Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/310

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The accumulated difficulties and dangers brought about by the War of Ferrara, the Interdict, and the Tiepoline Conspiracy taught the Republic that the existing machinery of the State was too cumbersome, too slow, too public, to meet and deal successfully with extraordinary crises. A special committee to direct the affairs of Ferrara had been appointed early during that War. When the movements of Tiepolo and his fellow-conspirators, after their defeat, caused grave anxiety to the government, it seemed that some more rapid, secret, and efficient body than the Senate was required to track the operations of the traitors and to watch over the safety of the State. It was accordingly proposed that the Committee on Ferrarese affairs should be entrusted with the task (1310). The proposal was rejected on the ground that the committee was fully occupied. It was then suggested that the Great Council should elect ten of its members, and the Doge, his Council, and the Supreme Court, should elect another ten, and that from this body of twenty the Great Council should afterwards elect ten; not more than one member of the same family might sit on the board, which was at once entrusted with the protection of the public safety and the duty of vigilance against the Tiepoline conspirators. The committee acted so admirably and its services proved so valuable that its term of office, originally only for a few months, was extended and it finally became permanent in 1335.

As eventually modified the Council took the following shape afld was governed by its own code of procedure. The members were elected in the Great Council for one year only, and were not re-eligible till a year had elapsed. Every month the Ten elected three of its members as "Chiefs" (Capi). The "Chiefs" opened all communications, prepared all business to be submitted to the Council, and acted as its executive arm; they were obliged during their month of office to stay at home, so as to avoid exposure to bribery or other illegitimate influences.

Besides the ten actual members the Council included ex officio the Doge and his six Councillors, to whom were added on very grave occasions a certain number of prominent citizens, called the Zonta. Of the normal seventeen Councillors twelve made up a quorum. One at least of the Law-officers of the State-the Avogadori di comun-was ' always present, though without a vote, to prevent the Council from taking any illegal step.

The sittings opened with the reading of letters addressed to the Ten. Then followed the list of denunciations which were either public, that is signed, or secret, that is anonymous. If public, the Council voted whether they should take the accusation into consideration; if four-fifths voted "Aye" the case was entered on the agenda. If the denunciation was secret the Doge and his Council and the "Chiefs" were bound, before the question of taking it up came forward, to declare unanimously that the matter of the accusation was of public concern; and such a declaration required confirmation by a vote of