Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/309

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1) The Council of Forty, that is the Judges of the Supreme Court, are to put up to ballot the names of all who have, at any time during the last four years, had a seat in the Great Council. Those who receive twelve votes and upwards are to be included in the Great Council. (2) On return from absence abroad a fresh ballot is requisite. (3) Three members shall be appointed to submit names of new candidates for election. These electors are to hold office for one year. (4) The present law may not be revoked, except with the consent of five out of six ducal Councillors, twenty-five members of the Council of Forty, and two-thirds of the Great Council.

The result of these resolutions was to create a specially favoured class, those who had during the last four years sat in the Great Council. By the third resolution admission to that caste was still left open; but the action of the Committee of three soon completed the Serrata del Maggior Cormgtio, and rendered the oligarchy virtually a close caste; for they laid down for themselves the rule that no one was eligible to the Great Council unless he could prove that a paternal ancestor had sat in the Council subsequent to its creation in 1172. By this regulation all those-and they were the vast majority-who had neither sat themselves nor could prove that a paternal ancestor had sat in the Great Council, were virtually disfranchised, for that Council was the root of political life in the State, and exclusion from it meant political annihilation. In 1315 a list of all those who were eligible for election was compiled, and only legitimate children of parents belonging to the favoured class were allowed to appear in this register, known as the Golden Book. Thus the Venetian aristocracy was created, and was established as the sole power in the State.

The exclusion of so many Venetians from all share in the government of their State led to the only revolution which ever seriously endangered the Republic,—the Conspiracy of Bajamonte Tiepolo (1310). Thanks, however, to the decisive step then taken, this conspiracy was crushed and the constitution of Venice was never again in any grave peril. For it was at this moment of danger to the State that the constitution received its final touches by the creation of the Council of Ten.