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lution--the Prophet saw not clearly what was to come. His sermon (on Haggai) dwelt only on the mercy of God; he urged the people to imitate God, and show compassion. He spoke ambiguously of the scourge impending over the city: let Florence appease God, who is already half-appeased ; let the approaching Advent be a fast as rigorous as Lent. The burthen of his discourse, the burthen on which he perpetually dwelt, was calamity on Italy, on Florence, on the clergy.
And he said again and again that Italy shall be utterly subverted, and specially the city of Rome. Nevertheless it was revealed to him, and had been revealed in former visions he had seen at intervals for the last four years, that the prophecy against Florence was conditional : it might be averted by her repentance and by God's mercy. Four ambassadors were named of noble houses--a Nerli, a Rucellai, a Capponi, a Cavalcanti; the fifth was the Dominican stranger, Girolamo Savonarola. They set out for Lucca; Charles eluded their reception ; he was on his march to Pisa, whither they followed him; but Piero de' Medici had pre-occupied the weak mind of the king by his humble submission. On their solemn audience Savonarola addressed the king in a long florid Ciceronian harangue, in which there are but few gleams of the fervid preacher. It was a general exhortation to imitate God in showing mercy.
On November 27 Charles VIII. entered Florence ; his manners were courteous, but the terms which he dictated hard and imperious—the restoration of the Medici to their full sovereignty. The magistrates had not lost the Florentine courage: they firmly repelled the proposals. What then,' said the impetuous Frenchman, if I sound my trumpets?' Then,' resolutely answered Gino Capponi, Florence must toll her bells.' The threat of the terrible tocsin, the signal of general insurrection in all Italian cities, startled the king, and he turned off, with a coarse pleasantry on the name of Capponi. Yet Florence, un· Nardi, i. 51. M. Perrens well observes that Machiavelli has said better :
Lo strepito dell' armi e do' cavalli
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 ou 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.