Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/192

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the State, whether official or non-official, were now removed; the normal constitution would be worked by twenty individuals with no coherence, and not much experience, divided by family and personal rivalries. Oligarchies, wrote Aristotle, fall from internal divisions, and almost invariably one section will appeal to the people for support against its fellows. It was certain from the first that this would happen at Florence, where in spite of monarchy or oligarchy there was a democratic atmosphere, and where, in the absence of soldiers or efficient police, public opinion could at any crisis find expression. Even before Piero's fall some of the aristocracy had paid their addresses to the people. And now the populace was in a dangerous state; unsatisfied with fire and plunder, it pleaded for blood; none had been let in Florence since the short fever of the Pazzi plot. The oligarchs sacrificed one of the Medicean government officials, Antonio di Bernardo, who was hanged from a window above the great piazza. His hands were clean, but his origin low, his manners rough, and his office-that of the public debt- the most unpopular in Florence. Others were condemned to imprisonment for life. To flatter the ingrained love of equality, the Twenty nominated insignificant persons to the chief magistracy, the Gonfaloni-erate of Justice. So again, men of no repute were sent on important embassies; Ludovico il Moro gibed at the diplomatic methods of the new republic. But all this was not enough; the oligarchs must satisfy not only the populace but each other, which was indeed impossible. One of the cleverest, the most experienced, the most ambitious aristocrats, Paol' Antonio Soderini, had been excluded from the Twenty, probably by the influence of his rival Piero Capponi. On the death of Lorenzo de1 Medici he had tentatively resisted the advance of the monarchy, but when young Piero showed his teeth he shrank from the encounter. He now intrigued for the fall of the Twenty; and it was no difficult task to make the provisional government impossible. Soderini had just returned from an embassy to Venice; it was natural that he should sing the praises of her constitution. The cry caught up in the street was echoed from the pulpit. Soderini, it is said, first persuaded Savonarola to advocate a popular government on the Venetian model. It need not be assumed that Soderini was a hypocrite. He was virtuous and serious; but virtue and sobriety cast fantastic shadows which assume the forms of ambition and intrigue.

During and after the French occupation Savonarola had been untiring in preaching for the poor, especially for those who were ashamed to confess their poverty. He implored the idling artisans to return to work. Unity, peace, and mercy were his perpetual theme. The people, however, threatened to extend their vengeance from the financial officials to all adherents of the Medici. The more moderate aristocrats became alarmed; already exiles were returning, the victims of themselves or of their fathers; and titles to property confiscated in the past were