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superiors. I hope, through the mercy of God, for the pardon of my sins: it is that which I do not cease to supplicate by the merits of Jesus Christ; at the same time, that I use all efforts to awaken in the hearts of men the sentiments of faith which are now nearly extinguished. The book of the Triumph of the Cross that I am about to publish immediately, may serve to promote this object, and there will be found new proofs, not of my pretended errors, but of the purity of my faith.
I again supplicate your holiness not to give credit to the words of informers until on due examination it has been found their statements now are not to be suspected ; they have been already convicted of several falsehoods.
“But if God permits iniquity to triumph, and that all human helps are refused to me, I will not put less confidence in His divine goodness without neglecting however to make known to all the universe the iniquity of my accusers, in order that a salutary confusion may lead them to repentance of their crime.
“I recommend myself humbly to your holiness, of whom I am the very humble son and servant, Fra Girolamo of Ferrara, of the order of Friar Preachers. In the convent of San Marco, the 20th of May, 1497.'
About three months after the date of this letter, an occurrence took place which contributed very largely to Savonarola's ruin.
Guicciardini tells us, that in August, 1497, many noble citizens were put in prison, and several others fled, on the plans of a conspiracy being discovered for the restoration of the Medici. “They condemned to death,” he says, “Nicolo Ridolfi, Lorenzo Tornabuoni, Giannozze Puzzi, and Giovanni Cambi, as culpable of having invited Lorenzo de Medici to attack Florence, and it was even proved that Lorenzo had advanced money for that purpose.
And although Bernardo del Nero was accused only of having had a knowledge of the conspiracy, without having disclosed it to the authorities, which crimes were punishable with death in the republic of Florence, and also by the law of nature (according to the interpretation which jurists give
Bzovii Annales. Eccles. p. 479, vol. ap. Touron, tom. iii. p. 629.
to the common law of justice), he was condemned for that which was still more grave against him, inasmuch as that he happened to be Gonfaloniere of Justice at the time of the arrival of Pietro de Medici in Florence (on the occasion of his former designs against the republic), when it was his duty to have considered more his public duty than his private friendship. But the relations of the condemned persons having appealed from the sentence to the great council of the people, in virtue of the law which was made when the popular form of government' was established, the magistrates who condemned them restricted the power of appeal to that council, from a suspicion that feelings of compassion for the age and rank of the prisoners, and the influence of the vast number of their relations, would cause the people composing that great council to mitigate the severity of justice. They obtained, therefore, permission that a small numher of persons should consider the appeal and decide upon it. Hence the influence of those prevailed who thought it danger
and likely to excite sedition, to grant the appeal to the full council, and in accordance even with the legitimate right of providing for the safety of the state, and, in order to prevent tumults, that they should in similar cases dispense with the laws potessere essere le leggi in caso simile dispensate. And thus, almost by force and with menaces, some of those were compelled in the supreme magistracy to consent, that, notwithstanding the appeal, the execution of the condemned should be carried into effect the same night.
“The partizans of Savonarola, much more than all others, zealously urged this decision, not without bringing infamy on him, non senza infamia sua, that he should not have dissuaded those, especially who were his followers, from violating a law proposed a few years previously by himself, and one very salutary, and almost essential to the preservation of liberty.”*
Nardi says, that by the discovery of this conspiracy, “the whole city was universally perturbed and agitated;" and the dread of Piero's return, and the vengeance of his party, were
* Guicciardini, Hist. D'Ital. lib. iii. p. 97.
felt not only by those who loved liberty, but the results of this conspiracy were dreaded by those who were not favourable to popular government.
“In this panic," says Nardi, “ the following citizens were seized on and committed to prison : Bernardo del Nero, an old man of seventy-five years of age ; Nicolo Ridolfi, the head of his house, a connexion of Piero de Medici; Lorenzo de Tornabuoni, a near relation of Piero's, a young man universally beloved for his many amiable qualities ; Giovanni Cambi, a protege of the Medici, and formerly employed in their affairs at Pisa; and lastly, Gianozzo Pucci, a young man also greatly loved, and above all other citizens esteemed by the Medici, as his ancestors had likewise been by them.”
“Had the conspiracy succeeded,” observes Nardi, “the restoration of the Medici must have led to the most certain and inevitable ruin of their adversaries."
No mention is made, however, by Nardi, of any intervention of Savonarola, in the proceedings against the conspirators, or of his mediation having been sought for them.
In reference to this occurrence, Burlamacchi merely observes, that Piero had appeared under the walls of Florence four times with armed men, expecting that his friends in the city would make an attempt for his restoration, which he would have seconded with his people. But on each occasion his hopes were disappointed, and on the last, his plans had been discovered, and ruin was brought on his unfortunate adherents.
Burlamacchi does not say one word of Savonarola taking any part in the proceedings against the latter, or of his influence in their favour being even solicited by their friends ; but in reference to the conspiracy, previously to its attempt and failure, he states, that Fra Girolamo had said, on some occasion when the exiled Medici were spoken of (as if he was addressing their adherents), “ You are seeking to scale a wall, but the attempt will bring ruin on your shoulders.” And so it turned out.
* Nardi, Hist. Fior. p. 66.
The anonymous author of the Life of Savonarola, prefixed to a re-publication of Savonarola's Treatise on Government, which appeared in Pisa in 1818, refers to Graziani Vescovo d'Amelia, as having stated in his work, De Casibus Virorum Illust., that the friends of the five condemned citizens engaged in the conspiracy for the restoration of the Medici, had presented themselves to Fra Girolamo, and had in vain on their knees besought his interference in behalf of their unhappy relatives.
And the same anonymous author refers to another writer, named Cerretani (Istoria MS.), who says, “ It was reported that Fra Girolamo had sent to the magistracy to say, that “it was the will of God they should do justice.”
If Savonarola's followers acted in the manner Guicciardini has described, and if Savonarola had the power and influence that Graziani seems to think he possessed, and did not exercise them, in favour of one of the fundamental provisions of his own law, and in defence of the lives of five human beings condemned on questionable grounds for a political offence, it would be in vain, and even criminal, to attempt to justify his conduct.
It may be said, however, with truth and boldness, by all thoroughly acquainted with the history of this man, that all the antecedents of Savonarola would lead them to disbelieve that if he could prevent the spilling of blood on any occasion whatsoever, he would allow it to be shed.
It will be found that Savonarola did not possess the influence at that time, which has been attributed to him. In public commotions and discords-in a state when the times are out of joint -the policy well known to hostile factions in all countries, of bewildering and bewraying the principles and the opinions of men's opponents, of causing exaggerated views to be taken of wrongs, perils, and obstacles; the policy of exasperating feelings of animosity and offended pride, and disappointed expectations of pre-eminence, favour, or reward, and thus sowing the seeds of jealousy and disunion, had been successfully tried in Florence long previously to 1497. On the particular occasion above referred to, that policy was evidently extensively practised by the
adherents of the Medici. The liberal party who were favourable to Fra Girolamo, or at least adverse to the Medici, were set at variance by those who, while affecting to sympathize with their Republican ideas, industriously aggravated all differences of opinion amongst them, spread alarming reports, created panics, and in the fanaticism of the fear thus occasioned, urged on their opponents to extreme measures of severity, from motives of terror, which were calculated to bring indelible disgrace upon those concerned in them, and their supposed patron, the reforming Friar.
Savonarola is not accused by Graziani of taking any part in the proceedings against the conspirators; but he is charged with not taking a part in them, by exercising his supposed influence over a powerful party, who were in favour of the execution. But the question is not, solely, had he sufficient influence on the magistracy then, but was there sufficient time and opportunity given, for exercising any influence he might have possessed, after that decision had been come to against the appeal, and the summary order had been given for execution?
It is very difficult to form any opinion of Savonarola's influence in Florence, in civil affairs, about the middle of 1497, without understanding the nature of the various interests and opinions represented by the different factions.
The two principal parties were, the adherents of the Medici, who were aristocrats, and the partizans of the Republic, restored to its former state of a popular government, who were democrats. But then these two parties were subdivided into several factions, though still ranged under two new denominations—which caused those of the Bigi and the Bianchi to be forgotten—the Palleschi and the Piagnone.
The Palleschi were, properly speaking, the Medicean adherents, and were so called from the war-cry of the Medici: Palle, Palle!
The Piagnone, or Frateschi, were the adherents of Fra Girolamo, and were thus called, on account of their supposed tendency to bewail their transgressions. Their accustomed shout, in times of tumult, or strife, or exultation, was, Vire Christo!