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    Chapter 47

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    Chapter 48
    Previous Chapter
    CHAPTER III

    Niccolo Soderini drawn Gonfalonier of Justice--Great hopes excited
    in consequence--The two parties take arms--The fears of the
    Signory--Their conduct with regard to Piero--Piero's reply to the
    Signory--Reform of government in favor of Piero de' Medici--
    Dispersion of his enemies--Fall of Lucca Pitti--Letter of Agnolo
    Acciajuoli to Piero de' Medici--Piero's answer--Designs of the
    Florentine exiles--They induce the Venetians to make war on
    Florence.

    In the midst of these events, the time arrived for the renewal of the
    supreme magistracy; and Niccolo Soderini was drawn Gonfalonier of
    Justice. It was surprising to see by what a concourse, not only of
    distinguished citizens, but also of the populace, he was accompanied
    to the palace; and while on the way thither an olive wreath was placed
    upon his head, to signify that upon him depended the safety and
    liberty of the city. This, among many similar instances, serves to
    prove how undesirable it is to enter upon office or power exciting
    inordinate expectations; for, being unable to fulfil them (many
    looking for more than it is possible to perform), shame and
    disappointment are the ordinary results. Tommaso and Niccolo Soderini
    were brothers. Niccolo was the more ardent and spirited, Tommaso the
    wiser man; who, being very much the friend of Piero, and knowing that
    his brother desired nothing but the liberty of the city, and the
    stability of the republic, without injury to any, advised him to make
    new Squittini, by which means the election purses might be filled with
    the names of those favorable to his design. Niccolo took his brother's
    advice, and thus wasted the period of his magistracy in vain hopes,
    which his friends, the leading conspirators, allowed him to do from
    motives of envy; for they were unwilling that the government should be
    reformed by the authority of Niccolo, and thought they would be in
    time enough to effect their purpose under another gonfalonier. Thus
    the magistracy of Niccolo expired; and having commenced many things
    without completing aught, he retired from office with much less credit
    than when he had entered upon it.

    This circumstance caused the aggrandizement of Piero's party, whose
    friends entertained stronger hopes, while those who had been neutral
    or wavering became his adherents; so that both sides being balanced,
    many months elapsed without any open demonstration of their particular
    designs. Piero's party continuing to gather strength, his enemies'
    indignation increased in proportion; and they now determined to effect
    by force what they either could not accomplish, or were unwilling to
    attempt by the medium of the magistrates, which was assassination of
    Piero, who lay sick at Careggi, and to this end order the marquis of
    Ferrara nearer to the city with his forces, that after Piero's death
    he might lead them into the piazza, and thus compel the Signory to
    form a government according to their own wishes; for though all might
    not be friendly, they trusted they would be able to induce those to
    submit by fear who might be opposed to them from principle.

    Diotisalvi, the better to conceal his design, frequently visited
    Piero, conversed with him respecting the union of the city, and
    advised him to effect it. The conspirators' designs had already been
    fully disclosed to Piero; besides this, Domenico Martelli had informed
    him, that Francesco Neroni, the brother of Diotisalvi, had endeavored
    to induce him to join them, assuring him the victory was certain, and
    their object all but attained. Upon this, Piero resolved to take
    advantage of his enemies' tampering with the marquis of Ferrara, and
    be first in arms. He therefore intimated that he had received a letter
    from Giovanni Bentivogli, prince of Bologna, which informed him that
    the marquis of Ferrara was upon the river Albo, at the head of a
    considerable force, with the avowed intention of leading it to
    Florence; that upon this advice he had taken up arms; after which, in
    the midst of a strong force, he came to the city, when all who were
    disposed to support him, armed themselves also. The adverse party did
    the same, but not in such good order, being unprepared. The residence
    of Diotisalvi being near that of Piero, he did not think himself safe
    in it, but first went to the palace and begged the Signory would
    endeavor to induce Piero to lay down his arms, and thence to Luca
    Pitti, to keep him faithful in their cause. Niccolo Soderini displayed
    the most activity; for taking arms, and being followed by nearly all
    the plebeians in his vicinity, he proceeded to the house of Luca, and
    begged that he would mount his horse, and come to the piazza in
    support of the Signory, who were, he said, favorable, and that the
    victory would, undoubtedly, be on their side; that he should not stay
    in the house to be basely slain by their armed enemies, or
    ignominiously deceived by those who were unarmed; for, in that case,
    he would soon repent of having neglected an opportunity irrecoverably
    lost; that if he desired the forcible ruin of Piero, he might easily
    effect it; and that if he were anxious for peace, it would be far
    better to be in a condition to propose terms than to be compelled to
    accept any that might be offered. These words produced no effect upon
    Luca, whose mind was now quite made up; he had been induced to desert
    his party by new conditions and promises of alliance from Piero; for
    one of his nieces had been married to Giovanni Tornabuoni. He,
    therefore, advised Niccolo to dismiss his followers and return home,
    telling him he ought to be satisfied, if the city were governed by the
    magistrates, which would certainly be the case, and that all ought to
    lay aside their weapons; for the Signory, most of whom were friendly,
    would decide their differences. Niccolo, finding him impracticable,
    returned home; but before he left, he said, "I can do the city no good
    alone, but I can easily foresee the evils that will befall her. This
    resolution of yours will rob our country of her liberty; you will lose
    the government, I shall lose my property, and the rest will be
    exiled."

    During this disturbance the Signory closed the palace and kept their
    magistrates about them, without showing favor to either party. The
    citizens, especially those who had followed Luca Pitti, finding Piero
    fully prepared and his adversaries unarmed, began to consider, not how
    they might injure him, but how, with least observation, glide into the
    ranks of his friends. The principal citizens, the leaders of both
    factions, assembled in the palace in the presence of the Signory, and
    spoke respecting the state of the city and the reconciliation of
    parties; and as the infirmities of Piero prevented him from being
    present, they, with one exception, unanimously determined to wait upon
    him at his house. Niccolo Soderini having first placed his children
    and his effects under the care of his brother Tommaso, withdrew to his
    villa, there to await the event, but apprehended misfortune to himself
    and ruin to his country. The other citizens coming into Piero's
    presence, one of them who had been appointed spokesman, complained of
    the disturbances that had arisen in the city, and endeavored to show,
    that those must be most to blame who had been first to take up arms;
    and not knowing what Piero (who was evidently the first to do so)
    intended, they had come in order to be informed of his design, and if
    it had in view the welfare of the city, they were desirous of
    supporting it. Piero replied, that not those who first take arms are
    the most to blame, but those who give the first occasion for it, and
    if they would reflect a little on their mode of proceeding toward
    himself, they would cease to wonder at what he had done; for they
    could not fail to perceive, that nocturnal assemblies, the enrollment
    of partisans, and attempts to deprive him both of his authority and
    his life, had caused him to take arms; and they might further observe,
    that as his forces had not quitted his own house, his design was
    evidently only to defend himself and not to injure others. He neither
    sought nor desired anything but safety and repose; neither had his
    conduct ever manifested a desire for ought else; for when the
    authority of the Balia expired, he never made any attempt to renew it,
    and was very glad the magistrates had governed the city and had been
    content. They might also remember that Cosmo and his sons could live
    respected in Florence, either with the Balia or without it, and that
    in 1458, it was not his family, but themselves, who had renewed it.
    That if they did not wish for it at present, neither did he; but this
    did not satisfy them; for he perceived that they thought it impossible
    to remain in Florence while he was there. It was entirely beyond all
    his anticipations that his own or his father's friends should think
    themselves unsafe with him in Florence, having always shown himself
    quiet and peaceable. He then addressed himself to Diotisalvi and his
    brothers, who were present, reminding them with grave indignation, of
    the benefits they had received from Cosmo, the confidence he had
    reposed in them and their subsequent ingratitude; and his words so
    strongly excited some present, that had he not interfered, they would
    certainly have torn the Neroni to pieces on the spot. He concluded by
    saying, that he should approve of any determination of themselves and
    the Signory; and that for his own part, he only desired peace and
    safety. After this, many things were discussed, but nothing
    determined, excepting generally, that it was necessary to reform the
    administration of the city and government.

    The Gonfalon of Justice was then in the hands of Bernardo Lotti, a man
    not in the confidence of Piero, who was therefore disinclined to
    attempt aught while he was in office; but no inconvenience would
    result from the delay, as his magistracy was on the point of expiring.
    Upon the election of Signors for the months of September and October,
    1466, Roberto Lioni was appointed to the supreme magistracy, and as
    soon as he assumed its duties, every requisite arrangement having been
    previously made, the people were called to the piazza, and a new Balia
    created, wholly in favor of Piero, who soon afterward filled all the
    offices of government according to his own pleasure. These
    transactions alarmed the leaders of the opposite faction, and Agnolo
    Acciajuoli fled to Naples, Diotisalvi Neroni and Niccolo Soderini to
    Venice. Luca Pitti remained in Florence, trusting to his new
    relationship and the promises of Piero. The refugees were declared
    rebels, and all the family of the Neroni were dispersed. Giovanni di
    Neroni, then archbishop of Florence, to avoid a greater evil, became a
    voluntary exile at Rome, and to many other citizens who fled, various
    places of banishment were appointed. Nor was this considered
    sufficient; for it was ordered that the citizens should go in solemn
    procession to thank God for the preservation of the government and the
    reunion of the city, during the performance of which, some were taken
    and tortured, and part of them afterward put to death and exiled. In
    this great vicissitude of affairs, there was not a more remarkable
    instance of the uncertainty of fortune than Luca Pitti, who soon found
    the difference between victory and defeat, honor and disgrace. His
    house now presented only a vast solitude, where previously crowds of
    citizens had assembled. In the streets, his friends and relatives,
    instead of accompanying, were afraid even to salute him. Some of them
    were deprived of the honors of government, others of their property,
    and all alike threatened. The superb edifices he had commenced were
    abandoned by the builders; the benefits that had been conferred upon
    him, where now exchanged for injuries, the honors for disgrace. Hence
    many of those who had presented him with articles of value now
    demanded them back again, as being only lent; and those who had been
    in the habit of extolling him as a man of surpassing excellence, now
    termed him violent and ungrateful. So that, when too late, he
    regretted not having taken the advice of Niccolo Soderini, and
    preferred an honorable death in battle, than to a life of ignominy
    among his victorious enemies.

    The exiles now began to consider various means of recovering that
    citizenship which they had not been able to preserve. However, Agnolo
    Acciajuoli being at Naples, before he attempted anything else,
    resolved to sound Piero, and try if he could effect a reconciliation.
    For this purpose, he wrote to him in the following terms: "I cannot
    help laughing at the freaks of fortune, perceiving how, at her
    pleasure, she converts friends into enemies, and enemies into friends.
    You may remember that during your father's exile, regarding more the
    injury done to him than my own misfortunes, I was banished, and in
    danger of death, and never during Cosmo's life failed to honor and
    support your family; neither have I since his death ever entertained a
    wish to injure you. True, it is, that your own sickness, and the
    tender years of your sons, so alarmed me, that I judged it desirable
    to give such a form to the government, that after your death our
    country might not be ruined; and hence, the proceedings, which not
    against you, but for the safety of the state, have been adopted,
    which, if mistaken, will surely obtain forgiveness, both for the good
    design in view, and on account of my former services. Neither can I
    apprehend, that your house, having found me so long faithful, should
    now prove unmerciful, or that you could cancel the impression of so
    much merit for so small a fault." Piero replied: "Your laughing in
    your present abode is the cause why I do not weep, for were you to
    laugh in Florence, I should have to weep at Naples. I confess you were
    well disposed toward my father, and you ought to confess you were well
    paid for it; and the obligation is so much the greater on your part
    than on ours, as deeds are of greater value than words. Having been
    recompensed for your good wishes, it ought not to surprise you that
    you now receive the due reward of your bad ones. Neither will a
    pretense of your patriotism excuse you, for none will think the city
    less beloved or benefited by the Medici, than by the Acciajuoli. It,
    therefore, seems but just, that you should remain in dishonor at
    Naples, since you knew not how to live with honor at home."

    Agnolo, hopeless of obtaining pardon, went to Rome, where, joining the
    archbishop and other refugees, they used every available means to
    injure the commercial credit of the Medici in that city. Their
    attempts greatly annoyed Piero; but by his friends' assistance, he was
    enabled to render them abortive. Diotisalvi Neroni and Niccolo
    Soderini strenuously urged the Venetian senate to make war upon their
    country, calculating, that in case of an attack, the government being
    new and unpopular, would be unable to resist. At this time there
    resided at Ferrara, Giovanni Francesco, son of Palla Strozzi, who,
    with his father, was banished from Florence in the changes of 1434. He
    possessed great influence, and was considered one of the richest
    merchants. The newly banished pointed out to Giovanni Francesco how
    easily they might return to their country, if the Venetians were to
    undertake the enterprise, and that it was most probable they would do
    so, if they had pecuniary assistance, but that otherwise it would be
    doubtful. Giovanni Francesco, wishing to avenge his own injuries, at
    once fell in with their ideas, and promised to contribute to the
    success of the attempt all the means in his power. On this they went
    to the Doge, and complained of the exile they were compelled to
    endure, for no other reason, they said, than for having wished their
    country should be subject to equal laws, and that the magistrates
    should govern, not a few private individuals; that Piero de' Medici,
    with his adherents, who were accustomed to act tyrannically, had
    secretly taken up arms, deceitfully induced them to lay their own
    aside, and thus, by fraud, expelled them from their country; that, not
    content with this, they made the Almighty himself a means of
    oppression to several, who, trusting to their promises, had remained
    in the city and were there betrayed; for, during public worship and
    solemn supplications, that the Deity might seem to participate in
    their treachery, many citizens had been seized, imprisoned, tortured,
    and put to death; thus affording to the world a horrible and impious
    precedent. To avenge themselves for these injuries, they knew not
    where to turn with so much hope of success as to the senate, which,
    having always enjoyed their liberty, ought to compassionate those who
    had lost it. They therefore called upon them as free men to assist
    them against tyrants; as pious, against the wicked; and would remind
    the Venetians, that it was the family of the Medici who had robbed
    them of their dominions in Lombardy, contrary to the wish of the other
    citizens, and who, in opposition to the interests of the senate, had
    favored and supported Francesco, so, that if the exiles' distresses
    could not induce them to undertake the war, the just indignation of
    the people of Venice, and their desire of vengeance ought to prevail.
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    Chapter 48
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