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Chapter 46

CHAPTER II

The duke of Milan becomes lord of Genoa--The king of Naples and
the duke of Milan endeavor to secure their dominions to their
heirs--Jacopo Piccinino honorably received at Milan, and shortly
afterward murdered at Naples--Fruitless endeavors of Pius II. to
excite Christendom against the Turks--Death of Francesco Sforza,
duke of Milan--Perfidious counsel given to Piero de' Medici by
Diotisalvi Neroni--Conspiracy of Diotisalvi and others against
Piero--Futile attempts to appease the disorders--Public spectacles
--Projects of the conspirators against Piero de' Medici--Niccolo
Fedini discloses to Piero the plots of his enemies.

While Florence and Italy were in this condition, Louis XI. of France
was involved in very serious troubles with his barons, who, with the
assistance of Francis, duke of Brittany, and Charles, duke of
Burgundy, were in arms against him. This attack was so serious, that
he was unable to render further assistance to John of Anjou in his
enterprise against Genoa and Naples; and, standing in need of all the
forces he could raise, he gave over Savona (which still remained in
the power of the French) to the duke of Milan, and also intimated,
that if he wished, he had his permission to undertake the conquest of
Genoa. Francesco accepted the proposal, and with the influence
afforded by the king's friendship, and the assistance of the Adorni,
he became lord of Genoa. In acknowledgment of this benefit, he sent
fifteen hundred horse into France for the king's service, under the
command of Galeazzo, his eldest son. Thus Ferrando of Aragon and
Francesco Sforza became, the latter, duke of Lombardy and prince of
Genoa, and the former, sovereign of the whole kingdom of Naples. Their
families being allied by marriage, they thought they might so confirm
their power as to secure to themselves its enjoyment during life, and
at their deaths, its unencumbered reversion to their heirs. To attain
this end, they considered it necessary that the king should remove all
ground of apprehension from those barons who had offended him in the
war of John of Anjou, and that the duke should extirpate the adherents
of the Bracceschi, the natural enemies of his family, who, under
Jacopo Piccinino, had attained the highest reputation. The latter was
now the first general in Italy, and possessing no territory, he
naturally excited the apprehension of all who had dominions, and
especially of the duke, who, conscious of what he had himself done,
thought he could neither enjoy his own estate in safety, nor leave
them with any degree of security to his son during Jacopo's lifetime.
The king, therefore, strenuously endeavored to come to terms with his
barons, and using his utmost ingenuity to secure them, succeeded in
his object; for they perceived their ruin to be inevitable if they
continued in war with their sovereign, though from submission and
confidence in him, they would still have reason for apprehension.
Mankind are always most eager to avoid a certain evil; and hence
inferior powers are easily deceived by princes. The barons, conscious
of the danger of continuing the war, trusted the king's promises, and
having placed themselves in his hands, they were soon after destroyed
in various ways, and under a variety of pretexts. This alarmed Jacopo
Piccinino, who was with his forces at Sulmona; and to deprive the king
of the opportunity of treating him similarly, he endeavored, by the
mediation of his friends, to be reconciled with the duke, who, by the
most liberal offers, induced Jacopo to visit him at Milan, accompanied
by only a hundred horse.

Jacopo had served many years with his father and brother, first under
Duke Filippo, and afterward under the Milanese republic, so that by
frequent intercourse with the citizens he had acquired many friends
and universal popularity, which present circumstances tended to
increase; for the prosperity and newly acquired power of the
Sforzeschi had occasioned envy, while Jacopo's misfortunes and long
absence had given rise to compassion and a great desire to see him.
These various feelings were displayed upon his arrival; for nearly all
the nobility went to meet him; the streets through which he passed
were filled with citizens, anxious to catch a glimpse of him, while
shouts of "The Bracceschi! the Bracceschi!" resounded on all sides.
These honors accelerated his ruin; for the duke's apprehensions
increased his desire of destroying him; and to effect this with the
least possible suspicion, Jacopo's marriage with Drusiana, the duke's
natural daughter, was now celebrated. The duke then arranged with
Ferrando to take him into pay, with the title of captain of his
forces, and give him 100,000 florins for his maintenance. After this
agreement, Jacopo, accompanied by a ducal ambassador and his wife
Drusiana, proceeded to Naples, where he was honorably and joyfully
received, and for many days entertained with every kind of festivity;
but having asked permission to go to Sulmona, where his forces were,
the king invited him to a banquet in the castle, at the conclusion of
which he and his son Francesco were imprisoned, and shortly afterward
put to death. It was thus our Italian princes, fearing those virtues
in others which they themselves did not possess, extirpated them; and
hence the country became a prey to the efforts of those by whom it was
not long afterward oppressed and ruined.

At this time, Pope Pius II. having settled the affairs of Romagna, and
witnessing a universal peace, thought it a suitable opportunity to
lead the Christians against the Turks, and adopted measures similar to
those which his predecessors had used. All the princes promised
assistance either in men or money; while Matthias, king of Hungary,
and Charles, duke of Burgundy, intimated their intention of joining
the enterprise in person, and were by the pope appointed leaders of
the expedition. The pontiff was so full of expectation, that he left
Rome and proceeded to Ancona, where it had been arranged that the
whole army should be assembled, and the Venetians engaged to send
ships thither to convey the forces to Sclavonia. Upon the arrival of
the pope in that city, there was soon such a concourse of people, that
in a few days all the provisions it contained, or that could be
procured from the neighborhood, were consumed, and famine began to
impend. Besides this, there was no money to provide those who were in
want of it, nor arms to furnish such as were without them. Neither
Matthias nor Charles made their appearance. The Venetians sent a
captain with some galleys, but rather for ostentation and the sake of
keeping their word, than for the purpose of conveying troops. During
this position of affairs, the pope, being old and infirm, died, and
the assembled troops returned to their homes. The death of the pontiff
occurred in 1465, and Paul II. of Venetian origin, was chosen to
succeed him; and that nearly all the principalities of Italy might
change their rulers about the same period, in the following year
Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, also died, having occupied the
dukedom sixteen years, and Galleazzo, his son, succeeded him.

The death of this prince infused redoubled energy into the Florentine
dissensions, and caused them to produce more prompt effects than they
would otherwise have done. Upon the demise of Cosmo, his son Piero,
being heir to the wealth and government of his father, called to his
assistance Diotisalvi Neroni, a man of great influence and the highest
reputation, in whom Cosmo reposed so much confidence that just before
his death he recommended Piero to be wholly guided by him, both with
regard to the government of the city and the management of his
fortune. Piero acquired Diotisalvi with the opinion Cosmo entertained
of him, and said that as he wished to obey his father, though now no
more, as he always had while alive, he should consult him concerning
both his patrimony and the city. Beginning with his private affairs,
he caused an account of all his property, liabilities, and assets, to
be placed in Diotisalvi's hands, that, with an entire acquaintance
with the state of his affairs, he might be able to afford suitable
advice, and the latter promised to use the utmost care. Upon
examination of these accounts the affairs were found to be in great
disorder, and Diotisalvi, instigated rather by his own ambition than
by attachment to Piero or gratitude to Cosmo, thought he might without
difficulty deprive him of both the reputation and the splendor which
his father had left him as his inheritance. In order to realize his
views, he waited upon Piero, and advised him to adopt a measure which,
while it appeared quite correct in itself, and suitable to existing
circumstances, involved a consequence destructive to his authority. He
explained the disorder of his affairs, and the large amount of money
it would be necessary to provide, if he wished to preserve his
influence in the state and his reputation of wealth; and said there
was no other means of remedying these disorders so just and available
as to call in the sums which his father had lent to an infinite number
of persons, both foreigners and citizens; for Cosmo, to acquire
partisans in Florence and friends abroad, was extremely liberal of his
money, and the amount of loans due to him was enormous. Piero thought
the advice good, because he was only desirous to repossess his own
property to meet the demands to which he was liable; but as soon as he
had ordered those amounts to be recalled, the citizens, as if he had
asked for something to which he had no kind of claim, took great
offense, loaded him with opprobrious expressions, and accused him of
being avaricious and ungrateful.

Diotisalvi, noticing the popular excitement against Piero, occasioned
by his own advice, obtained an interview with Luca Pitti, Agnolo
Acciajuoli, and Niccolo Soderini, and they resolved to unite their
efforts to deprive him both of the government and his influence. Each
was actuated by a different motive; Luca Pitti wished to take the
position Cosmo had occupied, for he was now become so great, that he
disdained to submit to Piero; Diotisalvi Neroni, who knew Luca unfit
to be at the head of a government, thought that of necessity on
Piero's removal, the whole authority of the state would devolve upon
himself; Niccolo Soderini desired the city to enjoy greater liberty,
and for the laws to be equally binding upon all. Agnolo Acciajuoli was
greatly incensed against the Medici, for the following reasons: his
son, Raffaello, had some time before married Alessandra de' Bardi, and
received with her a large dowry. She, either by her own fault or the
misconduct of others, suffered much ill-treatment both from her
father-in-law and her husband, and in consequence Lorenzo d' Ilarione,
her kinsman, out of pity for the girl, being accompanied by several
armed men, took her away from Agnolo's house. The Acciajuoli
complained of the injury done them by the Bardi, and the matter was
referred to Cosmo, who decided that the Acciajuoli should restore to
Alessandra her fortune, and then leave it to her choice either to
return to her husband or not. Agnolo thought Cosmo had not, in this
instance, treated him as a friend; and having been unable to avenge
himself on the father, he now resolved to do his utmost to ruin the
son. These conspirators, though each was influenced by a different
motive from the rest, affected to have only one object in view, which
was that the city should be governed by the magistrates, and not be
subjected to the counsels of a few individuals. The odium against
Piero, and opportunities of injuring him, were increased by the number
of merchants who failed about this time; for it was reported that he,
in having, quite unexpectedly to all, resolved to call in his debts,
had, to the disgrace and ruin of the city, caused them to become
insolvent. To this was added his endeavor to obtain Clarice degli
Orsini as wife of Lorenzo, his eldest son; and hence his enemies took
occasion to say, it was quite clear, that as he despised a Florentine
alliance, he no longer considered himself one of the people, and was
preparing to make himself prince; for he who refuses his fellow-
citizens as relatives, desires to make them slaves, and therefore
cannot expect to have them as friends. The leaders of the sedition
thought they had the victory in their power; for the greater part of
the citizens followed them, deceived by the name of liberty which
they, to give their purpose a graceful covering, adopted upon their
ensigns.

In this agitated state of the city, some, to whom civil discord was
extremely offensive, thought it would be well to endeavor to engage
men's minds with some new occupation, because when unemployed they are
commonly led by whoever chooses to excite them. To divert their
attention from matters of government, it being now a year since the
death of Cosmo, it was resolved to celebrate two festivals, similar to
the most solemn observed in the city. At one of them was represented
the arrival of the three kings from the east, led by the star which
announced the nativity of Christ; which was conducted with such pomp
and magnificence, that the preparations for it kept the whole city
occupied many months. The other was a tournament (for so they call the
exhibition of equestrian combats), in which the sons of the first
families in the city took part with the most celebrated cavaliers of
Italy. Among the most distinguished of the Florentine youth was
Lorenzo, eldest son of Piero, who, not by favor, but by his own
personal valor, obtained the principal prize. When these festivals
were over, the citizens reverted to the same thoughts which had
previously occupied them, and each pursued his ideas with more
earnestness than ever. Serious differences and troubles were the
result; and these were greatly increased by two circumstances: one of
which was, that the authority of the balia had expired; the other,
that upon the death of Duke Francesco, Galeazzo the new duke sent
ambassadors to Florence, to renew the engagements of his father with
the city, which, among other things, provided that every year a
certain sum of money should be paid to the duke. The principal
opponents of the Medici took occasion, from this demand, to make
public resistance in the councils, on pretense that the alliance was
made with Francesco and not Galeazzo; so that Francesco being dead,
the obligation had ceased; nor was there any necessity to revive it,
because Galeazzo did not possess his father's talents, and
consequently they neither could nor ought to expect the same benefits
from him; that if they had derived little advantage from Francesco,
they would obtain still less from Galeazzo; and that if any citizen
wished to hire him for his own purposes, it was contrary to civil
rule, and inconsistent with the public liberty. Piero, on the
contrary, argued that it would be very impolitic to lose such an
alliance from mere avarice, and that there was nothing so important to
the republic, and to the whole of Italy, as their alliance with the
duke; that the Venetians, while they were united, could not hope
either by feigned friendship or open war to injure the duchy; but as
soon as they perceived the Florentines alienated from him they would
prepare for hostilities, and, finding him young, new in the
government, and without friends, they would, either by force or fraud,
compel him to join them; in which case ruin of the republic would be
inevitable.

The arguments of Piero were without effect, and the animosity of the
parties began to be openly manifested in their nocturnal assemblies;
the friends of the Medici meeting in the Crocetta, and their
adversaries in the Pieta. The latter being anxious for Piero's ruin,
had induced many citizens to subscribe their names as favorable to the
undertaking. Upon one occasion, particularly when considering the
course to be adopted, although all agreed that the power of the Medici
ought to be reduced, different opinions were given concerning the
means by which it should be effected; one party, the most temperate
and reasonable, held that as the authority of the balia had ceased,
they must take care to prevent its renewal; it would then be found to
be the universal wish that the magistrates and councils should govern
the city, and in a short time Piero's power would be visibly
diminished, and, as a consequence of his loss of influence in the
government, his commercial credit would also fail; for his affairs
were in such a state, that if they could prevent him from using the
public money his ruin must ensue. They would thus be in no further
danger from him, and would succeed in the recovery of their liberty,
without the death or exile of any individual; but if they attempted
violence they would incur great dangers; for mankind are willing to
allow one who falls of himself to meet his fate, but if pushed down
they would hasten to his relief; so that if they adopted no
extraordinary measures against him, he will have no reason for defense
or aid; and if he were to seek them it would be greatly to his own
injury, by creating such a general suspicion as would accelerate his
ruin, and justify whatever course they might think proper to adopt.
Many of the assembly were dissatisfied with this tardy method of
proceeding; they thought delay would be favorable to him and injurious
to themselves; for if they allowed matters to take their ordinary
course, Piero would be in no danger whatever, while they themselves
would incur many; for the magistrates who were opposed to him would
allow him to rule the city, and his friends would make him a prince,
and their own ruin would be inevitable, as happened in 1458; and
though the advice they had just heard might be most consistent with
good feeling, the present would be found to be the safest. That it
would therefore be best, while the minds of men were yet excited
against him, to effect his destruction. It must be their plan to arm
themselves, and engage the assistance of the marquis of Ferrara, that
they might not be destitute of troops; and if a favorable Signory were
drawn, they would be in condition to make use of them. They therefore
determined to wait the formation of the new Signory, and be governed
by circumstances.

Among the conspirators was Niccolo Fedini, who had acted as president
of their assemblies. He, being induced by most certain hopes,
disclosed the whole affair to Piero, and gave him a list of those who
had subscribed their names, and also of the conspirators. Piero was
alarmed on discovering the number and quality of those who were
opposed to him; and by the advice of his friends he resolved to take
the signatures of those who were inclined to favor him. Having
employed one of his most trusty confidants to carry his design into
effect, he found so great a disposition to change and instability,
that many who had previously set down their names among the number of
his enemies, now subscribed them in his favor.

Niccolo Machiavelli