« PreviousContinue »
on a paper found among Carraro's accounts, when Padua was taken by the Venetians. In this paper was an article of four hundred ducats paid to Carlo Zeno, who declared, in his defence, that while he was, by the senate's permission, governor of the Milanese, he had visited Carraro, then a prisoner in the castle of Asti ; and finding him in want of common necessaries, he had advanced to him the sum in question ; and that this prince, having been liberated some short time after, had, on his return to Padua, repaid the money.
Zeno was a man of acknowledged candour, and of the highest reputation : he had commanded the fleets and armies of the state with the most brilliant success; yet neither this, nor any other considerations, prevailed on the court to depart from their usual severity. They owned that, from Zeno's usual integrity, there was no reason to doubt the truth of his declaration ; but the assertions of an accused person were not sufficient to efface the force of the presumptive circumstances which appeared against him.-His declaration might be convincing to those who knew him intimately, but was not legal evidence of his innocence; and they adhered to a distinguishing maxim of this court, that it is of more importance to the state, to intimidate
of such a crime, than to allow a person, against whom a presumption of guilt remained, to escape, however innocent he might be. This man, who had rendered the most essential services to the republic, and had gained many vice tories, was condemned to be removed from all his offices, and to be imprisoned for two years.
But the most affecting instance of the odious inflexibility of Venetian courts, appears in the case of Foscari, son to the doge of that name.
This young man had, by some imprudences, given offence to the senate, and was, by their orders, confined at Treviso, when Almor Donato, one of the council of ten, was assassinated, on the 5th of November 1750, as he entered his own house.
every one from
A reward, in ready money, with pardon for this, or any other crime, and a pension of two hundred ducats, revertible to children, was promised to any person who would discover the planner, or perpetrator, of this crime. . No such discovery was made.
One of young Foscari's footmen, named Olivier, had been observed loitering near Donato's house on the evening of the murder ;-he fled from Venice next morning. These, with other circumstances of less importance, created a strong suspicion that Foscari had engaged this man to commit the murder.
Olivier was taken, brought to Venice, put to the torture, and confessed nothing; yet the council of ten, being prepossessed with an opinion of their guilt, and imagining that the master would have less resolution, used him in the same cruel manner. The unhappy young man, in the midst of his agony, continued to assert, that he knew nothing of the assassination. This convinced the court of his firmness, but not of his innocence ; yet as there was no legal proof of his guilt, they could not sentence him to death. He was condemned to pass the rest of his life in banishment, at Canea, in the island of Candia.
This unfortunate youth bore his exile with more impatience than he had done the rack; he often wrote to his relations and friends, praying them to intercede in his behalf, that the term of his banishment might be abridged, and that he might be permitted to return to his family before he died. All his applications were fruitless; those to whom he addressed himself had never interfered in his favour, for fear of giving offence to the obdurate council, or had interfered in vain.
After languishing five years in exile, having lost all hope of return, through the interposition of his own family, or countrymen, in a fit of despair he addressed the duke of Milan, putting him in mind of services which the doge, his father, had rendered him, and begging that he would use his powerful influence with the state of Venice) that his sentence might be recalled. He intrusted his letter to a merchant, going from Canéa to Venice, who promised to take the first opportunity of sending it from thence to the duke ; instead of which, this wretch, as soon as he arrived at Venice, delivered it to the chiefs of the council of ten.
This conduct of young Foscari appeared criminalin the eyes of those judges ; for, by the laws of the republic, all its subjects are expressly forbid claiming the protection of foreign princes, in any thing which relates to the government of Venice.
Foscari was therefore ordered to be brought from Candia, and shut up in the state prison. There the chiefs of the council of ten ordered him once more to be put to the torture, to draw from him the motives which determined him to apply to the duke of Milan. Such an exertion of law is, indeed, the most flagrant injustice.
The miserable youth declared to the council, that he had wrote the letter, in the full persuasion that the merchant, whose character he knew, would betray him, and deliver it to them; the consequence of which, he foresaw, would be, his being ordered back a prisoner to Venice, the only means he had in his power of seeing his parents and friends; a pleasure for which he had languished, with unsurmountable desire, for some time, and which he was willing to purchase at the expense of any danger or pain.
The judges, little affected with this generous instance of filial piety, ördained, that the unhappy young man should be carried back to Candia, and there be imprisoned for a year, and remain banished to that island for life; with this condition, that if he should make any more applications to foreign powers, his imprisonment should be perpetual. At the same time they gave permission, that the doge, and his lady, might visit their unfortunate son.
The doge was, at this time, very old; he had been in possession of the office above thirty years. Those wretched parents had an interview with their son in one of the
apartments of the palace; they embraced him with all the tenderness which his misfortunes, and his filial affection, deserved. The father exhorted him to bear his hard fate with firmness; the son protested, in the most moving terms, that this was not in his power; that however others could support the dismal loneliness of a prison, he could not; that his heart was formed for friendship, and the reciprocal endearments of social life; without which his soul sunk into dejection worse than death, from which alone he should look for relief, if he should again be confined to the horrors of a prison ; and melting into tears, he sunk at his father's feet, imploring him to take compassion on a son who had ever loved him with the most dutiful af. fection, and who was perfectly innocent of the crime of which he was accused; he conjured him, by every bond of nature and religion, by the bowels of a father, and the mercy of a Redeemer, to use his influence with the council to mitigate their sentence, that he might be saved from the most cruel of all deaths, that of expiring under the slow tortures of a broken heart, in a horrible banishment from every creature he loved. My son,' replied the doge, • submit to the laws of your country, and do not ask of me what it is not in my power to obtain.'
Having made this effort, he retired to another apartment; and, unable to support any longer the acuteness of his feelings, he sunk into a state of insensibility, in which condition he remained till sometime after his son had sailed on his return to Candia.
Nobody has presumed to describe the anguish of the wretched mother; those whu are endowed with the most exquisite sensibility, and who have experienced distresses in some degree similar, will have the justest idea of what
The accumulated misery of those unhappy parents touched the hearts of some of the most powerful senators, who applied with so much energy for a complete pardon for young Foscari, that they were on the point of obtaining it ; when a vessel arrived from Candia, with tidings,
that the miserable youth had expired in prison a short time after his return.
Some years after this, Nicholas Erizzo, a noble Venetian, being on his deathbed, confessed that, bearing a violent resentment against the senator Donato, he had committed the assassination for which the unhappy family of Foscari had suffered so much.
At this time the sorrows of the doge were at an end ; he had existed only a few months after the death of his
His life had been prolonged, till he beheld his son persecuted to death for an infamous crime; but not till he should see this foul stain washed from his family, and the innocence of his beloved son made manifest to the world.
The ways of heaven never appeared more dark and intricate, than in the incidents and catastrophe of this mournful story. To reconcile the permission of such ex. vents to our ideas of infinite power and goodness, however difficult, is a natural attempt in the human mind, and has exercised the ingenuity of philosophers in all ages; while, in the eyes of Christians, those seeming perplexities afford an additional proof, that there will be a future state, in which the ways of God to man will be fully justified.
I DEFERRED giving you any account of the council of ten, till I came to mention the state inquisitors, as the last was ingrafted in the former, and was merely intended to strengthen the hands, and augment the power, of that court.
The council of ten consists, in effect, of seventeen members; for, besides the ten noblemen chosen annually by the grand council, from whose number this court receives its name, the doge presides, and the six counsellors