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    Chapter 24

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    Chapter 25
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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

    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.
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