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CHAPTER FIRST.: ITALIAN REPUBLICS OF THE MIDDLE AGE. FLORENCE. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 5 (Defence of the Constitutions Vols. II and III) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 5.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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ITALIAN REPUBLICS OF THE MIDDLE AGE.
There is no example of a government simply democratical; yet there are many of forms nearly or remotely resembling what are understood by “All Authority in one Centre.” There once existed a cluster of governments, now generally known by the name of the Italian Republics of the Middle Age,* which deserve the attention of Americans, and will further illustrate and confirm the principles we have endeavored to maintain. If it appears, from the history of all the ancient republics of Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor, as well as from those that still remain in Switzerland, Italy, and elsewhere, that caprice, instability, turbulence, revolutions, and the alternate prevalence of those two plagues and scourges of mankind, tyranny and anarchy, were the effects of governments without three orders and a balance, the same important truth will appear, in a still clearer light, in the republics of Italy. The sketches to be given of these cannot be introduced with more propriety than by the sentiments of a late writer,* because they coincide with every thing that has been before observed.
Limited monarchies were the ancient governments; the jealousies and errors of the nobles, or the oppressions they suffered, stimulated them to render monarchy unpopular, and erect aristocracies. “Ancient nations were, in one point, very generally defective in their constitutions, and that was the incertitude of the sovereignty, and, by consequence, the instability of government; which was, in all the republics of Italy, a perpetual occasion of infinite confusion. In no part of Italy, however united together, was found established an absolute hereditary monarch. By many examples, it is manifest, that kings either were created by the favor of the multitude, or at least sought their consent, and consulted the people in affairs of most importance and greatest danger. The government of the grandees, which succeeded, was rather a fraudulent or violent usurpation, than a true and proper aristocracy established by law, or confirmed by long and uncontested possession; and a popular government was never so free or so durable as when it was mixed with the authority of one supreme head, or of a senate; so that mixed governments were almost always preferred. One of the three kinds of governments nevertheless fell, when another arose; and all the Italian republics, nearly at one time, by the same gradations, passed from one form of administration to another.
“In this particular all the memorials of ancient Italy agree. They were, from the beginning, governed by kings. The Tuscans had kings; the Sabines had kings; and so had the people of Latium; and as every city and every borough formed an independent government, these kings could not have much magnificence. Many states often obeyed the same king; for he who had the lordship of one city, procured himself to be elected the head of another. Porsenna, whom Dionysius calls King of Tuscany, because he was followed by many Tuscan nations, was from the beginning only King of Chiusi. The Kings of Rome, by various means, gained the command of the Latin cities, which nevertheless, two centuries afterwards, reputed themselves still independent of the state of Rome. The King of the Veientes had the lordship of Fidena, a free city, and independent of the Veientes, in the same manner as the Visconti, Lords of Milan, Castruccio, Lord of Lucca, and the Scala, Lords of Verona, (and so many other princes and tyrants of the later ages, before the exaltation of Charles V.) made such progress in obtaining the sovereignty of many cities, which had nothing in common with Milan, or Lucca, or Verona. These kingdoms were either simply elective, or at least required the express consent of the people, howsoever often one relation succeeded to another. Neither were royal governments generally displeasing to the people; but the grandees and nobles, who were the most exposed to the caprice of the prince, both in their persons and property, studied to generate in the minds of the common people a hatred to the name of king, and to excite the desire of liberty. They flattered themselves, that if the principality, which often fell into the hands of new men and adventurers, such as Tarquin in Rome, and Aristodemus in Cuma, were abolished, they should be able to live, not only with more security and greater license, but with more authority, command, and power. In what nation, and in which city, the revolution first began, is not easy to determine; but in the course of the third century of the Roman era, one people following the example of another, this by means of one, and that of another opportunity, either expelled by violence their present kings, or desisted from electing new ones; and all Italy, hoisting as it were a common signal, changed at once its whole form of government.
“The odium of the royal name, and an enthusiasm for liberty, seized so universally, and with such energy, the whole Italian nation, that if any city wished either to continue or recover the custom of kings, this inclination was scarcely manifested before it was pointed out and reviled by the other cities, and upon all great occasions abandoned. The Veientes,* either from a disgust at the cabals and ambition which arose from the annual creation of new magistrates, or the better to provide for war, created afresh a king; by which resolution they incurred to such a degree the hatred and contempt of the other people of Tuscany, that, contrary to every rule of policy, duty, and custom, they were left alone to sustain that obstinate war with the Romans, which ended in their ruin. In the beginning of the fourth century of the Roman history, there is seldom or never mention made of kings in any of the states of Italy. The whole authority and administration of public affairs passed into the hands of the nobility, or the senate; and that body, constituting at first the middle order between the king and the people, became the supreme head of the government. And although the greater magistracies were elected by the voices or suffrages of the people, nevertheless, all the honors and all the power of the government were collected in the grandees, who easily commanded the votes of the electors, and who alone were the elected; for none of the plebeians dared to pretend to offices, civil or military. And it is too evident that, in every kind of community, the rich and the noble endeavor, as it were, by their very nature, to exclude the poor and the plebeians. Most of the public affairs relative to peace or war were treated in a senate composed essentially of patricians and nobles, who, in every thing that regarded the constitution, inclined more to aristocracy than to popular government. No city was so mean or so ill ordered as not to have a public council, or a senate. Livy speaks of the senate, not only of Naples, Capua, and Cuma, but of Nola, Pipernum, Tusculum, Tivoli, the Veientes, and of others, so frequently, that it is clear that in all the republics there was an order distinct from the plebeians, who retained in their hands the essence of the government. But the plebeians, once become obstinate, at the solicitation of the nobility, in a hatred of tyranny, had not far to go before they opened their eyes upon their own condition, and learned that they had done nothing more than exchange one master for many; and they began to make every exertion to obtain, in fact, the possession of that liberty, of which they had, until then, obtained a taste in words, from the order of patricians and the senate. As the multitude began to make trial of their strength, the sovereign authority was ceded to them by little and little, and the nobility, in their turn, were tormented and tyrannized by the plebeians. Livy observes, that, about the time of the Carthaginian war, by a kind of epidemical malady spread through the Italian republics, the plebeians applied themselves to persecute the nobility. Nevertheless, the order of the grandees always preserved a great part of the power; for the nature of popular government being variable, inconstant, and incapable of conducting itself, the senate and the nobility, who act with more maturity of deliberation, and with interests more united, can generally counterpoise the party of the plebeians, and from time to time overcome it. From whence it happened, that all the cities were exposed to continual revolutions of government, and very rarely enjoyed that perfect equality, which is the end of a free state; but either the favor of the people, or the necessity of the senate, devolved the principal authority on some individual, who, with or without the title of supreme magistrate, was always regarded as the head of the government. Thus we find a Manilius, head of the Latins; an Accius Tullius, principal of the Volsci; a Herennius, of the Samnites; a Calavius, of the Campanians; a Valerius, a Camillus, and a Fabius, chiefs of the Romans. And, to speak the truth, there was never any great and important success in any free state, either at home or abroad, except in those times when some one citizen held the will of the public in his own power.”
But, waving the rest of these general observations for the present, let us descend to particulars, and, quitting the ancient republics of Italy, descend to those of the middle age, among which Florence is the most illustrious. As the history of that noble city and magnanimous people has been written by two authors, among a multitude of others, who may be compared to any of the historians of Greece or Rome, we have here an example more fully delineated, an experiment more perfectly made and more accurately described, than any we have examined before. We shall not, therefore, find it tedious to consider minutely the affairs of a brave and enlightened people, to whom the world is indebted for a Machiavel, a Guicciardini, and an Americus Vespucius; in a great degree for the resurrection of letters, and a second civilization of mankind. Next to Athens and Rome, there has not existed a more interesting city. The history is full of lessons of wisdom, extremely to our purpose.
We have all along contended, that the predominant passion of all men in power, whether kings, nobles, or plebeians, is the same; that tyranny will be the effect, whoever are the governors, whether the one, the few, or the many, if uncontrolled by equal laws, made by common consent, and supported, protected, and enforced by three different orders of men in equilibrio. In Florence, where the administration was, by turns, in the nobles, the grandees, the commons, the plebeians, the mob, the ruling passion of each was the same; and the government of each immediately degenerated into a tyranny so insupportable as to produce a fresh revolution. We have all along contended, that a simple government, in a single assembly, whether aristocratical or democratical, must of necessity divide into two parties, each of which will be headed by some one illustrious family, and will proceed from debate and controversy to sedition and war. In Florence, the first dissension was among the nobility; the second between the nobles and commons; and the third between the commons and plebeians. In each of which contests, as soon as one party got uppermost, it split into two; and executions, confiscations, banishments, assassinations, and dispersions of families, were the fruit of every division, even with more atrocious aggravations than in those of Greece. Having no third order to appeal to for decision, no contest could be decided but by the sword.
It will enable us the better to understand Machiavel, whose history will be abridged and commented on, if we premise from Nardi,* that “the city of Florence had, like all other cities, its people consisting of three genera of inhabitants, that is to say, the nobility, the people of property,† and the common people. Although some too diligently divided the nobility into three sorts, calling the first, nobles, the second, grandees, and the third, families; meaning to signify, that some of the inhabitants had come into the city and become citizens, having been deprived of their own proper country by conquest, while they were attempting to enlarge and extend their territories; others, originally of this country, had become abundant in riches and powerful in dependents, either by their own industry or the favor of fortune; and others, having been foreigners, had come in like manner to inhabit the city, but, from their primitive condition, they still retained the distinctions of lord and vassal, by habit and by fraud, both in the city and the country. And all this mixture were indifferently called nobles, grandees, and families; and they were equally hated, contradicted, and opposed, in the government of the republic, and in all their other actions, by that party which was called the substantial people, il popolo grasso. The lower class of people, the plebeians, il popolo minuto, never intervened in government at all, excepting on one single occasion, when, with violence, they usurped it, as in its proper place will be related. Some persons made still another division of the plebeians, and not without reason; for those who possessed real estate in the city or country, and were recorded in the public books of taxes and tributes of the city, and were called the Enregistered,* esteemed themselves, and were considered by their fellow-citizens, as holding a middle station. The remainder of the lower class, who possessed no kind of property, were held of no account. Nevertheless, all this undistinguished aggregate were called the people of Florence; and the expression is still in use, as the people of Athens, or the people of Rome, anciently comprehended the whole body of the inhabitants of those cities; to which confused, and, in its nature, pernicious aggregate, as that of the head and tail always is, the body of middling citizens will always remain extremely useful, and proportioned to the constitution of a perfect republic.”
As Machiavel is the most favorable to a popular government, and is even suspected of sometimes disguising the truth to conceal or mollify its defects, the substance of this sketch will be taken from him, referring at the same time to other authors; so that those young Americans who wish to be masters of the subject, may be at no loss for information.
“The most useful erudition for republicans is that 1 which exposes the causes of discord; by which they may learn wisdom and unanimity from the examples of others. The factions in Florence are the most remarkable of any. Most other commonwealths have been divided into two; that city was distracted into many. In Rome, the contest between patricians and plebeians, which arose after the expulsion of kings, continued to the dissolution of the republic. The same happened in Athens, and all the other commonwealths of Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor. Such was the patriotism or good fortune of Florence, that she seems to have gathered fresh vigor, and risen stronger for her factions. Some, who escaped in the struggles, contributed more by their courage and constancy to the exaltation of themselves and their country, than the malignity of faction had done to distress them. And if such orders and balances had been established in their form of government as would have kept the citizens united after they had shaken off the yoke of the empire, it might have equalled any republic, ancient or modern, in military power and the arts of peace.”
“The city of Florence1 was begun by the inhabitants of Fiesole, who, situated on the top of a hill, marked out a plot of ground upon the plain between the hill and the river Arno, for the conveniency of merchants, who first built stores there for their goods. When the Romans had secured Italy by the destruction of Carthage, this place multiplied exceedingly, and became a city by the name of Villa Arnina. Sylla was the first, and, after him, the three Roman citizens who revenged the death and divided the empire of Cæsar, who sent colonies to Fiesole, that settled in the plain, not far from the town already begun; and the place became so full of buildings and inhabitants, and such provisions were made for a civil government, that it might well be reckoned among the cities of Italy.
“Whence it took the name of Florence is not so well known. Tacitus calls the town Florentia, and the people Florentines. It was founded under the Roman empire; but when that was overrun by barbarians, Totila, King of the Ostrogoths, took and demolished it. Two hundred and fifty years afterwards, it was rebuilt by Charlemagne, from whose time, till 1215, it followed the fortune of those who successively ruled in Italy; for, during that period, it was governed first by the posterity of Charlemagne, then by the Berengarii, and last of all by the German emperors. In 1010 the Florentines took and destroyed Fiesole. When the popes assumed greater authority in Italy, and the power of the German emperors was upon the wane, all the towns of that province began to govern themselves. In 1080 Italy was divided between Henry III. and the church. Until 1215, the Florentines always submitted to the strongest, having no other ambition than to preserve themselves. But as, in our bodies, the later diseases come, the more dangerous they are, so, the longer Florence put off taking a part in the troubles of Italy, the more fatal these proved.
“The cause of its first division is well known. The most powerful families in Florence, in 1215, were the Buondelmonti and the Uberti, and next to them the Amidei and Donati. A quarrel happened about a lady, and Messer Buondelmonte was killed. This murder divided the whole city, one part of it siding with the Buondelmonti, and the other with the Uberti; and as both of the families were powerful in alliances, castles, and adherents, the quarrel continued many years, till the reign of the Emperor Frederick II., who, being likewise King of Naples, and desirous to strengthen himself against the church, and establish his interest more securely in Tuscany, joined the Uberti, who by his assistance drove the Buondelmonti out of Florence; and thus that city became divided, as all the rest of Italy was before, into the two factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines.* The Guelphs, thus driven out of the city, retired into the valley, which lies higher up the Arno, where their strong places and dependencies lay, and defended themselves as well as they could; but when Frederick died, the neutral people in the city endeavored to reunite it, and prevailed upon the Guelphs to forget the wrongs they had suffered, and return, and the Ghibellines to dismiss their jealousies, and receive them.
After they were reunited, they divided the city into six parts, and chose twelve citizens, two to govern each ward, with the title of Anziani, but to be changed every year. To prevent any feuds or discontents that might arise from the determination of judicial matters, they constituted two judges that were not Florentines, one of whom was styled the captain of the people, and the other the podestà, to administer justice to the people, in all causes civil and criminal; and since laws are but of little authority and short duration, where there is not sufficient power to support and enforce them, they raised twenty bands or companies in the city, and seventy-six more in the rest of their territories, in which all the youth were enlisted, and obliged to be ready armed under their respective colors, whenever they were required so to be by the captain or the anziani. Their standard-bearers were changed every year with great formality.”
This is the very short description of their constitution. The twelve anziani appear to have had the legislative and executive authority, and to have been annually eligible—a form of government as near that of M. Turgot, and Marchmont Nedham, as any to be found;—yet the judicial power is here separated, and the people could so little trust themselves or the anziani with this power, that it was given to foreigners.
“By such discipline in their civil and military affairs, the Florentines laid the foundation of their liberty; and it is hardly to be conceived, how much strength and authority they acquired in a very short time; for their city not only became the capital of Tuscany, but was reckoned among the principal in Italy; and, indeed, there is no degree of grandeur to which it might not have attained, if it had not been obstructed by new and frequent factions.”
After this pompous preamble, one can scarce read without smiling the words that follow: “For the space of ten years they lived under this form of government;” especially when it appears that, during all these ten years, they were constantly employed in wars abroad, as appears by the following words: “During which time they forced the states of Pistoia, Arezzo, and Siena, to enter into a confederacy with them; and in their return with their army from the last city, they took Volterra, demolished several castles, and brought the inhabitants to Florence.”
The United States of America calculated their governments for a duration of more than ten years. There is little doubt to be made, that they might have existed under the government of state congresses for ten years, while they were constantly at war, and all the active and idle were in council or in arms; but we have seen, that a state which could be governed by a provincial congress, and, indeed, that could carry on a war without any government at all, while danger pressed, has lately, in time of profound peace, and under a good government, broke out in seditions.1
This democratical government in Florence could last no longer; “For in all these expeditions,” says Machiavel, “the Guelphs had the chief direction and command, as they were much more popular than the Ghibellines, who had behaved themselves so imperiously in the reign of Frederick, when they had the upper hand, that they were become very odious to the people; and because the party of the church was generally thought to favor their attempts to preserve their liberty, whilst that of the emperor endeavored to deprive them of it.
“The Ghibellines, in the mean time, finding their authority so dwindled, were not a little discontented, and only waited for a proper opportunity to seize upon the government again. They entered into correspondence with Manfred, the son of Frederick, King of Naples, in hopes of his assistance; but, for want of due secrecy in these practices, they were discovered by the anziani, who thereupon summoned the family of the Uberti to appear before them; but, instead of obeying, they took up arms, and fortified themselves in their houses; at which the people were so incensed, that they likewise ran to arms, and, by the help of the Guelphs, obliged the whole party of the Ghibellines to quit Florence, and transport themselves to Siena. There they sued to Manfred for aid, who granted it; and the Guelphs were defeated upon the banks of the river Arbia, with such slaughter, by the king’s forces under the conduct of Farinata de gli Uberti, that those who escaped from it, giving up their city for lost, fled directly to Lucca. Manfred had given the command of the auxiliaries, which he sent to the Ghibellines, to Count Giordano, a soldier of no small reputation in those times. This Giordano, after his victory, immediately advanced with the Ghibellines to Florence, and not only forced the city to acknowledge Manfred for its sovereign, but deposed the magistrates, and either entirely abrogated or altered all laws and customs that might look like remains of their former liberty; which being executed with great rigor and insolence, inflamed the people to such a degree, that if they did not love the Ghibellines before, they now became their inveterate and implacable enemies; which aversion continually increasing, at last proved their utter destruction.”
There is an admirable example of patriotism at this period of the Florentine history, in Farinata Uberti, who successfully and decidedly opposed a plan of his own party of Ghibellines and their allies, for the demolition of the city. He preserved it, however, only for his enemies the Guelphs, who, driven out of Lucca, went to Parma, and joined their friends the Guelphs in that city, drove out the Ghibellines, and had their confiscated estates for their reward. They then joined the pope against Manfred, who was defeated and slain.
“In consequence of this victory, the Guelphs of Florence grew daily bolder and more vigorous, and the party of the Ghibellines weaker and weaker; upon which Count Guido Novello, and those that were left in commission with him to govern Florence, resolved to try, by lenity and gentler treatment, to recover the affections of the people, whom they found they had exasperated to the last degree by their oppressive and violent manner of proceeding. To cajole and ingratiate themselves with the people, they chose six-and-thirty citizens out of the people of Florence, and two gentlemen of higher rank from among their friends at Bologna, to whom they gave a commission to reform the state. These delegates divided the city into distinct arts or trades, over which they constituted a magistrate, who was to administer justice to all who were in his department; and to every art a separate banner was assigned, under which they might assemble in arms, whenever the safety of the public required it.
“But Count Guido must have a tax to maintain his soldiers. The citizens would not pay it. He attempted to take back the new privilege of magistrates to each trade. The people rose in arms, chose Giovanni Soldanieri for their leader, fought the Count and his Ghibellines, and drove them out of the city. The people, having thus got the upper hand, resolved to unite the city, if possible, and recall all such citizens as had been forced to leave their homes, whether Guelphs or Ghibellines. The Guelphs returned, after six years’ banishment; the late attempt of the Ghibellines was pardoned, and they were suffered to come back again; but they still continued very odious both to the Guelphs and the people, the former not being able to forgive the disgrace and hardships of their long exile, nor the latter to forget their insolence and tyranny when they had the government in their hands; so that their ancient animosities were not yet entirely extinguished, either on one side or the other.”
The wrangle soon came to a crisis, and the Ghibellines fled out of the city, upon the interposition of a foreign force from Charles, King of Naples, in favor of the Guelphs.
“After the departure of the Ghibellines, the Florentines new-modelled their government, and chose twelve principal magistrates, who were to continue in authority no longer than two months, under the title of buoni homini. Next in power under them they appointed a council of eighty citizens, which they called the Credenza. After this, a hundred and eighty more were elected out of the people, thirty to serve for each sixth, who, together with the credenza and the twelve buoni homini, were called the General Council. Besides which, they instituted another council, consisting of a hundred and twenty members, equally chosen out of the nobility, citizens, and commonalty, which was to confirm whatsoever had been resolved upon by the others, and to act jointly with them in disposing of the public honors and offices of the commonwealth.”
The first government of the anziani was as near a simple democracy as there is any example of; we found it, accordingly, ineffectual. The next, of buoni homini, was no better; and that could not support itself. Now we come to a new plan, which discovers, in the authors of it, a sense of the imperfection of the former two, and an attempt to obviate its inconveniences and dangers; but instead of a judicious plan, founded in the natural divisions of the people, it is a jumble which common sense would see, at this day, must fall to pieces. The buoni homini, the credenza, and the thirty of the hundred and eighty, wore an appearance of three orders; but, instead of being kept separate, they are all huddled together in the general council. Another council still, of a hundred and twenty, equally chosen out of the nobility, citizens, and commonalty, was to confirm whatever was resolved on by the others. Here are two branches, with each a negative. But the mistake was, that the aristocratical and democratical parts of the community were mixed in each of them; which shows, at first blush, that there never could be harmony in either, both being naturally and necessarily split into two factions. But a greater defect, if possible, than even this, was giving the executive power, the power of disposing of public honors and offices, to a joint assemblage of buoni homini, credenza, and the two other assemblies, all in one. The consequence must be, that although every one of these four orders must be divided at once into factions for the loaves and fishes, yet the nobility, by their superior influence in elections, would have the whole power.
Unhappy Florence! thou art destined from this moment to never-ending factions, seditions, and civil wars! Accordingly, we read in the next page, what any one might have foreseen from this sketch of their constitution, “that the government of Florence was fallen into great disorder and misrule; for the Guelph nobility, being the majority, were grown so insolent, and stood in so little awe of the magistracy,” (and how could they stand in awe of magistrates whom they had created, and who were ever at their devotion?) “that though many murders, and other violences, were daily committed, yet the criminals generally escaped with impunity, through favor of one or other of the nobles.”
“In order to restrain these enormities, instead of twelve governors, they resolved to have fourteen, seven of each party, who should be nominated by the pope, and remain in office one year. Under this form of government, in which they had been obliged in reality to submit to a foreign master, they continued for two years, when the rage of faction again blazed out. They rose in arms, and put the city under a new regulation. This was in 1282, when the companies of arts and trades ordained, that instead of fourteen citizens, three only should govern, and that for two months, who were to be chosen indifferently out of the nobility or commons, provided they were merchants, or professed any art or occupation; and these were called priori. Afterwards, the chief magistracy was vested in six persons, one for each ward, under which regulation the city continued till the year 1342.”1
But the course of events for these sixty years should be carefully traced, in order to see the operation of such a form of government, even in a single city. This institution, as might be expected, occasioned the ruin of the nobility, who, upon divers provocations, were excluded, and entirely suppressed by the people. The nobility, indeed, were divided among themselves; and by endeavoring to supplant each other, and aspiring to the sole government of the commonwealth, they quite lost all share in it. The priori were afterwards distinguished by the name of signori.
“There remained some sparks of animosity betwixt the nobility and commonalty, which are incident to all republics; for one side being naturally jealous of any encroachment upon their liberty and legal rights, and the other ambitious to rule and control the laws, it is not possible they should ever long agree together. This humor, however, did not show itself in the nobility while they were overawed by the Ghibellines; but when the latter were depressed, it began to appear, and the people were daily injured and abused in such a manner, that neither the laws nor the magistracy had authority enough to relieve them; as every nobleman supported himself in his insolence by the number of his friends and relations, both against the power of the signori and the captain of the people. The heads of the arts, wishing to remedy so great an evil, provided that every signory should appoint a standard-bearer of justice, out of the people, with a thousand men divided into twenty companies, under him, who should be always ready with their standard and arms whenever ordered by the magistracy. This establishment met little opposition, on account of the jealousy and emulation that reigned among the nobility, who were not in the least aware that it was levelled at them, till they felt the smart of it. Then, indeed, they were not a little awed by it for some time; but in a while they returned to the commission of their former outrages; for as some of them always found means to insinuate themselves into the signory, they had it in their power to prevent the standard-bearer from executing his office. Besides, as witnesses were always required upon any accusation, the plaintiff could hardly ever find any one that durst give evidence against the nobility; so that in a short time Florence was involved in its former distractions, and the people exposed to violence and oppression; as justice was grown dilatory, and sentence, though passed, seldom or never executed.
“The people not knowing what course to take, Giano della Bella, a strenuous patriot, though of a very noble family, encouraged the heads of the arts once more to reform the city. By his advice it was enacted, that the gonfalonier should always reside with the signori, and have four thousand armed men under his command. They also entirely excluded the nobility out of that council of the signori, and made a law that all accessaries or abettors should be liable to the same punishment with those that were principals in any crime, and that common fame should be sufficient evidence to convict them. By these laws, which were called Li Ordinamenti della Giustizia,”1 (but which were in reality as tyrannical as the edicts of any despot could be,) “the people regained great weight and authority. But Giano being looked upon by the nobility as the author of these laws to bridle their power, became very odious, not only to them, but to the richest of the commonalty.”
As well he might, for laws more oppressive and destructive of liberty could not have been made. Tyrannical as they were, however, they were not enough so for the people. “For upon the trial of Corso Donati, a nobleman, for a murder, although he was acquitted even under these new laws, the people were enraged, and ran to arms, and demolished the magistrate’s house, instead of applying to the signori. The whole city exceedingly resented this outrage upon all law and government; the blame of it was laid upon Giano, and he was accused before the magistrates as an encourager of insurrection. While his cause was depending, the people took arms to defend him against the signori. Giano went voluntarily into banishment, to appease this tumult.
“The nobility then petitioned the signori, that the severity of the laws against them might be mitigated. As soon as this petition was publicly known, the commons, apprehending the signori would comply with it, immediately rose in a tumultuous manner; so that ambition on one side, and jealousy on the other, at last occasioned an open rupture between them, and both sides were prepared for battle; but by the interposition and mediation of some prudent men, whose arguments with both parties were very judicious, the people at last consented that no accusation should be admitted against a nobleman, without sufficient evidence to support it.
“Both parties laid down their arms, but retained their jealousies, and began soon to raise forces, and fortify themselves as fast as they could. The people thought fit to new-model the government, and reduce the number of the signori, as they suspected some of that body to be too favorably inclined to the nobility.
“A momentary tranquillity succeeded; but the sparks of jealousy and envy still remained betwixt the nobility and people, which soon broke out, on occasion of a quarrel between two families, the Cerchi and Donati, both considerable for their riches, nobility, and dependents. The signori were under no small apprehensions that the whole city would become engaged in the dispute, and hourly expected the two parties would openly attack each other, as soon afterwards happened, and a skirmish ensued, in which many were wounded on both sides. The whole city, commons as well as nobility, divided upon it; nor did the contagion confine itself to the city alone, but infected all the country. So ineffectual was this contemptible government of the signori to the suppression of this animosity, that the pope was applied to. He sent his nuncio to no purpose, and then put the city under an interdict; but this answered no end but to increase the confusion; and frequent battles took place, till the whole city took arms, neither the power of the magistracy, nor the authority of the laws, being able to restrain the fury of the multitude. The wisest and best of the citizens were in great terror; and the Donati, being the weaker party, not a little doubtful of their safety.”
Such is the effect of a government of all authority in one centre. Here all was concentrated in the signori, chosen by the people frequently enough; yet although the nobility were arbitrarily excluded from that council, those who were chosen were indebted for their elections, probably to those very nobles, and chiefly to the Donati and Cerchi.
“The Donati were the minority, upon the whole, and therefore had great reason to be doubtful of their safety. It was agreed, at a meeting betwixt Corso Donati, the heads of the Neri family, and the captains of the arts,1 to solicit the pope to send some person of royal extraction to reform the city.” Here nature breaks out, in spite of all attempts to stifle it. A royal dignity is the most obvious thought, to extinguish animosities between nobles and commons. In this case, the captains of the arts, that is, the people, perceived it, as well as Corso and the Neri, the contending nobles. This meeting, and the result of it, was notified to the signori by the other party, who represented it as a conspiracy against the public liberty. Both sides, however, were in arms again, and Dante, who was one of the signori, had the courage to advise that sovereign assembly to arm the people; and they, being joined by great numbers out of the country, found themselves able to force the chiefs of each party to lay down their arms. They assumed an appearance of dignity, banished Corso and the Neri, and, to show their impartiality, several of the Bianchi.
“But this government had no permanent strength; the Bianchi, upon plausible pretences, were soon permitted to return. Corso, and his associates, obtained the same indulgence; but, instead of being quiet, they went to Rome, to persuade the pope to appoint a person of royal extraction, as they had before petitioned his holiness in their letters. Charles of Valois, brother of the King of France, was sent accordingly by the pope. Though the Bianchi family, who then had the upper hand in Florence, looked upon him with an evil eye; yet as he was patron of the Guelphs, and sent by the pope, they durst not oppose his coming; on the contrary, to make him their friend, they gave him full power to regulate the city as he thought best. He caused his friends to arm themselves. This made the people so jealous that he intended to deprive them of what they called their liberties, that they took arms.
“The Cerchi, and the heads of the Bianchi, having had the chief government of the city some time in their hands, and behaved with great arrogance, were become generally odious; which encouraged Corso, and others of the Neri who had fled, to return upon an assurance that Charles and the captains of the party were their friends, and would support them. Accordingly, whilst the city was thus alarmed with the apprehensions of Charles’s designs, Corso, with all his associates, and many other of their followers, made their entry into it without resistance; and though Véri de Cerchi was called upon to oppose them, he declined it, and said, ‘The people against whom they came, should themselves chastise them, as they were likely to be the greatest sufferers by them.’ But the contrary happened; for instead of chastising them, they received them with open arms, whilst Véri was forced to fly for his safety. Corso having forced his entrance at the Porta Pinti, drew up and made a stand near his own house; and being joined by a great number of his friends and others, assembled in hopes of a change of government, he released all prisoners, civil and criminal; divested the signori of their authority; chose new magistrates, all of the party of the Neri, out of the people, to supply their places; and plundered the houses of the Bianchi. The Cerchi, and the heads of their faction, seeing the people, for the most part, their enemies, and Charles not their friend, fled out of the city, and in their turn implored the interposition of the pope, though they would not listen to his exhortations before.”
Such is the series of alternate tragedy, comedy, and farce, which was called the liberty of Florence during this “collection of all authority into one centre,” the signori; in which no man of any party could be one moment secure of his life, property, or liberty, amidst continual exaltations and depressions of parties, in favor of different noble families. Although those nobles were all excluded from the government, the exclusion was but a form. Nearly all the power was in their hands, and the signori in office were only alternate tools of one noble family or another. And thus it must ever be; exclude the aristocratical part of the community by laws as tyrannical as you will, they will still govern the state underhand; the persons elected into office will be their tools, and, in constant fear of them, will behave like mere puppets danced upon their wires. But our humorous entertainment is not yet ended.
“The pope now, at the intercession of the Cerchi, sent a legate, Acqua-Sparta, to Florence, who made an accommodation betwixt the Cerchi and Donati, and fortified it by several intermarriages between them. But this spiritual policy, though deep and sound, did not answer his end; for when he insisted that the Bianchi should share in the chief offices of the commonwealth, that was refused by the Neri, who were in full possession of them. Upon this the legate left the city as dissatisfied as ever, and excommunicated it a second time for its contumacy.
“The Neri, however, seeing their old enemies in their bosom again, were not a little afraid they would use all means to ruin them in order to recover their former authority; and both parties were still discontented, and fresh occasions of discord soon occurred. Niccolo de Cerchi and Simon, a son of Corso Donati, met and fought. The battle was so sharp and bloody that Niccolo was killed upon the spot, and Simon so desperately wounded that he died the same night.”
This accident, as it is called, though an event springing necessarily from the form of government and state of parties, threw the whole city into an uproar again; “and although the Neri were the most in fault, as Simon assaulted Niccolo, yet they were screened by the magistracy, and, before judgment could be obtained, a conspiracy was discovered betwixt the Bianchi and Pietro Ferrante, a nobleman who attended Charles of Valois, with whom they had been tampering, to persuade his master to reinstate them in the government. The plot was detected by some letters from the Cerchi to Pietro; though it was the common opinion they were forged by the Donati, to wipe off the odium they had incurred by the murder of Niccolo de Cerchi. Nevertheless all the family of the Cerchi, with many of their followers of the Bianchi party, and among the rest Dante the poet,* were immediately sent into banishment, their estates confiscated and their houses demolished by the strength of those forged letters; after which, their party, with many of the Ghibellines who had joined them, were dispersed in different places.
“The quiet that ensued was very short; for Corso Donati was dissatisfied that he did not enjoy the degree of authority in Florence he thought due to his merit, the government being in the hands of the people, and conducted by those who were in all respects much inferior to him. To varnish over his designs and revenge with a fair pretext, he accused several citizens who had been entrusted with public money with embezzling it, and many were ignorant and credulous enough to believe that Corso did this out of pure concern and affection for his country. The persons thus calumniated were in favor with the people, and stood upon their justification; and after many law suits and long litigations, these disputes grew to such a height that it became absolutely necessary to take up arms. On one side were Corso and Lottieri, Bishop of Florence, with many of the nobility and some of the commons; on the other were the signori and the greater part of the people; nothing was to be seen but affrays and skirmishes in every part of the city.”
In such a “right constitution” as this, such a government of “the people’s successive sovereign assemblies,” as the signori were, the body of the nation never can be unanimous; all the most wealthy, best-born, best-educated, and ablest men, will unanimously despise and detest the government, except a few artful hypocrites among them, who will belie their judgments and feelings for the sake of a present popularity for some private ends. Those who thus hate the form of government will have numerous connections, relations, and dependents among the people, who will follow them; so that there never can be more than a small majority of the people on the side of government. Hence its constant weakness; hence it is a mere football continually kicked from one side to another by three or four principal families. Thus it appeared in this case.
“The signori, feeling their weakness, and perceiving themselves in great danger, utterly unable to punish crimes, support their friends, or curb their enemies, were obliged to send to Lucca, a foreign state, for aid, and were fortunate enough to find all the people of that city willing to come to their assistance. The tumults were composed for a time, but the signori and people were too feeble to punish the author of the disturbance.”
This interval of tranquillity was no more durable than former ones.
“The pope again sent his legate, Niccolo da Prato,* who ingratiated himself with the people, so that they gave him a commission to new-model the city. In order to obtain the recall of the Ghibelline faction from banishment, he flattered the people by restoring their ancient companies, which added much to their strength and diminished that of the nobility. But the project of restoring the exiles was obnoxious to the signori, who forced the legate out of the city, which he put under an interdict at his departure, and left in the utmost confusion.
“Two factions not being sufficient, the city was now divided and subdivided into several; as those of the people and nobility, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the Bianchi and the Neri; and some who wished for the return of the exiles, being disappointed in their hopes, now the legate was gone, grew clamorous and outrageous, so that the whole city was in an uproar, and many skirmishes ensued. Those that were most active in raising this clamor were the Medici and Giugni, who had openly sided with the legate in favor of the exiles.”
This is the first mention made of that family of Medici, who acted so distinguished a part afterwards, finally subverted the commonwealth, and changed it into an absolute sovereignty under the title of a grand dukedom, a form it still wears.
Let us look back to 1282, when this government of priori or signori, chosen every two months by the people, was established; from thence to 1304 is only twenty-two years, in which we see a constant quarrel between the nobility and people, and between one party of nobles and another, and the neighboring states of Naples, Rome, and Lucca, in turn, called in to aid the different factions; alternate murders, banishments, confiscations, and civil wars, as one party and the other prevailed; and, instead of a government and a system of justice and liberty, constant anarchy, and the perpetual rolling of a mob.
In this year, 1304, Florence was visited in this lamentable manner with fire and sword. A great fire broke out, and was ascribed, as usual in such times, by some to accident, and by some to party design. Corso Donati was the only person of any distinction who did not take up arms; he thought that when all parties grew tired of fighting he was the more likely to be called in arbitrator to decide their differences. They did indeed lay down their arms, but more out of weariness of their miseries, and that they might have time to take breath, than from any real desire of being reunited and living in peace. It was only stipulated that the exiles should not be suffered to return, which was agreed to by those that favored them, merely because they proved to be the weaker side.
“New disturbances arising, the pope was advised by his legate to summon to Rome twelve of the principal malcontents of Florence. They readily obeyed the summons, and among them was Corso Donati. As soon as they were set out upon their journey, the legate acquainted the exiles that now was their time to return to Florence, as the city was then clear of the only men that had authority enough to oppose their entrance. Drawing together what forces they could, they immediately marched and entered the city; but those very citizens, who but a little before, when they petitioned in the most humble and submissive manner to be admitted, had exerted themselves in the most strenuous manner for their return, now they saw them approach in a hostile manner, were the first that took up arms against them, and joined with the people to drive them back.”
One is, however, astonished at the reflection of Machiavel,—“Such was the spirit of patriotism amongst them in those days that they cheerfully gave up their private interests for the public good,”—when every page of his history shows that the public good was sacrificed every day by all parties to their private interests, friendships, and enmities.
“After the exiles were repulsed, the citizens relapsed into their former distractions; and after much violence the governors of the commonwealth reestablished the companies of the people, and restored the colors under which the arts had formerly been used to assemble. Their captains were called standard-bearers of the companies and colleagues of the signori, and were directed not only to assist the signori in times of peace with their counsel, but to support and defend them by dint of arms in all exigencies and commotions. To assist the two judges who had been constituted in the beginning of their state, they appointed an officer called il esecutore or sheriff, who was to act in conjunction with the standard-bearers and see their orders carried into execution, whenever the nobility should be guilty of any enormity or act of oppression.
“The pope died, the eleven citizens returned with Corso, whose restless ambition occasioned such troubles. In order to make himself popular, he constantly opposed the nobility in all their schemes, and which way soever he observed the people to incline, he turned all his authority to support them in it and gain their affection; so that in all contests and divisions, or when they had any extraordinary point to carry, they always resorted to him and put themselves under his directions.”
Machiavel indeed observes, “that all might now have lived in peace, if the restless ambition of Corso had not occasioned fresh troubles.” But in this Machiavel is mistaken; if Corso had not existed, the people would have found some other leader and confidant. When the people feel that the government is unable or unwilling to protect them against the oppressions of the nobles, they always seek out a Cassius, Mælius, Manlius, or Corso, to assist the old or to erect a new government that will be able and willing to protect them. It is the defect in the government and the wants of the people, that excite and inspirit the ambition of private men. To be sure, the man of any distinction who listens to the complaints of the people in such cases, whether from ambition or humanity, always creates for himself much hatred and envy among the most considerable citizens.
“In this instance, these passions increased to such a degree that the faction of the Neri divided and quarrelled among themselves. To alienate the affections of the people from Corso, they gave out, as the aristocracy always does in such cases, that he secretly designed to seize upon the government and make himself king; and his magnificent manner of living, and marriage into the family of Faggivola, head of the Bianchi and Ghibellines, made it easily believed.
“Encouraged by this, his enemies took up arms against him, and the greater part of the people, instead of appearing in his defence, forsook him and joined his adversaries. He was impeached, refused to obey the summons, and was declared a contumacious rebel. Between the accusation and the sentence there was not the interval of more than two hours. A civil war ensued; many were killed on both sides. After a furious defence Corso threw himself from his horse and was killed. Such was the unfortunate end* of Corso Donati, to whom his country and the Neri owed much both of their good and bad fortune, one of the most eminent men that Florence ever produced.”
But Machiavel should have laid the blame upon the constitution, not upon the restless disposition or turbulent spirit of Corso; because it is impossible for a man of Corso’s genius, valor, and activity, in such a government, not to be restless and turbulent; he is never safe himself, and large bodies of people are continually flattering and soliciting him, while others are threatening and persecuting him. No nation has a right to blame such a citizen until it has established a form of government that is capable of protecting him on one side, and the people against him on the other. This flimsy sovereignty of the signori was inadequate to either purpose.
After the death of Corso the exiles from Florence excited Henry* the emperor to a war against that city for their restoration; the magistrates applied to Robert, King of Naples, and gave him the government of the city for five years to defend it and protect them. This storm, after raging some time, blew over by the death of the emperor.† The Ghibellines then, under the command of Faggivola, renewed the war by making themselves masters of Pisa and committing depredations on the Florentine territories. The Florentines fought him and were totally defeated. They then applied to King Robert‡ for another general; he sent them the Count di Andria, whose bad conduct, “added,” says Machiavel, “to the impatient temper of the Florentines, which is soon tired with any form of government, and ready to fall into factions upon every accident,” occasioned the city to divide again. Machiavel’s severity ought, however, to have been applied to the form of government, not to the temper of the people, the latter being but the natural and necessary effect of the former. In such a government the people have no protection or security; they are continually oppressed, vexed, and irritated by one faction or another, one ally or enemy, or another, one aspiring citizen or family, or another, against whose usurpations, as the constitution affords no redress, they are obliged to recur to arms and a change of government.
“The Florentines in this case sought assistance from France and Germany, but could obtain none; they were determined, however, to carry their point, took arms, drove the Count out of the city, and sent for one Lando, of Agobbio, and made him their esecutore, or rather dictator or executioner,§ with full power over all the citizens. Lando being naturally rapacious and cruel went about the city with a gang of armed men at his heels, hanging up one man and then another, as those who had sent for him gave him directions; and at last to such a height of power did he arrive by the dissensions of the citizens, as to coin bad money with the Florentine stamp, which nobody had courage enough to oppose. Miserable indeed was the condition of the city at that time, which neither the bitter remembrance of the evils produced by their former dissensions, nor the dread of a foreign enemy at their gates, nor the authority of a king, was sufficient to keep united, even though their possessions were daily ravaged and plundered abroad by Faggivola, and at home by Lando.
“The nobility, most of the considerable commons, and all the Guelphs took the king’s side, and opposed Lando and those who supported him; and to free themselves from so ignominious a yoke they wrote to King Robert privately, and entreated him to appoint Count Guido his lieutenant at Florence, which he readily complied with; and the other party, though they had the signori on their side, durst not venture to oppose a man of so established a reputation. But the Count soon found he had very little authority in the city, as the magistracy and the standard-bearers of the several companies openly favored Lando and his friends. Soon afterwards the citizens were reconciled and united under the king by the friendly counsel of his daughter-in-law, and Lando, deprived of his authority, was sent back to Agobbio satiated with blood and rapine.* The government of the King of Naples was continued three years longer; and, as the seven who were then in the signori were all of Lando’s party, six others were added to them of the king’s, and they continued thirteen for some time, but were afterwards reduced to seven again.
“About this time Castruccio Castracani† drove out Faggivola, and succeeded him in the government of Lucca and Pisa. The Florentines had enough to do to obstruct the growth of the power of this spirited and fortunate youth at the head of the Ghibelline interest, and to defend themselves against him. That the signori in this war might proceed with maturer deliberation and execute with greater authority, they chose twelve citizens whom they called buoni homini, without whose advice and consent the signori were not to pass any act of importance. But this effort of nature to form a balance to this simple government was of short duration; the dominion of King Robert expired, and the government once more reverted to the citizens, who set up the same form of magistracy that had been formerly instituted. The whole city was soon obliged to march against Castruccio to the relief of Prato, and a proclamation was issued by the signori, that every exile of the Guelph party who came in to the relief of Prato should afterwards have liberty to return home. This policy added four thousand men to their army, which before consisted of twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse. Castruccio, afraid of so formidable a force, retreated to Lucca. Upon this retreat great disputes arose in the Florentine camp between the nobility and the people, about pursuing Castruccio; these disputes were referred to the signory, which, consisting at this time of commoners as well as of nobility, was also divided in opinion. Upon this the people rose in a tumult and forced the signory to give way to them; but it was now too late to follow Castruccio, and the people were so exasperated that they would not suffer the public faith to be kept with the exiles. The nobility having some regard to their honor, though the people had not, took the part of the exiles, which produced another civil war.
“As it generally happens in all commonwealths, that after any revolution or remarkable crisis1 some or other of the old laws are abrogated and new ones made in their room, so, though the signori at first were changed every two months, yet the magistrates who were now in office, having great power, took upon themselves to constitute a signory out of all the most considerable citizens, to continue forty months. Their names were to be put into a bag or purse, which was called imborsation,2 and a certain number of them drawn out by lot at the end of every second month; whereas before, when the old magistrates went out of office, new ones were always chosen by the council. As the council consisted only of the most considerable citizens, the government was before but a self-created or at least self-continued aristocracy. Now it was equally so, with this difference only, that lot was substituted in the room of choice. As the lot was not to be now renewed till after a term of above three years, it was thought they had extinguished the causes of all such disgusts and tumults as used to happen from the frequent return of elections and the number of competitors for the magistracy, not being aware how little advantage and how many mischiefs were likely to flow from it.3
In 1325, in a war with Castruccio, the Florentines were betrayed by their general, Raymondo. This man saw that the Florentines had been so liberal in disposing of themselves, that they had sometimes conferred their government upon kings, sometimes upon legates, and sometimes upon persons of much inferior quality; he thought, if he could reduce them to any extremity, they, perhaps, would make him their prince; he was very importunate with them to give him the same command in the city, that he had over their army, as he pretended he could not otherwise either require or expect that necessary obedience which was due to a general. Not being gratified, he trifled and delayed, till he was attacked and defeated with great slaughter and the loss of his own life; receiving that punishment from the hands of fortune, which his ambition and perfidy had merited from the Florentines.
“The havoc, the depredations, imprisonments, burnings, and every other kind of devastation made by Castruccio upon the Florentines after this victory, forced them to offer their government to Charles, Duke of Calabria,* son of King Robert, upon condition that he would defend them; for as that family had been used to rule over them, they chose rather to shelter themselves under him as their prince, than to trust him as an ally. But Charles, being engaged in the wars of Sicily, sent Gaultier, a Frenchman, and Duke of Athens, as his lieutenant, who new-modelled the magistracy as he thought fit. His behavior at first was, in appearance, so modest and temperate, that he gained the affections of every one.
“Charles then came in person with a thousand horse, and his presence gave some check to Castruccio, and prevented him from roving and plundering the country as he had done; but if the citizens saved any thing abroad, it was lost again at home; and when their enemies were curbed, they became a prey to the insolence and oppression of their friends. As the signori were entirely under the influence of the Duke of Athens, he exacted four hundred thousand florins from the city in one year, though it was expressly stipulated in the agreement made with him, that he should not raise above two hundred thousand in the whole; besides which, either Charles or his father was continually laying some heavy tax or other upon the citizens. These miseries were still increased by new jealousies, fresh enemies, and more extensive wars, in which all the neighboring powers were involved, till suddenly Castruccio, and Charles, Duke of Calabria and Lord of Florence, both died. The Florentines, unexpectedly delivered from the oppression of one, and dread of the other, and having once more recovered their liberty, began to reform the commonwealth. They abrogated the ordinances of all former councils, and created two new ones, one of which consisted of three hundred of the commons, and the other of two hundred and fifty of both commoners and nobility; the former was called the council of the people, and the latter the common council.”
After the death of Castruccio, till the year 1340, the Florentines continued wholly intent upon their affairs and wars abroad.
“In that year new disturbances arose at home. The governors of the city had two ways of maintaining and increasing their authority; one was, by managing the imborsations in such a manner as always to secure the signory either to themselves or their creatures; the other, by getting judges chosen who they knew would be favorable to them in their sentences.”
And how is it possible, in any simple government, to prevent such management to draw all the legislative, executive, and judicial power into one centre, and that centre a junto of aristocratics? But in this case,—
“Not content with two judges, the governors sometimes constituted a third, whom they called captain of the guards; with which office they now vested Jacopo d’Agobbio, and gave him an absolute power over the citizens. This Jacopo, under the direction of the governors, behaved with the most shameless insolence and partiality, daily injuring or affronting somebody or other. Some, who were nobly born, and men of high spirit, were provoked to such a degree, that a stranger should be introduced into the city by a few of their fellow-citizens who had the power in their hands, on purpose to insult and abuse all the rest, that they entered into a conspiracy with many other noble families, and some of the commoners, that were disgusted at so tyrannical a government, to revenge themselves; hence a conspiracy, that again involved the city in blood. By artifice and force together, the signori prevailed, and suppressed the conspiracy, beheading some, and proclaiming several other families rebels.*
“However, it did not satiate the revenge of those in administration, to have conquered and suppressed those families; but, like almost all other men, whose insolence commonly increases with their power, they grew more imperious and arbitrary as they grew stronger; for though they had only one captain of the guards to tyrannize over the city before, they now appointed another to reside in the country, and vested him with very great authority; so that any one who was in the least obnoxious to government could not live quietly, either within the city or without it. The nobility, in particular, were daily abused and insulted by them in such a manner, that they only waited for an opportunity to revenge themselves at any rate; and as one soon happened, they did not fail to take advantage of it. The Florentines had purchased Lucca; but, defeated in securing the possession of it, they carried on a war to recover it. After a long struggle, they were driven out of it, with much dishonor, and the loss of all their purchase-money. This disaster, as it usually happens in like cases, threw the people of Florence into such a rage against their governors, that they publicly insulted and upbraided them with their ill conduct and administration, in all places, and upon every opportunity.
“In the beginning of the war, the management of it had been committed to twenty citizens, who appointed Malatesta de Rimini commander-in-chief of their forces in that expedition; but as he executed that charge with little courage and less discretion, they solicited Robert, King of Naples, for supplies, which he accordingly sent them, under the command of Gaultier, Duke of Athens, who, as the evil destiny of the city would have it, arrived there just when the enterprise against Lucca had miscarried.
“The Duke arrived at this time;* and the governors, being in great fear of the multitude, made him conservator of the peace and commander-in-chief, that he might have both authority and power enough to defend them.1 Imagining there was no other way left to get the better of the people, who had so long domineered over them, than to reduce them into subjection to a prince, who, being well acquainted with the worth and generosity of the nobility, and the insolence of the commons, might treat both parties according to their deserts, the nobility now resolved to take their revenge, even though it should occasion the destruction of the city. They had many private meetings to persuade the Duke to take the government wholly into his hands, and promised to support him with all their interest and power. Several of the most considerable commoners joined them, particularly the families of the Peruzzi, Acciaivoli, Antellesi, and Buonaccorsi. Such encouragement, and so fair an opportunity, inflamed the Duke, who was naturally ambitious, with a still greater thirst of power; and, in order to ingratiate himself with the lower sort of people, by acting like a just and upright magistrate, he ordered a process to be commenced against those that had been entrusted with the management of the late war against the Lucchese; in consequence of which, Giovanni de’Medici and two more were put to death. several others banished, and many obliged to pay large sums of money for their pardon. This severe manner of proceeding alarmed the middle sort of citizens, though it was very grateful to the nobility and common people, as the latter generally delight in evil, and the former were not a little rejoiced at the fall of those by whom they had been so grievously oppressed; so that, whenever the Duke passed through the streets, they resounded with acclamations and praises of his justice and resolution, while every one exhorted him to persevere in his endeavors to detect the guilty, and to bring them to condign punishment.
“Notwithstanding the expostulations of the signori, in an assembly of all the people, the government was given to the Duke for life, and he was carried about in a chair, amidst the acclamations of the multitude; the standard of the city was torn to pieces, and the Duke’s planted in its stead, at which all the good citizens were infinitely grieved and mortified, whilst those who, either out of malice or stupidity, had consented to this election, did not a little rejoice.”
Machiavel’s next task is to give us a detail of the Duke’s tyrannical behavior, which was as wild, cruel, and mad as all other tyrannies have been which were created on the ruins of a republic. The Duke perceived the general odium he had incurred, but affected to think himself extremely beloved. He was informed of a plot against him, in which the family of the Medici, and others, were concerned; but he ordered the informer to be put to death. He cut out the tongue of Bettoni for complaining of heavy taxes, &c. His outrages were sufficient to rouse the Florentines, “who neither knew how to value their liberty nor to endure slavery,” says Machiavel. But the truth is, they had no liberty to value, and nothing but slavery to endure; their constitution was no protection of right; their laws never governed. They were slaves to every freak and passion, every party and faction, every aspiring or disappointed noble; sometimes to the pope, sometimes to the King of Naples, sometimes to Lando; sometimes to one nobleman, sometimes to another; sometimes to their own signori, and sometimes to their captains of arts. If the word republic must be used to signify every government in which more than one man has a share, it is true this must be called by that name; but a republic and a free government may be different things.
There were now three conspiracies on foot against the Duke at once; but each conspiracy was a new system of tyranny, and aimed only at introducing one system instead of another, instead of any concert, or reasonable combination, to take down a bad government and set up a good one. The three natural divisions of society formed three different plots to set up a new tyranny, each in its own way: the nobility had one plot, the commons another, and the artificers a third. What ideas of the rights of mankind must these people have entertained! The commons had been deprived of the government, and they had no idea that the nobility or artisans had any rights; the nobility were not restored to the government, which was all they wanted; and the artisans had lost their business; but none of these orders could communicate with the others. Assassination of the Duke seems to have been all the object in view, as if that would remedy all the evils. The plots, however, were too freely communicated, and at last were told to the Duke.
In 1343 the city was all in a tumult, and “liberty, liberty!” was the cry. A war was carried on in the city, and each party changed sides several times; but, after long distractions, and much bloodshed and devastation, the Duke was blocked up in the palace, and the citizens assembled to reform the government.
Fourteen persons, one half of them of the nobility, and the other commoners, with the archbishop, had full power given them to new-model the state. The judicial department was committed to six magistrates, who were to administer justice till the arrival of the person who should be chosen to fill that office. “Greater, certainly,” says Machiavel, “and more cruel, is the resentment of the people when they have recovered their liberty, than when they are acting in defence of it; and an instance of brutal ferocity happened here that is a disgrace to human nature. The people insisted upon some persons being delivered up to them, and among them a father and son; when these were brought out and delivered up to thousands of their enemies; and though the son was not eighteen, yet neither his youth or innocence, nor the gracefulness of his person, was sufficient to protect him from the rage of the multitude. Many who could not get near enough to reach them whilst they were alive, thrust their swords into them after they were dead; and not content with this, they tore their carcasses to pieces with their nails and teeth, that so all their senses might be glutted with revenge; and after they had feasted their ears with their groans, their eyes with their wounds, and their touch with tearing the flesh off their bones, as if all this was not enough, the taste likewise must have its share and be gratified.”1
This is Machiavel’s description of this savage barbarity; and his words are here preserved, that it may be seen and considered that human nature is the same in a mob as upon a throne, and that unbridled passions are at least as brutal and diabolical, and unlimited power as tyrannical, in a mob, as in a monarch or senate; they are worse, for there is always a number among them who are under less restraints of shame and decency.
“When the people were thus satiated with blood, the Duke and his friends were suffered to withdraw with their effects unmolested out of Florence. After some disputes between the nobility and people, it was agreed that one third of the signori, and one half of the other magistrates and other officers of state, should consist of the nobility. The city was divided into six parts, each of which chose one of the signori; and though it sometimes happened that their number was increased to twelve or thirteen, yet they were afterwards again reduced to six. But as these six parts were not duly proportioned, and they designed to give more power and authority to the nobility, it was necessary to make a new regulation in this point, and to increase the number of signori. They divided the city, therefore, into quarters, and chose three of the signori out of each. The standard-bearer of justice, and those of the several companies, were laid aside; and instead of the twelve buoni hommi, they created eight counsellors, four of each quality.
“The commonwealth,” says Machiavel, “being settled upon this bottom, might have continued quiet and happy, if the nobility could have been content to confine themselves within the bounds of that moderation which is requisite in all republican governments.”
It is impossible to read these grave reflections of Machiavel and Nedham, so often repeated, with patience. It would be as wise to say, that the nation might be quiet and happy under a despot or monarch, if the despot or monarch, and his ministers and minions, could be content and moderate; or that the commonwealth might be happy under an oligarchy or simple aristocracy, if all concerned in government could be content and moderate. When we know human nature to be utterly incapable of this content, why should we suppose it? Human nature is querulous and discontented wherever it appears, and almost all the happiness it is capable of arises from this discontented humor. It is action, not rest, that constitutes our pleasure. All we have to do is to guard and provide against this quality; we cannot eradicate it.
“But the behavior of the nobility was quite the contrary,” says Machiavel; “for, as they always disdained the thoughts of equality, even when they lived a private life, so, now they were in the magistracy, they thought to domineer over the whole city, and every day produced fresh instances of their pride and arrogance, which exceedingly galled the people, when they saw they had deposed one tyrant, only to make room for a thousand.”
All this, one may safely believe to be exactly true; but what then? Why, they ought to have separated the nobles from the commons, and made each independent on the other. Mixed together in equal halves, the nobles will forever tyrannize. The insolence of one side, and the indignation and impatience of the other, at last increased to such a height, that both sides flew to arms, and the people, being most numerous, carried their point, and deprived the nobles in the signory of their authority; the four counsellors of their order were also turned out of their offices, and the remaining number increased to twelve, which consisted of commoners only. Besides which, the eight who remained in the signory not only made a new standard-bearer of justice, and sixteen other standard-bearers over the companies of the people, but modelled all the councils in such a manner, that the government was now entirely in the hands of the people; and we shall soon see how well it operated.
“There happened a great dearth in Florence, so that there were grievous discontents both among the nobility and common people; the former repining at the loss of their authority, and the latter murmuring for want of bread. Andrea Strozzi sold corn as cheap as Mælius did in Rome. This drew such numbers to his house that he boldly mounted his horse one morning, and putting himself at the head of them, called upon all the rest of the people to take up arms, by which means he got together above four thousand men in less than an hour, and conducting them to the palace of the signori, demanded the doors to be thrown open to him. This attempt was too bold and rash to succeed; yet it gave the nobility fresh hopes of recovering their power, now they saw the inferior sort of people so incensed against the commons. They resolved to take arms and make use of all manner of allies to regain that by force which they conceived had been taken from them with so much injustice; and to insure success they provided themselves with arms, fortified their houses, and sent to their friends in Lombardy for supplies. The commons and the signori, on the other hand, were no less busy in arming themselves, and sent to the Sienese and Perugians to desire their assistance; so that when the auxiliaries on each side arrived, the whole city was soon in arms.”
We ought to pause here and remark a combination of parties that is perfectly natural, though it has seldom occurred in the history of any nation so distinctly as to be descanted on by historians or politicians. Here is as distinct a division between the commons and the lower class as there ever was between nobles and commons. By the commons in this place are meant those citizens who in every nation of the world are commonly denominated the middling people, who, it must be confessed, have been in all ages and countries the most industrious and frugal, and every way the most virtuous part of the community. In all countries they have some influence, in many they have had some share in the government; but no other instance than this is at present recollected where they have ever had a sovereignty in their hands, exclusive both of the highest and lowest classes of citizens. As if it had been the intention of Providence to exhibit to mankind a demonstration that power has the same effects upon all minds, we find in this instance the Florentine commons discovering the same disposition to tyrannize over all above and all below them, as clearly as ever kings, nobles, or mobs discovered it when they had the power. The nobility drew up in three divisions. The commons assembled under the standard of justice and the colors of their respective companies, and under the command of the Medici immediately attacked one of the divisions of the nobility. At this time the Medici were only commoners; we shall hereafter see that they became nobles and sovereigns, and placed sons and daughters on some of the thrones of Europe. The action was hot and bloody for three hours, during which they had great stones tumbled down upon their heads from the tops of the houses and were terribly galled with cross-bows below. All parties behaved with an obstinate bravery that would have done honor to any good cause; but it is unnecessary to relate all the attacks and defences and all the vicissitudes of fortune in the course of the civil war; the numbers of the commoners finally prevailed, “upon which,” says Machiavel, “the people, especially the inferior sort of them, naturally rapacious and greedy of spoil, began to plunder the houses of the nobility, which they afterwards burnt down to the ground, and committed such other outrages as the bitterest enemy to the city of Florence would have been ashamed of.”
“The nobility being in this manner entirely subdued, the people took upon them to reform the state; and as there were three degrees of them, it was ordained that the highest rank should have the nomination of two of the signori, the middle sort of three, and the lowest of three more, and that the standard-bearer of justice should be chosen by turns out of all three. The old laws were revived and put in execution against the nobility; and to reduce them still more effectually many of them were incorporated with the other classes.* By these means they were brought so low that they became abject and pusillammous, and never durst rise any more against the people; so that being deprived of their arms and honors, their spirit and generosity likewise seemed to be extinguished. After this depression of the nobles, the plague, of which above ninety-six thousand people died in Florence, and a war with the Visconti, kept the city in tranquillity for a time. But the war being ended, new factions sprung up in the city; for though the nobility were ruined, fortune found other means to raise fresh troubles and dissensions.
“The bitter animosities† which generally happen between the people and nobility, from an ambition in the one to command and a reluctance in the other to obey, are the natural sources of those calamities that are incident to commonwealths; for all other evils that usually disturb their peace are both occasioned and fomented by this contrariety of dispositions. It was this that kept Rome so long divided. This also gave birth to the factions that sprung up in Florence, though indeed it produced at last very different effects in the two cities; for the division that first arose between the nobility and people of Rome terminated with disputes; that at Florence only with the sword. In Rome that was effected by a law, which in Florence could hardly be done by the banishment and death of numbers of its citizens. The quarrels of the Romans still added to their spirit and military virtue, while those of the Florentines utterly extinguished them. The former destroyed that equality which was at first established, and introduced a prodigious disparity among the citizens; the latter, on the contrary, abolished all superiority or difference of rank, and put every man upon the same level. This diversity of effects must certainly have proceeded from a difference of views. The people of Rome desired no more than to share with the nobility in the administration of the commonwealth; but the people of Florence were not only desirous to have the government of the state to themselves, but used violent measures and took up arms to exclude their nobles from any part in it; and as the desires of the Roman people were more moderate, their demands seemed not unreasonable to the nobility, who therefore complied with them; so that after some little bickerings and without coming to an open rupture, a law was made by which the people were satisfied, at least for a time, and the nobles continued in their honors and offices. On the other hand, the demands of the Florentine people were so extravagant and injurious that the nobility took up arms to support their privileges, and their quarrels grew to such a height that numbers were either banished or slain before they could be ended; and the laws afterwards made were calculated rather for the advantage of the victors than the common good.
“The success of the people of Rome made that state more powerful; for as they were admitted to govern the commonwealth and to command their armies and provinces equally with the nobility, they became inspired with the same virtue and magnanimity; and as the city through them grew more public-spirited, its power also increased. But in Florence, when the people had subdued the nobility, they divested them of all manner of authority, and left them no possibility of recovering any part of it except they would entirely conform to their customs and way of living, and not only submit to appear, but to be commoners like themselves. And this was the reason that induced them to change their arms, and vary their titles and the names of their families, which was so frequent in those times among the nobility, in order to insinuate themselves into the affections of the people; so that the military spirit and greatness of soul for which the nobility had been held in such veneration, were utterly extinguished, and not by any means to be raised in the people where there were no seeds of it; by which means Florence became every day more abject and pusillanimous. And whereas Rome at last grew so powerful and wanton by the effect of its virtue that it could not be governed otherwise than by one prince, Florence was reduced so low that a wise legislator might easily have modelled it and given it what form he pleased.”
The factions between the nobility and the commons, which ended in the utter ruin of the former, have been already related; but peace was not obtained. All authority was in one centre, the commons; and there were other orders of citizens who were not satisfied; the same contest therefore continued under a new form and new names. They now happened between the commons and plebeians, which were only new names in reality for a new nobility and commons; the commons now took the place of the nobility, and the plebeians that of the commons. Machiavel is as clear and full for a mixed government as any writer; but the noble invention of the negative of an executive upon a legislature in two branches, which is the only remedy in contests between nobles and commons, seems never to have entered his thoughts; and nothing is more entertaining than that mist which is perpetually before eyes so piercing, so capable of looking far through the hearts and deeds of men as his, for want of that thought. “There seemed to be no seeds of future dissensions left in Florence.” No seeds! Not one seed had been eradicated; all the seeds that ever existed remained in full vigor. The seeds were in the human heart, and were as ready to shoot in commons and plebeians as they had been in nobles. “But the evil destiny of our city and want of good conduct occasioned a new emulation between the families of the Albizzi and the Ricci,* which produced as fatal divisions as those between the Buondelmonti and Uberti, and the other between the Cerchi and Donati had done before.”
It was no evil destiny peculiar to Florence; it is common to every city, nation, village, and club. The evil destiny is in human nature. And if the plebeians had prevailed over the commons as these had done over the nobility, some two plebeian families would have appeared upon the stage with all the emulation of the Albizzi and Ricci, to occasion divisions and dissensions, seditions and rebellions, confiscations and banishments, assassinations, conflagrations, and massacres, and all other such good things as appear forever to recommend a simple government in every form.1 When it is found in experience, and appears probable in theory, that so simple an invention as a separate executive, with power to defend itself, is a full remedy against the fatal effects of dissensions between nobles and commons, why should we still finally hope that simple governments, or mixtures of two ingredients only, will produce effects which they never did and we know never can? Why should the people be still deceived with insinuations that those evils arose from the destiny of a particular city, when we know that destiny is common to all mankind?
“Betwixt the two families of Albizzi and Ricci there was a mortal hatred, each conspiring the destruction of the other in order to engross the sole management of the commonwealth with less difficulty.* However, they had not as yet taken up arms or proceeded to open violence on either side, but only thwarted each other in council and the execution of their offices.”
A private quarrel happened in the market, and a rumor was instantly spread, nobody knew by whom, that the Ricci were going to attack the Albizzi; and by others it was said that the Albizzi were preparing to fall upon the Ricci. These stories were carried to both parties, and occasioned such an uproar throughout the whole city that the magistrates found it very difficult to keep the two families and their friends from coming to a battle in earnest, though neither side had intended any such thing as was maliciously reported. This disturbance, though accidental, inflamed the former animosities, and determined both sides to strengthen their parties and be upon their guard; and since the citizens were reduced to such a degree of equality by the suppression of the nobility that the magistrates were held in greater reverence than ever they had been before, each family resolved to avail itself rather of public and ordinary means than of private violence.”
The intrigues of these two families to supplant each other are very curious; but as the detail of them is long, we shall leave the reader to amuse himself with them at his leisure, and come to a speech made to the signori by an eminent citizen, when affairs were become so critical and dangerous as to alarm all impartial men. “The common disease,” says he, “magnificent signors, of the other cities in Italy has invaded ours, and is continually eating deeper and deeper into its vitals. All our towns for want of due restraint have run into extremes, and from liberty degenerated into downright licentiousness, making such laws and instituting such governments as were rather calculated to foment and support factions than maintain freedom. From this source are derived all the defects and disorders we labor under; no friendship or union is to be found among the citizens except betwixt such as are accomplices in some wicked design either against their neighbors or their country. All religion and fear of God are utterly extinguished; promises and oaths are no further binding than they serve to promote some private advantage, and they are resorted to not with any design to observe them, but as necessary means to facilitate the perpetration of fraud, which is even honored and applauded in proportion to its success. From hence it comes to pass that the most wicked and abandoned wretches are admired as able, enterprising men; while the innocent and conscientious are laughed at and despised as fools.
“The young men are indolent and effeminate; the old, lascivious and contemptible; without regard to age or sex every place is full of the most licentious brutality, for which the laws themselves, though good and wholesome, are yet so partially executed that they do not afford any remedy. This is the real cause of that selfish spirit which now so generally prevails, and of that ambition, not for true glory, but for places, which dishonors the possessors; hence proceed those fatal animosities, those seeds of envy, revenge, and faction, with their usual attendants, executions, banishments, depression of good men, and exaltation of the wicked.
“The ringleaders of parties varnish over their pernicious designs with some sacred title; for, being in reality enemies to all liberty, they more effectually destroy it by pretending to defend the rights, sometimes of the nobility, sometimes of the commons; since the fruit which they expect from a victory is not the glory of having delivered their country, but the satisfaction of having conquered the opposite party and secured the government of the state to themselves; and when once they have obtained that, there is no sort of cruelty, injustice, or rapine, that they are not guilty of. From thenceforward laws are enacted, not for the common good, but for private ends. War and peace are made, and alliances concluded, not for the honor of the public, but to gratify the humors of particular men. Our laws, our statutes and civil ordinances are made to indulge the caprice or serve the ambition of the conqueror, not to promote the true interest of a free people; so that one faction is no sooner extinguished than another is lighted up.
“A city that endeavors to support itself by parties instead of laws can never be at peace; for when one prevails and is left without opposition, it necessarily divides again. When the Ghibellines were depressed, every one thought the Guelphs would then have lived in peace and security; and yet it was not long before they divided into the factions of the Neri and Bianchi. When the Bianchi were reduced, new commotions arose, sometimes in favor of the exiles, sometimes betwixt the nobility and people; and to give that away to others, which we could not or would not possess quietly ourselves, we first committed our liberties into the hands of King Robert, then of his brother, next of his son, and last of all to the mercy of the Duke of Athens, never settling or reposing under any government, as people that could neither be satisfied with being free nor submit to live in slavery. Nay, so much was our state inclined to division, that rather than acquiesce under the government of a king, it meanly prostituted itself to the tyranny of a vile and pitiful Agobbian. The Duke of Athens was no sooner expelled but we took up arms again, and fought against each other with more rancor and inveteracy than ever, till the ancient nobility were entirely subdued, and lay at the mercy of the people. It was then the general opinion there would be no more factions or troubles in Florence, since those were humbled whose insupportable pride and ambition had been the chief occasion of them; but we now see that pride and ambition, which was thought to be utterly extinguished by the fall of the nobility, now springs up again among the people, who begin to be equally impatient for authority, and aspire with the same vehemence to the first offices in the commonwealth.
“It seems the will of Heaven that certain families should spring up in all commonwealths to be the pest and ruin of them. Our city owes its miseries and distractions not merely to one or two, but to several of those families; first to the Buondelmonti and Uberti, next to the Donati and Cerchi, and now, to our shame be it spoken, to the Ricci and Albizzi. Why may not this commonwealth, in spite of former examples to the contrary, not only be united, but reformed and improved by new laws and constitutions? You must not impute the factions of our ancestors to the nature of the men, but to the iniquity of the times, which being now altered, afford this city fair hopes of better fortune; and our disorders may be corrected by the institution of wholesome laws, by a prudent restraint of ambition, by prohibiting such customs as tend to nourish and propagate faction, and by substituting others, that may conduce to maintain liberty and good civil government.”
This speech, although upon the whole it is excellent, has several essential mistakes. That certain families will spring up in every simple government, and in every injudicious mixture of aristocracy and democracy, to be the pest and ruin of them, is most certain. It is the will of Heaven that the happiness of nations, as well as that of individuals, should depend upon the use of their reason; they must therefore provide for themselves constitutions which will restrain the ambition of families. Without the restraint, the ambition cannot be prevented; nature has planted it in every human heart. The factions of their ancestors ought not to have been imputed to the iniquity of the times, for all times and places are so iniquitous. Those factions grew out of the nature of men under such forms of government; and the new form ought to have been so contrived as to produce a remedy for the evil. This might have been done; for there is a way of making the laws more powerful than any particular persons or families.
“As this advice was conformable to the sentiments of the signori, they appointed fifty-six citizens* to provide for the safety of the commonwealth; but as most people are fitter to preserve good order than to restore it when lost, these citizens took more pains to extinguish the present factions than to provide against new ones, which was the reason that they succeeded in neither; for they not only did not take away the occasion of fresh ones, but made one of those that were then subsisting so much more powerful than the other, that the commonwealth was in great danger.
“They deprived three of the family of Albizzi, and as many of the Ricci, of all share in the magistracy for three years, except in such branches of it as were particularly appropriated to the Guelph party; of which number Piero de gli Albizzi and Uguccione de’Ricci were two. These provisions bore much harder upon the Ricci than the Albizzi; for, though they were equally stigmatized, yet the Ricci were the greatest sufferers. Pietro, indeed, was excluded from the palace of the signori, but he had free admittance into that of the Guelphs, where his authority was very great; and though he and his associates were forward enough in their ‘admonitions’1 before, they became much more forward after this mark of disgrace, and new accidents occurred, which still more inflamed their resentment.
“Gregory XI. was pope at that time; and residing, as his late predecessors had done, at Avignon, he governed Italy by legates, who, being haughty and rapacious, had grievously oppressed several of the cities. One of these legates being then at Bologna, took advantage of a scarcity, and resolved to make himself master of Tuscany. This occasioned the war with the pope.* The Florentines entered into a confederacy with Galeazzo and all the other states that were at variance with the church; after which they appointed eight citizens for the management of it, whom they invested with an absolute power of proceeding, and disbursing money without control or account. This war gave fresh courage to the Ricci, who, in opposition to the Albizzi, had upon all occasions favored Galeazzo and appeared against the church, and especially because all the eight were enemies to the Guelphs; but though they made a vigorous war against the pope, they could not defend themselves against the captains and their adherents. The envy and indignation with which the Guelphs looked upon the eight, made them grow so bold and insolent, that they often affronted and abused them, as well as the rest of the principal citizens. The captains were no less arrogant; they were even more dreaded than the signori, and men went with greater awe and reverence to their houses than to the palace; so that all the ambassadors who came to Florence were instructed to address themselves to them.
“After the death of the pope, the city had no war abroad, but was in great confusion at home; for, on one hand, the Guelphs were become so audacious, that they were no longer supportable; and, on the other, there was no visible way to suppress them; it was necessary, therefore, to take up arms, and leave the event to fortune. On the side of the Guelphs were all the ancient nobility and the greater part of the more powerful citizens; on the other were all the inferior sort of people, headed by the eight, and joined by George Scali, Strozzi, the Ricci, the Alberti, and the Medici. The rest of the multitude, as it almost always happened, joined with the discontented party. The power of their adversaries seemed to the heads of the Guelphs to be formidable, and their danger great, if at any time a signory that was not on their side should attempt to depress them. They found the number of persons who had been ‘admonished’ was so great, that they had disobliged most of the citizens, and made them their enemies. They thought there was no other remedy, now they had deprived them of their honors, but to banish them out of the city, seize upon the palace of the signori, and put the government of the state wholly into the hands of their own creatures, according to the example of the Guelphs, their predecessors, whose quiet and security were entirely owing to the total expulsion of their enemies.
“But as they differed in opinion about the time of putting their project in execution, the eight, aware of the trick intended, deferred the imborsation, and Sylvestro, the son of Alamanno de’ Medici, was appointed gonfalonier.* As he was born of one of the most considerable families of the commoners, he could not bear to see the people oppressed by a few grandees. With Alberti, Strozzi, and Scali, he secretly prepared a decree, by which the laws against the nobility1 were to be revived, the authority of the captains retrenched, and those who had been admonished admitted into the magistracy. Sylvestro being president, and consequently prince of the city for a time, caused both a college and council to be called the same morning; but his decree was thrown out as an innovation. He went away to the council, and pretended to resign his office, and leave the people to choose another person, who might either have more virtue or better fortune than himself; upon this, such of the council as were in the secret, and others who wished for a change, raised a tumult in 1378,* at which the signori and the colleges immediately came together; seeing their gonfalonier retiring, they obliged him, partly by their authority, and partly by their entreaties, to return to the council, which was in great confusion. Many of the principal citizens were threatened, and treated with the utmost insolence; among the rest, Carlo Strozzi was collared by an artificer, and would have been knocked on the head, if some of the bystanders had not rescued him. But the person who made the greatest disturbance was Benedetto de gli Alberti, who got into one of the windows of the palace, and called out to the people to arm; upon which, the piazza was instantly full of armed men, and the colleges were obliged to do that by fear, which they would not come into when they were petitioned.
“But whoever intends to make any alteration in a commonwealth, and to effect it by raising the multitude, will find himself deceived, if he thinks he can stop where he will, and conduct it as he pleases. The design of Sylvestro was to quiet and secure the city, but the thing took a very different turn; for the people were in such a ferment, that the shops were shut up, the houses barricaded, and many removed their goods for security into churches and convents. All the companies of the arts assembled, and each of them appointed a syndic. The signori called the colleges together, and were a whole day in consultation with the syndies, how to compose the disorders to the satisfaction of all parties; but they could not agree. The council, then, to hold out some hopes of satisfaction to the arts and the rest of the people, gave a full power, which the Florentines called a balia, to the signori, the colleges, the eight, the captains of the party, and the syndics of the arts, to reform the state. But while they were employed in this, some of the inferior companies of the arts, at the instigation of certain persons, who wanted to revenge the late injuries they had received from the Guelphs, detached themselves from the rest, and went to plundering and burning houses. They broke open the jails, set the prisoners at liberty, and plundered the monasteries and convents.
“The next morning the balìa proceeded to requalify the ammoniti, the admonished, though with an injunction not to exercise any function in the magistracy for three years; they repealed such laws as had been made by the Guelphs to the prejudice of the other citizens, and proclaimed rebels many who had incurred the hatred of the public; after which the names of the new signori were published, and Luigi Guicciardini was declared their gonfalonier.* If those who were admonished, the ammoniti, could have been content, the city was in a fair way of being quieted; but they thought it hard to wait three years longer, before they could enjoy any share in the magistracy. The arts assembled again to obtain satisfaction for them, and demanded of the signori, that, for the good and quiet of the city, it should be decreed, that no citizen for the future should be admonished as a Ghibelline, who had ever been one of the signori, or the college, or the captains of the companies, or the consuls or syndies of any of the arts; and further, that a new imborsation should be made of the Guelph party, and the old one burnt. It seldom happens that men who covet the property of others, and long for revenge, are satisfied with a bare restitution of their own. Accordingly some, who expected to advance their fortunes by exciting commotions,† endeavored to persuade the artificers, that they could never be safe, except many of their enemies were either banished or cut off.”
The city continued in the utmost confusion between the two new parties of commons and plebeians. But waving a particular detail, the essence of several years’ miseries may be collected from two speeches. One is of Luigi Guicciardini, a standard-bearer to the plebeians:—“The more we grant,” says he, “the more shameless and arrogant are your demands. If we speak thus to you, we do so, not to offend, but to lead you to reform; to which end we are willing that others may say to you what will please, whilst our province remains to say that which may do you good. Tell us, on your honor, what is there, that you can reasonably ask more of us? You desired to have the captains of the party deprived of their authority; they have been deprived. You insisted that the old imborsation should be burnt, and a new one made; we consented. You wanted to have those reinstated in the magistracy, that had been admonished; it has been granted. At your intercession we pardoned such as had been guilty of burning houses, and robbing churches, and we banished many of our principal citizens at your instigation. To gratify you, the grandees are bridled with new laws, and every thing done that might give you content; where, then, can we expect your demands will stop; or how long will you thus abuse your liberty? Why will ye suffer your own discords to bring the city into slavery? What else can ye expect from your divisions? what, from the goods ye have already taken, or may hereafter take from your fellow-citizens, but servitude and poverty? The persons you plunder are those whose fortunes and abilities are the defence of the state, and if they fail, how must it be supported? Whatever is got that way cannot last long; and then ye have nothing to look for but remediless famine and distress.”
“These expostulations made some impression, and they promised to be good citizens and obedient; but a fresh tumult soon arose, more dangerous than the former. The greater part of the late robberies and other mischiefs, had been committed by the rabble and dregs of the people; and those of them who had been the most audacious apprehended, that when the most material differences were composed, they should be called to an account for their crimes, and deserted, as it always happens, by those very persons at whose instigation they had committed them. Besides which, the inferior sort of people had conceived a hatred against the richer citizens and principals of the arts, upon a pretence that they had not been rewarded for their past services in proportion to what they deserved.”
To show how divisions grow wherever human nature is without a check, it is worth while to be particular here. “When the city was first divided into arts, in the time of Charles I., there was a proper head or governor appointed over each of them, to whose jurisdiction, in civil cases, every person in the several arts was to be subject. These arts or companies, as we have said, were at first but twelve, but afterwards they were increased to twenty-one, and arrived at such power and authority, that in a few years they wholly engrossed the government of the city; and because some were more, and others less honorable among them, they came by degrees to be distinguished, and seven of them were called the greater arts, and fourteen the less. From this division proceeded the arrogance of the captains of the party; for the citizens who had formerly been Guelphs, to which party those offices were always appropriated, had made it a constant rule to favor the greater arts, and to discountenance the less, and all those who sided with them; which chiefly gave occasion to all the tumults we have hitherto made mention of. And as, in the division of the people into arts and corporations, there were many trades in which the meaner sort are usually occupied, that were not incorporated into any distinct or particular company of their own, but admitted into any of the others, as they most approached the nature of their craft, it happened that when they were not duly satisfied for their labor, or any otherwise oppressed by their masters, they had no other head to apply to for redress but the magistrate of that company to which the person belonged that employed them, who, they commonly thought, did not do them justice. Now, of all the companies in the city, that of the clothiers had the most of this sort of people depending upon it; and being more opulent and powerful than any of the rest, it maintained by far the greater part of the multitude. The meaner sort of people, therefore, both of this company and the others, were, for the causes assigned, highly enraged; and being also terrified at the apprehension of being punished for their late outrages, they had frequent meetings in the night; where, considering what had happened, they represented to each other the danger they were in; and to animate and unite them all, one of the boldest and most experienced of them harangued his companions in this manner:—
“ ‘If it was now to be debated whether we should take arms to plunder and burn the houses of our fellow-citizens and rob the churches, I should be one of those who would think it worthy of great consideration, and perhaps be induced to prefer secure poverty to hazardous gain. But since arms have been already taken up and much mischief done, the first points to be considered are, in what manner we may retain them and ward off the penalties we have incurred. The whole city is full of rage and complaints against us, the citizens are daily in council, and the magistrates frequently assembled. Assure yourselves they are either preparing snares for us or contriving how to raise forces to destroy us. It behoves us, therefore, to have two objects chiefly in view at these consultations,—first, how to avoid the punishment for our late actions; and, in the next place, to devise the means of living in a greater degree of liberty and with more satisfaction for the future than we have done hitherto. To come off with impunity for our past offences, it is necessary to add still more to them, to redouble our outrages, our robberies and burnings, and to do our best to associate numbers for our protection; for where many are guilty none are chastised. Small crimes are punished, great ones rewarded; and where many suffer, few seek revenge; a general calamity being always borne with more patience than a particular one. To multiply evils is the surest way to procure us a pardon for what has been already done, and to obtain the liberty we desire. Nor is there any difficulty to discourage us. The enterprise is easy, and the success not to be doubted. Those who could oppose us are opulent indeed, but divided; their disunion will give us the victory, and their riches when we have got them will maintain it. Let not the antiquity of their blood, nor the meanness of our own, with which they so insolently upbraid us, frighten you. All families, having the same original, are of equal antiquity, and have been made by nature after one fashion. Let both sides be stripped naked, and both will be found alike. Clothe yourselves in their robes and them in your rags, and then you will appear the nobles and they the plebeians; for it is poverty alone that makes the real difference betwixt us. It fills me with just concern, indeed, to hear that some of you repent, forsooth, of what you have done, and out of a qualm of conscience resolve to proceed no farther; certainly, if this be true, you are not the men I took you for. Neither conscience nor the fear of infamy ought to terrify you; for those who succeed in their attempts, let them have used what means soever, are never disgraced; and as for conscience, we have no reason to give ourselves any trouble about it. Where the dread of famine and dungeons enters, as in our case, what greater terror can or should there be in hell?’ ”
The speech is long, and all in the same strain. It so inflamed his audience that they determined to rise, and took an oath to stand by each other. The signori had secret information of the plot, but although they took the best measures in their power, the government had not sufficient energy to prevent or suppress the tumult. They burnt many houses and committed all sorts of outrages. If any one of the plebeians had been injured or affronted by a particular citizen, he led the mob directly to his enemy’s house; nay, it was sufficient barely to mention the person’s name, or to call out “to such a man’s house,” or “to such a man’s shop.” They glutted themselves with mischief, and then, to crown all, they knighted sixty-four citizens, among whom was their favorite Sylvestro de’ Medici. Their levity was very curious, for they conferred the honor of knighthood upon some of those very persons whose houses they had burnt down but a few hours before. Such is the caprice of the multitude, and so soon are their disgusts changed into favor and affection!
The behavior of the signori and the council of the people was such as might be expected from men conscious of having neither dignity nor authority derived from the laws. Before a law could be passed, it was necessary it should have the assent of the common council as well as of the signori. It was contrary to established custom for two councils to be held on the same day; so that when the signori had agreed, it was necessary to wait till next day for the common council to deliberate upon the demands of the mob. These demands were extremely grievous and dishonorable to the government; one of them in particular, that no person that was incorporated into the arts should be compelled to pay any debt under the sum of fifty ducats in two years, at which time the principal only should be paid to the creditor and the interest into the bank. Yet the signori had agreed to them, and the common council were the next morning deliberating; the multitude, naturally voluble and impatient, got together again under the palace. The law passed; but the destruction of the city was not the less expected. The signori and counsellors left the palace one by one, and the people entered it.
Hæc natura multitudinis est; aut servit humiliter, aut superbe dominatur. When the people entered the palace, Michael di Lando, a wool-comber, a bare-footed, ragged fellow, carried the standard of justice before them. “You see, my friends,” said Michael, “this palace is yours, and the city is in your hands; what would you have done now?” They unanimously cried out that he should be their chief magistrate and govern the city as he pleased. Michael, a shrewd fellow, more obliged to nature than fortune, accepted the government, with a design, however, to compose the city. To amuse the people, he sent them to search for one Nuto, the hangman,1 and immediately issued a proclamation that nobody should dare to burn or plunder any man’s house for the future; and to enforce the observance of it, he ordered a gibbet to be erected in the great piazza. The mob soon brought Master Nuto into the piazza and hung him up by one leg upon the gibbet; and as every one tore away a joint or a piece of his flesh, in two or three minutes there was nothing left of him but the foot by which he hung.
“Michael gallantly new-modelled the state, appointed new signori, and gave the rents of all the shops upon the Old Bridge to Sylvestro de’ Medici; took a good share to himself,2 and was very liberal to many other citizens who had befriended the plebeians, not only out of gratitude for past favors, but to engage them to support him in future against envy. But the plebeians thought Michael had been too partial to some of the principal commoners, flew to arms again, appointed eight heads over them, with other subordinate officers and magistrates; so that the city had now two tribunals, and was governed by two distinct administrations. They took away all honors and emoluments that had been granted to Sylvestro de’ Medici and to Michael di Lando.”
But Michael showed himself, in valor, generosity, and prudence, far superior to any other citizen, and well deserves to be reckoned among those few that have been real benefactors to their country. If he had been of an ambitious or self-interested disposition, the republic must have relapsed into a more intolerable degree of servitude than it was under the tyranny of the Duke of Athens; but his integrity would not suffer him to cherish any design that might be prejudicial to the good of the public, and his prudence taught him to conduct himself in such a manner as not only gained him the first place and confidence of his own party, but enabled him to triumph over that of his enemies. He suppressed this new rebellion against his authority with great address and spirit; and those proceedings struck a terror into the plebeians and opened the eyes of the better sort of people, who could not help wondering at their own stupidity, that after they had suppressed the pride of the nobility, they could so patiently submit to be insulted by the very dregs and refuse of the city.
“When Michael obtained this complete victory over the plebeians, the new signori were already appointed, two of whom were of so base and abject condition, that every one seemed desirous to be rid of such infamous magistrates. As they entered on the magistracy, there was an uproar in the piazza, which was full of armed men, who shouted with one voice, ‘No plebeians1 in the signori!’ The rest of the signori, in order to appease the tumult, degraded their two associates and chose two others in their room; they likewise dissolved the plebeian companies, and deprived all those of their offices who had any connection with them, except Michael and a few of the best of them. They also divided the subordinate magistracy into two separate jurisdictions, one of which was to preside over the greater arts, and the other over the less. For the signori it was only provided in general that five of that body should be drawn out of the less companies and four out of the greater, and the standard-bearer alternately out of each.”
Sylvestro de’ Medici and a few others who had promoted this new regulation became in a manner the chief governors of the city. These proceedings and this new model of government revived the old divisions betwixt the more considerable commoners and the lower sort of mechanics, which had first been occasioned by the ambition of the Ricci and Albizzi; and because they afterwards produced terrible consequences, Machiaavel henceforward distinguishes these two factions by the names of the popular and plebeian.
“Though this constitution of government lasted but three years, it abounded with executions and banishments; for as those who were chiefly concerned in the administration well knew there were great numbers of malcontents, both within the city and without it, they lived in perpetual fear and alarm. The disaffected within the walls either actually did, or were supposed to cabal daily against the state; and those without were continually raising disturbances abroad by the assistance of foreign princes or republics, sometimes in one part, sometimes in another. In such a government the laws are insulted by every party in turn. Accusations were laid before the magistrates against a number of citizens for corresponding with the exiles at Bologna, concerning a plot against the city; the prisoners were examined, and nothing criminal could be proved against them. The magistrate was going to acquit and discharge them; the people rose in such a ferment of clamor and calumnies that the magistrate was forced to pass sentence of death upon them.
“Their execution occasioned fresh murmurs and discontents in the city, so that both those who had got the upper hand, and those who were depressed, lived in continual fear and suspicion of each other. Dreadful indeed were the consequences which flowed from the apprehension of the former, as every little accident furnished them with a handle to trample on their fellow-citizens, some of whom they daily put to death, or sent into exile. They likewise made several new laws to strengthen their hands, and keep those down of whom they entertained the least suspicion. These suspicions growing stronger and stronger every day, made them behave with more rigor to the other party; a manner of proceeding that only served to multiply their discontents, and to increase instead of allaying their own fears, which were not a little heightened by the insolence of Georgio Scali and Tomaso Strozzi, whose authority was much superior to that of the magistrates; and therefore they all stood in awe of those two citizens, as they knew it was in their power, if they should join the plebeians, to turn them entirely out of the administration.
“This intemperate and tyrannical manner of governing began to grow intolerable, not only to all good citizens, but even to the seditious themselves; and it was not possible that the arrogance of Scali in particular could be long supported. By delivering a friend and tool of his out of the hands of justice, by a mob, he soon furnished his enemies with a fair opportunity not only of wreaking their own private revenge upon him, but of delivering the commonwealth out of his hands, and the hands of the plebeians, who had so unmercifully tyrannized over it for three years.
“They engaged in this design Benedetto, a man of immense fortune, very humane, strict in his morals and principles, a steady friend to the liberties of his country, and sufficiently disgusted at the tyrannical proceedings of the government, so that it was no difficult matter to engage him in any measures that might contribute to the downfall of Scali. As the insolence and oppression of the principal commoners had made him their enemy, and a friend to the plebeians, so, when he saw the latter pursuing the very same measures, he quickly detached himself from them. Having brought Benedetto and the heads of the arts into their design, they seized upon Scali, and the next day he was beheaded;* which struck such a terror into his party, that not one of them offered to stir in his favor, though they crowded in great numbers to see his execution. When he came to suffer death, in the face of that very people who had so lately worshipped him with a degree of idolatry, he could not help complaining of the hardness of his destiny, and of the wickedness of those citizens who, by their oppressions, had forced him to caress a rabble, in which he found there was neither honor nor gratitude. He bewailed his folly in having trusted to the fidelity of plebeians, which he might well have known is ever liable to be shaken and seduced by any little suspicion, misrepresentation, or blast of envy. He told Benedetto, ‘This is the last day of my misfortunes, and the first of yours.’ After him, some of his chief confidants were put to death, and their bodies dragged through the streets by the people.
“His death threw the whole city into a ferment. As the city was full of different humors, every one had a separate view, and was eager to accomplish it before he laid down his arms. The ancient nobility, now called grandees, could not bear to live any longer without some share in the public honors, and exerted their utmost efforts to recover them; for which purpose they endeavored to have the captains of the party restored to their former authority. The heads of the popular faction, and the greater arts, were disgusted that the government of the state was shared in common with them by the inferior arts or plebeians; the inferior arts, instead of giving up any part of their authority, were very desirous to increase it, and the plebeians were afraid of having their new companies dissolved. From these different views and apprehensions there was nothing to be seen in Florence but tumults for a whole year. Sometimes the grandees, sometimes the greater, sometimes the lesser arts, and sometimes the plebeians, were in an uproar; and it often happened that they all took arms at the same time in different parts of the city.”
After many mischiefs, dangers, and troubles, and many consultations and conferences, a new form of government was established.* All were recalled who had been banished since Sylvestro de’ Medici was standard-bearer; all offices and appointments conferred in 1378 were abolished; the new companies dissolved, and reincorporated in their respective arts; the inferior arts were not to choose any standard-bearer of justice; instead of enjoying one half of the public honors, they were now limited to one third, and those too of the lower rank. The popular nobility and the Guelphs reassumed their superiority; and the plebeians were utterly dispossessed of it, after they had held it from 1378 to 1381.
“But the new administration was no less grievous and oppressive than that of the plebeians had been; several of the popular nobility, and many of the heads of the plebeians, were banished, and among the rest Michael,† whom the remembrance of his former great merit, in restraining the fury of the populace when so licentiously plundering the city, was not sufficient to protect from the resentment of the governing party. From such impolitic proceedings in princes and governors of commonwealths, it happens that men, naturally growing disgusted with their ill-timed severity and ingratitude, often incur their displeasure before they are aware of it.
“As such executions and banishments had ever been disapproved of by Benedetto, he could not help blaming the authors of these; upon which the government began to grow jealous of him, as a favorer of the plebeian party, and one that had consented to the death of Scali, not out of any real disapprobation of his conduct, but that he might the more easily get the reins of government into his own hands. They kept a strict watch over him, and resolved to ruin him. Intrigues were soon laid, by which Benedetto was sent into banishment.‡ ‘You see, my dear friends,’ said he, when he took leave of them, ‘in what manner fortune has contrived my ruin, and how she still threatens you; at which neither do I wonder nor should you: it is the lot of those who endeavor to maintain their integrity among the wicked, and who desire to sustain that which more desire to destroy. From the same principle of love to my country which once induced me to join Sylvestro de’ Medici, and afterwards to separate myself from Scali, I could not forbear censuring the proceedings of those who are now at the helm, who, having nobody to chastise them, are likewise desirous to get rid of every one who dares to reprehend them.’ He preserved his character for piety and humanity abroad, and there died. His bones were brought back to Florence, and interred there with the highest honors by those very people who had persecuted him while alive with so much rancor and injustice.”
“The family of the Alberti were not the only sufferers in these distractions, for many other citizens were either admonished or sent into exile. The members of this balìa having done what they were deputed for, were going to break up, as they thought it would have an appearance of modesty; but the people, hearing of their resolution, ran to arms in the palace, and insisted that they should banish and admonish several others before they resigned their authority.”
“Nevertheless, to diminish the authority of the plebeians still more, the signori made a decree, that the third part of the honors which they before enjoyed should be reduced to a fourth; and, that there might be two at least in the signori, always of approved fidelity to the government, they gave the gonfalonier, and four other citizens, authority to make a fresh imborsation, and to put the names of a select number of citizens into a particular purse, out of which two of every new signory should always be drawn.”
“Tranquillity now continued till 1387, when Giovanni Galeazzo Viconti, commonly called the Conte di Virtù, thought to make himself King of Italy by arms, as he had made himself Duke of Milan by treachery; but after making himself master of Bologna, Pisa, Perugia, and Siena, and preparing to be crowned King of Italy at Florence, he died.*
“During the war with the Duke, Maso de gli Albizzi was gonfalonier, a bitter enemy to the Alberti. He resolved, though Benedetto was now dead, to be revenged, before he went out of office, on the rest of that family, for Pietro’s unfortunate end. He accused the two heads of the family of corresponding with the exiles, and took them into custody. Upon this the whole city was in an uproar. The signori called the people together, and appointed a new balia, by which many citizens, besides almost all the Alberti, were banished, and many artificers admonished or put to death, and a fresh imborsation of magistrates was made. This tyrannical manner of proceeding so enraged the arts and lower sort of people, who now saw their lives and honors wantonly taken away, that they rose in arms, some of them running to the piazza, and others to the house of Véri de’ Medici, who, after the death of Sylvester, was become the head of that family, and earnestly entreated him to take the government into his hands, and deliver them from the oppression of citizens, who were daily endeavoring to destroy the commonwealth, and every good man in it.”
Antonio de’ Medici was most importunate with him, though they had been long at open enmity. All writers agree, that if Véri had been as ambitious as he was virtuous, he might have made himself lord of the city; but he put himself at the head of the people, marched to the piazza, and there publicly refused to do any thing unconstitutional, but prayed the signori to redress the grievances of the people.
“They highly commended him, and promised to give all satisfaction. Upon these assurances, and a reliance on Véri’s word, the people returned to their houses. As soon as the tumult was composed, the signori, instead of fulfilling their promises, fortified the piazza, enrolled two thousand citizens to defend them, forbid all others to bear arms, put many citizens to death, and banished others, who had been most active in the late insurrection. The few Alberti who were left, and the Medici, thought themselves and the people deceived, and were extremely disgusted by these proceedings; but the first who had courage to oppose them was Donato Acciaivoli, one of the grandees, rather superior to Maso Albizzi, who, by the steps he had taken while he was gonfalonier, was become in a manner the head of the commonwealth. Donato endeavored to get those who had been sent into exile recalled, and those who had been admonished requalified to hold their former honors and employments. He first attempted it by persuasion, but not succeeding, he threatened to do it by force. For this he was cited, convicted, and banished to Barletta. Alamanno, and Antonio de’ Medici, and all those who were of Alamanno’s family, with many of the inferior arts, who had any interest among the plebeians, were likewise banished. All these things happened within two years after Maso de gli Albizzi had assumed the government.
In 1397, the exiles at Bologna, spirited young men, among whom was Antonio de’ Medici, depending upon the people’s rising in their favor, determined at all events to return to their country and assassinate Maso; but either from a terror of the government, or prejudice against the exiles, the people would not move; and the conspirators fled to the church, where they were put to death.* This conspiracy was scarcely quashed, when another one still more dangerous, of other exiles scattered over Lombardy, in concert with the Duke of Milan, was discovered; but this was defeated, and the authors punished. Then a new balìa was instituted, with authority to provide for the safety of the commonwealth. By this council, six of the Ricci, six of the Alberti, two of the Medici, three of the Scali, two of the Strozzi, and many others of lower condition, were proclaimed rebels; all the rest of the Alberti, Ricci, and Medici, except some very few, were rendered incapable of holding any office for ten years. One of the Alberti only was spared on account of his quiet character, Antonio; but the government was jealous of him, and soon found a pretence for banishing him to a distance of three hundred miles from the city; and to free the government from the continual apprehensions they lived under of the Alberti, they banished all that family that were above fifteen years of age. These things happened in 1400.†
“In 1412, some of the Alberti returned from banishment, and another balìa was appointed, which made new laws for the security of the state, and inflicted other penalties on the family.
“In 1414 ended the war with Ladislaus, King of Naples, whose death delivered Florence from as much danger as that of the Conte di Virtù had done.”
The period from 1371 to 1434, is that which is boasted of by Machiavel as the prosperous one, but the prosperity of which he attributes to the virtues and abilities of Maso. Pisa, Cortona, Arezzo, Leghorn, and Monte Pulciano, were added to the dominion.
“All republics, especially such as are not well constituted, undergo frequent changes in their laws and manner of government. And this is not owing to the nature either of liberty or subjection in general, as many think, but to downright oppression on one hand, or unbridled licentiousness on the other.1 ”
It is very true that most republics have undergone frequent changes in their laws; but this has been merely because very few republics have been well constituted. It is very true also, that there is nothing in the nature of liberty, or of obedience, which tends to produce such changes; on the contrary, real liberty and true obedience rather tend to preserve constancy in government. It is, indeed, oppression and license that occasion changes; but where the constitution is good, the laws govern, and prevent oppression as well as license.
“The name of liberty is often nothing more than a specious pretence,2 made use of both by the instruments of licentiousness, who for the most part are commoners, and by the promoters of slavery, who generally are the nobles, each side being equally impatient of restraint and control.”
This is a truth, which is proved as well as illustrated by every page of the foregoing history, as well as by the history of almost all other republics, ancient and modern; and the next paragraph shows that Machiavel had an accurate idea of the evil, though a confused one of the remedy.
“When it fortunately happens, which indeed is very seldom, that some wise, good, and powerful citizen, has sufficient authority in the commonwealth to make such laws as may extinguish all jealousies betwixt the nobility and the people, or at least, so to moderate and restrain them, that they shall not be able to produce any bad effect, then that state may properly be called free, and its constitution looked upon as firm and permanent; for being once established upon good laws and institutions, it has no further occasion, like other states, for the virtue of any particular man to support it.”
One would be apt to conjecture from this, that Machiavel was about to propose a first magistrate, armed by the constitution with sufficient authority to mediate, at all times, between the nobles and commons. Such a magistrate, possessed of the whole executive power, with a negative to defend it, has always authority to intervene between the nobles and commons, and to preserve the energy of the laws to restrain both; and whether this executive magistrate is wise and good or not, if the commons have the negative upon the purse and the laws, and the inquest of grievances, abuses, and state crimes, that executive power can hardly be ill used.
“On such laws and principles many of those ancient commonwealths, which so long subsisted, were formerly constituted.”
Rome and Sparta were, in some degree, constituted upon these principles, and in proportion as they conformed to them, they were free and happy; but neither was perfectly conformed to them.
“For want of them, others have often varied their form of government from tyranny to license, and from license to tyranny;” and for want of them, such will ever be the vibration. “For as each of those states always has powerful enemies to contend with, it neither is, nor can be possible they should be of any long duration;” and while they last, the liberty and happiness of the citizens are constantly sacrificed. “All good and wise men must of necessity be disgusted at them.” So much so, that if it were not for the chance and hope of obtaining a better constitution after all the changes, any man of that character would prefer a simple monarchy at once. “Since much evil may very easily be done in the former and hardly any good in the latter; the insolent having too much authority in one, and the ignorant and inexperienced in the other.” These characters of simple aristocracies and simple democracies, which succeed each other so rapidly where the third power is not introduced to control and moderate both the nobles and people, are very just; and Machiavel says what is near the truth, “both must be upheld by the spirit and fortune of one man alone, who yet may either be suddenly taken off by death or overpowered by adversity.” It is a pity he had not said, parties must be upheld together by the constitutional, legal authority of one man alone, possessed of the whole executive power of the state, and then, if he is taken off by death, another will succeed; if he be overpowered by adversity, the whole state must be overpowered with him; and no form of government can be devised to warrant states against pestilence, earthquake, and famine, the inevitable and irresistible judgments of heaven.
“I say, therefore, that the model of government which took place in Florence after the death of Scali, in 1381, was at first solely maintained by the conduct of Maso de gli Albizzi, and afterwards by that of Niccolò Uzzano.” This is a strong instance of the efficiency of one man, so situated as to be able to mediate between the aristocratical and democratical ingredients in society, and an argument for providing such an officer by the constitution, whose duty and business it shall always be to act the same part; nay, who shall be necessitated, from the principle of self-preservation and self-defence, to preserve the balance between them.
“The city continued in tranquillity from 1414 to 1422, eight years; Uzzano and six others had the chief authority. Those animosities, however, which were at first kindled in the city by the quarrel betwixt the Albizzi and the Ricci, and afterwards blown up to such height by Sylvestro de’ Medici, were never extinguished; and although that party which had the largest share in the affections of the people continued only three years in the administration, and was turned out of it in 1381, yet as they were favored and supported by the greater part of the citizens, they could not be totally suppressed. The frequent admonitions and continual persecutions that were carried on against the heads of it, from 1381 to 1400, had indeed brought them very low. The Alberti and the Medici suffered most by these proceedings. Several of them had their estates confiscated; others were banished or put to death; and those who were suffered to continue in the city were deprived of all their honors and employments, by which their party was much depressed and almost reduced to nothing. They retained, however, sharp resentments, and determined to take revenge, though under the present circumstances they thought proper to dissemble.”
This administration, composed of the most considerable commoners or popular nobility, which had kept the city so long in peace, at last were guilty of two errors in point of conduct, which proved their ruin. As soon as they thought themselves safe from the attempts of the Alberti, they grew insolent and they quarrelled among themselves; two faults that have ever been committed by every single assembly, whether of nobles or commons; and which ever must be committed by all that are to come.
“Amidst their supineness, oppressions, and divisions, the Medici recovered their former authority and power. The first of this family that began to lift up his head again was Giovanni,* the son of Bicci de’ Medici, who being a man of great humanity, and grown very rich, was admitted to a share in the government of the state, at which there were such extraordinary rejoicings among the people, that many of the graver sort of the citizens were not a little alarmed when they saw the old humors began to show themselves again. Uzzano represented to his colleagues† that he knew Giovanni was a person of much greater influence and abilities than ever Sylvestro had been, and that it was dangerous to promote a man of so general a reputation to such a degree of power; but the rest of the governors envied Uzzano’s reputation, and were glad to avail themselves of any assistance to ruin him; so that Giovanni was set up, as it often happens, to pull down Uzzano.”
When a popular assembly or a senate have the management of the executive power, disputes forever arise concerning every step in foreign affairs, and discords and factions have full play. Thus it happened in Florence upon occasion of a negotiation with Philip Visconti, Lord of Lombardy. Every faction had a different opinion. That, however, in favor of a war prevailed. Ten superintendents of the war were appointed, soldiers were raised, and taxes imposed, which occasioned great murmurs in the city. The taxes were said to be heavier on the poor than the rich; every one exclaimed against the oppression of the governors who had wantonly embroiled the state in an expensive and unnecessary war, only to gratify their own private interests and ambition, and to establish themselves in their tyranny. The majority of the governors at last judged it necessary to declare war, notwithstanding that the resolution still met with great opposition, especially from Giovanni de’ Medici, who publicly protested against it, and occasioned a multitude of arguments pro and con. The war was unfortunate, and a battle was lost by the badness of the weather; this misfortune occasioned great consternation in Florence, especially among the governing party who had been its chief promoters; they saw the enemy powerful and elated, themselves disarmed and without allies, and what was worse, hated to the last degree by the people, who insulted them whenever they appeared in the streets, complaining of insupportable taxes, and upbraiding them with the heavy expenses of an unnecessary war.
Machiavel enumerates the taunts which fury suggested upon this occasion to an enraged and unbridled multitude. The signori called a meeting of the principal citizens, and earnestly exhorted them to use their good offices to soothe the people and appease the general indignation which their clamors had excited. Rinaldo, the eldest son of the late Maso de gli Albizzi, having secretly entertained some hopes of becoming sole governor of the republic by the merit of his own services and the reputation of his father, made a long speech in justification of the war.
A commission was given to twenty citizens to raise further supplies for the maintenance of the war, who seeing the governing party now humbled, took courage and laid the chief burden of the taxes upon their shoulders, at which they were not a little mortified in their turn. They complained of it as too heavy; but when this came to the ears of the council they took effectual care to have it collected; and, in order to make all impositions appear for the future the more grievous and hateful to the people, they gave a strict charge to their officers to collect this with the utmost rigor, and to kill any one that should dare to oppose them or refuse to pay it; and so many were murdered or wounded that it was apprehended the two parties would come to blows; for those who had been so long in power and used to be treated with such reverence and distinction could not bear the thoughts of being insulted in this manner; and the other side were resolved that every man in his turn should equally feel the sting of these oppressions.
“The principal citizens had now many private conferences, but Giovanni was not there; either because he was not invited as a person in whom they could not thoroughly confide, or refused to come because he did not approve of such cabals.
“Rinaldo de gli Albizzi made an harangue. He represented how the government had again fallen into the hands of the people, from whom their fathers had recovered it in 1381. He reminded them of the tyranny of those who were in the administration from 1377 till that time, in which interval either the father or grandfather, or some near relation, of almost every one who was then present had been unjustly put to death. That the city was now going to relapse into the same state of confusion and oppression, since the multitude had already taken upon them to impose taxes; and if not either curbed by force, or restrained by some other expedient, they would certainly in the next place proceed to appoint such officers as they thought fit; after which they would turn the present magistrates out of their seats, to the utter destruction of an administration which had governed the city with so much glory and reputation for forty-two years; the consequence of which would be that Florence must either be blindly governed by the caprice of the multitude, and then one party would live in continual danger and apprehension while the other rioted in all manner of licentiousness, or it must fall under the subjection of some one person who would make himself absolute lord, and perhaps tyrant over it. As the audaciousness of the multitude was in a great measure owing to the largeness of the imborsations, and the little care that was taken in making them, which had filled the palace with new and mean men, he thought the only remedy for such disorders would be to restore the authority of the nobility, and diminish that of the minor arts, by reducing them from fourteen to seven. This would lessen the power of the plebeians in the councils, both by retrenching their number and by throwing more weight into the scale of the grandees, who would, out of revenge for old injuries, be sure to use all possible endeavors to depress them. That wise men always availed themselves of different sorts of people at different seasons; and if their fathers had made use of the assistance of the plebeians to humble the insolence of the grandees, now the latter were brought so low, and the former become so audacious, it would be no bad expedient to join with the grandees to lower them.
“Uzzano made answer that ‘it might be done if they could draw Giovanni de’ Medici into their designs; for if he concurred with them, the multitude being deprived of their head would not be able to make any opposition.’ Rinaldo was deputed to wait upon Giovanni, and persuade him to join them. Giovanni replied to him that he had always thought it the duty of a good citizen to endeavor to prevent any change in the established laws. By such changes some were turned out and others brought in, and the first generally thought themselves more aggrieved than the others benefited; by which few friends and many enemies were made, mankind being naturally more prone to revenge than gratitude. That the citizens of Florence generally dealt basely and perfidiously with each other; that as soon as the promoters and advisers of this plan had sufficiently depressed the people by the help of his authority, they would certainly fall upon him next with the whole force and assistance of the plebeians, whose affections he must have lost by such a conduct, and then he would be utterly deserted and ruined. He could not help remembering the fate of Benedetto, who, at the instigation of such as conspired his destruction, consented to the severe proceedings against Scali, and soon after was sent into exile himself by the very persons who had inveigled him into those measures. That for his part he should never agree to have any alterations made in the laws or constitution of his country.’
“These deliberations when known, still added to the reputation of Giovanni, and increased the hatred of the people against the other citizens. On the contrary, Alamanno de’ Medici, his relation, and Cosimo, his son, urged Giovanni to take this opportunity of humbling his enemies and exalting his friends, reproaching him with his coldness, which they said emboldened those who wished him ill to form daily conspiracies against him, and would one time or other prove the ruin of all his family and dependents; but he was deaf to all their remonstrances and prognostications, and determined to pursue his own measures. The designs of the faction were, however, now plainly discovered, and the city began once more to divide itself into factions.”
Under such forms of government there can never be an independent judicial power; all parties are either courting, or threatening, or persecuting the judges.1
“There were at this time two presiding under the signori in the supreme court of justice; Martino, who was one of them, was of Uzzano’s party, and Paolo, the other, followed that of the Medici. Rinaldo finding Giovanni inflexible, resolved to turn Paolo out of his office, as he thought that the court would then be wholly at his devotion; but the other side being aware of this, were beforehand with him, and contrived matters so well, that they got Paolo continued and Martino discharged, to the great mortification and prejudice of his party.
“The war lasted from 1422 to 1427, and the citizens were impoverished by taxes; personal estate was now to be taxed as well as real. This was likely to fall heavily upon the rich, upon which account, before it passed into a law,2 it was vehemently opposed by them all, except Giovanni, who publicly expressed his approbation of it, so that it was carried against them. This tax was regulated by a law made on purpose, and not left to the arbitrament of partial or interested persons; so that the more powerful citizens were in some measure restrained from oppressing the inferior sort and influencing their votes in the councils, as they had been used to do, by the threats of taxing them according as they gave their suffrages. This tax, therefore, was very cheerfully submitted to by the generality, though highly disgustful to the rich. But as it is the nature of mankind to be ever restless and discontented, and when they have gained one advantage to be still grasping at a higher, the people, not satisfied with this equality of taxation established by the law, demanded a retrospect, by which it might appear how much less the rich citizens had paid before, than they ought to have done by this regulation, and by which every one should be made to account for deficiencies.”
This question occasioned very long and ingenious arguments on both sides; but Giovanni represented to the people the bad consequences of retrospects, and with many arguments soothed them, till they dropped this demand.
In 1428 peace was concluded, and fresh commotions began in the city on the subject of the new plan of taxation. “In this juncture Giovanni fell sick, and calling his two sons, Cosimo and Lorenzo, to his bedside, he advised them, ‘If you would live with safety and comfort, be content with such a share in the government as your fellow-citizens confer upon you, by which you will avoid envy and danger; for it is that which a man arrogates to himself that makes him odious, and not what is voluntarily given him.’ He died lamented by the whole city, for he was very charitable and compassionate. His universal benevolence taught him to love good men and pity the evil. He never solicited honors, though he obtained the highest. He died possessed of immense riches,* and full of glory and reputation, leaving his son Cosimo heir to his fortune and fame; both which he not only maintained, but augmented.”
Ambition soon kindled new wars. “The whole city was divided into little meetings and cabals of all ranks of people, the generality of whom were for commencing hostilities against the Lucchese. Among the more considerable citizens who favored this enterprise were all the followers of the Medici family; those who opposed it were Uzzano and his party. It seems almost incredible that there should be such a change of opinions in the same citizens on this occasion, concerning the expediency of a war; and yet those very persons who, after a peace that had lasted ten years, opposed a war against Duke Philip which was undertaken in defence of their own liberties, now strenuously insisted upon one against Lucca, to invade the rights of others, and at a time too when the city was to the last degree exhausted and impoverished by the heavy expenses of the last. From hence we may observe how much more ready mankind are to usurp the property of others than to defend their own, and how much stronger the hope of gain is than the fear of loss. The signori assembled the common council, where the matter was debated by some of the leading men of the republic in the presence of four hundred and ninety-eight citizens.”
The debate was conducted by Rinaldo on one side and Uzzano on the other; and, upon a ballot, only ninety-eight were against the war. The war was commenced and carried on with all that rapacious avarice and ambition which had begun it; and grievous complaints and accusations were brought against Astorre and Rinaldo for their behavior in it.
In 1428,* Niccolò da Uzzano died, and Rinaldo succeeded as head of his family and party. Rinaldo returned in a rage against the magistrates, and presenting himself before the council of war, he told them “he well knew how difficult and dangerous a thing it was to serve an unbridled people and a divided state; since the one was carried away with every rumor, the other put a malicious interpretation upon actions that were doubtful, and always punished the evil, but never rewarded the good; so that if a commander succeeded in an expedition, he had no praise at all; if he was guilty of an error, his conduct was censured by the generality; but if he miscarried, he was sure to be condemned by every one; for in the one case his own party would envy his success, and in the other his adversaries would not fail to insult him.” The council endeavored to appease his resentment, but gave the command abroad to others. The war was conducted afterwards rather unsuccessfully, until they came to a battle before the town of Lucca, and were totally defeated.
“As the expedition had been undertaken almost by general consent, the people, in the utmost consternation, and not knowing where else to turn their rage, began to abuse those who had conducted the war, since they could not blame those who, by their own instigation, had first advised it, and they revived their old calumnies against Rinaldo; but the person whom they fell upon with the greatest violence was Guicciardini, who they said might easily have put an end to the war if he had not been bribed; nay, they went so far as to charge him with sending a horseload of money to his own house, and particularly mentioned the names both of those that carried and those that received it. These clamors and accusations made such a noise, that the captain of the people could not help taking cognizance of so public a charge; especially as he was importunately called upon so to do by Giovanni’s enemies. Having cited him therefore to clear himself of this imputation, he made his appearance, but with much seeming indignation and contempt of their malice; and his relations exerted themselves so strenuously for the honor of their family, that the captain was obliged to stop all further proceedings against him.”
The insinuation here is very obvious that the judge was bribed.
“In 1433 a general peace was concluded, whereby all towns that had been taken by the Florentines, Lucchese and Sienese, were mutually restored to their former possessors; so that the expense of this war was all lost. During the course of it the factious humors began to ferment again at home; and Cosimo began to act with greater spirit in public affairs, and with more openness and zeal for the good of his friends, than ever his father had done; so that those who rejoiced at the death of Giovanni were not a little damped at the proceedings of his son. Cosimo was a man of very great prudence, of a sedate and agreeable countenance, exceedingly liberal and humane, never entering into any measures that would be pernicious to the state, or even the party that he opposed, but taking all opportunities of doing good to every one, and of conciliating to himself the affections of his fellow-citizens by his goodness and generosity. So noble an example of benevolence greatly increased the hatred which the public had already conceived against the governing party, and at the same time was the best method he thought he could take to enable himself either to live with reputation and security in Florence, or, by the interest he had with the people, and even if necessary by force of arms, to get the better of any persecution that the malice of his enemies might raise against him. There were two citizens who contributed to promote this interest, Averardo de’ Medici and Puccio Pucci; the one by his boldness and activity, the other by his great wisdom and experience, which added much reputation to his party; indeed, the judgment and authority of the latter were so generally revered, that he gave a name to the party, which was not called Cosimo’s, but Puccio’s party.
“In this divided state of the city, the expedition against Lucca was undertaken, which, instead of extinguishing the rage of faction, still added fuel to it; for, though Puccio’s party had promoted and advised a war, yet those of the other side were chiefly employed in conducting it, as they had greater power in the government; and since Averardo and his friends could not by any means prevent this, they took every opportunity of defaming them, and calumniating their actions; so that when they met with any misfortune, it was not imputed to the superior strength or better management of the enemy, but to the misconduct and imprudence of the commissary. This was the occasion why the enormities committed by Astorre Gianni, though of themselves very great indeed, were still exaggerated. It was this sort of treatment that provoked Rinaldo to such a degree, that he left his command without permission. This was the true cause of Giovanni Guicciardini being cited to appear before the captain of the people. From hence proceeded all the charges and complaints that were exhibited against other magistrates and commissaries; and whilst those that had any foundation were always aggravated, and sometimes supported by downright falsehood, the people, out of the hatred they bore to them, greedily swallowed all, whether true or false.
“Uzzano, and the other heads of that party, perfectly well aware of these base artifices, had had several private meetings to consider of proper means to prevent the effect of them; yet they could not fix upon any expedient. It was very dangerous, they knew, to connive at them, and not less to proceed to open violence; Uzzano himself was averse to any remedies of that kind. Barbadori, seeing they were harassed in this manner, with war abroad and faction at home, made a visit to Uzzano, whom he found alone and very thoughtful in his study; and as he himself wished to see the ruin of Cosimo, he left no method untried to prevail upon Uzzano to join with Rinaldo to drive him out of the city. Uzzano replied,—
“ ‘Common prudence would be sufficient to induce those who advise the expulsion of Cosimo to compare their own strength with his. Our party, it seems, is now distinguished by the name of the Nobility, and the other by that of the Plebeians. Remember the fate of the ancient nobility of this city, who at last were utterly suppressed in their contests with the plebeians. Our party is divided, while that of our adversaries is compact and entire. Neri and Nerone, two of the chief men in the city, have not yet declared themselves; and it is uncertain what side they will take. Several families are divided among themselves; and many there are that hate us, and favor our adversaries, merely out of envy or malice to their own brothers, or some other near relations. Among the sons of Maso, Luca, out of hatred to Rinaldo, is gone over to the other side; in the family of the Guicciardini, Pietro, the son of Luigi, is a mortal enemy to his brother Giovanni, and joins our adversaries; Tomaso and Niccolò Soderini openly oppose us, out of pique to their uncle Francisco; so that if we consider the quality of those who constitute their party, and of whom our own consists, I see no reason why one should be called the nobility in preference to the other. If it is because they are followed by the whole body of the plebeians, that very circumstance makes them so much superior to us, that if ever we come to an open trial of our strength, we shall not be able to stand before them; and if we still continue in possession of the first places in the commonwealth, it is entirely owing to the established credit of an administration which has now supported itself for the space of fifty years. But if things should come to extremities, and our present weakness be discovered, you may depend upon it, we should be forced out of the magistracy, perhaps to our utter destruction. Cosimo, it is true, freely lends money to every one that wants it; not only to private people, but to the public, upon any emergency, and to foreigners as well as Florentines. He is a friend to such as stand in need of protection, and sometimes helps to advance an acquaintance to a reputable employment in the commonwealth, by the interest which his universal benevolence has gained him among the people. What shall we be able to plead in excuse for endeavoring to expel him the city? Shall we accuse him of being charitable, friendly, liberal, and beloved by every one? What law condemns charity, liberality, and beneficence? Indeed, these virtues are sometimes counterfeited, to cajole the vulgar, by such as aspire to dominion; but they do not appear in that light at present, nor is it in our power to make them. We have lost our reputation by our late misconduct; and a people naturally prone to faction, and corrupted by continual divisions, will no longer put any confidence in us, or give credit to such accusations. If he is banished, he will return with more friends, and we shall have more enemies. If it is intended to put him to death in a judicial manner, that can never be effected; for, as he is rich, and the magistracy corrupt, he will be sure to escape all punishment. But if he is banished or condemned, what will the commonwealth gain by that? No sooner will it be free from the apprehensions it was under from Cosimo, but it will be liable to the same from Rinaldo. For my own part, I am one of those who never desire to see one citizen exceed another in authority; and if one of these two must seize the reins, I know not any reason that should induce me to prefer Rinaldo to Cosimo. I pray God to preserve this city from ever falling under the dominion of any one man; but if a time should ever come, when our sins shall bring that judgment upon us, I pray still more earnestly, that we may not become subject to Rinaldo. The far greater part of the citizens, some out of stupidity, and others out of malice, are thoroughly disposed to sell their country; and fortune has been so favorable to them as to provide a purchaser. Live quietly, then; and as to any invasion of our liberties, be assured, you have as much to apprehend from our own party as the other.’ ”
This speech contains a volume of instruction. The situation of such a government, where there are two parties, and no third power to balance them, is admirably described. Neri, and Nerone, who were yet neuters, are looked up to as capable, when they please, of overturning the balance, and effecting a revolution. Family quarrels are resorted to and inflamed, in order to make different branches take different sides. Though one party is called patrician, and the other plebeian, so many individuals of each desert their colors and go over to the enemy, that it is impossible to say which party is really the patrician, and which the plebeian. Timid and irresolute to the last degree, the government dares not disoblige an individual, even by punishing a crime; the government really esteeming its enemies more than its own members; and opposition approving members of government more than their own associates; all parties endeavoring to get an influence over the judges, as essential to their existence; the judicial power unavoidably corrupted,—it was easy for Uzzano to say, and perhaps sincerely, that he never desired to see one citizen exceed another in influence. But, according to Machiavel, the existence of the government had long depended upon the superior authority of Uzzano himself. And no better plan of liberty than this deplorable one of Florence can ever be preserved, without some one citizen legally vested with authority to control each in turn of the contending parties.
“Uzzano died in 1428,* and all restraint was at an end. Rinaldo now was head of the party, and was continually teazing and importuning such citizens as he thought likely to be judges, that is, standard-bearers of justice, to take arms, and deliver their country out of the hands of Cosimo; who, taking advantage of the stupidity of some, and the malice of others, would certainly enslave it. Thus Rinaldo, by endeavoring to supplant his adversaries, and they to support themselves, kept the whole city in continual alarm and suspicion; so that when new magistrates were appointed, it was presently known how many there were on one side, and how many on the other; and at the imborsations for the signori, there was nothing to be seen but tumult and uproar. Every trifling affair that was brought before the magistracy created a division; all secrets were divulged; they had no regard to justice; the good and the evil were treated alike; and there was not so much as one magistrate that did his duty.
“Rinaldo, impatient to lower the authority of Cosimo, intrigued to get Bernardo Guadagni drawn for standard-bearer,* and succeeded. He went to congratulate him, and told him how much the nobility were rejoiced to see him in possession of that dignity; represented to him the danger they were in from their divisions; and that the surest way to restore union among them was to rid themselves of Cosimo. Bernardo answered, he was fully convinced of the expediency and necessity of what he had urged, and desired him to prepare their friends to take arms.
“Bernardo then summoned Cosimo to appear before the signori. The signori assembled the people, and appointed a balia, consisting of two hundred citizens, to reform the state; and the first thing debated was, whether Cosimo should be put to death or not. Some argued for it, others thought banishment sufficient, and many sat silent.
“Cosimo was committed prisoner to Federigo Malavolti, in the turret of the palace. From this place, he could hear the clamors of the armed men, who were below in the piazza, and frequent outcries for a balia; which made him apprehend that his life was in danger, but much more, that his particular enemies would take some extravagant method to despatch him; for that reason, he would eat no meat for the space of four days, except a mouthful or two of bread. Federigo, observing this, bid him take courage, and eat his meat, and keep himself alive for the good of his friends and his country; ‘and that you may have no more suspicion,’ says he, ‘I will eat with you.’ Cosimo embraced him with tears in his eyes, acknowledging his generosity, and assuring him he would amply recompense his kindness, if ever fortune should put it in his power to show his gratitude.
“Federigo invited Farganaccio, a friend of the standard-bearer, to sup with him. Cosimo, after many fair words and promises, gave his guest a draught upon his banker for eleven hundred ducats, desiring him to keep one hundred himself, and present the other thousand to the standard-bearer. This he willingly undertook to perform, and gave the money to Bernardo, who then began to grow cooler and more moderate in the prosecution; so that, after all, Cosimo was only banished to Padua, though Rinaldo used his utmost endeavors to have him put to death. Averardo de’ Medici, and many others of that family, were likewise banished at the same time, and with them, Puccio and Giovanni Pucci.
“Cosimo was brought before the signori, 3 October, 1433, who pronounced the sentence of banishment upon him. He received the sentence with a cheerful countenance, saying, ‘that in what part of the world soever he should sojourn, his person and fortune should ever be at the service of the republic, the people, and the signori.’ The standard-bearer told him, he would take care that his life should be in no danger; and having conducted him to his own house to sup with him, ordered a party of the guards to escort him to the confines of the Florentine dominions.
“Wherever he came, he was received with great honor, and publicly visited by the Venetians, who treated him not as an exile, but as a person of the first rank and consequence in the state. Florence, being thus deprived of so great a man, and so universally beloved,* Rinaldo saw a storm arising, and advised his friends to collect their strength, and fortify themselves; that so, when their enemies should rise upon them, which was daily to be expected, they might be able to clear the city of them by dint of force, since, it seemed, they could not do it in a judicial manner; that they must regain the affections of the grandees, by restoring them to their honors and authority. He was answered, that the insolence and tyranny of the grandees always had been, and always would be, insupportable; and that it would be madness to run headlong into a certain and slavish subjection to them, when the danger that was apprehended from the plebeians might only be imaginary. Rinaldo, seeing his advice rejected, could not help lamenting the misfortunes that he foresaw were going to fall upon himself and his party; but he modestly imputed them rather to the malevolence of their destiny, than to the blindness and perverseness of men.”
But both Rinaldo and Machiavel would have been much better advised, if they had imputed all these evils to their true cause, an imperfect and unbalanced constitution of government, rather than to destiny or the perverseness of men. In such a form of government, destiny itself, without a miracle, cannot prevent the blindness and perverseness of men. Those who see the clearest are forced to shut their eyes, and those who are most upright are compelled to be perverse.
“Letters were soon intercepted from Agnolo to Cosimo, advising him to stir up a war from some quarter or another, and to make Neri his friend; as he thought then the people would be in want of money to carry it on. Agnolo was banished, which did not, however, restrain the ardor of those who favored Cosimo. It was now almost a year since Cosimo had been banished. At the end of August, Niccolò di Cocco was drawn standard-bearer for the two next months, and with him eight new signors, all Cosimo’s friends, at which Rinaldo and his party were alarmed. Rinaldo was for taking arms, and obliging the standard-bearer to assemble the people in the piazza to appoint another balia and depose the new signori; he would get others drawn, more fit for their purpose, by burning the old imborsation, and making a fresh one, in which the purses might be filled only with the names of their friends. Strozzi, a man of a peaceable and humane disposition, and given to study rather than to faction, opposed it; and it was resolved to let the new signori enter peaceably upon the magistracy.
“Having been created by Cosimo’s party, they no sooner took possession of the palace, than the standard-bearer began his office by an action which was to give him reputation, and strike a damp into such as might think of opposing him. He immediately committed his predecessor to prison, upon pretence that he had embezzled the public money; after which he began to sound his associates about Cosimo’s return. Finding them well disposed to it, he communicated their design to those who were reputed heads of the Medici party, who all encouraged him to attempt it. He then cited Rinaldo and others, the principals of the other party, to appear before him, who, instead of obeying him, flew to arms. But their party was irresolute, lost its opportunity, and gave time to the signori to provide for their defence. The signori sent to acquaint Rinaldo, and those who were with him, ‘that they could not conceive what was the cause of such a commotion; that if it was upon Cosimo’s account, they could assure them they had no thought of recalling him.’ These promises, however, made but little impression on Rinaldo, who said he would take care of himself, by turning them all out of their offices.
“But it seldom happens that any design succeeds, where the authority of the conductors is equal, and their opinions different. Ridolfo replied, ‘That for his part, he desired nothing more than that Cosimo might not be suffered to return.’ So that, all hope of success being defeated by the delay of Rinaldo, the pusillanimity of Strozzi, and the desertion of Ridolfo Peruzzi, the rest of the party began to lose their spirits and grow cool. Pope Eugenius IV., driven out of Rome by the people, was then at Florence, and interposed his mediation till he persuaded the party to lay down their arms. As soon as the signori saw their adversaries disarmed, they began to treat with them, through the mediation of the pope; at the same time, they sent privately into the mountains of Pistoia for a body of foot-soldiers, which, being joined by all the horse they had in the adjacent territories, were brought into Florence by night. Having taken possession of all the passes and strong places in the city, they called the people together in the piazza before the palace, and appointed a new balia, which, at their first meeting, recalled Cosimo, and all the other citizens who had been banished with him. On the other hand, they not only sent Rinaldo, Peruzzi, Barbadori, and Strozzi into banishment, but such numbers of others, that most parts of Italy, and some other countries, were crowded with them, to the great impoverishment of Florence, both in regard to its wealth, its inhabitants, its trade, and manufactures.
“But the pope, seeing that party which, upon his assurances and intercession, had consented to lay down their arms, entirely ruined and dissipated, was exceedingly enraged, as well as Rinaldo. The latter, however, affected to say, it would give him no great regret to be banished a city where private men had more authority than the laws.
“Cosimo, having notice, immediately repaired to Florence. It has seldom happened that any commander, though returning in triumph from victory, has been received with such acclamations and universal joy as Cosimo was by his fellow-citizens, who ran in multitudes to meet him, and saluted him, with one voice, the benefactor of the people and the father of his country.”*
Machiavel begins his fifth book as if he supposed his reader convinced that the commonwealth of Florence had expired, and an absolute sovereignty in Cosimo had commenced, by grave reflections upon the changes that are incident to all governments:
“They often degenerate into anarchy and confusion, and from thence emerge again to good order and regularity. For, since it is ordained by Providence that there should be a continual ebb and flow in the things of this world, as soon as they arrive at their utmost perfection, and can ascend no higher, they must of necessity decline; and, on the other hand, when they have fallen, through any disorder, to the lowest degree that is possible, and can sink no lower, they begin to rise again. And thus there is a constant succession of prosperity and adversity in all human affairs. Virtue is the mother of peace; peace produces idleness; idleness, contention and misrule; and from thence proceed ruin and confusion. This occasions reformation and better laws; good laws make men virtuous; and public virtue is always attended with glory and success.
“At the return of Cosimo, those citizens who had been his chief friends, and some others, who had been injured and oppressed by the late administration, were determined at all events to take the government of the state into their own hands. The signori, therefore, who were drawn for the two ensuing months of November and December, not content with what their predecessors had already done in favor of their party, prolonged the term, changed the residence of several who had been banished, and sent numbers of others into exile. And this was done not only out of party rage, but likewise on account of their riches, alliances, and private connections; so that this proscription, except in the article of bloodshed, might in some measure be compared to that under Sylla and Octavius. There were, however, some executions; for Antonio, the son of Bernardo, was beheaded; and four other citizens, having left the place to which they had been banished, and gone to reside at Venice, were secured by the Venetians, who set a greater value upon Cosimo’s friendship than their own reputation, and sent prisoners to Florence, where they were put to death in an ignominious manner.
“These examples greatly increased the strength of Cosimo’s party, and struck a terror into that of his enemies. When they had thus cleared the city of their enemies, and such as they thought disaffected to their government, they began to strengthen their hands by caressing and heaping favors upon others. For this purpose they recalled the family of the Alberti, and all the rest of the exiles that had been formerly banished; they reduced the grandees, except some very few, to the rank of commoners, and divided among themselves the possessions of those whom they had banished. After this they fortified themselves with new laws and ordinances, and made a fresh imborsation, taking the names of all suspected persons out of the purses, and filling them up with those of their own friends. They likewise took care that such magistrates as had the power of life and death entrusted to them should always be chosen out of the most eminent of their party; for which purpose they ordained that the syndics, who inspected the imborsations in conjunction with the old signori, should have the power of appointing the new. They left the cognizance of capital offences to the eight wardens, and enacted that no exile should return, even after the term of his banishment was expired, till he had obtained the consent of the signori and thirty-four of the colleges, though the whole number of them amounted to no more than thirty-seven. All persons were prohibited to write or receive any letters from them; every word, or sign, or gesture, that displeased the governors, was punished with the utmost severity. And if there was any suspected person left in Florence, who had not fallen under their lash for such offences, they took care to load him severely with new taxes and impositions; so that, one part of their adversaries being driven out of the city, and the other depressed and overawed by these means, they in a short time secured the government to themselves; and to support their power with foreign aid, and deprive their enemies of all assistance, if they should offer to disturb them, they entered into a defensive league with the pope, the Venetians, and the Duke of Milan.”
Cosimo is very tenderly treated by Machiavel; yet he has impartiality enough to record the tragical story of Neri and Baldaccio.
“Among1 those who had the chief authority in the government, Neri was one, of whose reputation Cosimo was more jealous than of that of any other person; as he had not only very great credit in the city, but was exceedingly beloved by the soldiery, whose affections he had gained by his bravery, humanity, and good conduct, when he commanded the troops of the republic, as he had done upon several occasions; besides which, the remembrance of the victories that had been gained by him and his father, one of whom had taken Pisa, and the other defeated Piccinino at the battle of Anghiari, made him respected by many and feared by others, who did not desire any more associates in the government.
“But of all their generals, Baldaccio d’ Anghiari was certainly the most eminent; nor was there any man at that time in Italy, who surpassed him either in courage, or military skill, or bodily accomplishments; and having always commanded the infantry, they had such an opinion of him, that it was generally believed he could influence them to execute any purpose, and that they would follow him in any undertaking whatsoever. This Baldaccio was very intimate with Neri, for whom he had the highest esteem, on account of his valor and other good qualities, of which he had long been a witness; but it was a connection that excited infinite jealousy among the rest of the principal citizens, who, thinking it dangerous to let him enjoy his liberty, and still more so to imprison him, resolved to have him despatched; in which fortune seemed to second their design.”
It is very provoking to read these continual imputations to fortune, made by Machiavel, of events which he knew very well were the effects of secret intrigue; for there is no doubt it had been previously concerted to get Bartolomeo Orlandini appointed standard-bearer of justice, who, having been sent to defend the pass of Marradi, when Piccinino invaded Tuscany, had shamefully deserted it, and abandoned all that country, from the nature of its situation of itself almost inaccessible, to the fury of the enemy. So flagrant a piece of cowardice provoked Baldaccio to such a degree, that he could not help expressing his contempt of him, both in public conversation and in letters which he wrote to his friends, in terms that not only excited Orlandini’s resentment, but made him thirst for revenge, and flatter himself that he should extinguish the infamy of the fact by the death of his accuser. To this resolution some other citizens (the Medici) were privy; who encouraged him in it, and said, that by so doing he would sufficiently revenge the injuries which he had suffered himself, and at the same time deliver the government from the fear of a man whom it was dangerous to employ, and might be their ruin to dismiss.
“Orlandini, therefore, being confirmed in his purpose to assassinate him, shut up several armed men in his apartment; and the next day, when Baldaccio came to attend at the palace, as he did most days, to confer with the magistracy concerning the pay of his soldiers, he was ordered to wait on the standard-bearer immediately, which he did, without suspecting any danger. As soon as they met, and had taken a turn or two in the gallery, which is before the chambers of the signori, they began to talk about their affairs; and at last, coming near the door of the apartment where the armed men were concealed, the standard-bearer gave them a signal, upon which they instantly rushed out, and, as Baldaccio had neither arms nor attendants, they soon despatched him, and threw him out of the palace window, from whence he was carried into the piazza; and after they had cut off his head, his body was exposed all day as a spectacle to the people.
“This tragical event gave a considerable check to Neri’s interest, and diminished the number of his partisans. The governors, however, did not stop here; for, as they had been now ten years in the administration, and the authority of the balìa was expired, many began both to talk and act with much greater freedom than they thought was consistent with the security of the state. In order, therefore, to establish themselves in power, they judged it necessary to revive that court, by which they would have an opportunity of strengthening the hands of their friends, and of more effectually depressing their enemies. With this view the councils instituted a new balìa in the year 1444, which confirmed the present magistrates in their respective departments, vested the privilege of choosing the signori in a few hands, and new-modelled the chancery of reformation, deposing the president, Philip Peruzzi, and setting another person at the head of it, who, they were well assured, would conform himself to their instructions. They likewise prolonged the banishment of such as they had before sent into exile, imprisoned Giovanni, the son of Simone Vespucci, and deprived all those of their honors and employments that adhered to their enemies; amongst whom were the sons of Piero Baroncelli, the whole family of the Seragli, Bartolomeo Fortini, Francesco Castellani, and many others. By such means they at the same time regained their former authority and reputation, quashed all opposition, and got entire possession of the government.
Machiavel’s introduction to his seventh book, according to his custom, is full of grave reflections.
“Those are much mistaken, who think any republican government can continue long united.”
So are they who think that any despotical or monarchical government can continue long united; it is as easy to form and preserve the union of a republican as of a monarchical government, and more easy. A constitution formed upon the nature of man, and providing against his discontented temper, instead of trusting to what is not in him (his moderation and contentment in power) may preserve union, harmony, and tranquillity, better than any despotism. Republics that trust the content of one assembly or two assemblies, are as credulous, ignorant, and servile, as nations that trust the moderation of a single man. And it is as true of one as the other, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
“Differences and divisions, for the most part, are prejudicial to republics; and yet it is certain there are some that are of service to them.”
The same is true of despotisms and monarchies. Divisions are hurtful for the most part, yet some are beneficial.
“Those, indeed, are hurtful that are attended with parties and factions; but when that is not the case, they tend to the benefit of the commonwealth. As it is impossible, therefore, for any legislator or founder of a republic entirely to prevent feuds and animosities in it, it ought to be his chief care to provide against their growing up into factions.”
This is easily done, by distinct and independent legislative, executive, and judicial powers, and by two councils in the legislature. Factions may be infinitely better managed in such a republic, than in a despotism or monarchy.
“It must be considered then, that there are two roads to popularity in such states, the one through public stations, the other through private life. In the former, it is acquired by gaining some signal victory, by the prudent and careful discharge of an embassy, or by giving wise and successful advice in council; in the latter, by beneficence to one’s fellow citizens, by screening them from the magistrates, by supplying them with money, by promoting them to honors and employments even when they do not deserve them, by entertaining the people with plays and spectacles, and by distributing largesses among them. This manner of proceeding procures followers and partisans; and as popularity thus obtained is dangerous to the state, because it is commonly applied to serve private and self-interested views; so the reputation that is acquired the other way is of credit and advantage to it, when not made a tool to party and faction, because it conduces to the good of the whole. And though emulation and envy will always spring up, even among citizens of the latter sort, yet, as they have no partisans that follow them for their own private ends, they cannot hurt the commonwealth; on the contrary, they must of necessity be of service to it, for this very emulation will naturally excite their utmost endeavors to excel each other in their merits towards their country, and make them keep so strict a watch over one another’s actions, that none of them will have it in their power to transgress the bounds of good citizens. But the divisions in Florence constantly ended in factions, and therefore were always pernicious to the republic; nor did any one of those factions continue united any longer than it had subdued the adverse party; for when once that was done, and consequently all fear and restraint were at an end, it immediately subdivided, and split itself into others.”
In truth, it is impossible that divisions, in any form of simple government, should ever end in the public good, or in any thing but faction. The government itself is a faction, and an absolute power in a party, which, being without fear and restraint, is as giddy in one of these forms as in any other. “De l’ absolu pouvoir, vous ignorez l’ ivresse.” It must, therefore, divide, if it is not restrained by another faction; when that is the case, as soon as the other faction prevails, they divide, and so on; but when the three natural orders in society, the high, the middle, and the low, are all represented in the government, and constitutionally placed to watch each other, and restrain each other mutually by the laws, it is then only, that an emulation takes place for the public good, and divisions turn to the advantage of the nation.
“Cosimo’s party got the upper hand in Florence in the year 1434; but, as there were still many very powerful men left on the side that was depressed, they yet stood in some awe of them, and therefore thought proper, not only to continue united, but to behave themselves with moderation; nor were they guilty of any misconduct or oppressive act, of consequence enough to draw upon them the hatred of the people; so that whenever they had occasion for the suffrages of their fellow-citizens to renew their authority, they always found them ready to reestablish the chiefs of their party in any office they desired. Accordingly, from 1434 to 1455, a period of twenty-one years, they were six times appointed by the general council to fill the balìa.
“There were in these times two very powerful citizens in Florence, Cosimo and Neri; the latter of whom had acquired his reputation in the public way, so that he had many friends, but few followers and partisans. Cosimo, on the other hand, having gained his authority both by his public and private behavior, had not only many friends, but partisans and dependents also; and these two continuing strictly united, never found any difficulty in obtaining whatsoever they asked from the people, as their power was founded upon the favor of the public. But Neri dying in the year 1455, and the adverse faction being utterly suppressed, this administration met with much opposition before they recovered their former authority; and chiefly from Cosimo’s friends, who being now grown very powerful in the state themselves, and freed from all further apprehensions of their enemies, were likewise desirous to lower his popularity. This jealousy gave beginning to the troubles that broke out in the year 1446; for those who were then the leading men advised their fellow-citizens, when they were assembled in the general council, to take the state of the commonwealth into consideration, not to create any more balìas, but to resume the imborsations, and to choose their magistrates by lot out of the purses that had been formerly filled. To cure them of this frenzy, Cosimo had no other remedy, but either to seize forcibly upon the government, by the assistance of such partisans as still adhered to him, and to crush all opposition at once; or to let things take their course, and wait till time should convince his friends that they were laboring only to destroy their own power and reputation and not his. He chose the latter expedient; for he knew he should run no risk in that, as the purses were filled with the names of such as were well affected to him, and that he might consequently take the administration into his hands again whenever he pleased. He suffered them therefore to proceed to an imborsation; but when the new magistracy was drawn, and every one thought they had now fully recovered their former liberties, the magistrates began to act in their respective departments, not according to the dictates and directions of those leaders, but as they thought fit themselves; so that sometimes the friend of one great man, sometimes the creature of another, met with an unexpected rebuff; and those who before used to see their houses filled with presents and solicitors, now had neither substance sufficient to live upon, nor even common servants to attend them. They likewise had the mortification to see themselves reduced to a level with such as they had used to look down upon with the highest contempt and disdain; and those who before were their equals, now suddenly advanced far above them. They had neither honor nor respect shown them by any one; on the contrary, they were insulted and abused wherever they went; and everybody made so free with their private characters and public conduct that they soon begun to be aware that it was not Cosimo, but themselves that had lost their authority.
“Cosimo in the mean time took little or no notice of these things; but when any thing was deliberated upon that he thought would be agreeable to the people, he was the first that promoted the execution of it. But what struck the greatest terror into these grandees and gave Cosimo a fair opportunity of making them repent of their past behavior, was the renewal of the catasto, established in 1427,1 by which the taxes were regulated and proportioned by law, and not levied according to the caprice or pleasure of particular men. This law therefore being revived, and officers appointed to see it executed, the grandees having had a consultation together, went to wait upon Cosimo, and entreated him to use his endeavors to deliver both them and himself out of the hands of the plebeians, and to new-model the government in such a manner that they might retrieve the reputation which formerly had made him so powerful and them so much respected; to which Cosimo made answer, ‘that he would do what lay in his power for that purpose with all his heart, provided it could be brought about legally and quietly, and with the good-will and approbation of the people; but that he never would consent to violent measures or using force of any kind.’
“They then endeavored to get a law passed in the councils for a new balìa; but finding it would not go down, they returned to Cosimo, and besought him in the humblest manner that he would make use of his interest to get it passed; but with this Cosimo peremptorily refused to comply, being determined to make them fully sensible of their error. Upon which Donato Cocchi, who was the gonfalonier of justice, resolved to set up a balìa without his concurrence; but Cosimo raised such a spirit among the rest of the magistrates, that they not only opposed him with the utmost vehemence, but laughed at him, and treated him with so much scorn and derision, that it drove him stark mad, and he was carried back to his own house, raging and frantic.
“Luca Pitti,* a bold and resolute man, being now made gonfalonier of justice, Cosimo resolved to leave the management to him; so that if any miscarriage should happen, or any odium be incurred, it might be thrown upon the gonfalonier, and not upon him. Luca was very importunate with the people to appoint a balìa; but perceiving it was to no purpose, he not only treated those who were members of the councils with great insolence, but threatened them, and soon after put his threats in execution; for having filled the palace with armed men, in 1458 he called the people together in the piazza, and there compelled them, by force of arms,† to do that which they would not so much as hear of before. After they had thus resumed the government, they created a balìa; and the new magistrates, at the instigation of a few particular persons, who advised them to support an authority with terror which they had usurped by force, began their administration with sending Girolamo Machiavelli and some others into exile, and depriving many more of their honors and employments. But Girolamo, not observing the bounds that were prescribed to him in his banishment, was afterwards declared a rebel; and, travelling about Italy to excite other states to make war upon his own country, he was betrayed and apprehended at Lunigiana, by one of the governors of that place, who sent him to Florence, where he was put to death in prison.
“This administration lasted about eight years, and was indeed a very tyrannical and insupportable one; for, Cosimo being now grown so old and infirm that he could not attend to public affairs with his usual assiduity, the government fell into the hands of a few insolent and rapacious men, who knighted Lucca Pitti for the good services he had done the state; he had also rich presents made him, not only from Cosimo and the signori, but from all the principal citizens, so that he became very rich, and built several magnificent palaces, and finished them by very arbitrary means, extorting more and greater presents from the chief citizens, whom he obliged to furnish him with all necessary materials, and making the commonalty supply him with workmen and artificers.
“The divisions which arose in Cosimo’s party in 1455, were for some time happily composed by his moderation and prudence; but in the beginning of the year 1464 he fell sick, and soon after died,* an event much lamented both by his friends and enemies; for those who did not love him for reasons of state, seeing their governors so greedy and ravenous while he was alive, and that they were only restrained by the reverence they bore to his person from proceeding to open violence, began to fear, now he was dead, that they should be utterly ruined and devoured. They had but little hopes in his son Piero, who, though a very worthy man, had so weakly a constitution, and was yet so raw and inexperienced in matters of government, that they thought he would be obliged to comply with the measures of the others; and there being no longer any person of sufficient authority left to check their career, they would become every day more and more oppressive.
“The loss of Cosimo was therefore universally regretted, and with great reason; for, considering he was no soldier, he was the most renowned and illustrious citizen that Florence or any other republic in the memory of man had produced. As he surpassed all others of his time in riches and authority, so he far exceeded every one in prudence, liberality, and magnificence; which great and amiable qualities made him the head of his country. Though he showed a truly royal spirit in his great works and actions, and was in fact the sovereign of Florence, yet so remarkable were his prudence and moderation, that he never transgressed those bounds of decency which ought to be observed by a modest republican. In his little parties of pleasure, in his conversation, in his alliances, and in every respect, he both acted and spoke like any other citizen; well knowing that pomp and pageantry, and ostentatious parade, are not only of little real service, but excite that envy among men which is not incident to such actions as are done with an appearance of modesty and humility. No man of his time had a more perfect knowledge of mankind in general. In all the various revolutions of so fickle and fluctuating a commonwealth, he maintained his authority for the space of thirty-one years; for, as he was naturally sagacious, he foresaw dangers afar off, and therefore took timely care to prevent them. This great man was born in 1389. The former part of his life was full of troubles and disasters; but afterwards fortune was so propitious to him, that not only all those who adhered to him in the public administration of the commonwealth were aggrandized and enriched by it, but such as negotiated his private affairs abroad (as he had factors in almost every part of Europe) acquired great wealth; so that many families in Florence raised immense fortunes under his influence, and several others owed every thing they had entirely to his advice and assistance. He was continually laying out vast sums in churches, public buildings, and charities of different kinds. He was likewise a great patron and benefactor to learned men, and first brought Argyropulus to Florence, a Grecian by birth, and the greatest scholar of his age, to instruct the youth of Florence in the Greek tongue, and made him preceptor to his son and nephew. This writer dedicated his works to the family of Medici; namely,—his translation of Aristotle’s Ethics and Physics, his own book De Regno, &c. Cosimo was at the expense of maintaining Marcilius Ficinus, the restorer of the Platonic philosophy, who translated the works of Plato, Plotinus, Jamblichus, Proclus, &c.; and he had so great an esteem for him, that he gave him a house and estate near his own seat at Careggi, that he might pursue his studies there with more convenience, and entertain him with his conversation at leisure hours.”
So that he had great merit in the resurrection of letters, and perhaps in the formation of Machiavel himself, to whom the world is so much indebted for the revival of reason in matters of government, and who appears to have been himself so much indebted to the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Indeed, if ever the rise of any family to absolute sovereignty upon the ruins of a republic could be pardonable, this of the Medici, which was by real virtues, abilities, and beneficence, must be acknowledged to be an instance of it. But it never can be justified, nor ought ever to be excused, where there is a possibility of establishing a constitution well balanced and really free; and it may well be doubted whether any nation that has once been free can ever become so universally or even generally corrupted as not to be able to conduct a government of three well-balanced branches. He died full of glory, and with the highest reputation. After his death, all the states and princes of Christendom sent compliments of condolence to his son Pietro; and he has this inscription engraved on his tomb by a public decree,—“The Father of his Country.” He appears to have had more merit, as well as more art, than Augustus. Machiavel is conscious that he shall be suspected of writing a panegyric upon Cosimo, rather than an historical portrait; and not without reason, for he was a dependent on the Medici family; and he has evidently hurried over some, and glossed over others of Cosimo’s acts.
It is scarcely worth while to pursue this history, and relate the conspiracies which were formed against Piero and the Medici, or the suppression of them. The name of Medici had become a charm in the ears of the Florentines, like that of Hercules among the Greeks, Cæsar among the Romans, Orange among the Dutch, and others without end; and if absolute power must be established, it was as well in the Medici as the Pazzi. But Leo X. is not so excusable for not adopting a wiser plan.
“About the time of the death of Cosimo, Louis XI. of France was embroiled in a troublesome war, raised against him by his barons, at the instigation of Francis, Duke of Bretagne, and Charles, Duke of Burgundy, which they called the war for the public good.* It lay so heavy upon him, that he could give no further assistance to John, Duke of Anjou, in his designs upon Genoa and Naples. Hence Ferdinand of Arragon became King of Naples, and Count Sforza, Duke of Milan and Lord of Genoa; and these two having contracted family alliances together, began to take all proper measures to establish themselves and their posterity in their governments. For this purpose it was judged necessary that the king should, in the first place, make sure of such of the nobility as had taken part with John of Anjou against him in the late wars. The king made use of every artifice to reconcile his nobility to him, and at last succeeded; for they saw that if they continued in arms against their sovereign, they must inevitably be ruined; but if they came to an accommodation with him, or submitted to his mercy, they might obtain a pardon. Accordingly, these noblemen made their submission to him; but they were afterwards, upon one pretence or other, at different times all put to death.”
“In 1465, Paul the Second, a Venetian, was elected pope; and the next year, Sforza, Duke of Milan, died, and was succeeded by his son Galeazzo; an event that not only added fuel to the animosities that were rekindling in Florence, but occasioned them to burst out into a flame. For, after the death of Cosimo, his son Peter, being left heir to his riches and authority, thought proper to attach himself to Neroni, a man of very great power and reputation in the city, and of whom Cosimo had so great an opinion, that upon his death-bed he gave Peter a strict charge to consult him, and to be guided entirely by his advice in every thing that related either to the management of his own estate or the administration of the public. In consequence of this command, Peter sent for him, and having told him how great a confidence his father had reposed in him, said he hoped he would assist him both in conducting his private concerns and in the government of the city. Neroni promised to serve him faithfully; but when they came to examine Cosimo’s books, they found his affairs in very great confusion. Neroni, therefore, who was more influenced by motives of self-interest and ambition than either by the friendship he had professed for Peter, or the remembrance of the obligations he lay under to his father, thinking he had now a fair opportunity of ruining that reputation and authority to which Cosimo left him heir, gave him a piece of advice, which, to all appearance indeed, seemed both equitable and necessary, but ultimately tended to his destruction. He represented to him in how great disorder his affairs were, and what large sums of money he would have immediate occasion for, if he intended to support his family interest, and the reputation they had acquired of opulence and power in the commonwealth; and that there could be no relief or expedient so proper as to call in the debts that were owing to him, both from foreigners and his fellow-citizens; for Cosimo, out of his natural generosity, and in order to establish an influence at home and gain friends abroad, had always been so ready to open his purse to every one who stood in need of his assistance, that those debts arose to a prodigious amount. To this proposal, which seemed but just and reasonable, Peter consented, and, like an honest man, resolved to make use of his own substance only in that emergency; but he had hardly called upon two or three of his debtors, before the whole city was in an uproar, every one upbraiding him with avarice and ingratitude, and loading him with all manner of reproaches and ignominious names, as if he had come to plunder them of their own property, instead of demanding payment of a lawful debt.
“Neroni, seeing the general resentment which his own counsel had excited against Peter, turned his back upon him, and entered into a combination with Luca Pitti, Soderini, and Acciaivoli, to deprive him of all power and authority in the state. The end they all had in view was the same; but their motives to pursue it were very different. Pitti was ambitious to succeed Cosimo in the government of the republic; and he became so great after his death, that he disdained the thoughts of stooping to Peter. Neroni, who knew that Pitti was not equal to so great a charge, thought, that if they could by any means get rid of Peter, the chief power must of necessity in a short time devolve upon him; Soderini was desirous that the city should enjoy more liberty, and be governed by the proper magistrates, as it used to be in former times; Acciaivoli had a particular quarrel with the Medici; thinking Cosimo had not used him well in an award between his son and his wife, and not being able to revenge himself upon Cosimo, he was now determined to do it upon Peter.
“However, they all availed themselves of the same pretext, and said, that they neither desired nor aimed at any thing further than that the republic might be governed by lawful magistrates, and not by a little junto of particular persons. The failure of several merchants about that time still increased the clamor that was raised against Peter, and gave the people fresh occasion to revile him; for they made no scruple of imputing the blame to him, and said, that the sudden and unexpected calling in of his money had been the occasion of those bankruptcies, to the great loss and discredit of the merchants in particular, and the prejudice of the whole city. Besides all which, as he was going to marry Lorenzo, his eldest son, to Clarissa de gli Orsini, everybody took occasion from thence to calumniate him; publicly declaring, that since he could not think any match in Florence good enough for his son, it was plain he did not regard them any longer in the light of fellow-citizens, but was taking his measures to make himself their sovereign. From such a temper in the people, these ringleaders of sedition promised themselves certain success, especially as the greater part of the citizens were so bewitched with the name of liberty, which had been made use of to varnish over those private designs that they cheerfully listed under their banners.
“But while these ill humors were fermenting, there were some who, out of a real love for their country, and abhorrence of civil discord, resolved to try if they could not stay them, for a while at least, by turning the attention of the people upon some more entertaining object; considering, that an idle populace is generally made use of as a tool to serve the purposes of such as attempt innovation. To employ them, therefore, in such a manner as might best divert their thoughts, and prevent them from entering into cabals and conspiracies against the government, and at the same time to console them in some measure, after their mourning for the loss of Cosimo, who had now been dead a year, these citizens thought it would be no bad expedient to revive the public spectacles with which the people used to be entertained. Tournaments also were instituted, in which Lorenzo carried away the prize from all others.
“But as soon as these entertainments were over, the citizens returned to their former machinations with more ardor than ever; from whence arose great troubles and divisions, which were much inflamed by the expiration of the balìa, and the death of Francis Sforza, Duke of Milan. Galeazzo, the new duke, sent ambassadors to Florence, to confirm the treaty of alliance that had been concluded between his father and the republic; one article of which was, that the Florentines should pay that prince a certain yearly subsidy. The principal of Peter’s enemies took the opportunity which this demand furnished, of publicly opposing him in council, and refused to comply with it.”
We may pass over the long, though entertaining account of the commotions, intrigues, and civil war between one party, whose object was the ruin of Peter and the Medici family, both in their private affairs and in their public influence, and the other, who exerted themselves for their preservation. The last prevailed, and the other was banished and confiscated. Some of these fled to Venice, and harangued the senate of that republic into a war against Florence and the Medici; but this war was unsuccessful; peace was soon made; and the Florentine exiles, deprived of all hopes of ever returning to their country, dispersed into different places. Tranquillity abroad succeeded; but now the Florentines were grievously harassed and oppressed at home by the tyranny and ambition of their fellow-citizens; for Peter was so disabled by his infirmities, that he had it not in his power to curb the insolence of his own partisans, or to provide any remedy; he sent, however, for the principal of them, and sharply reprimanded them. It is generally believed that, if he had lived, he would have recalled the exiles, to bridle the tyranny and rapacity of his own friends; but death, in the fifty-third year of his age, put an end to these good designs. He left two sons, Lorenzo and Giuliano, both very promising.
“Soderini was at this time the most considerable among the leading men of the state, and for his prudence and authority, in great reputation, not only in Florence, but with all the princes of Italy; so that after the death of Peter, he had the highest reverence and respect shown him by all the citizens, who daily resorted in great numbers to his house; and several states and princes addressed their letters to him, as head of the commonwealth. But as he was a wise man, and thoroughly understood his own fortune, and likewise that of the Medici, he modestly declined returning any answer to those letters; and gave his fellow-citizens to understand, that it was not to him, but the Medici, that they ought to pay their court. He assembled the heads of all the chief families in the city, and presented to them Lorenzo and Giuliano, and said, that if they were desirous to live in peace and union at home, and secure from foreign invasions, it was necessary to continue their observance to the house of Medici, and support those young gentlemen in the authority which their ancestors had enjoyed; that it was but natural to show the same regard to the family, which they had so long been used to do, and therefore it must rather be a pleasure, than a grievance, to them; for if mankind were apt to be fond of novelties, they were, for the most part, as soon disgusted with them; that it had been found much more easy to maintain a power, the envy against which was, in a manner, extinguished by time, than to raise another, which must unavoidably be subject to new emulations and speedy ruin from many causes and unforeseen accidents. Lorenzo, too, though very young, made a speech with much gravity and modesty. The citizens, before the assembly broke up, solemnly engaged to be guardians of their youth, and they, on the other hand, as solemnly promised to reverence them at all times as their protectors and parents.”
After which, Lorenzo and Giuliano were looked upon as the heads of the republic, and putting themselves under the guidance and direction of Soderini, the state seemed to be perfectly composed, neither distracted by intestine discords, nor embroiled in foreign wars. But Bernardo de’ Nardi soon found means to excite the ruined families, who had been exiled at the fall of Luca Pitti, to kindle another war, which was extinguished only by the destruction of the town of Prato. After this insurrection, which was suddenly raised and soon suppressed, the citizens of Florence began to sink into luxury and effeminacy. The youth, growing more dissolute than ever they had been before, and having nothing else to do, threw away their time and estates in dress, in feasting, in gaming, in women, and other such dissipations. Their whole study and emulation was to surpass each other in fine clothes.
A new war broke out on occasion of a mine of alum discovered at Volterra. Soderini thought a “lean peace better than a fat war;” but Lorenzo, thinking this a favorable opportunity of distinguishing himself, and being supported in his opinion by those who envied the authority of Soderini, his opinion prevailed, and Volterra was reduced.
In 1476 happened the assassination of Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, and the destruction of the assassins, who, as usual in such cases, were left unsupported, both by the nobility and the multitude who had at first encouraged them. Such examples ought to be warnings to princes, to reign in such a manner as to make themselves honored and beloved by their subjects; and to others, against trusting to nobles or the multitude, except in a very good cause; for though these may be discontented to the last degree, they will seldom stir a foot to their assistance in distress or danger.
“After the Medici had gained such an ascendant, by the defeat of their enemies in 1466,1 they grew so powerful, that they in a manner engrossed the government of the republic wholly to themselves; and their power was so great, that such as were disaffected to their administration, were either obliged to submit to it with patience, or endeavor to shake off the yoke by clandestine machinations and conspiracies; which being attended with great difficulties and dangers, for the most part end in the ruin of the conspirators, and only serve still more to aggrandize and strengthen those against whom they are formed. Italy was divided into two confederacies; the pope and the King of Naples were on one side; the Venetians, the Duke of Milan, and the Florentines, on the other. When Philip de’ Medici, Archbishop of Pisa, died, the pope appointed Francesco Salviati, an enemy of the family of Medici, to succeed him. The signori refused to give him possession of the see. The Medici were discountenanced upon all occasions at the court of Rome, while the greatest respect and partiality were shown there to the Pazzi, a family, indeed, which at that time was one of the richest and most powerful in Florence. Cosimo, considering their opulence and quality, had married his granddaughter, Bianca, to Guglielmo de’ Pazzi, in hopes of uniting the two families more strictly, and hoping to prevent all jealousies and emulation betwixt them by such an alliance.
“But so vain and fallacious are all human designs, that the event proved quite contrary to his expectation, for some of Lorenzo’s friends having insinuated to him that it would be dangerous to him, and a diminution of his own authority, to throw any more power into the hands of that family, he would not suffer Giacopo, nor any of his brothers or nephews, to enjoy such honors and offices as they seemed in the opinion of their fellow-citizens to deserve. The Pazzi were so exasperated at this usage, that the Medici began to be afraid of them; and the apprehensions of the one seemed to increase in proportion to the resentment of the other; for in all competitions for places of honor or profit, the Pazzi, how much soever they might be favored by the suffrages of the people, were always sure to be set aside and rejected by the magistracy. The Pazzi, therefore, thinking it intolerable that people of their rank and fortune should be treated in that injurious manner, began to meditate revenge. Francesco accordingly concerted a conspiracy with many other persons, and attempted to assassinate both the Medici at church. Giuliano was murdered with such circumstances of perfidy as would disgrace the most infamous cause, much more a cause dignified with the name of liberty. Lorenzo defended himself with great bravery, and escaped with a slight wound. The insurgents rode about the town, and cried, Liberty! liberty! and called upon the people to join them. But such was the influence of the Medici, and so much were they beloved, on account of their liberality and other princely qualities, that the rest of their fellow-citizens did not desire to see any change of government. The whole city was raised, and Lorenzo safely conducted by a great number of armed men to his own house. The palace was recovered by the people, and all those who had seized upon it were either taken or killed; the streets resounded with shouts of, Long live the Medici! while the limbs of the conspirators who had been killed were either carried upon halberds, or dragged round the city; every one endeavoring to show his resentment, both in words and actions, against the Pazzi; for they not only plundered their houses, but hurried Francesco out of his bed to the palace, and there hung him up, close by the archbishop and his associates. So great was the favor and interest which the family of the Medici had gained among the people, by their prudence and liberality, that there was not a citizen of any degree whatsoever who did not go to Lorenzo, and make him an offer both of his person and fortune. Rinato and Giacopo de’ Pazzi were both apprehended, condemned, and executed, with so many others, that the streets and highways were full of their limbs. None of them were much lamented, except Rinato, who had always been esteemed a prudent man, and void of that family pride which was laid to the charge of all the rest.”
After the conspiracy was suppressed, and the authors of it punished, the funeral of Giuliano was solemnized with great pomp, and attended by all the citizens. He left one son, born some months after his death, and named Giulio, who was afterwards Pope Clement VII.
“The pope and the King of Naples, disappointed in bringing about a change of government in Florence by underhand machinations, now resolved to attempt it by open war; but the good fortune of the family, Lorenzo’s address, and the steady attachment of the Florentines to him, carried them safely through this danger too. After the quarrels among the more considerable states were composed, in the course of several years there happened many other disturbances in Romagna, La Marca d’Ancona, and Siena; they were more frequent in Siena than anywhere else, after the departure of the Duke of Calabria, in 1488; but after many changes and revolutions there, in which sometimes the commonalty, and sometimes the nobility prevailed, the nobility at last effectually suppressing the other party, Pandolpho and Giacopo Petrucci, one of whom was in the highest repute for his wisdom, and the other for his valor, became, in a manner, princes of that city.
“As for the Florentines, they lived very happily, and in perfect tranquillity, from the end of the war till the death of Lorenzo, in 1492. For Lorenzo, having established a general peace throughout Italy by his great wisdom and prudence, had begun to turn his thoughts entirely to the aggrandizement of the republic and the care of his own family. In the first place, he married his eldest son Peter to Alfonsina, daughter to Cavaliere Orsino, and procured a cardinal’s hat for Giovanni, his second son, who was not quite thirteen years of age when he was promoted to that dignity, of which there had been no example before; but he ascended by degrees through all the preferments of the church, till he was exalted to the pontificate, under the name of Leo X. His third son, Giuliano, was but an infant. He also disposed of his daughters very much to their advantage. In his mercantile affairs he was rather unfortunate; for such was the extravagance of his factors, who lived more like princes than private men, that they had dissipated the greater part of his merchandise; so that he was often obliged to borrow large sums of the public. His chief desire was to promote union among the people, and support the nobility in that degree of honor and respect that was due to them. He showed great favor to those who excelled in any art, and was a very liberal patron to learned men. He was passionately fond of poetry, music, and architecture. He founded the University of Pisa. Immediately after his death, such sparks of discord began to rekindle, as shortly broke out into a flame, and preyed upon the vitals of Italy.”
Peter, the great-grandson of the first Cosimo, having entered into a league with Louis XII. of France, without the consent of the signori, was ejected by the Florentines, and retired to Venice; so that the Florentines recovered and enjoyed their ancient liberties till 1512, when Ferdinand, King of Spain, restored the family of Medici. It was again expelled in 1529. In 1530, Charles V. seized upon Florence, and made Alexander de’ Medici, great grandson of Lorenzo, and who married his natural daughter Margaret, sovereign and duke of Florence. Alexander was murdered about seven years after, and having left no children, was succeeded by his brother John, whose son Cosimo was created Grand-Duke of Tuscany, by Pope Pius V. in 1569. Voltaire says, that the period while Florence was under the government of the Medici ought to be called the Medicean age, as the polite arts and sciences were then carried to the highest degree of perfection; then it was that those great geniuses, Ariosto, Machiavel, Guicciardini, Cardinal Bembo, Trissino, Casa, Bernini, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Titian, Paul Veronese, and so many others, adorned the age, and rendered their names immortal.
[* ]Ce qu’on appelle communément le moyen age commence à Constantin le Grand.—Corps Diplomatique, Barbeyrac’s Preface to vol. xxii. p. 6.
[* ]Danina, Rivoluzioni d’Italia, vol. i. p. 41.
[* ]Liv. lib. v. c. 1.
[* ]Le Istorie della Città di Firenze, p. 1.
[† ]Il popolo grasso, e il popolo minuto.
[1 ]Istorie Fiorentine di Nic. Macchiavelli, Proemio dell’ Autore. The substance of this work is here given by the author, who now and then translates a passage literally, when he desires to comment on it.
[1 ]Lib. ii.
[* ]The former of which denominated the adherents of the pope, and the latter those of the emperor; Guelph being the name of the general of the first army for the church in this controversy, and Ghibelline that of the place of birth of the general who commanded for the emperor, about 1139.
[1 ]This alludes to the state of things existing in Massachusetts in 1786, and to the insurrection of Shays and others.
[1 ]“Ce fut l’an 1282 que les Florentins établirent la forme de gouvernement qu’ils ont conservée jusqu’à la chute de leur république, et qui, supprimée par Alexandre de Médicis, le 27 Avril, 1532, fut retablic par Pierre Léopold, à la fin du siecle passe, et n’est pas même absolument détruite aujourd’hui. Je veux parler des prieurs des arts et de la liberte, dont le collége fut appelé la seigneurie. Depuis la paix intérieure, conclue par le cardinal Latino. Florence étoit gouvernée par quatorze prud’hommes, dont huit Guelfes et six Gibelins; mais l’état paroissoit souffrir de ce que le pouvoir exécutit etoit confié à un conseil trop nombreux pour pouvoir jamais être unanime; à un conseil qui, par sa composition même, avoit en soi les principes de la discorde, et où l’esprit de parti donnoit une place. La jalousie du peuple contre les grands nuisoit aussi à ce collége, dont plusieurs membres étoient gentilshommes; on ne cessoit de répéter que dans une république marchande, personne ne devoit avoir part à l’administration si lui-même il n’étoit marchand. Les Florentins, en effet, au milieu de Juin, 1282, instituèrent une nouvelle magistrature toute démocratique; ils en nommèrent les membres, prieurs des arts, comme pour indiquer que l’assemblée des premiers citoyens de chaque metier devoit représenter toute la republique. A la première élection, on ne crut pas devoir admettre tous les métiers indifféremment à la prérogative de donner des chefs à l’état. On se borna d’abord aux trois arts que l’on regarda comme les plus nobles; mais dès la seconde élection, c’est-à-dire deux mois après, on doubla le nombre des prieurs, pour qu’il y en eût un de chacun des arts majeurs, et en même temps de chacun des six quartiers de la ville.” Sismondi, Hist. des Républiques Italiennes, vol. iv. p. 52.
[1 ]“Pour le maintien de la liberté et de la justice, elle sanctionna la jurisprudence la plus tyrannique et la plus injuste. Trente-sept familles, les plus nobles et les plus respectables de Florence, furent exclues à jamais du priorat, sans qu’il leur fut permis de recouvrer les droits de cité, en se faisant immatriculer dans quelque corps de métier, ou en exercant quelque profession. Cette exclusion fut fondée sur la faveur que les nobles, disoit on, accordoient toujours aux autres nobles; c’étoit eux qu’on accusoit d’avoir paralysé la seigneurie, et l’on prétendoit que jamais elle n’avoit déployé de vigneur, lorsque quelque gentilhomme siégoit parmi les prieurs. La seigneurie fut de plus autorisée à insérer de nouveaux noms dans cette liste d’exclusion, toutes les fois que quelque autre famille, en marchant sur les traces de la noblesse, mériteroit d’être punie comme elle. Les membres de ces trente-sept familles furent designés, même dans les lois, par les noms de grands et de magnats; et pour la première fois, on vit un titre d’honneur devenir non-seulement un fardeau onéreux, mais une punition.” Sismondi, Républiques Italiennes, vol. iv. pp. 63, 64.
[1 ]This is an error in translation by the author, growing out of a misconception of the office referred to. The words in the original are “Capitani di parte.” “They were the elective heads of the Guelph party, three in number.” Italian Republics—Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopædia, p. 135, note.
[* ]1298. Nerli, p. 9.
[* ]1303. Nerli, p. 9.
[* ]Nerli, p. 9.
[* ]Nerli, p. 10.
[† ]Nerli, p. 10.
[‡ ]Nerli, p. 10. Muratori, Annal. tom. viii. p. 40.
[§ ]Nerli, p. 10. “Bargello,” sheriff or executive officer of the law. Machiavel here introduces a characteristic of popular governments, which the author has omitted to express: “Cercando d’uno per adorarlo,” “seeking after some one to worship, they sent,” &c.
[* ]Nerli, p. 11.
[1 ]“Dopo uno accidente.”
[2 ]“Squittino” or polling.
[3 ]“La nouvelle manière de procéder aux élections, parut plus démocratique que la précédente; elle établissoit une plus grande égalité entre les candidats, et elle appeloit un plus grand nombre de citoyens aux honneurs publies. Ce dernier avantage fut même sans doute celui qui séduisit le peuple; il flatta la jalousie secrète des hommes médiocres, qui voyoient avec depit un petit nombre de sujets distingués, toujours désignés par les suffrages du public.” Sismondi, Rép. Italiennes.
[* ]Nerli, p. 12.
[* ]Nerli, p. 14.
[* ]Nerli, p. 15.
[1 ]Some of the historians assign a different motive for this movement. It was designed by the governing party to smother, under the appointment of a more oppressive ruler, any disposition to scrutinize their own peculations and venality. If so, they were the first victims to the shrewdness of their own policy, for he established himself by exposing and punishing them.
[1 ]It is but just to add that this was Guglielmo da Scesi, the most odious of the Duke’s instruments of tyranny, and the judge who had lent himself to all his acts of cruelty. The son was scarcely fourteen years old, but he had made himself detested by the interest manifested in the execution of the harsh sentences against offenders. The example of the powerful is seldom copied with more clearness by those whom they oppress, than in the indulgence of their vindictiveness whenever it comes their turn.
[* ]Nerli, p. 18. Molti avviliti si fanno popolani.
[† ]Lib. III.
[* ]Erano in que’ tempi così fatti gli Albizzi e i Ricci, due famiglie popolane intra l’ altre di gran reputazione e di molto seguito, per esser di parentado grandissimo, ed erano in ciascheduna di esse uomini grandi e reputati, e che aspiravano molto alli primi gradi del governo, e alla grandezza dello stato loro; e però traendo ad un medesimo segno, era tra loro l’ odio, e l’ emulazione, ma non già erano venuti a manifesta divisione, nè all’ armi, per insino all’ anno 1353. Nerli, p. 21.
[1 ]“Similar revolutions broke out at the same time in the other Italian republics. In every one the same progress was to be distinguished. The party which in all had risen to power, as democratic, no sooner felt themselves in possession of it than they turned towards aristocracy. The leaders of the rising generation presented themselves as hereditary tribunes of the people at the same time that they impugned hereditary rights.” Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopædia—History of the Italian Republics, p. 187.
[* ]E però Uguccione de’ Ricci restringendosi, come capo di quella famiglia, con gli suoi consorti, e con i primi capi della loro setta, pensarono di poter privar del governo gli Albizzi, come discesi anticamente d’ Arezzo, e però tegnenti del Ghibellino ogni volta, che si ritrovasse una legge, per la quale era prohibito a qualunque disceso di Ghibellino di poter esercitare officio, o magistrato alcuno, la quel legge era disusata, ne piu s’adoperava, nè si mettava in atto, o s’osservava in modo alcuno. Nerli, p. 21.
[* ]Nerli, p. 22. Fece creare una balia de 56 cittadini.
[1 ]This word “ammoniti” in the original is used as a technical term, and refers to a practice adopted in Florence for the purpose of excluding the Ghibellines from power. Sismondi explains it thus:
[* ]Nerli, p. 23.
[* ]Nerli, p. 23.
[1 ]That is, the Albizzi, representing the Guelph, which had become the aristocratic faction.
[* ]Muratori, Annal. tom. viii. p. 375. Gino Capponi, del tumulto de’ Ciompi, tom. xviii. Rer. Italic.
[* ]Nerli, p. 24.
[† ]Fu facile a Salvestro de’ Medici, e a gli altri, levato che fu tumulto, vincer la legge; ma non fu già loro cosi facile, nè poterano a posta loro fermare il tumulto mosso nel popolo, e nella plebe, che s’era anco sollevata in modo, che da questo rumore ne segui l’ arsione, e il sacco di molte casi. Attese la sfrenata moltitudine due, o tre giorni a saccheggiare, e ardere quello potette. Nerli, p. 24.
[1 ]“Bargello,” sheriff.
[2 ]“La podesterìa d’ Empoli.”
[1 ]“Del popolo minuto,” Machiav.
[* ]Nerli, p. 28.
[* ]Nerli, p. 28.
[† ]Ibid. p. 29.
[‡ ]Pervenne in que’ tempi al supremo magistrato Bardo Mancini, uomo molto contrario alla setta plebea, e molto nemico per queste, e per altre cagioni di Messer Benedetto Alberti, e conosciuto Bardo la gelosia, che cittadini del governo avevano di quella casa de gli Alberti, con participazione de’ principali della setta de nobili, fece creare una balia per sicurtà dello stato, nella quale intra le prime cose si deliberò, che Messer Benedetto fusse confinato, e il resto de gli Alberti tutti ammoniti; e furono costretti i signori per gelosia de capi della setta, che molti altri cittadini tanto popolani, che plebei, fusse confinati, o ammoniti, e per ridurre più il governo a parte nobile, e per più avvilire gli avversari artifici e popolo minuto, &c. Nerli, p. 29, 30.
[* ]Nerli, p. 30.
[* ]Nerli, p. 32.
[† ]Id. p. 33.
[1 ]Lib. iv. Non mediante la libertà e la servitù, come molti credono, ma mediante la servitù e la licenza. “Not through liberty and servitude, as many think, but through servitude and licentiousness.” The idea is somewhat obscurely expressed, and needs the aid of the following sentence which is found translated below.
[2 ]Perchè della libertà solamente il nome é celebrato. “For the name only of liberty is commended by,” &c.
[* ]Nerli, p. 34.
[† ]Nerli, p. 34, 35.
[1 ]In the last chapter but one of Sismondi’s history may be found some judicious reflections upon the defects of the judiciary system in the Italian republics. Although many of those pointed out by him have been remedied in the present age, the subject is not yet without its difficulties.
[2 ]As this tax is afterwards alluded to by name, it seems proper to add the definition which Machiavel gives of it,—“E perchè nel distribuirla s’aggravavano i beni di ciascuno, il che i Fiorentini dicono accatastare, si chiamò questa gravezza Catasto.”
[* ]Nerli, p. 38.
[* ]Nerli, p. 39.
[* ]Nerli, p. 39.
[* ]Partissi Cosimo di Firenze l’ Ottobre, 1433, avendo lasciato di se nell universale de’ meno potenti cittadini grandissimo desiderio, parendo loro esser rimesi in preda di pochi potenti, senza speranza di capo alcuno al quale si potessero appoggiare. Nerli, p. 40.
[* ]“Ritornò adunque Cosimo in Firenze, con tanta reputazione e con si granda allegrezza dall’ esilio, con quanta, mai ritornasse alla patria sua alcun altro cittadino trionfante, da qual si voglia o possa immaginare felicissima impresa vittorioso; e benchè egli si sforzasse in tanta sua felicità, e grandezza di mantenere sempre quella civile modestia, la quale osservò in ogni sua azione mentrechè visse, ad ogni modo appariva in lui una tal maestà di principe, che meritò per pubblico decreto d’ esser chiamato padre della patria, la quale da esso fu per trenta anni, pacificamente governata.” Nerli, p. 43.
[1 ]Lib. vi.
[1 ]See p. 73.
[* ]Luca Pitti, tenuto uomo animoso, e molto più audace, che savio, o prudente. Nerli, p. 48.
[† ]Però avendo Luca Pitti già consumato il primo mese del suo magistrato, non lascio passare molti giorni del secondo, che avendo disposto i signori suoi compagni, et provvisto il palazzo d’ arme, e di forze, e Cosimo, e gli altri della parte essendosi provveduti, e armati in favore de’ signori, fecero chiamare il popolo in piazza e si venne al parlamento secondo il costume solito mediante il quale si creò una nuova balià, e si ristrinse in quello lo stato, ordinandosi nuove imborsazioni, &c. Nerli, p. 49.
[* ]In 1464, in the seventy-fifth year of his age. Nerli, p. 49.
[* ]Philip de Comines.
[1 ]Lib. viii.