Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/262

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Contemporary diarists and letter-writers leave us in no doubt as to the cause of this event. Cardinal Borgia had simply bought up the Sacred College. The principal agent in his elevation was Ascanio Sforza, a Cardinal of the greatest weight for his personal qualities and because of his connexion with the reigning house of Milan, but too young both as a man and a Cardinal to aspire as yet to the Papacy. Borgia's election would vacate the lucrative Vice-Chancellorship, and Sforza was tempted with the reversion. Other Cardinals divided among themselves the archbishoprics, abbacies, and other preferments demitted by the new Pope; but Sforza's influence was the determining force. His motives were unquestionably rather ambitious than sordid; he looked to the Vice-Chancellorship to pave his path to the Papacy; and the tale deserves little credence, that a man who in every subsequent passage of his life evinced magnanimity and high spirit was further tempted by mule-loads of silver. There is, in truth, absolutely no trustworthy evidence as to any money having passed in the shape of coin or bullion, and, although Alexander's election was without question the most notorious of any for the unscrupulous employment of illegitimate influences, it is difficult to affirm that it was in principle more simoniacal than most of those which had lately preceded it or were soon to follow. If the bias of personal interest suffices to invalidate elections decided by it, the age of Alexander cannot be thought to have often seen a lawful Pope. If a less austere view is to be taken, no broad line of demarcation can well be drawn between the election of Alexander and that of Julius.

Whatever the flaw in Alexander's title, he seemed in many respects eminently fit for the office. At the mature age of sixty-two, dignified in personal appearance and in manner, vigorous in constitution, competently learned, a lawyer and a financier who had filled the office of Vice-Chancellor for thirty-six years, versed in diplomacy and well qualified to deal vigorously with turbulent nobles and ferocious bandits, he appeared the aptest possible representative of the Temporal Power, while his shortcomings on the spiritual side passed almost unnoticed in an age of lax morality, when religion had with most men become a mere form. Some of the far-seeing; indeed, shook their heads over the Pope's illegitimate offspring, and predicted that the strength of his parental affection, and the imperious vehemence of his character, would lead him further and more disastrously than any predecessor on the paths of nepotism. To most, however, the experienced statesman and diligent man of business, genial and easy-tempered when not crossed, who knew how to combine magnificence with frugality, and whose deep dissimulation was the more dangerous from the perfect genuineness of the sanguine, jovial temperament beneath which it lay concealed, seemed precisely the Pope needed for restoring the Church's tarnished* dignity. Nor was it long before Alexander justified a portion of the hopes