As a free city, in the early 1400s, it attracted some of the Greek theologians from Constantinople. Originally sent by the Emperor there, they came to try to reform the Roman church and its bishops. Before Chrysolorus taught Greek at Florence university around 1400, this Bible language had not been taught in Italy for seven centuries. Printing flourished in Italy’s free cities. In 1480 Florentine printers published the Gospels and Epistles in Italian. In 1478 Florentine bishops even excommunicated the pope.
What have the British, the EU and Brexit to do with Florence? Aren’t there great cities of the Renaissance in Britain? While Erasmus spent only a fleeting time in Florence, he made three trips to Britain, taught as a professor at universities, stayed often at London, even at Westminster. So what is the significance of the Florentine Renaissance for exit from Brussels, if not excommunication?
A few weeks before Robert Schuman made his revolutionary Proposal on 9 May 1950 to create the European Community, a renowned American Think Tank published an in-depth review of conditions in Europe. It made forecasts for the future of the Continent.
It spoke of the Renaissance, but not in a way that we would understand it today. Most people would find it shocking. Why? Because they have been so little educated about this period, its reality and dangers.
Dr Dean was Director of the Foreign Policy Association and Editor of its research publications. With US government support, she had made extensive visits around Europe and spoken with world leaders and others. Her recommendations were vital elements for the US Government as well as European Governments.
She was widely traveled in Austria, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy and Russia. In the late winter and spring of 1949 in Europe, she gave a series of 15 lectures on American Foreign Policy at the University of Paris. The US Commander in Germany, General Clay, invited her to visit West Germany. She then traveled to Prague, Warsaw and London.
In the FPA’s remarkable 350 page report, she investigated all necessary aspects of the social and economic conditions that would affect US policy in Europe for the near future.
Firstly, Europe faced bankruptcy. The US Marshall Plan, which had supplied recuperative dollars to the war-torn economies of Western Europe, was coming to an end in 1952. In January 1949 Robert Marjolin of France, secretary general of the OEEC, the organization of European Economic Cooperation laid it out clearly.
Europe would face economic catastrophe in 1952, when it would have a deficit of billions of dollars in its US trade if it did not reorganize its economic relationships, he said.
Secondly there was the German problem. The Bonn government took power under on temporary constitution, the Grundgesetz, until 15 September 1949. The 73-year-old Konrad Adenauer was elected Chancellor by one vote – his own. Would it survive?
What did General Lucius Clay tell her when she visited Berlin and Frankfurt? We do not have any direct quotations of these conversations. Did Clay have confidence in a democratic renaissance of Germany?
We know General Clay’s real opinion in the cables he sent to Washington in March 1949.
“We have lost Germany politically and therefore it does not matter except that history will prove why there was a Third World War.’Was there any way the United States could rescue Europe from this coming catastrophe of horrendous proportions? No. This was the conclusion of Dr Dean of the FPA.
‘We know realize that the United States, no matter how generously inclined, cannot under the most favorable political circumstances re-establish the economy of the continent on the foundations of 1914 or even of 1939,’ she wrote.What she then said about a Renaissance in Europe is jaw-dropping.
‘Some of these foundations, as already noted, have vanished beyond salvaging. Others are perhaps not a total loss, such as the resources of the colonies of southeast Asia, but their intrinsic value has greatly diminished, and their future contribution to the continent’s economy remains in doubt.’
‘NO POWER ON EARTH CAN REMEDY Europe’s impoverishment as a result of two world wars. The only remedy one can recommend for the future would be the avoidance of conflicts so costly in terms of human values and material wealth.’The implication was total capitulation to the strongest military power. That was the Soviet Red Army. Poised on the European theatre were 40,000 tanks, according to the diplomatic cables. That number matched the total of Sherman tanks that the USA had produced during the entire World War Two!
What did Dr Dean say about the Renaissance? She wrote:
‘Europe will have to face the fact that the singularly favorable position it enjoyed during five centuries following the discovery of the Indies and the New World and the conquest of colonies in Asia and Africa is now drawing to a close. “The period starting with the Renaissance was over.
Who was to blame? No one but the Europeans themselves.
‘While the Russians and the Communists have capitalized on the predicament of western Europe, they did not bring it about. It would therefore be dangerously short-sighted to deal with Europe’s economic problems in the future as if they were entirely the handiwork of the Comintern.’At this same time, March 1950, the French Foreign Minister was arranging an unusual visit for the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson and his team. They were to hold talks with the French and the British on the 11 May. Most unusually, Schuman arranged for them to come first to Paris on the weekend of 7 May. The team were puzzled as to why they were needed in Paris at all. Acheson thought he might get a little rest. He was much mistaken.
The records show that Schuman had gone to considerable risks to make sure that they would be there. This included the cancelling of the meeting of the French Union, its equivalent to the Commonwealth.
It was on this Sunday, that Schuman with an unofficial, non-ministry interpreter came to see Acheson. Schuman spoke of his plan. It would lead, he said, to no less than the rebirth of Europe as an entity on a scale not seen since the Renaissance.
The problem that seemed impossible to solve for diplomats, politicians and military men, was now about to be reversed in a glorious way. The French call the continuous extraordinary growth of 5.5 percent in this three decade period, les trente glorieuses.
What was behind it? The key of Schuman’s confidence was a word that Erasmus found in the New Testament that completely transformed the idea of ‘Authority’ reflected in the distorted Latin Vulgate translation. In 1516, Erasmus published his Novum Instrumentum (It was still too sensitive to call it the New Covenant.) it published side by side the Greek text and his own more correct Latin translation on the same page.
Based on this revelation, Schuman constructed a supranational Community with five independent institutions. A High Authority would be totally independent of political parties and lobbyists and act as the Honest Broker or Jury for Europe. By being impartial and having the trust of the European public, the High Authority could make proposals for European laws and actions. A Parliament would be elected by a single statute across the entire Community. A Council of Ministers would hold open sessions to discuss areas of national concern in European regulations. Where would the High Authority get its information about what was happening among industries, workers and consumers? A Consultative Committee would be elected from representative professional associations. It, like the Council and the Parliament, would have legislative powers to refine the legislation. A Court of Justice would be selected by the Assembly from suitably qualified candidates (as was the Council of Europe).