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Chapter 22

CHAPTER VI

Confusion and riots in the city--Reform of government in
opposition to the plebeians--Injuries done to those who favored
the plebeians--Michael di Lando banished--Benedetto Alberti hated
by the Signory--Fears excited by the coming of Louis of Anjou--The
Florentines purchase Arezzo--Benedetto Alberti becomes suspected
and is banished--His discourse upon leaving the city--Other
citizens banished and admonished--War with Giovanni Galeazzo, duke
of Milan.

The death of Giorgio caused very great excitement; many took arms at
the execution in favor of the Signory and the Capitano; and many
others, either for ambition or as a means for their own safety, did
the same. The city was full of conflicting parties, who each had a
particular end in view, and wished to carry it into effect before they
disarmed. The ancient nobility, called the GREAT, could not bear to be
deprived of public honors; for the recovery of which they used their
utmost exertions, and earnestly desired that authority might be
restored to the Capitani di Parte. The nobles of the people and the
major trades were discontented at the share the minor trades and
lowest of the people possessed in the government; while the minor
trades were desirous of increasing their influence, and the lowest
people were apprehensive of losing the companies of their trades and
the authority which these conferred.

Such opposing views occasioned Florence, during a year, to be
disturbed by many riots. Sometimes the nobles of the people took arms;
sometimes the major and sometimes the minor trades and the lowest of
the people; and it often happened that, though in different parts, all
were at once in insurrection. Hence many conflicts took place between
the different parties or with the forces of the palace; for the
Signory sometimes yielding, and at other times resisting, adopted such
remedies as they could for these numerous evils. At length, after two
assemblies of the people, and many Balias appointed for the
reformation of the city; after much toil, labor, and imminent danger,
a government was appointed, by which all who had been banished since
Salvestro de' Medici was Gonfalonier were restored. They who had
acquired distinctions or emoluments by the Balia of 1378 were deprived
of them. The honors of government were restored to the Guelphic party;
the two new Companies of the Trades were dissolved, and all who had
been subject to them assigned to their former companies. The minor
trades were not allowed to elect the Gonfalonier of Justice, their
share of honors was reduced from a half to a third; and those of the
highest rank were withdrawn from them altogether. Thus the nobles of
the people and the Guelphs repossessed themselves of the government,
which was lost by the plebeians after it had been in their possession
from 1378 to 1381, when these changes took place.

The new establishment was not less injurious to the citizens, or less
troublesome at its commencement than that of the plebeians had been;
for many of the nobles of the people, who had distinguished themselves
as defenders of the plebeians, were banished, with a great number of
the leaders of the latter, among whom was Michael di Lando; nor could
all the benefits conferred upon the city by his authority, when in
danger from the lawless mob, save him from the rabid fury of the party
that was now in power. His good offices evidently excited little
gratitude in his countrymen. The neglect of their benefactors is an
error into which princes and republics frequently fall; and hence
mankind, alarmed by such examples, as soon as they begin to perceive
the ingratitude of their rulers, set themselves against them.

As these banishments and executions had always been offensive to
Benedetto Alberti, they continued to disgust him, and he censured them
both publicly and privately. The leaders of the government began to
fear him, for they considered him one of the most earnest friends of
the plebeians, and thought he had not consented to the death of
Giorgio Scali from disapprobation of his proceeding, but that he might
be left himself without a rival in the government. His discourse and
his conduct alike served to increase their suspicions, so that all the
ruling party had their eyes upon him, and eagerly sought an
opportunity of crushing him.

During this state of things, external affairs were not of serious
importance, for some which ensued were productive of apprehension
rather than of injury. At this time Louis of Anjou came into Italy, to
recover the kingdom of Naples for Queen Giovanna, and drive out
Charles of Durazzo. His coming terrified the Florentines; for Charles,
according to the custom of old friends, demanded their assistance, and
Louis, like those who seek new alliances, required their neutrality.
The Florentines, that they might seem to comply with the request of
Louis, and at the same time assist Charles, discharged from their
service Sir John Hawkwood, and transferred him to that of Pope Urban,
who was friendly to Charles; but this deceit was at once detected, and
Louis considered himself greatly injured by the Florentines. While the
war was carried on between Louis and Charles in Puglia, new forces
were sent from France in aid of Louis, and on arriving in Tuscany,
were by the emigrants of Arezzo conducted to that city, and took it
from those who held possession for Charles. And when they were about
to change the government of Florence, as they had already done that of
Arezzo, Louis died, and the order of things in Puglia and in Tuscany
was changed accordingly; for Charles secured the kingdom, which had
been all but lost, and the Florentines, who were apprehensive for
their own city, purchased Arezzo from those who held it for Louis.
Charles, having secured Puglia, went to take possession of Hungary, to
which he was heir, leaving, with his wife, his children Ladislaus and
Giovanna, who were yet infants. He took possession of Hungary, but was
soon after slain there.

As great rejoicings were made in Florence on account of this
acquisition as ever took place in any city for a real victory, which
served to exhibit the public and private wealth of the people, many
families endeavoring to vie with the state itself in displays of
magnificence. The Alberti surpassed all others; the tournaments and
exhibitions made by them were rather suitable for a sovereign prince
than for any private individuals. These things increased the envy with
which the family was regarded, and being joined with suspicions which
the state entertained of Benedetto, were the causes of his ruin. The
rulers could not endure him, for it appeared as if, at any moment,
something might occur, which, with the favor of his friends, would
enable him to recover his authority, and drive them out of the city.
While in this state of suspicion and jealousy, it happened that while
he was Gonfalonier of the Companies, his son-in-law, Filippo
Magalotti, was drawn Gonfalonier of Justice; and this circumstance
increased the fears of the government, for they thought it would
strengthen Benedetto's influence, and place the state in the greater
peril. Anxious to provide a remedy, without creating much disturbance,
they induced Bese Magalotti, his relative and enemy, to signify to the
Signory that Filippo, not having attained the age required for the
exercise of that office, neither could nor ought to hold it.

The question was examined by the signors, and part of them out of
hatred, others in order to avoid disunion among themselves, declared
Filippo ineligible to the dignity, and in his stead was drawn Bardo
Mancini, who was quite opposed to the plebeian interests, and an
inveterate foe of Benedetto. This man, having entered upon the duties
of his office, created a /Balia/ for the reformation of the state,
which banished Benedetto Alberti and admonished all the rest of his
family except Antonio. Before his departure, Benedetto called them
together, and observing their melancholy demeanor, said, "You see, my
fathers, and you the elders of our house, how fortune has ruined me
and threatened you. I am not surprised at this, neither ought you to
be so, for it always happens thus to those who among a multitude of
the wicked, wish to act rightly, and endeavor to sustain, what the
many seek to destroy. The love of my country made me take part with
Salvestro de Medici and afterward separated me from Giorgio Scali. The
same cause compelled me to detest those who now govern, who having
none to punish them, will allow no one to reprove their misdeeds. I am
content that my banishment should deliver them from the fears they
entertain, not of me only, but of all who they think perceives or is
acquainted wit their tyrannical and wicked proceedings; and they have
aimed their first blow at me, in order the more easily to oppress you.
I do not grieve on my own account; for those honors which my country
bestowed upon me while free, she cannot in her slavery take from me;
and the recollection of my past life will always give me greater
pleasure than the pain imparted by the sorrows of exile. I deeply
regret that my country is left a prey to the greediness and pride of
the few who keep her in subjection. I grieve for you; for I fear that
the evils which this day cease to affect me, and commence with you,
will pursue you with even greater malevolence than they have me.
Comfort, then, each other; resolve to bear up against every
misfortune, and conduct yourselves in such a manner, that when
disasters befall you (and there will be many), every one may know they
have come upon you undeservedly." Not to give a worse impression of
his virtue abroad than he had done at home, he made a journey to the
sepulcher of Christ, and while upon his return, died at Rhodes. His
remains were brought to Florence, and interred with all possible
honors, by those who had persecuted him, when alive, with every
species of calumny and injustice.

The family of the Alberti was not the only injured party during these
troubles of the city; for many others were banished and admonished. Of
the former were Piero Benini, Matteo Alderotti, Giovanni and Francesco
del Bene, Giovanni Benci, Andrea Adimari, and with them many members
of the minor trades. Of the admonished were the Covini, Benini,
Rinucci, Formiconi, Corbizzi, Manelli, and Alderotti. It was customary
to create the Balia for a limited time; and when the citizens elected
had effected the purpose of their appointment, they resigned the
office from motives of good feeling and decency, although the time
allowed might not have expired. In conformity with this laudable
practice, the Balia of that period, supposing they had accomplished
all that was expected of them, wished to retire; but when the
multitude were acquainted with their intention, they ran armed to the
palace, and insisted, that before resigning their power, many other
persons should be banished and admonished. This greatly displeased the
signors; but without disclosing the extent of their displeasure, they
contrived to amuse the multitude with promises, till they had
assembled a sufficient body of armed men, and then took such measures,
that fear induced the people to lay aside the weapons which madness
had led them to take up. Nevertheless, in some degree to gratify the
fury of the mob, and to reduce the authority of the plebeian trades,
it was provided, that as the latter had previously possessed a third
of the honors, they should in future have only a fourth. That there
might always be two of the signors particularly devoted to the
government, they gave authority to the Gonfalonier of Justice, and
four others, to form a ballot-purse of select citizens, from which, in
every Signory, two should be drawn.

This government from its establishment in 1381, till the alterations
now made, had continued six years; and the internal peace of the city
remained undisturbed until 1393. During this time, Giovanni Galeazzo
Visconti, usually called the Count of Virtú, imprisoned his uncle
Bernabo, and thus became sovereign of the whole of Lombardy. As he had
become duke of Milan by fraud, he designed to make himself king of
Italy by force. In 1391 he commenced a spirited attack upon the
Florentines; but such various changes occurred in the course of the
war, that he was frequently in greater danger than the Florentines
themselves, who, though they made a brave and admirable defense, for a
republic, must have been ruined, if he had survived. As it was, the
result was attended with infinitely less evil than their fears of so
powerful an enemy had led them to apprehend; for the duke having taken
Bologna, Pisa, Perugia, and Sienna, and prepared a diadem with which
to be crowned king of Italy at Florence, died before he had tasted the
fruit of his victories, or the Florentines began to feel the effect of
their disasters.

Niccolo Machiavelli