The State: Its Historic Rdle.
union between citizens. It must abolish all union in the city, abolish
the city itself, abolish all direct union between cities. To the federative
principle it must substitute the principle of submission and discipline.
Submission is its substance. Without this principle it leaves off being
the State : it becomes a federation.
And the sixteenth century—century of carnage and wars—is entirely
summed up in this war waged by the growing States against the cities
and their federations. The towns are besieged, taken by assault, pillaged; their inhabitants are decimated or transported. The State is
victorious all along the line. And the consequences are these.
In the fifteenth century, Europe was covered by rich cities, whose
Artisans, masons, weavers and carvers, produced marvels of art, whose
universities laid the foundations of science, whose caravans travelled
over continents, and whose vessels ploughed rivers and seas.
What was left of them two centuries later ?—Towns that had numbered fifty and a hundred thousand inhabitants and that had possessed
(it was so in Florence) more schools, and, in the communal hospitals,
more beds per inhabitant than are possessed to-day by the towns best
endowed in this respect, had become rotten boroughs. Their inhabitants having been massacred or transported, the State and Church were
seiziug their riches. Industry was fading under the minute tutelage of
State officials. Commerce was dead. The very roads that formerly
united the cities, had become absolutely impracticable in the seventeeth
The State spelt warfare, and wars were devastating Europe and
completing the ruin of those towns, which the State had not yet ruined
direct. But—had not the villages, at least, gained by State centralisation ?—Certainly not!—Read what historians tell us about the style of
living in the rural districts of Scotland, Tuscany, and Germany in the
fourteenth century, and compare their descriptions of that time with
the misery in England at the beginning of 1648, in France under the
" sun-king " Louis XIV, in Germany, in Italy, everywhere after hundred years of State domination.
Misery everywhere. All unanimously recognize it and point it out.
Wherever serfdom had been abolished, it was reconstituted in a hundred different forms; wherever it had not yet been destroyed, it was
shaped, under State protection, into a ferocious institution, bearing all
the characteristics of antique slavery, or even worse.
And could anything else evolve out of this State-produced misery, as
the State's chief anxiety was to annihilate the village community after
the town, to destroy all bonds existing between peasants, to give up