So, Machiavelli puts us at the scene in the spring of 1378, when the Albizzi faction in Florence hesitates to use force to put down a workers' revolt that aims to put the elite families who dominate the Parte Guelfa out of business.
The spark that ignites the flame of revolution in Florence is the stirring resignation speech of one Salvestro de'Medici, a wealthy man who was sympathetic to the demands of the Ciompi (unskilled wool workers). Powerful men are killed, and many houses are burned. After some days of unrest, many of the rebels are ready to stop and ask for mercy from the authorities. But one intelligent leader has another plan:
"If we had to deliberate now whether to take up arms, to burn and rob the homes of the citizens, to despoil churches, I would be one of those who would judge it was a course to think over, and perhaps I would agree to put quiet poverty ahead of perilous gain. But because arms have been taken up and many evils have been done, it appears to me that one must reason that arms must not be put aside and that we must consider how we can secure ourselves from the evils that have been committed... You see the whole city full of grievance and hatred against us: the citizens meet together; the Signoria is always on the side of the magistrates. You should believe that traps are being set for us and that new forces are being prepared against our strongholds. We must therefore seek two things, and we must have two ends in our deliberations: one is to make it impossible for us to be punished for the things we have done in recent days, and the other is to be able to live with more freedom and more satisfaction than we have in the past... If we wish that our old errors be forgiven us, [we need] to make new ones, reoubling the evils, multiplying the arson and robbery-- and to contrive to have many companions in this, because when many err, no one is punished, and though small faults are punished, great and grave ones are rewarded." (Florentine Histories, III, 13) to be continued...
We'll have more to say about all this soon-- I hope that Leftsiders are enjoying the words of Niccolo Machiavelli!!