Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/308

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State and to prepare business to be submitted to the General Assembly. This is virtually the germ of the Maggior Consiglio (the Great Council), the basis of the Venetian oligarchical constitution. It had its origin in a double necessity: - that of limiting the electorate, and that of securing adequate deliberation and debate in a rapidly growing State. Its prime function of appointing to office belonged to it from the first. Its origin was democratic, for it sprang from election by the whole people; but an element of a close oligarchy was contained in the provision whereby the Assembly itself at the end of the first and of all subsequent years elected the twelve representatives of the six quarters of the city.

(2) The Doge continued to summon the Pregadi to assist him; but seeing that the newly created Council undertook election to office and many matters of internal policy, foreign affairs were chiefly reserved for the Senate; though that body did not become organised and permanent till the Tiepoline reforms of 1229-44.

(3) With a view to restricting the Doge's authority, four Councillors were added to the two already existing. Their duty was to check any attempt at personal aggrandisement on the part of the Doge; and gradually the ducal authority was withdrawn from the chief of the State and placed as it were, in commission in his Council. The coronation oath or promissione of the Doge was subjected to constant modification in the direction of restricting his authority, till at last the Doge himself lost much of his original weight. As his supreme power was withdrawn from him, bit by bit, the pomp and ceremony surrounding him were steadily increased.

These reforms of 1172 display the inherent nature of the Venetian constitution. The ducal authority is gradually curtailed; the Council shows a tendency to become a close oligarchy; the people are removed from the centre of government, although the complete disfranchisement of the mass of the population was not effected at once. The newly appointed Council did indeed endeavour to elect a chief magistrate without any appeal to the people, and a riot ensued which was only quieted by the electors presenting the new Doge to the General Assembly with the words "This is your Doge, an it please you,"—a formula which deluded the people into a belief that they still retained some voice in the election of the Doge.

The tendency displayed in the reforms of 1172 continued to make itself felt during the next hundred years, until we come to the epoch of the Closing of the Great Council, whereby Venice established her constitution as a close oligarchy.

The growing wealth of the State, especially after the Fourth Crusade, served to increase the influence of those families into whose hands the larger share of Venetian commerce had already fallen. We find certain family names such as Contarini, Morosini, Foscari, recurring more and more frequently and preponderating in the Council which the law of (