Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/202

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God-the common weal-universal peace-political reform. He confessed that Florence had begun at the end, but hoped that she would work backwards. Politics and ethics were so closely dovetailed, that he regarded opposition to his political views as involving sin; and herein lies his justification for his unmeasured denunciation of his opponents.

The Friar's influence upon the new government is proved by its first legislative acts, especially by the terrible penalties attached to unnatural vice. The deadly canker of Florentine life he, like other friars before him, believed to be gambling. To eradicate this, he was prepared to violate the privacy of family life, destroy individual liberty, and make the servant an informer against his master. Gambling he would punish with torture, blasphemy with piercing of the tongue. The dress and the hair of women and children were made the subject of legislation. The establishment of monti di pieta, State pawnbroking offices, would nowadays be regarded as an economic measure; in Savonarola's eyes it was mainly ethical, a form of State charity and a protest against usury; indeed, he at first proposed that the State should lend free of interest. His success in this measure proved his strength; for again and again Franciscans had advocated this check upon usurious Jews, who in bad seasons gained a hold upon the poor. Invariably they had been shown the city-gate by the upper citizens, themselves, as was believed, not averse to usurious interest. Quite of late Piero de' Medici had favoured a monte di pietd, but had found the opposition insuperable. Savonarola was no professed Anti-Semite; he expressed in print his sympathy for the Jews and his desire for their conversion; but for all that he virtually rid Florence of them.

His enemies accused Savonarola of leading the poor to idle. The general sense of excitement and unrest was no doubt intensified by prophecy. Nevertheless he consistently preached the gospel of labour for rich and poor. He had made every member of his own convent toil for its support; from the pulpit he implored artisans to return to work, and the employers to find them labour; to give work, he repeated, was the best form of charity; no one need fear starvation who lived a godly and industrious life. The rich, he preached, should labour even as the poor; he denounced the princes who lived on their subjects without protecting them, the wealthy who cornered grain, who scraped away the wages of the poor, who would give their worn-out shoes in lieu of money. But in the financial crisis through which Florence was passing an exhortation to work was not enough; crowds of peasants were driven into the towns by war and famine; wages must be supplemented by public and private charity. Collections were raised in the churches, in the processions, at the street corners, by house to house visitation; the government was urged to buy up grain from abroad, to open a relief office, to write off old arrears of taxes.

The reform of the public holidays was a natural consequence of the