Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aftermath of Ciompi Revolt in Florence

After the Ciompi succeed in seizing power in Florence they find a leader in a wool carder named Michele di Lando. From 1378-1381 Florence is someting of a medieval workers' paradise. In 1381 the elites take back power, but some of the workers' gains are maintained in a power structure that requires the cooperation of the less poweful guilds  Forty years later, in the spring of 1424. the Florentines were very unhappy with what they perceived as an unnecessary foreign war. A crushing defeat at Zagonara was especially galling, with an enormous loss of men and money. Heavy new taxes were of course imposed to pay war debts.  

Machiavelli tells us that the Florentine councils in 1424 [Florentine Histories, Book IV, chapter 8]
  “created twenty citizens to levy a new tax, who, inspired by seeing the powerful citizens depressed by the last defeat, loaded them down without giving them any consideration… [the tax collectors had] authority to be able to kill anyone who might defend himself against the public agents. From this arose many grievous accidents, with the death and wounding of citizens, from which it appeared that the parties [Albizzi v. Medici (allies of Ricci] would come to blood… [the leading citizens] “decided they  should all meet again together…

 [ IV, 9]  Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi spoke to all.  He pointed out the condition of the city and how through their own negligence it had come again under the power of the plebs… He reminded them of the iniquity of the state that had ruled from 1378 to 1381 and how, of all those present, this one’s father and this one’s grandfather had been killed by it; that they were returning to the same dangers and disorders; for already the multitude had levied a tax to suit itself, and very soon, if it were not restrained by greater force or better order, it would create magistrates according to its own arbitrary will. If this should happen, it would seize their places and would wreck the state… Therefore, he declared, it was necessary for everyone who loved his fatherland and his own honor to come to his senses and and remind himself of the virtue of Bardo mancini, who, with the ruin of the Alberti, had got the city out of the dangers it was in then… He concluded, therefore, that he saw only this mode by which to remedy it: restore the state to the great and take away authority from the lesser guilds by reducing them from fourteen to seven.  This would make the plebs have less authority in the councils both because their number would be fewer and also because the great, having more authority there, would be unfavorable to them on account of old hostilities… And as for carrying out these things, there was deceit or force to which they could easily have recourse, since some of them as members of the War Council of Ten, could bring men secretly into the city… and there was no other remedy than winning Giovanni  de’ Medici over to them. So the commission was given to Messer Rinaldo to go to Giovanni and see if he might attract Giovanni  to their judgment…”

As it turned out, Giovanni de’ Medici wasn’t willing to betray the common people, and so the city became openly divided between an elitist faction adhering to the Albizzi, and a more populist faction that favored the Medici family. Eventually the Medici do take advantage of their populist reputation to slowly gain total control over Florence, first under cover of republican forms, and eventually (in the sixteenth century) ruling the city for generations as the dukes of Florence.  Indeed, the Medici also marry into the royal House of France, and give the Church three Popes, thus becoming pretty much the most powerful family in early modern Italy.
We'll have a bit more to say about all this next time...


Motivated In Ohio said...

This is great Ulysses. We need to learn from the past.

Ulysses said...

Thanks for your kind words, Motivated!