T j6 State : lut Historic Role.
Rheims, Cologne—" the people were its masons " Victor Hugo has said
so well—the treasures of beauty of Florence and Venice, the town halls
of Bremen and Prague, the towers of Nuremberg and Pisa, and so on
ad infinitum ? All these great conquests of art were the product of
Do 3'ou wish to measure the progress of thnt civilization at a glance ?
Compare the Dome of St. Marc in Venice to the rustic arch of the Nor-
mands, Raphael's pictures to the naive embroideries and carpets of
Bayeux, the mathematical and physical instruments and clocks of Nuremberg to the sand clocks of the preceding centuries, Dante's sonorous
language to the barbarous Latin of the tenth century. A new world
has opened up between the two !
Never, with the exception of that other glorious period of ancient
Greece—free cities again—had humanity made such a stride forwards.
Never in two or three centuries, had man undergone so profound a
change nor so extended his power over the forces of nature.
You perhaps may think of the progress of civilisation in our own
century which is ceaselessly boasted of ? But in each of its manifestations it is but the child of the civilization which grew up in the midst
of free communes! All the great discoveries which have made modern
science,—the compass, the clock, the watch, printing, the maritime discoveries, gunpowder, the law of gravitation, the law of atmospheric
pressure, of which the steam-engine is but a development, the rudiments of chemistry, the scientific method already pointed out by Roger
Bacon, and practised in Italian universities,—where does that all come
from, if not from the free cities which developed under the shelter of
communal liberties ?
But }'OU may say perhaps, that I forget the conflicts, the internal
struggles of which the history of these communes is full; the street
tumults, the ferocious battles sustained against the landlords; the insurrections of " young arts " against the " ancient arts " ; the blood that
was shed and the reprisals which took place in these struggles....
1 forget nothing. But, like Leo and Botta, the two historians of
medieval Italy, like Sismondi, like Ferrari, Gino Capponi, and so many
others, I see that these struggles were the guarantee itself of free life
in a free city. I perceive a renewal of and a new flight towards progress after each one of these struggles. After having described these
struggles and conflicts in detail, and after having measured the immensity of progress realized while these struggles stained the streets with
blood, viz : well-being assured to all the inhabitants, and a renovation
of civilization, Leo and Botta concluded by this thought, so true, that
so often comes to my mind :