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did worse than oppress liberty, it discredited it. These are the words of the Marquis Capponi, in an able treatise which he contributed some years ago to the Archivio Storico • Italiano, a collection of historical documents edited and annotated by himself and some literary colleagues. To those who have opportunity to study it, we would commend some other remarks in this treatise bearing upon that very curious phenomenon, the survival and increase of a free republican spirit among the Florentines throughout the period of Medicean supremacy, till at the latest moment of the Republic's existence it declared itself with a persistency, a heroic self-sacrifice which render the siege of Florence perhaps the noblest episode in the nation's annals. Twice this craving for. civic independence asserted itself; first, when the Dominican preacher Savonarola came to the head of affairs after Lorenzo's death. Nearly sixty years of Medicean rule had then given men time for reflection, and the Friar found widely spread among his contemporaries an admiration of Venetian institutions, taking shape in the conception of a Grand Council which was to represent all classes of citizens. He also found another instrument to his hand, which was more congenial to his own instincts than any constitutional machinery. The old co-operative element of the popular sovereignty, driven from the state offices, had enshrined itself in the devotional confraternities; and by a singular turn of human sentiment, a sort of religious revivalism was taking hold of people's minds even in sarcastic lightminded Florence. The penitence preachers' were making their mark in a sceptical age.
Savonarola was a man of essentially Italian mind in religion : a moral reformer, not a theological innovator. He was also a man of the people. He saw that the rampant vices of theday were engendered in high places : in adopting the scheme: of the Grand Council as the expression of the popular thought and will, he connected with it the idea of direct theocratic allegiance. His death, brought about by the jealousies and fears of the Church, did not extinguish the theocratic enthusiasm he had inspired, but it weakened it by the loss of an efficient leader; and the Grand Council, without a popular prophet to back it, proved but an awkward instrument of government.
This notable institution, which continued with more or less: modification to be the panacea of patriotic visionaries even after the Republic's final extinction, was taken in idea from. the Maggior Consiglio of Venice; but whereas in the Republic of the Adriatic, citizenship was equivalent to nobility, another VOL. CXLIII. NO. CCXCII.
qualification had to be devised for democratic Florence; and it was ordained that the title of admission to the Grand Council should be membership of any of the families which had been in the greater offices of state, either under the Medici or under the previous free constitution—the beneficed,' as they were called. By this arrangement about three-fourths of the Arti maggiori were admitted, and one-fourth of the Arti minori-a mixture certainly not too democratic: a Senate of eighty members, changeable every half year, was appointed by the Council, whose own members were elected for life, and were nominally as many as two thousand, about half of whom actually took their seats. What the Council wanted to make it efficient, was some concentrated authority to prepare laws and ensure their discussion. An assembly of from one to two thousand members could talk vaguely, but it could hardly debate closely, or decide promptly. The institution of the Gonfalonierate for life, under Piero Soderini, seemed for a short time to supply this want of a vigorous initiative. During the ten years that Soderini held office, · Florence,' says the Marquis, ' was • governed by a better constitution than it had ever previously • possessed. There was no eager strife of parties within her • walls; without, no complicated difficulties to contend with.' Soderini was virtuous and moderate in temper. But the Medici, though without an active party in the city, reaped the advantage of the general relaxation which had come over party feeling. The old fraternities of commerce had decayed ; industry ministered to the luxury of courts rather than to private enterprise; letters depended on the great and their patronage, and had lost their earlier originality ; avere lo Stato' was no longer the partisan passion with the Florentine that it had once been; he liked to have a voice in the Council, but rather by way of fashion and prestige than from any active interest in civic concerns. · Palle * e pane' was a cry which occasionally testified how the flesh-pots of Egypt had left their reminiscences among the people.
When on the re-establishment of the power of the Medici over Florence in 1513, Cardinal Giulio (afterwards Pope Clement VII.) undertook the guardianship of the State for the young Lorenzo, grandson of the Magnificent,' the crafty churchman wished still to give the citizens the show of popular institutions, and invited schemes from theoretic publicists on all hands. Even the remnant of Savonarola's followers were
* Palle, the Medicean party cry, from the armorial bearings of the family.
VII. in 1527, na in execution't that despotisocratic liberties:
allowed to suggest their nostrums. The Grand Council had been abolished on the downfall of Soderini; but the Cardinal a few years later had a design, real or pretended, of restoring this popular institution. One thing the mind of the people seemed set against, and that was any idea of calling the representatives of the old oligarchical party again to the front. The notion of broad representative institutions had been eagerly caught up; and even after the final collapse of the Republic, patriotic visionaries, like Donato Giannotti, continued to discuss the possibility of a Governo misto, in which the Grand Council should represent, not as heretofore, the official or beneficed' families of Florence only, but also the feudal patriciate, the Grandi, so jealously excluded from the privileges of citizenship by the old Constitution.
The sack of Rome, and the imprisonment of Pope Clement VII. in 1527, afforded the last real opportunity for putting patriotic dreams in execution. This time the impulse was very ardent. It was evident that despotism, if now triumphant, would extinguish not only the democratic liberties, but the political independence, of Florence. The first Medici had, at all events, been masters on their own foundation: the new princelings would be vassals of Spain or of the Pope; so much the rule of Leo X, and of Clement VII. had taught the Florentines.
There is a grand simplicity in the Marquis Capponi's narrative of the siege of Florence and the heroic efforts of her last defenders to preserve her liberty. While all Italy looked on with admiration at the dying struggles of the Republic, the complications in which her resistance involved the Pope, seemed as inextricable as they were shameful. I wish Flo‘rence had never existed !' he might well exclaim, in the petulance of despair.
Non fu da quel tempo la professione repubblicana che una • memoria e un sentimento,' says our historian, speaking of the time when Cosmo, son of Giovanni of the Black Bands, became · Grand Duke’ of Florence. Adding shortly afterwards, Ma tutto un popolo educato nei pensieri di libertà, era ' impossibile che di subito si addottrinasse alla ubbidienza; ' mutò la vita, ma l'uomo antico qualche rifugio lo trovava
sempre. And this refuge--which under the first Medicean rule the democratic socialism of the Florentines had found in the religious confraternities—they were now reduced to accept in the literary academies which rapidly extended through Italy. Devotional confraternities also survived, and certain political interests were occasionally mixed up both with them
and with the literary academies. Old traditions, too, long survived. “A hundred years ago,' says the Marquis Capponi,
there were still families calling themselves Guelphs or Ghibel• lines, according as their sympathies inclined them more to • Rome or to Vienna.' (Vol. ii. p. 492.)
And now, leaving the lessons of the Florentine democracy, as such, to be drawn from the facts and remarks already noted, what is the conclusion we arrive at from the political existence of the Republic, as regards the larger fortunes of the Peninsula? Did she, or did she not, advance the cause of national independence? In a geographical and political sense she certainly did not. Her vivacity, her self-will, her indomitable independence, gave her a life apart, and she had not insight to sacrifice that life to wider interests. She was, it cannot be de. nied, a powerful instrument in baffling every attempt to found a united Italy, which the ambition of provincial magnates was from time to time making in blind conformity with the instincts gradually at work in consolidating other nations of Europe. Florence, in conjunction with Venice, took care that no real mastery should be achieved by Naples or by Milan; and prided herself on her own acuteness in inventing the maxim of the balance of power' by which the separate states of the Peninsula were held in jealous division; the consequence of her action being that France and Spain and Germany stepped in and prevented any national kingdom being made for three hundred years to come.
One Florentine thinker there was, deeply versed in political speculations, who, looking farther than his contemporaries of the sixteenth century, breathed a sigh for Italian unity. That thinker was Niccolò Machiavelli: his exhortation to Lorenzo de' Medici at the end of the 'Principe'is too well known to need more than a reference. But as the Marquis Capponi's account of this extraordinary man is one of the most striking and finely worded of his personal notices, we are tempted to enrich our pages with the comparison drawn between him and the Italy of his day, though greatly regretting the inadequacy of any translation to do justice to the forcible and melodious language of the original :
"Nevertheless, in Machiavelli I seem to behold the image and the expression of what Italy was in his time. Of refined and most fertile genius, of dissolute manners, marvellously acute in apprehension, but with deeds not corresponding to his thought; robing himself at one time in the curial toga, but shutting up his real greatness in himself; revelling alternately among plebeian impurities aud courtly infamies ; plunging into the slough of vileness in order to challenge Fortune and make her confess herself ashamed; after long exercise in things of state, ambitious only of serving whoever might happen to rule; admired and reviled, used and neglected; set up as a mark to hit at because he was a master and because he was unhappy; mixed up in political intrigues with princes, he who was greater than any of them-without dignity of character and without inward strength to fortify him; suffering undue insolences, and revenging himself with undue contempts and hatreds. And in political matters he felt as Italy felt; he divined a great end, he revolved high conceptions ; but they were forces abused, greatnesses corrupted, which, desperate from lack of means, lay prone in mire like the Roman eagles in the days of defeat. Nor was religion more extinguished in his heart than it was in the heart of Italy; he revered it as lofty ; as an Italia: he loved it; then, in scorn of the bad government by which he saw it debased, he assailed it with vituperation, and cancelled it from his heart by vice. Such was Machiavelli, and such was Italy !' (Vol. ii. p. 369.)
Tale fu i'Italia! Such was Italy! and now that, after three centuries of servitude and division, she has at last achieved Machiavelli's desire of an independent national being, what is Italy? That she has a soul which has survived all her griefs and kept her existent through all material disintegration, so that the sub-Alpine peninsula can still be great and influential as well as geographically one, is assuredly owing, notwithstanding the isolation of her old statecraft, to the bright intellectual self-consciousness of the Florentine commonwealth, which, abhorring the interposition of the northern feudal element, nurtured the intellectual imagination of her subjects as an original, unfettered prerogative. Let us here cite the words in which the Marquis sums up the case for and against his beloved Republic : Certain it is that the separate peoples of Italy, * coming into existence before the nation had taken form, were • instrumental to keeping her disunited; and of this crime the • people of Florence made itself more guilty than any other, to • future generations ; but who would at this day dare to count • as sin against her or other cities of Italy, that fulness of civic - life and those noblest fecundities of thought from whence the + world derived so much light?
And let us add—now that Italy is a nation, and feels what a nation's ends should be, we may well hope that she will find means of educating politicians of a more exalted type than Machiavelli; in contrast with whose character we turn, for a final quotation, to the Marquis's description, at an earlier page, of a true patriot, the first great historian of the Republic—as Machiavelli was almost her last-in those times of joyous turbulence before the national corruption had set in; and this we do the rather because we may assurelly recognise in it, uncon