Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/307

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made itself apparent, more especially after such periods of expansion as the reign of Pietro II, Orseolo, the capture of Tyre, and the Fourth Crusade. This wealthier class gradually drew together and formed the nucleus of a plutocracy. The policy of this powerful class, embracing as it did all the leading citizens, naturally pursued the lines along which Venetian constitutional development consistently moved. This policy had a twofold object: first, to curtail the ducal authority; secondly, to exclude the people, and to concentrate all power in the hands of the commercial aristocracy. The history of the Venetian constitution is the history of the way in which the dominant party attained its "ends.

The primitive machinery of the Venetian Republic consisted, as we have seen, of the General Assembly and the Doge. Very soon, however, under the pressure of business, two ducal Councillors were added to aid the Doge in the discharge of his ever-growing obligations. Further, it became customary though not necessary, that he should invite (pregare) some of the more prominent citizens to assist him with their advice upon grave occasions, and hence the name of what was eventually known as the Consiglio dei Pregadi, the Venetian Senate.

But constitutional machinery of so simple a nature could not prove adequate to the requirements of a State whose growth was as rapid as that of Venice. In 1172 the disastrous conclusion of the campaign against the Emperor Manuel, into which the Republic had rushed at the bidding of the Condone or General Assembly, called the attention of Venetians to their constitution and its defects. It seemed to them that reforms were required on two grounds: first, because the position of the Doge was too independent, considering his discretionary powers as to whether and as to whom he would ask for advice; secondly, because the people in their General Assembly had become too numerous, unruly and rash to allow of their being safely entrusted with the fortunes of their country. A deliberative assembly of manageable size was required; and its establishment implied a definition of the Doge's authority on the one hand and of the popular rights on the other. The evolution of these two ideas forms the problem of Venetian constitutional history down to the year 1297, when that constitution became stereotyped as a close oligarchy after the famous "Closing of the Great Council."

The reforms of the year 1172 were threefold:

(1) In order to create a manageable deliberative assembly each sestiere of the city was required to elect two representatives; and each couple in their turn nominated forty of the more prominent members of their district. Thus a body of four hundred and eighty members was created. They held office for one year and at the end of the first year the General Assembly itself named the two nominating representatives of each sestiere. The functions of this new Assembly were to appoint all officers of