was founded upon fear lest King Humbert at Vienna might be pressed to disavow Irredentist aspirations, and upon a desire to arrange for a visit of the emperor Francis Joseph to Rome in return for King Humberts visit to Vienna.
The Irredentist agitation had left profound traces at Berlin as well as at Vienna, and had given rise to a distrust of Depretis which nothing had yet occurred to allay.
Austria, indeed, might easily have been persuaded to ignore the Irredentist agitation, had not the equivocal attitude of Cairoli and Zanardelli cast doubt upon the sincerity of their regret.
A rapprochement with France and a continuance of the Irredentist movement could not fail to arouse Austro-German hostility; but, on the other hand, to draw near to the central powers would inevitably accentuate the diffidence of France.