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Chapter 23

CHAPTER VII

Maso degli Albizzi--His violence excites the anger of the people--
They have recourse to Veri de' Medici--The modesty of Veri--He
refuses to assume the dignity of prince, and appeases the people--
Discourse of Veri to the Signory--The banished Florentines
endeavor to return--They secretly enter the city and raise a
tumult--Some of them slain, others taken to the church of St.
Reparata--A conspiracy of exiles supported by the duke of Milan--
The conspiracy discovered and the parties punished--Various
enterprises of the Florentines--Taking of Pisa--War with the king
of Naples--Acquisition of Cortona.

During the war with the duke of Milan the office of Gonfalonier of
Justice fell to Maso degli Albizzi, who by the death of Piero in 1379,
had become the inveterate enemy of the Alberti: and as party feeling
is incapable either of repose or abatement, he determined,
notwithstanding Benedetto had died in exile, that before the
expiration of his magistracy, he would revenge himself on the
remainder of that family. He seized the opportunity afforded by a
person, who on being examined respecting correspondence maintained
with the rebels, accused Andrea and Alberto degli Alberti of such
practices. They were immediately arrested, which so greatly excited
the people, that the Signory, having provided themselves with an armed
force, called the citizens to a general assembly or parliament, and
appointed a Balia, by whose authority many were banished, and a new
ballot for the offices of government was made. Among the banished were
nearly all the Alberti; many members of the trades were admonished,
and some put to death. Stung by these numerous injuries, the trades
and the lowest of the people rose in arms, considering themselves
despoiled both of honor and life. One body of them assembled in the
piazza; another ran to the house of Veri de' Medici, who, after the
death of Salvestro, was head of the family. The Signory, in order to
appease those who came to the piazza or court of the palace, gave them
for leaders, with the ensigns of the Guelphs and of the people in
their hands, Rinaldo Gianfigliazzi, and Donato Acciajuoli, both men of
the popular class, and more attached to the interests of the plebeians
than any other. Those who went to the house of Veri de' Medici, begged
that he would be pleased to undertake the government, and free them
from the tyranny of those citizens who were destroying the peace and
safety of the commonwealth.

It is agreed by all who have written concerning the events of this
period, that if Veri had had more ambition than integrity he might
without any impediment have become prince of the city; for the
unfeeling treatment which, whether right or wrong, had been inflicted
upon the trades and their friends, had so excited the minds of men to
vengeance, that all they required was some one to be their leader. Nor
were there wanting those who could inform him of the state of public
feeling; for Antonio de' Medici with whom he had for some time been
upon terms of most intimate friendship, endeavored to persuade him to
undertake the government of the republic. To this Veri replied: "Thy
menaces when thou wert my enemy, never alarmed me; nor shall thy
counsel, now when thou art my friend, do me any harm." Then, turning
toward the multitude, he bade them be of good cheer; for he would be
their defender, if they would allow themselves to be advised by him.
He then went, accompanied by a great number of citizens, to the
piazza, and proceeded directly to the audience chamber of the Signory,
whom he addressed to this effect: That he could not regret having
lived so as to gain the love of the Florentines; but he was sorry they
had formed an opinion of him which his past life had not warranted;
for never having done anything that could be construed as either
factious or ambitious, he could not imagine how it had happened, that
they should think him willing to stir up strife as a discontented
person, or usurp the government of his country like an ambitious one.
He therefore begged that the infatuation of the multitude might not
injure him in their estimation; for, to the utmost of his power, their
authority should be restored. He then recommended them to use good
fortune with moderation; for it would be much better to enjoy an
imperfect victory with safety to the city, than a complete one at her
ruin. The Signory applauded Veri's conduct; begged he would endeavor
to prevent recourse to arms, and promised that what he and the other
citizens might deem most advisable should be done. Veri then returned
to the piazza, where the people who had followed him were joined by
those led by Donato and Rinaldo, and informed the united companies
that he had found the Signory most kindly disposed toward them; that
many things had been taken into consideration, which the shortness of
time, and the absence of the magistrates, rendered incapable of being
finished. He therefore begged they would lay down their arms and obey
the Signory; assuring them that humility would prevail rather than
pride, entreaties rather than threats; and if they would take his
advice, their privileges and security would remain unimpaired. He thus
induced them to return peaceably to their homes.

The disturbance having subsided, the Signory armed the piazza,
enrolled 2,000 of the most trusty citizens, who were divided equally
by Gonfalons, and ordered to be in readiness to give their assistance
whenever required; and they forbade the use of arms to all who were
not thus enrolled. Having adopted these precautionary measures, they
banished and put to death many of those members of the trades who had
shown the greatest audacity in the late riots; and to invest the
office of Gonfalonier of Justice with more authoritative majesty, they
ordered that no one should be eligible to it, under forty-five years
of age. Many other provisions for the defense of the state were made,
which appeared intolerable to those against whom they were directed,
and were odious even to the friends of the Signory themselves, for
they could not believe a government to be either good or secure, which
needed so much violence for its defense, a violence excessively
offensive, not only to those of the Alberti who remained in the city,
and to the Medici, who felt themselves injured by these proceedings,
but also to many others. The first who attempted resistance was
Donato, the son of Jacopo Acciajuoli, who thought of great authority,
and the superior rather than the equal of Maso degli Albizzi (who on
account of the events which took place while he was Gonfalonier of
Justice, was almost at the head of the republic), could not enjoy
repose amid such general discontent, or, like many others, convert
social evils to his own private advantage, and therefore resolved to
attempt the restoration of the exiles to their country, or at least
their offices to the admonished. He went from one to another,
disseminating his views, showing that the people would not be
satisfied, or the ferment of parties subside, without the changes he
proposed; and declared that if he were in the Signory, he would soon
carry them into effect. In human affairs, delay causes tedium, and
haste danger. To avoid what was tedious, Donato Acciajuoli resolved to
attempt what involved danger. Michele Acciajuoli his relative, and
Niccolo Ricoveri his friend, were of the Signory. This seemed to
Donato a conjuncture of circumstances too favorable to be lost, and he
requested they would propose a law to the councils, which would
include the restoration of the citizens. They, at his entreaty, spoke
about the matter to their associates, who replied, that it was
improper to attempt any innovation in which the advantage was doubtful
and the danger certain. Upon this, Donato, having in vain tried all
other means he could think of, excited with anger, gave them to
understand that since they would not allow the city to be governed
with peaceful measures, he would try what could be done with arms.
These words gave so great offense, that being communicated to the
heads of the government, Donato was summoned, and having appeared, the
truth was proven by those to whom he had intrusted the message, and he
was banished to Barletta. Alamanno and Antonio de' Medici were also
banished, and all those of that family, who were descended from
Alamanno, with many who, although of the inferior artificers,
possessed influence with the plebeians. These events took place two
years after the reform of government effected by Maso degli Albizzi.

At this time many discontented citizens were at home, and others
banished in the adjoining states. Of the latter there lived at Bologna
Picchio Cavicciulli, Tommaso de' Ricci, Antonio de' Medici, Benedetto
degli Spini, Antonio Girolami, Cristofano di Carlone, and two others
of the lowest order, all bold young men, and resolved upon returning
to their country at any hazard. These were secretly told by Piggiello
and Baroccio Cavicciulli, who, being admonished, lived in Florence,
that if they came to the city they should be concealed in their house;
from which they might afterward issue, slay Maso degli Albizzi, and
call the people to arms, who, full of discontent, would willingly
arise, particularly as they would be supported by the Ricci, Adimari,
Medici, Manelli, and many other families. Excited with these hopes, on
the fourth of August, 1397, they came to Florence, and having entered
unobserved according to their arrangement, they sent one of their
party to watch Maso, designing with his death to raise the people.
Maso was observed to leave his house and proceed to that of an
apothecary, near the church of San Pietro Maggiore, which he entered.
The man who went to watch him ran to give information to the other
conspirators, who took their arms and hastened to the house of the
apothecary, but found that Maso had gone. However, undaunted with the
failure of their first attempt, they proceeded to the Old Market,
where they slew one of the adverse party, and with loud cries of
"people, arms, liberty, and death to the tyrants," directed their
course toward the New Market, and at the end of the Calimala slew
another. Pursuing their course with the same cries, and finding no one
join them in arms, they stopped at the Loggia Nighittosa, where, from
an elevated situation, being surrounded with a great multitude,
assembled to look on rather than assist them, they exhorted the men to
take arms and deliver themselves from the slavery which weighed so
heavily upon them; declaring that the complaints of the discontented
in the city, rather than their own grievances, had induced them to
attempt their deliverance. They had heard that many prayed to God for
an opportunity of avenging themselves, and vowed they would use it
whenever they found anyone to conduct them; but now, when the
favorable circumstances occurred, and they found those who were ready
to lead them, they stared at each other like men stupefied, and would
wait till those who were endeavoring to recover for them their liberty
were slain, and their own chains more strongly riveted upon them; they
wondered that those who were wont to take arms upon slight occasions,
remained unmoved under the pressure of so many and so great evils; and
that they could willingly suffer such numbers of their fellow-citizens
to be banished, so many admonished, when it was in their power to
restore the banished to their country, and the admonished to the
honors of the state. These words, although full of truth, produced no
effect upon those to whom they were addressed; for they were either
restrained by their fears, or, on account of the two murders which had
been committed, disgusted with the parties. Thus the movers of the
tumult, finding that neither words or deeds had force sufficient to
stir anyone, saw, when too late, how dangerous a thing it is to
attempt to set a people free who are resolved to be slaves; and,
despairing of success, they withdrew to the temple of Santa Reparata,
where, not to save their lives, but to defer the moment of their
deaths, they shut themselves up. Upon the first rumor of the affair,
the Signory being in fear, armed and secured the palace; but when the
facts of the case were understood, the parties known, and whither they
had betaken themselves, their fears subsided, and they sent the
Capitano with a sufficient body of armed men to secure them. The gates
of the temple were forced without much trouble; part of the
conspirators were slain defending themselves; the remainder were made
prisoners and examined, but none were found implicated in the affair
except Baroccio and Piggiello Cavicciulli, who were put to death with
them.

Shortly after this event, another occurred of greater importance. The
Florentines were, as we have before remarked, at war with the duke of
Milan, who, finding that with merely open force he could not overcome
them, had recourse to secret practices, and with the assistance of the
exiles of whom Lombardy was full, he formed a plot to which many in
the city were accessory. It was resolved by the conspirators that most
of the emigrants, capable of bearing arms, should set out from the
places nearest Florence, enter the city by the river Arno, and with
their friends hasten to the residences of the chiefs of the
government; and having slain them, reform the republic according to
their own will. Of the conspirators within the city, was one of the
Ricci named Samminiato; and as it often happens in treacherous
practices, few are insufficient to effect the purpose of the plot, and
among many secrecy cannot be preserved, so while Samminiato was in
quest of associates, he found an accuser. He confided the affair to
Salvestro Cavicciulli, whose wrongs and those of his friends were
thought sufficient to make him faithful; but he, more influenced by
immediate fear than the hope of future vengeance, discovered the whole
affair to the Signory, who, having caused Samminiato to be taken,
compelled him to tell all the particulars of the matter. However, none
of the conspirators were taken, except Tommaso Davizi, who, coming
from Bologna, and unaware of what had occurred at Florence, was seized
immediately upon his arrival. All the others had fled immediately upon
the apprehension of Samminiato.

Samminiato and Tommaso having been punished according to their
deserts, a Balia was formed of many citizens, which sought the
delinquents, and took measures for the security of the state. They
declared six of the family of the Ricci rebels; also, six of the
Alberti; two of the Medici; three of the Scali; two of the Strozzi;
Bindo Altoviti, Bernado Adimari, and many others of inferior quality.
They admonished all the family of the Alberti, the Ricci, and the
Medici for ten years, except a few individuals. Among the Alberti, not
admonished, was Antonio, who was thought to be quiet and peaceable. It
happened, however, before all suspicion of the conspiracy had ceased,
a monk was taken who had been observed during its progress to pass
frequently between Bologna and Florence. He confessed that he had
often carried letters to Antonio, who was immediately seized, and,
though he denied all knowledge of the matter from the first, the
monk's accusation prevailed, and he was fined in a considerable sum of
money, and banished a distance of three hundred miles from Florence.
That the Alberti might not constantly place the city in jeopardy,
every member of the family was banished whose age exceeded fifteen
years.

These events took place in the year 1400, and two years afterward, died
Giovanni Galeazzo, duke of Milan, whose death as we have said above,
put an end to the war, which had then continued twelve years. At this
time, the government having gained greater strength, and being without
enemies external or internal, undertook the conquest of Pisa, and
having gloriously completed it, the peace of the city remained
undisturbed from 1400 to 1433, except that in 1412, the Alberti,
having crossed the boundary they were forbidden to pass, a Balia was
formed which with new provisions fortified the state and punished the
offenders with heavy fines. During this period also, the Florentines
made war with Ladislaus, king of Naples, who finding himself in great
danger ceded to them the city of Cortona of which he was master; but
soon afterward, recovering his power, he renewed the war, which became
far more disastrous to the Florentines than before; and had it not, in
1414, been terminated by his death, as that of Lombardy had been by
the death of the duke of Milan, he, like the duke, would have brought
Florence into great danger of losing her liberty. Nor was the war with
the king concluded with less good fortune than the former; for when he
had taken Rome, Sienna, the whole of La Marca and Romagna, and had
only Florence itself to vanquish, he died. Thus death has always been
more favorable to the Florentines than any other friend, and more
potent to save them than their own valor. From the time of the king's
decease, peace was preserved both at home and abroad for eight years,
at the end of which, with the wars of Filippo, duke of Milan, the
spirit of faction again broke out, and was only appeased by the ruin
of that government which continued from 1381 to 1434, had conducted
with great glory so many enterprises; acquired Arezzo, Pisa, Cortona,
Leghorn, and Monte Pulciano; and would have accomplished more if the
citizens had lived in unity, and had not revived former factions; as
in the following book will be particularly shown.

Niccolo Machiavelli