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Again, the methods and theory of government were not
those of a democracy. The parlamento was indeed in theory
an assembly of the people, and was the last resort for the en-
actment of laws and for reforms in the constitutions. But the
parlamento, when we know much of its action, was an assem-
blage of persons in the public piazza, with the understanding
beforehand of carrying out the views of a faction. Armed
men were on hand to keep down opposition. The balia that
restored Cosimo de' Medici was appointed by about three
hundred and fifty citizens, all of whom but four were in favor
of his restoration. No enemy of the project would have
dared to gainsay what this packed crowd determined to have
done. The balias had certainly nothing aristocratical in them
from 1393 onward. The lot contained a democratical element,
but the registration and the bags looked just the other way.
Florence had not only a constitution leaning towards aris-
tocracy and oligarchy, but an exceeding ill-balanced one.
The methods at different times adopted to get rid of obnox-
ious enemies, as by wholesale banishments and confiscations,
by temporary relegation, by " making men sit," as the ex-
pression was, or disqualifying them for office (inettere a seder c],
by conferring on them the condition of ^.grande or even an
arcigrande, by ammonisione, by depriving whole families of
civic rights, show what a fierce; state of parties, and what un-
told miseries the polity allowed. The ostracisms and liturgies
of Athens were nothing to the terrible ruin of families, the
exile and the executions for political offences, that stain the
history of Florence. When the Ghibellines were driven away
the Guelphs divided into two factions just as bitter ; and if the
Bianchi had triumphed the Neri would, without question,
have felt their vengeance.
Yet there is another side to the picture. Through all this
time of strife, industry prospered; commerce went abroad
far beyond the Alps ; bankers lent their funds to crusaders
and to kings; art produced some of the choicest of modern
works; poetry was represented by the greatest of medizeval
writers. Can there be a question that the intensity of politi-