Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/194

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advise the Signoria and to appoint ambassadors and commissioners with the army. The executive remained unchanged; at the head was the Signor'w, the Gonfalonier of Justice and the eight Priors, holding office for two months. Its consultations were aided by the College, the Twelve r and the Sixteen; the Ten of War and the Eight of EaTia continued to exist. Every legislative proposal, every money-bill, every question of peace and war, was initiated in the Signoria, passed through the College to the Senate and received completion in the Council. This was expected to number about 3000 members, and, until a large hall in the Palace could be built, it was divided into three sections which sat in turn.

This was a bold constitutional experiment, the boldest that had yet been tried at Florence. It was not exactly the transplantation of an exotic constitution which had matured under different conditions of soil and climate, but rather an attempt to hybridise the Florentine executive with the Venetian elective system. To all Italian statesmen it seemed clear that Venice possessed the ideal constitution, but the essence of this perfection was not so obvious. The academic explanation was that it was mixed, combining the merits of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Consequently Venice could serve as a model to artists of very different schools. Lorenzo de1 Medici, convinced of the weakness of the Florentine system for diplomacy and war, had, in creating the Seventy and the Committee of Eight, looked to the Senate and the Ten, which were essentially the motive powers of the Venetian constitution. His last political act, the creation of a baTia of Seventeen, was probably another adaptation of the Venetian Ten, applied to the purposes most essential to Medicean power, elections and finance; it is at least a curious coincidence that the so-called Ten consisted really of seventeen members. His intention is believed to have been that he should be elected life-Gonfalonier, or Doge; this would have legalised his irregular position, and given him permanent influence in every department. Lorenzo, however, while making a selection from both the aristocratic and monarchical elements of his model, left out of sight its broad popular basis. At Venice, the Grand Council was eminently the elective body, and the electors could tolerate the supremacy of their representatives. Lorenzo had entrusted elective functions above all to oligarchical councils and committees.

The cry of the Florentines now was, People and Liberty. Overlooking therefore the administrative excellence of Venice, they gave exclusive attention to the Grand Council, which had been, indeed, rather the declining partner in the Venetian Constitution. They believed, not unnaturally, that by directly interesting a large number of citizens in the constitution they would shake off once for all the extra-legal influences, which had for so long dominated the elections and through them the administration; thus would cease the curious dualism between the real and the apparent government, the cause of some oppression and much