History of Florence, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Book VIII

Chapter I

State of the family of the Medici at Florence — Enmity of Sixtus IV. toward Florence — Differences between the family of the Pazzi and that of the Medici — Beginning of the conspiracy of the Pazzi — Arrangements to effect the design of the conspiracy — Giovanni Batista da Montesecco is sent to Florence — The pope joins the conspiracy — The king of Naples becomes a party to it — Names of the conspirators — The conspirators make many ineffectual attempts to kill Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici — The final arrangement — Order of the conspiracy.

This book, commencing between two conspiracies, the one at Milan already narrated, the other yet to be recorded, it would seem appropriate, and in accordance with our usual custom, were we to treat of the nature and importance of these terrible demonstrations. This we should willingly do had we not discussed the matter elsewhere, or could it be comprised in few words. But requiring much consideration, and being already noticed in another place, it will be omitted, and we shall proceed with our narrative. The government of the Medici having subdued all its avowed enemies in order to obtain for that family undivided authority, and distinguish them from other citizens in their relation to the rest, found it necessary to subdue those who secretly plotted against them. While Medici contended with other families, their equals in authority and reputation, those who envied their power were able to oppose them openly without danger of being suppressed at the first demonstration of hostility; for the magistrates being free, neither party had occasion to fear, till one or other of them was overcome. But after the victory of 1466, the government became so entirely centred in the Medici, and they acquired so much authority, that discontented spirits were obliged either to suffer in silence, or, if desirous to destroy them, to attempt it in secrecy, and by clandestine means; which plots rarely succeed and most commonly involve the ruin of those concerned in them, while they frequently contribute to the aggrandizement of those against whom they are directed. Thus the prince of a city attacked by a conspiracy, if not slain like the duke of Milan (which seldom happens), almost always attains to a greater degree of power, and very often has his good disposition perverted to evil. The proceedings of his enemies give him cause for fear; fear suggests the necessity of providing for his own safety, which involves the injury of others; and hence arise animosities, and not unfrequently his ruin. Thus these conspiracies quickly occasion the destruction of their contrivers, and, in time, inevitably injure their primary object.

Italy, as we have seen above, was divided into two factions; the pope and the king on one side; on the other, the Venetians, the duke, and the Florentines. Although the flames of war had not yet broken out, every day gave rise to some new occasion for rekindling them; and the pope, in particular, in all his plans endeavored to annoy the Florentine government. Thus Filippo de’ Medici, archbishop of Pisa, being dead, Francesco Salviati, a declared enemy of the Medici, was appointed his successor, contrary to the wish of the Signory of Florence, who being unwilling to give him possession, there arose between them and the pope many fresh grounds of offense, before the matter was settled. Besides this, he conferred, at Rome, many favors upon the family of the Pazzi, and opposed that of the Medici, whenever an opportunity offered. The Pazzi were at this time, both on account of nobility of birth and their great wealth, the most brilliant in France. The head of this family was Jacopo, whom the people, on account of his distinguished pre-eminence, had made a knight. He had no children, except one natural daughter, but many nephews, sons of his brothers Piero and Antonio, the first of whom were Guglielmo, Francesco, Rinato, Giovanni, and then, Andrea, Niccolo, and Galeotto. Cosmo de’ Medici, noticing the riches and rank of this family, had given his granddaughter, Bianca, to Guglielmo, hoping by this marriage to unite the houses, and obviate those enmities and dissensions so frequently occasioned by jealousy. However (so uncertain and fallacious are our expectations), very different feelings were thus originated; for Lorenzo’s advisers pointed out to him how dangerous it was, and how injurious to his authority, to unite in the same individuals so much wealth and power. In consequence, neither Jacopo nor his nephews obtained those degrees of honor, which in the opinion of other citizens were their due. This gave rise to anger in the Pazzi, and fear on the part of the Medici; as the former of these increased, so did the latter; and upon all occasions, when the Pazzi came in competition with other citizens, their claims to distinction, however strong, were set aside by the magistracy. Francesco de’ Pazzi, being at Rome, the Council of Eight, upon some trivial occasion, compelled him to return, without treating him with the respect usually observed toward great citizens, so that the Pazzi everywhere bitterly complained of the ill usage they experienced, and thus excited suspicion in others, and brought down greater evils upon themselves. Giovanni de’ Pazzi had married the daughter of Giovanni Buonromei, a very wealthy man, whose riches on his decease, without other children, came to his daughter. His nephew, Carlo, however, took possession of part, and the question being litigated, a law was passed, by virtue of which the wife of Giovanni de’ Pazzi was robbed of her inheritance, and it was given to Carlo. In this piece of injustice the Pazzi at once recognized the influence of the Medici. Giuliano de’ Medici often complained to his brother Lorenzo of the affair, saying he was afraid that by grasping at too much they would lose all.

Lorenzo, flushed with youth and power, would assume the direction of everything, and resolved that all transactions should bear an impress of his influence. The Pazzi, with their nobility and wealth unable to endure so many affronts, began to devise some means of vengeance. The first who spoke of any attempt against the Medici, was Francesco, who, being more sensitive and resolute than the others, determined either to obtain what was withheld from him, or lose what he still possessed. As the government of Florence gave him great offense, he resided almost constantly at Rome, where, like other Florentine merchants, he conducted extensive commercial operations; and being a most intimate friend of Count Girolamo, they frequently complained to each other of the conduct of the Medici. After a while they began to think that for the count to retain his estates, or the Pazzi their rights in the city, it would be necessary to change the government of Florence; and this they considered could not be done without the death of Giuliano and Lorenzo. They imagined the pope and the king would be easily induced to consent, because each could be convinced of the facility of the enterprise. Having acquired these ideas, they communicated them to Francesco Salviati, archbishop of Pisa, who, being ambitious and recently offended by the Medici, willingly adopted their views. Considering their next step, they resolved, in order to facilitate the design, to obtain the consent of Jacopo de’ Pazzi, without whose concurrence they feared it would be impracticable. With this view, it was resolved that Francesco de’ Pazzi should go to Florence, while the archbishop and the count were to remain at Rome, to be ready to communicate with the pope when a suitable opportunity occurred. Francesco found Jacopo de’ Pazzi more cautious and difficult to persuade than he could have wished, and on imparting this to his friends at Rome, it was thought he desired the sanction of some greater authority to induce him to adopt their views. Upon this, the archbishop and the count communicated the whole affair to Giovanni Batista da Montesecco, a leader of the papal forces, possessing military reputation, and under obligations to the pope and the count. To him the affair seemed difficult and dangerous, while the archbishop endeavored to obviate his objections by showing how much assistance the pope and the king would lend to the enterprise; the hatred of the Florentines toward the Medici, the numerous friends the Salviati and the Pazzi would bring with them, the readiness with which the young men might be slain, on account of their going about the city unaccompanied and without suspicion, and the facility with which the government might then be changed. These things Giovanni Batista did not in reality believe, for he had heard from many Florentines quite contrary statements.

While occupied with these deliberations, Carlo, lord of Faenza, was taken ill, and tears were entertained for his life. This circumstance seemed to the archbishop and the count to offer an opportunity for sending Giovanni Batista to Florence, and thence to Romagna, under pretence of recovering certain territories belonging to the latter, of which the lord of Faenza had taken possession. The count therefore commissioned Giovanni Batista to have an interview with Lorenzo de’ Medici, and on his part request his advice how to proceed with respect to the affair of Romagna; that he should then see Francesco de’ Pazzi, and in conjunction with him endeavor to induce his uncle Jacopo to adopt their ideas. To render the pope’s authority available in their behalf, Giovanni Batista was ordered, before his departure, to communicate with the pontiff, who offered every means at his disposal in favor of their enterprise. Giovanni Batista, having arrived at Florence, obtained an interview with Lorenzo, by whom he was most graciously received; and with regard to the advice he was commissioned to ask, obtained a wise and friendly answer; so that he was astonished at finding him quite a different character from what he had been represented, and considered him to possess great sagacity, an affectionate heart, and most amicably disposed toward the count. He found Francesco de’ Pazzi had gone to Lucca, and spoke to Jacopo, who was at first quite opposed to their design, but before they parted the pope’s authority seemed to have influenced him; for he told Giovanni Batista, that he might go to Romagna, and that before his return Francesco would be with him, and they would then consult more particularly upon the subject. Giovanni Batista proceeded to Romagna, and soon returned to Florence. After a pretended consultation with Lorenzo, upon the count’s affairs, he obtained an interview with Francesco and Jacopo de’ Pazzi, when the latter gave his consent to their enterprise. They then discussed the means of carrying it into effect. Jacopo de’ Pazzi was of opinion that it could not be effected while both the brothers remained at Florence; and therefore it would be better to wait till Lorenzo went to Rome, whither it was reported he had an intention of going; for then their object would be more easily attained. Francesco de’ Pazzi had no objection to Lorenzo being at Rome, but if he were to forego the journey, he thought that both the brothers might be slain, either at a marriage, or at a play, or in a church. With regard to foreign assistance, he supposed the pope might assemble forces for the conquest of the fortress of Montone, being justified in taking it from Count Carlo, who had caused the tumults already spoken of in Sienna and Perugia.

Still no definite arrangement was made; but it was resolved that Giovanni Batista and Francesco de’ Pazzi should go to Rome and settle everything with the pontiff. The matter was again debated at Rome; and at length it was concluded that besides an expedition against Montone, Giovan Francesco da Tolentino, a leader of the papal troops, should go into Romagna, and Lorenzo da Castello to the Val di Tavere; that each, with the forces of the country, should hold himself in readiness to perform the commands of the archbishop de’ Salviati and Francesco de Pazzi, both of whom were to come to Florence, and provide for the execution of their design, with the assistance of Giovanni Batista da Montesecco. King Ferrando promised, by his ambassador, to contribute all in his power to the success of their undertaking. Francesco de’ Pazzi and the archbishop having arrived at Florence, prevailed upon Jacopo di Poggio, a well educated youth, but ambitious and very desirous of change, to join them, and two others, each of the name of Jacopo Salviati, one a brother, the other a kinsman, of the archbishop. They also gained over Bernardo Bandini and Napoleone Franzeni, two bold young men, under great obligations to the family of the Pazzi. Besides those already mentioned, they were joined by Antonio da Volterra and a priest named Stefano, who taught Latin to the daughter of Jacopo de’ Pazzi. Rinato de’ Pazzi, a grave and prudent man, being quite aware of the evils resulting from such undertakings, refused all participation in the conspiracy; he held it in abhorrence, and as much as possible, without betraying his kinsmen, endeavored to counteract it.

The pope had sent Raffaello di Riario, a nephew of Count Girolamo, to the college of Pisa, to study canon law, and while there, had advanced him to the dignity of a cardinal. The conspirators determined to bring this cardinal to Florence, as they would thus be better able to conceal their design, since any persons requisite to be introduced into the city might easily be made to appear as a part of his retinue, and his arrival might facilitate the completion of their enterprise. The cardinal came, and was received by Jacopo de’ Pazzi at his villa of Montughi, near Florence. By his means it was also intended to bring together Giuliano and Lorenzo, and whenever this happened, to put them both to death. They therefore invited them to meet the cardinal at their villa of Fiesole; but Giuliano, either intentionally or through some preventing cause, did not attend; and this design having failed, they thought that if asked to an entertainment at Florence, both brothers would certainly be present. With this intention they appointed Sunday, the twenty-sixth of April, 1478, to give a great feast; and, resolving to assassinate them at table, the conspirators met on the Saturday evening to arrange all proceedings for the following day. In the morning it was intimated to Francesco that Giuliano would be absent; on which the conspirators again assembled and finding they could no longer defer the execution of their design, since it would be impossible among so many to preserve secrecy, they determined to complete it in the cathedral church of Santa Reparata, where the cardinal attending, the two brothers would be present as usual. They wished Giovanni Batista da Montesecco to undertake the murder of Lorenzo, while that of Giuliano was assigned to Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini. Giovanni Batista refused, either because his familiarity with Lorenzo had created feelings in his favor, or from some other reason, saying he should not have resolution sufficient to commit such a deed in a church, and thus add sacrilege to treachery. This caused the failure of their undertaking; for time pressing, they were compelled to substitute Antonio da Volterra and Stefano, the priest, two men, who, from nature and habit, were the most unsuitable of any; for if firmness and resolution joined with experience in bloodshed be necessary upon any occasion, it is on such as these; and it often happens that those who are expert in arms, and have faced death in all forms on the field of battle, still fail in an affair like this. Having now decided upon the time, they resolved that the signal for the attack should be the moment when the priest who celebrated high mass should partake of the sacrament, and that, in the meantime, the Archbishop de’ Salviati, with his followers, and Jacopo di Poggio, should take possession of the palace, in order that the Signory, after the young men’s death, should voluntarily, or by force, contribute to their assistance.

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