Ingratitude is generally supposed the vice peculiar to republics; and it seems to be forgotten that for one instance of popular inconstancy, we have a hundred examples of the fall of courtly favourites. Besides, a people have often repented—a monarch seldom or never. Leaving apart many familiar proofs of this fact, a short story may show the difference between even an aristocracy and the multitude.
Vettor Pisanì, having been defeated in 1354 at Portolongo and many years afterwards in the more decisive action of Pola, by the Genoese, was recalled by the Venetian government, and thrown into chains. The Avvogadori proposed to behead him, but the supreme tribunal was content with the sentence of imprisonment. Whilst Pisani was suftering this unmerited disgrace, Chioza, in the vicinity of the capital, was, by the assistance of the Signor of Padua, delivered into the hands of Pietro Doria. At the intelligence of that disaster, the great bell of St. Mark's tower tolled to arms, and the people and the soldiery of the galleys were summoned to the repulse of the approaching enemy; but they protested they would not move a step, unless Pisani were liberated and placed at their head. The great council was instantly assembled: the prisoner was called before them, and the Doge, Andrea Contarini, informed him of the demands of the people, and the necessities of the state, whose only hope of safety was reposed in his efforts, and who implored him to forget the indignities he had endured in her service. "I have submitted," replied the magnanimous republican, "I have submitted to your deliberations without complaint; I have supported patiently the pains of imprisonment, for they were inflicted at your command: this is no time to inquire whether I deserved them—the good of the republic may have seemed to require it, and that which the republic resolves is always resolved wisely. Behold me ready to lay down my life for the preservation of my country." Pisani was appointed generalissimo, and, by his exertions, in conjunction with those of Carlo Zeno, the Venetians soon recovered the ascendancy over their maritime rivals.
The Italian communities were no less unjust to their citizens than the Greek republics. Liberty, both with the one and the other, seems to have been a national, not an individual object: and, notwithstanding the boasted equality before the laws, which an ancient Greek writer considered
- See Note 6, p. 476.
- The Greek boasted that he was ἰσόνομος. See the last chapter of the first book of Dionysius of Halicarnassus.