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Chapter 29


CHAPTER VI

Cosmo de' Medici, his character and mode of proceedings--The
greatness of Cosmo excites the jealousy of the citizens--The
opinion of Niccolo da Uzzano--Scandalous divisions of the
Florentines--Death of Niccolo da Uzzano--Bernardo Guadagni,
Gonfalonier, adopts measures against Cosmo--Cosmo arrested in the
palace--He is apprehensive of attempts against his life.

During the war the malignant humors of the city were in constant
activity. Cosmo de' Medici, after the death of Giovanni, engaged more
earnestly in public affairs, and conducted himself with more zeal and
boldness in regard to his friends than his father had done, so that
those who rejoiced at Giovanni's death, finding what the son was
likely to become, perceived they had no cause for exultation. Cosmo
was one of the most prudent of men; of grave and courteous demeanor,
extremely liberal and humane. He never attempted anything against
parties, or against rulers, but was bountiful to all; and by the
unwearied generosity of his disposition, made himself partisans of all
ranks of the citizens. This mode of proceeding increased the
difficulties of those who were in the government, and Cosmo himself
hoped that by its pursuit he might be able to live in Florence as much
respected and as secure as any other citizen; or if the ambition of
his adversaries compelled him to adopt a different course, arms and
the favor of his friends would enable him to become more so. Averardo
de' Medici and Puccio Pucci were greatly instrumental in the
establishment of his power; the former by his boldness, the latter by
unusual prudence and sagacity, contributed to his aggrandizement.
Indeed the advice of wisdom of Puccio were so highly esteemed, that
Cosmo's party was rather distinguished by the name of Puccio than by
his own.

By this divided city the enterprise against Lucca was undertaken; and
the bitterness of party spirit, instead of being abated, increased.
Although the friends of Cosmo had been in favor of it, many of the
adverse faction were sent to assist in the management, as being men of
greater influence in the state. Averardo de' Medici and the rest being
unable to prevent this, endeavored with all their might to calumniate
them; and when any unfavorable circumstance occurred (and there were
many), fortune and the exertions of the enemy were never supposed to
be the causes, but solely the want of capacity in the commissary. This
disposition aggravated the offenses of Astorre Gianni; this excited
the indignation of Rinaldo degli Albizzi, and made him resign his
commission without leave; this, too, compelled the captain of the
people to require the appearance of Giovanni Guicciardini, and from
this arose all the other charges which were made against the
magistrates and the commissaries. Real evils were magnified, unreal
ones feigned, and the true and the false were equally believed by the
people, who were almost universally their foes.

All these events and extraordinary modes of proceeding were perfectly
known to Niccolo da Uzzano and the other leaders of the party; and
they had often consulted together for the purpose of finding a remedy,
but without effect; though they were aware of the danger of allowing
them to increase, and the great difficulty that would attend any
attempt to remove or abate them. Niccolo da Uzzano was the earliest to
take offense; and while the war was proceeding without, and these
troubles within, Niccolo Barbadoro desirous of inducing him to consent
to the ruin of Cosmo, waited upon him at his house; and finding him
alone in his study, and very pensive, endeavored, with the best
reasons he could advance, to persuade him to agree with Rinaldo on
Cosmo's expulsion. Niccolo da Uzzano replied as follows: "It would be
better for thee and thy house, as well as for our republic, if thou
and those who follow thee in this opinion had beards of silver instead
of gold, as is said of thee; for advice proceeding from the hoary head
of long experience would be wiser and of greater service to all. It
appears to me, that those who talk of driving Cosmo out of Florence
would do well to consider what is their strength, and what that of
Cosmo. You have named one party, that of the nobility, the other that
of the plebeians. If the fact corresponded with the name, the victory
would still be most uncertain, and the example of the ancient nobility
of this city, who were destroyed by the plebeians, ought rather to
impress us with fear than with hope. We have, however, still further
cause for apprehension from the division of our party, and the union
of our adversaries. In the first place, Neri di Gino and Nerone di
Nigi, two of our principal citizens, have never so fully declared
their sentiments as to enable us to determine whether they are most
our friends our those of our opponents. There are many families, even
many houses, divided; many are opposed to us through envy of brothers
or relatives. I will recall to your recollection two or three of the
most important; you may think of the others at your leisure. Of the
sons of Maso degli Albizzi, Luca, from envy of Rinaldo, has thrown
himself into their hands. In the house of Guicciardini, of the sons of
Luigi, Piero is the enemy of Giovanni and in favor of our adversaries.
Tommaso and Niccolo Soderini openly oppose us on account of their
hatred of their uncle Francesco. So that if we consider well what we
are, and what our enemies, I cannot see why we should be called NOBLE
any more than they. If it is because they are followed by the
plebeians, we are in a worse condition on that account, and they in a
better; for were it to come either to arms or to votes, we should not
be able to resist them. True it is, we still preserve our dignity, our
precedence, the priority of our position, but this arises from the
former reputation of the government, which has now continued fifty
years; and whenever we come to the proof, or they discover our
weakness we shall lose it. If you were to say, the justice of our
cause ought to augment our influence and diminish theirs I answer,
that this justice requires to be perceived and believed by others as
well as by ourselves, but this is not the case; for the justice of our
cause is wholly founded upon our suspicion that Cosmo designs to make
himself prince of the city. And although we entertain this suspicion
and suppose it to be correct, others have it not; but what is worse,
they charge us with the very design of which we accuse him. Those
actions of Cosmo which lead us to suspect him are, that he lends money
indiscriminately, and not to private persons only, but to the public;
and not to Florentines only, but to the /condottieri/, the soldiers of
fortune. Besides, he assists any citizen who requires magisterial aid;
and, by the universal interest he possesses in the city, raises first
one friend and then another to higher grades of honor. Therefore, to
adduce our reasons for expelling him, would be to say that he is kind,
generous, liberal, and beloved by all. Now tell me, what law is there
which forbids, disapproves, or condemns men for being pious, liberal,
and benevolent? And though they are all modes adopted by those who aim
at sovereignty, they are not believed to be such, nor have we
sufficient power to make them to be so esteemed; for our conduct has
robbed us of confidence, and the city, naturally partial and (having
always lived in faction) corrupt, cannot lend its attention to such
charges. But even if we were successful in an attempt to expel him
(which might easily happen under a favorable Signory), how could we
(being surrounded by his innumerable friends, who would constantly
reproach us, and ardently desire to see him again in the city) prevent
his return? It would be impossible for they being so numerous, and
having the good will of all upon their side, we should never be secure
from them. And as many of his first discovered friends as you might
expel, so many enemies would you make, so that in a short time he
would return, and the result would be simply this, that we had driven
him out a good man and he had returned to us a bad one; for his nature
would be corrupted by those who recalled him, and he, being under
obligation, could not oppose them. Or should you design to put him to
death, you could not attain your purpose with the magistrates, for his
wealth, and the corruption of your minds, will always save him. But
let us suppose him put to death, or that being banished, he did not
return, I cannot see how the condition of our republic would be
ameliorated; for if we relieve her from Cosmo, we at once make her
subject to Rinaldo, and it is my most earnest desire that no citizen
may ever, in power and authority, surpass the rest. But if one of
these must prevail, I know of no reason that should make me prefer
Rinaldo to Cosmo. I shall only say, may God preserve the city from any
of her citizens usurping the sovereignty, but if our sins have
deserved this, in mercy save us from Rinaldo. I pray thee, therefore,
do not advise the adoption of a course on every account pernicious,
nor imagine that, in union with a few, you would be able to oppose the
will of the many; for the citizens, some from ignorance and others
from malice, are ready to sell the republic at any time, and fortune
has so much favored them, that they have found a purchaser. Take my
advice then; endeavor to live moderately; and with regard to liberty,
you will find as much cause for suspicion in our party as in that of
our adversaries. And when troubles arise, being of neither side, you
will be agreeable to both, and you will thus provide for your own
comfort and do no injury to any."

These words somewhat abated the eagerness of Barbadoro, so that
tranquillity prevailed during the war with Lucca. But this being
ended, and Niccolo da Uzzano dead, the city being at peace and under
no restraint, unhealthy humors increased with fearful rapidity.
Rinaldo, considering himself now the leader of the party, constantly
entreated and urged every citizen whom he thought likely to be
Gonfalonier, to take up arms and deliver the country from him who,
from the malevolence of a few and the ignorance of the multitude, was
inevitably reducing it to slavery. These practices of Rinaldo, and
those of the contrary side, kept the city full of apprehension, so
that whenever a magistracy was created, the numbers of each party
composing it were made publicly known, and upon drawing for the
Signory the whole city was aroused. Every case brought before the
magistrates, however trivial, was made a subject of contention among
them. Secrets were divulged, good and evil alike became objects of
favor and opposition, the benevolent and the wicked were alike
assailed, and no magistrate fulfilled the duties of his office with
integrity.

In this state of confusion, Rinaldo, anxious to abate the power of
Cosmo, and knowing that Bernardo Guadagni was likely to become
Gonfalonier, paid his arrears of taxes, that he might not, by being
indebted to the public, be incapacitated for holding the office. The
drawing soon after took place, and fortune, opposed to our welfare,
caused Bernardo to be appointed for the months of September and
October. Rinaldo immediately waited upon him, and intimated how much
the party of the nobility, and all who wished for repose, rejoiced to
find he had attained that dignity; that it now rested with him to act
in such a manner as to realize their pleasing expectations. He then
enlarged upon the danger of disunion, and endeavored to show that
there was no means of attaining the blessing of unity but by the
destruction of Cosmo, for he alone, by the popularity acquired with
his enormous wealth, kept them depressed; that he was already so
powerful, that if not hindered, he would soon become prince, and that
it was the part of a good citizen, in order to prevent such a
calamity, to assemble the people in the piazza, and restore liberty to
his country. Rinaldo then reminded the new Gonfalonier how Salvestro
de' Medici was able, though unjustly, to restrain the power of the
Guelphs, to whom, by the blood of their ancestors, shed in its cause,
the government rightly belonged; and argued that what he was able
unjustly to accomplish against so many, might surely be easily
performed with justice in its favor against one! He encouraged him
with the assurance that their friends would be ready in arms to
support him; that he need not regard the plebeians, who adored Cosmo,
since their assistance would be of no greater avail than Giorgio Scali
had found it on a similar occasion; and that with regard to his
wealth, no apprehension was necessary, for when he was under the power
of the Signory, his riches would be so too. In conclusion, he averred
that this course would unite and secure the republic, and crown the
Gonfalonier with glory. Bernardo briefly replied, that he thought it
necessary to act exactly as Rinaldo had advised, and that as the time
was suitable for action, he should provide himself with forces, being
assured from what Rinaldo had said, he would be supported by his
colleagues.

Bernardo entered upon the duties of his office, prepared his
followers, and having concerted with Rinaldo, summoned Cosmo, who,
though many friends dissuaded him from it, obeyed the call, trusting
more to his own innocence than to the mercy of the Signory. As soon as
he had entered the palace he was arrested. Rinaldo, with a great
number of armed men, and accompanied by nearly the whole of his party,
proceeded to the piazza, when the Signory assembled the people, and
created a Balia of two hundred persons for the reformation of the
city. With the least possible delay they entered upon the
consideration of reform, and of the life or death of Cosmo. Many
wished him to be banished, others to be put to death, and several were
silent, either from compassion toward him or for fear of the rest, so
that these differences prevented them from coming to any conclusion.

There is an apartment in the tower of the palace which occupies the
whole of one floor, and is called the Alberghettino, in which Cosmo
was confined, under the charge of Federigo Malavolti. In this place,
hearing the assembly of the Councils, the noise of arms which
proceeded from the piazza, and the frequent ringing of the bell to
assemble the Balia, he was greatly apprehensive for his safety, but
still more less his private enemies should cause him to be put to
death in some unusual manner. He scarcely took any food, so that in
four days he ate only a small quantity of bread, Federigo, observing
his anxiety, said to him, "Cosmo, you are afraid of being poisoned,
and are evidently hastening your end with hunger. You wrong me if you
think I would be a party to such an atrocious act. I do not imagine
your life to be in much danger, since you have so many friends both
within the palace and without; but if you should eventually lose it,
be assured they will use some other medium than myself for that
purpose, for I will never imbue my hands in the blood of any, still
less in yours, who never injured me; therefore cheer up, take some
food, and preserve your life for your friends and your country. And
that you may do so with greater assurance, I will partake of your
meals with you." These words were of great relief to Cosmo, who, with
tears in his eyes, embraced and kissed Federigo, earnestly thanking
him for so kind and affectionate conduct, and promising, if ever the
opportunity were given him, he would not be ungrateful.

Niccolo Machiavelli