Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/225

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213
COMPOUND POLITICAL HEADS.

war one with another, there resulted a kindred narrowing of the governing body. The nobility, deserting their castles, began to direct "the municipal government of the cities, which consequently, during this period of the republics, fell chiefly into the hands of the superior families." Then at a later stage, when industrial progress had generated wealthy commercial classes, these, competing with the nobles for power, and finally displacing them, repeated within their respective bodies this same process. The richer guilds deprived the poorer of their shares in the choice of the ruling agencies; the privileged class was continually narrowed by disqualifying regulations; and newly risen families were excluded by those of long standing. So that, as Sismondi points out, such of the numerous Italian republics as remained nominally such at the close of the fifteenth century were, like "Sienna and Lucca, each governed by a single caste of citizens:. . . had no longer popular governments." A kindred result occurred among the Dutch. During the wars of the Flemish cities with the nobles and with one another, the relatively popular governments of the towns became narrowed. The greater guilds excluded the lesser from the ruling body, and their members "clothed in the municipal purple. . . ruled with the power of an aristocracy;. . . the local government was often an oligarchy, while the spirit of the burghers was peculiarly democratic." And with these illustrations may be joined that furnished by those Swiss cantons which, physically characterized in ways less favorable to individual independence, were at the same time given to wars, offensive as well as defensive. Berne, Lucerne, Fribourg, Soleure, acquired political constitutions in large measure oligarchic; and in "Berne, where the nobles had always been in the ascendant, the entire administration had fallen into the hands of a few families, with whom it had become hereditary."

We have next to note as a cause of progressive modification in compound heads, that, like simple heads, they are apt to be subordinated by their administrative agents. The first case to be named is one in which this effect is exemplified along with the last—the case of Sparta. Originally appointed by the kings to perform prescribed duties, the ephors first made the kings subordinate, and eventually subordinated the senate; so that they became substantially the rulers. From this we may pass to the instance supplied by Venice, where power, once exercised by the people, gradually lapsed into the hands of an executive body, the members of which, habitually reëlected, and at death replaced by their children, became an aristocracy, whence there eventually grew the Council of Ten, who were, like the Spartan ephors, "charged to guard the security of the state with a power higher than the law"; and who thus, "restrained by no rule," constituted the actual government. Through its many revolutions and changes of constitution, Florence exhibited like tendencies. The appointed administrators, now signoria, now priors, became able, during