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THE CONSTITUTION' OK VENICE,                      43


Among all modern constitutions that of Venice offers us the
i.iN.-irr Ğr iiir lll°st noticeable example of a close and jealous
t,         aristocracy, gaining its power by degrees, im-
posing chocks on the government of the duke or doge lest he
should fuumi a line of hereditary princes, or become a Jeader
of a democracy, ant! reducing the people in whose hands the
original pm\vr of the state lay to almost complete insignifi-
cance. This aristocracy was created by commerce, although
it would appear that in early times a yerm of old families was
transplanted front the main land, during the invasions that
then tk'MjIutt'd Italy. It placed itself at the head of affairs
antl managed them with singular ability, and with a practical
skill, such as mjyht proceed from the counting-house and the
experience of men acquainted with various land*. This is
worthy of especial mention , that the policy of the state
changed as that of a merchant would, whose sources of pros-
perity in one brunch of hi* business were cut off* He puts
his capital in another shape, tries new modes of traffic, places*
obstacles in the way of competitors, and bends all his energies
to the recovery of hi* former success. The infant colony
consisted of Italians, but the influences that told on it were,
for the most part, not Italian, Within the jurisdiction of the
exarch of Ravenna, under the eastern empire, secluded in po-
sition from the revolutions of Italy, these merchants, driving
their trade on islands which served as walled fortresses against
the continent, cared little for Lombards, Franks, qr German
emperors. In their religion they were more independent
than any of the pope's Italian subjects. In trade they looked
eastward towards Dalmatia, where they soon became predom*
inant, towards various parts of the Levant, even towards
Egypt and other Mohammedan states. When the cnmdes
broke out they perceived the commercial advantage Jikdy to