Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/184

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


distinctions between the stages of Medicean rule; but contemporaries drew a strong line between the veiled and amiable despotism of Lorenzo and the overt tyranny of his son. The young Piero, they said, was no Medici, no Florentine. Born as he was of an Orsini mother, and wedded to an Orsini wife, his manners were Orsini manners, his bearing was that of an insolent Campagna lordling. With some of the purely intellectual gifts of his father's house, he inherited none of its capacity for rule, none of the sympathy which attracted the men of culture and the men of toil, none of the political courage which could avert or brave a crisis. Savonarola's future foe was a brutal athlete who had angered his father by his youthful brawls,—who, in Guicciardini's phrase, had found himself at the death of a man or two by night. He and his disreputable train would all day long play ball in the streets of Florence, neglecting.the business of the State, disturbing the business of the city. The weakness of the Medicean system stood confessed. An accepted monarchy may survive a weak and wicked ruler, but the Medici had no constitutional position, and were unprovided with props to a tottering throne, or with barriers to keep the crowd away. Their power rested only upon personal influence, upon the interests of a syndicate of families, on the material welfare of the middle classes, and the amusement of the lower. Even without the catastrophe of the French invasion Piero's government must have come crashing down.

From the outset of Medicean rule there had been a seesaw between monarchy and oligarchy. The ring of governmental families had admitted, not without some rubs, the superiority of Lorenzo; they showered upon Piero his father's honours, but were not prepared to concede his power. The ruling party began to split; the bureaucratic section, the secretaries, the financial officials, necessarily stood by the ostensible government, and, owing to the traditional maladministration of police and finance, determined popular feeling in its disfavour. The leading Medicean families, the younger branch of the House, and the Rucellai and Soderini connected with it by marriage, began to shadow forth an opposition.

It might seem as if Savonarola must now have chosen his side, but of this there is little sign. Cerretani relates that the heads of the opposition, fully conscious of his power over the people, tried to win him but completely failed. Savonarola himself has absolutely stated that he took no part in politics until after Piero's fall. In his sermons there is a passage against princes, but it was a cap that would fit royal heads of all shapes and sizes, and was intended, if for any in particular, for those of the rulers of Naples and Milan.

In 14-92 and 1493 Savonarola was much away in Lombardy. It has been assumed that he was removed from Florence by Piero's influence; but of this there is no evidence. Savonarola's journeys were in full accordance with the usual practice of his Order. On his return Piero energetically aided his endeavour to separate the Tuscan Dominican convents