Page images

ward resembled a triumphant progress. He left Florence a simple burgher; he entered Venice a powerful prince. Though the Albizzi seemed to have gained the day, they had really cut away the ground beneath their feet. They committed the fatal mistake of doing both too much and too little—too much because they declared war against an innocent man, and roused the sympathies of the whole people in his behalf; too little, because they had not the nerve to complete their act by killing him outright and extirpating his party. Machiavelli, in one of his profoundest and most cynical critiques, remarks that few men know how to be thoroughly bad with honour to themselves. Their will is evil; but the grain of good in them--some fear of public opinion, some repugnance to committing a signal crime-paralyzes their arm at the moment when it ought to have been raised to strike. He instances Gian Paolo Baglioni's omission to murder Julius II., when that Pope placed himself within his clutches at Perugia. He might also have instanced Rinaldo degli Albizzi's refusal to push things to extremities by murdering Cosimo. It was the combination of despotic violence in the exile of Cosimo with constitutional moderation in the preservation of his life, that betrayed the weakness of the oligarchs, and restored confidence to the Medicean party.

In the course of the year 1434 this party began to hold up its head. Powerful as the Albizzi were, they only retained the government by artifice; and now they had done a deed which put at nought their former arts and intrigues. A Signory favourable to the Medici came into office, and on the 26th of September, 1434, Rinaldo in his turn was summoned to the palace and declared a rebel. He strove to raise the forces of his party, and entered the piazza at the head of eight hundred men. The menacing attitude of the people, however, made resistance perilous. Rinaldo disbanded his troops, and placed himself under the protection of Pope Eugenius IV., who was then resident in Florence. This act of submission proved that Rinaldo had not the courage or the cruelty to try the chance of civil war. Whatever his motives may have been, he lost his hold upon the State beyond recovery. On the 29th of September a new parliament was summoned; on the 2nd of October, Cosimo was recalled from exile and the Albizzi were banished. The intercession of the Pope procured for them nothing but the liberty to leave Florence unmolested. Rinaldo turned his back upon the city he had governed, never to set foot in it again. On the 6th of October, Cosimo, having passed through Padua, Ferrara, and Modena like a conqueror, re-entered the town amid the plaudits of the people, and took up his dwelling as an honoured guest in the Palace of the Republic. The subsequent history of Florence is the history of his family. In after years the Medici

[ocr errors]

loved to remcmber this return of Cosimo. His triumphal reception was painted in fresco on the walls of their villa at Cajano under the transparent allegory of Cicero's entrance into Rome.

By their brief exile the Medici had gained the credit of injured innocence, the fame of martyrdom in the popular cause. Their foes had struck the first blow, and in striking at them had seemed to aim against the liberties of the Republic. The mere failure of their adversaries to hold the power they had acquired, handed over this power to the Medici; and the reprisals which the Medici began to take, had the show of justice, not of personal hatred, or of petty vengeance. Cosimo was a true Florentine. He disliked violence, because he knew that blood spilt cries for blood. His passions, too, were cool and temperate. No gust of anger, no intoxication of success, destroyed his balance. His one object, the consolidation of power for his family on the basis of popular favour, was kept steadily in view; and he would do nothing that might compromise that end. Yet he was neither generous nor merciful. We therefore find that from the first moment of his return to Florence he instituted a system of pitiless and unforgiving persecution against his old opponents. The Albizzi were banished, root and branch, with all their followers, consigned to lonely and often to unwholesome stations through the length and breadth of Italy. If they broke the bonds assigned them, they were forthwith declared traitors, and their property was confiscated. After a long series of years, by merely keeping in force the first sentence pronounced upon them, Cosimo had the cruel satisfaction of seeing the whole of that proud oligarchy die out by slow degrees in the insufferable tedium of solitude and exile. Even the high-souled Palla degli Strozzi, who had striven to remain neutral, and whose wealth and talents were devoted to the revival of classical studies, was proscribed because to Cosimo he seemed too powerful. Separated from his children, he died in banishment at Padua. In this way the return of the Medici involved the loss to Florence of some noble citizens, who might perchance have checked the Medicean tyranny if they had stayed to guide the State. The plebeians, raised to wealth and influence by Cosimo before his exile, now took the lead in the republic. He used these men as cat’s-paws, rarely putting himself forward or allowing his own name to appear, but pulling the wires of government in privacy by means of intermediate agents. The Medicean party was called at first Puccini from a certain Puccio, whose name was better known in caucus or committee than that of his real master. To rule through these creatures of his own making taxed all the ingenuity of Cosimo ; but his profound and subtle intellect was suited to the task, and he found unlimited pleasure in the exercise of his consummate craft. We have already seen to what extent he


used his riches for the acquisition of political influence. Now that he had come to power, he continued the same method, packing the Signory and the councils with men whom he could hold by debt between his thumb and finger. His command of the public moneys enabled him to wink at peculation in State offices; it was part of his system to bind magistrates and secretaries to his interest by their consciousness of guilt condoned but not forgotten. Not a few, moreover, owed their living to the appointments he procured for them. While he thus controlled the wheel-work of the commonwealth by means of organized corruption, he borrowed the arts of his old enemies to oppress dissentient citizens. If a man took an independent line in voting, and refused allegiance to the Medicean party, he was marked out for persecution. No violence was used; but he found himself hampered in his commerce-money, plentiful for others, became scarce for him; his competitors in trade were subsidized to undersell him. And while the avenues of industry were closed, his fortune was taxed above its value, until he had to sell at a loss in order to discharge his public obligations. In the first twenty years of the Medicean rule, seventy families had to pay 4,875,000 golden florins of extraordinary imposts, fixed by arbitrary assessment.

The more patriotic members of his party looked with dread and loathing on this system of corruption and exclusion. To their remonstrances Cosimo replied in four memorable sayings: “Better the State spoiled than the State not ours.” “Governments cannot be carried on with paternosters.” “An ell of scarlet makes a burgher.” “ “I aim at finite aims." These maxims represent the whole man,- ;first, in his egotism, eager to gain Florence for his family, at any risk of her ruin ; secondly, in his cynical acceptance of base means to selfish ends; thirdly, in his bourgeois belief that money makes a man, and fine clothes suffice for a citizen ; fourthly, in his worldly ambition bent on positive success. It was, in fact, his policy to reduce Florence to the condition of a rotten borough: nor did this policy fail. One notable sign of the influence he exercised was the change which now came over the foreign relations of the republic. Up to the date of his dictatorship, Florence had uniformly fought the battle of freedom in Italy. It was the chief merit of the Albizzi oligarchy that they continued the traditions of the mediæval State, and by their vigorous action checked the growth of the Visconti. Though they engrossed the government, they never forgot that they were first of all things Florentines, and only in the second place men who owed their power and influence to office. In a word, they acted like patriotic Tories, like republican patricians. Therefore they would not ally themselves with tyrants or countenance the enslavement of free cities by armed despots. Their subjugation of


the Tuscan burghs to Florence was itself part of a grand republican policy. Cosimo changed all this. When the Visconti dynasty ended by the death of Filippo Maria in 1447, there was a chance of restoring the independence of Lombardy. Milan in effect declared herself a republic, and by the aid of Florence she might at this moment have maintained her liberty. Cosimo, however, entered into treaty with Francesco Sforza, supplied him with money, guaranteed him against Florentine interference, and saw with satisfaction how he reduced the duchy to his military tyranny. The Medici were conscious that they, selfishly, had most to gain by supporting despots who in time of need might help them to confirm their own authority. With the same end in view, when the legitimate line of the Bentivogli were extinguished, Cosimo hunted out a bastard pretender of that family, presented him to the chiefs of the Bentivogli faction, and had him placed upon the seat of his supposed ancestors at Bologna. This young man, a certain Santi da Cascese, presumed to be the son of Ercole de' Bentivogli, was an artizan in a wool factory when Cosimo set eyes upon him.

At first Santi refused the dangerous honour of governing a proud republic; but the intrigues of Cosimo prevailed, and the obscure craftsman ended his days a powerful prince.

By the arts I have attempted to describe, Cosimo in the course of his long life absorbed the forces of the republic into himself. While he shunned the external signs of despotic power, he made himself the master of the State. His complexion was of a pale olive; his stature short; abstemious and simple in his habits, affable in conversation, sparing of speech, he knew how to combine that burgher-like civility for which the Romans praised Augustus, with the reality of a despotism all the more difficult to combat because it seemed nowhere and was everywhere. When he died at the age of seventy-five, in 1464, the people whom he had enslaved, but whom he had neither injured nor insulted, honoured him with the title of Pater Patria. This was inscribed upon his tomb in S. Lorenzo. He left to posterity the fame of a great and generous patron," the infamy of a cynical, self-seeking, bourgeois tyrant. Such combinations of contradictory qualities were common enough at the time of the Renaissance. Did not Machiavelli spend his days in tavern-brawls and low amours, his nights among the mighty spirits of the dead, with whom, when he had changed his country suit of homespun for the habit of the court, he found himself an honoured equal ?

J. A. SYMONDS. (To be continued.)

(1) For an estimate of Cosimo's services to art and literature, his collection of libraries, his great buildings, his generosity to scholars, and his promotion of Greek studies, I may refer to my “Renaissance in Italy: the Revival of Learning," chap. ir.



Ωι μή 'στι δρώντι τάρβος, ουδ' έπος φοβεϊ.

Sophocles. 0. T. 296. “SUPPOSE,” says Mr. Mill, “ that certain unknown attributes are ascribed to the Deity in a religion the external evidences of which are so conclusive to my mind, as effectually to convince me that it comes from God. Unless I believe God to possess the same moral attributes which I find, in however inferior a degree, in a good man, what ground of assurance have I of God's veracity?” In other words, if God's justice and mercy are not as our justice and mercy, what guarantee have we that his truth is as our truth? And, conversely, are not orthodox reasoners, who start with the assumption that God's truth is as our truth, likewise bound to assume that his justice and mercy are as our justice and mercy? We propose to discuss this question at some length ; for it seems to suggest the most easily stated and, so to say, handiest reply to the familiar platitude, that the only legitimate exercise of reason in these matters is to convince us of ihe reality of the Christian miracles, and that, being once convinced, we ought straightway to accept any doctrines, however seemingly immoral, which the recorders of those miracles have preached.

This subject has lately been brought under my notice by Father Oxenham's work on Catholic Eschatology and Universalism. In that work the doctrine of eternal punishment is upheld; and it is not thought blasphemous to represent God as the author of hell. Yet the same work, referring to some one who has suggested that the accounts of eternal punishment in the Gospels may have been exaggerated for a moral end, pronounces that suggestion to be “ little short of blasphemous.” In short, God is too good to deceive, but not too good to condemn. Now, if Mr. Oxenham were alone in maintaining this paradox, I should not be at the pains to controvert it; for differing from him toto cælo (totâque, let me add, gehennû), I feel that between him and me, except on some minor topics, there is no common ground for argument.

But, unfortunately, there are many Protestants and even nibblers at Liberalism who hold vaguely and perhaps unwittingly what this able writer has stated clearly and forcibly. It is mainly with these, and wholly for their sake, that my present discussion is set on foot. In fact, my article is a plea for that generally valuable, yet generally unvalued, body, the Neochristians—those transformed and regenerate Ishmaels whose hand is against no man, though every man's

« EelmineJätka »