Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 33


The Florentines go to war with Lucca--Discourse of a citizen of
Lucca to animate the plebeians against the Florentines--The
Lucchese resolve to defend themselves--They are assisted by the
duke of Milan--Treaty between the Florentines and the Venetians--
Francesco Sforza, captain of the league, refuses to cross the Po
in the service of the Venetians and returns to Tuscany--The bad
faith of the Venetians toward the Florentines--Cosmo de' Medici at
Venice--Peace between the Florentines and the Lucchese--The
Florentines effect a reconciliation between the pope and the Count
di Poppi--The pope consecrates the church of Santa Reparata--
Council of Florence.

The count commenced operations against Lucca in April, 1437, and the
Florentines, desirous of recovering what they had themselves lost
before they attacked others, retook Santa Maria in Castello, and all
the places which Piccinino had occupied. Then, entering the Lucchese
territory, they besieged Camaiore, the inhabitants of which, although
faithful to their rulers, being influenced more by immediate danger
than by attachment to their distant friends, surrendered. In the same
manner, they obtained Massa and Serezana. Toward the end of May they
proceeded in the direction of Lucca, burning the towns, destroying the
growing crops, grain, trees, and vines, driving away the cattle, and
leaving nothing undone to injure the enemy. The Lucchese, finding
themselves abandoned by the duke, and hopeless of defending the open
country, forsook it; entrenched and fortified the city, which they
doubted not, being well garrisoned, they would be able to defend for a
time, and that, in the interim, some event would occur for their
relief, as had been the case during the former wars which the
Florentines had carried on against them. Their only apprehension arose
from the fickle minds of the plebeians, who, becoming weary of the
siege, would have more consideration of their own danger than of
other's liberty, and would thus compel them to submit to some
disgraceful and ruinous capitulation. In order to animate them to
defense, they were assembled in the public piazza, and some of the
eldest and most esteemed of the citizens addressed them in the
following terms: "You are doubtless aware that what is done from
necessity involves neither censure nor applause; therefore, if you
should accuse us of having caused the present war, by receiving the
ducal forces into the city, and allowing them to commit hostilities
against the Florentines, you are greatly mistaken. You are well
acquainted with the ancient enmity of the Florentines against you,
which is not occasioned by any injuries you have done them, or by fear
on their part, but by our weakness and their own ambition; for the one
gives them hope of being able to oppress us, and the other incites
them to attempt it. It is then vain to imagine that any merit of yours
can extinguish that desire in them, or that any offense you can
commit, can provoke them to greater animosity. They endeavor to
deprive you of your liberty; you must resolve to defend it; and
whatever they may undertake against us for that purpose, although we
may lament, we need not wonder. We may well grieve, therefore, that
they attack us, take possession of our towns, burn our houses, and
waste our country. But who is so simple as to be surprised at it? for
were it in our power, we should do just the same to them, or even
worse. They declare war against us now, they say, for having received
Niccolo; but if we had not received him, they would have done the same
and assigned some other ground for it; and if the evil had been
delayed, it would most probably have been greater. Therefore, you must
not imagine it to be occasioned by his arrival, but rather by your own
ill fortune and their ambition; for we could not have refused
admission to the duke's forces, and, being come, we could not prevent
their aggressions. You know, that without the aid of some powerful
ally we are incapable of self-defense, and that none can render us
this service more powerfully or faithfully than the duke. He restored
our liberty; it is reasonable to expect he will defend it. He has
always been the greatest foe of our inveterate enemies; if, therefore,
to avoid incensing the Florentines we had excited his anger, we should
have lost our best friend, and rendered our enemy more powerful and
more disposed to oppress us; so that it is far preferable to have this
war upon our hands, and enjoy the favor of the duke, than to be in
peace without it. Besides, we are justified in expecting that he will
rescue us from the dangers into which we are brought on his account,
if we only do not abandon our own cause. You all know how fiercely the
Florentines have frequently assailed us, and with what glory we have
maintained our defense. We have often been deprived of every hope,
except in God and the casualties which time might produce, and both
have proved our friends. And as they have delivered us formerly, why
should they not continue to do so. Then we were forsaken by the whole
of Italy; now we have the duke in our favor; besides we have a right
to suppose that the Venetians will not hastily attack us; for they
will not willingly see the power of Florence increased. On a former
occasion the Florentines were more at liberty; they had greater hope
of assistance, and were more powerful in themselves, while we were in
every respect weaker; for then a tyrant governed us, now we defend
ourselves; then the glory of our defense was another's, now it is our
own; then they were in harmony, now they are disunited, all Italy
being filled with their banished citizens. But were we without the
hope which these favorable circumstances present, our extreme
necessity should make us firmly resolved on our defense. It is
reasonable to fear every enemy, for all seek their own glory and your
ruin; above all others, you have to dread the Florentines, for they
would not be satisfied by submission and tribute, or the dominion of
our city, but they would possess our entire substance and persons,
that they might satiate their cruelty with our blood, and their
avarice with our property, so that all ranks ought to dread them.
Therefore do not be troubled at seeing our crops destroyed, our towns
burned, our fortresses occupied; for if we preserve the city, the rest
will be saved as a matter of course; if we lose her, all else would be
of no advantage to us; for while retaining our liberty, the enemy can
hold them only with the greatest difficulty, while losing it they
would be preserved in vain. Arm, therefore; and when in the fight,
remember that the reward of victory will be safety, not only to your
country, but to your homes, your wives, and your children." The
speaker's last words were received with the utmost enthusiasm by the
people, who promised one and all to die rather than abandon their
cause, or submit to any terms that could violate their liberty. They
then made arrangements for the defense of the city.

In the meantime, the Florentine forces were not idle; and after
innumerable mischiefs done to the country took Monte Carlo by
capitulation. They then besieged Uzzano, in order that the Lucchese,
being pressed on all sides, might despair of assistance, and be
compelled to submission by famine. The fortress was very strong, and
defended by a numerous garrison, so that its capture would be by no
means an easy undertaking. The Lucchese, as might be expected, seeing
the imminent peril of their situation, had recourse to the duke, and
employed prayers and remonstrances to induce him to render them aid.
They enlarged upon their own merits and the offenses of the
Florentines; and showed how greatly it would attach the duke's friends
to him to find they were defended, and how much disaffection it would
spread among them, if they were left to be overwhelmed by the enemy;
that if they lost their liberties and their lives, he would lose his
honor and his friends, and forfeit the confidence of all who from
affection might be induced to incur dangers in his behalf; and added
tears to entreaties, so that if he were unmoved by gratitude to them,
he might be induced to their defense by motives of compassion. The
duke, influenced by his inveterate hostility against the Florentines,
his new obligation to the Lucchese, and, above all, by his desire to
prevent so great an acquisition from falling into the hands of his
ancient enemies, determined either to send a strong force into
Tuscany, or vigorously to assail the Venetians, so as to compel the
Florentines to give up their enterprise and go to their relief.

It was soon known in Florence that the duke was preparing to send
forces into Tuscany. This made the Florentines apprehensive for the
success of their enterprise; and in order to retain the duke in
Lombardy, they requested the Venetians to press him with their utmost
strength. But they also were alarmed, the marquis of Mantua having
abandoned them and gone over to the duke; and thus, finding themselves
almost defenseless, they replied, "that instead of increasing their
responsibilities, they should be unable to perform their part in the
war, unless the Count Francesco were sent to them to take the command
of the army, and with the special understanding that he should engage
to cross the Po in person. They declined to fulfil their former
engagements unless he were bound to do so; for they could not carry on
the war without a leader, or repose confidence in any except the
count; and he himself would be useless to them, unless he came under
an obligation to carry on the war whenever they might think needful."
The Florentines thought the war ought to be pushed vigorously in
Lombardy; but they saw that if they lost the count their enterprise
against Lucca was ruined; and they knew well that the demand of the
Venetians arose less from any need they had of the count, than from
their desire to frustrate this expedition. The count, on the other
hand, was ready to pass into Lombardy whenever the league might
require him, but would not alter the tenor of his engagement; for he
was unwilling to sacrifice the hope of the alliance promised to him by
the duke.

The Florentines were thus embarrassed by two contrary impulses, the
wish to possess Lucca, and the dread of a war with Milan. As commonly
happens, fear was the most powerful, and they consented, after the
capture of Uzzano, that the count should go into Lombardy. There still
remained another difficulty, which, depending on circumstances beyond
the reach of their influence, created more doubts and uneasiness than
the former; the count would not consent to pass the Po, and the
Venetians refused to accept him on any other condition. Seeing no
other method of arrangement, than that each should make liberal
concessions, the Florentines induced the count to cross the river by a
letter addressed to the Signory of Florence, intimating that this
private promise did not invalidate any public engagement, and that he
might still refrain from crossing; hence it resulted that the
Venetians, having commenced the war, would be compelled to proceed,
and that the evil apprehended by the Florentines would be averted. To
the Venetians, on the other hand, they averred that this private
letter was sufficiently binding, and therefore they ought to be
content; for if they could save the count from breaking with his
father-in-law, it was well to do so, and that it could be of no
advantage either to themselves or the Venetians to publish it without
some manifest necessity. It was thus determined that the count should
pass into Lombardy; and having taken Uzzano, and raised bastions about
Lucca to restrain in her inhabitants, placed the management of the
siege in the hands of the commissaries, crossed the Apennines, and
proceeded to Reggio, when the Venetians, alarmed at his progress, and
in order to discover his intentions, insisted upon his immediately
crossing the Po, and joining the other forces. The count refused
compliance, and many mutual recriminations took place between him and
Andrea Mauroceno, their messenger on this occasion, each charging the
other with arrogance and treachery: after many protestations, the one
of being under no obligation to perform that service, and the other of
not being bound to any payment, they parted, the count to return to
Tuscany, the other to Venice.

The Florentines had sent the count to encamp in the Pisan territory,
and were in hopes of inducing him to renew the war against the
Lucchese, but found him indisposed to do so, for the duke, having been
informed that out of regard to him he had refused to cross the Po,
thought that by this means he might also save the Lucchese, and begged
the count to endeavor to effect an accommodation between the
Florentines and the Lucchese, including himself in it, if he were
able, declaring, at the same time, the promised marriage should be
solemnized whenever he thought proper. The prospect of this connection
had great influence with the count, for, as the duke had no sons, it
gave him hope of becoming sovereign of Milan. For this reason he
gradually abated his exertions in the war, declared he would not
proceed unless the Venetians fulfilled their engagement as to the
payment, and also retained him in the command; that the discharge of
the debt would not alone be sufficient, for desiring to live peaceably
in his own dominions, he needed some alliance other than that of the
Florentines, and that he must regard his own interests, shrewdly
hinting that if abandoned by the Venetians, he would come to terms
with the duke.

These indirect and crafty methods of procedure were highly offensive
to the Florentines, for they found their expedition against Lucca
frustrated, and trembled for the safety of their own territories if
ever the count and the duke should enter into a mutual alliance. To
induce the Venetians to retain the count in the command, Cosmo de'
Medici went to Venice, hoping his influence would prevail with them,
and discussed the subject at great length before the senate, pointing
out the condition of the Italian states, the disposition of their
armies, and the great preponderance possessed by the duke. He
concluded by saying, that if the count and the duke were to unite
their forces, they (the Venetians) might return to the sea, and the
Florentines would have to fight for their liberty. To this the
Venetians replied, that they were acquainted with their own strength
and that of the Italians, and thought themselves able at all events to
provide for their own defense; that it was not their custom to pay
soldiers for serving others; that as the Florentines had used the
count's services, they must pay him themselves; with respect to the
security of their own states, it was rather desirable to check the
count's pride than to pay him, for the ambition of men is boundless,
and if he were now paid without serving, he would soon make some other
demand, still more unreasonable and dangerous. It therefore seemed
necessary to curb his insolence, and not allow it to increase till it
became incorrigible; and that if the Florentines, from fear or any
other motive, wished to preserve his friendship, they must pay him
themselves. Cosmo returned without having effected any part of his

The Florentines used the weightiest arguments they could adopt to
prevent the count from quitting the service of the League, a course he
was himself reluctant to follow, but his desire to conclude the
marriage so embarrassed him, that any trivial accident would have been
sufficient to determine his course, as indeed shortly happened. The
count had left his territories in La Marca to the care of Il Furlano,
one of his principal condottieri, who was so far influenced by the
duke as to take command under him, and quit the count's service. This
circumstance caused the latter to lay aside every idea but that of his
own safety, and to come to agreement with the duke; among the terms of
which compact was one that he should not be expected to interfere in
the affairs of Romagna and Tuscany. The count then urged the
Florentines to come to terms with the Lucchese, and so convinced them
of the necessity of this, that seeing no better course to adopt, they
complied in April, 1438, by which treaty the Lucchese retained their
liberty, and the Florentines Monte Carlo and a few other fortresses.
After this, being full of exasperation, they despatched letters to
every part of Italy, overcharged with complaints, affecting to show
that since God and men were averse to the Lucchese coming under their
dominion, they had made peace with them. And it seldom happens that
any suffer so much for the loss of their own lawful property as they
did because they could not obtain the possessions of others.

Though the Florentines had now so many affairs in hand, they did not
allow the proceedings of their neighbors to pass unnoticed, or neglect
the decoration of their city. As before observed, Niccolo Fortebraccio
was dead. He had married a daughter of the Count di Poppi, who, at the
decease of his son-in-law, held the Borgo San Sepolcro, and other
fortresses of that district, and while Niccolo lived, governed them in
his name. Claiming them as his daughter's portion, he refused to give
them up to the pope, who demanded them as property held of the church,
and who, upon his refusal, sent the patriarch with forces to take
possession of them. The count, finding himself unable to sustain the
attack, offered them to the Florentines, who declined them; but the
pope having returned to Florence, they interceded with him in the
count's behalf. Difficulties arising, the patriarch attacked the
Casentino, took Prato Vecchio, and Romena, and offered them also to
the Florentines, who refused them likewise, unless the pope would
consent they should restore them to the count, to which, after much
hesitation, he acceded, on condition that the Florentines should
prevail with the Count di Poppi to restore the Borgo to him. The pope
was thus satisfied, and the Florentines having so far completed the
building of their cathedral church of Santa Reparata, which had been
commenced long ago, as to enable them to perform divine service in it,
requested his holiness to consecrate it. To this the pontiff willingly
agreed, and the Florentines, to exhibit the wealth of the city and the
splendor of the edifice, and do greater honor to the pope, erected a
platform from Santa Maria Novella, where he resided, to the cathedral
he was about to consecrate, six feet in height and twelve feet wide,
covered with rich drapery, for the accommodation of the pontiff and
his court, upon which they proceeded to the building, accompanied by
those civic magistrates, and other officers who were appointed to take
part in the procession. The usual ceremonies of consecration having
been completed, the pope, to show his affection for the city,
conferred the honor of knighthood upon Giuliano Davanzati, their
Gonfalonier of Justice, and a citizen of the highest reputation; and
the Signory, not to appear less gracious than the pope, granted to the
new created knight the government of Pisa for one year.

There were at that time certain differences between the Roman and the
Greek churches, which prevented perfect conformity in divine service;
and at the last council of Bāle, the prelates of the Western church
having spoken at great length upon the subject, it was resolved that
efforts should be made to bring the emperor and the Greek prelates to
the council at Bāle, to endeavor to reconcile the Greek church with
the Roman. Though this resolution was derogatory to the majesty of the
Greek empire, and offensive to its clergy, yet being then oppressed by
the Turks, and fearing their inability for defense, in order to have a
better ground for requesting assistance, they submitted; and
therefore, the emperor, the patriarch, with other prelates and barons
of Greece, to comply with the resolution of the council, assembled at
Bāle, came to Venice; but being terrified by the plague then
prevailing, it was resolved to terminate their differences at
Florence. The Roman and Greek prelates having held a conference during
several days, in which many long discussions took place, the Greeks
yielded, and agreed to adopt the ritual of the church of Rome.

Niccolo Machiavelli