The emphasis on virtuous action as the goal of learning was a founding principle of humanism and (though sometimes sharply challenged) continued to exert a strong influence throughout the course of the movement. Salutati, the learned chancellor of Florence whose words could batter cities, represented in word and deed the humanistic ideal of an armed wisdom, that combination of philosophical understanding and powerful rhetoric that alone could effect virtuous policy and reconcile the rival claims of action and contemplation. In De ingenuis moribus et liberalibus studiis (“On the Manners of a Gentleman and Liberal Studies”), a treatise that influenced Guarino Veronese and Vittorino da Feltre, Pietro Paolo Vergerio maintained that just and beneficent action was the purpose of humanistic education; his words were echoed by Alberti in Della famiglia (“On the Family”):
There is a tension in Burckhardt's persona between the wise and worldly student of the Italian Renaissance and the cautious product of Swiss Calvinism , which he had studied extensively for the ministry. The Swiss polity in which he spent nearly all of his life was a good deal more democratic and stable than was the norm in 19th-century Europe. As a Swiss, Burckhardt was also cool to German nationalism and to German claims of cultural and intellectual superiority. He was also amply aware of the rapid political and economic changes taking place in the Europe of his day and commented in his lectures and writings on the Industrial Revolution , the European political upheavals of his day, and the growing European nationalism and militarism. Events amply fulfilled his prediction of a cataclysmic 20th century, in which violent demagogues (whom he called "terrible simplifiers") would play central roles. In later years, Burckhardt found himself unimpressed by democracy, individualism, socialism and a great many other ideas fashionable during his lifetime.