Beyond the Revolution

Home Rule

The city-state is the seedbed of civilization, but the concept seems alien to the American tradition.  Nonetheless, our cities did once possess, at least before the Revolution, many of the same rights enjoyed by English and European burgs.  In the Anglo-American world, the liberties of cities were defined by the charters they received either from the crown itself or from the royal governor and legislature.  Many of the older cities and towns of the eastern seaboard had been chartered municipal corporations, though, in the decades following the Revolution, the states began to revoke the prerevolutionary charters and to recharter municipalities as creatures of the states.

It is the sense of local patriotism, reinforced by chartered liberties, that defines the city-state, and not sovereign independence.  In fact city-states have often been autonomous units within a broader confederation, as were the free German and Italian cities within the German Empire.

Citizens are fiercely proud of their city, and authentic citizens do not quickly accept outsiders, much less criticism from them.  Siena imposed a death sentence on any stranger who spoke ill of the city, and Saint Catherine had to console an offender who had been condemned for speaking ill of the city whose almost insane pride is repeatedly mocked by Dante.  But then, Dante was a Florentine.  Citizens jealously guard the privileges of citizenship.  Periclean...

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