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    Chapter 20

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    Chapter 21
    Previous Chapter
    CHAPTER IV

    Proceedings of the plebeians--The demand they make of the Signory
    --They insist that the Signory leave the palace--The Signory leave
    the palace--Michael di Lando Gonfalonier--Complaints and movements
    of the plebeians against Michael di Lando--Michael di Lando
    proceeds against the plebeians and reduces them to order--
    Character of Michael di Lando.

    At daybreak on the 21st of July, there did not appear in the piazza
    above eighty men in arms friendly to the Signory, and not one of the
    Gonfaloniers; for knowing the whole city to be in a state of
    insurrection they were afraid to leave their homes. The first body of
    plebeians that made its appearance was that which had assembled at San
    Pietro Maggiore; but the armed force did not venture to attack them.
    Then came the other multitudes, and finding no opposition, they loudly
    demanded their prisoners from the Signory; and being resolved to have
    them by force if they were not yielded to their threats, they burned
    the house of Luigi Guicciardini; and the Signory, for fear of greater
    mischief, set them at liberty. With this addition to their strength
    they took the Gonfalon of Justice from the bearer, and under the
    shadow of authority which it gave them, burned the houses of many
    citizens, selecting those whose owners had publicly or privately
    excited their hatred. Many citizens, to avenge themselves for private
    injuries, conducted them to the houses of their enemies; for it was
    quite sufficient to insure its destruction, if a single voice from the
    mob called out, "To the house of such a one," or if he who bore the
    Gonfalon took the road toward it. All the documents belonging to the
    woolen trade were burned, and after the commission of much violence,
    by way of associating it with something laudable, Salvestro de Medici
    and sixty-three other citizens were made knights, among whom were
    Benedetto and Antonio degli Alberti, Tommaso Strozzi and others
    similarly their friends; though many received the honor against their
    wills. It was a remarkable peculiarity of the riots, that many who had
    their houses burned, were on the same day, and by the same party made
    knights; so close were the kindness and the injury together. This
    circumstance occurred to Luigi Guicciardini, Gonfalonier of Justice.

    In this tremendous uproar, the Signory, finding themselves abandoned
    by their armed force, by the leaders of the arts, and by the
    Gonfaloniers, became dismayed; for none had come to their assistance
    in obedience to orders; and of the sixteen Gonfalons, the ensign of
    the Golden Lion and of the Vaio, under Giovenco della Stufa and
    Giovanni Cambi alone appeared; and these, not being joined by any
    other, soon withdrew. Of the citizens, on the other hand, some, seeing
    the fury of this unreasonable multitude and the palace abandoned,
    remained within doors; others followed the armed mob, in the hope that
    by being among them, they might more easily protect their own houses
    or those of their friends. The power of the plebeians was thus
    increased and that of the Signory weakened. The tumult continued all
    day, and at night the rioters halted near the palace of Stefano,
    behind the church of St. Barnabas. Their number exceeded six thousand,
    and before daybreak they obtained by threats the ensigns of the
    trades, with which and the Gonfalon of Justice, when morning came,
    they proceeded to the palace of the provost, who refusing to surrender
    it to them, they took possession of it by force.

    The Signory, desirous of a compromise, since they could not restrain
    them by force, appointed four of the Colleagues to proceed to the
    palace of the provost, and endeavor to learn what was their intention.
    They found that the leaders of the plebeians, with the Syndics of the
    trades and some citizens, had resolved to signify their wishes to the
    Signory. They therefore returned with four deputies of the plebeians,
    who demanded that the woolen trade should not be allowed to have a
    foreign judge; that there should be formed three new companies of the
    arts; namely, one for the wool combers and dyers, one for the barbers,
    doublet-makers, tailors, and such like, and the third for the lowest
    class of people. They required that the three new arts should furnish
    two Signors; the fourteen minor arts, three; and that the Signory
    should provide a suitable place of assembly for them. They also made
    it a condition that no member of these companies should be expected
    during two years to pay any debt that amounted to less than fifty
    ducats; that the bank should take no interest on loans already
    contracted, and that only the principal sum should be demanded; that
    the condemned and the banished should be forgiven, and the admonished
    should be restored to participation in the honors of government.
    Besides these, many other articles were stipulated in favor of their
    friends, and a requisition made that many of their enemies should be
    exiled and admonished. These demands, though grievous and dishonorable
    to the republic, were for fear of further violence granted, by the
    joint deliberation of the Signors, Colleagues, and Council of the
    people. But in order to give it full effect, it was requisite that the
    Council of the Commune should also give its consent; and, as they
    could not assemble two councils during the same day it was necessary
    to defer it till the morrow. However the trades appeared content, the
    plebeians satisfied; and both promised, that these laws being
    confirmed, every disturbance should cease.

    On the following morning, while the Council of the Commune were in
    consultation, the impatient and volatile multitude entered the piazza,
    under their respective ensigns, with loud and fearful shouts, which
    struck terror into all the Council and Signory; and Guerrente
    Marignolli, one of the latter, influenced more by fear than anything
    else, under pretense of guarding the lower doors, left the chamber and
    fled to his house. He was unable to conceal himself from the
    multitude, who, however, took no notice, except that, upon seeing him,
    they insisted that all the Signors should quit the palace, and
    declared that if they refused to comply, their houses should be burned
    and their families put to death.

    The law had now been passed; the Signors were in their own apartments;
    the Council had descended from the chamber, and without leaving the
    palace, hopeless of saving the city, they remained in the lodges and
    courts below, overwhelmed with grief at seeing such depravity in the
    multitude, and such perversity or fear in those who might either have
    restrained or suppressed them. The Signory, too, were dismayed and
    fearful for the safety of their country, finding themselves abandoned
    by one of their associates, and without any aid or even advice; when,
    at this moment of uncertainty as to what was about to happen, or what
    would be best to be done, Tommaso Strozzi and Benedetto Alberti,
    either from motives of ambition (being desirous of remaining masters
    of the palace), or because they thought it the most advisable step,
    persuaded them to give way to the popular impulse, and withdraw
    privately to their homes. This advice, given by those who had been the
    leaders of the tumult, although the others yielded, filled Alamanno
    Acciajuoli and Niccolo del Bene, two of the Signors, with anger; and,
    reassuming a little vigor, they said, that if the others would
    withdraw they could not help it, but they would remain as long as they
    continued in office, if they did not in the meantime lose their lives.
    These dissensions redoubled the fears of the Signory and the rage of
    the people, so that the Gonfalonier, disposed rather to conclude his
    magistracy in dishonor than in danger, recommended himself to the care
    of Tommaso Strozzi, who withdrew him from the palace and conducted him
    to his house. The other Signors were, one after another, conveyed in
    the same manner, so that Alamanno and Niccolo, not to appear more
    valiant than wise, seeing themselves left alone, also retired, and the
    palace fell into the hands of the plebeians and the Eight
    Commissioners of War, who had not yet laid down their authority.

    When the plebeians entered the palace, the standard of the Gonfalonier
    of Justice was in the hands of Michael di Lando, a wool comber. This
    man, barefoot, with scarcely anything upon him, and the rabble at his
    heels, ascended the staircase, and, having entered the audience
    chamber of the Signory, he stopped, and turning to the multitude said,
    "You see this palace is now yours, and the city is in your power; what
    do you think ought to be done?" To which they replied, they would have
    him for their Gonfalonier and lord; and that he should govern them and
    the city as he thought best. Michael accepted the command; and, as he
    was a cool and sagacious man, more favored by nature than by fortune,
    he resolved to compose the tumult, and restore peace to the city. To
    occupy the minds of the people, and give himself time to make some
    arrangement, he ordered that one Nuto, who had been appointed
    bargello, or sheriff, by Lapo da Castiglionchio, should be sought. The
    greater part of his followers went to execute this commission; and, to
    commence with justice the government he had acquired by favor, he
    commanded that no one should either burn or steal anything; while, to
    strike terror into all, he caused a gallows to be erected in the court
    of the palace. He began the reform of government by deposing the
    Syndics of the trades, and appointing new ones; he deprived the
    Signory and the Colleagues of their magistracy, and burned the
    balloting purses containing the names of those eligible to office
    under the former government.

    In the meantime, Ser Nuto, being brought by the mob into the court,
    was suspended from the gallows by one foot; and those around having
    torn him to pieces, in little more than a moment nothing remained of
    him but the foot by which he had been tied.

    The Eight Commissioners of War, on the other hand, thinking
    themselves, after the departure of the Signors, left sole masters of
    the city, had already formed a new Signory; but Michael, on hearing
    this, sent them an order to quit the palace immediately; for he wished
    to show that he could govern Florence without their assistance. He
    then assembled the Syndics of the trades, and created as a Signory,
    four from the lowest plebeians; two from the major, and two from the
    minor trades. Besides this, he made a new selection of names for the
    balloting purses, and divided the state into three parts; one composed
    of the new trades, another of the minor, and the third of the major
    trades. He gave to Salvestro de' Medici the revenue of the shops upon
    the Old Bridge; for himself he took the provostry of Empoli, and
    conferred benefits upon many other citizens, friends of the plebeians;
    not so much for the purpose of rewarding their labors, as that they
    might serve to screen him from envy.

    It seemed to the plebeians that Michael, in his reformation of the
    state, had too much favored the higher ranks of the people, and that
    themselves had not a sufficient share in the government to enable them
    to preserve it; and hence, prompted by their usual audacity, they
    again took arms, and coming tumultuously into the court of the palace,
    each body under their particular ensigns, insisted that the Signory
    should immediately descend and consider new means for advancing their
    well-being and security. Michael, observing their arrogance, was
    unwilling to provoke them, but without further yielding to their
    request, blamed the manner in which it was made, advised them to lay
    down their arms, and promised that then would be conceded to them,
    what otherwise, for the dignity of the state, must of necessity be
    withheld. The multitude, enraged at this reply, withdrew to Santa
    Maria Novella, where they appointed eight leaders for their party,
    with officers, and other regulations to ensure influence and respect;
    so that the city possessed two governments, and was under the
    direction of two distinct powers. These new leaders determined that
    Eight, elected from their trades, should constantly reside in the
    palace with the Signory, and that whatever the Signory should
    determine must be confirmed by them before it became law. They took
    from Salvestro de' Medici and Michael di Lando the whole of what their
    former decrees had granted them, and distributed to many of their
    party offices and emoluments to enable them to support their dignity.
    These resolutions being passed, to render them valid they sent two of
    their body to the Signory, to insist on their being confirmed by the
    Council, with an intimation, that if not granted they would be
    vindicated by force. This deputation, with amazing audacity and
    surpassing presumption, explained their commission to the Signory,
    upbraided the Gonfalonier with the dignity they had conferred upon
    him, the honor they had done him, and with the ingratitude and want of
    respect he had shown toward them. Coming to threats toward the end of
    their discourse, Michael could not endure their arrogance, and
    sensible rather of the dignity of the office he held than of the
    meanness of his origin, determined by extraordinary means to punish
    such extraordinary insolence, and drawing the sword with which he was
    girt, seriously wounded, and cause them to be seized and imprisoned.

    When the fact became known, the multitude were filled with rage, and
    thinking that by their arms they might ensure what without them they
    had failed to effect, they seized their weapons and with the utmost
    fury resolved to force the Signory to consent to their wishes.
    Michael, suspecting what would happen, determined to be prepared, for
    he knew his credit rather required him to be first to the attack than
    to wait the approach of the enemy, or, like his predecessors, dishonor
    both the palace and himself by flight. He therefore drew together a
    good number of citizens (for many began to see their error), mounted
    on horseback, and followed by crowds of armed men, proceeded to Santa
    Maria Novella, to encounter his adversaries. The plebeians, who as
    before observed were influenced by a similar desire, had set out about
    the same time as Michael, and it happened that as each took a
    different route, they did not meet in their way, and Michael, upon his
    return, found the piazza in their possession. The contest was now for
    the palace, and joining in the fight, he soon vanquished them, drove
    part of them out of the city, and compelled the rest to throw down
    their arms and escape or conceal themselves, as well as they could.
    Having thus gained the victory, the tumults were composed, solely by
    the talents of the Gonfalonier, who in courage, prudence, and
    generosity surpassed every other citizen of his time, and deserves to
    be enumerated among the glorious few who have greatly benefited their
    country; for had he possessed either malice or ambition, the republic
    would have been completely ruined, and the city must have fallen under
    greater tyranny than that of the duke of Athens. But his goodness
    never allowed a thought to enter his mind opposed to the universal
    welfare: his prudence enabled him to conduct affairs in such a manner,
    that a great majority of his own faction reposed the most entire
    confidence in him; and he kept the rest in awe by the influence of his
    authority. These qualities subdued the plebeians, and opened the eyes
    of the superior artificers, who considered how great must be the folly
    of those, who having overcome the pride of the nobility, could endure
    to submit to the nauseous rule of the rabble.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 21
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