Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/311

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five-sixths of the whole Council. This being obtained, the question of taking the matter into consideration next arose, and was decided as in the case of public denunciations. The denunciation list having been discharged, the first case on the trial list then came on for hearing. The Law-officers of the State (Avogadori) read a report on the case and submitted the form of warrant for arrest. The Council voted "to proceed" or not. If the vote was affirmative the warrant was issued and the "Chiefs" gave it execution. When the accused was in the hands of the Ten, a sub-committee or Collegia, as it was called, was appointed to draw up the case; they were empowered to use torture only by a special vote. The presumption was against the prisoner; he was called on to disprove the charge-intimare le difese. He was confronted neither with his accuser nor with witnesses. If he pleaded incapacity he was allowed to consult one of the official advocates established in 1443. The report of the subcommittee was read to the Council, and a vote was taken as to whether sentence should be pronounced. If the vote was affirmative sentence was proposed, any member being free to move a sentence or an amendment to one. On the result of the voting the fate of the prisoner depended. In cases of crime committed outside Venice but within the competence of the Ten, that Council could delegate its powers and procedure (its rito) to the local magistrates who sent in the minutes of the trial to the "Chiefs."

With the Closing of the Great Council and the establishment of the Council of Ten, the Venetian constitution reached its maturity. Some slight developments, such as the evolution of the Three Inquisitori di Stato, of the Esecutori contro alia Bestemmia, and the Camerlenghi, took place it is true; but on the whole the form was fixed, and it stood thus: (1) The Great Council contained the whole body politic. Out of it were elected almost all the chief officers of State. At first it possessed legislative and even some judicial powers, but these were gradually delegated to the Senate, or the Ten, as the Council became unmanageable in size, until at last it was left with hardly any attributes save its original chief function, that of the electorate of the State. (2) Above the Great Council came the Senate, consisting nominally of one hundred and twenty members, not including the Doge, his Council, the Judges of the 'Supreme Court, and many other officials, who sat ex officio and raised its numbers higher. The Senate was the great legislative body in the State; it also had the chief direction of ordinary foreign affairs and of finance; it declared war, made peace, received despatches from ambassadors, and sent instructions. It possessed a certain judicial authority which, however, was seldom exercised. (3) Parallel with the Senate, but outside the main lines of the constitution, came the Council of Ten. It had been established as a committee of public safety to meet a crisis, and to supply a defect in the constitution, the want of a rapid, secret, executive arm. Its