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License and Slavery peculiar defects in republican governments -- Application of this reflection to the state of Florence -- Giovanni di Bicci di' Medici re-establishes the authority of his family -- Filippo Visconti, duke of Milan, endeavors to make amicable arrangements with the Florentines -- Their jealousy of him -- Precautionary measures against him -- War declared -- The Florentines are routed by the ducal forces.
Republican governments, more especially those imperfectly organized, frequently change their rulers and the form of their institutions; not by the influence of liberty or subjection, as many suppose, but by that of slavery and license; for with the nobility or the people, the ministers respectively of slavery or licentiousness, only the name of liberty is in any estimation, neither of them choosing to be subject either to magistrates or laws. When, however, a good, wise, and powerful citizen appears (which is but seldom), who establishes ordinances capable of appeasing or restraining these contending dispositions, so as to prevent them from doing mischief, then the government may be called free, and its institutions firm and secure; for having good laws for its basis, and good regulations for carrying them into effect, it needs not, like others, the virtue of one man for its maintenance. With such excellent laws and institutions, many of those ancient republics, which were of long duration, were endowed. But these advantages are, and always have been, denied to those which frequently change from tyranny to license, or the reverse; because, from the powerful enemies which each condition creates itself, they neither have, nor can possess any stability; for tyranny cannot please the good, and license is offensive to the wise: the former may easily be productive of mischief, while the latter can scarcely be beneficial; in the former, the insolent have too much authority, and in the latter, the foolish; so that each requires for their welfare the virtue and the good fortune of some individual who may be removed by death, or become unserviceable by misfortune.
Hence, it appears, that the government which commenced in Florence at the death of Giorgio Scali, in 1381, was first sustained by the talents of Maso degli Albizzi, and then by those of Niccolo da Uzzano. The city remained tranquil from 1414 to 1422; for King Ladislaus was dead, and Lombardy divided into several parts; so that there was nothing either internal or external to occasion uneasiness. Next to Niccolo da Uzzano in authority, were Bartolomeo Valori, Neroni di Nigi, Rinaldo degli Albizzi, Neri di Gino, and Lapo Niccolini. The factions that arose from the quarrels of the Albizzi and the Ricci, and which were afterward so unhappily revived by Salvestro de' Medici, were never extinguished; for though the party most favored by the rabble only continued three years, and in 1381 was put down, still, as it comprehended the greatest numerical proportion, it was never entirely extinct, though the frequent Balias and persecutions of its leaders from 1381 to 1400, reduced it almost to nothing. The first families that suffered in this way were the Alberti, the Ricci, and the Medici, which were frequently deprived both of men and money; and if any of them remained in the city, they were deprived of the honors of government. These oft-repeated acts of oppression humiliated the faction, and almost annihilated it. Still, many retained the remembrance of the injuries they had received, and a desire of vengeance remained pent in their bosoms, ungratified and unquenched. Those nobles of the people, or new nobility, who peaceably governed the city, committed two errors, which eventually caused the ruin of their party; the first was, that by long continuance in power they became insolent; the second, that the envy they entertained toward each other, and their uninterrupted possession of power, destroyed that vigilance over those who might injure them, which they ought to have exercised. Thus daily renewing the hatred of a mass of the people by their sinister proceedings, and either negligent of the threatened dangers, because rendered fearless by prosperity, or encouraging them through mutual envy, they gave an opportunity to the family of the Medici to recover their influence. The first to do so was Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, who having become one of the richest men, and being of a humane and benevolent disposition, obtained the supreme magistracy by the consent of those in power. This circumstance gave so much gratification to the mass of the people (the multitude thinking they had now found a defender), that not without occasion the judicious of the party observed it with jealousy, for they perceived all the former feelings of the city revived. Niccolo da Uzzano did not fail to acquaint the other citizens with the matter, explaining to them how dangerous it was to aggrandize one who possessed so much influence; that it was easy to remedy an evil at its commencement, but exceedingly difficult after having allowed it to gather strength; and that Giovanni possessed several qualities far surpassing those of Salvestro. The associates of Niccolo were uninfluenced by his remarks; for they were jealous of his reputation, and desired to exalt some person, by means of whom he might be humbled.
This was the state of Florence, in which opposing feelings began to be observable, when Filippo Visconti, second son of Giovanni Galeazzo, having, by the death of his brother, become master of all Lombardy, and thinking he might undertake almost anything, greatly desired to recover Genoa, which enjoyed freedom under the Dogiate of Tommaso da Campo Fregoso. He did not think it advisable to attempt this, or any other enterprise, till he had renewed amicable relations with the Florentines, and made his good understanding with them known; but with the aid of their reputation he trusted he should attain his wishes. He therefore sent ambassadors to Florence to signify his desires. Many citizens were opposed to his design, but did not wish to interrupt the peace with Milan, which had now continued for many years. They were fully aware of the advantages he would derive from a war with Genoa, and the little use it would be to Florence. Many others were inclined to accede to it, but would set a limit to his proceedings, which, if he were to exceed, all would perceive his base design, and thus they might, when the treaty was broken, more justifiably make war against him. The question having been strongly debated, an amicable arrangement was at length effected, by which Filippo engaged not to interfere with anything on the Florentine side of the rivers Magra and Panaro.
Soon after the treaty was concluded, the duke took possession of Brescia, and shortly afterward of Genoa, contrary to the expectation of those who had advocated peace; for they thought Brescia would be defended by the Venetians, and Genoa would be able to defend herself. And as in the treaty which Filippo made with the Doge of Genoa, he had acquired Serezana and other places situated on this side the Magra, upon condition that, if he wished to alienate them, they should be given to the Genoese, it was quite palpable that he had broken the treaty; and he had, besides, entered into another treaty with the legate of Bologna, in opposition to his engagement respecting the Panaro. These things disturbed the minds of the citizens, and made them, apprehensive of new troubles, consider the means to be adopted for their defense.
The dissatisfaction of the Florentines coming to the knowledge of Filippo, he, either to justify himself, or to become acquainted with their prevailing feelings, or to lull them to repose, sent ambassadors to the city, to intimate that he was greatly surprised at the suspicions they entertained, and offered to revoke whatever he had done that could be thought a ground of jealousy. This embassy produced no other effect than that of dividing the citizens; one party, that in greatest reputation, judged it best to arm, and prepare to frustrate the enemy's designs; and if he were to remain quiet, it would not be necessary to go to war with him, but an endeavor might be made to preserve peace. Many others, whether envious of those in power, or fearing a rupture with the duke, considered it unadvisable so lightly to entertain suspicions of an ally, and thought his proceedings need not have excited so much distrust; that appointing the ten and hiring forces was in itself a manifest declaration of war, which, if undertaken against so great a prince, would bring certain ruin upon the city without the hope of any advantage; for possession could never be retained of the conquests that might be made, because Romagna lay between, and the vicinity of the church ought to prevent any attempt against Romagna itself. However the views of those who were in favor of war prevailed, the Council of Ten were appointed, forces were hired, and new taxes levied, which, as they were more burdensome upon the lower than the upper ranks, filled the city with complaints, and all condemned the ambition and avarice of the great, declaring that, to gratify themselves and oppress the people, they would go to war without any justifiable motive.
They had not yet come to an open rupture with the duke, but everything tended to excite suspicion; for Filippo had, at the request of the legate of Bologna (who was in fear of Antonio Bentivogli, an emigrant of Bologna at Castel Bolognese), sent forces to that city, which, being close upon the Florentine territory, filled the citizens with apprehension; but what gave every one greater alarm, and offered sufficient occasion for the declaration of war, was the expedition made by the duke against Furli. Giorgio Ordelaffi was lord of Furli, who dying, left Tibaldo, his son, under the guardianship of Filippo. The boy's mother, suspicious of his guardian, sent him to Lodovico Alidossi, her father, who was lord of Imola, but she was compelled by the people of Furli to obey the will of her deceased husband, to withdraw him from the natural guardian, and place him in the hands of the duke. Upon this Filippo, the better to conceal his purpose, caused the Marquis of Ferrara to send Guido Torello as his agent, with forces, to seize the government of Furli, and thus the territory fell into the duke's hands. When this was known at Florence, together with the arrival of forces at Bologna, the arguments in favor of war were greatly strengthened, but there were still many opposed to it, and among the rest Giovanni de' Medici, who publicly endeavored to show, that even if the ill designs of the duke were perfectly manifest, it would still be better to wait and let him commence the attack, than to assail him; for in the former case they would be justified in the view of the princes of Italy as well as in their own; but if they were to strike the first blow at the duke, public opinion would be as favorable to him as to themselves; and besides, they could not so confidently demand assistance as assailants, as they might do if assailed; and that men always defend themselves more vigorously when they attack others. The advocates of war considered it improper to await the enemy in their houses, and better to go and seek him; that fortune is always more favorable to assailants than to such as merely act on the defensive, and that it is less injurious, even when attended with greater immediate expense, to make war at another's door than at our own. These views prevailed, and it was resolved that the ten should provide all the means in their power for rescuing Furli from the hands of the duke.
Filippo, finding the Florentines resolved to occupy the places he had undertaken to defend, postponed all personal considerations, and sent Agnolo della Pergola with a strong force against Imola, that Ludovico, having to provide for the defense of his own possessions, might be unable to protect the interests of his grandson. Agnolo approached Imola while the forces of the Florentines were at Modigliana, and an intense frost having rendered the ditches of the city passable, he crossed them during the night, captured the place, and sent Lodovico a prisoner to Milan. The Florentines finding Imola in the hands of the enemy, and the war publicly known, sent their forces to Furli and besieged it on all sides. That the duke's people might not relieve it, they hired Count Alberigo, who from Zagonara, his own domain, overran the country daily, up to the gates of Imola. Agnolo della Pergola, finding the strong position which the Florentines had taken prevented him from relieving Furli, determined to attempt the capture of Zagonara, thinking they would not allow that place to be lost, and that in the endeavor to relieve it they would be compelled to give up their design against Furli, and come to an engagement under great disadvantage. Thus the duke's people compelled Alberigo to sue for terms, which he obtained on condition of giving up Zagonara, if the Florentines did not relieve him within fifteen days. This misfortune being known in the Florentine camp and in the city, and all being anxious that the enemy should not obtain the expected advantage, they enabled him to secure a greater; for having abandoned the siege of Furli to go to the relief of Zagonara, on encountering the enemy they were soon routed, not so much by the bravery of their adversaries as by the severity of the season; for, having marched many hours through deep mud and heavy rain, they found the enemy quite fresh, and were therefore easily vanquished. Nevertheless, in this great defeat, famous throughout all Italy, no death occurred except those of Lodovico degli Obizi and two of his people, who having fallen from their horses were drowned in the morass.
The Florentines murmur against those who had been advocates of the war -- Rinaldo degli Albizzi encourages the citizens -- Measures for the prosecution of the war -- Attempt of the higher classes to deprive the plebeians of their share in the government -- Rinaldo degli Albizzi addresses an assembly of citizens and advises the restoration of the Grandi -- Niccolo da Uzzano wishes to have Giovanni de' Medici on their side -- Giovanni disapproves of the advice of Rinaldo degli Albizzi.
The defeat at Zagonara spread consternation throughout Florence; but none felt it so severely as the nobility, who had been in favor of the war; for they perceived their enemies to be inspirited and themselves disarmed, without friends, and opposed by the people, who at the corners of streets insulted them with sarcastic expressions, complaining of the heavy taxes, and the unnecessary war, and saying, "Oh! they appointed the ten to frighten the enemy. Have they relieved Furli, and rescued her from the hands of the duke? No! but their designs have been discovered; and what had they in view? not the defense of liberty; for they do not love her; but to aggrandize their own power, which God has very justly abated. This is not the only enterprise by many a one with which they have oppressed the city; for the war against King Ladislaus was of a similar kind. To whom will they flee for assistance now? to Pope Martin, whom they ridiculed before the face of Braccio; or to Queen Giovanna, whom they abandoned, and compelled to throw herself under the protection of the king of Aragon?" To these reproaches was added all that might be expected from an enraged multitude.
Seeing the discontent so prevalent, the Signory resolved to assemble a few citizens, and with soft words endeavor to soothe the popular irritation. On this occasion, Rinaldo degli Albizzi, the eldest son of Maso, who, by his own talents and the respect he derived from the memory of his father, aspired to the first offices in the government, spoke at great length; showing that it is not right to judge of actions merely by their effects; for it often happens that what has been very maturely considered is attended with unfavorable results: that if we are to applaud evil counsels because they are sometimes followed by fortunate events, we should only encourage men in error which would bring great mischief upon the republic; because evil counsel is not always attended with happy consequences. In the same way, it would be wrong to blame a wise resolution, because if its being attended with an unfavorable issue; for by so doing, we should destroy the inclination of citizens to offer advice and speak the truth. He then showed the propriety of undertaking the war; and that if it had not been commenced by the Florentines in Romagna the duke would have assailed them in Tuscany. But since it had pleased God, that the Florentine people should be overcome, their loss would be still greater if they allowed themselves to be dejected; but if they set a bold front against adversity, and made good use of the means within their power, they would not be sensible of their loss or the duke of his victory. He assured them they ought not to be alarmed by impending expenses and consequent taxation; because the latter might be reduced, and the future expense would not be so great as the former had been; for less preparation is necessary for those engaged in self- defense than for those who design to attack others. He advised them to imitate the conduct of their forefathers, who, by courageous conduct in adverse circumstances, had defended themselves against all their enemies.
Thus encouraged, the citizens engaged Count Oddo the son of Braccio, and united with him, for directing the operations of the war, Niccolo Piccinino, a pupil of his father's, and one of the most celebrated of all who had served under him. To these they added other leaders, and remounted some of those who had lost their horses in the late defeat. They also appointed twenty citizens to levy new taxes, who finding the great quite subdued by the recent loss, took courage and drained them without mercy.
These burdens were very grievous to the nobility, who at first, in order to conciliate, did not complain of their own particular hardships, but censured the tax generally as unjust, and advised that something should be done in the way of relief; but their advice was rejected in the Councils. Therefore, to render the law as offensive as possible, and to make all sensible of its injustice, they contrived that the taxes should be levied with the utmost rigor, and made it lawful to kill any that might resist the officers employed to collect them. Hence followed many lamentable collisions, attended with the blood and death of citizens. It began to be the impression of all, that arms would be resorted to, and all prudent persons apprehended some approaching evil; for the higher ranks, accustomed to be treated with respect, could not endure to be used like dogs; and the rest were desirous that the taxation should be equalized. In consequence of this state of things, many of the first citizens met together, and it was resolved that it had become necessary for their safety, that some attempt should be made to recover the government; since their want of vigilance had encouraged men to censure public actions, and allowed those to interfere in affairs who had hitherto been merely the leaders of the rabble. Having repeatedly discussed the subject, they resolved to meet again at an appointed hour, when upwards of seventy citizens assembled in the church of St. Stephen, with the permission of Lorenzo Ridolfi and Francesco Gianfigliazzi, both members of the Signory. Giovanni de' Medici was not among them either because being under suspicion he was not invited or that entertaining different views he was unwilling to interfere.
Rinaldo degli Albizzi addressed the assembly, describing the condition of the city, and showing how by their own negligence it had again fallen under the power of the plebeians, from whom it had been wrested by their fathers in 1381. He reminded them of the iniquity of the government which was in power from 1378 to 1381, and that all who were then present had to lament, some a father, others a grandfather, put to death by its tyranny. He assured them they were now in the same danger, and that the city was sinking under the same disorders. The multitude had already imposed a tax of its own authority; and would soon, if not restrained by greater force or better regulations, appoint the magistrates, who, in this case, would occupy their places, and overturn the government which for forty-two years had ruled the city with so much glory; the citizens would then be subject to the will of the multitude, and live disorderly and dangerous, or be under the command of some individual who might make himself prince. For these reasons he was of opinion, that whoever loved his country and his honor must arouse himself, and call to mind the virtue of Bardo Mancini, who, by the ruin of the Alberti, rescued the city from the dangers then impending; and that the cause of the audacity now assumed by the multitude was the extensive Squittini or Pollings, which, by their negligence, were allowed to be made; for thus the palace had become filled with low men. He therefore concluded, that the only means of remedying the evil was to restore the government to the nobility, and diminish the authority of the minor trades by reducing the companies from fourteen to seven, which would give the plebeians less authority in the Councils, both by the reduction in their number and by increasing the authority of the great; who, on account of former enmities, would be disinclined to favor them. He added, that it is a good thing to know how to avail themselves of men according to the times; and that as their fathers had used the plebeians to reduce the influence of the great, that now, the great having been humbled, and the plebeians become insolent, it was well to restrain the insolence of the latter by the assistance of the former. To effect this they might proceed either openly or otherwise, for some of them belonging to the Council of Ten, forces might be led into the city without exciting observation.
Rinaldo was much applauded, and his advice was approved of by the whole assembly. Niccolo da Uzzano who, among others, replied to it, said, "All that Rinaldo had advanced was correct, and the remedies he proposed good and certain, if they could be adopted without an absolute division of the city; and this he had no doubt would be effected if they could induce Giovanni de' Medici to join them; for with him on their side, the multitude being deprived of their chief and stay, would be unable to oppose them; but that if he did not concur with them they could do nothing without arms, and that with them they would incur the risk of being vanquished, or of not being able to reap the fruit of victory." He then modestly reminded them of what he had said upon a former occasion, and of their reluctance to remedy the evil when it might easily have been done; that now the same remedy could not be attempted without incurring the danger of greater evils, and therefore there was nothing left for them to do but to gain him over to their side, if practicable. Rinaldo was then commissioned to wait upon Giovanni and try if he could induce him to join them.
He undertook this commission, and in the most prevailing words he could make use of endeavored to induce him to coincide with their views; and begged that he would not by favoring an audacious mob, enable them to complete the ruin both of the government and the city. To this Giovanni replied, that he considered it the duty of a good and wise citizen to avoid altering the institutions to which a city is accustomed; there being nothing so injurious to the people as such a change; for many are necessarily offended, and where there are several discontented, some unpropitious event may be constantly apprehended. He said it appeared to him that their resolution would have two exceedingly pernicious effects; the one conferring honors on those who, having never possessed them, esteemed them the less, and therefore had the less occasion to grieve for their absence; the other taking them from those who being accustomed to their possession would never be at rest till they were restored to them. It would thus be evident that the injury done to one party, was greater than the benefit they had conferred upon the other; so that whoever was the author of the proposition, he would gain few friends and make many enemies, and that the latter would be more resolutely bent on injuring him than the former would be zealous for his defense, for mankind are naturally more disposed to revenge than to gratitude, as if the latter could only be exercised with some inconvenience to themselves, while the former brings alike gratification and profit. Then, directing his discourse more particularly to Rinaldo, he said, "And you, if you could call to mind past events, and knew how craftily affairs are conducted in this city, would not be so eager in this pursuit; for he who advises it, when by your aid he has wrested the power from the people, will, with the people's assistance, who will have become your enemies, deprive you of it. And it will happen to you as to Benedetto Alberti, who, at the persuasion of those who were not his friends, consented to the ruin of Giorgio Scali and Tommaso Strozzi, and shortly afterward was himself sent into exile by the very same men." He therefore advised Rinaldo to think more maturely of these things, and endeavor to imitate his father, who, to obtain the benevolence of all, reduced the price of salt, provided that whoever owed taxes under half a florin should be at liberty to pay them or not, as he thought proper, and that at the meeting of the Councils every one should be free from the importunities of his creditors. He concluded by saying, that as regarded himself, he was disposed to let the government of the city remain as it was.
Giovanni de' Medici acquires the favor of the people -- Bravery of Biaggio del Melano -- Baseness of Zanobi del Pino -- The Florentines obtain the friendship of the lord of Faenza -- League of the Florentines with the Venetians -- Origin of the Catasto -- The rich citizens discontented with it -- Peace with the duke of Milan -- New disturbances on account of the Catasto.
These events, and the circumstances attending them, becoming known to the people, contributed greatly to increase the reputation of Giovanni, and brought odium on those who had made the proposals; but he assumed an appearance of indifference, in order to give less encouragement to those who by his influence were desirous of change. In his discourse he intimated to every one that it is not desirable to promote factions, but rather to extinguish them; and that whatever might be expected of him, he only sought the union of the city. This, however, gave offense to many of his party; for they would have rather seen him exhibit greater activity. Among others so disposed, was Alamanno de' Medici, who being of a restless disposition, never ceased exciting him to persecute enemies and favor friends; condemning his coldness and slow method of proceeding, which he said was the cause of his enemies' practicing against him, and that these practices would one day effect the ruin of himself and his friends. He endeavored to excite Cosmo, his son, with similar discourses; but Giovanni, for all that was either disclosed or foretold him, remained unmoved, although parties were now declared, and the city in manifest disunion.
There were at the palace, in the service of the Signory, two chancellors, Ser Martino and Ser Pagolo. The latter favored the party of Niccolo da Uzzano, the former that of Giovanni; and Rinaldo, seeing Giovanni unwilling to join them, thought it would be advisable to deprive Ser Martino of his office, that he might have the palace more completely under his control. The design becoming known to his adversaries, Ser Martino was retained and Ser Pagolo discharged, to the great injury and displeasure of Rinaldo and his party. This circumstance would soon have produced most mischievous effects, but for the war with which the city was threatened, and the recent defeat suffered at Zagonara, which served to check the audacity of the people; for while these events were in progress at Florence, Agnolo della Pergola, with the forces of the duke, had taken all the towns and cities possessed by the Florentines in Romagna, except Castracaro and Modigliano; partly from the weakness of the places themselves, and partly by the misconduct of those who had the command of them. In the course of the campaign, two instances occurred which served to show how greatly courage is admired even in enemies, and how much cowardice and pusillanimity are despised.
Biaggio del Melano was castellan in the fortress of Monte Petroso. Being surrounded by enemies, and seeing no chance of saving the place, which was already in flames, he cast clothes and straw from a part which was not yet on fire, and upon these he threw his two little children, saying to the enemy, "Take to yourselves those goods which fortune has bestowed upon me, and of which you may deprive me; but those of the mind, in which my honor and glory consist, I will not give up, neither can you wrest them from me." The besiegers ran to save the children, and placed for their father ropes and ladders, by which to save himself, but he would not use them, and rather chose to die in the flames than owe his safety to the enemies of his country: an example worthy of that much lauded antiquity, which offers nothing to surpass it, and which we admire the more from the rarity of any similar occurrence. Whatever could be recovered from the ruins, was restored for the use of the children, and carefully conveyed to their friends; nor was the republic less grateful; for as long as they lived, they were supported at her charge.
An example of an opposite character occurred at Galeata, where Zanobi del Pino was governor; he, without offering the least resistance, gave up the fortress to the enemy; and besides this, advised Agnolo della Pergola to leave the Alps of Romagna, and come among the smaller hills of Tuscany, where he might carry on the war with less danger and greater advantage. Agnolo could not endure the mean and base spirit of this man, and delivered him to his own attendants, who, after many reproaches, gave him nothing to eat but paper painted with snakes, saying, that of a Guelph they would make him a Ghibelline; and thus fasting, he died in a few days.
At this time Count Oddo and Niccolo Piccinino entered the Val di Lamona, with the design of bringing the lord of Faenza over to the Florentines, or at least inducing him to restrain the incursions of Agnolo della Pergola into Romagna; but as this valley is naturally strong, and its inhabitants warlike, Count Oddo was slain there, and Niccolo Piccinino sent a prisoner to Faenza. Fortune, however, caused the Florentines to obtain by their loss, what, perhaps, they would have failed to acquire by victory; for Niccolo so prevailed with the lord of Faenza and his mother, that they became friends of the Florentines. By this treaty, Niccolo Piccinino was set at liberty, but did not take the advice he had given others; for while in treaty with the city, concerning the terms of his engagement, either the conditions proposed were insufficient, or he found better elsewhere; for quite suddenly he left Arezzo, where he had been staying, passed into Lombardy, and entered the service of the duke.
The Florentines, alarmed by this circumstance, and reduced to despondency by their frequent losses, thought themselves unable to sustain the war alone, and sent ambassadors to the Venetians, to beg they would lend their aid to oppose the greatness of one who, if allowed to aggrandize himself, would soon become as dangerous to them as to the Florentines themselves. The Venetians were advised to adopt the same course by Francesco Carmignuola, one of the most distinguished warriors of those times, who had been in the service of the duke, and had afterward quitted it; but they hesitated, not knowing how far to trust him; for they thought his enmity with the duke was only feigned. While in this suspense, it was found that the duke, by means of a servant of Carmignuola, had caused poison to be given him in his food, which, although it was not fatal, reduced him to extremity. The truth being discovered, the Venetians laid aside their suspicion; and as the Florentines still solicited their assistance, a treaty was formed between the two powers, by which they agreed to carry on the war at the common expense of both: the conquests in Lombardy to be assigned to the Venetians; those in Romagna and Tuscany to the Florentines; and Carmignuola was appointed Captain General of the League. By this treaty the war was commenced in Lombardy, where it was admirably conducted; for in a few months many places were taken from the duke, together with the city of Brescia, the capture of which was in those days considered a most brilliant exploit.
The war had continued from 1422 to 1427, and the citizens of Florence were so wearied of the taxes that had been imposed during that time, that it was resolved to revise them, preparatory to their amelioration. That they might be equalized according to the means of each citizen, it was proposed that whoever possessed property of the value of one hundred florins should pay half a florin of taxes. Individual contribution would thus be determined by an invariable rule, and not left to the discretion of parties; and as it was found that the new method would press heavily upon the powerful classes, they used their utmost endeavors to prevent it from becoming law. Giovanni de' Medici alone declared himself in favor of it, and by his means it was passed. In order to determine the amount each had to pay, it was necessary to consider his property in the aggregate, which the Florentines call accatastare, in which in this application of it would signify TO RATE or VALUE, and hence this tax received the name of catasto. The new method of rating formed a powerful check to the tyranny of the great, who could no longer oppress the lower classes, or silence them with threats in the council as they had formerly done, and it therefore gave general satisfaction, though to the wealthy classes it was in the highest degree offensive. But as it is found men are never satisfied, but that the possession of one advantage only makes them desire more, the people, not content with the equality of taxation which the new law produced, demanded that the same rule should be applied to past years; that in investigation should be made to determine how much, according to the Catasto, the rich had paid less than their share, and that they should now pay up to an equality with those who, in order to meet the demand unjustly made, had been compelled to sell their possessions. This proposal alarmed the great more than the Catasto had done; and in self-defense they unceasingly decried it, declaring it in the highest degree unjust in being laid not only on immovable but movable property, which people possess to-day and lose to-morrow; that many persons have hidden wealth which the Catasto cannot reach; that those who leave their own affairs to manage those of the republic should be less burdened by her, it being enough for them to give their labour, and that it was unjust of the city to take both their property and their time, while of others she only took money. The advocates of the Catasto replied, that if movable property varies, the taxes would also vary, and frequently rating it would remedy the evil to which it was subject; that it was unnecessary to mention those who possessed hidden property; for it would be unreasonable to take taxes for that which produced no interest, and that if it paid anything, it could not fail to be discovered: that those who did not like to labor for the republic might cease to do so; for no doubt she would find plenty of loving citizens who would take pleasure in assisting her with both money and counsel: that the advantages and honors of a participation in the government are so great, that of themselves they are a sufficient remuneration to those who thus employ themselves, without wishing to be excused from paying their share of taxes. But, they added, the real grievance had not been mentioned: for those who were offended with the Catasto, regretted they could no longer involve the city in all the difficulties of war without injury to themselves, now that they had to contribute like the rest; and that if this law had then been in force they would not have gone to war with King Ladislaus, or the Duke Filippo, both which enterprises had been not through necessity, but to impoverish the citizens. The excitement was appeased by Giovanni de' Medici, who said, "It is not well to go into things so long past, unless to learn something for our present guidance; and if in former times the taxation has been unjust, we ought to be thankful, that we have now discovered a method of making it equitable, and hope that this will be the means of uniting the citizens, not of dividing them; which would certainly be the case were they to attempt the recovery of taxes for the past, and make them equal to the present; and that he who is content with a moderate victory is always most successful; for those who would more than conquer, commonly lose." With such words as these he calmed the disturbance, and this retrospective equalization was no longer contemplated.
The war with the duke still continued; but peace was at length restored by means of a legate of the pope. The duke, however, from the first disregarded the conditions, so that the league again took arms, and meeting the enemy's forces at Maclovio routed them. After this defeat the duke again made proposals for peace, to which the Florentines and Venetians both agreed; the former from jealousy of the Venetians, thinking they had spent quite enough money in the aggrandizement of others; the latter, because they found Carmignuola, after the defeat of the duke, proceed but coldly in their cause; so that they thought it no longer safe to trust him. A treaty was therefore concluded in 1428, by which the Florentines recovered the places they had lost in Romagna; and the Venetians kept Brescia, to which the duke added Bergamo and the country around it. In this war the Florentines expended three millions and a half of ducats, extended the territory and power of the Venetians, and brought poverty and disunion upon themselves.
Being at peace with their neighbors, domestic troubles recommenced. The great citizens could not endure the Catasto, and not knowing how to set it aside, they endeavored to raise up more numerous enemies to the measure, and thus provide themselves with allies to assist them in annulling it. They therefore instructed the officers appointed to levy the tax, that the law required them to extend the Catasto over the property of their nearest neighbors, to see if Florentine wealth was concealed among it. The dependent states were therefore ordered to present a schedule of their property against a certain time. This was extremely offensive to the people of Volterra, who sent to the Signory to complain of it; but the officers, in great wrath, committed eighteen of the complainants to prison. The Volterrani, however, out of regard for their fellow-countrymen who were arrested, did not proceed to any violence.
Death of Giovanni de' Medici -- His character -- Insurrection of Volterra -- Volterra returns to her allegiance -- Niccolo Fortebraccio attacks the Lucchese -- Diversity of opinion about the Lucchese war -- War with Lucca -- Astore Gianni and Rinaldo degli Albizzi appointed commissaries -- Violence of Astorre Gianni.
About this time Giovanni de' Medici was taken ill, and finding his end approach, called his sons Cosmo and Lorenzo to him, to give them his last advice, and said, "I find I have nearly reached the term which God and nature appointed at my birth, and I die content, knowing that I leave you rich, healthy, and of such standing in society, that if you pursue the same course that I have, you will live respected in Florence, and in favor with everyone. Nothing cheers me so much at this moment, as the recollection that I have never willfully offended anyone; but have always used my utmost endeavors to confer benefits upon all. I would have you do so too. With regard to state affairs, if you would live in security, take just such a share as the laws and your countrymen think proper to bestow, thus you will escape both danger and envy; for it is not what is given to any individual, but what he has determined to possess, that occasions odium. You will thus have a larger share than those who endeavor to engross more than belongs to them; for they thus usually lose their own, and before they lose it, live in constant disquiet. By adopting this method, although among so many enemies, and surrounded by so many conflicting interests, I have not only maintained my reputation but increased my influence. If you pursue the same course, you will be attended by the same good fortune; if otherwise, you may be assured, your end will resemble that of those who in our own times have brought ruin both upon themselves and their families." Soon after this interview with his sons, Giovanni died, regretted by everyone, as his many excellencies deserved. He was compassionate; not only bestowing alms on those who asked them, but very frequently relieving the necessities of the poor, without having been solicited so to do. He loved all; praised the good, and pitied the infirmities of the wicked. He never sought the honors of government; yet enjoyed them all; and never went to the palace unless by request. He loved peace and shunned war; relieved mankind in adversity, and assisted them in prosperity; never applied the public money to his own uses, but contributed to the public wealth. He was courteous in office; not a man of great eloquence, but possessed of extraordinary prudence. His demeanor expressed melancholy; but after a short time his conversation became pleasant and facetious. He died exceedingly rich in money, but still more in good fame and the best wishes of mankind; and the wealth and respect he left behind him were not only preserved but increased by his son Cosmo.
The Volterran ambassadors grew weary of lying in prison, and to obtain their liberty promised to comply with the commands of the Florentines. Being set free and returned to their city, the time arrived for the new Priors to enter upon office, and among those who were drawn, was one named Giusto, a plebeian, but possessing great influence with his class, and one of those who had been imprisoned at Florence. He, being inflamed with hatred against the Florentines on account of his public as well as personal injuries, was further stimulated by Giovanni di Contugi, a man of noble family, and his colleague in office, to induce the people, by the authority of the Priors and his own influence, to withdraw their country from the power of the Florentines, and make himself prince. Prompted by these motives, Giusto took arms, rode through the city, seized the Capitano, who resided in it, on behalf of the Florentines, and with the consent of the people, became lord of Volterra. This circumstance greatly displeased the Florentines; but having just made peace with the duke, and the treaty being yet uninfringed on either side, they bethought themselves in a condition to recover the place; and that the opportunity might not be lost, they immediately appointed Rinaldo degli Albizzi and Palla Strozzi commissaries, and sent them upon the expedition. In the meantime, Giusto, who expected the Florentines would attack him, requested assistance of Lucca and Sienna. The latter refused, alleging her alliance with Florence; and Pagolo Guinigi, to regain the favor of the Florentines, which he imagined he had lost in the war with the duke and by his friendship for Filippo, not only refused assistance to Giusto, but sent his messenger prisoner to Florence.
The commissaries, to come upon the Volterrani unawares, assembled their cavalry, and having raised a good body of infantry in the Val d'Arno Inferiore, and the country about Pisa, proceeded to Volterra. Although attacked by the Florentines and abandoned by his neighbors, Giusto did not yield to fear; but, trusting to the strength of the city and the ruggedness of the country around it, prepared for his defense.
There lived at Volterra one Arcolano, brother of that Giovanni Contugi who had persuaded Giusto to assume the command. He possessed influence among the nobility, and having assembled a few of his most confidential friends, he assured them that by this event, God had come to the relief of their necessities; for if they would only take arms, deprive Giusto of the Signory, and give up the city to the Florentines, they might be sure of obtaining the principal offices, and the place would retain all its ancient privileges. Having gained them over, they went to the palace in which Giusto resided; and while part of them remained below, Arcolano, with three others, proceeded to the chamber above, where finding him with some citizens, they drew him aside, as if desirous to communicate something of importance, and conversing on different subjects, let him to the lower apartment, and fell upon him with their swords. They, however, were not so quick as to prevent Giusto from making use of his own weapon; for with it he seriously wounded two of them; but being unable to resist so many, he was at last slain, and his body thrown into the street. Arcolano and his party gave up the city to the Florentine commissaries, who, being at hand with their forces, immediately took possession; but the condition of Volterra was worse than before; for among other things which operated to her disadvantage, most of the adjoining countryside was separated from her, and she was reduced to the rank of a vicariate.
Volterra having been lost and recovered almost at the same time, present circumstances afforded nothing of sufficient importance to occasion a new war, if ambition had not again provoked one. Niccolo Fortebraccio, the son of a sister of Braccio da Perugia, had been in the service of the Florentines during most of their wars with the duke. Upon the restoration of peace he was discharged; but when the affair of Volterra took place, being encamped with his people at Fucecchio, the commissaries availed themselves both of himself and his forces. Some thought that while Rinaldo conducted the expedition along with him, he persuaded him, under one pretext or another, to attack the Lucchese, assuring him, that if he did so, the Florentines would consent to undertake an expedition against them, and would appoint him to the command. When Volterra was recovered, and Niccolo returned to his quarters at Fucecchio, he, either at the persuasion of Rinaldo, or of his own accord, in November, 1429, took possession of Ruoti and Compito, castles belonging to the Lucchese, with three hundred cavalry and as many infantry, and then descending into the plain, plundered the inhabitants to a vast amount. The news of this incursion having reached Florence, persons of all classes were seen gathered in parties throughout the city discussing the matter, and nearly all were in favor of an expedition against Lucca. Of the Grandees thus disposed, were the Medici and their party, and with them also Rinaldo, either because he thought the enterprise beneficial to the republic, or induced by his own ambition and the expectation of being appointed to the command. Niccolo da Uzzano and his party were opposed to the war. It seems hardly credible that such contrary opinions should prevail, though at different times, in the same men and the same city, upon the subject of war; for the same citizens and people that, during the ten years of peace had incessantly blamed the war undertaken against Duke Filippo, in defense of liberty, now, after so much expense and trouble, with their utmost energy, insisted on hostilities against Lucca, which, if successful, would deprive that city of her liberty; while those who had been in favor of a war with the duke, were opposed to the present; so much more ready are the multitude to covet the possessions of others than to preserve their own, and so much more easily are they led by the hope of acquisition than by the fear of loss. The suggestions of the latter appear incredible till they are verified; and the pleasing anticipations of the former are cherished as facts, even while the advantages are very problematical, or at best, remote. The people of Florence were inspired with hope, by the acquisitions which Niccolo Fortebraccio had made, and by letters received from their rectors in the vicinity of Lucca; for their deputies at Vico and Pescia had written, that if permission were given to them to receive the castles that offered to surrender, the whole country of Lucca would very soon be obtained. It must, however, be added, that an ambassador was sent by the governor of Lucca to Florence, to complain of the attack made by Niccolo, and to entreat that the Signory would not make war against a neighbor, and a city that had always been friendly to them. The ambassador was Jacopo Viviani, who, a short time previously, had been imprisoned by Pagolo Guinigi, governor of Lucca, for having conspired against him. Although he had been found guilty, his life was spared, and as Pagolo thought the forgiveness mutual, he reposed confidence in him. Jacopo, more mindful of the danger he had incurred than of the lenity exercised toward him, on his arrival in Florence secretly instigated the citizens to hostilities; and these instigations, added to other hopes, induced the Signory to call the Council together, at which 498 citizens assembled, before whom the principal men of the city discussed the question.
Among the first who addressed the assembly in favor of the expedition, was Rinaldo. He pointed out the advantage that would accrue from the acquisition, and justified the enterprise from its being left open to them by the Venetians and the duke, and that as the pope was engaged in the affairs of Naples, he could not interfere. He then remarked upon the facility of the expedition, showing that Lucca, being now in bondage to one of her own citizens, had lost her natural vigor and former anxiety for the preservation of her liberty, and would either be surrendered to them by the people in order to expel the tyrant, or by the tyrant for fear of the people. He recalled the remembrance of the injuries done to the republic by the governor of Lucca; his malevolent disposition toward them; and their embarrassing situation with regard to him, if the pope or the duke were to make war upon them; and concluded that no enterprise was ever undertaken by the people of Florence with such perfect facility, more positive advantage, or greater justice in its favor.
In a reply to this, Niccolo da Uzzano stated that the city of Florence never entered on a more unjust or more dangerous project, or one more pregnant with evil, than this. In the first place they were going to attack a Guelphic city, that had always been friendly to the Florentine people, and had frequently, at great hazard, received the Guelphs into her bosom when they were expelled from their own country. That in the history of the past there was not an instance, while Lucca was free, of her having done an injury to the Florentines; and that if they had been injured by her enslavers, as formerly by Castruccio, and now by the present governor, the fault was not in the city, but in her tyrant. That if they could assail the latter without detriment to the people, he should have less scruple, but as this was impossible, he could not consent that a city which had been friendly to Florence should be plundered of her wealth. However, as it was usual at present to pay little or no regard either to equity or injustice, he would consider the matter solely with reference to the advantage of Florence. He thought that what could not easily be attended by pernicious consequences might be esteemed useful, but he could not imagine how an enterprise should be called advantageous in which the evils were certain and the utility doubtful. The certain evils were the expenses with which it would be attended; and these, he foresaw, would be sufficiently great to alarm even a people that had long been in repose, much more one wearied, as they were, by a tedious and expensive war. The advantage that might be gained was the acquisition of Lucca, which he acknowledged to be great; but the hazards were so enormous and immeasurable, as in his opinion to render the conquest quite impossible. He could not induce himself to believe that the Venetians, or Filippo, would willingly allow them to make the acquisition; for the former only consented in appearance, in order to avoid the semblance of ingratitude, having so lately, with Florentine money, acquired such an extent of dominion. That as regarded the duke, it would greatly gratify him to see them involved in new wars and expenses; for, being exhausted and defeated on all sides, he might again assail them; and that if, after having undertaken it, their enterprise against Lucca were to prove successful, and offer them the fullest hope of victory, the duke would not want an opportunity of frustrating their labors, either by assisting the Lucchese secretly with money, or by apparently disbanding his own troops, and then sending them, as if they were soldiers of fortune, to their relief. He therefore advised that they should give up the idea, and behave toward the tyrant in such a way as to create him as many enemies as possible; for there was no better method of reducing Lucca than to let them live under the tyrant, oppressed and exhausted by him; for, if prudently managed, that city would soon get into such a condition that he could not retain it, and being ignorant or unable to govern itself, it must of necessity fall into their power. But he saw that his discourse did not please them, and that his words were unheeded; he would, however, predict this to them, that they were about to commence a war in which they would expend vast sums, incur great domestic dangers, and instead of becoming masters of Lucca, they would deliver her from her tyrant, and of a friendly city, feeble and oppressed, they would make one free and hostile, and that in time she would become an obstacle to the greatness of their own republic.
The question having been debated on both sides, they proceeded to vote, as usual, and of the citizens present only ninety-eight were against the enterprise. Thus determined in favor of war, they appointed a Council of Ten for its management, and hired forces, both horse and foot. Astorre Gianni and Rinaldo degli Albizzi were appointed commissaries, and Niccolo Fortebraccio, on agreeing to give up to the Florentines the places he had taken, was engaged to conduct the enterprise as their captain. The commissaries having arrived with the army in the country of the Lucchese, divided their forces; one part of which, under Astorre, extended itself along the plain, toward Camaiore and Pietrasanta, while Rinaldo, with the other division, took the direction of the hills, presuming that when the citizens found themselves deprived of the surrounding country, they would easily submit. The proceedings of the commissaries were unfortunate, not that they failed to occupy many places, but from the complaints made against them of mismanaging the operations of the war; and Astorre Gianni had certainly given very sufficient cause for the charges against him.
There is a fertile and populous valley near Pietrasanta, called Seravezza, whose inhabitants, on learning the arrival of the commissary, presented themselves before him and begged he would receive them as faithful subjects of the Florentine republic. Astorre pretended to accept their proposal, but immediately ordered his forces to take possession of all the passes and strong positions of the valley, assembled the men in the principal church, took them all prisoners, and then caused his people to plunder and destroy the whole country, with the greatest avarice and cruelty, making no distinction in favor of consecrated places, and violating the women, both married and single. These things being known in Florence, displeased not only the magistracy, but the whole city.
The inhabitants of Seravezza appeal to the Signory -- Complaints against Rinaldo degli Albizzi -- The commissaries changed -- Filippo Brunelleschi proposes to submerge the country about Lucca -- Pagolo Guinigi asks assistance of the duke of Milan -- The duke sends Francesco Sforza -- Pagolo Guinigi expelled -- The Florentines routed by the forces of the duke -- The acquisitions of the Lucchese after the victory -- Conclusion of the war.
A few of the inhabitants of the valley of Seravezza, having escaped the hands of the commissary, came to Florence and acquainted every one in the streets with their miserable situation; and by the advice of those who, either through indignation at his wickedness or from being of the opposite party, wished to punish the commissary, they went to the Council of Ten, and requested an audience. This being granted, one of them spoke to the following effect: "We feel assured, magnificent lords, that we shall find credit and compassion from the Signory, when you learn how your commissary has taken possession of our country, and in what manner he has treated us. Our valley, as the memorials of your ancient houses abundantly testify, was always Guelphic, and has often proved a secure retreat to your citizens when persecuted by the Ghibellines. Our forefathers, and ourselves too, have always revered the name of this noble republic as the leader and head of their party. While the Lucchese were Guelphs we willingly submitted to their government; but when enslaved by the tyrant, who forsook his old friends to join the Ghibelline faction, we have obeyed him more through force than good will. And God knows how often we have prayed, that we might have an opportunity of showing our attachment to our ancient party. But how blind are mankind in their wishes! That which we desired for our safety has proved our destruction. As soon as we learned that your ensigns were approaching, we hastened to meet your commissary, not as an enemy, but as the representative of our ancient lords; placed our valley, our persons, and our fortunes in his hands, and commended them to his good faith, believing him to possess the soul, if not of a Florentine, at least of a man. Your lordships will forgive us; for, unable to support his cruelties, we are compelled to speak. Your commissary has nothing of the man but the shape, nor of a Florentine but the name; a more deadly pest, a more savage beast, a more horrid monster never was imagined in the human mind; for, having assembled us in our church under pretense of wishing to speak with us, he made us prisoners. He then burned and destroyed the whole valley, carried off our property, ravaged every place, destroyed everything, violated the women, dishonored the virgins, and dragging them from the arms of their mothers, gave them up to the brutality of his soldiery. If by any injury to the Florentine people we merited such treatment, or if he had vanquished us armed in our defense, we should have less reason for complaint; we should have accused ourselves, and thought that either our mismanagement or our arrogance had deservedly brought the calamity upon us; but after having freely presented ourselves to him unarmed, to be robbed and plundered with such unfeeling barbarity, is more than we can bear. And though we might have filled Lombardy with complaints and charges against this city, and spread the story of our misfortunes over the whole of Italy, we did not wish to slander so just and pious a republic, with the baseness and perfidy of one wicked citizen, whose cruelty and avarice, had we known them before our ruin was complete, we should have endeavored to satiate (though indeed they are insatiable), and with one-half of our property have saved the rest. But the opportunity is past; we are compelled to have recourse to you, and beg that you will succor the distresses of your subjects, that others may not be deterred by our example from submitting themselves to your authority. And if our extreme distress cannot prevail with you to assist us, be induced, by your fear of the wrath of God, who has seen his temple plundered and burned, and his people betrayed in his bosom." Having said this they threw themselves on the ground, crying aloud, and praying that their property and their country might be restored to them; and that if the Signory could not give them back their honor, they would, at least, restore husbands to their wives, and children to their fathers. The atrocity of the affair having already been made known, and now by the living words of the sufferers presented before them, excited the compassion of the magistracy. They ordered the immediate return of Astorre, who being tried, was found guilty, and admonished. They sought the goods of the inhabitants of Seravezza; all that could be recovered was restored to them, and as time and circumstance gave opportunity, they were compensated for the rest.
Complaints were made against Rinaldo degli Albizzi, that he carried on the war, not for the advantage of the Florentine people, but his own private emolument; that as soon as he was appointed commissary, he lost all desire to take Lucca, for it was sufficient for him to plunder the country, fill his estates with cattle, and his house with booty; and, not content with what his own satellites took, he purchased that of the soldiery, so that instead of a commissary he became a merchant. These calumnies coming to his ears, disturbed the temper of this proud but upright man, more than quite became his dignity. He was so exasperated against the citizens and magistracy, that without waiting for or asking permission, he returned to Florence, and, presenting himself before the Council of Ten, he said that he well knew how difficult and dangerous a thing it was to serve an unruly people and a divided city, for the one listens to every report, the other pursues improper measures; they neglect to reward good conduct, and heap censure upon whatever appears doubtful; so that victory wins no applause, error is accused by all, and if vanquished, universal condemnation is incurred; from one's own party through envy, and from enemies through hatred, persecution results. He confessed that the baseness of the present calumnies had conquered his patience and changed the temper of his mind; but he would say, he had never, for fear of a false accusation, avoided doing what appeared to him beneficial to the city. However, he trusted the magistrates would in future be more ready to defend their fellow-citizens, so that the latter might continue anxious to effect the prosperity of their country; that as it was not customary at Florence to award triumphs for success, they ought at least to be protected from calumny; and that being citizens themselves, and at any moment liable to false accusations, they might easily conceive how painful it is to an upright mind to be oppressed with slander. The Ten endeavored, as well as circumstances would admit, to soothe the acerbity of his feelings, and confided the care of the expedition to Neri di Gino and Alamanno Salviati, who, instead of overrunning the country, advanced near to Lucca. As the weather had become extremely cold, the forces established themselves at Campannole, which seemed to the commissaries waste of time; and wishing to draw nearer the place, the soldiery refused to comply, although the Ten had insisted they should pitch their camp before the city, and would not hear of any excuse.
At that time there lived at Florence, a very distinguished architect, named Filippo di Ser Brunelleschi, of whose works our city is full, and whose merit was so extraordinary, that after his death his statue in marble was erected in the principal church, with an inscription underneath, which still bears testimony to those who read it, of his great talents. This man pointed out, that in consequence of the relative positions of the river Serchio and the city of Lucca, the wastes of the river might be made to inundate the surrounding country, and place the city in a kind of lake. His reasoning on this point appeared so clear, and the advantage to the besiegers so obvious and inevitable, that the Ten were induced to make the experiment. The result, however, was quite contrary to their expectation, and produced the utmost disorder in the Florentine camp; for the Lucchese raised high embankments in the direction of the ditch made by our people to conduct the waters of the Serchio, and one night cut through the embankment of the ditch itself, so that having first prevented the water from taking the course designed by the architect, they now caused it to overflow the plain, and compelled the Florentines, instead of approaching the city as they wished, to take a more remote position.
The design having failed, the Council of Ten, who had been re-elected, sent as commissary, Giovanni Guicciardini, who encamped before Lucca, with all possible expedition. Pagolo Guinigi finding himself thus closely pressed, by the advice of Antonio del Rosso, then representative of the Siennese at Lucca, sent Salvestro Trento and Leonardo Bonvisi to Milan, to request assistance from the duke; but finding him indisposed to comply, they secretly engaged, on the part of the people, to deliver their governor up to him and give him possession of the place; at the same time intimating, that if he did not immediately follow this advice, he would not long have the opportunity, since it was the intention of Pagolo to surrender the city to the Florentines, who were very anxious to obtain it. The duke was so much alarmed with this idea, that, setting aside all other considerations, he caused Count Francesco Sforza, who was engaged in his service, to make a public request for permission to go to Naples; and having obtained it, he proceeded with his forces directly to Lucca, though the Florentines, aware of the deception, and apprehensive of the consequences, had sent to the count, Boccacino Alamanni, his friend, to frustrate this arrangement. Upon the arrival of the count at Lucca, the Florentines removed their camp to Librafatta, and the count proceeded immediately to Pescia, where Pagolo Diacceto was lieutenant governor, who, promoted by fear rather than any better motive, fled to Pistoia, and if the place had not been defended by Giovanni Malavolti, to whom the command was intrusted, it would have been lost. The count failing in his attempt went to Borgo a Buggiano which he took, and burned the castle of Stigliano, in the same neighborhood.
The Florentines being informed of these disasters, found they must have recourse to those remedies which upon former occasions had often proved useful. Knowing that with mercenary soldiers, when force is insufficient, corruption commonly prevails, they offered the count a large sum of money on condition that he should quit the city, and give it up to them. The count finding that no more money was to be had from Lucca, resolved to take it of those who had it to dispense, and agreed with the Florentines, not to give them Lucca, which for decency he could not consent to, but to withdraw his troops, and abandon it, on condition of receiving fifty thousand ducats; and having made this agreement, to induce the Lucchese to excuse him to the duke, he consented that they should expel their tyrant.
Antonio del Rosso, as we remarked above, was Siennese ambassador at Lucca, and with the authority of the count he contrived the ruin of Pagolo Guinigi. The heads of the conspiracy were Pierro Cennami and Giovanni da Chivizzano. The count resided upon the Serchio, at a short distance from the city, and with him was Lanzilao, the son of Pagolo. The conspirators, about forty in number, went armed at night in search of Pagolo, who, on hearing the noise they made, came toward them quite astonished, and demanded the cause of their visit; to which Piero Cennami replied, that they had long been governed by him, and led about against the enemy, to die either by hunger or the sword, but were resolved to govern themselves for the future, and demanded the keys of the city and the treasure. Pagolo said the treasure was consumed, but the keys and himself were in their power; he only begged that as his command had begun and continued without bloodshed, it might conclude in the same manner. Count Francesco conducted Pagolo and his son to the duke, and they afterward died in prison.
The departure of the count having delivered Lucca from her tyrant, and the Florentines from their fear of his soldiery, the former prepared for her defense, and the latter resumed the siege. They appointed the count of Urbino to conduct their forces, and he pressed the Lucchese so closely, that they were again compelled to ask the assistance of the duke, who dispatched Niccolo Piccinino, under the same pretense as he previously sent Count Francesco. The Florentine forces met him on his approach to Lucca, and at the passage of the Serchio a battle ensued, in which they were routed, the commissary with a few of his men escaping to Pisa. This defeat filled the Florentines with dismay, and as the enterprise had been undertaken with the entire approbation of the great body of the people, they did not know whom to find fault with, and therefore railed against those who had been appointed to the management of the war, reviving the charges made against Rinaldo. They were, however, more severe against Giovanni Guicciardini than any other, declaring that if he had wished, he might have put a period to the war at the departure of Count Francesco, but that he had been bribed with money, for he had sent home a large sum, naming the party who had been intrusted to bring it, and the persons to whom it had been delivered. These complaints and accusations were carried to so great a length that the captain of the people, induced by the public voice, and pressed by the party opposed to the war, summoned him to trial. Giovanni appeared, though full of indignation. However his friends, from regard to their own character, adopted such a course with the Capitano as induced him to abandon the inquiry.
After this victory, the Lucchese not only recovered the places that had belonged to them, but occupied all the country of Pisa except Beintina, Calcinaja, Livorno, and Librafatta; and, had not a conspiracy been discovered that was formed in Pisa, they would have secured that city also. The Florentines again prepared for battle, and appointed Micheletto, a pupil of Sforza, to be their leader. The duke, on the other hand, followed up this victory, and that he might bring a greater power against the Florentines, induced the Genoese, the Siennese, and the governor of Piombino, to enter into a league for the defense of Lucca, and to engage Niccolo Piccinino to conduct their forces. Having by this step declared his design, the Venetians and the Florentines renewed their league, and the war was carried on openly in Tuscany and Lombardy, in each of which several battles were fought with variety of fortune. At length, both sides being wearied out, they came to terms for the cessation of hostilities, in May, 1433. By this arrangement the Florentines, Lucchese, and Siennese, who had each occupied many fortresses belonging to the others, gave them all up, and each party resumed its original possessions.
Cosmo de' Medici, his character and mode of proceedings -- The greatness of Cosmo excites the jealousy of the citizens -- The opinion of Niccolo da Uzzano -- Scandalous divisions of the Florentines -- Death of Niccolo da Uzzano -- Bernardo Guadagni, Gonfalonier, adopts measures against Cosmo -- Cosmo arrested in the palace -- He is apprehensive of attempts against his life.
During the war the malignant humors of the city were in constant activity. Cosmo de' Medici, after the death of Giovanni, engaged more earnestly in public affairs, and conducted himself with more zeal and boldness in regard to his friends than his father had done, so that those who rejoiced at Giovanni's death, finding what the son was likely to become, perceived they had no cause for exultation. Cosmo was one of the most prudent of men; of grave and courteous demeanor, extremely liberal and humane. He never attempted anything against parties, or against rulers, but was bountiful to all; and by the unwearied generosity of his disposition, made himself partisans of all ranks of the citizens. This mode of proceeding increased the difficulties of those who were in the government, and Cosmo himself hoped that by its pursuit he might be able to live in Florence as much respected and as secure as any other citizen; or if the ambition of his adversaries compelled him to adopt a different course, arms and the favor of his friends would enable him to become more so. Averardo de' Medici and Puccio Pucci were greatly instrumental in the establishment of his power; the former by his boldness, the latter by unusual prudence and sagacity, contributed to his aggrandizement. Indeed the advice of wisdom of Puccio were so highly esteemed, that Cosmo's party was rather distinguished by the name of Puccio than by his own.
By this divided city the enterprise against Lucca was undertaken; and the bitterness of party spirit, instead of being abated, increased. Although the friends of Cosmo had been in favor of it, many of the adverse faction were sent to assist in the management, as being men of greater influence in the state. Averardo de' Medici and the rest being unable to prevent this, endeavored with all their might to calumniate them; and when any unfavorable circumstance occurred (and there were many), fortune and the exertions of the enemy were never supposed to be the causes, but solely the want of capacity in the commissary. This disposition aggravated the offenses of Astorre Gianni; this excited the indignation of Rinaldo degli Albizzi, and made him resign his commission without leave; this, too, compelled the captain of the people to require the appearance of Giovanni Guicciardini, and from this arose all the other charges which were made against the magistrates and the commissaries. Real evils were magnified, unreal ones feigned, and the true and the false were equally believed by the people, who were almost universally their foes.
All these events and extraordinary modes of proceeding were perfectly known to Niccolo da Uzzano and the other leaders of the party; and they had often consulted together for the purpose of finding a remedy, but without effect; though they were aware of the danger of allowing them to increase, and the great difficulty that would attend any attempt to remove or abate them. Niccolo da Uzzano was the earliest to take offense; and while the war was proceeding without, and these troubles within, Niccolo Barbadoro desirous of inducing him to consent to the ruin of Cosmo, waited upon him at his house; and finding him alone in his study, and very pensive, endeavored, with the best reasons he could advance, to persuade him to agree with Rinaldo on Cosmo's expulsion. Niccolo da Uzzano replied as follows: "It would be better for thee and thy house, as well as for our republic, if thou and those who follow thee in this opinion had beards of silver instead of gold, as is said of thee; for advice proceeding from the hoary head of long experience would be wiser and of greater service to all. It appears to me, that those who talk of driving Cosmo out of Florence would do well to consider what is their strength, and what that of Cosmo. You have named one party, that of the nobility, the other that of the plebeians. If the fact corresponded with the name, the victory would still be most uncertain, and the example of the ancient nobility of this city, who were destroyed by the plebeians, ought rather to impress us with fear than with hope. We have, however, still further cause for apprehension from the division of our party, and the union of our adversaries. In the first place, Neri di Gino and Nerone di Nigi, two of our principal citizens, have never so fully declared their sentiments as to enable us to determine whether they are most our friends our those of our opponents. There are many families, even many houses, divided; many are opposed to us through envy of brothers or relatives. I will recall to your recollection two or three of the most important; you may think of the others at your leisure. Of the sons of Maso degli Albizzi, Luca, from envy of Rinaldo, has thrown himself into their hands. In the house of Guicciardini, of the sons of Luigi, Piero is the enemy of Giovanni and in favor of our adversaries. Tommaso and Niccolo Soderini openly oppose us on account of their hatred of their uncle Francesco. So that if we consider well what we are, and what our enemies, I cannot see why we should be called NOBLE any more than they. If it is because they are followed by the plebeians, we are in a worse condition on that account, and they in a better; for were it to come either to arms or to votes, we should not be able to resist them. True it is, we still preserve our dignity, our precedence, the priority of our position, but this arises from the former reputation of the government, which has now continued fifty years; and whenever we come to the proof, or they discover our weakness we shall lose it. If you were to say, the justice of our cause ought to augment our influence and diminish theirs I answer, that this justice requires to be perceived and believed by others as well as by ourselves, but this is not the case; for the justice of our cause is wholly founded upon our suspicion that Cosmo designs to make himself prince of the city. And although we entertain this suspicion and suppose it to be correct, others have it not; but what is worse, they charge us with the very design of which we accuse him. Those actions of Cosmo which lead us to suspect him are, that he lends money indiscriminately, and not to private persons only, but to the public; and not to Florentines only, but to the condottieri, the soldiers of fortune. Besides, he assists any citizen who requires magisterial aid; and, by the universal interest he possesses in the city, raises first one friend and then another to higher grades of honor. Therefore, to adduce our reasons for expelling him, would be to say that he is kind, generous, liberal, and beloved by all. Now tell me, what law is there which forbids, disapproves, or condemns men for being pious, liberal, and benevolent? And though they are all modes adopted by those who aim at sovereignty, they are not believed to be such, nor have we sufficient power to make them to be so esteemed; for our conduct has robbed us of confidence, and the city, naturally partial and (having always lived in faction) corrupt, cannot lend its attention to such charges. But even if we were successful in an attempt to expel him (which might easily happen under a favorable Signory), how could we (being surrounded by his innumerable friends, who would constantly reproach us, and ardently desire to see him again in the city) prevent his return? It would be impossible for they being so numerous, and having the good will of all upon their side, we should never be secure from them. And as many of his first discovered friends as you might expel, so many enemies would you make, so that in a short time he would return, and the result would be simply this, that we had driven him out a good man and he had returned to us a bad one; for his nature would be corrupted by those who recalled him, and he, being under obligation, could not oppose them. Or should you design to put him to death, you could not attain your purpose with the magistrates, for his wealth, and the corruption of your minds, will always save him. But let us suppose him put to death, or that being banished, he did not return, I cannot see how the condition of our republic would be ameliorated; for if we relieve her from Cosmo, we at once make her subject to Rinaldo, and it is my most earnest desire that no citizen may ever, in power and authority, surpass the rest. But if one of these must prevail, I know of no reason that should make me prefer Rinaldo to Cosmo. I shall only say, may God preserve the city from any of her citizens usurping the sovereignty, but if our sins have deserved this, in mercy save us from Rinaldo. I pray thee, therefore, do not advise the adoption of a course on every account pernicious, nor imagine that, in union with a few, you would be able to oppose the will of the many; for the citizens, some from ignorance and others from malice, are ready to sell the republic at any time, and fortune has so much favored them, that they have found a purchaser. Take my advice then; endeavor to live moderately; and with regard to liberty, you will find as much cause for suspicion in our party as in that of our adversaries. And when troubles arise, being of neither side, you will be agreeable to both, and you will thus provide for your own comfort and do no injury to any."
These words somewhat abated the eagerness of Barbadoro, so that tranquillity prevailed during the war with Lucca. But this being ended, and Niccolo da Uzzano dead, the city being at peace and under no restraint, unhealthy humors increased with fearful rapidity. Rinaldo, considering himself now the leader of the party, constantly entreated and urged every citizen whom he thought likely to be Gonfalonier, to take up arms and deliver the country from him who, from the malevolence of a few and the ignorance of the multitude, was inevitably reducing it to slavery. These practices of Rinaldo, and those of the contrary side, kept the city full of apprehension, so that whenever a magistracy was created, the numbers of each party composing it were made publicly known, and upon drawing for the Signory the whole city was aroused. Every case brought before the magistrates, however trivial, was made a subject of contention among them. Secrets were divulged, good and evil alike became objects of favor and opposition, the benevolent and the wicked were alike assailed, and no magistrate fulfilled the duties of his office with integrity.
In this state of confusion, Rinaldo, anxious to abate the power of Cosmo, and knowing that Bernardo Guadagni was likely to become Gonfalonier, paid his arrears of taxes, that he might not, by being indebted to the public, be incapacitated for holding the office. The drawing soon after took place, and fortune, opposed to our welfare, caused Bernardo to be appointed for the months of September and October. Rinaldo immediately waited upon him, and intimated how much the party of the nobility, and all who wished for repose, rejoiced to find he had attained that dignity; that it now rested with him to act in such a manner as to realize their pleasing expectations. He then enlarged upon the danger of disunion, and endeavored to show that there was no means of attaining the blessing of unity but by the destruction of Cosmo, for he alone, by the popularity acquired with his enormous wealth, kept them depressed; that he was already so powerful, that if not hindered, he would soon become prince, and that it was the part of a good citizen, in order to prevent such a calamity, to assemble the people in the piazza, and restore liberty to his country. Rinaldo then reminded the new Gonfalonier how Salvestro de' Medici was able, though unjustly, to restrain the power of the Guelphs, to whom, by the blood of their ancestors, shed in its cause, the government rightly belonged; and argued that what he was able unjustly to accomplish against so many, might surely be easily performed with justice in its favor against one! He encouraged him with the assurance that their friends would be ready in arms to support him; that he need not regard the plebeians, who adored Cosmo, since their assistance would be of no greater avail than Giorgio Scali had found it on a similar occasion; and that with regard to his wealth, no apprehension was necessary, for when he was under the power of the Signory, his riches would be so too. In conclusion, he averred that this course would unite and secure the republic, and crown the Gonfalonier with glory. Bernardo briefly replied, that he thought it necessary to act exactly as Rinaldo had advised, and that as the time was suitable for action, he should provide himself with forces, being assured from what Rinaldo had said, he would be supported by his colleagues.
Bernardo entered upon the duties of his office, prepared his followers, and having concerted with Rinaldo, summoned Cosmo, who, though many friends dissuaded him from it, obeyed the call, trusting more to his own innocence than to the mercy of the Signory. As soon as he had entered the palace he was arrested. Rinaldo, with a great number of armed men, and accompanied by nearly the whole of his party, proceeded to the piazza, when the Signory assembled the people, and created a Balia of two hundred persons for the reformation of the city. With the least possible delay they entered upon the consideration of reform, and of the life or death of Cosmo. Many wished him to be banished, others to be put to death, and several were silent, either from compassion toward him or for fear of the rest, so that these differences prevented them from coming to any conclusion.
There is an apartment in the tower of the palace which occupies the whole of one floor, and is called the Alberghettino, in which Cosmo was confined, under the charge of Federigo Malavolti. In this place, hearing the assembly of the Councils, the noise of arms which proceeded from the piazza, and the frequent ringing of the bell to assemble the Balia, he was greatly apprehensive for his safety, but still more less his private enemies should cause him to be put to death in some unusual manner. He scarcely took any food, so that in four days he ate only a small quantity of bread, Federigo, observing his anxiety, said to him, "Cosmo, you are afraid of being poisoned, and are evidently hastening your end with hunger. You wrong me if you think I would be a party to such an atrocious act. I do not imagine your life to be in much danger, since you have so many friends both within the palace and without; but if you should eventually lose it, be assured they will use some other medium than myself for that purpose, for I will never imbue my hands in the blood of any, still less in yours, who never injured me; therefore cheer up, take some food, and preserve your life for your friends and your country. And that you may do so with greater assurance, I will partake of your meals with you." These words were of great relief to Cosmo, who, with tears in his eyes, embraced and kissed Federigo, earnestly thanking him for so kind and affectionate conduct, and promising, if ever the opportunity were given him, he would not be ungrateful.
Cosmo is banished to Padua -- Rinaldo degli Albizzi attempts to restore the nobility -- New disturbances occasioned by Rinaldo degli Albizzi -- Rinaldo takes arms against the Signory -- His designs are disconcerted -- Pope Eugenius in Florence -- He endeavors to reconcile the parties -- Cosmo is recalled -- Rinaldo and his party banished -- Glorious return of Cosmo.
Cosmo in some degree recovered his spirits, and while the citizens were disputing about him, Federigo, by way of recreation, brought an acquaintance of the Gonfalonier to take supper with him, an amusing and facetious person, whose name was Il Farnagaccio. The repast being nearly over, Cosmo, who thought he might turn this visit to advantage, for he knew the man very intimately, gave a sign to Federigo to leave the apartment, and he, guessing the cause, under pretense of going for something that was wanted on the table, left them together. Cosmo, after a few friendly expressions addressed to Il Farnagaccio, gave him a small slip of paper, and desired him to go to the director of the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, for one thousand one hundred ducats; he was to take the hundred for himself, and carry the thousand to the Gonfalonier, and beg that he would take some suitable occasion of coming to see him. Farnagaccio undertook the commission, the money was paid, Bernardo became more humane, and Cosmo was banished to Padua, contrary to the wish of Rinaldo, who earnestly desired his death. Averardo and many others of the house of Medici were also banished, and with them Puccio and Giovanni Pucci. To silence those who were dissatisfied with the banishment of Cosmo, they endowed with the power of a Balia, the Eight of War and the Capitano of the People. After his sentence, Cosmo on the third of October, 1433, came before the Signory, by whom the boundary to which he was restricted was specified; and they advised him to avoid passing it, unless he wished them to proceed with greater severity both against himself and his property. Cosmo received his sentence with a cheerful look, assuring the Signory that wherever they determined to send him, he would willingly remain. He earnestly begged, that as they had preserved his life they would protect it, for he knew there were many in the piazza who were desirous to take it; and assured them, that wherever he might be, himself and his means were entirely at the service of the city, the people, and the Signory. He was respectfully attended by the Gonfalonier, who retained him in the palace till night, then conducted him to his own house to supper, and caused him to be escorted by a strong armed force to his place of banishment. Wherever the cavalcade passed, Cosmo was honorably received, and was publicly visited by the Venetians, not as an exile, but with all the respect due to one in the highest station.
Florence, widowed of so great a citizen, one so generally beloved, seemed to be universally sunk in despondency; victors and the vanquished were alike in fear. Rinaldo, as if inspired with a presage of his future calamities, in order not to appear deficient to himself or his party, assembled many citizens, his friends, and informed them that he foresaw their approaching ruin for having allowed themselves to be overcome by the prayers, the tears, and the money of their enemies; and that they did not seem aware they would soon themselves have to entreat and weep, when their prayers would not be listened to, or their tears excite compassion; and that of the money received, they would have to restore the principal, and pay the interest in tortures, exile, and death; that it would have been much better for them to have done nothing than to have left Cosmo alive, and his friends in Florence; for great offenders ought either to remain untouched, or be destroyed; that there was now no remedy but to strengthen themselves in the city, so that upon the renewed attempts of their enemies, which would soon take place, they might drive them out with arms, since they had not sufficient civil authority to expel them. The remedy to be adopted, he said, was one that he had long before advocated, which was to regain the friendship of the grandees, restoring and conceding to them all the honors of the city, and thus make themselves strong with that party, since their adversaries had joined the plebeians. That by this means they would become the more powerful side, for they would possess greater energy, more comprehensive talent and an augmented share of influence; and that if this last and only remedy were not adopted, he knew not what other means could be made use of to preserve the government among so many enemies, or prevent their own ruin and that of the city.
Mariotto Baldovinetti, one of the assembly, was opposed to this plan, on account of the pride and insupportable nature of the nobility; and said, that it would be folly to place themselves again under such inevitable tyranny for the sake of avoiding imaginary dangers from the plebeians. Rinaldo, finding his advice unfavorably received, vexed at his own misfortune and that of his party, imputed the whole to heaven itself, which had resolved upon it, rather than to human ignorance and blunders. In this juncture of affairs, no remedial measure being attempted, a letter was found written by Agnolo Acciajuoli to Cosmo, acquainting him with the disposition of the city in his favor, and advising him, if possible, to excite a war, and gain the friendship of Neri di Gino; for he imagined the city to be in want of money, and as she would not find anyone to serve her, the remembrance of him would be revived in the minds of the citizens, and they would desire his return; and that if Neri were detached from Rinaldo, the party of the latter would be so weakened, as to be unable to defend themselves. This letter coming to the hands of the magistrates, Agnolo was taken, put to the torture, and sent into exile. This example, however, did not at all deter Cosmo's party.
It was now almost a year since Cosmo had been banished, and the end of August, 1434, being come, Niccolo di Cocco was drawn Gonfalonier for the two succeeding months, and with him eight signors, all partisans of Cosmo. This struck terror into Rinaldo and his party; and as it is usual for three days to elapse before the new Signory assume the magistracy and the old resign their authority, Rinaldo again called together the heads of his party. He endeavored to show them their certain and immediate danger, and that their only remedy was to take arms, and cause Donato Velluti, who was yet Gonfalonier, to assemble the people in the piazza and create a Balia. He would then deprive the new Signory of the magistracy, appoint another, burn the present balloting purses, and by means of a new Squittini, provide themselves with friends. Many thought this course safe and requisite; others, that it was too violent, and likely to be attended with great evil. Among those who disliked it was Palla Strozzi, a peaceable, gentle, and humane person, better adapted for literary pursuits than for restraining a party, or opposing civil strife. He said that bold and crafty resolutions seem promising at their commencement, but are afterward found difficult to execute, and generally pernicious at their conclusion; that he thought the fear of external wars (the duke's forces being upon the confines of Romagna), would occupy the minds of the Signory more than internal dissensions; but, still, if any attempt should be made, and it could not take place unnoticed, they would have sufficient time to take arms, and adopt whatever measures might be found necessary for the common good, which being done upon necessity, would occasion less excitement among the people and less danger to themselves. It was therefore concluded, that the new Signory should come in; that their proceedings should be watched, and if they were found attempting anything against the party, each should take arms, and meet in the piazza of San Pulinari, situated near the palace, and whence they might proceed wherever it was found necessary. Having come to this conclusion, Rinaldo's friends separated.
The new Signory entered upon their office, and the Gonfalonier, in order to acquire reputation, and deter those who might intend to oppose him, sent Donato Velluti, his predecessor, to prison, upon the charge of having applied the public money to his own use. He then endeavored to sound his colleagues with respect to Cosmo: seeing them desirous of his return, he communicated with the leaders of the Medici party, and, by their advice, summoned the hostile chiefs, Rinaldo degli Albizzi, Ridolfo Peruzzi, and Niccolo Barbadoro. After this citation, Rinaldo thought further delay would be dangerous: he therefore left his house with a great number of armed men, and was soon joined by Ridolfo Peruzzi and Niccolo Barbadoro. The force accompanying them was composed of several citizens and a great number of disbanded soldiers then in Florence: and all assembled according to appointment in the piazza of San Pulinari. Palla Strozzi and Giovanni Guicciardini, though each had assembled a large number of men, kept in their houses; and therefore Rinaldo sent a messenger to request their attendance and to reprove their delay. Giovanni replied, that he should lend sufficient aid against their enemies, if by remaining at home he could prevent his brother Piero from going to the defense of the palace. After many messages Palla came to San Pulinari on horseback, accompanied by two of his people on foot, and unarmed. Rinaldo, on meeting him, sharply reproved him for his negligence, declaring that his refusal to come with the others arose either from defect of principle or want of courage; both of which charges should be avoided by all who wished to preserve such a character as he had hitherto possessed; and that if he thought this abominable conduct to his party would induce their enemies when victorious to spare him from death or exile, he deceived himself; but for himself (Rinaldo) whatever might happen, he had the consolation of knowing, that previously to the crisis he had never neglected his duty in council, and that when it occurred he had used every possible exertion to repel it with arms; but that Palla and the others would experience aggravated remorse when they considered they had upon three occasions betrayed their country; first when they saved Cosmo; next when they disregarded his advice; and now the third time by not coming armed in her defense according to their engagement. To these reproaches Palla made no reply audible to those around, but, muttering something as he left them, returned to his house.
The Signory, knowing Rinaldo and his party had taken arms, finding themselves abandoned, caused the palace to be shut up, and having no one to consult they knew not what course to adopt. However, Rinaldo, by delaying his coming to the piazza, having waited in expectation of forces which did not join him, lost the opportunity of victory, gave them courage to provide for their defense, and allowed many others to join them, who advised that means should be used to induce their adversaries to lay down their arms. Thereupon, some of the least suspected, went on the part of the Signory to Rinaldo, and said, they did not know what occasion they had given his friends for thus assembling in arms; that they never had any intention of offending him, and if they had spoken of Cosmo, they had no design of recalling him; so if their fears were thus occasioned they might at once be dispelled, for that if they came to the palace they would be graciously received, and all their complaints attended to. These words produced no change in Rinaldo's purpose; he bade them provide for their safety by resigning their offices, and said that then the government of the city would be reorganized, for the mutual benefit of all.
It rarely happens, where authorities are equal and opinions contrary, that any good resolution is adopted. Ridolfo Peruzzi, moved by the discourse of the citizens, said, that all he desired was to prevent the return of Cosmo, and this being granted to them seemed a sufficient victory; nor would he, to obtain a greater, fill the city with blood; he would therefore obey the Signory; and accordingly went with his people to the palace, where he was received with a hearty welcome. Thus Rinaldo's delay at San Pulinari, Palla's want of courage, and Ridolfo's desertion, deprived their party of all chance of success; while the ardor of the citizens abated, and the pope's authority did not contribute to its revival.
Pope Eugenius was at this time at Florence, having been driven from Rome by the people. These disturbances coming to his knowledge, he thought it a duty suitable to his pastoral office to appease them, and sent the patriarch Giovanni Vitelleschi, Rinaldo's most intimate friend, to entreat the latter to come to an interview with him, as he trusted he had sufficient influence with the Signory to insure his safety and satisfaction, without injury or bloodshed to the citizens. By his friend's persuasion, Rinaldo proceeded with all his followers to Santa Maria Nuova, where the pope resided. Eugenius gave him to understand, that the Signory had empowered him to settle the differences between them, and that all would be arranged to his satisfaction, if he laid down his arms. Rinaldo, having witnessed Palla's want of zeal, and the fickleness of Ridolfo Peruzzi, and no better course being open to him, placed himself in the pope's hands, thinking that at all events the authority of his holiness would insure his safety. Eugenius then sent word to Niccolo Barbadoro, and the rest who remained without, that they were to lay down their arms, for Rinaldo was remaining with the pontiff, to arrange terms of agreement with the signors; upon which they immediately dispersed, and laid aside their weapons.
The Signory, seeing their adversaries disarmed, continued to negotiate an arrangement by means of the pope; but at the same time sent secretly to the mountains of Pistoia for infantry, which, with what other forces they could collect, were brought into Florence by night. Having taken possession of all the strong positions in the city, they assembled the people in the piazza and created a new balia, which, without delay, restored Cosmo and those who had been exiled with him to their country; and banished, of the opposite party, Rinaldo degli Albizzi, Ridolfo Peruzzi, Niccolo Barbadoro, and Palla Strozzi, with so many other citizens, that there were few places in Italy which did not contain some, and many others beyond her limits were full of them. By this and similar occurrences, Florence was deprived of men of worth, and of much wealth and industry.
The pope, seeing such misfortunes befall those who by his entreaties were induced to lay down their arms, was greatly dissatisfied, and condoled with Rinaldo on the injuries he had received through his confidence in him, but advised him to be patient, and hope for some favorable turn of fortune. Rinaldo replied, "The want of confidence in those who ought to have trusted me, and the great trust I have reposed in you, have ruined both me and my party. But I blame myself principally for having thought that you, who were expelled from your own country, could preserve me in mine. I have had sufficient experience of the freaks of fortune; and as I have never trusted greatly to prosperity, I shall suffer less inconvenience from adversity; and I know that when she pleases she can become more favorable. But if she should never change, I shall not be very desirous of living in a city in which individuals are more powerful than the laws; for that country alone is desirable in which property and friends may be safely enjoyed, not one where they may easily be taken from us, and where friends, from fear of losing their property, are compelled to abandon each other in their greatest need. Besides, it has always been less painful to good men to hear of the misfortunes of their country than to witness them; and an honorable exile is always held in greater esteem than slavery at home." He then left the pope, and, full of indignation, blaming himself, his own measures, and the coldness of his friends, went into exile.
Cosmo, on the other hand, being informed of his recall, returned to Florence; and it has seldom occurred that any citizen, coming home triumphant from victory, was received by so vast a concourse of people, or such unqualified demonstrations of regard as he was upon his return from banishment; for by universal consent he was hailed as the benefactor of the people, and the FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY.
[NOTE: this text was typed up from a Universal Classics Library edition, published in 1901 by W. Walter Dunne, New York and London. The translator was not named.]