Only not freedom

By | 26th November 2011

Italy is supposed at present to mantain a larger number of inhabitants than in the days of Trajan or in the best and most prosperous of the Roman Empire. With the single exception of the ecclesiastic state, the whole country is cultivated like a garden. You may find there every gift of God – only not freedom. It is a country, rich in the proudest records of liberty, illustrious with the names of heroes, statesmen, legislators, philosophers. It hath history all alive with the virtues and crimes of hostile parties, when the glories and the struggles of ancient Greece were acted over again in the proud republics of Venice, Genoa and Florence. The life of every eminent citizen was in constant hazard from the furious factions of their native city, and yet life had no charm out of its dear and honored walls. All the splendors of the hospitable palace, and the favor of princes, could not soothe the pining of Dante or Machiavel, exiles frome their free, their beautiful Florence. But not a pulse of liberty survives. It was the profound policy of the Austrian and the Spanish courts, by every possible means to degrade the profession of trade; and even in Pisa and Florence themselves to introduce the feudal pride and prejudice of less happy, less enlightened countries. Agriculture, meanwhile, with its attendant population and plenty, was cultivated with increasing success; but from the Alps to the Straits of Messina, the Italians are slaves. (Samuel Taylor Colerdige, On the Constitution of the Church and State, 1826)

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