Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/312

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efficiency and rapidity led to a gradual substitution of the Ten for the Senate upon many important occasions. An order of the Ten was as binding as a law of the Senate. Ambassadors reported secretly to the Ten; and the instructions of the Ten would carry more weight than those of the Senate. The judicial functions of the Ten were far higher than those of the Senate; and indeed in its capacity as a permanent committee of public safety and guardian of public morals there were few departments of government or of private life where its authority would have been disallowed. (4) Above both Senate and Ten came the cabinet or Collegia, It was composed of the Savii or Ministers. The six Savii grandi, the three Savii di terraferma, the three Savii agii ordini, the Secretaries, of finance, of war, and of marine. The Savii grandi took their functions in turn week and week about. All business of State passed through the hands of the Collegia and was prepared by them to be submitted to the Great Council, the Senate or the Ten according to the nature and importance of the matter. The Collegia was the initiatory body in the State and also the executive arm of the Maggior Consiglio and the Senate. The Ten, as we have stated, possessed an executive of its own in its three "Chiefs." (5) Above the Collegio came the lesser Council composed of the six ducal Councillors; immediately connected with the Doge; both* supervising him and representing him in all his attributes. The Doge could do nothing without his Council; a majority of the Council could perform all the ducal functions, without the presence of the Doge. (6) At the head of all came the Doge himself; the point of greatest splendour though not of greatest weight, the apex of the constitutional pyramid. He embodied and represented the majesty of the State; his presence was necessary everywhere, in the Great Council, in the Senate, in the Ten, in the College. He was the voice of Venice and in her name he replied to all ambassadors. As a statesman long practised in affairs and intimately acquainted with the political machinery of the Republic he could not fail to carry weight by his personality; and at a crisis the election of a Doge, as in the case of Francesco Foscari or, later still, as in the case of Leonardo Donato, might determine the course of events. But theoretically he was a symbol, not a factor in the constitution; the outward and visible sign of all that the oligarchy meant.

Such was the Venetian constitution, which, thanks to its efficiency and strength, commanded the admiration and the envy of Europe and enabled Venice to assume that high place among the nations which was hers during the fifteenth century.

The fifteenth century is the period of greatest splendour in the history of the Republic. Mature in her constitution, and with a dominion firmly