Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/240

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place; because all the things in the world, at all periods, have an essential correspondence with past times. This arises because, as they are the work of men who have and always have had the same passions, they must of necessity produce the same effects.—In all cities and among all peoples there exist the same appetites and the same dispositions that have always existed."

The uniformity of the forces at work in history might be expected to produce a monotonous movement in events, a mere recurring series in the life of nations. This is not the case, because whatever, whether in the intellectual or material order, is the outcome of man's activity is subjected to a law similar to that which controls the progress and decay of the individual life; everything contains within itself the seeds of its own dissolution; "in all things there is latent some peculiar evil which gives rise to fresh vicissitudes." No struggle against the tendency to corruption and extinction can be permanently successful, just as no man can prolong his existence beyond a certain point. But while decadence is in progress in one part of the world, the corresponding principle of growth may predominate elsewhere. In every case, when the highest point has been reached, the descent begins. Machiavelli did not flinch from the consequences of this reasoning, when translated into the moral order: evil is the cause of good, and good is the cause of evil. "It has been, is, and always will be true that evil succeeds good, and good evil, and the one is always the cause of the other." On this assumption, the variety of history became no more than the displacement or dislocation of permanent elements: "I am convinced that the world has always existed after the same manner, and the quantity of good and evil in it has been constant: but this good and this evil keep shifting from country to country, as is seen in the records of those ancient Empires which, as their manners changed, passed from the one to the other, but the world itself remained the same: there was this difference only, that whereas Assyria was at first the seat of the world's virtue [virtu], this was afterwards placed in Media, then in Persia, until at last it came to Italy and Rome: and though since the Roman Empire no other Empire has followed which has proved lasting, nor in which the world has concentrated its virtue, nevertheless it is seen to have been diffused throughout many nations, in which men lived virtuously [virtuosamente]." And what is true of institutions and civilisation in general, is a valid law also in the political world, where forms of government recur in a series which can be calculated upon. Monarchy passes into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, democracy into anarchy: "so, if the founder of a State establishes in a city any one of these three governments, he establishes it for a short time only; for no remedy can be applied to prevent it sliding off into its opposite, owing to the resemblance which exists, in this case, between the virtue and the vice.—This is the circle within which all States have been and are governed." Many revolutions of this nature would exhaust the vitality