Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/201

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the close of the Pisan War, Florence was reduced to hiring a Genoese pirate with a brigantine or two to blockade the outlets of the Arno.

The defects of Florentine justice did not escape Savonarola's ken. His recommendation that the chief commercial court, the Mercatanzia, should be reformed by means of a representative committee, was carried out as far as statute went. Politicians however continued to manipulate the court through the agency of its permanent secretary, and this afterwards brought about a split in the liberal party, even as it was alleged to have caused the original breach between Medici and Albizzi. The Friar also proposed a new criminal court, which he called Ruota, composed of citizens sufficiently wealthy and well-paid to stand above fear or favour. A Ruota was after his death established, but bore no resemblance except in name to his proposal, which was undoubtedly borrowed from the admirable Venetian courts named Quarantle. When, still later, a Quarantia was introduced at Florence, it was a mere temporary criminal commission to ensure the condemnation of the over-mighty subject.

Savonarola's political programme might now seem complete, but he well knew that the constitution was not perfect. He stated plainly that time would show the defects and make them good; the essential was to establish the local popular base at once. Even this he came to see might need amendment; in a remarkable sermon preached in 1497, he hinted that the Grand Council itself might need a purge. He had to learn that there was no panacea for the inherited hysteria of a State. Not entirely without reason the hostile chronicler Vaglienti wrote that little reliance could be placed in what the Commune of Florence did, since what was done to-day was undone to-morrow; that truly Dante had said

Quante volte nel tempo che rimembre Legge, moneta ed ufficio e costume Hai tu mutato, e rinnovato membre.

Notwithstanding Savonarola's political activity, politics were for him solely subordinate to ethics. The form of government was not an end in itself, but the means to moral purification; tyrants must be expelled, not because they were oppressive, but because they were morally perverting. He preached against Cosimo de' Medici's maxim that a State could not be governed by paternosters: the more spiritual a polity, the stronger it was: where there was grace, there were unity, obedience, sobriety, and therefore strength: riches followed grace and enabled the citizens to help each other and the Commune in times of need: in a State that kept its word, the soldiers were braver and more regularly paid: enemies feared the city that was at unity with itself, and friends more readily sought its alliance. For Savonarola the State was coextensive with the citizens' moral and religious welfare. His aim may almost be termed a system of State socialism applied to ethics rather than to economics. His programme was set out in four clauses-the fear of