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    Chapter 18

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    Chapter 19
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    The war of the Florentines against the pope's legate, and the
    causes of it--League against the pope--The censures of the pope
    disregarded in Florence--The city is divided into two factions,
    the one the Capitani di Parte, the other of the eight
    commissioners of the war--Measures adopted by the Guelphic party
    against their adversaries--The Guelphs endeavor to prevent
    Salvestro de Medici from being chosen Gonfalonier--Salvestro de
    Medici Gonfalonier--His law against the nobility, and in favor of
    the Ammoniti--The /Collegi/ disapprove of the law--Salvestro
    addresses the council in its favor--The law is passed--
    Disturbances in Florence.

    The papal chair was occupied by Gregory XI. He, like his predecessors,
    residing at Avignon, governed Italy by legates, who, proud and
    avaricious, oppressed many of the cities. One of these legates, then
    at Bologna, taking advantage of a great scarcity of food at Florence,
    endeavored to render himself master of Tuscany, and not only withheld
    provisions from the Florentines, but in order to frustrate their hopes
    of the future harvest, upon the approach of spring, attacked them with
    a large army, trusting that being famished and unarmed, he should find
    them an easy conquest. He might perhaps have been successful, had not
    his forces been mercenary and faithless, and, therefore, induced to
    abandon the enterprise for the sum of 130,000 florins, which the
    Florentines paid them. People may go to war when they will, but cannot
    always withdraw when they like. This contest, commenced by the
    ambition of the legate, was sustained by the resentment of the
    Florentines, who, entering into a league with Bernabo of Milan, and
    with the cities hostile to the church, appointed eight citizens for
    the administration of it, giving them authority to act without appeal,
    and to expend whatever sums they might judge expedient, without
    rendering an account of the outlay.

    This war against the pontiff, although Uguccione was now dead,
    reanimated those who had followed the party of the Ricci, who, in
    opposition to the Albizzi, had always favored Bernabo and opposed the
    church, and this, the rather, because the eight commissioners of war
    were all enemies of the Guelphs. This occasioned Piero degli Albizzi,
    Lapo da Castiglionchio, Carlo Strozzi, and others, to unite themselves
    more closely in opposition to their adversaries. The eight carried on
    the war, and the others admonished during three years, when the death
    of the pontiff put an end to the hostilities, which had been carried
    on which so much ability, and with such entire satisfaction to the
    people, that at the end of each year the eight were continued in
    office, and were called /Santi/, or holy, although they had set
    ecclesiastical censures at defiance, plundered the churches of their
    property, and compelled the priests to perform divine service. So much
    did citizens at that time prefer the good of their country to their
    ghostly consolations, and thus showed the church, that if as her
    friends they had defended, they could as enemies depress her; for the
    whole of Romagna, the Marches, and Perugia were excited to rebellion.

    Yet while this war was carried on against the pope, they were unable
    to defend themselves against the captains of the parts and their
    faction; for the insolence of the Guelphs against the eight attained
    such a pitch, that they could not restrain themselves from abusive
    behavior, not merely against some of the most distinguished citizens,
    but even against the eight themselves; and the captains of the parts
    conducted themselves with such arrogance, that they were feared more
    than the Signory. Those who had business with them treated them with
    greater reverence, and their court was held in higher estimation: so
    that no ambassador came to Florence, without commission to the

    Pope Gregory being dead, and the city freed from external war; there
    still prevailed great confusion within; for the audacity of the
    Guelphs was insupportable, and as no available mode of subduing them
    presented itself, it was thought that recourse must be had to arms, to
    determine which party was the strongest. With the Guelphs were all the
    ancient nobility, and the greater part of the most popular leaders, of
    which number, as already remarked, were Lapo, Piero, and Carlo. On the
    other side, were all the lower orders, the leaders of whom were the
    eight commissioners of war, Giorgio Scali and Tommaso Strozzi, and
    with them the Ricci, Alberti, and Medici. The rest of the multitude,
    as most commonly happens, joined the discontented party.

    It appeared to the heads of the Guelphic faction that their enemies
    would be greatly strengthened, and themselves in considerable danger
    in case a hostile Signory should resolve on their subjugation.
    Desirous, therefore, of being prepared against this calamity, the
    leaders of the party assembled to take into consideration the state of
    the city and that of their own friends in particular, and found the
    /ammoniti/ so numerous and so great a difficulty, that the whole city
    was excited against them on this account. They could not devise any
    other remedy than, that as their enemies had deprived them of all the
    offices of honor, they should banish their opponents from the city,
    take possession of the palace of the Signory, and bring over the whole
    state to their own party; in imitation of the Guelphs of former times,
    who found no safety in the city, till they had driven all their
    adversaries out of it. They were unanimous upon the main point, but
    did not agree upon the time of carrying it into execution. It was in
    the month of April, in the year 1378, when Lapo, thinking delay
    inadvisable, expressed his opinion, that procrastination was in the
    highest degree perilous to themselves; as in the next Signory,
    Salvestro de' Medici would very probably be elected Gonfalonier, and
    they all knew he was opposed to their party. Piero degli Albizzi, on
    the other hand, thought it better to defer, since they would require
    forces, which could not be assembled without exciting observation, and
    if they were discovered, they would incur great risk. He thereupon
    judged it preferable to wait till the approaching feast of St. John on
    which, being the most solemn festival of the city, vast multitudes
    would be assembled, among whom they might conceal whatever numbers
    they pleased. To obviate their fears of Salvestro, he was to be
    ADMONISHED, and if this did not appear likely to be effectual, they
    would "ADMONISH" one of the Colleague of his quarter, and upon
    redrawing, as the ballot-boxes would be nearly empty, chance would
    very likely occasion that either he or some associate of his would be
    drawn, and he would thus be rendered incapable of sitting as
    Gonfalonier. They therefore came to the conclusion proposed by Piero,
    though Lapo consented reluctantly, considering the delay dangerous,
    and that, as no opportunity can be in all respects suitable, he who
    waits for the concurrence of every advantage, either never makes an
    attempt, or, if induced to do so, is most frequently foiled. They
    "admonished" the Colleague, but did not prevent the appointment of
    Salvestro, for the design was discovered by the Eight, who took care
    to render all attempts upon the drawing futile.

    Salvestro Alammano de' Medici was therefore drawn Gonfalonier, and,
    being one of the noblest popular families, he could not endure that
    the people should be oppressed by a few powerful persons. Having
    resolved to put an end to their insolence, and perceiving the middle
    classes favorably disposed, and many of the highest of the people on
    his side, he communicated his design to Benedetto Alberti, Tommaso
    Strozzi, and Georgio Scali, who all promised their assistance. They,
    therefore, secretly draw up a law which had for its object to revive
    the restrictions upon the nobility, to retrench the authority of the
    Capitani di Parte, and recall the /ammoniti/ to their dignity. In
    order to attempt and obtain their ends, at one and the same time,
    having to consult, first the Colleagues and then the Councils,
    Salvestro being Provost (which office for the time makes its possessor
    almost prince of the city), he called together the Colleagues and the
    Council on the same morning, and the Colleagues being apart, he
    proposed the law prepared by himself and his friends, which, being a
    novelty, encountered in their small number so much opposition, that he
    was unable to have it passed.

    Salvestro, seeing his first attempt likely to fail, pretended to leave
    the room for a private reason, and, without being perceived, went
    immediately to the Council, and taking a lofty position from which he
    could be both seen and heard, said:--"That considering himself
    invested with the office of Gonfalonier, not so much to preside in
    private cases (for which proper judges were appointed, who have their
    regular sittings), as to guard the state, correct the insolence of the
    powerful, and ameliorate those laws by the influence of which the
    republic was being ruined, he had carefully attended to both these
    duties, and to his utmost ability provided for them, but found the
    perversity of some so much opposed to his just designs as to deprive
    him of all opportunity of doing good, and them not only of the means
    of assisting him with their counsel, but even hearing him. Therefore
    finding he no longer contributed either to the benefit of the republic
    or of the people generally, he could not perceive any reason for his
    longer holding the magistracy, of which he was either undeserving, or
    others thought him so, and would therefore retire to his house, that
    the people might appoint another in his stead, who would either have
    greater virtue or better fortune than himself." And having said this,
    he left the room as if to return home.

    Those of the council who were in the secret, and others desirous of
    novelty, raised a tumult, at which the Signory and the Colleagues came
    together, and finding the Gonfalonier leaving them, entreatingly and
    authoritatively detained him, and obliged him to return to the council
    room, which was now full of confusion. Many of the noble citizens were
    threatened in opprobrious language; and an artificer seized Carlo
    Strozzi by the throat, and would undoubtedly have murdered him, but
    was with difficulty prevented by those around. He who made the
    greatest disturbance, and incited the city to violence, was Benedetto
    degli Alberti, who, from a window of the palace, loudly called the
    people to arms; and presently the courtyards were filled with armed
    men, and the Colleagues granted to threats, what they had refused to
    entreaty. The Capitani di Parte had at the same time drawn together a
    great number of citizens to their hall to consult upon the means of
    defending themselves against the orders of the Signors, but when they
    heard the tumult that was raised, and were informed of the course the
    Councils had adopted, each took refuge in his own house.

    Let no one, when raising popular commotions, imagine he can afterward
    control them at his pleasure, or restrain them from proceeding to the
    commission of violence. Salvestro intended to enact his law, and
    compose the city; but it happened otherwise; for the feelings of all
    had become so excited, that they shut up the shops; the citizens
    fortified themselves in their houses; many conveyed their valuable
    property into the churches and monasteries, and everyone seemed to
    apprehend something terrible at hand. The companies of the Arts met,
    and each appointed an additional officer or Syndic; upon which the
    Priors summoned their Colleagues and these Syndics, and consulted a
    whole day how the city might be appeased with satisfaction to the
    different parties; but much difference of opinion prevailed, and no
    conclusion was come to. On the following day the Arts brought forth
    their banners, which the Signory understanding, and being apprehensive
    of evil, called the Council together to consider what course to adopt.
    But scarcely were they met, when the uproar recommenced, and soon the
    ensigns of the Arts, surrounded by vast numbers of armed men, occupied
    the courts. Upon this the Council, to give the Arts and the people
    hope of redress, and free themselves as much as possible from the
    charge of causing the mischief, gave a general power, which in
    Florence is called /Balia/, to the Signors, the Colleagues, the Eight,
    the Capitani di Parte, and to the Syndics of the Arts, to reform the
    government of the city, for the common benefit of all. While this was
    being arranged, a few of the ensigns of the Arts and some of the mob,
    desirous of avenging themselves for the recent injuries they had
    received from the Guelphs, separated themselves from the rest, and
    sacked and burnt the house of Lapo da Castiglionchio, who, when he
    learned the proceedings of the Signory against the Guelphs, and saw
    the people in arms, having no other resource but concealment or
    flight, first took refuge in Santa Croce, and afterward, being
    disguised as a monk, fled into the Casentino, where he was often heard
    to blame himself for having consented to wait till St. John's day,
    before they had made themselves sure of the government. Piero degli
    Albizzi and Carlo Strozzi hid themselves upon the first outbreak of
    the tumult, trusting that when it was over, by the interest of their
    numerous friends and relations, they might remain safely in Florence.

    The house of Lapo being burnt, as mischief begins with difficulty but
    easily increases, many other houses, either through public hatred, or
    private malice, shared the same fate; and the rioters, that they might
    have companions more eager than themselves to assist them in their
    work of plunder, broke open the public prisons, and then sacked the
    monastery of the Agnoli and the convent of S. Spirito, whither many
    citizens had taken their most valuable goods for safety. Nor would the
    public chambers have escaped these destroyers' hands, except out of
    reverence for one of the Signors, who on horseback, and followed by
    many citizens in arms, opposed the rage of the mob.
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