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The independence of foreign power was no sooner secured, than the liberties of the several members of the league were exposed to new dangers from internal revolutions. The remainder of the century presents a picture of political divisions, of more or less interest, in almost every city of Lombardy; in some the struggle between the power of the nobility and of the people; in others a more ignoble strife between different powerful families for the ascendancy over their respective communities. The names of Guelph and Gibelin were now universally assumed by the factions of every city, however remote in their origin from any connection with the feuds of the empire. The first of these appellations became, in general, the badge of popular spirit, while the nobility, for the most part, assumed the latter distinction.

The free states of Lombardy were still numerous and powerful enough, in the middle of the thirteenth century, to form a league, in imitation of their ancestors, against the second Frederick. But M. Sismondi justly remarks the wide difference observable between the origin and conduct of this new confederacy and of that which presented the magnificent spectacle already witnessed. They were now united by republican arrogance, and an unworthy superstition, in support of the profligate encroachments of Rome, for the overthrow of a legitimate power, from which they had at least no immediate dangers to apprehend, and which was sustained by the most virtuous and enlightened sovereign that had hitherto filled the throne of Charlemagne. This combination was unhappily too successful; and its efforts terminated in the downfal, it is true, of the house of Swabia, but a little more remotely in the extinction of Lombard independence. The immediate causes of the last mentioned event may be found in the increasing and sanguinary animosity of the internal factions of every city, in the decay of public virtue, the prevalence of commercial habits, and, above all, in the baneful practice, introduced towards the conclusion of this century, of committing the defence of cities, not to the valour of its inhabitants, but to the military skill of mercenaries trained to the art of war. Milan fell, about the year 1260, under the dominion of Martin della Torre, one of her most powerful and enterprizing citizens. The spirit of ancient liberty still burst forth at intervals, during the contentions between the rival families of La Torre and Visconti, till the end of the century; but the fortunes of the latter at length prevailed; and, from that period, the government of Milan becomes no longer an object of interest to the historian of the republics of Italy, any farther than as it was converted, from being the bulwark of the national liberties, into the most formidable enemy of that independence which it was now the lot of a far more illustrious people to assert and defend.

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Florence,

Florence, though already a rich and populous city, had concerned herself but little in the general interests of Italy before the revolution which, in 1250, established the popular government and the ascendancy of the Guelph faction within her walls. She now organized her military force, and, in the design of preserving the liberty which she had asserted, united most of the Tuscan cities, partly by conquest, partly by persuasion, in a general league against the Gibelins. This early period of her military aunals is distinguished by a disinterested spirit of generosity, which she continued still to display at a much later period. She aimed at nothing less than the selfish objects of territorial aggrandizements, and, in the instance of the people of Arezzo, whose city had been betrayed by its governor into her hands, displayed the real magnanimity of her character, in not only refusing to profit by the treason, but even aiding the inhabitants to recover their independence and expel the traitor. M. Sismondi contrasts this noble conduct with that of the Spartan aristocracy on a similar occasion. The fortress of Cadmea was won by one of their generals, much in the same manner as that of Arezzo, by treasonable correspondence. The Ephori condemned their general, but-retained their conquest.

The famous battle of the Arbia, which took place on the 4th of September, 1260, and, for a time, replaced the Gibelin exiles in the government of which they had been dispossessed, was not less important in its consequences to the republic, than it is interesting, even to our own age, from the associations which will for ever accompany it.

"Ce sont ici précisément les temps héroïques de l'histoire de l'Italie, et ceux qui resteront à jamais unis à ses souvenirs poétiques. Le Dante, son premier poéte et son plus noble génie, naquit cinq ans après la déroute de l'Arbia; il place sa descente aux enfers, quarante ans après l'époque dont nous écrivons l'histoire; la génération de ses pères est celle qu'il rencontre dans l'autre monde, et à laquelle il distribue la louange ou le blâme. Nous avons dit que Bocca des Abbati, le traître qui renversa l'enseigne florentine, fut un de ceux qu'il vit plongés auprès du comte Ugolino, dans les glaces éternelles du dernier cercle de l'enfer. C'est aussi dans les enfers qu'il rencontre Farinata: l'attachement à la maison de Souabe; l'inimitié des papes, et le mépris pour leurs excommunications, l'avoient entrainé dans l'hérésie. Dans une plaine, qui de toutes parts vomissoit des flammes, des sépulcres s'élevoient de place en place, tels que d'horribles chaudières qu'un feu ardent rougissoit à perpétuité: ils étoient ouverts; mais la pierre qui devoit les fermer, étoit suspendue au dessus d'eux. Des soupirs et des cris lamentables sortoient de ces arches infernales.' Tom. iii. p. 248.

We forbear to quote the animated paraphrase which our author gives of this celebrated passage, and only refer the reader to the original, (Inferno, c. x, v. xxii. O Tosco, che per la città

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del fuoco,' &c.) as strikingly illustrative of the state of Florence, of the character of its principal inhabitants, and of the factions which disturbed it. Even in this cold and phlegmatic climate we have frequent reason to deplore the mournful effects of party-spirit; yet we have no idea of political attachments and hatred, such as enflamed the ardent souls of the Italian republicans.

The shade of Farinata (who, when living, was distinguished for his moderation in the cause with which he was engaged, and for a spirit of patriotism which sometimes placed him in opposition to the violent and baneful designs of his own party) is supposed, by the poet, to taunt him with the defeat of the Guelphs. If they were beaten,' returns Dante,' they knew how to recover what they lost; an art which your friends have not yet acquired.' This reflection,' replies the unhappy ghost, torments me even more than the pains of hell which I endure.'

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'Ciò mi tormenta più, che questo letto.'

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'However,' he adds, with a malignant satisfaction, before the mistress of these regions (the moon) shall have fifty times rekindled her face, you also will have learned how difficult is that art.'

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In this the poet alludes to the factions of the Neri and Bianchi, which broke out in Tuscany within a few years after the second expulsion of the Gibelins from Florence, and, in the beginning of the 14th century, divided the Guelphs in every city where they possessed the ascendancy. Two parties could not long subsist together under the same government with such a spirit as animated the factions of Italy. The Bianchi (to whom Dante was attached) were expelled by their rivals from Florence, and many among them threw themselves into the arms of their hitherto implacable enemies the Gibelins. Dante himself does not appear to have engaged in any political affairs subsequently to his expulsion. He acted a more patriotic part by submitting to his fate, and composed, in his exile, that extraordinary and magnificent poem which has exalted his reputation very high above that of the age in which he lived, even (in the opinion of many competent judges) to à superiority over all the Italian poets who have succeeded him.

The expedition of the Emperor Henry the Seventh into Italy, in the years 1311 and 1312, which re-united the scattered forces of the Gibelins, and threatened the rival faction with the most imminent dangers, first extended the views of Florence beyond the narrow limits of Tuscany, and taught her to feel her own importance as the protectress of that cause, now the cause of national independence, throughout Italy. She even endeavoured to engage the courts of France and of Avignon in a league to oppose the aggrandisement of a power which might, in time, become dangerous to the liberties

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of other nations as well as Italy; and she appears, as our author remarks, to have been the first to conceive the existence of ties by which all the members of the European commonwealth ought to be united, and of that balance of powers which ought to ensure the independence of all.'

One of the most striking peculiarities in the historical character of this extraordinary people is that, at the very time of the formation of their political grandeur, their military spirit had entirely forsaken them. Sages and heroes in counsel, they henceforward committed the execution of their noble designs, the actual defence of those liberties which appeared to be dearer to them than existence, to mercenary bands. The profession of arms was considered as degrading to the condition of a free citizen; and Florence, during the fourteenth century, presents to the world the singular spectacle of the highest possible degree of political firmness and constancy, combined with the total absence of all military virtue, of all physical courage. When it is farther considered that this spectacle was exhibited in an age, during which, in every other country of Europe, the reputation for personal strength and valour was at its highest pitch; in that age which was rendered illustrious by the victories of Crecy and Poîtiers, by the various deeds of arms which Froissart has delighted to celebrate, and by the chivalrous character of the two first princes of the House of Luxembourg, who swayed the imperial sceptre, it must be considered as one of the most extraordinary phænomena in the history of the human race.

Early in the fourteenth century, the celebrated Castruccio Castraccani commenced his career of military greatness. His ambitious prospects certainly extended to, and perhaps were not bounded by, the sovereignty of Italy; and for a considerable time the Florentines were left almost alone to contend with him in the plenitude of his power. They contended successfully; and the period of Castruccio's death, is, perhaps, that of their greatest political splendour. Their national character at this epoch forms a subject of pleasing contemplation.

Une nouvelle époque de grandeur et de gloire commença, pour la république florentine, à la mort de Castruccio; du moment où Florence fut délivrée de ce redoutable ennemi, elle domina sur tout le reste de l'Italie, par la vigueur de ses conseils et la profondeur de sa politique. Toujours prête à protéger les foibles et les opprimés, toujours prête à opposer aux usurpateurs une résistance indomptable, la seigneurie de Florence se considéra comme gardienne de la balance politique de l'Italie, et spécialement chargée de conserver aux souveraines leur indépendance, aux peuples des gouvernemens de leur choix,

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'Il faut chercher dans le caractère même d'une nation, les motifs de la conduite habituelle de son gouvernement, surtout s'il est démocratique. Les qualités distinctives des Florentins les rendoient propres au rôle brillant dont ils se chargèrent, et l'Athènes de l'Italie rapelle celle de la Grèce, autant par le génie de son peuple, que par les chefsd'œuvre qu'on lui vit produire.

"Le Florentin étoit reconnu pour avoir l'esprit le plus délié parmi tous les peuples de l'Italie; dans la societé il étoit railleur et saisissoit avec vivacité le ridicule; dans les affaires, sa perspicacité lui faisoit découvrir avant les autres la voie la plus courte pour arriver à son but, et apprécier mieux les avantages et les inconvéniens de chaque parti; dans la politique, il devinoit les projets de ses ennemis, il prévoyoit de bonne heure la suite de lears actions et lá marche des événemens. Cependant, son caractère étoit plus ferme, et sa conduite plus mesurée. qu'une telle vivacité d'esprit n'auroit pu le faire supposer. Il étoit lent à se déterminer, il n'entreprenoit les choses hazardeuses qu'aprês une mûre délibération; et lorsqu'il s'étoit engagé, il persistoit dans ses déterminations, avec une constance inébranlable, malgré des échecs inattendus. Dans la littérature, le Florentin réunissoit la vivacité à la force du raisonnement, la gaîté à la philosophie, et la plaisanterie aux plus hautes méditations. La profondeur du caractère avoit conservé chez lui l'enthousiame, et la raillerie avoit formé le goût; la sévérité du public, contre le ridicule, avoit établi sur les lettres et les arts une législation non moins sévère.' Tom. v. p. 169.

Besides Henry the Seventh, and Castruccio, Florence had, during the course of this century, to make head in the same noble causes against three equally formidable enemies, each of which had advanced even nearer than either of the former towards the accomplishment of his ambitious purpose. Mastino della Scala, lord of Verona; Ladislaus, king of Naples, and John Galeas Visconti, the first duke of Milan, all of them, at different periods, affected the dominion of Italy, and all of them pressed forward to the accomplishment of their designs with forces, before which, in a merely military view, the power of the Florentine republic must have crumbled into dust. In every one of these cases, it is to the wisdom and energy, and extensive political combinations of that republic, that the preservation of the liberties of Italy is alone, under Providence, to be attributed.

Though the spirit of party must be acknowledged to have first engendered this noble flame, and though the earliest exertions of the Florentines, in the cause of independence, must be traced rather to the hatred of Guelph and Gibellin, than to a pure and disinterested sense of patriotism; yet their history, during the fourteenth century, properly examined, affords sufficient evidence that the sacred flame was kept alive by a far nobler fuel than that with which it first was kindled. The distinction of party still sub

sisted,

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