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Chapter 27

CHAPTER IV

Death of Giovanni de' Medici--His character--Insurrection of
Volterra--Volterra returns to her allegiance--Niccolo Fortebraccio
attacks the Lucchese--Diversity of opinion about the Lucchese war
--War with Lucca--Astore Gianni and Rinaldo degli Albizzi
appointed commissaries--Violence of Astorre Gianni.

About this time Giovanni de' Medici was taken ill, and finding his end
approach, called his sons Cosmo and Lorenzo to him, to give them his
last advice, and said, "I find I have nearly reached the term which
God and nature appointed at my birth, and I die content, knowing that
I leave you rich, healthy, and of such standing in society, that if
you pursue the same course that I have, you will live respected in
Florence, and in favor with everyone. Nothing cheers me so much at
this moment, as the recollection that I have never willfully offended
anyone; but have always used my utmost endeavors to confer benefits
upon all. I would have you do so too. With regard to state affairs, if
you would live in security, take just such a share as the laws and
your countrymen think proper to bestow, thus you will escape both
danger and envy; for it is not what is given to any individual, but
what he has determined to possess, that occasions odium. You will thus
have a larger share than those who endeavor to engross more than
belongs to them; for they thus usually lose their own, and before they
lose it, live in constant disquiet. By adopting this method, although
among so many enemies, and surrounded by so many conflicting
interests, I have not only maintained my reputation but increased my
influence. If you pursue the same course, you will be attended by the
same good fortune; if otherwise, you may be assured, your end will
resemble that of those who in our own times have brought ruin both
upon themselves and their families." Soon after this interview with
his sons, Giovanni died, regretted by everyone, as his many
excellencies deserved. He was compassionate; not only bestowing alms
on those who asked them, but very frequently relieving the necessities
of the poor, without having been solicited so to do. He loved all;
praised the good, and pitied the infirmities of the wicked. He never
sought the honors of government; yet enjoyed them all; and never went
to the palace unless by request. He loved peace and shunned war;
relieved mankind in adversity, and assisted them in prosperity; never
applied the public money to his own uses, but contributed to the
public wealth. He was courteous in office; not a man of great
eloquence, but possessed of extraordinary prudence. His demeanor
expressed melancholy; but after a short time his conversation became
pleasant and facetious. He died exceedingly rich in money, but still
more in good fame and the best wishes of mankind; and the wealth and
respect he left behind him were not only preserved but increased by
his son Cosmo.

The Volterran ambassadors grew weary of lying in prison, and to obtain
their liberty promised to comply with the commands of the Florentines.
Being set free and returned to their city, the time arrived for the
new Priors to enter upon office, and among those who were drawn, was
one named Giusto, a plebeian, but possessing great influence with his
class, and one of those who had been imprisoned at Florence. He, being
inflamed with hatred against the Florentines on account of his public
as well as personal injuries, was further stimulated by Giovanni di
Contugi, a man of noble family, and his colleague in office, to induce
the people, by the authority of the Priors and his own influence, to
withdraw their country from the power of the Florentines, and make
himself prince. Prompted by these motives, Giusto took arms, rode
through the city, seized the Capitano, who resided in it, on behalf of
the Florentines, and with the consent of the people, became lord of
Volterra. This circumstance greatly displeased the Florentines; but
having just made peace with the duke, and the treaty being yet
uninfringed on either side, they bethought themselves in a condition
to recover the place; and that the opportunity might not be lost, they
immediately appointed Rinaldo degli Albizzi and Palla Strozzi
commissaries, and sent them upon the expedition. In the meantime,
Giusto, who expected the Florentines would attack him, requested
assistance of Lucca and Sienna. The latter refused, alleging her
alliance with Florence; and Pagolo Guinigi, to regain the favor of the
Florentines, which he imagined he had lost in the war with the duke
and by his friendship for Filippo, not only refused assistance to
Giusto, but sent his messenger prisoner to Florence.

The commissaries, to come upon the Volterrani unawares, assembled
their cavalry, and having raised a good body of infantry in the Val
d'Arno Inferiore, and the country about Pisa, proceeded to Volterra.
Although attacked by the Florentines and abandoned by his neighbors,
Giusto did not yield to fear; but, trusting to the strength of the
city and the ruggedness of the country around it, prepared for his
defense.

There lived at Volterra one Arcolano, brother of that Giovanni Contugi
who had persuaded Giusto to assume the command. He possessed influence
among the nobility, and having assembled a few of his most
confidential friends, he assured them that by this event, God had come
to the relief of their necessities; for if they would only take arms,
deprive Giusto of the Signory, and give up the city to the
Florentines, they might be sure of obtaining the principal offices,
and the place would retain all its ancient privileges. Having gained
them over, they went to the palace in which Giusto resided; and while
part of them remained below, Arcolano, with three others, proceeded to
the chamber above, where finding him with some citizens, they drew him
aside, as if desirous to communicate something of importance, and
conversing on different subjects, let him to the lower apartment, and
fell upon him with their swords. They, however, were not so quick as
to prevent Giusto from making use of his own weapon; for with it he
seriously wounded two of them; but being unable to resist so many, he
was at last slain, and his body thrown into the street. Arcolano and
his party gave up the city to the Florentine commissaries, who, being
at hand with their forces, immediately took possession; but the
condition of Volterra was worse than before; for among other things
which operated to her disadvantage, most of the adjoining countryside
was separated from her, and she was reduced to the rank of a
vicariate.

Volterra having been lost and recovered almost at the same time,
present circumstances afforded nothing of sufficient importance to
occasion a new war, if ambition had not again provoked one. Niccolo
Fortebraccio, the son of a sister of Braccio da Perugia, had been in
the service of the Florentines during most of their wars with the
duke. Upon the restoration of peace he was discharged; but when the
affair of Volterra took place, being encamped with his people at
Fucecchio, the commissaries availed themselves both of himself and his
forces. Some thought that while Rinaldo conducted the expedition along
with him, he persuaded him, under one pretext or another, to attack
the Lucchese, assuring him, that if he did so, the Florentines would
consent to undertake an expedition against them, and would appoint him
to the command. When Volterra was recovered, and Niccolo returned to
his quarters at Fucecchio, he, either at the persuasion of Rinaldo, or
of his own accord, in November, 1429, took possession of Ruoti and
Compito, castles belonging to the Lucchese, with three hundred cavalry
and as many infantry, and then descending into the plain, plundered
the inhabitants to a vast amount. The news of this incursion having
reached Florence, persons of all classes were seen gathered in parties
throughout the city discussing the matter, and nearly all were in
favor of an expedition against Lucca. Of the Grandees thus disposed,
were the Medici and their party, and with them also Rinaldo, either
because he thought the enterprise beneficial to the republic, or
induced by his own ambition and the expectation of being appointed to
the command. Niccolo da Uzzano and his party were opposed to the war.
It seems hardly credible that such contrary opinions should prevail,
though at different times, in the same men and the same city, upon the
subject of war; for the same citizens and people that, during the ten
years of peace had incessantly blamed the war undertaken against Duke
Filippo, in defense of liberty, now, after so much expense and
trouble, with their utmost energy, insisted on hostilities against
Lucca, which, if successful, would deprive that city of her liberty;
while those who had been in favor of a war with the duke, were opposed
to the present; so much more ready are the multitude to covet the
possessions of others than to preserve their own, and so much more
easily are they led by the hope of acquisition than by the fear of
loss. The suggestions of the latter appear incredible till they are
verified; and the pleasing anticipations of the former are cherished
as facts, even while the advantages are very problematical, or at
best, remote. The people of Florence were inspired with hope, by the
acquisitions which Niccolo Fortebraccio had made, and by letters
received from their rectors in the vicinity of Lucca; for their
deputies at Vico and Pescia had written, that if permission were given
to them to receive the castles that offered to surrender, the whole
country of Lucca would very soon be obtained. It must, however, be
added, that an ambassador was sent by the governor of Lucca to
Florence, to complain of the attack made by Niccolo, and to entreat
that the Signory would not make war against a neighbor, and a city
that had always been friendly to them. The ambassador was Jacopo
Viviani, who, a short time previously, had been imprisoned by Pagolo
Guinigi, governor of Lucca, for having conspired against him. Although
he had been found guilty, his life was spared, and as Pagolo thought
the forgiveness mutual, he reposed confidence in him. Jacopo, more
mindful of the danger he had incurred than of the lenity exercised
toward him, on his arrival in Florence secretly instigated the
citizens to hostilities; and these instigations, added to other hopes,
induced the Signory to call the Council together, at which 498
citizens assembled, before whom the principal men of the city
discussed the question.

Among the first who addressed the assembly in favor of the expedition,
was Rinaldo. He pointed out the advantage that would accrue from the
acquisition, and justified the enterprise from its being left open to
them by the Venetians and the duke, and that as the pope was engaged
in the affairs of Naples, he could not interfere. He then remarked
upon the facility of the expedition, showing that Lucca, being now in
bondage to one of her own citizens, had lost her natural vigor and
former anxiety for the preservation of her liberty, and would either
be surrendered to them by the people in order to expel the tyrant, or
by the tyrant for fear of the people. He recalled the remembrance of
the injuries done to the republic by the governor of Lucca; his
malevolent disposition toward them; and their embarrassing situation
with regard to him, if the pope or the duke were to make war upon
them; and concluded that no enterprise was ever undertaken by the
people of Florence with such perfect facility, more positive
advantage, or greater justice in its favor.

In a reply to this, Niccolo da Uzzano stated that the city of Florence
never entered on a more unjust or more dangerous project, or one more
pregnant with evil, than this. In the first place they were going to
attack a Guelphic city, that had always been friendly to the
Florentine people, and had frequently, at great hazard, received the
Guelphs into her bosom when they were expelled from their own country.
That in the history of the past there was not an instance, while Lucca
was free, of her having done an injury to the Florentines; and that if
they had been injured by her enslavers, as formerly by Castruccio, and
now by the present governor, the fault was not in the city, but in her
tyrant. That if they could assail the latter without detriment to the
people, he should have less scruple, but as this was impossible, he
could not consent that a city which had been friendly to Florence
should be plundered of her wealth. However, as it was usual at present
to pay little or no regard either to equity or injustice, he would
consider the matter solely with reference to the advantage of
Florence. He thought that what could not easily be attended by
pernicious consequences might be esteemed useful, but he could not
imagine how an enterprise should be called advantageous in which the
evils were certain and the utility doubtful. The certain evils were
the expenses with which it would be attended; and these, he foresaw,
would be sufficiently great to alarm even a people that had long been
in repose, much more one wearied, as they were, by a tedious and
expensive war. The advantage that might be gained was the acquisition
of Lucca, which he acknowledged to be great; but the hazards were so
enormous and immeasurable, as in his opinion to render the conquest
quite impossible. He could not induce himself to believe that the
Venetians, or Filippo, would willingly allow them to make the
acquisition; for the former only consented in appearance, in order to
avoid the semblance of ingratitude, having so lately, with Florentine
money, acquired such an extent of dominion. That as regarded the duke,
it would greatly gratify him to see them involved in new wars and
expenses; for, being exhausted and defeated on all sides, he might
again assail them; and that if, after having undertaken it, their
enterprise against Lucca were to prove successful, and offer them the
fullest hope of victory, the duke would not want an opportunity of
frustrating their labors, either by assisting the Lucchese secretly
with money, or by apparently disbanding his own troops, and then
sending them, as if they were soldiers of fortune, to their relief. He
therefore advised that they should give up the idea, and behave toward
the tyrant in such a way as to create him as many enemies as possible;
for there was no better method of reducing Lucca than to let them live
under the tyrant, oppressed and exhausted by him; for, if prudently
managed, that city would soon get into such a condition that he could
not retain it, and being ignorant or unable to govern itself, it must
of necessity fall into their power. But he saw that his discourse did
not please them, and that his words were unheeded; he would, however,
predict this to them, that they were about to commence a war in which
they would expend vast sums, incur great domestic dangers, and instead
of becoming masters of Lucca, they would deliver her from her tyrant,
and of a friendly city, feeble and oppressed, they would make one free
and hostile, and that in time she would become an obstacle to the
greatness of their own republic.

The question having been debated on both sides, they proceeded to
vote, as usual, and of the citizens present only ninety-eight were
against the enterprise. Thus determined in favor of war, they
appointed a Council of Ten for its management, and hired forces, both
horse and foot. Astorre Gianni and Rinaldo degli Albizzi were
appointed commissaries, and Niccolo Fortebraccio, on agreeing to give
up to the Florentines the places he had taken, was engaged to conduct
the enterprise as their captain. The commissaries having arrived with
the army in the country of the Lucchese, divided their forces; one
part of which, under Astorre, extended itself along the plain, toward
Camaiore and Pietrasanta, while Rinaldo, with the other division, took
the direction of the hills, presuming that when the citizens found
themselves deprived of the surrounding country, they would easily
submit. The proceedings of the commissaries were unfortunate, not that
they failed to occupy many places, but from the complaints made
against them of mismanaging the operations of the war; and Astorre
Gianni had certainly given very sufficient cause for the charges
against him.

There is a fertile and populous valley near Pietrasanta, called
Seravezza, whose inhabitants, on learning the arrival of the
commissary, presented themselves before him and begged he would
receive them as faithful subjects of the Florentine republic. Astorre
pretended to accept their proposal, but immediately ordered his forces
to take possession of all the passes and strong positions of the
valley, assembled the men in the principal church, took them all
prisoners, and then caused his people to plunder and destroy the whole
country, with the greatest avarice and cruelty, making no distinction
in favor of consecrated places, and violating the women, both married
and single. These things being known in Florence, displeased not only
the magistracy, but the whole city.

Niccolo Machiavelli