Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/195

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heart-burning. There was, however, this great difference, that at Florence every legislative question and every important question of policy ultimately came before the Council, whereas at Venice almost all received their decision in the Senate. Thus while at Venice, if the Ten be momentarily set aside, the Senate was the determining body, at Florence it exercised little weight in the fortunes of the coming years, and was, indeed, overshadowed by the influence of the Pratica, an excrescence on the constitution, of which more anon. It is clear from this alone that in diplomacy and war, when speed, secrecy, and trained experience were required, Florence would be at a disadvantage. At Venice, again, the executive was more highly developed, there was greater differentiation. Each, for instance, of the Savi da terra firma had his own department, while the functions of the board differed from those of the Savi da mar. At Florence the Signoria with its consultative associates, the Twelve and the Sixteen, had undergone no process of evolution. Even between the Signoria and the two chief executive committees, the Ten and the Eight, there was no clear demarcation; conflicts of authority might and did arise. Moreover, Florence had no trained pilot; very ordinary seamen took their place on the bridge almost in turn. The Venetian Doge is traditionally called a figure-head, but this metaphor gives a false impression of his relation to the ship of State. He was, it is true, hemmed in by every precaution against absolutism, but he was usually elected as a citizen of high position and long experience. Chosen for life, he sat among officials most of whom were elected for short terms; he was in the closest touch with every branch of the administration; nor did his fortunes depend on the popularity of his opinions. His influence might not be obvious but it was all-pervading; every great movement in Venetian policy will be found to associate itself with the personality of a Doge. How different was the position of a Florentine Gonfalonier of Justice elected for two months, and welcomed by the citizens in proportion to his insignificance! Finally, at Florence there was no attempt as yet to emulate the Venetian judicial system with its three courts of forty citizens, and its admirable supervision of local justice by itinerary commissions from the capital. It was this organisation, partly representative and popular, partly expert, which made Venetian justice acceptable to the mainland cities and respected at home. Florence was left with her old faulty system, at once weak, cruel and partial, inspiring neither affection nor respect. The controlling dynastic power was now withdrawn which had at least striven to give some efficiency and regularity to justice. This was certain to become the sport of the political passions of the moment.

In spite of these defects the new constitution was popular, for it gave a constant interest in government to a larger number than had previously been the case. In this sense it may be termed democratic; it is frequently called the Florentine democracy even by those who stigmatise