« PreviousContinue »
with their forces to Venice. The conspirators were not disconcerted; they assembled, and attacked the doge and his friends, who were collected in a body around the palace. The place of St. Mark was the scene of this tumultuous battle, which lasted many hours, but was attended with more noise and terror among the inhabitants, than bloodshed to the combatants. Some of the military governors arriving with troops, the contest ended in the rout of the conspirators. A few nobles had been killed in the engagement; a greater number were executed by order of the senate. Theipolo, who had fled, was declared infamous, and an enemy to his country; his goods and fortune were confiscated, and his house razed to the ground. After these executions, it was thought expedient to receive into the grand council several of the most distinguished families of citizens.
Those two conspiracies having immediately followed one another, spread an universal diffidence and dread over the city, and gave rise to the court called the Council of Ten, , which was erected about this time, merely as a temporary tribunal, to examine into the causes, punish the accomplices, and destroy the seeds of the late conspiracy: but which, in the sequel, became permanent. I shall wave farther mention of this court, till we come to the period when the state inquisitors were established; but it is proper to mention, that the ecclesiastical court of inquisition was also erected at Venice, in the reign of the doge Gradonico.
The popes had long endeavoured to introduce this court into
every country in Europe; they succeeded too well in many; but though it was not entirely rejected by the state of Venice, yet it was accepted under such restrictions as have prevented the dismal cruelties which accompany it in other countries.
This republic seems, at all times, to have a strong impression of the ambitious and encroaching spirit of the court of Rome; and has, on all occasions, shewn the greatest unwillingness to intrust power in the hands of ecclesiastics. Of this, the Venetians gave an undoubted proof at present; for while they established a new civil court of inquisition, with the most unlimited powers, they would not receive the ecclesiastical inquisitions, except on con: ditions to which it had not been subjected in any other country.
The court of Rome never displayed more address than in its attempts to elude those limitations, and to prevail on the senate to admit the inquisition at Venice, on the same footing as it bad been received elsewhere ; but the senate was as firm as the pope was artful, and the court of inquisition was at last established, under the following conditions.
That three commissioners from the senate should attend the deliberations of that court, none of whose decrees could be executed without the approbation of the commissioners.
Those commissioners were to take no oath of fidelity, or engagement of any kind, to the inquisition ; but were bound by oath to conceal nothing from the senate which should pass in the holy office,
That heresy should be the only crime cognizable by the inquisition; and, in case of the conviction and con, demnation of any criminal, his goods and money should not belong to the court, but to his natural heirs.
That Jews and Greeks should be indulged in the exercise of their religion, without being disturbed by this court.
The commissioners were to prevent the registration of any statute made at Rome; or anywhere out of the Ye. netian state.
The inquisitors were not permitted to condemn books as heretical, without the concurrence of the senate: nor were they allowed to judge any to be so, but those al ready condemned by the edict of Clement VIII.
Such were the restrictions under which the inquisition was established at Venice; and nothing can more clearly prove their efficacy, than a comparison of their numbers, who have suffered for heresy here, with those who have been condemned to death by that court in every other place where it was established,
An instance is recorded of a man, named Narino, being condemned to a public punishment, for having composed a book in defence of the opinions of John Huss. For this (the greatest of all crimes in the sight of inquisitors) his sentence was, that he should be exposed publicly on a scaffold, dressed in a gown, with flames and devils painted on it. The moderation of the civil magistrate appears in this sentence. Without his interposition, the flames which surrounded the prisoner would, in all probability, not have been painted. This, which is mens tioned in the History of Venice as an instance of severity, happened at a time, when, in Spain and Portugal, many wretches were burnt, by order of the inquisition, for smaller offences.
In 1854, during the interregnum after the death of Andrew Dandolo, it was proposed, by the correctors of abuses, that, for the future, the three chiefs of the cri, minal council of forty should be members of the college ; and this passed into a law,
It may be necessary to mention, that the college, otherwise called the seigniory, is the supreme cabinet council of the state. This court was originally composed of the doge and six counsellors only; but to these, at different periods, were added, first, six of the grand council, chosen by the senate; they were called Savii, or Sages, from their supposed wisdom; and afterwards, five savii, of the Terra Firma, whose more immediate duty is to superintend the business of the towns and provinces belonging to the republic, on the continent of Europe, particularly what regards the troops. At one time there were also five savii for maritime affairs, but they had little business after the Venetian navy became inconsiderable ; and now, in the room of them, five young noblemen are chosen by the se nate every six months, who attend the meetings of the seigniory, without having a yote, though they give their
opinions when asked. This is by way of instructing, and rendering them fit for the affairs of state. They are called Sages of the Orders, and are chosen every six months.
To those were added, the three chiefs of the criminal court of forty; the court then consisting, in all, of twenty-six members.
The college is, at once, the cabinet council, and the representative of the republic. This court gives audience, and delivers answers, in the name of the republic, to foreign ambassadors, to the deputies of towns and provinces, and to the generals of the army; it also receives all requests and memorials on state affairs, summons the senate at pleasure, and arranges the business to be discussed in that assembly.
In the Venetian government, great care is taken to balance the power of one court by that of another, and to make them reciprocal checks on each other. It was probably from a jealousy of the power of the college, that three chiefs of the criminal court of forty were now added to it.
The history of no nation presents a greater variety of singular events than that of Venice. We have seen a conspiracy against this state, originating among the citizens, and carried on by people of that rank only. We saw another, soon after, which took its origin among the body of the nobles ; but the year 1355 presents us with one of a still more extraordinary nature, begun, and carried on, by the doge himself. If ambition, or the augmentation of his own power, had been the object, it would not have been so surprising : but his motive to the conspiracy was as small as the intention was dreadful.
Marino Falliero, doge of Venice, was, at this time, eighty years of age ; a time of life when the violence of the passions is generally pretty much abated. He had, exen then, however, given a strong instance of the rash
ness of his disposition, by marrying a very young woman. This lady imagined she had been affronted by a young Venetian nobleman at a public ball, and she complained bitterly of the insult to her husband. The old doge, who had all the desire imaginable to please his wife, determined, in this matter at least, to give her ample satisfaction.
The delinquent was brought before the judges, and the crime was exaggerated with all the eloquence that money could purchase; but they viewed the affair with unprejudiced eyes, and pronounced a sentence no more than adequate to the crime. The doge was filled with the most extravagant rage, and, finding that the body of the nobles took no share in his wrath, he entered into a conspiracy with the admiral of the arsenal, and some others, who were discontented with the government on other accounts, and projected a method of vindicating his wife's honour, which seems rather violent for the occasion. It was resolved by those desperadoes, to massacre the whole grand council. Such a scene of bloodshed, on account of one woman, has not been imagined since the Trojan war.
This plot was conducted with more secrecy than could have been expected, from a man who seems to have been deprived of reason, as well as humanity. Every thing was prepared : and the day, previous to that which was fixed for the execution, had arrived, without any person, but those concerned in the conspiracy, having the least knowledge of the horrid design.
It was discovered in the same manner in which that against the king and parliament of England was brought to light in the time of James I.
Bertrand Bergamese, one of the conspirators, being desirous to save Nicolas Lioni, a noble Venetian, from the general massacre, called on him, and earnestly admonished him, on no account, to go out of his house the following day; for, if he did, he would certainly lose his life. Lioni pressed him to give some reason for this ex,