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organised, if not unarmed, might well fear the lawless Transalpine soldiery let loose' in her streets. Savonarola was sent on a second embassage to the king. We see no reason to treat, with M. Perrens, his account of his own language as vain boasting: “I spoke to the king as not one of you would have dared to have spoken, and, by the grace of God, he was appeased. I said things which you yourselves would not have endured, yet he heard them patiently. Charles VIII. was not so superior to the awe of a man who spoke, like Savonarola, in the name of God, and whom many believed to be a prophet, as not to cower before his presence, or, at least, to reverence his saintly character. On November 26 the treaty was signed, and Charles left the city.
Florence was now free, but with the Medici had fallen the government which had subsisted for seventy years. The old republican forms remained, but they had fallen into desuetude, and the habits of self-government had long been obsolete. All at first was factious confusion, trade ruined, shops closed, the people ground down by the enormous sums exacted by the French king as free gifts. There were great names—Soderinis, Capponis, and Valoris—but none of commanding authority. The stranger, the monk Savonarola, was the first man in Florence; on him all eyes were turned; he alone had overawed the mighty king of France; to him Florence owed that her streets had not run deep with blood. That he himself was the founder of the new republic, was no idle boast; his sermons on Haggai, during the Advent of the present year, reveal the workings of his mind, and the course of his proceedings. Savonarola awaited his time; his first proposal was that of a religious teacher rather than of a legislator—it was to make collections, one for the poor of the city, one for the poor of the territory; to open the shops in order to give employment to the needy; to lighten the taxes, especially those which weighed on the lower orders; to enforce strict justice; and, finally, to pray fervently to God. If all eyes were previously turned on Savonarola in despair, they were now turned in
popular gratitude. By common consent Savonarola became the lawgiver of Florence. He summoned the whole people, except the women, to meet under the dome of the cathedral. He began by laying down four great rules or principles as the groundwork of the new constitution. I. Fear God. II. Prefer the good of the republic to your own. III. A general amnesty. IV. A council formed on the model of that of Venice without a doge. Nor was the constitution which he proceeded to develope the extemporaneous conception of a great mind, called forth by the exigencies of the time, nor that of a bold fanatic grasping at power, which in wielding he learned to wield. Savonarola had profoundly studied the principles of government. These questions had not been avoided in their vast theory of human life by the Schoolmen. S. Thomas had entered into them with all his cold, analytical, Aristotelian precision and his exhaustive plenitude; and Savonarola was master of the whole of S. Thomas. His book on Government is the practical application of that of the Schoolman. According to both, monarchy is nearest to the government of God-it is the best of governments; but both the Schoolman and the Prophet had a noble aversion to tyranny, into which Italian monarchies seemed inevitably to degenerate. The death of S. Thomas is by some attributed to poison administered by Charles of Anjou, against whose dire despotism his book of government had been a stern protest. Savonarola, in more than one passage, draws the ideal of a tyrant in the blackest hues, manifestly with allusion to the hated Medici.
The constitution of Florence, as founded by Fra Girolamo, was not a fierce democracy; it by no means recognised universal suffrage. The parliament of the whole people, summoned by the tocsin, had been the main instrument of the silent despotism of the Medici. This turbulent assemblage had of necessity devolved its full powers on a Balia, and on certain functionaries, the Accoppiatori, whose names, duly prepared by the Medicean faction, had been carried by acclamation, and thus assumed the sovereignty under the secret dictatorship of
Cosmo, or his descendants. It was thus shown, on a small scale, how universal suffrage ends in despotism. The great Council of the nation, established by Savonarola, comprehended the citizens with the right of suffrage; it consisted of all who had the right to take part in public affairs, that is, citizens of above thirty years of age (in some cases twentyfive), of blameless character (netti di specchio), who themselves or their fathers, grandfathers, or great-grandfathers, had been either in the Signory, gonfaloniers of the companies, or of the twelve Buonomini. The population of Florence and its territory was reckoned by a curious statistical return, published by Roscoe, at 450,000; the Great Council comprised but 3,200; of those one-third were chosen by lot for six months, and so in succession. No meeting had authority if of less than one thousand. The attributes of this kind of broad hereditary peerage were, to appoint to all the magistracies, to adopt or reject all laws. Afterwards it became a court of appeal from the sentences of death or exile passed by the Signory; this was called the trial of the six beans (sei feve). The Signory was supreme, under the control of the Great Council.
There was a second council of eighty (the richiesti); a senate which advised the Signory, drew up the laws to be submitted to the Great Council; decided on peace or war, conducted foreign and military affairs. Every member of the eighty must be full forty years old; all the magistrates formed part of it, and had a deliberative voice in its counsels. Such, in its outline, was the constitution of Savonarola, or rather of God; for Savonarola enacted it in the name and authority of God: on its maintenance depended God's blessing and the promised unexampled prosperity of Florence. Nor was this all; it had a head, and this head was no less than Christ himself. Our own Fifth-monarchy-men were anticipated in this instalment of King Jesus as the paramount sovereign. The popular cry in defence of the constitution was, “Live Jesus Christ;' again and again the preacher, in his panegyric on his
own great work, declares it the especial care of the Saviour and of the Virgin.
What was the office and position of Savonarola himself in the new constitution ? It was one of greater influence and authority, because it was anomalous and undefined. The Lord of Florence was Jesus Christ, but the representative of the divine will, the prophet by whom it was permitted to reveal the future, was Savonarola. His office was something like that of a judge of Israel, or a Roman censor with dictatorial power. Nor was it that the Signory or the Council had resort to the cell of the Friar, as to the seat of a living and perpetual oracle. He is found in the pulpit during the more than three years of his domination, with rare pause or intermission, and that not merely as the Christian preacher denouncing the sins of men, but as the guardian of the public weal. It is Florence which is the constant object of his terrible or cheering address. Against the attempt to restore the parliament, he thundered with more than his usual vehemence. “People, if you would not ruin yourselves, permit not the parliament to assemblekeep well this maxim, and teach it to your sons. People, when you hear the bell which summons you to parliament, rise up, draw your sword, and say to those who convoke it, What would you have ? Has not the Council full power ? What law do you propose ? Will not the Council do it as well?' He urges them to make the Signory take a solemn oath not to assemble the parliament, to inflict heavy fines on all who should order the bells to sound for it. I would have, if the guilty man be of the Signory, his head struck off ; if he be not, let him be declared a rebel, and his goods confiscated. This was strong language even for the tribune preacher.
But in truth, according to Savonarola, it was the primary and essential postulate of the constitution of Florence, that Florence should be a Christian city; a city such as had never
• Predic. sopra li Salmi, July 28, 1495. See Perrens, p. 214, for the rest of the quotation.
been seen on the earth; the model to Rome, to Italy, to the world. It was to enjoy an age of peace and prosperity. Therefore it was that the preacher plunged headlong into politics. Whom were the Christian people to consult in all things but their Christian teacher, him who had the divine mission to preach, which not even the Pope could annul? Who was to guide the Lord's people but the prophet of the Lord ? It is idle to judge, as we might now judge, of the incongruity of religious men mingling themselves in the turmoil and strife of the ringhiera, of making the pulpit a rostrum, instead of keeping the faith of Christ in holy and peaceful seclusion from the passions of men, and preserving the clear, definite distinction between the citizen and the Christian. For centuries the priesthood had been the rulers of the secular as well as the spiritual affairs of men. Bishops had been lords of cities, though latterly in Italy they had shrunk into a more peaceful sphere before the terrible tyrants, the condottieri captains, the hereditary podestàs. Preachers, saints, even female saints (at Florence S. Catherine of Sienna), had mingled in matters of state. The Popes had been the demagogues of Christendom; and if they had shown a tithe of the zeal for the liberties of mankind, which they did for what they called their own liberties, but which in fact was an iron spiritual tyranny, they had been demagogues to whom history might pay the highest honour. Yet was not Savonarola himself without some apprehension of this unnatural position of the Christian teacher; but with his characteristic boldness he resolved it into the manifest will of God:
I have spoken to God in my own language. “And what, Friar, hast thou said unto the Lord ?' I have said, Lord, I confess that thou art just, good, almighty, and that thou art my God; that thou hast created me out of nothing, and I am dust and ashes; yet will I speak to thee with confidence, for thou hast been crucified for me. Pardon me if I am presumptuous and too familiar in my speech. Thou, Lord, who doest all things well, thou hast deceived me; thou hast betrayed me, worse than man was ever betrayed. For though I have prayed long time that thou wouldst grant me such grace, that I might never