Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/221

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COMPOUND POLITICAL HEADS.

while the Frisians, who, after centuries of resistance to the Franks, were obliged to yield and render small tributary services, retained their internal autonomy. They formed "a confederation of rude but self-governed maritime provinces," each of these seven provinces being divided into districts severally governed by elective heads with their councils, and the whole being under a general elective head and a general council.

Of illustrations which modern times have furnished, must be named those which again show us the effects of a mountainous region. The most notable is, of course, that of Switzerland. Surrounded by forests, "among marshes and rocks and glaciers, tribes of scattered shepherds had, from the early times of the Roman conquest, found a land of refuge from the successive invaders of the rest of Helvetia." In the labyrinths of the Alps, accessible to those only who knew the ways to them, their cattle fed unseen; and against straggling bands of marauders who might discover their retreats they had great facilities for defense. These districts—which eventually became the cantons of Schwytz, Uri, and Unterwalden, originally having but one common center of meeting, but eventually, as population increased, getting three, and forming separate political organizations—long preserved complete independence. With the spread of feudal subordination throughout Europe, they became nominally subject to the Emperor; but, refusing obedience to the superiors set over them, they entered into a solemn alliance, renewed from time to time, to resist outer enemies. Details of their history need not detain us. The fact of moment is, that in these three cantons, which physically favored in so great a degree the maintenance of independence by individuals and by groups, the people, while framing for themselves free governments, united on equal terms for joint defense. And it was these typical "Swiss," as they were the first to be called, whose union formed the nucleus of the larger unions which, through varied fortunes, eventually grew up. Severally independent as were the cantons composing these larger unions, there at first existed feuds among them, which were suspended during the needs for joint defense. Only gradually did the leagues pass from temporary and unsettled forms to a permanent and settled form. Two facts of significance should be added. One is that, at a later date, a like process of resistance, federation, and emancipation from feudal tyranny, among separate communities occupying small mountain-valleys, took place in the Grisons and in the Valais—regions which, though mountainous, were more accessible than those of the Oberland and its vicinity. The other is that the more level cantons neither so early nor so completely gained their independence; and, further, that their internal constitutions were less free in form. A marked contrast existed between the aristocratic republics of Berne, Lucerne, Fribourg, and Soleure and the pure democracies of the forest cantons and the Grisons; in the last of which