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THIRD BOOK. - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 1 (Life of Machiavelli, History of Florence) 
The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Niccolo Machiavelli, tr. from the Italian, by Christian E. Detmold (Boston, J. R. Osgood and company, 1882). Vol. 1. History of Florence.
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1. The causes of nearly all the evils that afflict republics are to be found in the great and natural enmities that exist between the people and the nobles, and which result from the disposition of the one to command, and the indisposition of the other to obey. It is this diversity of disposition that supplies nourishment to all the troubles that disturb these states. This was the cause of the divisions in Rome, and it is this that kept Florence divided, if I may compare small things with great ones, although different effects were produced by it in these two republics; for the dissensions that arose in the beginning in Rome were marked by disputes, those of Florence by combats. Those of Rome were terminated by a law, those of Florence by the death and exile of many citizens. Those of Rome ever increased military valor, whilst those of Florence destroyed it entirely. Those of Rome led from an equality of citizens to the greatest inequality, and those of Florence from inequality to the most wonderful equality. This diversity of effects must have been caused by the different character of the aims which these two peoples had in view. For the people of Rome desired to enjoy the highest honors of the state equally with the nobles; the people of Florence fought for the exclusive control of the government, without any participation in it by the nobles. And as the object of the Roman people was more reasonable, so the nobles bore the wrongs inflicted upon them more readily, and yielded without coming to arms. And, after some disputes, they agreed to a law that should satisfy the people, and yet leave the nobles in possession of their dignities. On the other hand, the demands of the Florentine people were injurious and unjust, and therefore did the nobility prepare itself for defence with greater energy; and thus the people resorted to bloodshed and exile. And the laws which were afterwards made were not for the common benefit, but were wholly in favor of the victor. From this resulted also that the victories of the people over the nobles made Rome more virtuous, because the plebeians, in sharing with the nobles the civil, military, and judicial administration, became inspired with the same virtues that distinguished the nobles; so that Rome grew at the same time in power and in virtue. But in Florence, when the people were victors, the nobles, excluded from the magistracies, found it necessary not only to be, but also to appear, similar to the people, in their conduct, in their opinions, and in their habits of life. Thence arose the changes in their armorial bearings, and the mutations in the titles of families, to which the nobles resorted for the sake of appearing to belong to the people. So that the valor in arms and magnanimity of spirit which had existed amongst the nobles became extinguished, and could not be kindled amongst the people, who had never possessed it. Florence thus became steadily more debased and abject; and whilst Rome, whose valor had degenerated into pride, was reduced to that condition that she could not maintain herself without a prince, Florence came to that condition that any wise legislator might easily have remodelled her government in any form he pleased. All these things may in part be clearly known by the reading of the preceding Book. And having shown the origin of Florence, the commencement of her liberty, and the causes of her dissensions, and how the party struggles between the nobles and the people ended in the tyranny of the Duke of Athens and the ruin of the nobility, it remains for us now to narrate the enmities between the citizens and the common people, and the various incidents which these produced.
2. The power of the nobles being broken, and the war with the Archbishop of Milan terminated (1353), there seemingly remained no cause for trouble in Florence. But the evil fortune of our city, and its imperfect organization, caused difficulties to arise between the families of the Albizzi and the Ricci, which divided Florence the same as the feud between the Buondelmonti and the Uberti had done, and afterwards that of the Donati and the Cerchi. The Popes, who resided at that time in France, and the Emperors, who were in Germany, for the purpose of preserving their influence in Italy, had sent there, at different times, a large number of soldiers of various nationalities; so that there were at this time English, German, and Breton troops there. When the wars were over, these remained without any pay, and levied contributions, under some chance flag, from this or the other prince. Thus there came, in the year 1353, one of these companies, under the captaincy of Monseigneur Reale, a Provençal, into Tuscany. His arrival alarmed all the cities of that province, and the Florentines not only levied troops for the defence of the city, but many private citizens — amongst others, the Albizzi and the Ricci — armed themselves for their own safety. An old feud had divided these two families, and each strove to oppress the other, with the view to gaining the control of the government of the republic. They had, however, not yet come to arms, but opposed each other on every occasion in the magistracies and councils. Whilst the whole city was armed, a quarrel occurred in the old market, and at once a great many people flocked together there, as is usual under such circumstances. As the tumult spread, a report came to the Ricci that the Albizzi were about to attack them, and, in like manner, to the Albizzi that the Ricci were coming to assail them. This roused the whole city; and the magistrates had great difficulty in restraining the two families, and to prevent a conflict, which accidentally and without the fault of either had been reported. This incident, though slight, yet inflamed the hostile spirit of both still more; and each strove with greater diligence than ever to secure partisans for themselves. As the ruin of the nobles had established such equality amongst the citizens that the magistrates were more respected than they had ever been before, they attempted by ordinary legal means, and without any private violence, to turn this occurrence to their own advantage.
3. We have narrated before how, after the victory of Charles, the magistracy was appointed from the party of the Guelfs, and that great authority was given them over the Ghibellines. But time, various events, and the new dissensions, had caused these regulations to fall into oblivion, so that many descendants of the Ghibellines filled the offices of some of the highest magistratures. Uguccione de’ Ricci, chief of that family, managed therefore to have the law against the Ghibellines revived, as it was generally believed that the Albizzi were descendants of that party, they having come, many years since, from their native town, Arezzo, to inhabit Florence (1354). Uguccione expected that, by the revival of these laws, the Albizzi would be deprived of the magistracies, as the old law provided that any descendant of a Ghibelline should be condemned if found exercising the functions of a magistrate. This design of Uguccione was made known to Piero di Filippo degli Albizzi, who resolved to favor it, fearing that, if he opposed it, he would thereby declare himself a Ghibelline. This law, therefore, renewed by the ambition of Uguccione de’ Ricci, did not deprive Piero of his influence, but rather increased it, and was the beginning of many calamities; for no laws can be made more prejudicial to a republic than such as are very far retrospective in their action. Piero then, having supported the law which had been contrived by his enemies to serve as an obstacle to him, found in it the very road to greatness for himself; for, by placing himself at the head of this new organization, his authority and influence steadily increased, being more favored than any one else by this new faction of the Guelfs (1357). And, as there were no magistrates to investigate who were Ghibellines, and the law which had been revived being therefore of little value, it was provided that authority should be given to the captains to denounce the Ghibellines; and being so denounced, to signify to them and to admonish them that they must accept no magistracy; and that whoever failed to heed this admonition should be condemned. This gave rise subsequently to the custom in Florence of designating all such as had been deprived of the right to sit in the magistracies as Admonished. The captains, whose audacity increased with time, “admonished” without regard, not only such as deserved it, but all such as suited them, according to the promptings of avarice or ambition. Thus, from the year 1357, when this practice began, until the year 1366, more than two hundred citizens were admonished. Thus the captains and the faction of the Guelfs became very powerful; for every one, from fear of being admonished, did honor to them, and especially to the chiefs of the faction, who were Piero degli Albizzi, Messer Lapo Castiglionchio, and Carlo Strozzi. And, although the insolence of their proceedings gave offence to many, yet the Ricci were more dissatisfied by it than any others, for they felt that they themselves had been the cause of this abuse, by which they saw the republic ruined, and their enemies, the Albizzi, greatly increased in power, contrary to their design.
4. Uguccione de’ Ricci, therefore, finding himself a member of the Signoria (1366), and wishing to put an end to this evil, of which himself and his family had been the originators, caused a new law to be enacted, that to the six captains of the quarters three more should be added, two of whom should be from the minor guilds, and that the denunciation of Ghibellines should have to be confirmed by twenty-four Guelf citizens, appointed for the purpose. This checked for a time the power of the captains in a measure, so that the admonishing ceased in great part; and, although some were yet admonished, still they were but few. The factions of the Albizzi and Ricci, however, continued to watch each other, and opposed all laws, enterprises, and resolves from mutual hatred and jealousy. Thus things went on with these dissensions from 1366 until 1371, when the Guelf faction recovered power. Amongst the family of the Buondelmonti there was a cavalier named Benchi, who, by his merits in a war against the Pisans, had been made a citizen, and in consequence had become qualified to be made one of the Signoria. But when he expected to take his seat in that magistracy, they made a new law, by which any noble who had been made a citizen was prohibited from exercising that function. This greatly irritated Messer Benchi, and, having allied himself with Piero degli Albizzi, they resolved by admonitions to reduce the power of the smaller citizens, and to make themselves sole masters of the government. And by the credit Messer Benchi had with the old nobility, and by that of Messer Piero with the majority of the more influential citizens, they succeeded in depriving the Guelf party of power again; and, by new reforms, they arranged matters so that they could dispose of the captains and of the twenty-four citizens. Thereupon the practice of admonishing was resumed with even more audacity than before, and the house of the Albizzi, as chiefs of the Guelfs, steadily increased in power. The Ricci, on the other hand, together with their friends, did all in their power to check that proceeding, and thus the two parties lived in the greatest mutual suspicion, each fearing every kind of wrong and violence from the other.
5. In consequence of this a number of citizens, influenced by their love of country, assembled in San Pietro Scheraggio (1372), and, having conferred amongst themselves in relation to these disorders, they went to the Signori, to whom the one who enjoyed most consideration addressed the following words:—
Many of us, O magnificent Signori, doubted the propriety of assembling privately, although it was for public reasons, fearing lest we might be regarded as presumptuous or condemned as ambitious. But seeing that many citizens assemble daily in the Loggie and in their houses, without any consideration, not for any purposes of general interest, but merely to serve their private ambition, we have thought that, inasmuch as these do not hesitate to meet for the destruction of the republic, we need have no apprehension in assembling for the public good and advantage. Nor do we care about the judgment which the others may form of us, for we know that they are indifferent as to our opinion of them. The same love of country, O Signori, which caused us to assemble in the first instance, now induces us to appear before you, to discuss the evils which already are so great, and which are daily increasing in our republic, and to proffer to you our aid in destroying them. Although the task may seem difficult, yet you will succeed in accomplishing it whenever you choose to disregard all private considerations, and employ your authority supported by the public force. The general corruption of the other Italian cities, O magnificent Signori, has spread to Florence and infects our city daily more and more. For ever since Italy has ceased to be subject to the Imperial authority, her cities, being without any powerful check to control them, have organized their states and governments, not according to the principles of liberty, but according to the spirit of the factions that divided them. From this have sprung all the disorders and misfortunes that have afflicted this province. There is neither union nor friendship amongst the citizens, unless it be amongst such as are bound together by some villanous crime, committed either against the state or some private individual. And as all religion and the fear of God is dead in all their hearts, they value an oath or a pledge only so far as it may be useful to themselves. Men employ them, not for the purpose of observing them, but solely as means to enable them more easily to deceive; and just as this deceit succeeds more easily and securely, so much greater is the praise and glory derived from it; and therefore are dangerous men praised as being ingenious, and good men derided for being dupes. And thus do we see in fact all who can be corrupted, and all who can corrupt others, gather together in the cities of Italy. The young men are idle, and the old men lascivious, and every age and sex give themselves up to unbridled habits; and good laws are no remedy for this, being made useless by evil usages. Thence comes that avarice which we see so common amongst the citizens, and that craving, not for true glory, but for those false honors from which flow hatreds, enmities, dissensions, and factions, which, in turn, produce murders, exiles, and the afflictions of the good and the elevation of the wicked. For the good, confiding in their innocence, do not, like the wicked, seek extraordinary means for their defence, and to obtain honors; and thus are they ruined undefended and unhonored. From this example spring the love of factions and their power; for the wicked adhere to them from avarice and ambition, and the good from necessity. And what is most pernicious is to see the promoters and chiefs of these factions cloak their aims and designs with honest pretexts; for on pretence of defending Liberty, either against the nobles or the people, they only seek to destroy her, for they all hate the very word Liberty. The reward which they desire to obtain by their victory is not the glory of having liberated the city, but the satisfaction of having overcome the others, and of having usurped the public authority. And having achieved that, there is nothing so unjust, cruel, or avaricious but they will dare do it. Hence the laws and ordinances are not made for the public, but for private benefit; and hence wars and peace are resolved upon, not for the common glory, but for the satisfaction of a few. And if the other cities are full of such disorders, ours is more tainted by them than any of them; for here the laws and civil ordinances are always made, not according to the principles of liberty, but according to the ambition of that party which for the time has the ascendency. Hence it comes that, so soon as one party is expelled and one division extinguished, another one springs up in its place; for in a city which prefers to maintain itself by factions rather than by laws, if one faction remains without opposition, it must of necessity divide against itself; for the very private measures which it had previously originated for its own promotion will now prove insufficient for its defence. And the truth of this is demonstrated by the former and the present divisions of our city. Every one believed that, when the Ghibellines were crushed, the Guelfs would for a long time after live happy and honored. But in a little while they divided into Bianchi and Neri; and since the Bianchi have been put down, our city has never been without factions that were always fighting, now for the sake of the banished, and then again on account of the jealousies between the people and the nobles. And by way of giving to others that which by agreement amongst ourselves we could not or would not possess, we surrendered our liberties first to King Robert, then to his brother, afterwards to his son, and finally to the Duke of Athens. And with all this we did not remain content in any condition, like men who are unable to agree to live in freedom, nor content to exist in servitude. Nor did we hesitate, (so much do our institutions favor dissensions,) whilst still under the government of a king, to prefer a low-born man of Agobbio to his majesty. For the honor of our city we must not recall the memory of the Duke of Athens, for his harsh and tyrannical spirit ought to have made us wise, and should have taught us how to live. And yet, no sooner was he driven out, than, being still armed, we fought amongst ourselves with more bitterness of hatred and fury than we ever displayed when combating him together; so that our old nobility remained vanquished and subject to the will of the people. Nor would it ever have been believed that after that any further cause for dissensions or disturbance would have arisen in Florence; for an effectual check had been put to those who by their pride and insupportable ambition seemed to have been the cause of all preceding troubles. But experience shows us now how fallacious men’s opinions are, and how erroneous their judgment; for the pride and ambition of the nobles is not extinguished, but has only been taken from them to be assumed by our citizens, who now, according to the fashion of ambitious men, strive themselves to obtain the first rank in our republic. And having no other means of attaining it, they have anew divided the city, and have revived the names of Guelfs and Ghibellines, which had been extinguished, and which it would have been well never to have resuscitated. As there is nothing permanent and stable in human affairs, so Heaven has ordained that in all republics there are some fatal families who seem born to cause the ruin of the state. Of such our republic has been more prolific than any other, for it is not only one, but many, who have afflicted her. At first it was the Buondelmonti and the Uberti; afterwards the Donati and the Cerchi; and now, O shameful and ridiculous fact! the Ricci and Albizzi perturb and divide the city.
“We have not reminded you of the corrupt habits and of these ancient and constant dissensions for the purpose of alarming you, but only to recall to your memories the causes of the same; and to show you that, if you do not remember them, they are at least fresh in our memories. And to tell you that these examples should not make you distrust your ability to arrest the present evils. For the power of those ancient families was so great, and the favors of the princes which they enjoyed were so important, that civil ordinances and regulations did not suffice to keep them in check. But now that the Empire has no forces here, so that the Pope has nothing to fear, and that all Italy and our republic have attained that degree of independence that they can govern themselves, there is no longer any difficulty. And our city above all, despite of the old examples to the contrary, can maintain itself not only united, but can reform its manners and institutions, provided you, O Signori, are resolved to have it so. And to this we advise you, moved by pity for our country, and not by any private passions. Although the corruption of the city is great, yet we implore you at once to destroy the evil that afflicts her, the madness that consumes her, and the passions that kill her. You must not attribute the ancient disorders to the nature of men, but rather to the times; and as these are changed, you may hope for our city a happier state of things, by establishing a better government. Wisdom will triumph over the malignity of fortune, by putting a curb upon the ambition of those individuals, and by annulling those ordinances that foster factions, and by adopting such as are in harmony with liberty and civil institutions. And be you content now rather to make such laws in the spirit of kindness, which, if delayed, men will be necessitated to make by force of arms!”
6. The Signori were moved by this statement of facts, of which they had been already cognizant; also by the authority and advice of the deputation of citizens; and therefore they confided to fifty-six citizens authority to provide for the safety of the state. Certainly it is most true that the majority of men are more capable of preserving an existing good order of things, than of devising a new one themselves. And so it was with these citizens, who thought more of destroying the present factions than of removing the causes of future ones; so that they neither accomplished the one nor the other. For they did not destroy the causes of new factions, and by increasing the power of one of those that existed over the other one, they exposed the republic to increased danger. They, however, excluded all the factions for three years from the magistracies, excepting those that had been created for the Guelf party; of these they gave three places to the members of the Albizzi family, and three to those of the Ricci; amongst these were Piero degli Albizzi and Uguccione de’ Ricci. They prohibited all citizens from entering the palace except during the sessions of the magistrates; and provided that every citizen who was personally maltreated or deprived of his goods might bring an accusation before the councils, and call upon the nobles to give testimony in the case, and if the accused was convicted he was to be subjected to fines. This provision diminished the boldness of the Ricci faction, and increased that of the Albizzi; and although the council had both factions equally in view when making this regulation, yet the Ricci suffered by far the most from it. For if the palace of the Signori was closed to Piero Albizzi, yet that of the Guelfs was open to him, and it was there where he enjoyed the most influence and authority. And if at first he and his followers were active in “admonishing,” they became still more so after this affront. Other fresh causes aided to increase this evil disposition.
7. The pontifical chair was occupied at this time by Gregory IX. (1375), who, being at Avignon, governed Italy as his predecessor had done, by legates, who by their avarice and pride had afflicted many cities. One of these legates, who at that time was at Bologna, availed of the occasion of the scarcity which existed that year in Florence, and attempted to make himself master of Tuscany. Not only did he not supply Florence with provisions, but by way of depriving them of future harvests he attacked the Florentines with a large force so soon as spring appeared, hoping to find them unarmed and distressed by want, and therefore he counted upon an easy victory. And perhaps he would have succeeded, if the army with which he attacked them had not proved faithless and venal. For the Florentines, having no other resource, gave to his soldiers one hundred and thirty thousand florins, and thus induced them to abandon the enterprise. Wars are often begun by the will of others, but rarely are they terminated at their pleasure. This war, commenced by the ambition of the legate, was continued by the indignation of the Florentines. They formed an alliance with Messer Bernabo Visconti, and with all the cities that were hostile to the Church, and appointed eight citizens to direct the war, with authority to act without appeal, and to spend without rendering any accounts. Although Uguccione was dead, yet this war against the Pope reanimated the adherents of the Ricci faction, who had always supported Messer Bernabo against the Albizzi, and opposed the Church; and they were the more encouraged as the Eight were all hostile to the Guelf faction. This caused Piero degli Albizzi, Messer Lapo di Castiglionchio, Carlo Strozzi, and the others, to unite more closely against their adversaries. And whilst the Eight carried on the war these “admonished.” The war lasted three years, and was terminated only by the death of the Pope; it had been conducted with so much ability, and gave such general satisfaction, that the Eight were continued in office from year to year. They were called “Saints,” although they had paid but little regard to the Censure, despoiled the churches of their goods, and forced the clergy to perform the holy offices. Thus did those citizens at that time value their country more than their souls; and demonstrated to the Church, that as much as they had at first, as her friends, defended her, so they could now, as her enemies, injure her; for they caused all the Romagna, the Marca, and Perugia to revolt.
8. Nevertheless, whilst they carried on so vigorous a war against the Pope, they could not defend themselves against the captains of the sections and their factions; for the hatred of the Guelfs against the Eight increased their audacity to that degree, that they insulted not only some of the most distinguished citizens, but even the Eight themselves. And the arrogance of the captains of the sections rose to that point, that they were actually more feared than the Signori; so that no ambassador came to Florence who had not also some commission to the captains. Pope Gregory being dead now, and Florence having no longer any foreign war on hand, the internal discord and confusion were very great; for whilst on the one hand the audacity of the Guelfs was insupportable, on the other hand there seemed to be no means of abating it. And therefore it was thought that they would of necessity have to come to arms, and thus to decide which of the factions should prevail. The Guelf party comprised all the old nobles and the greater part of the most powerful citizens, of whom, as we have said, Messer Lapo, Piero, and Carlo Strozzi were the heads. The other party was composed of all the lesser citizens, and their chiefs were the committee of Eight on the war, Messer Giorgio Scali and Tommaso Strozzi; and with these were united the Ricci, Alberti, and the Medici. The remainder of the populace, as almost always happens, attached themselves to the party of the malcontents. The chiefs of the Guelfs found the forces of their adversaries very formidable; and felt that they were in great danger whenever an adverse Signoria should be disposed to put them down. Deeming it well, therefore, to forestall this, they met together and examined the condition of the city and their own. They concluded that the large increase in the number of the admonished, which was laid entirely to their charge, had caused the whole city to be hostile to them; which left them no other remedy than, having already deprived the other party of the honors of office, to take the city from them also, by seizing the palace of the Signori and transferring the whole government to their own faction. It was in this way that the old Guelfs had secured to themselves the mastery over the city, by driving out all their adversaries. All agreed to this course, but differed as to the time of its execution. Messer Lapo was of opinion not to defer action, affirming that nothing was so dangerous to success as time itself, and especially so in their case, as in the next Signoria Salvestro de’ Medici could easily be made Gonfaloniere, whom they all knew to be opposed to their faction. Piero degli Albizzi, on the other hand, was of opinion that delay was advisable, because he thought they would need troops, and that these could not be got together without exposing themselves to a discovery of their designs, which would involve them in manifest danger. He judged it necessary, therefore, that they should at least await San Giovanni, which was near at hand, as, that being a solemn festival day in the city, a great multitude would assemble, amongst whom they could easily conceal as many troops as they needed. And by way of preventing what was feared with regard to Salvestro de’ Medici, he proposed to have him admonished; and if they thought that this would not do, then they should admonish some member of the college of his quarter; so that when they should come to draw a new Signoria, the election purses being empty, it might easily chance that this one or some one of his colleagues might be drawn, which would disqualify him from becoming Gonfaloniere. They resolved upon this course, although Messer Lapo consented to it most unwillingly, judging the delay to be injurious; and that the time to do a thing is never in all respects convenient, so that he who waits until everything suits will either never attempt it, or if he does he will in most cases do it to his disadvantage. However, they admonished the college, but did not succeed in disqualifying Salvestro; for the object having been discovered by the Eight, they managed so that a change of Signori should not take place.
9. Salvestro, son of Messer Alemanno de’ Medici, was thereupon drawn as Gonfaloniere. Being descended from a most distinguished citizen family, he would not tolerate seeing the people oppressed by a few powerful nobles. Having resolved to put an end to this insolence, and seeing the people well disposed towards himself, and being supported by many prominent citizens, he communicated his designs to Benedetto Alberti, Tommaso Strozzi, and to Messer Giorgio Scali, who promised to render him whatever aid he required. They therefore secretly prepared a law which renewed the Ordinances of Justice against the nobles, and reduced the authority of the captains of the sections, and afforded to the admonished the means of being restored to the privilege of holding office. This law had to be acted upon first in the colleges and afterwards in the councils; and Salvestro being Gonfaloniere, which gave him almost sovereign power over the city, they attempted at the same time to make as it were the experiment, and to obtain a result, and induced Salvestro to assemble the colleges and the councils on the same morning. The law was then proposed to the colleges separately; but being regarded as an innovation, it met with such opposition from a few that it was not adopted. Salvestro, finding himself thwarted at the first step, feigned a necessity of being obliged to go out, and, without the others being aware of it, he went into the councils; and there, mounting upon a high place where he could be seen and heard by every one, he said: “That he believed he had been made Gonfaloniere, not to adjudicate private matters for which there were the ordinary judges, but to guard the welfare of the state, to repress the insolence of the nobles, and to temper the rigor of those laws which were destroying the republic; and that, having diligently devoted himself to these objects, he had, as far as it was possible for him, provided for the same. But the malignity of men opposed his just efforts to that degree that they impeded the way for him to effect any good, and for them to resolve upon anything and even to hear him. Seeing, therefore, that he could be of no further use to the state or the public good, he did not know why he should continue to hold an office, which either he did not deserve, or which others thought him unworthy of. And therefore he desired to retire to his home, so that the people might replace him by some one who had more merit or better fortune.” Having spoken thus, he withdrew from the council and returned to his house.
10. Those of the council who were cognizant of the matter, and such others as desired the change, sounded the alarm; whereupon the Signori and the colleges came running to them, and, seeing their Gonfaloniere depart, they retained him by entreaties, and by their authority made him return to the council, which was in the greatest confusion, and where many distinguished citizens were menaced in most insulting terms. Amongst these, Carlo Strozzi was seized by the breast by an artisan, who would have killed him but that he was with difficulty protected by those who were near him. But the one who made most noise, and caused the whole city to arm, was Messer Benedetto degli Alberti, who, from the window of the palace, called the people to arms with a loud voice, so that the Piazza was quickly filled with armed men. Thereupon the colleges accorded to menaces what before they had refused to simple requests. The captains of the sections had meantime assembled a great many people in their palace to consult how to defend themselves against the ordinances of the Signori. But when they heard the tumult that had been raised, and understood what the councils had resolved, they all fled to their homes.
Let no one who introduces a change in the government of a city believe that he can stop it at his pleasure, or regulate it in his own way. It was the intention of Salvestro to have this law passed, and then to settle the government of the city; but the thing turned out otherwise, for the discords stirred up by it had alarmed everybody to that degree that the shops were closed, the citizens fortified themselves in their houses, many concealed their valuables in monasteries and churches, and every one seemed to apprehend some impending catastrophe. The guilds of the trades assembled, and each created a syndic. Thereupon the Priors called together their colleges and these syndics, and they conferred a whole day as to the best means of tranquillizing the city to everybody’s satisfaction; but as they differed in opinion, they came to no conclusion. On the following day the guilds brought out their banners; and when the Signori heard this, they became alarmed at the consequences, and assembled the council to devise a remedy. Scarcely had they met when a tumult was started, and in a moment the banners of the guilds, with a great many armed followers, were seen in the Piazza. Whereupon the council, for the purpose of giving the guilds and the people the hope of contenting them, and to deprive them of all occasion for violence, invested the Signori, the Colleges, the Eight of the War, the Captains of the Sections, and the Syndics with a general power (called a “Balia” in Florence) to reorganize the government of the city for the common benefit. Whilst these things were being done, some banners of the minor guilds, instigated by those who desired to revenge themselves for the recent injuries received at the hands of the Guelfs, separated themselves from the others, and sacked and burnt the house of Messer Lapo da Castiglionchio. When he had heard that the Signoria were proceeding against the Guelfs, and saw the people in arms, he thought of no other means of safety than flight or concealment. At first he hid himself in Santa Croce, and afterwards he fled, in the disguise of a friar, to Casentino, where he was often heard to blame himself for having joined Piero degli Albizzi, and to blame Piero for having insisted upon delaying until San Giovanni their attempt to seize the government. Piero and Carlo Strozzi concealed themselves at the first outbreak, believing that, after it should have ceased, their numerous friends and relatives would enable them to remain securely in Florence. After the house of Messer Lapo had been burnt, many others were likewise sacked and burnt, either from the general hatred, or from private enmities; for disorders increase easily after having once been started. The authors of these outrages, by way of having accomplices who were impelled by even a greater thirst for the goods of others, broke open the prisons and liberated the prisoners; and then they sacked the monastery Degli Agnoli and the convent of San Spirito, where a number of citizens had concealed their valuables. Nor would the public treasury have escaped from the hands of these miscreants had it not been for the respect with which they were inspired by one of the Signori, who, mounted on horseback and followed by a number of armed men, resisted the fury of the multitude. This popular fury was in a measure appeased by the authority of the Signori and by the coming on of night. On the following morning the Balia pardoned the “admonished,” with the condition, however, that they should remain disqualified from holding office for a period of three years. The laws that had been made by the Guelfs to the prejudice of the citizens were annulled, and Messer Lapo da Castiglionchio and his consorts were declared rebels, as well as such others as had incurred the general hatred. After these acts, the names of the new Signori were published, of whom Luigi Guicciardini was named Gonfaloniere, which inspired the public with the hope that the disturbances would be arrested, as they were universally regarded as men of peace and lovers of public tranquillity.
11. The shops, however, were not reopened, and the citizens did not disarm, and numerous guards patrolled throughout the city all night. The Signori therefore did not assume their office outside of the palace with the customary pomp, but did so indoors, and without any further ceremonies. These magistrates thought that there was nothing more essential for them to do at the outset of their holding office than to pacify the city. They therefore caused the citizens to disarm, the shops to be opened, and sent back from Florence a number of men who had been called from the country by the citizens for their support. They also established guards in many parts of the city; so that, if the “admonished” had remained quiet, the city would have been at peace. These, however, were not content to wait three years to regain their privileges; so that, to satisfy their desires, the guilds reassembled anew, and demanded of the Signori that, for the good and tranquillity of the city, they should ordain that no citizen should at any time be liable to be “admonished” as a Ghibelline who was either one of the Signori or of the colleges, or any captain of a section, or council of any of the guilds. They demanded, further, that new election purses should be made up in the Guelf party, and that the existing ones should be burnt. These demands were promptly adopted, not only by the Signori, but also by the councils; in consequence of which the disturbances, which had already recommenced, were stopped. But, as men are never satisfied with merely recovering their own, but wish also to have that which belongs to others and to satisfy their revenge, so those who hoped to profit by disorders pointed out to the artisans that they would never be secure unless a number of their enemies were expelled and crushed. When this became known to the Signori, they caused the officers of the guilds to appear before them with their syndics, whom Luigi Guicciardini addressed as follows: —
“Were it not that these Signori and myself have known for a long while back that it is the fate of this city to be torn by internal dissensions the moment that foreign wars are ended, we should have been more surprised at the disturbances that have taken place, and should have looked upon them with greater displeasure. But as the evils to which one is accustomed produce less pain, we have borne the past disturbances patiently, they having been originated wholly without any fault of ours; and in the hope that, like former troubles, they would soon come to an end, we have conceded your many and important demands. But foreseeing that, so far from being satisfied, you are disposed rather to inflict fresh injuries upon your fellow-citizens, and to demand fresh proscriptions, our displeasure has increased with evil and unjust designs. And truly, if we could have believed that, during the time of our magistracy, we should have seen our city involved in ruin, either by our opposing you, or by our conceding your demands, we should have tried to escape these honors, either by flight or exile. But hoping to have to deal with men who had some humanity in them, and some love of country, we accepted the magistracy cheerfully, hoping with our humility and spirit of concession to overcome your ambition. But we now see from experience that the more humbly we bear ourselves, and the more we concede to you, the more arrogant you become, and the more unreasonable and unjust your demands. In speaking to you thus, our object is not to offend you, but to make you reflect; for we wish to tell you only that which will be of advantage to you, leaving to others to tell you what may be agreeable. But in good faith tell us what it is that in fairness you could still demand of us. You wanted to have the power taken from the captains of the sections; it was taken from them. You wanted the lists of their election purses burnt, and that new ones should be made instead, and we conceded it. You wanted that the ‘admonished’ should be restored to their privileges; and that too was permitted. At your request we have pardoned those who burnt houses and robbed churches; and ever so many prominent and honored citizens have been sent into exile to satisfy you; and to please you, the nobles have been subjected to new restraints. Where is to be the end of your exactions, and for how long will you abuse our liberality? Do you not see that we bear defeat with more patience than you do victory? What will your discords bring our city to? Have you forgotten that, when on a former occasion she was torn by dissensions, a low-born citizen of Lucca, Castruccio, defeated her? A Duke of Athens, originally a private Condottiere of yours, subjugated her when she was thus divided. But when she was united, an Archbishop of Milan and a Pope himself failed to subdue her, and after many years of war gained nothing but shame. Why do you now wish by your discords to bring this city, which is at peace, to servitude, when so many powerful enemies failed to deprive her of her liberty? What else but servitude will you achieve by your dissensions? What else but poverty will you gain by the robberies you have committed, or still design to commit? For the very property you take sustains the industries that feed our city, which without it could not be supported. And the property you have unlawfully taken, like any ill-acquired thing, you will neither know how to employ nor how to preserve, and indigence and famine will be the consequence for our city. The Signori and myself command you, and, if propriety admits, we entreat you, that for once you will stay your demands, and rest quiet and content with the ordinances we have established. And if nevertheless at any time you desire further changes, ask for it in a lawful manner, and not by tumults and with arms in hand. For if your demands are just, they will always be conceded; and thus you will not afford to evil-minded persons the opportunity, at your charge and to your injury, to ruin your country.”
These words, so full of truth, made a deep impression upon those citizens. They thanked the Gonfaloniere humbly for having performed his duty to them as a good magistrate, and to the city as a good citizen, promising always promptly to obey whatever commands might be given them. And the Signori, by way of satisfying them, deputed two citizens for each of the greater magistracies, who should confer with the syndics of the guilds about such points as needed reform, and who should then report to the Signori.
12. Whilst this was being arranged another disturbance broke out, which proved much more injurious to the republic than the first. The greater part of the burnings and robberies that had taken place in the previous days had been committed by the lowest people of the city; and those amongst them who had been the most audacious feared that, when the more important differences should be quieted and composed, then they would be punished for their crimes; and that, as it always happens, they would be abandoned by those who had instigated them to these outrages. To this apprehension was added the hatred which the populace felt towards the rich citizens and the chiefs of the guilds, by whom they conceived themselves insufficiently compensated for their labor, according to their own ideas of what they justly merited. For in the time of Charles I., when Florence was first divided into guilds, a chief and a form of government were given to each; and it was provided that the members of each guild should in all civil matters be judged by their chiefs. The number of these guilds, as has already been said, was at first twelve; afterwards they were increased to twenty-one, and their power grew to that extent that they soon controlled the government of the whole city. And as there were amongst them some more or less honorable, they divided themselves into major and minor guilds, seven being called major and fourteen minor. From this division, and from other causes which we have narrated above, sprung the arrogance of the captains of the sections; for those citizens who of old had been Guelfs, under whose government the office of captain was always held in rotation, favored the citizens of the major guilds, and persecuted those of the minor ones, together with their defenders. Thence it came that so many tumults arose against them, as we have narrated above. In organizing the guilds there were found to be many trades at which the small citizens and the low people worked, and which were not constituted into separate guilds; and as these placed themselves under the different guilds, according to the nature of their trades, it occurred that, when they were either not satisfied with their wages, or were in any way oppressed by their employers, they had no other recourse except the magistrate of that guild to which they had attached themselves, but who they believed had never rendered them the justice to which they felt themselves entitled. And of all the guilds that which always had and still has the greatest number of members is that of the manufacturers of wool; which from being the most powerful was also the first in authority, and has always fed and still feeds with its industry the greater part of the common people and the small citizens.
13. The men of this lower class of the people then, those as well who had placed themselves under the wool guild as those who had joined other guilds, were greatly irritated for the above given reasons. To this came their fears on account of the burnings and robberies committed by them, and therefore they held several meetings at night and discussed the events that had taken place, as well as the danger to which they were exposed. Hereupon some one who was bolder and more experienced than the rest addressed them in the following words: —
“If we had to determine now whether to take up arms and burn and rob the houses of citizens and plunder churches, I should be one of those who would deem it dangerous to think of it; and perhaps I should approve the idea that tranquil poverty is preferable to hazardous gain. But inasmuch as we are in arms and much evil has already been done, it seems to me that we should not think of laying down the former, but how to secure ourselves against the consequences of the evils committed. I certainly believe that, if nothing else were to compel us to that course, necessity would. You see the whole city is full of hatred and resentment against us. The citizens draw closer together; and the Signoria holds in all things with the magistrates. Believe me, they are laying snares for us, and new dangers are menacing our heads. We should therefore seek two things and have two aims in our deliberations; the one to prevent our being chastised within the next few days for the acts we have committed, and the other to be able in the future to enjoy more liberty and to live with more satisfaction than hitherto. In my opinion, therefore, if we wish to be pardoned for our past errors, we must commit new ones, doubling the evils and multiplying the burnings and robberies, and in that way strive to have numerous accomplices. For where the guilty are many, none will be punished; little faults are chastised, great and grave ones are rewarded. And when many suffer, few will seek to revenge themselves, for general injuries are borne with more patience than individual ones. The multiplying of our crimes, therefore, will make it easier for us to obtain pardon, and will open the way to our having those things which we desire. It seems to me that our success is certain, for those who could oppose us are rich and divided. Their disunion, therefore, will give us victory, and their riches, when they shall have become ours, will enable us to maintain it. Do not be alarmed by the antiquity of the blood for the shedding of which they reproach us; for all men, having sprung from the same beginning, have equally ancient blood, and are by nature all made alike. Strip yourselves naked, and you will see that you are the same; dress yourselves in their garments and them in yours, and doubtless you will appear noble and they ignoble; for it is only poverty and riches that make men unequal. It really grieves me that many of you should from mere conscience repent of your past acts, and be resolved to abstain from new ones. Certainly, if this be true, then you are not the men I took you to be; for neither conscience nor infamy should frighten you; victory never brings shame, no matter how obtained. Of conscience you should make no account at all; for where there is, as in your case, the fear of hunger and prisons, you cannot and should not be restrained by the fear of hell. And if you note the conduct of men, you will see that all who achieve great riches and power obtain them either by force or by fraud; and then they conceal the abomination of their acquisitions by falsely calling them gain, so as to make it appear that they have come by them honestly. And those who from too little prudence, or too great stupidity, avoid these modes of gain, will always grovel in servitude and poverty; for the faithful servants always remain servants, and the good men ever remain poor. None ever escape from servitude except the unfaithful and the audacious, and none from poverty except the fraudulent and the rapacious. For God and nature have placed the fortunes of men in their midst, where they are more easily got by rapine than by industry, and are more accessible to evil practices than to good ones. Thence it comes that men devour each other, and the weakest always fare the worst. We must then use force whenever occasion is given us; and fortune can never offer us this to greater advantage than now. The citizens are still divided, the Signori full of doubts, and the magistrates are frightened; thus we can easily overpower them before they become united and take courage. Thus we shall either remain masters of the city, or we shall have such part of the government of it that our errors will be pardoned, and we shall have the power to threaten them with fresh injuries. I confess that this course is audacious and dangerous; but where necessity presses, audacity is accounted prudence, and in great matters brave men never take note of danger. For those enterprises that begin with danger always end with reward, and there is no escape from danger except by danger. And moreover, I believe that where we see prisons, tortures, and death being prepared for us, there is more to be apprehended from our remaining here than from any attempt to place ourselves in security; for in the first case the evil is certain, and in the other doubtful. How often have I heard you complain of the avarice of your employers and of the injustice of your magistrates! Now is the moment, not only to rid ourselves of them, but to make ourselves entirely their masters, so that they will have more cause to complain of you, and fear you more, than you do them. The opportunity which present circumstances offers flies, and when it is lost you will strive in vain to recover it. You see the preparations of your adversaries; let us anticipate their designs, and whichever of us resumes arms first will assuredly be the victor; his enemies will be destroyed, and he will be advanced. From such a course many of us will derive honor, and all of us security!”
This address inflamed their already excited spirits still more violently for evil, and they resolved to resume arms after they should have secured more accomplices to act with them; and they bound themselves by an oath mutually to succor and stand by each other whenever any one of them should be oppressed by the magistrates.
14. Whilst these men were preparing to seize the state, the Signori became informed of their designs through one Simone, whom they had arrested on the Piazza, and who revealed to them the whole conspiracy, and that it was intended on the following day to begin the disturbances. Seeing the danger upon them, they at once assembled the colleges, and those citizens who together with the syndics of the guilds were laboring for the re-establishment of union in the city. It was already evening before they had all assembled; they advised the Signori also to call in the consuls of the guilds, who all advised the immediate collecting of all the troops in Florence, and that the Gonfalonieri should appear the next morning with their companies fully armed in the Piazza. At the time when Simone was being put to the torture and the citizens were already assembling in the Piazza, one Niccolo da San Friano was engaged in regulating the clock of the palace; and having noticed what was going on, he returned home and stirred up his whole neighborhood with alarm; so that in an instant more than a thousand armed men collected in the Piazza di San Spirito. The noise of this reached the other conspirators and almost immediately the Piazzas of San Pier Maggiore and San Lorenzo, which had been appointed as meeting-places, became filled with armed men. The next morning, which was the 21st of July, not over eighty men at arms had appeared in the Piazza in support of the Signori, and not one of the Gonfalonieri had come; for, having heard that the whole city was in arms, they were afraid to leave their houses. The first body of the populace that appeared in the Piazza was that which had assembled at San Pier Maggiore; and on their arrival the men at arms made no movement. The other crowd, from San Lorenzo, also came and joined them; and having encountered no opposition, they demanded with terrible shouts that the Signoria should release the prisoners. Seeing that they were not given up at their threats, they determined to resort to violence, and burnt the palace of Luigi Guicciardini; so that the Signori for fear of worse gave them up the prisoners. No sooner was this done than they took the Gonfalon of Justice from the Executor, and proceeded under that banner to burn the houses of a number of citizens, especially of such as were hated by them from public or private reasons. And many citizens to avenge private wrongs led the crowd to the houses of their enemies; for it merely needed one voice from the multitude to cry out, “To this, or To that house!” for him who bore the Gonfalon to turn in that direction. Amongst other things they burnt all the records of the wool guild. Having done much damage, and wishing to accompany their evil acts with some laudable ones, they created Salvestro de’ Medici and a number of other citizens Cavaliers, making altogether sixtyfour in number. Amongst these were Benedetto and Antonio degli Alberti, Tommaso Strozzi, and others of their friends; although some of them accepted the title with great reluctance. What is most remarkable in these occurrences is the circumstance that, on the same day after having burnt the houses of many persons, the rabble conferred upon the same individuals the title of Cavalier (so near are benefits at times to injuries): this happened to Luigi Guicciardini, the Gonfaloniere of Justice. The Signori, seeing themselves abandoned in the midst of all these tumults by their armed force, by the chiefs of the guilds, and by their Gonfalonieri, were confounded, for no one had come to their support according to the orders given; and out of sixteen gonfalons only two made their appearance, namely, that of the Golden Lion and that of the Squirrel, under the command of Giovenco della Stufa and Giovanni Cambi. And even these remained but a little while in the Piazza; for when they perceived that they were not followed by any of the others, they withdrew again. On the other hand, some of the citizens, seeing the fury of this enraged multitude, and that the palace was abandoned, stayed within their houses; some followed the armed crowd, so that being amongst them they might be the better able to protect their own houses and those of their friends. And thus the force of the rabble was increased, whilst that of the Signori was diminished. The rioting continued all day, and when night came the crowd stopped at the palace of Messer Stefano behind the church of San Barnabas. Their number amounted to over six thousand; and before day appeared they forced the guilds by threats to send them their banners. And when morning came they marched, with the Gonfalon of Justice and the ensigns of the guilds at their head, to the palace of the Podesta; and upon his refusal to give them possession of it, they attacked and seized it by force.
15. The Signori, desirous of giving proof of their willingness to make terms with the rioters, seeing their own inability to control them by force, sent four members of their colleges to proceed to the palace of the Podesta and state their wishes to the rioters. This deputation found that the leaders of the populace, together with the syndics of the guilds and some citizens, had already prepared the demands which they intended to make of the Signori. They therefore returned to the Signoria accompanied by four deputies from the populace, who made the following demands: — That the wool guild should no longer have any foreign judge; — that three new guilds should be created, one for the carders and dyers, another for the barbers, doublet-makers, tailors, and similar crafts, and a third for the smaller trades; and that two of the Signori should be taken from these new guilds, and three from the fourteen minor guilds; — that the Signoria should provide houses for the meetings of these new guilds; — that none of the members of these guilds should be constrained during the next two years to pay any debt of less than fifty ducats; — that the Monte de Pieta (public pawn house) should charge no interest, and receive back only the principal sum loaned; — that those who were confined in prison and condemned should be set free and acquitted; — and that the admonished should be reinstated in all their privileges. They demanded many more things for the benefit of their particular supporters; and, by way of the reverse, they wanted a number of their enemies banished and admonished. These demands, though dishonorable and injurious to the republic, were yet promptly conceded by the Signori, the colleges, and the council of the people, for fear of still worse. But to give full validity to their action it was necessary that it should also be approved by the Council of the Commune. And as both councils could not be called together on the same day, it was agreed to defer the matter until the day following. The guilds and the populace nevertheless seemed satisfied for the moment, and promised that all rioting should cease so soon as these new laws should be perfected.
The following morning, whilst the Council of the Commune were deliberating, the impatient and inconstant multitude came with their customary banners into the Piazza with such loud and frightful shouting that the whole council and the Signori became frightened. Whereupon Guerriante Marignuoli, one of the Signori, moved more by fear than any other personal motive, went down stairs on pretence of guarding the door of the palace below, and fled to his house. Unable to conceal himself as he went out, he was recognized by the crowd, but no harm was done him. When the multitude saw him, however, they called out that all the Signori should leave the palace, and if they did not, that they would kill their children and burn their houses. In the midst of this the law was ratified, and the Signori had gone back to their chambers, and the council having descended below, without going out, remained in the Loggia and in the court, despairing of the safety of the city at seeing so much villany in the multitude, and such indisposition or cowardice in those who could have controlled or put it down. The Signori also were confused and doubtful of the safety of the country, seeing themselves abandoned by their adherents, and unsupported by either counsel or assistance from any citizen. In their uncertainty as to what they could or should do, Messer Tommaso Strozzi and Messer Benedetto Alberti, influenced either by selfish ambition, desiring to remain masters of the palace, or perhaps because they believed it best, persuaded the Signori to yield to the popular clamor, and to return as private individuals to their houses. This advice, given by those who had been the prime cause of the disturbances, caused Alamanno Acciaiuoli and Niccolo del Bene to become indignant, although the other members of the Signoria yielded. And having recovered a little vigor, they said, “that, if others wished to go away, they could not prevent them; but that they themselves would not before the expiration of their term of office give up their authority, even if it cost them their lives.” This difference of opinion redoubled the fears of the Signori and the fury of the populace; so that the Gonfaloniere, willing rather to end his magistracy with shame than with danger, committed himself to the care of Messer Tommaso Strozzi, who conducted him from the palace to his house. The other Signori in like manner departed one after the other; whereupon Alamanno and Niccolo, seeing themselves left alone, and not wishing to be regarded more brave than wise, went away also. Thus the palace remained in the hands of the mob, and the committee of the Eight on the War, who had not yet laid down their office.
16. When the mob entered the palace, one Michele di Lando, a wool-carder by trade, was carrying the standard of the Gonfaloniere. He took off his shoes, and, not being encumbered with much clothing on his back, leaped upstairs; and on reaching the audience hall of the Signori, he stopped, and turning to the multitude, he said: “You see this palace is yours, and the city is in your hands. What do you think should be done now?” To which all replied, “that they wanted him to be Gonfaloniere and Signore, and that he should govern the city and themselves as seemed to him best.” Michele accepted the office; and being a sagacious and prudent man, and more favored by nature than by fortune, he resolved to restore the city to tranquillity, and put a stop to the riots. And by way of keeping the people occupied and giving himself time to arrange his plans, he directed them to go and find a certain Nuto, who had been designated by Messer Lapo da Castiglionchio as Bargello. The greater part of those around him started upon this errand. And by way of beginning with an act of justice the exercise of that authority which he had obtained by favor, he published an order forbidding all further plundering and burning; and for the purpose of inspiring terror, he had a gibbet erected in the Piazza. And, as a beginning of a reform of the government of the city, he annulled the syndics of the guilds, and appointed new ones; deprived the Signori and the colleges of their magistratures, and burnt the election purses containing the names of those to be drawn for offices. Meantime Ser Nuto was brought into the Piazza by the multitude, and hanged by one foot on the gibbet erected there; and the bystanders having each torn a piece from his body, there was in a few minutes nothing left of him but the foot by which he had been suspended. The Eight of the War, on the other hand, believing that by the withdrawal of the Signori they had become the chiefs of the city, had already nominated the new Signori. When this became known to Michele, he sent them word immediately to leave the palace, for he wanted to show to everybody that he knew how to govern Florence without their advice. Thereupon he assembled the syndics of the guilds, and created a Signoria, — four of the common people, two of the major, and two of the minor guilds. Besides this, he appointed a new election, and divided the government into three parts, one of which was to belong to the new guilds, one to the minor, and the third to the major guilds. He gave to Messer Salvestro de’ Medici the income from the shops on the Ponte Vecchio, and took for himself the Podesteria of Empoli, and bestowed other benefits upon numerous other citizens who had favored the people, not so much as rewards for their exertions as for the purpose of protecting himself for all time against their envy.
17. The common people thought that Michele, in his reforms of the state, had been too partial to the greater citizens; and that they themselves had not such part in the government as was necessary for their own protection. Urged on, therefore, by their habitual audacity, they again took to arms, and came tumultuously with their banners into the Piazza, and demanded that the Signoria should come down on to the Ringhiera, for the purpose of deciding upon new measures for their safety and advantage. Michele, seeing their insolence and not wishing to excite their anger, without fully understanding what they wanted, blamed their manner of demanding it, and advised them to lay down their arms, and that then their demands should be considered; to which the Signoria could not yield with dignity under the pressure of force. The crowd, incensed by this against the palace, went to the Santa Maria Novella, where they chose from amongst themselves eight chiefs, with ministers and such other appointments as they thought would insure them authority and public respect. Thus the city had two sets of officers, and was controlled by two different governments. These new chiefs decided amongst themselves that eight members, chosen from the bodies of their guilds, should always reside with the Signoria in the palace, who should confirm all the resolves of the Signoria. They took from Messer Salvestro de’ Medici and from Michele di Lando all that they had conceded to them by their former resolutions, and assigned to many amongst themselves offices and subventions wherewith to support their positions with dignity. By way of giving validity to these resolutions, they deputed two of their number to the Signoria to demand that their acts should be confirmed by the councils; suggesting at the same time that, if not conceded by consent, they would have it by force. These deputies laid their commission before the Signori with great audacity and presumption; they reminded the Gonfaloniere of the rank which they had conferred upon him and of the honor done him, and reproached him for the ingratitude with which he had borne himself towards them. Having closed their address with menaces, Michele could not brook so much insolence; and thinking more of his rank than of the low condition from which he had sprung, it seemed to him that such extraordinary insolence should be checked by extraordinary means, and drew the sword which he had at his side, and, after first inflicting severe wounds upon these deputies, had them bound and imprisoned. When this became known to the crowd, it excited them to fury; and believing that they would be able to obtain by force of arms what had been refused to them unarmed, they seized their arms with tumultuous frenzy, and started to compel the Signori by violence. Michele, on the other hand, fearful of what might happen, resolved to forestall them, thinking that it would be more to his glory to attack the enemy rather than to await him between four walls, and, like his predecessor, be obliged to fly from the palace with dishonor and shame. Having therefore collected a number of citizens, who had already begun to see their previous error and to repent it, he mounted a horse, and, followed by many armed men, he went forth to Santa Maria Novella to encounter the multitude. These, as we have said before, had formed a similar resolution, and had started to go to the Piazza just about the same time that Michele set out from the palace. Chance would have it that they took different roads, so that they did not meet on the way. When Michele returned, therefore, he found the Piazza in possession of the multitude, who had already begun to attack the palace. He at once attacked and defeated the rabble, and drove a portion of them out of the city, compelling others to throw down their arms and to conceal themselves. Having accomplished this victory, the city was restored to quiet by the mere valor of the Gonfaloniere, who excelled at that time all other citizens in courage, prudence, and goodness, and deserves to be counted amongst the few men who have really benefited their country. For had he been of an evil or ambitious disposition, the republic would have lost all her liberties, and would have fallen under a greater tyranny than that of the Duke of Athens. But his natural goodness never permitted a single thought to enter his mind that was contrary to the general good, and his prudence caused him to conduct matters in such a way that many of his own party gave him their confidence and yielded to him, and those who did not he was enabled to control by force of arms. This caused the common people to fear him, and the better class of artisans to reflect, and to think what a shame it was for them now to be obliged to bear with the vile rabble, after having humbled the pride of the nobles.
18. At the time when Michele obtained this victory over the common people, the new Signoria had already been drawn, amongst whom were two of such vile and infamous condition that everybody was desirous to free themselves of such disgrace. When, therefore, on the 1st of September, the new Signori assumed office, the Piazza was full of armed people; and before the old Signori were out of the palace, a tumultuous cry arose amongst the armed men that they did not want any of the low people to be Signori. The Signoria therefore, by way of satisfying this demand, deprived those two of the magistracy. One of these men was called Tira, and the other Baroccio; and in their stead they appointed Messer Giorgio Scali and Francesco di Michele. They also cancelled the guild of the small trades, and deprived all the members of that guild of the offices they held, excepting Michele di Lando and Lorenzo di Puccio, and some others of better quality. They divided the public offices into two parts, one of which was given to the major and the other to the minor guilds. Only of the Signori they required five always to be taken from minor and four from the major guilds, and the Gonfaloniere should alternately be from the one and the other.
This organization of the government for the time restored quiet to the city. But although the government of the republic had been rescued from the hands of the populace, yet the smaller trades retained more power than the noble citizens, who had to yield to this state of things so as to prevent the smaller tradesmen from being dissatisfied at being deprived of the privilege of the guild. This arrangement was also favored by those who desired to keep that party down which under the name of Guelf had maltreated the citizens with so much violence. Messer Giorgio Scali, Messer Benedetto Alberti, Messer Salvestro de’ Medici, and Messer Tommaso Strozzi were amongst those who favored this organization of the government, as it left them, as it were, the chiefs of the city. The regulation of things in this wise confirmed the division between the noble citizens and the smaller tradesmen, which had been started by the ambition of the Ricci and the Albizzi. And as this gave rise at various times to the gravest consequences, which we shall have occasion frequently to mention, we shall call one of these parties the citizens’ party, and the other that of the populace. This state of things lasted three years, during which banishments and death were abundant; for those who governed lived in the greatest apprehension because of the many malcontents within and without the city. The malcontents within attempted, or were suspected of attempting, every day, some innovations. Those without, being entirely unrestrained, and being encouraged now by some prince, now by some republic, originated various dissensions, first in one place and then in another.
19. At this time there happened to be at Bologna Giannozzo da Salerno, captain of Charles of Durazzo, a descendant of the kings of Naples. This prince, designing an attempt upon the kingdom against Queen Joanna, kept his Captain Giannozzo in that city through the favor of Pope Urban, who was hostile to the queen. There were also at Bologna many banished Florentines who kept up intimate relations with Charles. These intrigues caused the governing magistrates of Florence much uneasiness, and made them give ready ear to the evil reports against the suspected citizens. In this state of things the magistrates received information that Giannozzo was about to appear before Florence with the banished, and that many within were ready to arm and to surrender the city to him. Upon this report many were accused; the first were Piero degli Albizzi and Carlo Strozzi; and next, Cipriano Mangioni, Messer Giacopo Sacchetti, Messer Donato Barbadori, Filippo Strozzi, and Giovanni Anselmi; who were all arrested with the single exception of Carlo Strozzi, who fled. To prevent an armed rising in favor of these men, the Signori deputed Messer Tommaso Strozzi and Messer Benedetto Alberti, with a large armed force, to guard the city. The citizens who had been arrested underwent an examination; but no guilt was proved upon them, either by the accusations or by confrontations, so that the Captain declined to condemn them; but their enemies excited the people to such fury against them, that they were by force condemned to death. Neither the greatness of his family, nor his ancient reputation of having been honored and feared above all other citizens, could save Piero degli Albizzi from his fate. On a former occasion, at a great feast, either some friend, for the purpose of making him more humble in his prosperity, or some enemy who wished to threaten him with the fickleness of fortune, sent to Piero a silver bowl filled with sweetmeats, amongst which a nail was concealed. When this was discovered and seen by all the guests, it was interpreted as intending to remind him that he should nail fast the wheel of fortune, which, having carried him to the summit, would otherwise, if permitted to complete its turn, drag him to the bottom. This interpretation was verified first by his ruin and afterwards by his death (1380).
After this execution the city remained in a great state of confusion, owing to the mutual fears of the victors and the vanquished. But still worse effects resulted from the apprehensions of the chiefs of the government, because the slightest incident caused them to inflict fresh injuries upon the party, either by condemning or “admonishing” their citizens, or by sending them into exile. To this were added the frequent new laws and ordinances made to strengthen the government. All these things caused great wrongs to those who were suspect to the ruling faction, which appointed forty-six individuals, who, together with the Signoria, should purge the republic of those who were suspected by the government. These admonished thirty-nine citizens, made a number of citizens noble, and reduced many nobles to the rank of citizens. And to enable them to resist any attacks from without, they employed Giovanni Aguto (John Sharpe) an Englishman, greatly reputed as a soldier, and who had for a long time conducted wars for the Pope and others. Their apprehensions of danger from without arose from their having heard that Charles of Durazzo was preparing for an attack upon the kingdom of Naples with a large armed force, amongst which were many of the banished Florentines. In consequence of this danger they provided, in addition to the troops, a considerable sum of money; so that when Charles had reached Arezzo the Florentines paid him forty thousand ducats on condition that he should not molest them. Thence he went to attack the kingdom of Naples, of which he succeeded in making himself master, and sent the queen captive to Hungary. This victory revived and increased the fears of those who held the government of Florence, for they could not persuade themselves to believe that their money would have more influence with the king than the ancient friendship that had existed between his house and the Guelfs, whom they had oppressed with so many wrongs.
20. These increased fears produced an increase of injuries, which in turn did not extinguish, but rather augmented, the suspicions, so as to cause a general discontentment amongst the people. To this came in addition the insolence of Messer Giorgio Scali and Messer Tommaso Strozzi, who overpowered with their authority that of the magistrates, so that everybody lived in terror of being in turn maltreated by them, as they were supported by the populace. Thus the government appeared equally tyrannical to the well-disposed and the seditious. But as the arrogance of Messer Giorgio had at one time or another to come to an end, it happened that one of his familiars accused Giovanni di Cambio of having intrigued against the state, who was however acquitted as not guilty by the Captain. The judge therefore wished to inflict upon the accuser the same penalty with which the guilty would have been punished had he been convicted. And as Messer Giorgio had in vain employed entreaties and his authority to save this man, he went, accompanied by Messer Tommaso Strozzi and a number of armed followers, to liberate him by force; and they sacked the palace of the Captain, who only saved himself by concealment. This act so irritated all the citizens against Messer Giorgio that his enemies thought they could crush him; and relieve the city not only of his tyranny, but also of that of the populace who had kept it in subjection for three years by their insolence. The Captain’s conduct also afforded an excellent opportunity for this; for after the tumult had subsided he went to the Signori and told them “that he had willingly accepted the office to which their lordships had elected him, because he thought that he would have to serve just men, and that they would have taken up arms to support justice, and not to impede it. But having seen and experienced the government of the city and its manner of conduct, he desired, for the sake of avoiding peril and injury, voluntarily to surrender that dignity which he had voluntarily accepted for the purpose of making himself useful, and on account of the honor which it conferred.” The Signori comforted the Captain, and reanimated his courage, promising him indemnity for past injuries and security for the future. And a portion of them having united with some citizens whom they regarded as lovers of the public good, and less suspect to the government, concluded to profit by this opportunity for liberating the city from the power of Messer Giorgio and the populace; inasmuch as the mass of citizens had become entirely alienated from him by this last display of his insolence.
It seemed to them best therefore to avail of it before all those whose indignation had been aroused against Messer Giorgio Scali should have become reconciled to him; for they well knew that the favor of the multitude is easily lost and won by every little accident. They also deemed it necessary for their success in this matter to draw into their alliance Messer Benedetto Alberti, without whose concurrence the attempt seemed hazardous to them. Messer Benedetto was a very rich, humane, and austere man, and a great lover of the liberty of his country, to whom all tyrannous proceedings were most odious; it was easy, therefore, to satisfy him, and to obtain his consent to the destruction of Messer Giorgio. The insolence and tyrannical conduct of the Guelfs and of the noble citizens had made him their enemy and the friend of the people. But when he afterwards saw that the leaders of the people’s party had become similar to those from whom he had separated himself a short time previous, and that the wrongs inflicted upon so many citizens had been committed wholly without his concurrence, he abandoned the party of the people for the same reasons that had caused him to take sides with them. Having therefore drawn Messer Benedetto and the chiefs of the guilds into their plans, and having provided themselves with arms, Messer Giorgio was arrested and Messer Tommaso fled. And on the following day Messer Giorgio Scali was beheaded, which struck such terror into his party that no one stirred, but all rather concurred in his destruction. When Messer Giorgio saw himself led to death before the very people who, but a short time before, had adored him, he complained of his unfortunate fate, and of the malignity of the citizens, who, having wrongfully injured him, had obliged him to favor and honor a populace who were devoid alike of good faith and gratitude. And recognizing amongst the armed men Messer Benedetto Alberti, he said to him: “And thou, Messer Benedetto, thou consentest that this wrong should be done to me; which, were I in thy place, I should never permit to be done to thee. But I tell thee, this day is the end of my troubles and the beginning of thine.” Then he blamed himself for having confided too much in a people who were moved and corrupted by every voice, every act, and every suspicion. And with such lamentations he died, in the midst of his armed enemies, who rejoiced at his death. After him some of his nearest friends were put to death, and their bodies dragged through the streets by the populace.
21. The whole city was moved by the death of Giorgio Scali. His execution caused many persons to take up arms in support of the Signoria and the Captain; many also did so from ambition or from fear. And thus the city was full of different factions, each having their own aims, which they wished to follow out before laying down their arms. The ancient nobles, who were called grandees, could not bear being excluded from the public offices, and strove by every means to recover them; and for that reason wished to see the captains of the sections restored to their former authority. To the noble citizens and the major guilds it was offensive to share the government with the minor guilds and the common people; and the people feared to lose the colleges of their guilds. These differences caused frequent troubles in Florence during a year; at one time the grandees took up arms, at another the major or the minor guilds, and with these latter the common people; and several times all were armed at once in different parts of the city. Thus there occurred frequent fighting amongst them, and with the men at arms of the palace, although the Signoria did its utmost to remedy these disorders, at one time by yielding, at others by force of arms. So that at last after two parliaments and several “Balias,” which were created for the purpose of reforming the government, and after much damage, many troubles and perils, a government was established, by which all who had been banished since the time when Messer Salvestro de’ Medici was Gonfaloniere were restored to their country. All the offices and emoluments bestowed by the Balia of 1378 were revoked; the Guelfs were restored to their privileges; the two new guilds were deprived of their corporate powers and of their officers, and all their members were placed in the old guilds. The office of Gonfaloniere of Justice was taken from the minor guilds, and their share of the public offices was reduced from one half to one third, and these were only those of the lower grade.
Thus the party of the noble citizens and that of the Guelfs recovered the government, which the party of the people lost after having controlled it from the year 1378 until 1381, when this new order of things was established.
22. This new government was not less injurious to the citizens, nor less oppressive in its beginning, than the government of the populace had been; for many noble citizens, who had been the noted supporters of the latter, were banished at the same time with the leaders of the populace. Amongst the latter was Michele di Lando, who was not saved from the fury of the party by all the services he had rendered, and to which he owed his authority at a time when an unbridled mob was destroying the city. His country showed him little gratitude for all his good deeds; an error often committed by princes and republics, and one which often causes those who are alarmed by such examples to injure their princes before they have experienced their ingratitude. These condemnations to exile and death, ever regrettable, greatly displeased Messer Benedetto Alberti, who censured them both privately and publicly. This caused him to be feared by the heads of the government, for they regarded him as one of the chiefest supporters of the populace, and believed that he had concurred in the death of Messer Giorgio Scali, not because he had disapproved of his conduct, but with the view to remaining alone in the control of the government. His language and conduct afterwards increased this suspicion, so that the whole party who now held the government kept their eyes upon him watching for an opportunity to oppress him.
Whilst matters were thus within Florence, nothing very grave disturbed their external relations, and if anything did trouble them it was more from apprehension than from any actual harm done. For it was at this time that Louis d’Anjou came into Italy for the purpose of re-establishing Queen Joanna on the throne of Naples and driving out Charles of Durazzo. This passage of Louis alarmed the Florentines greatly, for Charles asked their aid, in accordance with the custom of old allies; and Louis, like those who seek to form new alliances, demanded that they should remain neutral. Whereupon the Florentines, by way of making a show of satisfying Louis, and yet at the same time aiding Charles, dismissed from their service Messer Giovanno Aguto, and had him transferred to that of Pope Urban, who was a friend of Charles of Durazzo. This trick was, however, quickly perceived by Louis, who considered himself much injured thereby at the hands of the Florentines. Whilst the war between Charles and Louis was being carried on in Puglia, fresh troops came from France in support of Louis, who upon reaching Tuscany were conducted by the exiled Aretines to Arezzo, where they expelled those who governed that city in the name of Charles. At the moment when they contemplated changing the government of Florence in the same way in which they had accomplished that of Arezzo, Louis died, which caused a change in the fortunes of Puglia and of Tuscany, for Charles secured himself in the possession of the kingdom of Naples, which he had come near losing; and the Florentines, mistrusting their ability to defend their own city, acquired Arezzo, which they purchased from the troops who held it for Louis (1384). Charles thereupon, having made sure of Puglia, went to Hungary, the crown of which came to him by inheritance, leaving his wife and two children, Ladislas and Joanna, who were still small, in Puglia; but soon after having acquired the crown of Hungary he died.
23. The accession of Charles to the throne of Hungary caused solemn rejoicings in Florence, such as no other city had ever indulged in even to celebrate any victory of their own. Public and private magnificence shone out alike on that occasion, and many private citizens vied in their festive displays with the public ones. But none equalled in pomp and sumptuousness that of the Alberti; for the display made by them and the jousts given by them were not like those of private individuals, but were truly worthy of princes. This ostentation greatly increased the general hatred and envy of the Alberti, which, added to the suspicion with which the government regarded Messer Benedetto, was the cause of his ruin. For those at the head of the government did not feel easy on his account, fearing lest he might at any moment, with the support of the people, recover his influence and power and drive them from the city. Whilst the chiefs of the government were filled with these apprehensions, it happened that, at the same time that Messer Benedetto was Gonfaloniere of the Companies (1387), his son-in-law Messer Filippo Magalotti was drawn as Gonfaloniere of Justice, which redoubled the fears of the chiefs of the state; they thought that Messer Benedetto was acquiring too much power, and the state incurring too much danger. And desiring to remedy this without creating any disturbance they induced Bese Magalotti, his associate and enemy, to inform the Signori that Messer Filippo lacked the age required for the exercise of that office and therefore ought not to hold it. The matter was examined into by the Signori, and some of them from hate, and some for the purpose of preventing a bad precedent, declared Messer Filippo incompetent to hold that dignity. And in his place Bardo Mancini was drawn, who was utterly opposed to the plebeian faction and personally hostile to Messer Benedetto. So soon as he entered upon this magistracy he created a Balia, who, in the reassumption and reform of the state, banished Messer Benedetto Alberti, and admonished the remainder of the family with the exception only of Messer Antonio. Before his departure Messer Benedetto called all his relatives together, and seeing them sad and weeping he addressed them as follows: “Fathers and seniors, you see how fortune has ruined me and threatened you, at which I am not surprised, nor should you be; for such is ever the fate of those who, amongst the many wicked, wish to remain good, and who desire to sustain that which the majority seek to destroy. Love of country caused me to stand by Messer Salvestro de’ Medici and afterwards to keep aloof from Messer Giorgio Scali. The same feeling made me detest the conduct of those who now hold the government; there being no one to chastise them, they also wanted no one to censure them. I am content by my exile to relieve them of that fear which they have not only of me, but of every one that knows and recognizes their wicked and tyrannical conduct; and therefore do they threaten the others by my punishment. I do not lament my own fate, for the honors which my country bestowed upon me, when she still enjoyed her liberty, cannot be taken from me now that she is enslaved; and the memory of my past life will always give me more pleasure than the unhappiness caused by my exile can give me pain. But it grieves me much to see my country the prey of a few, and subject to their pride and avarice. For you, my dear relatives, I am sorry, for I doubt not that those ills which to-day terminate for me and commence for you will inflict greater injuries upon you than they have done upon me. I advise you therefore to fortify your courage against all misfortunes, and to bear yourselves in such manner that, if disasters befall you, (and you will have many,) every one will know that they have come upon you undeservedly and without any fault of your own.”
After that Messer Benedetto Alberti, by way of preserving out of Florence the same good reputation which he had enjoyed within, made a pilgrimage to the sepulchre of Christ, but on his return from there he died at Rhodes. His remains were brought to Florence and buried there with the greatest honors by those who in his lifetime had persecuted him with every species of calumny and injury.
24. The family of the Alberti was not the only one that was persecuted during these dissensions. Many other citizens were also admonished and exiled. Amongst these were Piero Benini, Matteo Alderotti, Giovanni and Francesco del Bene, Giovanni Benci, and Andrea Adimari, and with these a great many of the smaller artisans. Amongst the admonished were the Covoni, the Rinucci, the Formiconi, the Corbizzi, the Mannelli, and the Alderotti. It was customary to establish the Balia for a given time; but those citizens who composed the present one resigned from motives of honesty, although their time had not yet expired. Believing that they had satisfied the requirements of the state, they desired now to lay down their office, according to custom. When this became known, a number of persons rushed, armed, to the palace, and demanded that, before resigning, they should exile and admonish others. This displeased the Signori greatly; but they entertained these men with fair promises until they had collected an armed force, and then they compelled them from fear to lay down their arms, which their fury had caused them to take up. Nevertheless, by way of satisfying in part this angry spirit, and to deprive these plebeian mechanics still more of authority, they provided that, whilst before the minor guilds had been entitled to one third of the public offices, they should henceforth have only a fourth. And so that there should always be amongst the Signori at least two in the closest confidence of the government, they gave authority to the Gonfaloniere of Justice, and to four other citizens, to make a purse of chosen men, from which two should be drawn for every Signoria.
25. The government being thus regulated six years after its reorganization in 1381, things remained pretty quiet in Florence until the year 1393. It was at this time that Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti, called Conte di Virtu, made his uncle, Messer Bernabo, prisoner, and thereby became sovereign of all Lombardy. Galeazzo thought that he might by force make himself king of all Italy, as by fraud he had become Duke of Milan. In the year 1390 he carried on a most obstinate war against the Florentines, with such varying results that several times he was more in danger of defeat than the Florentines, who in the end would have lost if the Duke had not died. Nevertheless the defence was spirited and wonderful for a republic, and the end was much less unfortunate than might have been expected from so frightful a war. For, after having taken Bologna, Pisa, Perugia, and Sienna, and when he had already prepared the crown with which to have himself crowned king of all Italy, the Duke died. Thus death neither permitted him to enjoy his past victories, nor the Florentines to regret their present losses. During the progress of this war with the Duke of Milan, Messer Maso degli Albizzi was made Gonfaloniere of Justice, who, in consequence of the death of Piero, had become the enemy of the Alberti. And as the evil spirit of party still survived, Messer Maso thought that, although Messer Benedetto had died in exile, yet he would revenge himself upon the remaining members of that family before laying down his magistracy. He availed, therefore, of the occasion when some one was being examined in relation to certain dealings with the rebels, who named Alberto and Andrea degli Alberti, to have these promptly arrested (1393). At this act the whole city became greatly excited, so that the Signori provided themselves with arms, called the people to a parliament, and appointed a new Balia, by means of which they exiled a number of citizens, and had new purses made for the election of public officers. Amongst the exiled were pretty much all the Alberti; many artisans were admonished, and some were put to death. In consequence of all these wrongs, the guilds and the small people rose in arms; for it seemed to them as though they were being deprived of all honor and of life itself. A portion of them came into the Piazza, another part went to the house of Messer Veri de’ Medici, who, after the death of Messer Salvestro, had become head of that family. By way of quieting those who had come into the Piazza, the Signori put at their head as captains, with the banners of the Guelfs and of the people in their hands, Messer Rinaldo Gianfigliazzi and Messer Donato Acciaiuoli, who, being men of the people, were likely to be more acceptable to them than any others. Those who had gone to the house of Messer Veri begged him to take the government of the city into his hands, and to liberate them from the tyranny of those citizens who were destroyers of good men and of the public good.
All who have recorded the events of these times agree that, if Messer Veri’s ambition had exceeded his goodness, he might without hindrance have made himself prince of the city. For the grave injuries that, rightly or wrongly, had been done to the guilds and their friends, had so exasperated their spirits that they lacked nothing to assuage their thirst for vengeance but a chief to lead them. Nor was there wanting some one to remind Messer Veri of what he had it in his power to do; for Antonio de’ Medici himself, who had been for a long time his bitter enemy, endeavored to persuade him to assume the sovereignty of the republic. To which Messer Veri replied: “Thy threats when thou wast my enemy never caused me any fear, nor shall thy evil counsels now, since thou art my friend, mislead me to evil.” And then, turning to the multitude, he advised them to be of good cheer, for he was willing to be their defender provided they would allow themselves to be advised by him. And after having gone into their midst in the Piazza, he went up from there into the palace before the Signori, and addressed them as follows: “That he could in no way regret that his course of life had made him beloved by the people of Florence; but that he was sorry indeed that they had formed such a judgment of him as his past life did not warrant. For, inasmuch as he had never shown either a spirit of turbulence or ambition, he did not know whence it came that the people believed that he would sanction disturbances, like a turbulent man, or that he would be willing to seize the government, like an ambitious one. He therefore begged the Signoria not to reckon the ignorance of the multitude as his crime; for so far as he was concerned, he had submitted himself to their authority so soon as he was able to do so. And that he felt sure that they would be content to use their good fortune modestly, and that they would have more satisfaction in the enjoyment of half a victory, with the safety of the city, than to ruin her by striving for a complete one.” Messer Veri was praised by the Signori, who urged him to induce the people to lay down their arms, and that then they would do what they had been counselled to do by him and by other citizens. After these words Messer Veri returned to the Piazza, and, having united his companions with those that were led by Messer Rinaldo and Messer Donato, he said to them “that he had found in the Signoria the best disposition towards them, and that he had discussed many matters with them; but, owing to the brief time and the absence of the magistrates, nothing definite had been concluded. Nevertheless he begged them to disarm and to obey the Signoria, assuring them that they would be moved more by humility than by pride, and more by prayers than by threats. And that they should neither lack their share in the public offices, nor in personal security, if they would be governed by him.” Under these assurances from Messer Veri, the people returned to their homes.
26. So soon as the people had disarmed, the Signori fortified the Piazza, and then enrolled two thousand reliable citizens whom the government could trust, dividing them equally into companies with orders to hold themselves in readiness, at the first signal, to come to the support of the government. And all those who were not so enrolled were forbidden to carry arms (1394). These preparations being made, the Signori condemned to exile and death a number of artisans from amongst those who had shown themselves most audacious during the riots. And for the purpose of giving to the office of the Gonfaloniere of Justice more majesty and consideration, they provided that no one should exercise that office who was not at least forty-five years of age. They also made many other provisions for strengthening the government which were alike unsupportable to those against whom they were aimed and odious to the good citizens of their own party, who could not regard a government good and secure that had to protect itself with so much violence. All these exceeding rigors were offensive not only to those of the Alberti who remained in the city, and to the Medici, to whom it seemed that the people had been deceived, but also to many others who disapproved of so much violence. The first who attempted to oppose these measures was Messer Donato di Jacopo Acciaiuoli; although he was one of the great of the city, and rather the superior than the equal of Messer Maso degli Albizzi, who from the events that occurred during his gonfalonierate had been almost like the head of the republic, yet could he not be satisfied in the midst of such general discontent. Nor would he, like so many others, seek his personal advantage in the general misfortunes; and therefore he thought of trying to obtain the recall of the banished, or at least restore the admonished to the privilege of holding office. For this purpose he disseminated his opinions amongst a number of citizens, demonstrating to them that it was the only means of quieting the people, and of putting an end to the discontent of the factions; he only waited to become himself one of the Signori, to have his plans carried into effect. But as in all human affairs delay brings weariness and haste danger, so he tried to escape the former by tempting the latter. Amongst the Signori were his relative Michele Acciaiuoli and his friend Niccolo Ricoveri; this seemed to afford Messer Donato an opportunity not to be lost, and he therefore requested them to propose a law in the councils that should provide for the restitution of the citizens. These two being persuaded by him spoke to their associates on the subject, who replied, however, that they were indisposed to try new things, the benefit of which was doubtful and the danger certain. Whereupon Messer Donato, having first tried in vain all other means, and being greatly excited by anger, gave them to understand that, since they were unwilling that the city should be reformed by the means in hand, it would have to be done by force of arms. These words so displeased them, that they communicated the matter to the chiefs of the government, who had Messer Donato summoned to appear before them; and being convicted by the testimony of those to whom he had committed his message, he was banished to Barletta (1396). Alamanno and Antonio de’ Medici were also banished, together with the entire branch of that family who were descended from Messer Alamanno, and a number of the lower class of artisans who were influential with the common people. This occurred two years after the government had been reorganized by Messer Maso.
27. The city of Florence being in this condition, with many malcontents within and many banished without, it happened that there were amongst the latter at Bologna, Picchio Cavicciulli, Tommaso de’ Ricci, Antonio de’ Medici, Benedetto degli Spini, Antonio Girolami, Cristofano di Carlone, and two others of low condition, but all brave young fellows and disposed to take every risk for the sake of returning to their country. These were secretly informed by Pigiello and Baroccio Cavicciulli, who were living as “admonished” in Florence, that if they would come into the city they would conceal them in their houses, whence they could afterwards issue and kill Messer Maso degli Albizzi and call the people to arms, who being discontented could easily be induced to rise, especially as they would be seconded by the Ricci, the Adimari, the Mannelli, and many other families. Encouraged by their hopes to accept this proposition, they came into the city on the 4th of August, 1397, and having secreted themselves in the appointed places, they sent to watch the movements of Messer Maso, intending to begin the riot with his death. Messer Maso left his house and stopped at an apothecary’s shop near San Piero Maggiore. The man who was watching him ran to inform the conspirators, who, having armed themselves came to the place indicated, but found that Messer Maso had already left. Nothing daunted, however, by this failure of their first attempt, they went towards the Old Market, where they killed one of the adverse faction; and having raised a tumult and called the people to arms by shouts of “Liberty!” and “Death to the tyrants!” thence they turned towards the New Market, and at the end of the Calimara killed another man. They pursued their way with the same cries, but finding that no one took up arms, they went to the Loggia della Nighittosa; here they mounted a high place, surrounded by a great multitude who had run there more from curiosity than any intention of aiding them, and with a loud voice they exhorted the people “to take up arms and to leave that servitude which they hated so much, affirming that their object was to redress the grievances of the malcontent in the city, and not to avenge their own personal wrongs. That they had heard that many of them prayed God to give them the opportunity to be able to revenge themselves, which He would do whenever they had a chief to lead them. But now that the opportunity was offered them, they stood looking at each other like stupid men, waiting until the promoters of their liberation were killed, and their own servitude aggravated. And that they were astonished that those who were accustomed to take to arms for the slightest injury remained unmoved when their wrongs were so numerous, and were willing to submit to seeing so many of their fellow-citizens exiled and admonished; whilst it was now in their power to have the banished restored to their country and the admonished reinstated in their rights to hold office.” These words, although true, yet did not move the multitude, either because they were restrained by fear, or because the death of the two men had made the murderers hateful to them. When the instigators of the riot found that neither words nor deeds had power to stir the multitude, and saw too late the danger of attempting to make a people free who are in every way resolved to remain slaves, they despaired of the enterprise and retreated into the church of Santa Reparata, where they shut themselves up, not to save their lives, but to defer death. The Signori, disturbed by the first noise, armed and closed the palace; but when they learnt the facts and became aware who it was that had originated the disturbance, they became reassured, and commanded the Captain with a force of men-at-arms to go and arrest the rioters. Thus without much difficulty the doors of the temple were forced open and a portion of the conspirators were killed whilst defending themselves, and a portion were captured; and from their examination it appeared that outside of their number there were none others implicated except Baroccio and Pigiello Cavicciulli, who were condemned to death with the other conspirators.
28. (1400.) After this occurrence there happened another of greater importance. As we have related above, the city was carrying on a war at this time with the Duke of Milan, who, finding himself unable to overcome the Florentines by open force, resorted to indirect ways, and by means of the exiled Florentines, of which Lombardy was full, he formed a plot to which many in the city were parties. According to this it was agreed that on a given day those of the Florentine exiles who were skilled in arms should start from certain places in the immediate vicinity of Florence and enter the city by crossing the river Arno. These, together with their accomplices in the city, were then to rush to the houses of the heads of the government, and after having killed these they were to reorganize the government according to their own views. Amongst the conspirators within the city was one of the Ricci, called Samminiato; and as often happens in conspiracies that few are insufficient to carry it into effect, whilst many cause its discovery, so in this instance, for whilst Samminiato sought associates he found an informer. He confided the matter to Salvestro Cavicciulli, whom the wrongs which his relatives and himself had experienced at the hands of the government ought to have made faithful to the cause of the conspirators. But heeding more his present fears than his distant hopes of revenge, he promptly revealed the whole plot to the Signori; these immediately had Samminiato arrested and compelled him to confess the whole conspiracy. But of all those who were parties to it in the city none were captured except Tommaso Davizi, who, coming from Bologna and being ignorant of what had taken place in Florence, was arrested immediately upon his arrival; all the others, being alarmed by the arrest of Samminiato, made their escape. Having punished Samminiato and Tommaso according to their crimes, the Signoria gave a Balia to a number of citizens, who, armed with this authority, should seek out the offenders and make the government secure. These declared as rebels six of the Alberti, two of the Medici, three of the Scali, two of the Strozzi, Bindo Altoviti, Bernardo Adimari, and many others of the people. They also admonished the entire families of the Alberti, Ricci, and Medici for ten years, exempting only a very few of them. Amongst those of the Alberti who were not admonished was Messer Antonio, because he was regarded as a quiet and peaceful man. But as the suspicions excited by this conspiracy were not entirely allayed, a monk was taken prisoner who had been seen during the time that the conspirators were communicating with each other to pass repeatedly between Bologna and Florence. He confessed that on several occasions he had brought letters for Messer Antonio, who was thereupon promptly arrested, and although he denied everything, yet he was convicted upon the monk’s testimony, and banished to a distance of three hundred miles from the city. And so that the Alberti should no longer be a constant danger to the government, all of that family who were over fifteen years of age were likewise banished.
29. This event occurred in the year 1400, and two years after Duke Giovanni Galeazzo of Milan died; this put an end to the war, which had lasted twelve years. At this epoch the government, having acquired more power and being now free from external and internal enemies, undertook an attempt upon Pisa, and conquered it gloriously, and retained it undisturbed from 1400 till 1423. Only in the year 1412 a new Balia was created for the express purpose of crushing and exiling the Alberti, which strengthened the government by new provisions and bore down the Alberti with new impositions. Within this period the Florentines also made war against Ladislas, king of Naples, which was terminated by the death of the king in 1414. In the course of this war Ladislas, finding himself unequal in strength to the Florentines, ceded to them the city of Cortona, of which he was lord. But shortly after that he recovered his forces and renewed the war, which became much more doubtful for the Florentines than it had been at first; and had it not been closed by the death of the king, the same as the previous war with the Duke of Milan, it would have exposed the liberties of Florence to great danger. This war with the king of Naples terminated no less happily for the Florentines than that with the Duke of Milan; for the king died after having made himself master of Rome, Sienna, La Marca, and all the Romagna; so that he lacked nothing but Florence to extend his power into Lombardy. And thus death was always a better friend to the Florentines than any other of their allies, and was more effective in saving them than their own valor.
After the death of the king of Naples Florence enjoyed entire tranquillity during eight years. At the end of that period she was agitated again by the war with Philip, Duke of Milan, and by the fresh breaking out of party violence, which was not allayed until the destruction of that government which had ruled from 1381 until 1434, and which had carried on so many wars with so much glory, and added to the dominions of the republic Arezzo, Pisa, Cortona, Livorno, and Montepulciano; and would have done even greater things if the old party feuds had not been rekindled, as will be shown more particularly in the following book.