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Chapter 21


New regulations for the elections of the Signory--Confusion in the
City--Piero degli Albizzi and other citizens condemned to death--
The Florentines alarmed by the approach of Charles of Durazzo--The
measures adopted in consequence thereof--Insolent Conduct of
Giorgio Scali--Benedetto Alberti--Giorgio Scali beheaded.

By the time Michael di Lando had subdued the plebeians, the new
Signory was drawn, and among those who composed it, were two persons
of such base and mean condition, that the desire increased in the
minds of the people to be freed from the ignominy into which they had
fallen; and when, upon the first of September, the new Signory entered
office and the retiring members were still in the palace, the piazza
being full of armed men, a tumultuous cry arose from the midst of
them, that none of the lowest of the people should hold office among
the Signory. The obnoxious two were withdrawn accordingly. The name of
one was Il Tira, of the other Baroccio, and in their stead were
elected Giorgio Scali and Francesco di Michele. The company of the
lowest trade was also dissolved, and its members deprived of office,
except Michael di Lando, Lorenzo di Puccio and a few others of better
quality. The honors of government were divided into two parts, one of
which was assigned to the superior trades, the other to the inferior;
except that the latter were to furnish five Signors, and the former
only four. The Gonfalonier was to be chosen alternately from each.

The government thus composed, restored peace to the city for the time;
but though the republic was rescued from the power of the lowest
plebeians, the inferior trades were still more influential than the
nobles of the people, who, however, were obliged to submit for the
gratification of the trades, of whose favor they wished to deprive the
plebeians. The new establishment was supported by all who wished the
continued subjugation of those who, under the name of the Guelphic
party, had practiced such excessive violence against the citizens. And
as among others, thus disposed, were Giorgio Scali, Benedetto Alberti,
Salvestro di Medici, and Tommaso Strozzi, these four almost became
princes of the city. This state of the public mind strengthened the
divisions already commenced between the nobles of the people, and the
minor artificers, by the ambition of the Ricci and the Albizzi; from
which, as at different times very serious effects arose, and as they
will hereafter be frequently mentioned, we shall call the former the
popular party, the latter the plebeian. This condition of things
continued three years, during which many were exiled and put to death;
for the government lived in constant apprehension, knowing that both
within and without the city many were dissatisfied with them. Those
within, either attempted or were suspected of attempting every day
some new project against them; and those without, being under no
restraint, were continually, by means of some prince or republic,
spreading reports tending to increase the disaffection.

Gianozzo da Salerno was at this time in Bologna. He held a command
under Charles of Durazzo, a descendant of the kings of Naples, who,
designing to undertake the conquest of the dominions of Queen
Giovanna, retained his captain in that city, with the concurrence of
Pope Urban, who was at enmity with the queen. Many Florentine
emigrants were also at Bologna, in close correspondence with him and
Charles. This caused the rulers in Florence to live in continual
alarm, and induced them to lend a willing ear to any calumnies against
the suspected. While in this disturbed state of feeling, it was
disclosed to the government that Gianozzo da Salerno was about to
march to Florence with the emigrants, and that great numbers of those
within were to rise in arms, and deliver the city to him. Upon this
information many were accused, the principal of whom were Piero degli
Albizzi and Carlo Strozzi: and after these Cipriano Mangione, Jacopo
Sacchetti, Donato Barbadori, Filippo Strozzi, and Giovanni Anselmi,
the whole of whom, except Carlo Strozzi who fled, were made prisoners;
and the Signory, to prevent any one from taking arms in their favor,
appointed Tommaso Strozzi and Benedetto Alberti with a strong armed
force, to guard the city. The arrested citizens were examined, and
although nothing was elicited against them sufficient to induce the
Capitano to find them guilty, their enemies excited the minds of the
populace to such a degree of outrageous and overwhelming fury against
them, that they were condemned to death, as it were, by force. Nor was
the greatness of his family, or his former reputation of any service
to Piero degli Albizzi, who had once been, of all the citizens, the
man most feared and honored. Some one, either as a friend to render
him wise in his prosperity, or an enemy to threaten him with the
fickleness of fortune, had upon the occasion of his making a feast for
many citizens, sent him a silver bowl full of sweetmeats, among which
a large nail was found, and being seen by many present, was taken for
a hint to him to fix the wheel of fortune, which, having conveyed him
to the top, must if the rotation continued, also bring him to the
bottom. This interpretation was verified, first by his ruin, and
afterward by his death.

After this execution the city was full of consternation, for both
victors and vanquished were alike in fear; but the worst effects arose
from the apprehensions of those possessing the management of affairs;
for every accident, however trivial, caused them to commit fresh
outrages, either by condemnations, admonitions, or banishment of
citizens; to which must be added, as scarcely less pernicious, the
frequent new laws and regulations which were made for defense of the
government, all of which were put in execution to the injury of those
opposed to their faction. They appointed forty-six persons, who, with
the Signory, were to purge the republic of all suspected by the
government. They admonished thirty-nine citizens, ennobled many of the
people, and degraded many nobles to the popular rank. To strengthen
themselves against external foes, they took into their pay John
Hawkwood, an Englishman of great military reputation, who had long
served the pope and others in Italy. Their fears from without were
increased by a report that several bodies of men were being assembled
by Charles of Durazzo for the conquest of Naples, and many Florentine
emigrants were said to have joined him. Against these dangers, in
addition to the forces which had been raised, large sums of money were
provided; and Charles, having arrived at Arezzo, obtained from the
Florentines 40,000 ducats, and promised he would not molest them. His
enterprise was immediately prosecuted, and having occupied the kingdom
of Naples, he sent Queen Giovanna a prisoner into Hungary. This
victory renewed the fears of those who managed the affairs of
Florence, for they could not persuade themselves that their money
would have a greater influence on the king's mind than the friendship
which his house had long retained for the Guelphs, whom they so
grievously oppressed.

This suspicion increasing, multiplied oppressions; which again,
instead of diminishing the suspicion, augmented it; so that most men
lived in the utmost discontent. To this the insolence of Giorgio Scali
and Tommaso Strozzi (who by their popular influence overawed the
magistrates) also contributed, for the rulers were apprehensive that
by the power these men possessed with the plebeians they could set
them at defiance; and hence it is evident that not only to good men,
but even to the seditious, this government appeared tyrannical and
violent. To put a period to the outrageous conduct of Giorgio, it
happened that a servant of his accused Giovanni di Cambio of practices
against the state, but the Capitano declared him innocent. Upon this,
the judge determined to punish the accuser with the same penalties
that the accused would have incurred had he been guilty, but Giorgio
Scali, unable to save him either by his authority or entreaties,
obtained the assistance of Tommaso Strozzi, and with a multitude of
armed men, set the informer at liberty and plundered the palace of the
Capitano, who was obliged to save himself by flight. This act excited
such great and universal animosity against him, that his enemies began
to hope they would be able to effect his ruin, and also to rescue the
city from the power of the plebeians, who for three years had held her
under their arrogant control.

To the realization of this design the Capitano greatly contributed,
for the tumult having subsided, he presented himself before the
signors, and said "He had cheerfully undertaken the office to which
they had appointed him, for he thought he should serve upright men who
would take arms for the defense of justice, and not impede its
progress. But now that he had seen and had experience of the
proceedings of the city, and the manner in which affairs were
conducted, that dignity which he had voluntarily assumed with the hope
of acquiring honor and emolument, he now more willingly resigned, to
escape from the losses and danger to which he found himself exposed."
The complaint of the Capitano was heard with the utmost attention by
the Signory, who promising to remunerate him for the injury he had
suffered and provide for his future security, he was satisfied. Some
of them then obtained an interview with certain citizens who were
thought to be lovers of the common good, and least suspected by the
state; and in conjunction with these, it was concluded that the
present was a favorable opportunity for rescuing the city from Giorgio
and the plebeians, the last outrage he had committed having completely
alienated the great body of the people from him. They judged it best
to profit by the occasion before the excitement had abated, for they
knew that the favor of the mob is often gained or lost by the most
trifling circumstance; and more certainly to insure success, they
determined, if possible, to obtain the concurrence of Benedetto
Alberti, for without it they considered their enterprise to be

Benedetto was one of the richest citizens, a man of unassuming
manners, an ardent lover of the liberties of his country, and one to
whom tyrannical measures were in the highest degree offensive; so that
he was easily induced to concur in their views and consent to
Giorgio's ruin. His enmity against the nobles of the people and the
Guelphs, and his friendship for the plebeians, were caused by the
insolence and tyrannical proceedings of the former; but finding that
the plebeians had soon become quite as insolent, he quickly separated
himself from them; and the injuries committed by them against the
citizens were done wholly without his consent. So that the same
motives which made him join the plebeians induced him to leave them.

Having gained Benedetto and the leaders of the trades to their side,
they provided themselves with arms and made Giorgio prisoner. Tommaso
fled. The next day Giorgio was beheaded; which struck so great a
terror into his party, that none ventured to express the slightest
disapprobation, but each seemed anxious to be foremost in defense of
the measure. On being led to execution, in the presence of that people
who only a short time before had idolized him, Giorgio complained of
his hard fortune, and the malignity of those citizens who, having done
him an undeserved injury, had compelled him to honor and support a
mob, possessing neither faith nor gratitude. Observing Benedetto
Alberti among those who had armed themselves for the preservation of
order, he said, "Do you, too, consent, Benedetto, that this injury
shall be done to me? Were I in your place and you in mine, I would
take care that no one should injure you. I tell you, however, this day
is the end of my troubles and the beginning of yours." He then blamed
himself for having confided too much in a people who may be excited
and inflamed by every word, motion, and breath of suspicion. With
these complaints he died in the midst of his armed enemies, delighted
at his fall. Some of his most intimate associates were also put to
death, and their bodies dragged about by the mob.

Niccolo Machiavelli