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    Chapter 25

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    Chapter 26
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    CHAPTER II

    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.
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    Chapter 26
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