Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/199

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party strife and proscription executed under legal forms. But his dislike of the rabble as a political power was genuine. He had all an Italian's respect for family; he dwelt with complacency on the fact that many of his novices were scions of the best Florentine houses. He knew, or soon learned to know, the defects of a weak executive. During his trial he confessed his wish to imitate yet further the Venetian constitution, by the appointment of a Doge, a Gonfalonier for life. After his death, this very method was adopted from sheer despair at the incompetence of the republican administration. So again he opposed the most durable democratic principle which flattered Florentine love of equality, election by lot. When a combination of aristocrats, who wished to discredit the Council, and of extreme men, who would carry democratic principles to their logical conclusions, strove to eliminate nomination, and to substitute a bare for an absolute majority, Savonarola preached against this enfeeblement of administrative efficiency.

Savonarola taught his congregation that every vote entailed a solemn responsibility; he amplified San Bernardino's warning that a single bean wrongly given might prove the ruin of the State. The elector, he preached, must have in view the glory of God, the welfare of the community, the honour of the State: he ought not to nominate a candidate from private motives nor reject one who may have wronged him: a candidate should be both good and wise, but if the choice lie between a wise man and one who is good but foolish, the interest of the State required the former: no man should be elected to an office by way of charity, his poverty must not be relieved to the detriment of the public service: the elector should not from temper or persuasion vote against a candidate or throw his nomination paper on the ground, nor yet support any who had canvassed him, nor ever give a party vote: in cases of reasonable doubt let the elector pray, and then without looking give the black bean or the white, for God would guide his hand. This last characteristic reference to divine guidance was followed by a remarkable instance of reliance upon miracle. There were rumours that the new great hall of Council was unsafe, and nervous electors feared to take their seats. Let them not fear, exclaimed the preacher, for if the building were not sound, God would hold it up!

On the expulsion of the Medici, their financial system as well as their constitution was cast into the melting-pot. The progressive tax on all forms of income, which had been their favourite expedient, shared in their unpopularity. Savonarola was prepared not only with a constitution but a budget. He preached that direct taxation should be limited to a tenth on immovables, and that this should be levied once only in the year. It was argued that such a tax was not liable to the arbitrary assessment, which had been the curse of Florentine finance; a tax on land was easy to collect and had solid security behind it; it entailed no inquisitorial prying into credit, it suffered merchant and