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his being raised to the sovereign dignity? If any objection is made, the accused is called in, and heard in his own defence; after which the electors proceed to give their decision, by throwing a ball into one of two boxes, one of which is for the Ayes, the other for the Noes. The secretaries then count the balls, and if there are twenty-five in the first, the election is finished; if not, another name is read, and the same inquisition made as before, till there are twenty-five approving balls.
This form, wherein judgment and chance are so perfectly blended, precludes every attempt to corrupt the electors, and all cabals for the ducal dignity ; for who could dream, by any labour or contrivance, of gaining an election, the mode of whose procedure equally baffles the address of a politician and a juggler?
Lawrence Theipolo was the first doge chosen according to this mode. In his reign the office of grand chancellor was created.
Hitherto the public acts were signed by certain persons chosen by the doge himself, and called chancellors; but the grand council, which we find always solicitous to limit the power of the doge, thought that method improper ; and now proposed, that a chancellor should be pointed by themselves, with rights and privileges entirely independent of the doge. At the same time, as the people had shewn symptoms of discontent, on account of the great offices being all in the distinguished families, it was thought expedient to ordain, that the chancellor should always be taken from among the secretaries of the senate, who were citizens. Afterwards, when the council of ten came to be established, it was ordained, that the chancellor might be chosen either from the secretaries of that court, or from those of the senate.
The grand chancellor of Venice is an officer of great dignity and importance; he has the keeping of the great seal of the commonwealth, and is privy to all the secrets of the state; he is considered as the head of the order of
citizens, and his office is the most lucrative in the republic; yet, though he must be present at all the councils, he has no deliberative voice.
In perusing the annals of this republic, we continually meet with proofs of the restless jealousy of this government; even the private economy of families sometimes created suspicion, however blameless the public conduct of the master might be. The present doge had married a foreign lady; his two sons followed his example; one of their wives was a princess. This gave umbrage to the senate; they thought that, hy such means, the nobles might acquire an interest, and connexions, in other countries, inconsistent with their duty as citizens of Venice; and, therefore, in the interregnum which followed the death of Theipolo, a law was proposed by the correctors, and immediately passed, by which all future doges, and their sons, were interdicted from marriage with foreigners, under the pain of being excluded from the office of doge.
Though the people had been gradually, as we have seen, deprived of their original right of electing the chief magistrate; yet, on the elections which succeeded the establishment of the new mode, the doge had always been presented to the multitude assembled in St. Mark's Place, as if requesting their approbation ; and the people, flattered with this small degree of attention, had never failed to announce their satisfaction by repeated shouts : but the senate seem to have been afraid of leaving them even this empty shadow of their ancient power; for they ordained, that, instead of presenting the doge to the multitude, to receive their acclamations, as formerly, a syndic, for the future, should, in the name of the people, congratulate the new doge on his election. On this occasion, the senate do not seem to have acted with their usual discernment. Show often affects the minds of men more than substance, as appeared in the present instance; for the Venetian populace displayed more resentment on being deprived of this noisy piece of form, than when the substantial right had been taken from them. After the death of the doge, John Dandolo, before a new election could take place in the usual forms, a prodigious multitude assembled in St. Mark's Place, and, with loud acclamations, proclaimed James Theipolo; declaring, that this was more binding than any other mode of election, and that he was doge to all intents and purposes. While the senate remained in fearful suspense for the consequences of an event so alarming and unlooked-for, they were informed, that Theipolo had withdrawn himself from the city, with a determination to remain concealed, till he heard how the senate and people would settle the dispute.
The people, håving no person of weight to conduct or head them, renounced, with their usnal fickleness, a project which they had begun with their usual intrepidity.
The grand council, freed from alarm, proceeded to a regular election, and chose Peter Gradonico, a man of enterprise, firmness, and address, in whose reign we shall see the dying embers of democracy perfectly extinguished.
Gradonico, from the moment he was in possession of the office of doge, formed a scheme of depriving the people of all their remaining power. An aversion to popular government, and resentment of some signs of personal dislike, which the populace had shewn at his election, seem to have been his only motives; for, while he completely annihilated the ancient rights of the people, he shewed no inclination to augment the power of his own office.
Although the people had experienced many mortifying deviations from the old constitution, yet, as the grand council was chosen annually, by electors of their own nomination, they flattered themselves that they still retained an important share in the government. It was this last hold of their declining freedom which Gradonico meditated to remove, for ever, from their hands.
Such a pro
ject was of a nature to have intimidated a man of less courage ; but his natural intrepidity, animated by resentment, made him overlook all dangers and difficulties.
He began (as if by way of experiment) with some al terations respecting the manner of choosing the grand council; these, however, accasioned murmurs; and it was feared, that dangerous tumults would arise at the next election of that court.
But, superior to fear, Gradonico inspired others with courage ; and, before the period of the election arrived, he struck the decisive blow.
A law was published in the year 1297, by which it was ordained, that those who actually belonged to the grand council, should continue members of it for life ; and that the same right should descend to their posterity, without any form of election whatever. This was at once forming a body of hereditary legislative nobility, and establishing a complete aristocracy, upon the ruins of the ancient
por pular government.
This measure struck all the citizens, who were not thep of the grand council, with concern and astonishment; but, in a particular manner, those of ancient and noble families; for although, as has been already observed, there was, strictly speaking, no nobility with exclusive privileges before this law, yet there were in Venice, as there must be in the most democratical republics, certain families considered as more honourable than others, many of whom found themselves, by this law, thrown into a rank inferior to that of the least considerable person who happened, at this important period, to be a member of the grand council, To conciliate the minds of such dangerous malcontents, exceptions were made in their favour, and some of the most. powerful were immediately received into the grand council; and to others it was promised that they should, at some future period, be admitted. By such hopes, artfully insinuated, and by the great influence of the members who actually composed the grand council, all immediate insurrections were prevented; and foreign wars, and
objects of commerce, soon turned the people's attention from this mortifying change in the nature of the government.
A strong resentment of those innovations, however, festered in the breasts of some individuals, who a few years after, under the direction of one Marino Bocconi, formed a design to assassinate Gradonico, and massacre all the grand council, without distinction. This plot was disco vered, and the chiefs, after confessing their crimes, were executed between the pillars.
The conspiracy of Bocconi was confined to malcontents of the rank of citizens; but one of a more dangerous nature, and which originated among the nobles themselves, was formed in the
1309. This combination was made up of some of the most distinguished of those who were not of the grand council when the reform took place, and who had not been admitted afterwards, according to their expectations; and of some others of very ancient families, who could not bear to see so many citizens raised to a level with themselves, and who, besides, were piqued at what they called the pride of Gradonico. These men chose for their leader, the son of James Theipolo, who had been proclaimed doge by the populace. Their object was, to dispossess Gradonico, and restore the ancient constitution; they were soon joined by a great many of inferior rank, within the city, and they engaged considerable numbers of their friends and dependents from Padua, and the adjacent country, to come to Venice, and assist them, at the time appointed for the insurrection. Considering the numbers that were privy to this undertaking, it is astonishing that . it was not discovered till the night preceding that on which it was to have taken place. The uncommon con course of strangers created the first suspicion, which was confirmed by the confession of some who were acquainted with the design. The doge immediately summoned the council, and sent expresses to the governors of the neighbouring towns and forts, with orders for them to hasten