Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER SECOND.: FLORENCE. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 5 (Defence of the Constitutions Vols. II and III)
Return to Title Page for The Works of John Adams, vol. 5 (Defence of the Constitutions Vols. II and III)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER SECOND.: 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Guicciardini begins his history of the wars in Italy, where Machiavel concludes that of Florence, with the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in April, 1492, the same year that the sagacity, fortitude, and good fortune of that ever memorable native of Coguretto, a village near Genoa, Christopher Columbus, of plebeian birth, but of noble genius, in the service of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain,* laid the first foundation of the constitutions of the United States of America.
“The death of Lorenzo was a severe misfortune to his country, which had flourished under the influence of his prudence, reputation, and genius, in all the blessings and embellishments of a long and secure peace; and very inconvenient to all Italy, who regarded him as a principal counterbalance to Ferdinand of Naples, and Sforza of Milan, princes as ambitious as they were powerful.
“Peter II., the eldest of his three sons, who succeeded him without contradiction, was not qualified by experience or abilities for so important a station. Deviating early from the councils of his father, and without consulting the principal citizens, he was wholly directed by Orsino, a relation both by his mother and his wife, but a dependent of Ferdinand. This new connection, so prudently avoided by his father, excited the jealousy of Sforza, and was the source of all the ensuing evils.”
Without reciting the particulars of his vanity, rashness, and imprudence, especially a foolish treaty with France, which he made without consulting the magistrates, it is sufficient to say, “that, on the ninth of November, 1494, as he was going into the palace, Nerli, a youth of noble birth and great wealth, at the head of some others of the magistracy, stood armed at the gates,† and forbade him to enter. The populace, as soon as the report of this insurrection spread in the town, instantly took arms. Peter, destitute of courage as well as advice, returned to his own house, where he was informed that the magistrates had declared him a rebel; upon which he fled with precipitation to Bologna, and was followed by his two brothers, Giovanni the cardinal, and Giuliano, who were likewise attainted. Thus, through the rashness and levity of a thoughtless youth, the family of the Medici fell, for the time, from a sovereign power which they had exercised for sixty years. From Bologna they went to Venice. After some time, the king, their ally, obtained a reversal of Peter’s attainder, and that of his two brothers, and a restitution of their effects, on condition that Peter should not approach within a hundred miles of the borders of the republic. This was designed to prevent him from settling in Rome; his brothers were not to come within a hundred miles of the city.”
After the exile of Peter and his brothers, the city of Florence attempted once more to reform its government;* “but,” says Nerli, “the citizens who ought to have reformed the state, fell into the same error with all who had preceded them in similar enterprises, and founded the new government, as others had done whose steps they followed, upon parties and civil factions, as may be seen in the whole history of Florence, and for the benefit and convenience of the superior party and more powerful factions, and not at all for the benefit of the generality, or the universal good; and therefore it was impossible that a pacific and quiet republic should succeed, or a durable government be established. They created, however, according to the ancient custom of the city, and by means of a parliament, always a scene of violence, and inconsistent with all civil modesty, twenty Accoppiatori, or associates, with authority to imborse the signori from time to time, and to create, with other restless disturbers of the public peace, the principal magistrates; and they resolved, that Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, who then declared himself one of the inhabitants, de’ popolani,1 though under age, should be one of the twenty; and this was accomplished by their extraordinary reputation and influence, and thus he was made the head of the new government; and this whole revolution changed nothing but the head, and not at all the nature of the government.”
It was in this convention, which Nerli calls a parliament, that those elegant speeches which Guicciardini* has preserved, or composed, one for Soderini and the other for Vespucci, are supposed to have been made; but it is surprising to see that neither orator, so eloquent and able, nor yet the historian who so elegantly reports the debate, appears to have once thought of the natural and necessary remedy. One is for a government simply popular, and the other for a form simply aristocratical; but neither thinks of an equal mixture of the three forms, nor even of the two; nor does an idea occur of separating the legislative from the executive power. Soderini admits that, “among all writers upon government, praises have been more liberally bestowed upon the administration of a single prince, and upon that of a few of the best citizens, than upon any popular government;” but he thinks that “the desire of liberty is so natural or habitual in that city, and the condition of the citizens so proportioned to that equality which is the necessary foundation of a popular government, that it ought, without any doubt, to be preferred to all others.” He even thinks a question could not be made of this, “as in all their consultations it had ever been determined, with universal consent, that the city should be governed in the name and by the authority of the people. But the diversity of opinions arose from this, that some would cheerfully consent in the regulation of the convention to that form of a republic with which the city governed itself before her liberty was oppressed by the family of the Medici; others, among whom he reckons himself, judging a government so ordered to have, in many things, rather the name than the effects of a popular government, and terrified with the accidents which frequently result from it, desire a more perfect form, which may preserve concord and security to the citizens; blessings which, neither from reason nor experience, can be expected in this city, if it is not under a government dependent entirely on the power of the people. This must, however, be well ordered by two fundamental regulations. The first of these is, that all the magistrates and officers, both in the city and all its dominions, shall be distributed, from time to time, by a universal council of all those who, according to our laws, are qualified for a participation in government; without the approbation of which council new laws cannot be considered. Hence, it not being in the power of private citizens, nor of any particular conspiracy or intrigue, to distribute dignities or authority, none will be excluded from them by the passions or caprice of others, but they shall be bestowed according to the virtues and merits of men. By consequence, every one must endeavor, by his virtues, good manners, and by rendering himself agreeable both in public and private life, to open his way to honors. Every one must abstain from vices and injuries to others, and, in one word, from all those things which are odious in a well-constituted city. It will not be in the power of any one, nor of a few, by new laws, or by the authority of a magistrate, to introduce another government, or to pretend to alter this, but by the resolution of the universal council.
“The second fundamental regulation is this; that all the most important deliberations, as those of peace and war, the examination of new laws, and generally all those things which are necessary to the administration of such a city and dominion, shall be treated by magistrates particularly destined to this service, in a select council of the most experienced and prudent citizens, who shall be deputed by the popular council; for, as the knowledge of these affairs of state is not found in every understanding, precautions should be taken that the government may not fall into hands incapable of conducting it; and the celerity and secrecy which are often indispensable, cannot be consulted or preserved in the deliberations of a multitude. Neither is it necessary for the maintenance of liberty, that such things should be treated by large numbers; for liberty remains secure at all times when the distribution of magistracies, and the deliberations on new laws, depend on universal consent.
“These two points being secured, the government will be truly popular, the liberty of the city well founded, and a laudable and durable form of a republic established.”
He then compares his project with the plan of Venice,—to which it has not, however, the smallest resemblance,—and proceeds: “This city of ours has never enjoyed a government like this, and therefore our public affairs have been constantly exposed to frequent mutations; at one time trampled down by the violence of tyranny; at another torn by the ambitious and avaricious dissensions of the few; now shaken by the licentious fury of the multitude; and although cities are built for no end but the tranquillity, security, and happy life of the inhabitants, the fruits of our government, our felicity, our repose, have been the continual confiscations of our estates, the banishments and the executions on the scaffold, of our miserable citizens.”
This is the substance of Soderini’s oration, in which he is fully sensible of the tyranny and slavery of alternate factions, and the consequent miseries with which the history of Florence is filled; but, instead of proposing a rational remedy, he is for aggravating the evil. The executive power, the appointment of officers, had been the cause of discord. He now only proposes to give those appointments to the multitude, instead of a senate; to the universal, instead of the particular council; the only effect of which would be, that more heads would be turned, and more passions inflamed.
The oration of Soderini was answered by Vespucci, a famous lawyer, and a man of singular genius and address. “If,” says he, “a government, instituted in the manner proposed by Soderini, most excellent citizens, would produce such desirable fruits with the same ease that they may be described, he would certainly discover a most corrupted character who should wish any other for the regulation of our country. He would be a most pernicious citizen, who should not love, without reserve, a form of republic, in which virtue, merit, and the real value of men, should be above all things acknowledged and honored. But I confess myself ignorant how it is possible to hope that a government, placed absolutely in the power of the people, can be productive of such mighty blessings. On the contrary, I well know, what reason teaches, experience demonstrates, and the authority of the greatest lawgivers confirms, that, in so great a multitude, there can never be found such prudence, such experience, and such order, as may give us room to promise ourselves the wise will be preferred to the ignorant, the good to the bad, or men of experience to those who have never seen a public transaction. For as, from an incapable and unskilful judge, it is not possible to hope for a sagacious sentence, so, from a people immersed in ignorance and involved in confusion, we cannot expect, unless by accident, prudent deliberations or rational elections. Can we believe that a multitude, inexpert, unskilful, compounded of so great a variety of geniuses, conditions, and customs, and wholly devoted to their private affairs, can possibly distinguish and know those intricate interests and duties of the public, which men of the most consummate wisdom, who are wholly inattentive to any other business, are often with great difficulty able to discern? Not to mention, that the unbounded esteem which every one entertains of himself, will stimulate them all to become ambitious of honors, it will never be satisfactory to men in a popular government to enjoy the honest fruits of liberty, but all will aspire to the highest rank, and be impatient to intermeddle in deliberations upon affairs of the most importance and greatest difficulty. For among us there is less than in any other city in the world of that modesty which yields the precedence to him who has more knowledge or more merit. Persuading ourselves, as we do, that, in reason and by right, we ought all of us to be equal in all things, the places of virtue and merit, if left in the disposition of the multitude, will be confounded; and this ambition, being diffused through the majority, will designedly bestow the most power on the most ignorant and the least meritorious; because, being by much the most numerous, they will have the most influence in a state so constituted that opinions in it are numbered and not weighed. What certainty, therefore, can you have that, although they may be satisfied with the form that you introduce at present, they will not presently disarrange the institutions the most wisely concerted, by their novel inventions and imprudent laws? And these the wisest citizens will not be able to resist. These things, at all times dangerous in such a government, will be much more so at present, because it is the nature of mankind, when they fly from one extreme, in which they have been held by violence, to rush with greater violence, without stopping at the mean, to the other extremity. Thus, he who escapes from a tyranny, if unrestrained, precipitates himself into an unbridled licentiousness, which also may most justly be called a tyranny; for a people is exactly like a tyrant, when they give to him who has no merit, and take away from him who has much; when they confound all gradations and distinctions of persons; and their tyranny is perhaps so much the more pestiferous, as ignorance, which has no weights, nor measures, nor laws, is more dangerous even than malignity, which does govern itself by some rule, restrain itself by some bridle, and satisfy itself with some end. . . .
“Has this city ever been under the absolute government of the people, without becoming an instant prey to discord, without being shaken to its foundation, and without suffering an immediate revolution in the state? Why are not our liberties secure under the government proposed in this parliament? All things are referred to the disposition of magistrates, who are not perpetual, but are frequently changed; who are not elected by a few, but, having been approved by many, are appointed, according to the ancient usage of the city, by lot. How then can they be appointed by factions, or by the will of particular citizens? We shall have a much greater certainty that affairs of the most importance will be examined and directed by men of the most wisdom, experience, and gravity, who will govern with more order, secrecy, and maturity of judgment, than it is possible for a people, who are incapable of such things, to possess; a people, who are often, when there is little occasion for it, most extravagantly splendid and expensive; and oftener still, when there is the most urgent necessity, so penurious and niggardly, as to rush upon the greatest dangers and expenses, for the sake of saving the most trifling sums.”
In truth, both these speeches, with all their eloquence, were thrown away. Soderini was for collecting “all authority into one centre,” the people; and Vespucci into another, the senate. Neither dared propose a separation of the executive from both, in a first magistrate; and without that, and admitting both the senate and people to a share, there could be no peace nor harmony in Florence. The question, however, was not decided by the logic or rhetoric of either. Few of the citizens attended the convention, and the vote would have been for the aristocracy of Vespucci, if another orator had not intervened.
This was Girolamo Savonarola, the prophet, who declared that he had a divine revelation from heaven in favor of a popular government, and that Jesus Christ should be chosen King of Florence,* against his own express declaration, that his kingdom was not of this world. The twenty accoppiatori, who had no head to keep them united, necessarily fell into a variety of factions and divisions among themselves. Perceiving their dissensions, the other citizens in general, and especially all those of the greatest reputation, who, at the election of the twenty, had not been chosen of the number, began to take courage, and raise a cry against them for the weakness of their government; and Savonarola declared, that God had constituted him his ambassador in Florence, with full power and express orders to declare his will, that Christ should be king, and that under him the city should be governed only by a single assembly or popular council. The multitude believed him, and in 1495 the twenty were all obliged to resign, and give place to the greater council and popular government;† and a new palace was built for them, with such ardent enthusiasm, that it seemed to be true, what Savonarola declared, that the angels had acted as masons and architects, that the work might be the sooner finished.
But this new government could no better agree than the accoppiatori, and for the same reason. The new great council, as well as the whole city, soon divided into three parties. The greatest and most powerful was that which depended upon Fra Girolamo, and was called the party of the Frateschi, and consisted of those who most desired, and of nearly all those who were gratified with the latitude of the popular government. The second party were desirous of having the government more restrained, and in the hands of a smaller number of the principal citizens; but they were still desirous of liberty, and, as well as the Frateschi, were in opposition to the party of the Medici. The third party consisted of those who wished for the return of the Medici, and the restoration of the old government. The views, motives, and manœuvres of these three factions, their jealousies, envies, ambition, and various schemes to supplant each other, are particularly described by Nerli, and in so natural a manner, that one would think his history written expressly to expose the folly of a government in one centre.
In 1495, the Florentines met with fresh and dangerous troubles from other quarters, excited by the potentates of the league, who encouraged Peter to attempt his restoration to Florence. Peter, like all other exiles, ready to embrace every offer, imagined his own party so powerful, and the new government so odious, especially to the nobility, that he could not fail of success. He made several advances, and excited some exertions among his friends; but being disappointed of effectual assistance, he at length gave up the enterprise.
In 1497, the pope and the Venetians conceived a new project for separating the Florentines from the French. The unhappy state of their city, in which there were such great divisions among the citizens, owing to the form of their government, gave encouragement to any power that wished to molest them. For, says Guicciardini,—1
“In the first institution of the popular authority in Florence, there had not been introduced a mixture of those temperaments which, whilst they secured, by suitable methods, the common liberty, might prevent the republic from being thrown into confusion by the ignorance and licentiousness of the multitude. For this reason, the citizens of better rank, meeting with less respect than their condition seemed to require, the people, on the other hand, being jealous of their ambition, multitudes of mean capacity frequently assisting at important debates, and the supreme magistracy, to whom was referred the decision of the most difficult affairs, changing every two months, much confusion was occasioned in the government of the republic. To this must be added the great authority of Savonarola, whose followers were more numerous than those of the contrary opinion, and appeared to have much the greater share in the distribution of places in the magistracy, and of public honors; by which means the city becoming manifestly divided, one party still clashed with the other in all the public deliberations, as it always happens in divided cities, when men care not how much they obstruct the common good, in the desire of lowering the reputation of the adverse party. These disorders were the more dangerous, because, besides the long vexations and great burdens borne by that city, there was that year a very great scarcity; whence it might be presumed that the half-starved populace were desirous of a change. This unhappy disposition gave hopes to Peter, who was besides incited by some of the citizens.”
With secret assistance from the Venetians, and in various other ways, he collected together a military force, and made an attempt upon Florence; but, having neither genius nor resources, he failed. His partisans committed a number of massacres in some of the neighboring towns; but his plot was discovered, and his principal friends in Florence, after full proof of the order and management of the conspiracy, were convicted and sentenced to death. By virtue of a law that was made when the popular government was established, the relations of the persons condemned appealed to the grand council of the people. The other party, apprehending that compassion for their rank, age, and numerous relations, might prevail on the affections of the people, several members of the supreme magistracy were, by pressing importunities, and almost by force and menaces, constrained to consent that, notwithstanding the interposition of the appeal, execution should be done the same night. Of what avail is law in such a government, for the protection of life or security of liberty? The most zealous sticklers for this were the favorers of Savonarola, who was reproached for not dissuading his followers from the violation of a law which, but a few years before, had been proposed by himself, as necessary for the preservation of liberty. But a dominant party, when there are but two, and no third power to balance them, is never long restrained by law, morals, or decency.
The next year, 1498, Savonarola himself was burnt, not for his enthusiastic impostures, but for preaching against the corruptions of the court of Rome, under that hellish monster of vice and cruelty, Alexander VI. This would not have been remembered here, if politics and party, rather than piety, had not produced this event, as well as the assassination of a nobleman of great influence, Francesco Valori, for being the chief patron of Savonarola, and the cause that the appeal to the popular council had not been admitted. The passions of parties, their hatred and revenge, as well as their ambition, under such unbalanced governments, lay hold of any popular prejudice, most frequently of religious zeal, and the assistance of any means, even the friendship of an Alexander and a Borgia, to aid their gratification. “But scattering the ashes of this martyr in the Arno did not,” says Nerli, “quench the flames of discord, nor heal the divisions of the city. The people remained in the same dissensions, every one quarrelling for his faction as usual;* and fresh disputes and dissensions arose; first, between Vitelli and the Count di Marciano; second, by reason of the difference between the King of France and the Duke of Milan; and, third, on account of elections and the magistracies.”
In 1500, Cæsar Borgia,† having already subjected a great part of Romagna, desirous of extending his dominions in Tuscany, and having good intelligence of the disposition and divisions in the city of Florence, attempted to restore the Medici, but was diverted from the enterprise by an embassy and a round sum of money. In 1502, a rebellion, excited in the city of Arezzo, opened fresh divisions in Florence, and produced new attempts to reform the government, first, by giving a head to the greater council, and, second, by constituting a gonfalonier for life. Soderini, who had no children, had great qualities, was moderately rich, of a family of great reputation, &c., and had rendered important services to the state upon many occasions, was accordingly elected. But he had no thoughts of changing the popular government any further, and was soon found to have too much moderation for some of his friends. Rucellai, and Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, and some other citizens, broke off from him, would not attend his feasts, and grew discontented.
This year (1502) died the pope Alexander VI. Peter de’ Medici, with some other noblemen, following the French camp after their defeat by the Spaniards at Gaeta, entered on board a bark laden with artillery, and was drowned at the mouth of the river, by the bark’s sinking under her burden in a contrary wind. But these events, so fortunate in appearance for Florence, could not secure her tranquillity. The new gonfalonier for life had many parties in fermentation against him; those who desired a more popular government, and that his office should be annual, or only for three months; those of his own party, who thought him not zealous enough to make the government more aristocratical; and those who wished the restoration of the Medici, and a government completely monarchical. All these various classes of citizens were daily observing his conduct, criticizing his administration, exaggerating his errors, and destroying his reputation and popularity.
In 1505, Bartolomeo d’ Alviano invaded the country,* with a view to assist the Medici; but he was routed and put to flight. From so great a victory the citizens hoped for happiness, quiet, and repose; but the effects of it were quite the contrary, and increased the secret opposition to the gonfalonier, and the cabals of the discontented citizens. Bentivoglio, ambitious to be made captain-general, and Giacomini, to increase his popularity, united in the desire of adding the conquest of Pisa to the glory they had acquired in the late victory. The project of this enterprise occasioned great confusions in the city. The wisest and best men declared themselves against it; but such numbers were bent upon it, that the gonfalonier, either blinded by the same passions, arising from success, or wishing to counteract his adversaries, or confiding too much in Bentivoglio, fell in with it. After tedious disputes, angry accusations, and mutual reproaches in the city, the enterprise was resolved upon in the great council, with loud huzzas of the common people. A great expense was incurred in ample preparations, but the end was as unfortunate as the wiser citizens had predicted; the two principal officers destroyed all the credit of their former services, and Soderini, the gonfalonier, lost much of his reputation, more of the popular confidence and affection; and, in proportion as these fell, those who had opposed the war rose in the public esteem. The enemies of the gonfalonier increased, and their opposition, headed by the Salviati, grew more active and determined, and weakened the government to such a degree, that it was alike unable to execute the resolutions, when taken by so small majorities, to command the soldiers, to elect the council, the eight commissaries of war, or ambassadors, or, indeed, to resolve upon any thing. The two parties could agree upon nothing; and all the citizens were such decided partisans, either of the gonfalonier or of the Salviati, that they would not intermarry, or even give a vote for any man to any office or public favor, who was not of their side.
In the grand council, and in the city, causes enough of debate arose from day to day. In 1506, an ordinance for regulating the militia in the country, and enrolling every man from fifteen to fifty years of age under captains and colors, for frequent exercise in the military art; the demand of Alfonsina Orsini, the widow of Peter de’ Medici, of the restitution of her dower, confiscated with the estate of her husband; the marriage of her daughter Clarissa to Philip Strozzi; the resignation of the Archbishop of Florence; the appointment of a successor; the war of Pisa; in 1508, the creation of commissaries; the concession of Pisa to the King of France,—all occasioned such struggles, as excited at last a conspiracy to assassinate the gonfalonier, for the purpose of introducing the restoration of the Medici. This plot was discovered, but the guilty persons had such parties in the city, and the gonfalonier was become so unpopular, that only the slightest punishment could be inflicted. As, in such a state of parties, every measure of government is opposed, another controversy arose about the continuance of the truce with Siena, which was at last agreed to upon the concession of Monte Pulciano. Various new disputes were now occasioned by the new council in Pisa. Finally, the city found that, amidst all the great transactions in Italy, by the division among the citizens, and their continual opposition to each other in every reasonable measure, they had not only very ill served their ally, the king, but had given great offence to the pope.
In 1512 was the battle of Ravenna; and after a long series of wars, in which the emperor, the King of France, the King of Spain, the Swiss, the pope, the Venetians, and all other states in Italy had been concerned, a congress was held at Mantua. “Giuliano de’ Medici, in his own name and that of the cardinal, here solicited an enterprise against the Florentines. A revolution, he pretended, might be easily effected in that state, through the divisions of the citizens, many of whom wished for the return of his family. By private intelligence, which he said he maintained with several noble and powerful personages in the city, he thought a sudden attack might easily succeed; and the consequence would be, the taking the power of Florence out of the hands of one who depended on the King of France, and committing it to persons who, injured and abused by him, would acknowledge no alliance but that of the confederates. He was seconded, in the name of the pope, by Bernardo de Bibiena, afterwards cardinal, who had been educated in the family of Medici. An offer was secretly made to Soderini, a lawyer, and brother of the gonfalonier, who was then ambassador from Florence, that if the Florentines would comply with the demand of a sum of money, the emperor and King of Aragon should take them under their protection. The ambassador had no authority to conclude any agreement, and could only make his report to the republic. It was believed that, if the Florentines had laid aside their niggardly chaffering about the price, they might have diverted the storm; but, either through the carelessness or the malignity of men, the cause of that city was abandoned; and it was resolved that the Spanish army, attended by the cardinal and Giuliano de’ Medici, should march towards Florence, and that the cardinal, whom the pope in this expedition had declared legate of Tuscany, should call to his assistance the soldiers of the church, and those of the neighboring towns, whom he thought fit for his purpose. The viceroy, at the head of the Spanish army, no sooner entered the Florentine dominions, than he was met by an ambassador of the republic, to know what he required of them. The viceroy demanded, in the name of all the confederates, that the gonfalonier should be deprived of his office, and that such a form of government should be established, as would not give occasion of umbrage to the allied powers; which could not be effected without restoring the cardinal and Giuliano de’ Medici to their country.
“The government of Florence was in the greatest consternation, from the divisions among the citizens, and the inclination of multitudes to a change. A message arrived from the viceroy, that it was not the intention of the league to make any alteration in the government or liberty of the city, but only to remove the gonfalonier from the magistracy, for the security of Italy, and to restore the Medici, not as heads of the government, but as private persons, to live in all things under subjection to the laws and to the magistracy. Various were the opinions in the city, according to the difference of men’s judgments, passions, and fears. The gonfalonier, in a long harangue to the great council,* offered either to resign his envied office, or to defend it at the hazard of his life, as they should determine.
“If the Medici,” says he, “have an inclination to live as private citizens, in due subjection to the ordinances of the magistrates, and of your laws, their restoration would be laudable. . . . But let not any one imagine, that the government of the Medici will be exercised in the same manner as before their expulsion. The form and foundation of things are changed; educated among us, almost like other private citizens, possessed of vast estates in proportion to their high dignity, and offended with none, they laid the foundation of their greatness in the affections of the citizens; but now, bred up in strange customs, and having little insight into our civil affairs, resenting their exile, very indigent, affronted by so many families, conscious that the greater part of the people abhor tyranny, constrained by poverty and suspicion, they will have no consideration for any citizen, but will engross the direction of all affairs to themselves, and establish their administration on fear and force, not on love and benevolence. The city will become like Bologna under the Bentivogli, or like Siena and Perugia.”
“It was, with wonderful unanimity, resolved to consent to the return of the Medici as private citizens, but to refuse the removal of the gonfalonier, at the hazard of their lives and fortunes; and all hands were set to work to prepare for war, and the defence of Prato.”
The viceroy laid siege to Prato, and took it by assault, which was followed by flight, shrieks, violence, rapine, blood, and slaughter. This sad disaster produced a vast change in the minds of the people at Florence; the gonfalonier, repenting of his counsel, was terrified, and became deprived at once of all esteem and authority; others grew audacious; several young noblemen, with one of the family of Albizzi at their head, who had been in secret correspondence with the Medici, forced the gonfalonier out of the public palace, and the magistrates were compelled to depose him.* He fled to Ragusa. Ambassadors were sent to the viceroy, with whom, by means of the Cardinal de’ Medici, they easily made an accommodation. He insisted only on the restoration of his family and their adherents, as private citizens, with power to redeem, within a certain time, the confiscated estates, indemnifying those to whom they had been transferred for the purchase and improvements. The Florentines were obliged to enter into the league, pay to the emperor forty thousand ducats, and to the viceroy eighty thousand for his army, and twenty thousand for himself. They made a league besides, with the King of Aragon, under reciprocal obligations of assisting each other.
It is astonishing that the Florentines should not yet have been able to see the causes of their continual misfortunes, and the necessity of different orders, and a balance in their constitution. They now applied themselves to reform their government, to preserve their liberty, and the popular council, their “all authority in one centre,” their right constitution of a commonwealth.
“To this end they enacted, that the gonfalonier should no longer be elected for life, but only for a year; that to the council of eighteen, which was changed every six months, and by whose authority the most weighty affairs were determined, should be added, for life, all those who had discharged the great offices of state, at home or abroad, that the citizens of greatest quality might always assist at their debates. At home, such as had been gonfaloniers of justice, or of the number of the ten of the balìa, a magistracy of great authority in that republic; abroad, all, who by election of the council of eighty had been sent ambassadors to princes, or had been commissaries-general in war. In all other points the laws remained without alteration. Ridolfi, a noble citizen, was elected gonfalonier for the first year; the people, as usual in troublesome times, not paying so much regard to those who were most acceptable to them for popular arts, as to a person who, by his great authority in the city, especially with the nobility, and by his own extraordinary talents, was best capable of establishing the tottering commonwealth.
“But things were now gone too far, and the enemies of public liberty were become too powerful. A suspected army was in the country, and the most audacious youth in the city were desirous of oppressing liberty. With them concurred in thought and deed, though in word he pretended the contrary, the Cardinal de’ Medici; for the restoration of his family as private citizens could not have been thought from the beginning a reward worthy of so great fatigues and dangers. But now he considered that they must be universally detested by the people, from a suspicion that they would be continually exciting conspiracies against their liberty, and from the indignation conceived against the family for conducting the Spanish army against their country, and being the cause of the barbarous sackage of Prato. The cardinal was stimulated too by those who had before conspired with him, and had no honorable station in the new commonwealth. He therefore obtained the consent of the viceroy, unexpectedly entered Florence, and repaired to the houses of the Medici with a number of Italian officers and soldiers, the magistrates not daring to forbid their entrance on account of the neighborhood of the Spanish army. The next day a great number of citizens being assembled in council in the palace, and Giuliano de’ Medici among the rest, the soldiers suddenly forced the gate, and rushing up stairs took possession of the palace. The gonfalonier and the magistrates were forced to submit to the will of a man whose arms were more powerful than their unarmed reverence, and at the motion of Giuliano, they called, by sound of the bell, an assembly of the people in the square of the palace. Here those who met, finding themselves surrounded by armed soldiers, and the youth of the city in arms for the Medici, consented that fifty citizens, nominated with the approbation of the Cardinal de’ Medici, should be invested with the whole sovereign power of the people, which the Florentines call a balìa. The government was reduced to that form which subsisted before 1494; a guard was stationed at the palace, and the Medici resumed their former grandeur, but governed more imperiously and with more absolute authority than their father Peter had done. After this manner was the liberty of the Florentines oppressed by arms, being reduced to this condition by the divisions among the citizens.”1
“On the first of September, 1512, the new signori, without any gonfalonier or supreme magistrate, united with Giuliano de’ Medici and the principal citizens of Florence, and especially with those who, having been in opposition to Soderini, or being relations or declared friends of the Medici, were the most in their confidence, to give orders for a new reformation of the city. It was thereupon ordained, by an intrigue of the signori, that a cabal of about twenty citizens should determine among themselves the mode of reformation in the state. But even in this junto many contests arose, and various projects were proposed. There were among them some who, without considering the forcible manner in which the Medici had returned, wished to reëstablish the popular government, and maintain, by all means, the grand council, at least in part, in its authority, and in order to give the government a head, would constitute a gonfalonier for one year, or two at most; they further desired, in order to give a greater perfection to the government, to make an addition of select citizens to the council of eighty, who should be as a senate of the best men for life, with a certain authority and full power, and with certain particular orders and prescribed forms. Of this opinion were the greater part of those citizens who had been in opposition to Soderini, not so much from attachment to the Medici as for other reasons. The Medici and their most avowed partisans, and chiefly those who, in their opposition to Soderini, had discovered themselves the most averse to the popular state, because they did not think they could obtain pardon from the people, could scarcely hope to live in freedom, and were sure to have no share in the government, would, for their greater security, restrain the state to its ancient form and remodel it by a convention, not believing that they could accomplish it in the ordinary way, as it had been restrained in the house of Medici before the year 1494. After many accommodating manœuvres of Giuliano de’ Medici, by his great facility and kindness with those who desired a large government, and to preserve the grand council, it was concluded to pass a law in this cabal for the reformation of this government, and it was accordingly proposed in the grand council, and received with great applause. For everybody was so dispirited and so terrified with the thoughts of a convention of the people, which was much talked of, and greatly desired by those who wished to restrain the state into an aristocracy, that this new law of reform was highly relished, as it lessened the authority both of the people and the grand council.
“By the new law it was ordained, that, for the future, the gonfalonier should be created by the grand council for one year, should be disqualified from holding the office for five subsequent years, and that all his connections should be excluded during his year from holding any of the greater magistracies, such as those of the signori, the sixteen gonfaloniers of the companies of the people, and the twelve buoni homini. The chief magistrate was also prohibited from holding a negotiation or correspondence with any other prince, republic, or lord, in or out of Italy; from opening any letters addressed to the signori or any other magistrate, without the presence of two thirds of the signori his companions; or even any letter addressed to him alone, without the presence of two at least of the signori, who, under the pains of perjury, were obliged to show such letters to the other signori, if they found any thing in them relative to the state or public affairs. The ladies, too, and families of the gonfaloniers were prohibited from inhabiting the palace, and from sending any letters or messages to any officer or magistrate abroad or at home; and the gonfalonier was assigned for his whole salary four hundred golden florins a year. As to the mode of electing the senate, surplusage, or optimates before mentioned, such disposition was made by this new law for the reformation of the government, that for the future, at all administrations, deliberations, and elections of magistrates, usually made in the council of eighty, all the then present signori, and all those citizens who at any time had been gonfaloniers of justice, all those who had sat among the ten magistrates for war, and all who at any time had been elected ambassadors in the council of eighty to any prince or lord in or out of Italy, should assist during their lives. And to provide for those families or societies in which there were not men of any such description, it was decreed by the law that such families might claim as far as two members, if they had the number of two, or, if they had not, one, with the ordinary qualifications, but no more; and that such supplementary additions from the families should not amount to more than fifty in the whole, to be elected in the council of eighty, with its new addition, giving of these fifty a convenient part to the lesser arts, according to the order at that time in the city. And because Giuliano de’ Medici and some of his declared friends were incapable, either by minority of age, or by having in their families two or more who came within the ordinary rules, that they might not be excluded, it was provided by the law, that by a resolution of the signori alone, eleven more, besides the fifty, might be elected, eight of whom might be under the age prescribed of forty years. In this manner was the council of eighty, with its addition, to be constituted, and in it from time to time were to be created the signori, the ten magistrates for war, and the eight for the guard, in such manner as those magistrates were wont to be elected in the greater council, observing the order of elections in the quarters of the arts, and all the forms which had been observed in electing such magistrates in the greater council. And to facilitate still further the public business, and to take away still more effectually, both from the people and the great council, the opportunity and the power of disarranging the public councils by withholding supplies of money, admonished by many past examples, the law provided, that such provisions of money and impositions of taxes for the public occasions should be passed, in the first place, in the council of eighty, by two thirds of the black votes or balls, according to the forms of balloting, and be approved in the greater council by a division of one half of the black votes, and one more. The law was passed, and the same day, in October, 1513, and in the same council, they proceeded to the election of a new gonfalonier. At the first ballot there was no choice, but at the second Giovan Batista Ridolfi was elected, and, in the presence of the council, took upon him, with the other signori, the supreme magistracy.”*
This plan of reformation, however, had greatly terrified the partisans and most declared friends of the Medici, as it appeared to them they should be in great danger, when an accommodation should be made with the league, and the Spanish army should be marched out of the dominions, of being again banished from Florence, to their total ruin, that of the new constitution, and the whole house of Medici; and in this apprehension they were well grounded, for although there was in the new plan an attempt at three natural branches, yet the executive power and the power of the purse were both left in the hands of the aristocracy, which would have instantly produced a division both among nobles and people, and the destruction of the house of Medici, as well as of the feeble popular branch of the constitution. Here was the best possible opportunity for introducing the most perfect form, by giving the executive power to one of the Medici, the power of the purse to the people, and the legislative power to both, together with the nobility; but either no man understood the subject, or too much ambition in the Medici, too much pride in the nobility, too many prejudices in the people, or all three together, prevented it.
The election too of Ridolfi, who was thought to be, as indeed he was, a spirited man, of a celebrated house, most illustrious parentage, and of great reputation, increased their terror, especially as, in the deliberations on the new reformation, he had discovered himself much in favor of a popular life. He had been ordinarily conspicuous in the faction of Frateschi, among the first of whom he had been incorporated, after Valori, and had, in all times, conjunctures, and circumstances, favored that party which was ever in opposition to the house of Medici, as is manifest to any one who has a knowledge of those times. Whereupon many of the most open friends of the Medici, and those who most dreaded a popular government, entered into close concert with the Cardinal de’ Medici, for the purpose of correcting the errors which Giuliano, his brother, by his too great facility, had suffered to slide in.
“It was not difficult to dispose the cardinal to this, as they found him, since the late reformation, under the same apprehensions, and in the same disposition with themselves; neither himself, nor Messer Giulio, prior of Capua, his cousin and a natural son remaining of Giuliano who died in 1478 by the conspiracy of the Pazzi, judging it possible securely to continue in Florence, if the government remained in that manner in the hands of the people, and at the free discretion of the citizens. Wherefore the cardinal came sometimes into the city, for he had resided in Prato when the reformation of the state was made in Florence, and took lodgings in St. Antonio del Vescovo, a place near the city, where he was visited by a multitude of the citizens, under various pretences. There, discoursing with all concerning the condition of affairs as they happened, he began with great address to represent to some that it was necessary to think of a good method for securing the state and his house; dwelling only upon general observations, and not descending to any particulars with those whom he believed to be desirous of a popular government; but consulting with his more confidential friends, and with those whom he knew to be discontented with the new regulation of the government. At last, he opened himself to a few, showing the necessity, of a convention and a balìa to a small number of citizens in whom they could confide, who might contract the state to the form in which it stood before 1494 in the hands of the family of Medici. After these practices held at St. Antonio, the cardinal came to Florence, resolved to call a convention and contract the state; then those citizens, fitly called the blind, who had been so opposed to Soderini, began to see, when it was too late and they had no longer power to provide a remedy, that danger now at hand, which they had not been able to discern when at a distance.
“On the 16th of September, 1513, the convention was assembled, the Medici and their friends in arms having seized the palace, which had been left without a guard, because Ridolfi, when he entered on his office of gonfalonier, either from a want of jealousy of the Medici and the viceroy, who was yet with his army at Prato, or for some other reason, not only had not armed the palace, as, in order to establish the new government, it was necessary to do, but had caused it to be disarmed of the few guards which had been stationed there by the magistrates after the privation and departure of Soderini; wherefore it was easy for the Medici and their partisans to seize it. The signori and the gonfalonier, and many other citizens, seeing the palace taken, and the absolute determination of the Medici and their armed followers to contract the state, and that they could no longer support the popular government, yielded to Giuliano de’ Medici, who was in council, and had orders from the cardinal what to do. The people were accordingly called together in convention, according to the ancient custom of their parliaments, in the piazza; the signori mounted the rostrum, and a balìa was created, that is, full power was given to fifty-five citizens for one year, with the faculty of prolonging it beyond that period according to circumstances, for the convenience and support of the state and the government, and with the faculty, moreover, of associating to themselves in the balìa such other citizens as might be thought useful to the state.”
The first thing resolved on was to add eleven members to the number, making in the whole sixty-six, whose names Nerli* has preserved. The next was to make a treaty with the league, and to pay well to obtain the consent of the Spanish army to march out of Prato and the Florentine dominions. An ambassador was sent to accompany the viceroy of Spain, and another, the locum tenens of Maximilian the emperor. A strong guard was placed in the palace; Ridolfi renounced his office of gonfalonier; all the members of the family of Soderini were taken up and dispersed about in different confinements. A plan was established for the appointment of all officers, and the sum total of power was lodged in Giuliano de’ Medici, who, however, was to consult with the cardinal, with Messer Giulio, with Lorenzo their nephew, the son who remained of Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici; but when the new distribution of offices took place, fresh divisions and dissensions arose, and secret plots were discovered, whose object was nothing less than the assassination of all the Medici. Among the conspirators were many powerful citizens. The chiefs of the party were beheaded, and the rest severely punished.
“At length the pope, Julius II., died, and the cardinals in conclave,* on the seventh day, unanimously elected Giovanni, Cardinal de’ Medici, who assumed the name of Leo X., aged thirty-seven. This election gave great satisfaction to all Christendom; all men expecting, from the recollection of his father’s great merit, and from the fame of his own liberality, benevolence, charity, and irreproachable morals,” (so says the historian, but his actions discover an ambition too powerful for his virtue,) “that Leo would prove an excellent pontiff, and, from the example of his ancestors, a lover of men of genius and learning. His first transaction was his coronation, which was performed with so pompous an appearance of his family and all the prelates and nobles from all parts, and so great a concourse of the Roman people, that Rome had never seen so proud a day since the inundations of the barbarians; the standard of the church was carried by Alfonzo d’ Este; that of the religious order of Rhodes by Giulio de’ Medici, all in armor, and mounted on a noble courser, for he was by nature inclined to arms, though his destiny drew him to the church. Such magnificence confirmed the vulgar in their expectations of happiness from this pontificate, which was likely to abound in liberality and splendor, as the expenses of that day amounted to a hundred thousand ducats; but men of better judgment were of opinion that so much pomp neither became a pope, nor was suitable to the times, which required more gravity, simplicity, and moderation.
“This exaltation of Giovanni occasioned great rejoicings in Florence,* for both the friends and enemies of the family were pleased, though for different reasons; the former from the hope of benefits and advantages, and the latter from the expectation of security, and the universal tranquillity of the city, which they thought would succeed. There remained, however, as may well be imagined, a secret discontent in the hearts of the wise, who could foresee at a distance that so much grandeur in one family, who for sixty years had held in their hands the supreme authority of the government, might in time be the means of their return, and enable them to change the state from a republic to an absolute principality.
“Upon this glorious occasion, Valori, Folchi, Nicholas Machiavel, and all the others who, on account of the late conspiracy, had been hitherto imprisoned, were liberated from the tower of Volterra; a conspiracy which, if no further attempts had been made, and the two who had been beheaded could have been restored to life, would now have been wholly forgotten. The Soderini too were all set at liberty, because the cardinal of that family had concurred with his vote in the creation of the pope. Cardinal Soderini had been gained over to this election by a promise of the liberation of his relations, and that Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici should marry his niece, the daughter of his brother Giovanvetterio; but this alliance never took effect, because Alfonsina, mother of Lorenzo, would never consent to it. To compensate for this disappointment, the pope proposed that the cardinal’s niece should be married to Luigi Ridolfi, his nephew by a sister; and the cardinal at first seemed satisfied with the exchange, but it afterwards appeared that he took it very ill.
“A splendid embassy of twelve honorable and noble citizens was now sent to the new pope from the city of Florence. In all this grandeur of the house, Giuliano, Lorenzo, and Giulio de’ Medici in a few days appeared at Rome to consult with the pope concerning several of their affairs, and the division of their greatness among them; it was finally resolved that Giuliano should remain at Rome with the title of gonfalonier and captain of the holy see. By means of an alliance which he made with a lady of the blood of Savoy, aunt of the King of France, he secured to himself the duchy of Nemours, and thus voluntarily gave up all pretensions to the government of Florence. Lorenzo contented himself with the state of Florence, and soon returned to govern it in the same manner and form as his father and his other ancestors had governed. Giulio was promoted to the archbishopric of Florence, vacant by the death of Cosmo de’ Pazzi, with the prospect of being made a cardinal at the first subsequent creation which the pope should make.
“In this manner, in the beginning of the pontificate of Leo, did the Medici divide among themselves the state and their own power and emoluments. Lorenzo returned to Florence, and consulted with the principal citizens about giving orders for reforming the government in all things to the state it was in before 1494, according to the intentions of the pope, resolved on in Rome. They were very attentive to hasten the general scrutiny, because of the absence of so many citizens, who, for various reasons, had gone to Rome, and, after the creation of the pope, were not in haste to return. When it was finished, imborsed, and begun to be used, a council of seventy was made by Lorenzo, for life, in the form and with the authority of that in the time of his grandfather, in 1482; and orders were also given to constitute a council of a hundred, which from six months to six months, according to the ancient custom, should be drawn. Into this council of a hundred, all who had been gonfaloniers of justice might enter at their pleasure; in it were debated and determined all provisions of money, impositions of taxes, and all laws and ordinances of most importance which had been previously approved in the council of seventy; and to enlarge their system still more, and make it more universally satisfactory, they further ordained a drawing by lot from time to time of the ancient councils of the people and the commons, which might determine on the petitions of private persons, that should be first passed in the council of seventy. In all cases which could occur, and for the security of the state, although they adopted these ordinary councils, they maintained firm the authority of their balia, which was kept constantly in being until the revolution in the state, that happened in 1527. The scrutiny ended, they created the seventy, drew the other councils, and began to make another change of the ten for war, for the eight of their new plan, in order to return every thing to the state it was in before 1494. All these ordinances were thus renewed and perfected in December, 1513, Pandolfo Corbinelli being then gonfalonier; and the seventy were elected for a term only, but with such power of confirmation that they might be said to be for life. Notwithstanding all these precautions, and the absolute power of the balia, divisions among the principal citizens still continued; some were for making the government more popular, others more aristocratical; and these divisions, which lasted till 1527,* gave much trouble to the Medici.
“The affairs of the Medici and of the state being thus settled, Giuliano began to think he had been mistaken in leaving Florence to his nephew; and Lorenzo, amidst such grandeur in his house, began to be discontented at remaining without any princely title, and at having no other than a civil rank in Florence; wherefore he shaped his course to Rome, and communicated his intention to the pope.
“He returned in 1515, determined to be made captain-general of the Florentines; and this dignity was solemnly assumed by him from the hands of the gonfalonier of justice, who was at that time Chimenti Sernigi, in the presence of the signori, and of all the magistrates, and a great part of the people, assembled in the piazza with the staff of command, and the other public ensigns usually given to a captain-general, with the greatest demonstrations of joy and universal rejoicings. In this manner Lorenzo began to depart from the ancient manners of his family, and to lay aside in all things that mode of proceeding popularly in his dress, conversation, and intercourse with the citizens, which had ever been observed by his predecessors. Having assumed his title and magnificence, he went to Lombardy, to make his court to the King of France, who was come to Italy to establish his authority in Milan, which he had lately recovered. He became a great favorite with his majesty, from the desire he had of agreeing with the pope, and because Lorenzo, in all his actions and conversation, discovered an attachment to the faction of the Guelphs and the politics of France.”
“Soon afterwards, an accommodation was made between the pope and the king, and the pope set out on a journey to Bologna, to have an interview with him. Passing through Florence, he made his entry into the city* with great pomp. Between the pope and the king many things were agreed on, for their mutual defence and the maintenance of their power; and Lorenzo, because he eagerly wished to increase his importance, and obtain the title of duke, solicited the pope, under the auspices of France, to undertake an enterprise against Urbino, as it was thought the king could not fail of success, the pope having restored Parma and Placentia, two cities which Giulio had added to the state of the church when the French lost the state of Milan. But the project of an enterprise against Urbino was very disagreeable to Giuliano de’ Medici, and he warmly opposed it as infamous ingratitude, considering the civilities and favors the family had received in their exile from that dukedom.
“The pope was advised to recall the Bentivogli to Bologna, and restore Modena and Reggio to the Duke of Ferrara; but Giulio de’ Medici,” says Guicciardini, “cardinal and legate of Bologna, whom the pope had sent to be a moderator and counsellor to the inexperienced youth of Lorenzo, moved at the infamy that would be cast on the memory of his legateship if Bologna was given up to its old tyrants, and so great a number of the nobility, who had openly declared against them in favor of the apostolic see, sacrificed to their revenge, dissuaded it.
“Giulio, though of illegitimate birth, had been promoted to the cardinalship by Leo, in the first month of his pontificate, by means of witnesses, who, preferring the favor of men before the truth, deposed, that his mother had obtained of his father Giuliano a promise of marriage. Giuliano this year came to Florence in ill health, and resided sometimes in the city, and sometimes out of it, in the neighboring cities, not without exciting great jealousy in Lorenzo, and Alfonsina, his mother, who governed in the absence of her son. The pope was in great perplexity, and could not determine whether to undertake the enterprise against Urbino, so much resisted by his brother, and so ardently desired by his nephew; and he hesitated the more, because he discovered that the King of France had consented against his inclination. Giuliano was so ill, that he could not censure the project to the pope, excepting by his agents and letters, and Lorenzo, by his assiduous solicitations, held the king well disposed to his inclinations, and was continually about the pope with persuasions to undertake it. The interview between the pope and the king at Bologna being finished, the former returned to Florence, apparently resolved to give satisfaction to his nephew; yet, on account of Giuliano, he proceeded to take measures for the enterprise with some circumspection. But the disorder of Giuliano increasing, he died in March, 1516, at Badia de Fiesole, where he resided for the benefit of better air. A few days afterwards the pope left Florence, and returned to Rome.”
“Lorenzo now remained, without any contradiction, in all things heir of the state, the fortune and the grandeur of the house of Medici; and being now more than ever warm in his desire to be made Duke of Urbino,* he was invested by the pope in consistory. Lorenzo was put in command of an army, composed of the soldiers and subjects of the church and the Florentines; and the pope deprived† Francesco Maria of these dominions by solemn sentence, and gave the investiture of the duchy of Urbino, in a consistory, to Lorenzo his nephew, all the cardinals setting their hands to the bull.
“In the year 1517 certain cardinals formed a conspiracy against the pope, and the Cardinal Soderini was found among the guilty; but upon confession of their error, the pope excused them with great humanity.1 But upon this occasion, in order to fill up the college, he made a new promotion of cardinals, among whom were his two nephews of the Salviati and Ridolfi families. At this time the citizens of the state of Florence were in secret very discontented, because the Duke Lorenzo, desiring to reduce the government to the form of a principality, appeared to disdain to consult any longer with the magistrates and his fellow-citizens as he used to do, and gave audiences very seldom, and with much impatience; he attended less to the business of the city, and caused all public affairs to be managed by Messer Goro da Pistoia, his secretary. This person, either following the inclination of his own nature, or because the duke had given him orders what to do, governed in such a manner, and so conducted himself with the citizens, that there appeared in him more grandeur, and more of the qualities of a prince, and he required more honor, than any one of the house of Medici ever had done in the sixty years that had passed between 1434 and 1494. The citizens, who had borne so much envy against Galeotto de’ Medici, found, in the example of Goro, reason to acknowledge and repent of their error; for Galeotto, who held from the Duke Lorenzo the same authority and the same employment before Goro, and was besides of the family of Medici, did the public business of the palace, and went in person to confer with the citizens, and was satisfied with civilly serving his patron, and with being more in reality, and less in appearance.
“Lorenzo now made a journey to France, having made an alliance with the king. In 1518 he returned with his lady, and the marriage was celebrated with much pomp, rejoicings,* and festivity. Many citizens at this time, having discovered the inclination of the duke, and that he was determined to reduce the state to the form of a principality, would not consent to it. Some withdrew themselves from public affairs, despairing of the commonwealth; others confined themselves to their houses, under pretence of sickness; but others, having more courage and better support, went to Rome, under the protection of the pope. The duke, to make the last effort to dispose the pope to reduce the state of Florence to a principality, went to finish his nuptials at Rome, and carried with him Vettori and Strozzi, in whom he confided, and with whom he often consulted; and after many intrigues with the pope, they returned to Florence, determined to reform the state. But in 1519 he died, about ten days after his wife, who, however, had left him a daughter, afterwards Queen of France.
“Goro, and the citizens in his confidence, had secretly ordered the piazza to be fortified, and the guards doubled; and had caused to be assembled in Florence, from various places of the dominion, a good number of their friends and confidential partisans, to assist, as occasion might happen, in the preservation of the public security, and in observing the conduct of those citizens who had given any cause of suspicion; and Antonio di Bettino da Ricosoli was imborsed gonfalonier. The Cardinal de’ Medici, who arrived two days before the death of the duke, being sent by the pope to give orders, regulated all things to general satisfaction.* After the funeral of the duke, the cardinal entered into intimate consultations with the principal citizens, and reëstablished the government, according to the form and order which the pope had given to Duke Lorenzo. The cardinal himself remained, by order of the pope, in the government, to give further satisfaction to the citizens, whom he knew to be disgusted with the proceedings of Goro in the lifetime of the duke, and the great authority he had assumed, perhaps greater than the duke had given him; he reduced the business of the magistrates, elections, customs of office, and the mode of expenditure of the public money, in such a manner, that there appeared a very great and universal joy among the citizens; and no other or greater difficulties remained to him than the usual divisions among the citizens of the state; some of whom contended for enlarging, and others for restraining the elections of magistrates. Wherefore, those who wished the state more contracted, at the head of whom was Ridolfi, opposed themselves to Salviati, who, by order of the pope, was returned to Florence with the cardinal, and he, for contrary reasons, was opposed to them; and because the cardinal went on, amusing sometimes one and sometimes the other party, and supporting both, their divisions were much more apparent at this time, and the heads of each conducted themselves with less dissimulation than they had done in the lifetime of the duke. Indeed, the dissensions of the citizens arose in all important affairs which the cardinal had to provide for or to think of in his government; whereas, in the other case, in the most important affairs they followed without any difficulty that which was ordered daily by the pope.”
The cardinal seems to have diverted the factions from any effectual opposition to his government, by playing them one against the other, and fomenting their mutual animosities; for his government was very successful and frugal, and money was saved in it to pay off the public debts. But the war soon followed, of Pope Leo X. and Charles V., who had lately succeeded Maximilian in the empire, against the French. The cardinal was sent with his army, as apostolical legate, and went into Lombardy, leaving in his place, in the government of Florence, the Cardinal di Cortona. The affairs of the pope and emperor succeeded prosperously against the French, who lost Milan; but the pope, on the last of November, 1521, died, and finished, in the midst of so much grandeur, the legitimate succession of the house of Medici, and the male line of the first Cosimo, who by a public decree was called “the father of his country,” and who, in 1434, had given rise to the greatness of his family.
“After the death of the pope, the cardinal suddenly departed from Milan, and returned to Florence, where he found that the signori had given good orders for the conservation of the state, and that Francesco Vettori, who was gonfalonier of justice, the Cardinal di Cortona, and the principal citizens in the government, had made every provision and taken every precaution for the benefit and safety of the state; and he found, too, on so great an occasion as that of a sudden and unexpected death of the pope, a ready inclination in all the principal citizens, and a universal desire among the people, to maintain the state in the hands of the Cardinal de’ Medici; and all this felicity arose from his good government, which, since the death of the Duke Lorenzo, had been universally agreeable.
“Consulting now with the principal citizens, orders were given for defence in the war which Renzo da Ceri, by the favor of the French, had excited in Siena, with a view to change the government in Florence. This war was fomented by the Cardinal Soderini, and occasioned a fresh declaration against his family, that they were rebels, and involved them in greater calamities than they had suffered in 1512. During this war, many citizens began to speak without reserve of a greater degree of liberty, and a new reform of the government. They reported publicly that the cardinal, for want of relations and a legitimate succession in his family, would be willing in a measure to dispose of the authority of the balìa, and leave the government freely in the people, with a certain authority reserved to a senate for life, to consist of the best citizens, and to himself a balìa for some purposes during his life; and when the principal and most suspected persons in this way were secured, although an army was still in Siena, these discourses continued and increased. Many were so eager, and so drawn away by their wishes and their love of novelty, that they began too soon to descend to particulars concerning the manner of reforming the government, which they believed and said ought to be undertaken; and they proposed the mode of electing the gonfalonier of justice; some of them would have him for life, as he had been when Soderini was elected in 1502, and others desired he might be elected annually, as Ridolfi was in 1512. Such was the zeal of many, deceived by their credulity and the ardent passions which transported them, that they began to speak more freely of the person to be elected, and Acciaioli and Vettori were named, and Gondi; but all agreed at last, the better to conciliate the cardinal, to leave the election for the first time wholly to him.
“These practices went so far, that those citizens began to be publicly named and discriminated, who were in favor of the reformation of the government, and those who were against it. That party of the citizens who had counselled the cardinal to a large and comprehensive distribution of honors, and who had ever taken the protection of the generality, appeared, upon these conversations of a reform, to give some attention to it; and that party which desired to hold the public offices and honors in few families, detested and censured those who talked of any reformation at all. The generality of the citizens stood neutral, expecting, however, with great desire, that the reform would take place. One class of young men, and especially those who had concurred in the rise of Rucellai, solicited it, and discovered themselves.”
In this manner the whole city was divided and confounded; the greater part of the citizens agitated, some with hopes, and others with fears; and many ventured so far as to write various models for such a reformation, even in the presence of the cardinal. Among these, Zanobi Buondelmonti and Nicholas Machiavel sufficiently distinguished themselves. Nerli says he saw these writings, which were communicated to him by the authors at the time of these intrigues. They were also communicated to the cardinal,1 who pretended to hold them in high esteem.* Alexander de’ Pazzi composed a most elegant and beautiful oration, in the name of the people of Florence, in praise of the cardinal, for the restoration of the commonwealth; which Nerli remembers to have heard recited before a large company at a supper, where, having obtained a copy, he sent it to Rome to the Cardinal Salviati. These speculations proceeded so far, and were so freely discoursed on, and in so many ways, that it began to appear to the cardinal that he had permitted them to run too far, and he thought of means to restrain them; but things had gone so much beyond his intentions, he found some difficulty to resist their course.
“Fortune presented him a convenient opportunity, which was this. There had been formed, at the time of the rise of Rucellai, a certain school of young men of letters and of elevated genius, among whom was Cosimo Rucellai, who died very young, though he had excited great expectations among the literati. This society was much frequented by Nicholas Machiavel; and Nerli says he was a most intimate friend of Machiavel, and had frequent conversations in this club. These gentlemen not only amused themselves, but made a business and duty of exercising themselves in the study of history, and in making observations and reflections upon it. At their request Machiavel composed his discourses upon Livy, and his treatise of military matters. These persons went on, thinking, by an imitation of the ancients, to effect something that should be grand and noble, and render them illustrious. At length they wrought themselves up to the thoughts of a conspiracy against the cardinal, and did not well consider what Machiavel in his discourses had written to them on the subject of conspiracies. Had they done so, they would either not have engaged in the design, or, if they had, would have proceeded in it with greater caution. The heads of this plot were Zanobi Buondelmonti and Luigi Alamanni. Their intention was to assassinate the Cardinal de’ Medici, and thus bring back the city to a free government, and restore liberty to the people, as they enjoyed it before 1512. After the death of Leo X., they sent Batista della Palla, who was in the conspiracy with them, to Cardinal Soderini, in order to inform him of their indignation against the cardinal, and to persuade him, as an exile and an enemy of the Medici, to make, with Renzo da Ceri and the family of the Soderini, such provision as they should judge proper to conduct their designs, and to obtain intelligence of the progress of this war. But the enterprise not succeeding with Signor Renzo as was expected, the plot was first suspected, and at length, by degrees, discovered by the cardinal; the principal persons engaged in it were obliged to fly, and were declared rebels, particularly Buondelmonti, Alamanni, Palla, Bruccioli; and others were apprehended and beheaded; by which means the cardinal was again secured in the enjoyment of his government, as well as his life, and an end was put to all the vain designs and idle discourses of a free government.
“In 1522, the cardinal contrived an interview at Leghorn and at Florence, with Adrian the pope; in consequence of which, Cardinal Soderini was imprisoned in the castle at Rome, and prevented from fomenting further designs against the Medici; and the Cardinal de’ Medici became a great favorite with the pope and the emperor. Having adjusted with the pope all his affairs, the cardinal gave orders that Hippolito, a natural son of the Duke Giuliano, and Alexander, a natural son of the Duke Lorenzo, should be committed to the care of Roso Ridolfi and Giovanni Corsi, that he might avail himself of them in time to maintain the reputation and authority of the state in the house of Medici, in the succession of the first Cosimo, who was called “the father of his country,” in the best manner that he could, being determined to exclude the other branch in the descendants of his brother Lorenzo. He proceeded, however, in this deliberation with much caution and reserve, pretending to doubt of the brains as well as heart of Giovanni de’ Medici, of whom in truth he was jealous; for, instead of meriting the contempt of the cardinal, he had a liberality and a greatness of soul, that enabled him to acquire the highest fame in the military art, which he had pursued from his tender years.” In short, according to Nerli, who knew him, he was possessed of every virtue and quality of a great prince.
“In September, 1523, Pope Adrian died; and, after a long contest in which the cardinals were two months in the conclave, on the nineteenth of November the Cardinal de’ Medici was created pope, taking the name of Clement VII., and thus united the sovereign authority, which he held in Florence, to the extensive power of the church; upon which happy election, as it was called, there were great external signs of joy in Florence, in the fervor of which an event happened remarkable enough to be related:—In the vacancy of the pontificate many wagers had been laid concerning the new election; among many who lost was Peter Orlandini, and being too importunately solicited by the winner to pay, he answered in great wrath that he would not pay until it was determined whether the election had been made canonically or not. These words were reported to the magistrates, and, after the importance of them had been considered by the cabal, Peter was summoned by the eight of the balìa, and upon his appearance was seized and beheaded in a few hours.
“Soon after the creation of the pope, the Soderini were restored to their country, because, although at first their cardinal in conclave had been zealous against the Medici, his friends, and particularly the Cardinal Colonna, had labored to reconcile him, and succeeded so far, that his nephews were restored, and he remained afterwards in the good graces of his holiness. Palla Rucellai, with nine others, were sent ambassadors to render the usual homage to the new pope. With these ambassadors the pope intrigued, as he could no longer govern in Florence, to have one of the two young natural sons sent to govern the city. Some among the ambassadors and other Florentines then at Rome were well inclined; others were timorous in disclosing their opinions; some having notice of the secret, and of the will of the pope, and all well knowing what the pope had determined, in order to satisfy him, and constrained by necessity rather than swayed by any reason or inclination, requested of his holiness one of the young men. The pope sent Hippolito, the son of the Duke Giuliano, under the guardianship of the Cardinal di Cortona, because he was yet too young for so great a government; and Ottaviano de’ Medici had the care of the family affairs and the control of the house and family of the Magnificent Hippolito, as he was called, and as his father had been entitled at the time of their exile, when he had the title of Duke of Nemours. Ottaviano was also to take the care of Alexander, the son of the Duke Lorenzo. In this manner were all things disposed relative to the state of Florence and the house of Medici; and thus they remained for four years, until 1527, when a general scrutiny was made, which was very extensive, and therefore made with universal satisfaction.
“In 1524, a civil war broke out in Pistoia between the parties called Panciatichi and Cancellieri, and the Panciatichi prevailing, expelled and banished, as usual, their adversaries, and every thing was there soon settled. The pope did not much interfere in the war in Lombardy between Charles and Francis, which followed the memorable defeat of the French before Pavia, when the king was taken prisoner and conducted to Spain by the emperor. In this tranquillity of foreign affairs, the Cardinal di Cortona had, however, enough to do to cement his government, amidst all their discontents and his own ungrateful manner of treating the citizens. For the best friends, as well as others, did not find in the government of the pope that which had been promised, nor those conditions and qualities of profit and honor which they relished so much in his mode of proceeding and government while he was cardinal; nor could the Cardinal di Cortona perceive, until in 1527 it became very manifest, how much it imported to the benefit of the state and the house of Medici, that he should study the character of the citizens and the principles and motives of their divisions; especially after the party, the most decided in favor of the Medici, and of consequence the most odious to the generality, had been uncommonly weakened by the death of Alamanni, Corbinelli, Serristori, and some others, the most warm in their party, and the most jealous of any opposition to the present government.
After them too Ridolfi died; but he, before his death, by an intermarriage with the Strozzi, had been somewhat cooled, and dreaded a change less than formerly. The other party, on the contrary, were much exalted in their hopes and confidence, as they had increased in reputation with the Strozzi, Capponi, and Guicciardini, who, by their great quality and riches, drew after them a strong band of honorable citizens; with these concurred Vettori, being a relation of Capponi, and an intimate friend of Philip Strozzi; and as to the Salviati, although Jacopo was shut up in Rome, there remained in Florence Averardo and Piero, the sons of Alamanni, the cousins of Capponi, Francesco Guicciardini, and the relations of Matteo Strozzi. Having accumulated so much favor, so great abilities, such credit, and so many intimate connections, this party began to be as bold as they were active and powerful; and Niccolò Capponi went on with the greatest reputation increasing it, as he had discovered upon all occasions such popular principles and feelings, and had acquired so much popular benevolence, that those who were desirous of innovation and a more liberal government, appeared to have found a sufficient support, whenever a proper opportunity should occur of making a change.
“These causes, however, produced no effect while the affairs of the war between the grand princes stood in suspense and unaltered, as they did during the time that the king was prisoner to the emperor in Spain. But after he had ransomed himself and recovered his liberty and his kingdom, he was more determined than ever to pursue his desire of recovering the state of Milan. It appeared to him, though he had left his sons as hostages in the hands of the emperor, that the conditions of the convention for his liberation were too hard to be observed. Not able to compose his mind, determined at all hazards to renew the war, and having found the princes of Italy in the same disposition, he agreed with the pope and Venetians, in a league against the emperor, in which the pope would have the Florentines named and comprehended. This league commenced the war in Lombardy. In the army of the church and for the pope, in place of a legate, and with the title of locum tenens of the holy see, was Francesco Guicciardini; the Conte Guido Rangoni, then governor of the people of the church, had the general government of the ecclesiastical state; and Giovanni de’ Medici had the command of the infantry of that part abroad which was commanded by Conte Guido. There occurred in this war many dissensions between Giovanni and Guido; with the king, in his camp, was the Marquis de Saluzzo; the Duke of Urbino was for the Venetians. This war began about the year 1526.*
“The imperial generals, to divert the pope from the war of Lombardy, invaded Rome itself, took the bourg of St. Peter, and plundered the palace of the pope himself; who, being besieged in the castle of St. Angelo, was constrained to make a convention to his disadvantage, and to send Philip Strozzi to Naples as a hostage for the security of the treaty, which, among other conditions, contained a definite suspension of arms. But all this success of the imperialists could not move the pope from the war. The league sent Giovanni de’ Medici to the relief of Rome; but he was killed in a skirmish, which relieved the pope from his jealousy, though it exposed his capital to ruin.
“After the death of Giovanni, those citizens of Florence who desired an alteration in the government began to take courage and discover their intentions. They proceeded to sound all the citizens whom they thought proper, encouraging them to the enterprise; and at the same time the younger nobility began to desire the same with those citizens who had encouraged and counselled them, and to demand arms of the signori and the public, coloring their request with the wish by such means to be able to serve and defend their country in so great and imminent a danger as appeared in the approach of a large hostile army. They desired to be armed on no other account, and for no other end, than merely for the benefit and defence of the city. Veiled under such colors, these youths were countenanced by all that party of citizens who desired to enlarge the government, and who had taken upon themselves the universal protection of the people. But these young men entered principally into an intimate connection with Nicholas Capponi, with whom all the other citizens who desired to enlarge the government concurred; and, therefore, in the council, in the magistracy, and in all things, these youths were the favorites of Capponi, Strozzi, and Louis Guicciardini, and they took such courage as to consult with them in secret.
“Cardinal di Cortona being, as he commonly was, very slow in resolving, was ill qualified to put a stop to this secret intelligence, especially as he was obliged to wait for instructions from Rome for every measure of his conduct. The divisions among the citizens made him still more timid, which was the reason that the spirits of these youths grew bolder every day. The pope sent Gherardo Corsini to Florence to alter the fortifications of the city; but this measure was very unpopular. The news of the death of Giovanni de’ Medici threw the city into the utmost consternation; and all these circumstances aided the young men in their design. The people universally, the citizens, and the young noblemen, were become very licentious in speech, very free and bold in expressing their conceits, and very tumultuous and disorderly, going in armed parties in the streets in the night, affronting the guards and disturbing the citizens with impunity. At this time the pope sent Cardinal Cibo and Ridolfi to assist Cardinal Cortona; but this had little effect.
“In 1527, when the French army turned their march towards Tuscany, the suspected in Florence began to increase, and the youth became more systematical and ardent than ever in their desire to be armed; which they now demanded with greater confidence, as Louis Guicciardini was appointed gonfalonier. Cortona assembled in council many citizens, to consult upon things of such consequence. Nicholas Capponi began with great eloquence, and without reserve, to say, that in treating of things of this importance, which concerned the safety of all, it was reasonable to hold the consultations in the palace, among a larger number of the citizens, that every one might more freely express his sentiments. Gherardo Corsini spoke in opposition to Capponi with spirit in favor of the state; and while the principal citizens were engaged in these altercations, the two armies were approaching the city. The cardinal and the Magnificent Hippolito intended to ride out to the heads of the league, and to Guicciardini, the pope’s lieutenant, to concert measures for securing the affairs of Florence in their present critical situation.
“There were in the piazza many circles of young men, who anxiously waited for disturbances; and in the house of Peter Salviati a great rabble was collected of those who, a little time before, had been concerned in the nocturnal tumults which had been excited with the servants of the guard of the lieutenant of police. Within, with the gonfalonier, were those chiefs, who, at first, with more order and better council, had always managed those intrigues which were called the petitions for arms; and already in the palace were Nicholas Capponi, Mathew Strozzi, and Francis Vettori, to countenance the youths, and contrive that whatever might happen should follow in some order.
“But fortune, which had otherwise determined, caused an idle and false report to be spread, that the cardinal and Hippolito were gone, and had abandoned the state, as not knowing how to maintain it any longer; as these reports prevailed, there suddenly arose in the piazza a confused rumor; men bawled out the name of Liberty! the People! the palace on a sudden was filled with citizens, youths, arms, and confusion; many began, as if they had already conquered, to lay hands on the signori; and those citizens were threatened who did not say and do as this disorderly multitude desired. The more prudent sort of persons, elder and younger, endeavored to preserve some order, and proposed various judicious plans; but the uproar was too great, and violence had got possession.”
The detail of the errors and disorders is too long to be recited; but nothing would content the people short of a declaration that the Medici were rebels, and the signori were compelled to this measure. Even Niccolò Capponi, and his colleagues, who were present amidst such disorders in the palace, repented of the deceit they had practised that day, and perceived that states, which attempt to change the foundations of their government by means of popular tumults, though they may sometimes easily effect the alteration, will always find it difficult either to stop or to regulate the movements of the people; of which important truth the history of Florence is full of fatal examples.
“The cardinal and Hippolito, receiving intelligence of the tumults in Florence, returned with Francis Guicciardini, and some other respectable characters, and a military force. They entered into an accommodation with the rioters, and restored the government of the Medici; they made a new imborsation of the signori, and imborsed as gonfalonier, in 1527, Francesco Antonio Nori, changed some of the signori for persons less suspected, and took every prudent measure to secure the peace of the city. But such was the danger, that many absented themselves through fear, not believing that the pope would pardon their behavior. The city was in great confusion, suspicion, and dissatisfaction.
“At this time the army turned towards Rome, which, on the sixth of May, 1527, was sacked by the French in their turn, and the pope was again shut up a prisoner in the castle. Philip Strozzi flew to Florence with the news of the ruin of the pope, and began to promote a change in the government; and his lady, Clarissa,* the daughter of Peter de’ Medici, sister of the Duke Lorenzo, very gravely and boldly said to the Cardinal Cortona and Hippolito, that they ought to fly from Florence, and leave the city and republic free to the citizens.
“Upon this return of Strozzi, and in this ruin of the pope, Nicholas Capponi, Matthew Strozzi, and Francis Vettori, and all that party of citizens who had been humbled by the disorders of the twenty-sixth of April, and the other party, who were in the confidence and league of the Medici, seeing the pope ruined and a prisoner, and no hope of assistance, gave way to fortune; some through fear, and others from hopes which were held out to them by those citizens who desired a change in the state, and the ruin of the Medici. Cardinal Cortona, finding himself in such affliction, and without any assignment of money, because Philip Strozzi, who was at that time depositary of the signori, sent out of Florence Francesco del Nero, his deputy, with all the money which had been collected, a movement which was the most artful check in the whole game, made a certain capitulation between the city and the Medici, and went out of Florence with Cardinal Cibo and the Magnificent Hippolito, on the seventeenth of May, 1527, without being banished, and having the signori still in their favor, who stood firm to the government and the house of Medici to the last.”
After their departure the capitulation was not observed, and Cardinal Ridolfi, who remained in Florence, was constrained to depart. In a short time a popular government was introduced, so large and licentious, that Philip Strozzi, and all those citizens who had such an inclination to the change, and who were the heads and chiefs of the plan of restoring the state to the people, were soon treated in such an injurious manner, and in so many ways insulted, that those who incline to weep over the follies and vices of their fellow-men, will have incitements enough for their tears in reading the story.
[* ]Muratori, Annali, tom. ix. p. 367, anno 1492.
[† ]Nerli, p. 62. Muratori, Annal. tom. ix. p. 374, anno 1494. Fu egli dichiarato co’ fratelli ribello, posta taglia contro le loro persone, e poscia messo a sacco il ricchissimo loro palagio.
[* ]Nerli, p. 63.
[1 ]This translation does not quite give the sense of the original. He had been harshly treated by his cousin whilst in authority, and returned to Florence under the amnesty to all who had opposed him. In order to avoid the odium in which the family name was held, he caused it to be changed to that of Popolani, and altered his coat of arms.
[* ]Guicciardini, lib. ii. p. 41, Ven. 1574.
[* ]Nerli, pp. 64, 65.
[† ]Il consiglio maggiore, e il governo popolare. Nerli, p. 66. Che gli angioli in quell’ opera s’ esercitassero in luógo de muratori, ed operai, perchè più presto fusse finita.
[1 ]Lib. iii.
[* ]Nerli, p. 81. Restò il popolo nostro nelle medesime dissensioni, e travagliato dalle sue solite sette, come si fusse prima.
[† ]Nerli, p. 88. Muratori, Annali, tom. x. p. 1.
[* ]Nerli, p. 95. Muratori, Annali, tom. x. pp. 25, 26. “Erano i cittadini quasi tutti dichiarati a quale delle due parte più aderissero, o a quella del gonfaloniere, o a quella de’ Salviati, di maniera che nel fare de parentadi, o nel concedere per mezzo de’ magistrati grazie, o benefizi, o nel favorir questo, o quell’ altro cittadino, che de’ magistrati avesse bisogno, si scoprivano le passioni, e gl’ interessi del gonfaloniere, o de’ Salviati, ed in somma veniva in gara, se si dovevano pure rimutare, o di nuovo eleggere per insino a’ tavolaccini del palazzo, e in ogni minima cosa si scoprivano gl’ interessi delle sette.” Nerli, lib. v. p. 99.
[* ]“Fece al popolo una orazione bellissima, che a que’ tempi, e in quel caso era molto a proposito, la quale, essendo io alloar in quel consiglio, udii quando la fece, ed è anco molto elegantemente scritta da Messer Francesco Guicciardini nella sua storia. Narrò in quella il gonfaloniere tutte le sue azioni di dieci anni; dipoi offerse se, le faculta, e la propria vita per beneficio della città, e per mantenere quel libero governo, ed alla fine si rimesse tutto in quel popolo, che l’ aveva posto in quel grado.” Nerli, Lib. v. p. 108.
[* ]Tal fine ebbe il supremo magistrato di Piero Soderini esercitato da esso nove anni, e dieci mesi, e se in tale amministrazione, oltre a molte sue buone opere, avesse aggiunto quel, che anche molto più importava alla città, e a lui, l’aver tenuto più conto, che non fece, di chi veramente l’aveva condotto in quel grado, giovava forse più assai, che non fece, alla città, a suoi cittadini, a se medesimo, ed alla sua casa, e sarebbesi quel governo popolare forse anche meglio mantenuto, come si mantenne, ne primi otto anni, che si resse senza capo alcuno dopo il 1494, che non fece poi in quei dieci, che lo resse Piero Soderini. E se quel suo governo di nove anni e dieci mesi fu, ed è ancora tanto lodato, nacque da quel buono ordine, che si tenne più nello splendere, e nello stare meglio ordinata la città, che in quellì primi otto anni non si fece, e dal considerarlo più da quello, che pareva in apparenza, che da quello, che era in fatti, ed in somma il gonfaloniere non seppe mai esser principe nè cattivo, nè buono, e credette troppo colla pazienza, godendo, come si dice, il benefizio del tempo, superare tutte le difficultà, che se gli opponevano, e non bene avverti, come debbono fare i principi savi, e i buoni capi, e governatori di republica, che sempre, e ad ogni cosa la pazienza non giova, e che il tempo a lungo andare può arrecare cosi male, come bene. Nerli, pp. 109, 110.
[1 ]“Telle fut l’étroite et honteuse oligarchie qui fut substituée au gouvernement libre et constitutionel de la république. Le parlement sanctionna la révolution; car les seuls citoyens déterminés à tout approuver se rendirent sur la place publique, au milieu des soldats qui faisoient violence à leur patrie. La nouvelle balie prononça peu de condamnations, mais elle abolit la plupart des magistratures protectrices de la liberté; de plus, elle licencia, des le 18 Septembre, l’ordonnance ou la milice Florentine, et elle fit desarmer le peuple. Un gouvernement que les étrangers ont établi par la violence doit craindre toute force nationale; et pour se maintenir, il doit désarmer et avilir la nation qui lui est soumise.” Sismondi, Rép. Italiennes, vol. xiv. p. 268.
[* ]In questo tempo, per ordine de’ vincitori, fu fatto menzione nel libro publico, chiamato il priorista, del parlamento fatto, e de’ Medici restituiti alla patria, a piede di quel priorato, ch’era entrato in ufficio a dì primo di Settembre 1512, essendo gonfaloniere di Giustizia Giovambatista Ridolphi, nel qual priorista, si notano tutti i signori priori, che alla giornata si fanno, et aggiunto a ciò come la nobiltà si era vindicata, e [Editor: illegible letter]ndotta in libertà, e riformato, e stabilito il governo della città, secondo la volontà de gli ottimati, e patrizi[Editor: illegible letter]. La quale distinzione di nobiltà, ed ignobiltà, confesso io ingenuamente non haver mai saputo fare, ancorache io sia nato, et allevato nella medesima patria. Ma la lezzione delle presenti memorie fara cognoscere colle spesse mutazioni d’ animi, e di pensieri, e delle opere, quale sia stata sempre la diversità, e la contrarietà de gli humori de’ nostri cittadini. Conciosiacosachè io hebbia veduto i figliuoli discordare da padri proprii, ed i fratelli da i medesimi fratelli nell’ azzioni di questa stolta favola del mondo, secondochè chiascuno e stato vinto, e traportato dall’ empieto de’ proprii appetiti. Nardi, lib. vi. p. 266.
[* ]Nerli, pp. 116-118.
[* ]Guicciardini, lib. xi. Nerli, lib. vi. p. 124.
[* ]Nerli, p. 124.
[* ]Erano i cittadini appresso a’ Medici molto divisi, e dettero queste divisioni, che si mantenero sempre ne’ primi cittadini del governo, di molte difficultà a’ Medici per insino al 1527. Nerli, p. 129.
[* ]Con magnifico apparato, con molta pompa, e con solennità grandissima. Nerli, p. 129.
[* ]Nerli, p. 130.
[† ]Guicciardin, lib. xii.
[1 ]It is difficult to understand this compliment, in the face of the combination of fraud, cruelty, and avarice exposed by most of the historians in telling the story. The curious reader can gather the particulars in the history of Sismondi, vol. xiv. pp. 432-439, with the authorities upon which he relies. This writer has done the world great service in bringing the conduct of the Medici family to the test of an unswerving moral code.
[* ]Si fecero le nozze sontuosissime, con molta pompa, allegrezza, e festa grandissima. Nerli, p. 131.
[* ]Nerli, lib. vii. p. 133.
[1 ]The work of Machiavel, stated to have been drawn up at the instance of the pope, is analyzed and commented on after the author’s manner in the fourth chapter of this volume.
[* ]E tutti suoi scritti andavano in mano del cardinale, che mostrava di tenerne conto, e di farne capitale grandissimo. Nerli, lib. vii. p. 137.
[* ]Nerli, lib. vii. p. 144.
[* ]See her speech at length in Segni, p. 8. Bisognava prima, che in tali termini si fussino condotte le cose, governarsi co’ cittadini di maniera, che ne’ pericoli, e nelle strettezze vostre vi si avessono a mantenere amici, e in fede, siccome ne’ passati tempi si governarono gli antichi miei, che colla gentilezza, e colla benevolenza più che coll’ asprezza, e col timore, si mantenevano fedeli gli animi de’ cittadini Fiorentini, e poi in molti loro avversi tempi gli ritrovarono costanti; ma voi, che coll’ usanze del viver vostro avete, ancora a chi nol sapesse, scoperto i vostri natali, e fatto chiaro a tutto il mondo, che non siete del sangue de’ Medici (e non pure di voi intendo, ma ancora di Clemente indegnamente Papa, e degnamente prigione) che vi maravigliate voi, se sete oggi in questi travagli, ne’ quali avete tutta questa città contraria alla vostra grandezza?