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When the Roman Empire fell, Italy, helpless and demoralized, was at the mercy of the destroyers. The barbarians took her cities and beat down their walls; they possessed her wealth; they overran and desolated her fertile plains. The Goths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Germans by turns exercised their fierce pleasure over her. She was the unresisting prey of the victor. The timid and defenceless communities which survived the shock of constant invasion purchased freedom from fresh assault if they were able, or meekly endured it if they were not. No prostration could be more complete than that of the Italians during four centuries after the overthrow of Rome.

Towards the close of the tenth century the dawn of a better time becomes visible. The Italian cities were moved by a desire to restore the defences which the jealousy of their conquerors had forbidden. They began to surround themselves with massive walls, to dig moats deep and wide, to erect strong forts, to manufacture or purchase arms. When these things were done, the cities rose quickly out of their degradation. They were no longer mere assemblages of unarmed and spiritless men waiting to be plundered at the convenience of an avaricious noble or gang of roving barbarians. With arms in their hands, and strong walls which they were now able to defend, they breathed the spirit of men free and self-governing, caring for the favour of none. Their wealth and numbers grew apace.

The inhabitants of the country, who held life and property at the pleasure of oppressive nobles, sought the sweet security of the neighbouring city. These welcome immigrants added to the wealth and power of the communities which sheltered them. The advantages offered by the cities compelled the nobles to ameliorate the condition of the peasantry. Thus encouraged, agriculture made important progress, and the rural population largely increased its numbers.

During three centuries Italy enjoyed a life beside which that of other European nations was barbarous and miserable. Her land-owners strove by copious irrigation to increase the productiveness of the soil. Her peasantry were affluent and contented. The agriculture of Lombardy and Tuscany was deemed a model for the world. In the cities abundant capital gave life to all industries. The manufacture of silk was prosperously established. The citizens learned the art of manufacturing writing-paper from rags. They made glass for mirrors. They practised the art of engraving. A widely extended foreign commerce yielded them vast wealth. The costly products of the distant East traversed on camels the dreary wastes winch lie between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and were then shipped for Venice. Italian merchants had possessed themselves of this lucrative traffic, and enjoyed the enormous gains of the commerce which Europe carried on with Asia. When the crusading mania prevailed, Venice found profitable employment for her shipping in transporting the persons and stores of the devout warriors. Venice, Pisa, and Genoa owned ships which outnumbered those of all the other states of Christendom. The cities of Italy had become the grand commercial and maritime powers of the world, and wielded an influence which had then no parallel.

While London and Paris were little more than groups of mud cabins, the cities of Italy possessed buildings to which men still make pilgrimages - on which they still gaze with wonder and admiration. Noble bridges spanned their rivers. Their streets were admirably paved centuries before the streets of other European cities were anything better than muddy paths. Churches and palaces unequalled in beauty even now, canals which England began to rival only a century ago, quays massive and enduring, attest the supremacy of the Italians in engineering and architecture. In painting, in sculpture, in literature they were no less eminent. Withal the manners of the people were simple, their tastes were inexpensive, their spirit was high and bold. Italy in the ancient time had given law to the world. Once more she filled the highest place, and offered to the barbarous nations of Europe a marvellous example of enlightenment and progress.

So many independent, prosperous, and well-armed republics could not long exist side by side in peace. The larger cities compelled their weaker sisters to enter into alliances, with the natural result that the strong ultimately ruled and absorbed the weak. Venice, Genoa, Milan, Pa via each commanded the allegiance of many smaller cities, and became each the head of a strong republic. Quarrels springing out of obscure jealousies broke out among the rival states. Often they suffered themselves to be drawn into the quarrels of others. In the twelfth century the pope and the emperor fought about the right to create bishops, and the Italians ranged themselves on this side and on that of the idle strife.

In their numerous wars the citizens lay under the fatal disadvantage of being without cavalry. The horse was the soul of medieval battle. The stout men-at-arms of the Italian cities, having no adequate force of horsemen in their ranks, were unable to stand in battle before the knights who came against them. Out of this inferiority there sprang perilous alliances with nobles who could bring cavalry into the field. During the fourteenth century the Italian cities sought and obtained the support of such dignitaries, who helped them in their wars; who built and strongly fortified residences within their walls; who surrounded themselves with mercenary soldiers; who possessed themselves lawlessly of the resources of the state, and gradually disarmed the people. The foundations of absolute sovereignty were laid. The fall of Italy had begun. In the fifteenth century the easier route to India by the Cape of Good Hope was discovered. The Italian seaports lost their enriching Eastern trade.* The cities began to decay; the unarmed citizens lost their boldness of spirit. The neighbouring powers began to take a deadly interest in the concerns of the peninsula, and Italy became once more the battle-ground of ambitious monarchs. The Germans, the French, the Spaniards, each fastened their demands upon the fair and defenceless land. The Swiss looked from their hills upon fertile plains and opulent cities which offered a sure reward to the soldier of fortune. The Turks, driven by the wild impulse which made them at that time a terror to Europe, inflicted their abhorred and desolating presence upon Italy. For three centuries Italy was trodden down by foreign spoilers. These were centuries of weakness, of humiliation, of shame. The people had lost their aptitude for war, and were given over to the will of despots. But they never lost their love of liberty. During those ages, the memory of which is a degradation, the desire to take rank as an independent nation still lingered in the minds of the Italian people. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who rendered possible the fulfilment of this desire. "When Napoleon first crossed the Alps to enter upon his marvellous career, he found the Austrians in possession of Lombardy. He found one of the Spanish Bourbons on the throne of Naples. The pope governed considerable territories. The remainder of Italy was parcelled out into five republics and several duchies. The ancient glories of Italy

During the last few years Italy has begun to regain a portion of the traffic which was alienated from her when the route by the Cape was adopted. The opening of the Suez Canal is drawing the traffic of the East with Europe back into the channel by which it flowed in the Middle Ages. For four centuries English Ships, sailing by the Cape, have carried Eastern products home to England, making London the great trading centre of the two continents. Now, once more, these products come by the Bed Sea and the Mediterranean; and Italian seaports are beginning to intercept, as they did of old, the gainful traffic which Europe maintain with Asia, impressed deeply the imagination of the youthful conqueror, and the Italian blood which flowed in his own veins naturally quickened his interest in the concerns of this unhappy land. Even then he thought of her unity and freedom. And long afterwards, at St. Helena, when his feverish dream of universal sovereignty had passed away, he loved to argue that the unity of Italy in manners, in language, and in literature established her claim to unity of government. He himself went far towards gaining for her this coveted unity. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy. He emptied every Italian throne. He united nearly six million Italians into a republic, raising them at once to the dignity of free and self-governing citizens. He united to France an equal number of Piedmontese, Genoese, Tuscans, and Romans. Pie bestowed on seven million Neapolitans a government greatly more free than they had ever known before. He established for all a code of laws, enlightened and just. Pie held out hopes of a union yet wider than that which he had been able to form - of a union which would embrace the whole Italian family.

The restoration of Italy seemed ready to be accomplished. It was indeed now rendered inevitable, but many years had first to pass and much patriot blood to flow. Napoleon fell. The Congress of Vienna cancelled his regeneration of Italy, and reimposed the old separations - the old and hateful despotisms. Italy was again, in the language of Prince Metternich, nothing more than a geographical expression. But Italy had tasted the sweetness of freedom arid union. She could never more know rest till these blessings were permanently assured to her.

Borne down by the strength of the tyrant monarchs, the Italians seemed to submit without resistance to their fate. But they took measures which pointed to the coming of a happier time. They enrolled themselves as members of secret societies in which the love of unity and representative government was kept in vigorous life, In the cities, and especially among the educated classes, this movement quickly assumed an aspect of commanding importance. Seven hundred thousand of the most intelligent and patriotic Italians formed the membership of these unseen organizations (The most powerful of these societies was that of the Carbonari. The views of this association were set forth (1820) in a remonstrance addressed to the pope, and admirable for the enlightenment and elevation of its tone. "The Society of the Carbonari breathes only the religion of Jesus Christ. It preserves that respect for sovereignty which the apostle requires from Christians; it loves the sovereign; it preserves the state; but it supports democracy, which, instead of attacking monarchy, forms that happy addition which endears it to the nation." The associated despots, regarding these principles as inconsistent with orderly government, spared no effort for their suppression).

The revolution in Spain furnished an early occasion to test the vitality of the patriot sentiment. In Naples and Piedmont successful insurrections established for a few days universal suffrage and representative government. But the allied despots could not permit such irregularities. Austria, Russia, and Prussia met in solemn deliberation over the crime of men who sought to govern themselves. England wisely held aloof. France maintained a neutrality which the liberals stigmatized as a real though concealed support of despotism. The Emperor Alexander, more liberal than his royal brothers, considered that the spirit of the age demanded liberal institutions. These, however, must come voluntarily from the gracious hand of the sovereign. As the privileges seized by the Italians enjoyed no such origin, it was indispensable to the security of monarchs that they should be forcibly withdrawn (The sovereigns of the Holy Alliance claimed "an incontestable right" to take common measures against any state whose people had risen against their rulers. No matter how vile and insufferable the misgovernment might have been, the great despots would uphold it against the discontent of a suffering nation). An Austrian army entered Italy. The patriots, ill prepared for war, were swept almost unresistingly away, and despotism for a little longer reigned supreme.

More than a quarter of a century passed, and order almost unbroken prevailed in Italy (The only considerable exception was the abortive rising in 1831 against the government of the pope). Austria maintained in Lombardy and Venetia a dull, changeless, leaden despotism, abhorred more on account of its foreign origin than its active cruelty. King Ferdinand of Naples, obeying his Bourbon instinct, despoiled the goods of his unfortunate subjects, and tortured their persons, according to his own evil pleasure. Pope Gregory, guiding himself by the traditions of the Vatican, was watchful to suppress human thought, and preserve untarnished the loyalty of his people by preserving uninvaded their profound ignorance. Italy was dumb. Her leaders had perished on the scaffold or been chased into exile. Nothing, it seemed, was left to her but submission to the tyrants into whose power her hard fate had cast her. But all the while opinion was steadily ripening towards freedom. Numerous political organizations fanned the rising flame. Severed as they were and oppressed, the Italians knew that they were silently growing into a nation able to vindicate its unity and independence.

France gave the signal which called the Italians to a fresh effort. In 1848, when France once more cast out her king, and the revolutionary flame burst forth also in Vienna and Berlin, the Italians deemed that their hour of deliverance had struck. Driven by an impulse passionate and irrepressible, all Italy rushed to arms. The welcome news called back from exile men who had scarcely hoped to see their country again. From all European cities they came where banished men were allowed a home. Mazzini hastened from London; Garibaldi sailed from Monte Video, to attempt, not yet successfully, the marvellous work of deliverance which was reserved for his later years. Gray-haired soldiers, who had spent their blighted years in poverty and obscure toil, stood once more 011 Italian ground, side by side with the eager students of Pisa, the resolute burghers of Genoa and Leghorn, the Romans not unworthy to bear a name so renowned. All were full of hope that their efforts would be crowned with the glory of a rescued Italy. All offered their lives gladly in her cause.

The grand aim of this national uprising was to expel the Austrians, and thereafter to assert the national life and unity, under the guidance of any Italian prince who might worthily assume the sacred task. Pius IX., who had recently become pope, had given some unexpected evidences of a sympathy with the popular desire. During some moments of happy delusion the Italians dreamed of a Papacy inspired by human sympathies assuming the guidance of a restored national life. Had it been possible for Pio Nono to fulfil the fond predictions of an enthusiastic people, he would have become the object of such love and devotion as never before had been kindled in the Italian heart. But the influences which bear rule in the Vatican are necessarily and inexorably hostile to popular claims. His holiness, quickly repenting the short-lived weakness, sought the congenial refuge of despotic alliance. He had permitted a body of Roman, volunteers to join the patriot ranks. He now withdrew his permission, and commanded his subjects to detach themselves from an enterprise which no longer enjoyed the favour of Heaven. He was the minister of a God of peace; he was the impartial father of every member of the Christian family; he could give no sanction to the shedding of Christian blood. The rage of the disappointed people knew no bounds. Papal influence over the Italians was henceforth a comparatively feeble thing.

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