Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/200

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artisan to ply unhindered those occupations which made the wealth of Florence; for she was poor in land but rich in commerce. The proposal became law, and a committee of sixteen was elected to assess- all landed property in Florence and its territory. Apart from its being limited to immovables, the new tax differed from its predecessors in being regarded technically as a gift, and not as a loan. Extraordinary taxes had previously been credited to the tax-payer in the State-debt and nominally bore interest; the new tax was subject to no repayment.

For this suggestion Savonarola has won the fame of a great financier, and it is true that the tenth had a long life, when once its delicate youth was past, for it formed the basis of taxation under the Medici Grand-dukes. Yet the proposal was neither wise nor novel. Taxes had long been levied on revenue from land, and the limitation was but a return to earlier practice. The wealth of Florence, the source of luxurious expenditure, was commerce; the landed classes might live in easy circumstances, but not in state; yet commerce was now exempt. The arbitrary taxation of individuals was remedied by shifting it to the shoulders of a class. The new tax fell hardly on the nobles who were unrepresented in the State; it was therefore popular with the ruling middle-classes, who were jealous of their social influence. The French were still in Italy, while Pisa was in full revolt, and Florentine territory exposed to depredation. Yet the source of income taxed was that which was least protected; the lower classes would necessarily feel the pinch, for the impost would inevitably, in spite of State regulation, raise the price of grain and oil and wine.

Savonarola's financial scheme was predoomed to failure, for it was totally inadequate to its purpose. Even the assessment was not completed until the year of his death, and then only for the inhabitants of Florence. The republic from the first resorted to the old tainted sources of supply-forced loans from richer or less popular citizens; it still, as was said of Cosimo de1 Medici, used the taxes instead of the dagger. The arbitrio, an impost on the profits of trades and professions, reappeared; and the duties on articles of consumption rose and rose again. Even before Savonarola's death it was proposed to restore the progressive tax, which could be levied several times within the year. The white farthings, the withdrawal of which had been the first concession to the populace, were reissued. The finances were incompetently and extravagantly administered; there was no permanent control, no subordination of private to public interests. Under the Medici a limited number had benefited from corruption; under the Republic each fresh group which came into momentary power, felt bound to gratify its adherents by the superfluous creation of commissaries and envoys. It became difficult to pass money-bills through the Council, and the consequent delay came to cost the State a hundred times the sum originally needed. So entire was the decay of the Florentine marine, that towards