THE CONSTITUTION OF VENICE. 59 older constitution, no feudalism and serfdom, little domina- tion of the church. Everything grew out of commercial industry, out of the spirit of free adventure, yet nowhere in modern times has so close an aristocracy appeared. In deserting the principles of freedom and tolerable equality on which the foundations of the state were laid, the selfish mag- I O nates of Venice seem to show a clear comprehension of the dangers that threaten a commercial republic, from admitting a roving and uncertain populace of sailors to a share in the government ; but there was no calculation beforehand as to the methods to be used to secure the power of the aristoc- racy. Council after council appears, each taking part of the affairs of an older one, so that there was no neatness about the constitution, • no accurate division of powers. Still the state of things at the time seems to have been apprehended with wonderful wisdom, and one cannot help thinking that more intelligence and practical sense was gathered here for centuries than anywhere else in Europe.