Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/190

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Jacopo Nerli had closed the Palace door in Piero's face; yet Jacopo's' brothers had dedicated the editio princeps of Homer, printed at their expense, to Piero as a boy. A few of the loyal Mediceans fled; the others, with the veteran statesman Bernardo del Nero, bowed to the storm. To the conquerors the spoils! The aristocrats intended to replace the rule of a single house by an oligarchy of a group of houses. But the people were excited; they sacked the Medici palace, ably assisted by French officers already in the town, on the improbable pretext that the Medici bank owed them money. The mob then burnt and plundered the houses of Piero's financial agents, but were drawn away to the piazza, where all ranks were shouting People and Liberty. Lungs pay no bills, and thus coinage and taxation are apt to be the first victims of revolution. The aristocrats felt obliged to make popular concessions. Francesco Gualterotti, an ardent Savonarolist to the end, sprang on the rlnghiera, the platform projecting from the Palace, and on the Signoria's authority declared the white farthings withdrawn from circulation. These white farthings, the Wood's halfpence of the Medi-cean dynasty, had been issued to replace a medley of base and foreign coins of varying value. But the State made its profit, for all duties had to be paid in the new coinage, which stood to the black farthings in the relation of 5 to 4. Nevertheless the mob was still idle and therefore dangerous; shops and factories were closed; the artisans restlessly roamed the streets; the French officers were chalking the doors for quarters; unmarried girls were being hurried off to distant convents or country cousins. Prophecy seemed nearing its fulfilment. Why should men work, when either the Millennium or the Cataclysm was upon them!

Savonarola was not in Florence when Piero was expelled. He was chosen on November 5 as one of the envoys who were sent to the French King at Pisa. This was his entrance into history. It may seem surprising that he should have been elected. Yet a better choice could scarcely have been made. Piero Capponi, one of the leading aristocrats, had proposed him because the people loved him, and would have confidence in his embassy. No envoy could be more acceptable to Charles VIII, whose easy victories he had foretold, whom he had set on high as the chosen instrument of God. Errands of peace had long been among the express functions of the Friars. For two centuries past they had reconciled house and house and town and town during the cruel conflicts by which Italy had been rent. It seemed natural enough that the Dominican should accompany the heads of the aristocracy in their mission for persuading Charles to respect the liberties of Florence, and to abandon his intention of restoring Piero. Savonarola now or later won the respect of the French King, but his eloquence could not shake the resolution to make no terms except in the great city.

Before Charles VIII moved up the Arno, two great events had befallen Florence. The Medici had been expelled, and Pisa was in full