Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/193

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endangered. The exiles might well bid for popular support. It was felt that the new oligarchy, the Whites, must stand by the Greys (Bigi), the families who still had Medicean proclivities. But these oligarchs could not stay the flood of popular hatred; if they stemmed it, they would be swept away in their turn. Their leader, Piero Capponi, turned for aid to Savonarola, and the Friar succeeded where others must have failed. Of all his claims to the gratitude of his adopted city this is the strongest.

Savonarola now fairly entered into politics. He had striven as a Ferrarese, he declared, to have nothing to do with the Florentine State; but God had warned him that he must not shrink, for his mission was the creation of the spiritual life, and this must have a solid material edifice wherein to dwell. To his political sermons he summoned the magistrates, admitting none but men. He sketched not only the form of the new constitution but the main lines of legislation, ethical and economic. Monarchy, he admitted, might be the ideal government, but it was unsuited for people of temperate climates, who had at once too much blood and too much cleverness to bear a king,—unsuited above all to high-spirited and subtle Florentines, for whom the Venetian popular government was the natural type. He suggested that the citizens should gather under their sixteen companies (gunfaloni), that each company should draft a scheme, that of these the sixteen gonfaloniers should select four, and from them the Slgnoria should choose the best: this, he assured his congregation, would be after the Venetian model.

In official circles there was resistance, but popular opinion was overwhelming. The aristocrats had overthrown the Medici, but the people claimed the spoils. After long debate the several magistracies, the Sixteen gonfaloniers, the Twelve bttonitomini, the Twenty, the Eight, and the Ten of War each presented constitutions, and of these that of the Ten, to which Soderini belonged, was chosen. The old Councils of People and Commune were replaced by a Grand Council, which became the sovereign authority of the State. Membership was confined to those who had at any time been drawn for the three chief offices, the Signoria, the Twelve, and the Sixteen, or whose ancestors within three generations had been so drawn: the age limit was twenty-nine, and no one could be a councillor who had not paid his taxes. A small number of citizens, otherwise qualified, above the age of twenty-four was admitted, and in each year twenty-eight additional members, unqualified by office, might be elected; few of these, however, obtained the requisite majority of two-thirds of the votes. The chief function of the Council was electoral. Electors drawn by lot nominated candidates for the more important offices, and of those who secured an absolute majority of votes he who polled the highest number was elected. For the minor offices members of the Council were drawn by lot. The Council chose a Senate of eighty members, who sat for six months but were re-eligible; their duty was to