Henry, advancing toward Shrewsbury, received every day some reenforcement from his partisans. The two rivals at last approached each other at Bosworth, near Leicester, Henry at the head of six thousand men, Richard with an army of above double the number; and a decisive action was every hour expected between them. Stanley, who commanded above seven thousand men, took care to post himself at Atherstone, not far from the hostile camps; and he made such a disposition as enabled him on occasion to join either party.
The van of Richmond's army, consisting of archers, was commanded by the Earl of Oxford; Sir Gilbert Talbot led the right wing; Sir John Savage the left; the Earl himself, accompanied by his uncle the Earl of Pembroke, placed himself in the main body. Richard also took post in his main body, and intrusted the command of his van to the Duke of Norfolk; as his wings were never engaged, we have not learned the names of the several commanders. Soon after the battle began, Lord Stanley, whose conduct in this whole affair discovers great precaution and abilities, appeared in the field, and declared for the Earl of Richmond. This measure, which was unexpected to the men, though not to their leaders, had a proportional effect on both armies: it inspired unusual courage into Henry's soldiers; it threw Richard's into dismay and confusion. The intrepid tyrant, sensible of his desperate situation, cast his eye around the field, and, descrying his rival at no great distance, he drove against him with fury, in hopes that either Henry's death or his own would decide the victory between them. He killed with his own hand Sir William Brandon, standard-bearer to the Earl; he dismounted Sir John Cheyney. He was now within reach of Richmond himself, who declined not the combat, when Sir William Stanley, breaking in with his troops, surrounded Richard, who, fighting bravely to the last moment, was overwhelmed by numbers, and perished by a fate too mild and honorable for his multiplied and detestable enormities. His men everywhere sought safety by flight.
There fell in this battle about four thousand of the vanquished. The loss was inconsiderable on the side of the victors. Sir William Catesby, a great instrument of Richard's crimes, was taken, and soon after beheaded, with some others, at Leicester. The body of Richard was found in the field, covered with dead enemies, and all besmeared with blood. It was thrown carelessly across a horse, was carried to Leicester amid the shouts of the insulting spectators, and was interred in the Gray Friars' Church of that place.
The historians who favor Richard—for even this tyrant has met with partisans among the later writers—maintain that he was well qualified for government had he legally obtained it, and that he committed no crimes but such as were necessary to procure him possession of the crown; but this is a poor apology when it is confessed that he was ready to commit the most horrid crimes which appeared necessary for that purpose; and it is certain that all his courage and capacity—qualities in which he really seems not to have been deficient—would never have made compensation to the people for the danger of the precedent and for the contagious example of vice and murder exalted upon the throne. This Prince was of a small stature, hump-backed, and had a harsh, disagreeable countenance; so that his body was in every particular no less deformed than his mind.
[Footnote 1: Wife of Henry VI.]
[Footnote 2: The Queen's brother.]
[Footnote 3: Brother of Lord Stanley, above.]
IVAN THE GREAT UNITES RUSSIA AND BREAKS THE TARTAR YOKE
At the birth of Ivan III (1440) Russia was all but stifled between the great Lithuanian empire of the Poles and the vast possessions of the Mongols. In vain had a succession of Muscovite princes endeavored to give unity to the little Russian state. Between the grand princes of Moscow and those of Lithuania stood Novgorod and Pskof, the two chief Russian republics, hesitating to declare their allegiance.
By the creation of new appanages the Russian princes continually destroyed the very unity for which they labored. Moreover, at a time when the great nations of the West were organizing, Muscovy or Russia had no settled relations with their civilization. The opening of the Renaissance, the progress of discovery, the invention of printing—by these the best spirits in Russia were stirred to fresh aspirations for national organization and participation in the great European movement.
According to the tradition, her deliverer had been foretold and was expected. His triumphs were predicted at his birth. The man through whom, or at least in whose name, Russia was to be restored to herself, to be freed from the Mongol yoke, and brought into living connection with Western Europe, was Ivan, son and heir of Vasili the Blind, Grand Prince of Moscow.
This child became Ivan III, surnamed the "Great," because during his reign, 1462-1505, the expectations of his country were largely realized. He was the first who could call himself "Ruler of all the Russias," and he is regarded as the original founder of the Russian empire. Already, at his accession, the Muscovite principalities were beginning to draw together, and circumstances were favorable to the prosecution of the task upon which he was called to enter—the completing of their union and the securing of their national independence.
Ivan was a man of great cunning and prudence, and was remarkable for indomitable perseverance, which carried him triumphantly to the conclusions of his designs in a spirit of utter indifference to the ruin or bad faith that tracked his progress. Such a man alone, who was prepared to sacrifice the scruples of honor and the demands of justice, was fit to meet the difficulties by which the grand princedom of Moscow was surrounded. He saw them all clearly, resolved upon the course he should take; and throughout a long reign, in which the paramount ambition of rendering Russia independent and the throne supreme was the leading feature of his policy, he pursued his plans with undeviating consistency.
But that policy was not to be accomplished by open and responsible acts. The whole character of Ivan was tinged with the duplicity of the churchmen who held a high place in his councils. His proceedings were neither direct nor at first apparently conducive to the interests of the empire, but the great cause was secretly advancing against all impediments. While he forbore to risk his advantages, he left an opportunity for disunion among his enemies, by which he was certain to gain in the end. He never committed himself to a position of the security of which he was not sure; and he carried this spirit of caution to such an extremity that many of the early years of his reign present a succession of timid and vacillating movements, that more nearly resemble the subterfuges of a coward than the crafty artifices of a despot.
The objects, of which he never lost sight, were to free himself from enemies abroad and to convert the princedom at home into an autocracy. So extensive a design could not have been effected by mere force of arms, for he had so many domestic and foreign foes to meet at once, and so many points of attack and defence to cover, that it was impossible to conduct so grand a project by military means alone. That which he could not effect, therefore, by the sword, he endeavored to perform by diplomatic intrigue; and thus, between the occasional victories of his armies and the still more powerful influence of his subtle policy, he reduced his foes and raised himself to an eminence to which none of his most ambitious predecessors had aspired. The powers against whom he had to wage this double war of arms and diplomacy were the Tartars and Lithuanians, beyond the frontier; and the independent republics of Novgorod, Vyatka, and Pskof, and the princes of the yet unsettled appanages within. The means he had at his command were fully sufficient to have enabled him to subdue those princes of the blood who exhibited faint signs of discontent in their appanages, and who could have been easily reached through the widely diffused agency of the boyars; but the obstinate republics of the North were more difficult of access. They stood boldly upon their independence, and every attempt to reduce them was followed by as fierce a resistance, and by such a lavish outlay of the wealth which their commercial advantages had enabled them to amass that the task was one of extraordinary difficulty. Kazan, the first and greatest of the Tartar cities, too, claimed a sovereignty over the republics, which Ivan was afraid to contest, lest that which was but a vague and empty claim might end in confirmed authority. It was better to permit the insolent republicans to maintain their entire freedom than to hazard, by indiscretion, their transferrence to the hands of those Tartars who were loosened from the parent stock.
His first act, therefore, was to acknowledge, directly or indirectly, according to the nature of their different tenures, the rights of all his foes within and without. He appeared to admit the justice of things as he found them; betrayed his foreign enemies into a confidential reliance upon his acquiescence in their exactions; and even yielded, without a murmur, to an abuse of those pretensions to which he affected to submit, but which he was secretly resolved to annihilate. This plausible conformity procured him time to prepare and mature his designs; and so insidiously did he pursue his purpose that he extended that time by a servility which nearly forfeited the attachment of the people. The immediate object of consideration was obviously the Golden Horde, because all the princes and republics, and even the Poles and Lithuanians, were interested in any movement that was calculated to embarrass the common enemy. Ivan's policy was to unite as many of his enemies as he could against a single one, and, finally, to subdue them all by the aid of each other. Had he ventured upon any less certain course, he must have risked a similar combination against himself. He began by withholding the ordinary tribute from the Khan, but without exhibiting any symptoms of inallegiance. He merely evaded the tax, while he acknowledged the right; and his dissimulation succeeded in blinding the Tartar, who still believed that he held the Grand Prince as a tributary, although he did not receive his tribute. The Khan, completely deceived, not only permitted this recusancy to escape with impunity, but was further prevailed upon to withdraw the Tartar residents and their retinues, and the Tartar merchants who dwelt in Moscow and who infested, with the haughty bearing of masters, even the avenues of the Kremlin.
This latter concession was purchased by bribery, for Ivan condescended to buy the interference of a Tartar princess. So slavish and degrading was his outward seeming that his wife, a noble and spirited lady, the daughter of the Emperor of Byzantium, could with difficulty prevail upon him to forego the humiliating usages which had hitherto attended the reception of the Mongol envoys. It had been customary on the part of the grand princes to go forward to meet the Tartar minister, to spread a carpet of fur under his horse's feet, to hear the Khan's letter read upon their knees, to present to the envoy a cup of koumiss, and to lick from the mane of the horse the drops which had fallen from the lips of the negotiator: and these disagreeable customs Ivan would have complied with but for the successful remonstrances of the Princess.
Kazan presented the most alluring point of actual attack. The horde that had established that city subsisted by predatory excursions, and even the other bands of the barbarians were not unwilling to witness the descent of the Russians upon one of their own tribes that had acquired so much power. The project was favored by so many circumstances that, although his policy was evidently at this period to preserve peace as long as he could, he was tempted to make a general levy, and to assemble the whole flower of the population for the purpose of driving out of his dominions the bold invaders who had intrenched themselves within the walls of a fortified town. This was about 1468. At that very time the army of the Golden Horde, inspired by some sudden impulse, was advancing into Russia. It appears, however, that the multitudes assembled by Ivan were so numerous that the Khan's troops retired upon the mere rumor of their approach; so that the display of his resources had all the effect he desired, and he won a signal victory without striking a blow. The old Russian annalist dwells, with some pomp of words, upon this bloodless triumph, and, in the true vein of hyperbole, says that the Russian army shone like the waves of the sea illuminated by the sunbeams. We take the expression for all it is worth, when we estimate the force as having been more numerous than that of the Tartars.
It does not appear that Ivan was yet prepared, even with this great armament, to risk his future objects by any hostile collision, so long as such an extremity could be averted by intrigue; for in the following year, when the anticipated march against Kazan was at last commenced, he suddenly paused in the midst of his course, although the result was almost certain. Were it of much consequence, it would not be easy to decide the cause of this strange and abrupt proceeding; but it was evident that the soldiery were resolved not to return home without spoils. They rushed onward to the city; and even the general, who was instructed by Ivan to countermand the attack, in vain attempted to restrain them. With a leader of their own choosing, they fell upon Kazan, and utterly routed the inhabitants. The Grand Prince, perceiving that the enemy was powerless, now no longer hesitated; but, engaging all the princes in his service, and throwing his own guards into the ranks, he despatched his colossal forces to reduce the already dismembered hold of the Tartars of Kazan. The event was a complete victory, but Ivan remained safe at Moscow, to watch the issue of an undertaking which he could not reasonably have feared.
The subjugation of Kazan left the field clear for his designs upon the three domestic republics. Vyatka, insolent in its own strength, declared itself neutral between Moscow and Kazan; and on the fall of the latter city, Novgorod, apprehensive that Ivan would turn his arms immediately against her, called upon the people of Pskof for aid, expressing her determination to march at once against the Grand Prince, in order to anticipate and avert his intentions. The Novgorodians were the more determined upon this bold measure by the personal pusillanimity which Ivan betrayed in a war where the advantages lay entirely at his own side. They calculated upon the terror they should inspire; and judged that if they could not succeed in vanquishing the Grand Prince, they should, at all events, be enabled to secure their own terms. Marpha, a rich and influential woman, the widow of a posadnik, and who was enamoured of a Lithuanian chief, conceiving the romantic design of bestowing her country as a marriage dower upon her lover, exerted all her power to kindle the enthusiasm and assist the project of the citizens. Her hospitality was unbounded. She threw open her palace to the people; lavished her wealth among them in sumptuous entertainments and exhibitions, and caused the vetchooi kolokol ("assembling-bell"), which summoned the popular meetings to the market-place, to be rung as the signal of these orgies of licentiousness. The great bell in Novgorod was the type of the republican independence of the citizens, and represented the excesses into which they were not unwilling to plunge whenever it was necessary to testify their sense of that wild liberty which they had established among themselves. It was tolled on all occasions of a public nature, and the people gathered in multitudes at the well-known call. If any individual were accused of a crime against the republic or of any offence against the laws, the judges appeared at the sound of the bell to hold a summary court of justice, and the citizens surrounded the trial-seat, prepared to execute the sentence. Every citizen, with his sons, attended, carrying each two stones under his arms; and, if the accused were found guilty, lapidation instantly followed. The house of the culprit was also immediately plundered, cast down, confiscated, and sold for the benefit of the corporation. Except in China, where a law still more sanguinary and destructive prevails in cases of murder, there is hardly a similar instance of deliberate legal severity to be found among nations elevated above barbarism.
Inspired by the revelries of the ambitious Marpha, and the patriotic associations she awakened, the Novgorodians expelled the officer of the Grand Prince; possessed themselves of some land that belonged to him in right of his fief; and, to confirm their revolt against his authority, submitted themselves, by treaty, to Casimir, Prince of Lithuania. In this position of affairs, Ivan wisely resolved to leave Vyatka to its own course, confining his attention solely to Novgorod, and seeking to win over Pskof and its twelve tributary cities, so that he might combine them against the turbulent republic. The fall of Novgorod accomplished, the conquest of the other obstinate cities was easily effected.
The polite, cool, and persevering means he brought into operation against the refractory republic were admirably seconded by the machinery of communication which had been previously established in the persons of the boyars, whose local influence was of the first consequence on this occasion. As the tide of these numerous negotiations changed, Ivan assumed the humility or the pride, the generosity or the severity, adapted to the immediate purpose; and, working upon the characters of the individuals as well as their interests, he succeeded in gaining a great moral lever before he unsheathed a sword. He made allies of all the classes and princes that lay in his way to the heart of the independent corporation. He represented to the nobles the anomalous nature and usurpation of the democratic institutions of Novgorod, and he roused their pride into resentment. He gained over the few princes who still held trembling appanages by painting to them in strong colors the enormous opulence and commercial monopolies of the republic; and he filled the whole population with revenge against the fated city, by exaggerated accounts of its treasonable designs against the internal security of the empire. Thus, by artful insinuations of the personal advantages and general benefits that were to spring from the overthrow of Novgorod, he succeeded in neutralizing all the opposition he had any reason to apprehend, and in exciting increased enthusiasm on the part of the people.
Having made these subtle preparations to facilitate his proceedings, he sent an ambassador to the citizens calling upon them to acknowledge his authority; and only awaited their decisive refusal, which he anticipated, as an excuse for immediate hostilities. The Novgorodians returned an answer couched in terms of scorn and defiance. His reply was carried by three formidable armies, which, breaking in on the Novgorodian territory on three different sides, prostrated the hopes of the citizens by overwhelming masses, against which their gallant resistance was of no avail. In this brief and desperate struggle, Ivan possessed extraordinary superiority by the recent acquisition of firearms and cannon, the use of which he had learned from Aristotle of Bologna, an Italian, whom he had taken into his service as an architect, mintmaster, and founder. The triumph of the arms of the Grand Prince was rapidly followed by the incursions of swarms of the peasantry, who, secretly urged forward by Ivan, rushed upon the routed enemy, and completed the work of devastation. This licentious exhibition of popular feeling Ivan affected to repress, and, availing himself of the opportunity it afforded to assume toward the Novgorodians a moderation he did not feel, he pretended to protect them against any greater violence than was merely necessary to establish his right to the recovery of the domains of which they had despoiled him, and the payment of the ransom that was customary under such circumstances. Here his deep and crafty genius had room for appropriate display. He did not consider it prudent to seize upon the republic at once, as, in that event, he was bound to partition it among his kinsmen, by whose aid, extended upon special promises, he had overthrown it; so he contented himself with a rich ransom, having already beggared it by suffering lawless followers to plunder it uninterruptedly before he interfered, and by demanding an act of submission. But in this act he contrived to insert some words of ambiguous tendency, under the shelter of which he might, when his own time arrived, leap upon his prey with impunity.
The confusion into which the Novgorodians were thrown and the great reduction of strength which they suffered in the contest enabled Ivan to deprive them of some of their tributaries, under the pretence of rendering them a service, so that their exhaustion was seized upon as a fresh source of injustice. The Permians having offered some indignity to the republic, Ivan interfered, and transferred the commerce of that people with Germany to Moscow; and, on another occasion, when the Livoman knights attempted an aggression, Ivan sent his ambassadors and troops to force a negotiation in his own name; thus actually depriving both Novgorod and Pskof, they being mutually concerned, of the right of making peace and war in their own behalf. By insidious measures like these he continued to oppress and absorb the once independent city that claimed and kept so towering an ascendency. But not satisfied with such means of accumulating the supreme power, he sowed dissensions between the rich classes and the poor, and after fomenting fictitious grievances, terminating in open quarrel, he succeeded in having all complaints laid before him for decision. Then, going among them, he impoverished the wealthy by the lavish presents his visits demanded, and captivated the imagination of the multitude by the dazzling splendor of his retinues and the flexible quality of his justice. The time was now approaching for a more explicit declaration of his views. On pretence of these disagreements he loaded some of the principal citizens, the oligarchs of the republic, with chains and sent them to Moscow. It was so arranged that these nobles were denounced by the mob; and Ivan, in acceding to their demand for vengeance, secured the allegiance of the great bulk of the population. The stratagem succeeded; and with each new violation of justice he gained an accession of popular favor.
The progress of the scheme against the liberties of Novgorod was slow, but inevitable. The inhabitants gradually referred all their disputes to the Grand Prince; and he, profiting by the growing desire to erect him into the sole judge of their domestic grievances, at length summoned the citizens to appear before him at Moscow. The demand was as unexpected as it was extraordinary.
Never before had the Novgorodians gone out from their own walls to sue or receive judgment; but so seductive and treacherous were the professions of Ivan that, unsuspicious of his designs, they consented to appear before his throne. Throughout the whole of these encroachments on the ancient usages in which the rights of the people resided, he appeared to be lifted above all personal or tyrannical views. Marpha, the ambitious widow, who had stirred up the revolt and sought to attach Novgorod to Lithuania, had never been molested; and even the principal persons who were most conspicuous in resisting his authority at the outset were suffered to remain unharmed. These instances of magnanimity, as they were believed to be, lulled the distrust of the citizens, and seduced them by degrees to abandon their old customs one by one at his bidding. For seven years he continued with unwearied perseverance to wean them from all those distinctive habits that marked their original character and separated them from the rest of the empire; and at last, when he thought that he had succeeded in obliterating their attachment to the republican form of government, he advanced his claim to the absolute sovereignty, which was now sanctioned by numberless acts of submission, and by traitorous voices of assent within the council of the citizens.
At an audience to which he admitted an envoy, that officer, either wilfully or by accident, addressed him by the name of sovereign; and Ivan, instantly seizing upon the inadvertency, claimed all the privileges of an absolute master. He required that the republic should surrender its expiring rights into his hands, and take a solemn oath of allegiance; that his boyars should be received within its gates, with full authority to exercise their almost irresponsible control over the city; that the palace of Yaroslaff, the temple of Novgorodian liberty, should be given up to his viceroy; that the forum should be abolished; and that the popular assemblies, and all the corresponding immunities of the people, should be abrogated forever.
The veil was dropped too suddenly. The citizens were not prepared for so abrupt and uncompromising an assertion of authority. Hitherto they had admitted the innovations of the Grand Prince, but it was of their own free will. They did not expect that he would ground any right of sovereignty upon their voluntary acquiescence in his character of arbitrator and ally; and the news of his despotic claim filled them with despair and indignation. The great bell, which had formerly been the emblem of their citizenship, now tolled for the last time. They assembled in the market-place in tumultuous crowds, and summoning the treacherous or imprudent envoy before them, they tried him by a clamorous and summary process, and, before the sentence was completed, tore him limb from limb. Believing that some of the nobles were accessory to the surrender of their freedom, they fell upon those they suspected, and murdered them in the streets, thus hastening, and confirming by their intemperance, the final alienation of the wealthy classes from their cause; and having by these acts of unbridled desperation given the last demonstrations of their independence, they once more threw themselves into the arms of Lithuania, which were open to receive them.
But Ivan was prepared for this demonstration of passion. His measures were too deeply taken to suffer surprise by any course which the Novgorodians, in their righteous hatred of oppression, might think fit to adopt. When he learned the reception they gave to his mandate, he affected the most painful astonishment. He declared that he alone was the party aggrieved, that he alone was deceived; that they had laid snares for his counsel and countenance; and that even when, yielding to their universal requisition, he had consented to take upon him the toils of government, they had the audacity to confront him with an imposition in the face of Russia, to shed the blood of their fellow-men, and to insult heaven and the empire by calling into the sacred limits the soldiers of an adverse religion and a foreign power. These ingenious remonstrances were addressed to the priests, the nobles, and the people, and had the desired effect. The bishops embarked zealously in the crusade, and the people entered willingly into the delusion. The dependent republic of Pskof and the principality of Twer, paralyzed in the convulsion, appeared to waver; but Ivan, resolved to deprive Novgorod of any help they might ultimately be tempted to offer, drew out their military strength, under the form of a contingency, and left them powerless. Yet, although strongly reenforced on all sides, he still avoided a contest. With a mingled exhibition of revenge and attachment, he threatened and propitiated in the same breath.
"I will reign supreme at Novgorod," he exclaimed; "as I do at Moscow. You must surrender all to me; your posadnik, and the bell that calls your national council together;" and at the same time he professed his determination to respect those very liberties which by these demands were to be sacrificed forever. The Novgorodians, terrified by the immense force Ivan had collected, which it seemed he only used to menace, and not to destroy, attempted to capitulate; but he was insensible to all their representations, and, even while he promised them their freedom, he refused to grant it. The armament, mighty as it was, which he had prepared, was kept aloof to threaten and not to strike. He acted as if he feared to risk the issue of a contest with any of his enemies, or as if he were unwilling to suffer the loss consequent even upon victory. He wanted to overbear by terror rather than by arms, so that the fearful agency of his name might do the work of conquest more powerfully and at less cost than his armies, which must have been thinned by battles, and might have been subdued by fortune. So long as he could preserve his terrible ascendency by the force of the fear which he inspired, he was secure; but the single defeat, or the doubtful issue of a solitary struggle, might reduce the potent charm of his unvanquished power. In this way he drew the chain tighter; and in the agonies of the protracted and narrowing pressure, Novgorod, unable to resist, died in agonies of despair.
The surrender of the liberties of the republic was complete. On taking possession of the city, Ivan seized upon the person of the popular Marpha, and sent her and seven of the principal citizens as prisoners to Moscow, confiscating their properties in the name of the state. The national assemblies and municipal privileges ceased January 15, 1478, on which day the people took the oath of servitude; and on the 18th, the boyars and their immediate followers, and the wealthy and the influential classes of the inhabitants, voluntarily came forward and entered into the service of the Grand Prince. The revenues of the clergy, which were by the act of submission transferred to the treasury of Ivan, were immediately devoted by him to the service of three hundred thousand followers of boyars, through whose intermediate agency he intended to assert and maintain his unlimited and supreme authority over the fallen city. But not alone did he possess himself of the private property of some of the principal persons who had rendered themselves prominent in the recent declaration of independence, but he demanded a surrender of a great part of the territories that belonged by charter to the public. He also further enriched himself, and impoverished the Novgorodians, by seizing upon all the gold and valuables to which he could, with any show of propriety, lay claim. He is said to have conveyed to Moscow no less than three hundred cart-loads of gold, silver, and precious stones, besides furs, cloths, and merchandise to a considerable amount.
The settlement of his power in Novgorod had scarcely been concluded when intelligence was received that the Tartars of the Golden Horde were preparing for a third invasion. The enormous physical force that was at Ivan's disposal, the late accession of strength and increase of domain, by which his means were not only improved, but the number and means of his opponents were reduced, and the general state of the country, which was, in all respects, favorable to the objects of his ambition, deprived such a movement of its wonted terrors. Ivan had nothing to fear from the approach of the enemy. He was surrounded by the princes of the blood, who had warmly embarked in the common cause; he had an immense army at his command, panting for new fields of spoil and glory; he had broken up his domestic enemies in the North, and dismembered or attached the insurgent republics. He had left Lithuania to the rapacious guardianship of the Khan of the Crimea, who was sufficiently formidable to neutralize the incursions of the duchy upon the frontier; and on every side he found an ardent population impatient to expel the invader. Yet, encouraging as these circumstances were, and although they seemed to present the fortunate opportunity for carrying into execution his cherished plan of autocracy, Ivan held back. He alone of all Russia was intimidated. His project of empire was so lofty and comprehensive that he appeared to shrink from any collision that could even remotely peril its ultimate success. He was so dismayed that he forced the Princess to fly from Moscow and seek a temporary shelter in the North. Terror-struck and unmanned, he deserted the army, and shut himself up in the capital for security; and when the armed population, pouring forth from all quarters, and animated by one spirit of resistance, had advanced as far as the Oka to meet the Tartars, he recalled his son to the capital, as if he apprehended the consummation of some evil either in his own person or that of his heir. But the voice of the general indignation reached him in his retreat, and even his son refused to leave his post in the army. The murmurs of a disappointed people rose into clamors which he could not affect to misunderstand. They reproached him with having burdened them with taxes, without having paid the Khan his tribute; and that, now the Tartars had come into Russia to demand restitution, he fled from vindication of his own acts, and left the people to extricate themselves from a dilemma into which he had brought them.
In this difficulty Ivan had no choice left but to submit to the will of the country. He accordingly convoked a meeting of the bishops and boyars for the purpose of asking their advice; but their counsel was even still more conclusive; and the reluctant Prince was compelled to rejoin the army. The fear by which he was moved, however, could not be concealed, and it gradually infected the ranks of the soldiery. He had no sooner taken his station at the head of the army than he became spellbound. A river, the Lugra, divided him from the enemy; he could not summon courage to attempt it, but stood gazing in disastrous terror upon the foe, with whom he opened negotiations to beg for terms. In the mean time the news of his indecision spread, and the people at Moscow grew turbulent. The Primate, perceiving the disaffection that was springing up, addressed the Prince in the language of despair. He represented to him the state of the public mind, and the inglorious procedure of suing for a peace where he could insure a victory and dictate his own terms. "Would you," exclaimed the Primate, "give up Russia to fire and sword, and the churches to plunder? Whither would you fly? Can you soar upward like the eagle? Can you make your nest amid the stars? The Lord will cast you down from even that asylum. No! you will not desert us. You would blush at the name of fugitive and traitor to your country!"
Ivan was surrounded by two hundred thousand soldiers; reenforcements were thronging constantly to his side; the enemy was cut off from all assistance from his ally of Lithuania; and one word of encouragement would have set all these advantages into action. The troops only awaited the signal to rush upon the invaders; but Ivan, amid these flattering and animated circumstances, was dispirited. Even the voice of the Church addressed him in vain. He was utterly paralyzed; and cowardice had so completely taken possession of his mind that when the early winter had set in and frozen the river, so as to obliterate the obstacle that separated him from the troops of the Khan, he was seized with consternation, and fled in the wildest disorder from his position. He was so alarmed that he could not even preserve any regularity on the retreat, and all was confusion and panic.
So disgraceful an abandonment of his duty, which in other times must have cost him his throne, if not his life, was not visited with that rigor by the Russians which so glaring a defection deserved. The sovereign Prince was removed to too great a distance from the people to be judged of with precision or promptitude. The motives of his acts were not accessible to the multitude, who, accustomed to despotism, had not yet learned to question the wisdom of their rulers. The rapid advances that had been made toward the concentration of the governing power in the autocratical form, limited still more the means of popular observation and the vigor of the popular check upon the supreme authority. The Grand Prince stood so much aloof from his subjects, surrounded by special advisers and court favorites, that even the language of remonstrance, which sometimes reached his ears, was so softened in its progress that its harshness was that of subservient admonition; and he was as little shaken by the smothered discontent of the people as they were roused by an open sacrifice of their interests. But not alone was this reverence for the autocracy so great as to protect the autocrat from violent reprisals on the part of his subjects; but the national veneration for the descendant of St. Vladimir and the stock of Rurik was sufficient to absorb all the indignation which the weakness or the wickedness of the Prince might have aroused.
Ivan, however, independently of those acts of prejudice and ignorance which preserved him from the wrath which he had so wantonly provoked, was destined to find all the unfavorable circumstances of his position changed into the most extraordinary and unexpected advantages. In the crisis of his despair the fortunes of the day turned to his favor. While he hung behind the Lugra, seeking a base and humiliating compromise at the hands of the enemy, his lieutenant of Svenigorod, and his ally the Khan of the Crimea, advanced upon the Golden Horde, and pushed their victorious arms into the very den of the Tartars, at the time that the Tartar forces were drawn off in the invasion of Russia. Speedy intelligence of this disaster having reached the enemy, he made a precipitate retreat, in the hope of reaching his fastnesses on the frontier in time to avert the destruction that threatened him; but the Russians had been too rapid in their movements; and the work of devastation, begun by them, was completed by a band of marauding Tartars, who entered soon after they retired, and, carrying away the women and the remnant of the treasures left behind, reduced the city of the Golden Horde to ashes before the distant army could accomplish its retrograde march. Nor was this all the triumph that Ivan was called upon to share, without any participation in the danger. The return of the Tartars was arrested midway by a hetman of the Cossacks and the mirza of the Nogais, who, falling upon the confused and disorderly ranks, on their ill-conducted flight homeward, cut them in pieces, and left scarcely a living vestige on the field of the ancient and implacable enemies of the country.
The extinction of the Tartars was final. The Golden Horde was annihilated, and the scourge of Russia and her princes was no more. In a better educated state of society, these events, so sudden and so important, must have been attributed to proximate and obvious causes—the combinations of operations over which Ivan had no control, and the dismay into which the Tartars were surprised, followed up quickly by overwhelming masses who possessed the superiority in numbers and in plan. Ivan, who could lay no claim to the honors of the enterprise, would not have been associated in its results had the people been instructed in the respect which was due to themselves. But the Russians, profoundly venerating the person of the Grand Prince, and accustomed to consider him as the depository of a wisdom refined above the sphere of ordinary mortality, did not hesitate to ascribe this transcendent exploit to the genius of the reluctant autocrat. They looked back upon his pusillanimity with awe, and extracted from his apparent fears the subtle elements of a second providence. He was no longer the coward and the waverer. He had seen the body of the future, before its extreme shadows had darkened other men's vision; and the whole course of his timid bearing, even including his flight from the Lugra, was interpreted into a prudent and prophetic policy, wonderful in its progress and sublime in its consequences. Without risking a life, or spilling a drop of blood, and merely by an evasive diversion of his means, he had vanquished the Asiatic spoiler; and at the very moment that the people were disposed to doubt his skill and his courage, he had actually destroyed the giant by turning the arms of his own nation against him. Such was the unanimous feeling of Russia. Transferring the glory of their signal deliverance from those who had achieved it to him who had evaded the responsibility of the attempt, they worshipped, in the Grand Prince, the incarnation of the new-born liberty.
CULMINATION OF THE POWER OF BURGUNDY
TREATY OF PERONNE
P. F. WILLERT
From the planting of the Burgundian branch of the house of Valois, in 1364, arose a formidable rival of the royal power in France. During the next hundred years the dukes of Burgundy played prominent parts in French history, and then appeared one of the line who advanced his house to its loftiest eminence. This was Charles, surnamed the "Bold," son of Philip, misnamed the "Good." Charles was born in 1433, and became Duke of Burgundy in 1467. He "held the rank of one of the first princes in Europe without being a king, and without possessing an inch of ground for which he did not owe service to some superior lord." Some of his territories were held of the Holy Roman Empire, and some of the French crown, and he was at once a vassal of France and of the Emperor. His dominions contained many prosperous and wealthy cities.
But the possessions of Charles lacked unity alike in territorial compactness, political distinction, and local rule, and in national characteristics, language, and laws. His peculiar position exposed him to the jealous rivalry of Louis XI of France. The King's object was the consolidation of his monarchy, while Charles aimed to extend his duchy at the expense of Louis' territories. Thus the two rivals became deadly enemies.
Charles conceived the design of restoring the old kingdom of Burgundy. In 1467, having secured alliances with Brittany and England, he prepared for a campaign of conquest. But Louis offered him advantageous terms of peace and invited him to a conference. While Charles hesitated, Louis stirred to revolt the Duke's subjects in Liege, with whom Burgundy had lately been at war. The negotiations between Louis and Charles, and the events which followed, form the subject of Willert's narrative.
Many messengers came and went, yet Charles hesitated to accept peace even on terms so greatly to his advantage. The King, if he could but see the Duke, felt sure he might end this uncertainty, perhaps even obtain more favorable concessions.
When once the idea of a personal interview had possessed him he was deaf to the warnings and entreaties of his more prudent or honest advisers.
Charles did not seem anxious to meet the King, and when at length he yielded to the representations of the King's envoy, he sent a safe-conduct in the most explicit terms: "Sir, if it be your pleasure to visit this town of Peronne to confer with us, I swear to you and promise by my faith and on my honor that you may come, stay, and return at your good pleasure, without let or harm, notwithstanding any cause that may now be or hereafter may arise."
After receiving this assurance, Louis might fairly suppose that he had nothing to fear. He had before trusted himself safely to Charles' honor. Nor had he himself abused the chance which once delivered his rival into his hands unprotected by promise or oath. He therefore set out at once for Peronne, accompanied only by some eighty archers of his Scotch guard and by his personal attendants. He was met at the frontier by a Burgundian escort under Philip de Crevecoeur, and he found Charles himself waiting to receive him at the banks of a little river not far from Peronne. The princes greeted each other with respect on the one side, and with hearty affection on the other. They entered the town side by side, the King's arm resting on his kinsman's shoulder. The castle of Peronne was small and inconvenient; the King was therefore lodged in the house of one of the richest citizens. He had scarcely reached his quarters when the Marshal of Burgundy joined Charles' army with the forces he commanded. With him came Philip of Savoy and two of his brothers, Antony de Chateauneuf, and other men who had shared largely in the King's favor, but who had fled from his resentment after betraying his confidence. These his enemies might consider the occasion favorable for a bold stroke. If they acted without the connivance of Charles he might be grateful to those who satisfied his enmity without irretrievably compromising his honor. Louis therefore asked to be allowed to move into the castle, where his archers could at any rate defend him against a surprise. On the next day the conference began; all that he could demand was offered to Charles if only he would abandon the alliance of Brittany and England. But he was determined not to give way, and was insensible to the blandishments of his guest, who may have been tormented by painful misgivings as he looked from his prison-like rooms at a gloomy tower in which Charles the Simple had been confined, and, it was said, murdered by a rebellious vassal.
At the first suggestion of the interview with the King, Charles had objected that he could scarcely believe in his sincere desire for peace while his envoys were encouraging rebels. Cardinal Balue replied that when the people of Liege learned that the King and Duke had met, they would not venture upon any hostile movement. But the French agents were not informed of their master's intended visit to Peronne, and did not attempt to discourage a premature attack. It is indeed doubtful whether they could in any case have changed the course of events.
The first rumors of what had happened in a popular outbreak at Liege reached Peronne on the night of October 10th. As was natural, they were greatly exaggerated. Tongres had been sacked, the garrison put to the sword; Humbercourt, the Burgundian Governor, and the Bishop murdered; the King's envoys had been seen leading and encouraging the assailants. Charles broke into cries of rage: "The traitor King! So he is only come to cheat me by a false pretence of peace! By St. George, he and those villains of Liege shall pay dearly for this!" He did not pause to consider whether it was likely that Louis had been simple enough to provoke a catastrophe fatal to his hopes and dangerous to his safety. If Comines, the Duke's chamberlain, and another favorite attendant, who were with their master at the time, had not done their best to soothe him it is probable that the donjon of Peronne would once more have closed upon a captive king. Charles was at little pains to conceal his rage; and when Louis was told that the gates of town and castle were guarded to prevent the escape of a thief who had stolen a casket of jewels, he knew that he was a prisoner. Yet, however bitter his self-reproach, however gloomy his forebodings, he did not lose his presence of mind. His attendants were allowed free access to the castle; he had brought with him fifteen thousand gold crowns, and these he anxiously employed to secure the good offices of Charles' advisers. For three nights the angry agitation and perplexity of Charles were so great that he did not undress. He would throw himself on his bed for a time and then start up and pace about his room, uttering threats and invectives against the King.
Nothing was done or decided on the first day, October 11, 1468. On the second a council was held which sat late into the night. A minority of the council, the enemies of Louis, or those who were only anxious to flatter the passions of their master, advised him to use to the full the opportunity which chance and the foolhardiness and duplicity of his adversary had placed in his hands. They urged him to keep the King in secure confinement after providing for the virtual partition of the kingdom among the great feudatories. The majority, those who had some regard for the honor of the house of Burgundy, the lawyers, who respected the letter, if not the spirit, of an agreement, perhaps also the more far-sighted politicians, were of a different opinion. The fame of the Duke would suffer irreparable injury by so flagrant a violation of his plighted word. The advantages, moreover, to be gained by the captivity, the deposition, perhaps the death of the King, were uncertain. The heir to the throne was entirely in the hands of the Bretons, and was not likely to be eager to advance the interests of Burgundy. A large and well-disciplined army, commanded by experienced captains, was assembled on the frontiers. If they could not rescue their master, they would at least endeavor to avenge him, while the new King could acquire an easy popularity by execrating a crime of which he and Francis of Brittany would reap all the advantage. It was a wiser course to accept the terms which the King in his alarm proffered—the settlement in favor of Burgundy of all the disputed questions which had arisen out of the treaties of Arras and Conflans—and it might be possible to humiliate and disgrace Louis by compelling him to take part in the punishment of his allies, the citizens of Liege, who by their trust in him had been lured to destruction.
Charles left the council apparently undecided, and passed the night in as great a storm of passion as the two preceding. The conflict within him doubtless fanned his wrath. Comines, who shared his room, endeavored to calm him, and to persuade him to embrace the course most consistent with his interests and the King's safety; for so great a prince, if once a captive, might scarcely hope to leave his prison alive. Toward morning Charles determined to content himself with insisting that Louis should sign a peace on such terms as he should dictate, and accompany him against Liege. The King, says Comines, had a friend who informed him that he would be safe if he agreed to these conditions, but that otherwise his peril would be extreme. This friend was Comines himself, and Louis never forgot so timely a service. The two days during which his fate was being decided had been passed by him in the greatest agony of mind. Though he had been allowed to communicate freely with the French nobles and his own attendants, he had been ominously neglected by the Burgundian courtiers. As soon as the Duke had determined what conditions he intended to impose, he hastened to the castle to visit his captive. The memorable interview is described by two eye-witnesses—Comines and Olivier de la Marche. Charles entered the King's presence with a lowly obeisance; but his gestures and his unsteady voice betrayed his suppressed passion. The King could not conceal his fear. "My brother," he asked, "am I not safe in your dominions?"
"Yes, sire, so safe that if I saw a cross-bow pointed at you I would throw myself before you to shield you from the bolt."
He then asked the King to swear a peace on the proposed basis: (i) The faithful execution of the treaty of Conflans; (2) the abolition of the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Paris over Flanders; (3) the surrender of all regalian rights in Picardy; (4) the release of the Duke from all fealty to the King if the treaty was in any way infringed or imperfectly executed. Louis agreed, and Charles requested his assistance in punishing the rebellion of Liege. The King expressed his perfect readiness. The princes then signed a draft of the treaty and swore to execute it faithfully on the cross of St. Laud. Charles had insisted that Louis should swear on the relic, a fragment of the true Cross once kept in the Church of St. Laud at Angers, which the King always carried with him, esteeming it highly, because he believed that whoever forswore himself on it would surely die within the year. The Duke at the same time promised to do homage for the fiefs he held of the crown of France, but the execution of this promise was evaded.
On the 15th the Duke, with an army of forty thousand men, and the King with his slender escort, and some three hundred men-at-arms who joined him by the way, began their march on Liege. Louis was not less anxious than his companion that Dammartin should not attempt a forcible rescue. Victory or defeat would have been alike dangerous to his safety. Twice at Charles' request orders were sent to disband, or at least remove, the French army from the frontier. The King's letters were delivered by his messenger in the persistent presence of a Burgundian who prevented the possibility of any private communication. Louis' crafty old soldier, Dammartin, paid little attention to such orders. He sent word to the Duke that, unless his master soon returned, all France would come to fetch him.
The first divisions of the Burgundian army reached Liege October 22d. The citizens, whose walls had been destroyed and artillery confiscated, were in no position to resist an army which might have conquered an emperor. At the suggestion of the legate they released their bishop, begging him to intercede on their behalf, and offered to surrender their goods to the Duke's discretion if only he would spare their lives. Charles would not listen to their overtures; he swore that he would have town and inhabitants at his discretion or that he and his army should perish in the attempt.
The townsmen, with the boldness of despair, sallied forth to meet the advance guard of their enemies; they were driven back with great loss. Four days later, the 26th, the Duke and main body of the army had not come up. The troops, who had repulsed the sally on the 22d, had as yet met with little resistance, and thought themselves strong enough to occupy an open town defended only by ill-armed traders and mechanics. The weather was cold and rainy, the temptation of securing comfortable quarters and the undivided profits of the sack irresistible. The assailants occupied one of the suburbs, but their advance was checked by some hastily constructed defences. At nightfall the citizens came out through the breaches of their walls; they were enabled, by their knowledge of the rough and precipitous ground, to fall unobserved upon the rear of the enemy; eight hundred Burgundians were killed, and the rout would have been complete had not the Duke with the main body of his army pushed forward to the assistance of a division which was still holding its ground.
On the next day the King arrived, and soon after took up his quarters close to those of the Duke. He showed himself to the men, who had placed their trust in him, wearing the St. Andrew's cross, the badge of Burgundy, and replying "Vive Bourgogne!" to their cries of "Vive France!" That night there was a great and sudden alarm. The Duke of Burgundy, though brave, was sometimes wanting in presence of mind, and on this occasion appeared more troubled in the King's presence than pleased his friends. Louis took the command, giving his orders with great coolness and prudence. Even as a general he gained by comparison with his rival. He was indeed not less anxious than Charles that the Burgundian army should suffer no reverse. He feared everything that might arouse the ready suspicion and ungovernable temper of the Duke. On the evening of the 29th a few hundred men, colliers and miners from the mountainous district of Franchemont, led by the owners of the house in which the King and Duke were sleeping, made a desperate attempt to surprise the princes in their beds. They would have succeeded had they not delayed to attack a barn in which three hundred Burgundian men-at-arms were posted. Only a few followed their guides straight to the quarters of the sovereigns. They were unable, therefore, to overcome the resistance of the guard before the noise of the conflict had aroused the camp. The assailants were overwhelmed by numbers, and fell fighting to the last. The assault had been ordered for the next day, but this bold and unexpected attack so surprised and disconcerted the Burgundians that the King thought he might be able to persuade the Duke to agree to a capitulation, or at least to postpone the assault. He only obtained a contemptuous request that he should consult his own safety by retiring to Namur. This reflection on his courage stimulated him to greater ostentation of zeal. He could scarcely be restrained from leading the assault.
The citizens were worn out by guarding an open town against a powerful army for more than a week; they imagined that as it was a Sunday they would not be attacked till the morrow. The assailants entered the town with little or no resistance. Yet the fury and license of the soldiery could not have been greater had their passions been excited by an obstinate and bloody struggle. The horrors of the sack of Dinant were surpassed, although many of the citizens were able to escape across the Meuse. The deliberate vengeance of the Duke was more searching and not less cruel than the lust and rapine of his army; all prisoners who would not pay a heavy ransom were drowned. Although the cold was so intense that wine froze, and that his men lost fingers and toes from frost-bites, Charles did not shrink from the labor of hunting down those who had fled to the mountains, and burning the villages in which they had sought a refuge. He had previously taken leave of the King.
Four or five days after the occupation of Liege, Louis had expressed a wish to depart. If he could be of any further use, his brother might command his services; but he was anxious to see that their treaty was registered by the Parliament of Paris, without which it could not be valid. The Duke seemed unwilling to let his prey escape, but could find no pretence for his detention. Next year, said the King, he would come again and spend a month pleasantly with his dear brother in festivities and good cheer. The treaty, now drawn up in its final shape by the Burgundian lawyers, was read over to Louis, in order that he might object to any article of which he disapproved. But he readily ratified all that he had promised at Peronne. It had seemed useless to require him to bestow Normandy on Charles of France; nor is the question of his appanage mentioned in the treaty itself. But the King was compelled to promise to invest his brother with Champagne and Brie. These provinces, lying between Burgundy and the Low Countries, would, in the hands of an ally, serve to consolidate the Duke's dominions, and could be easily defended in case the King attempted to resume his concessions. Just before the princes departed, Louis said, as if the thought had suddenly occurred: "What do you wish me to do if my brother is not content with the appanage I offer him for your sake?" Charles answered carelessly: "If he will not take it, I leave the matter to you two to settle; only let him be satisfied." The King considered the thoughtless admission into which he had tricked his rival most important, since he fancied that it released him, so far as his brother's appanage was concerned, from the fearful obligation of his oath.
But notwithstanding this last advantage, we cannot doubt that Louis felt bitterly disappointed and ashamed. Although all songs, caricatures, and writings reflecting on the perfidy of the Duke of Burgundy, and by implication on the folly of the King, were forbidden under severe penalties, and even all manner of talking birds which might be taught the hateful word "Peronne" had been seized by the royal officers, he had not the heart to visit Paris. The parliament was summoned to meet him at Senlis. He ordered it to register the treaty without comment, and hastened southward to hide his mortification in his favorite castles of Touraine.
[Footnote 1: By Burgundians in 1466.]
LORENZO DE' MEDICI RULES IN FLORENCE
ZENITH OF FLORENTINE GLORY
During the twelfth century several of the Italian cities—especially Florence and Venice—rose to great wealth and power. Venice, through her favorable situation, became preeminent in commerce, while Florence was coming to be the most important industrial centre of Europe. In the thirteenth century Florence was the scene of continual strife between the Guelfs and Ghibellines, but she not only continued to develop in material prosperity, but also attained to intellectual activities whereby in the next century she gained a higher distinction. She took the foremost part in the Renaissance, and was the birthplace or the home of Dante, Boccaccio, and other leaders of the modern movement.
In the fifteenth century Florence reached a still loftier eminence under the Medici, a family celebrated for the statesmen which it produced and for its patronage of letters and art. Its most illustrious members were Cosmo (1389-1464) and his grandson Lorenzo, surnamed the "Magnificent." Lorenzo was born January 1, 1449, when the second great period of the Renaissance was nearing its close. That was the "period of arrangement and translation; the epoch of the formation of the great Italian libraries; the age when, in Florence around his grandfather Cosmo, in Rome around Pope Nicholas V, and in Naples around Alfonso the Magnanimous, coteries of the leading humanists were gathered, engaged in labors which have made posterity eternally their debtors."
Conjointly with his younger brother Giuliano, Lorenzo, on the death of his father Piero, in 1469, succeeded to the vast wealth and political power of the family. In 1478 the death of Giuliano left Lorenzo sole ruler of Florence.
To few men has either the power or the opportunity been given to influence their epoch, intellectually and politically, to a degree so marked as was the lot of Lorenzo de' Medici. One of the most marvellously many-sided of the many-sided men who adorned the Italy of the fifteenth century, he did more to place Florence in the forefront of the world's culture than any other citizen who claimed Val d'Arno as his birthplace. His influence was great because he was in sympathy so catholic with all the varied life of his age and circle. While during the one hour he would be found learnedly discussing the rival claims of the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophers with Ficino and Landino, the next might witness him the foremost reveller in the Florentine carnival, crowned with flowers and with the winecup in his hand, gayly carolling the ballate he had composed for the occasion; while the third might behold him surrounded by the leading painters and sculptors of Tuscany, discoursing profoundly on the aims and mission of art. Truly a unique personality, at one and the same time the glorious creation and the splendid epitome of the spirit of the Renaissance!
When Lorenzo de' Medici consented to assume the "position" occupied by his father Piero and his grandfather Cosmo, he was not the raw youth his immature years would lead one to suppose. Although intellectual maturity is reached at an earlier age in the sunny South than in the fog-haunted lands of Northern Europe, Lorenzo had enjoyed a long apprenticeship before being called to undertake the duties devolving on him as the uncrowned king of Florence. From his thirteenth year he had been the companion and shared the counsels, first of his grandfather and father, and subsequently of his father alone. From the former especially he learned many important lessons in statecraft. The matter is open to question, however, if any advice had more far-reaching results or was laid more carefully to heart than this which is contained in more than one of Cosmo's letters: "Never stint your favors to the cause of learning, and cultivate sedulously the friendship of scholars and humanists." Toward such a course Lorenzo's inclinations, as well as his interests, pointed, and during his life Florence was the Athens not only of Italy but of Europe as a whole. Here, among many others, were to be found such "epoch-makers" as Poliziano, Ficino, and Landino, Pico della Mirandola, Leo Battista Alberti, Michelangelo, Luigi Pulci—men who glorified their age by crowning it with the nimbus of their genius.
The literary and artistic greatness of Florence was not due, however, to the comparative intellectual poverty of the other states in Italy. Florence was only primus inter pares—greatest among many that were great. When the fact is recalled that such contemporaries as Pomponius Laetus, Bartolommeo Sacchi, Molza, Alessandro Farnese (Paul III), Platina, Sabellicus at Rome; Pontanus, Sannazaro, and Porcello in Naples; and Pomponasso and Boiardo at Ferrara, were then at or nearing their prime, the position of Florence as the acknowledged centre of European culture was conceded by sense of right alone. Than this nothing proves more emphatically the strides learning had been making. It was no longer the prerogative of the few, but the privilege of the many. From the first, Lorenzo recognized what a strong card he held in the affection and respect of the Italian as well as of the Florentine humanists.
The great secret of Lorenzo's preeminence in European and Italian, as well as in Tuscan, politics lies in the fact that he was able to unite the sources of administrative, legislative, and judicial power in himself. All the public offices in Florence were held by his dependents, and so entirely was the state machinery controlled by him that we find such men as Louis XI and the emperor Maximilian, Alfonso of Naples, and Pope Innocent VIII recognizing his authority and appealing to him personally, in place of to the seigniory, to effect the ends they desired. Such power enabled him to avoid the risks his grandfather Cosmo had been compelled to run to maintain his authority. The Medicean faction was better in hand than in his grandfather's days, and Lorenzo, therefore, in playing the role of the peacemaker of Italy, at the time when he held the "balance of power" through his treaties with Milan, Naples, and Ferrara, could speak with a decision that carried weight when he found it necessary to threaten a restless "despot" with a political combination that might depose him.
Lorenzo's services to learning were inspired by feelings infinitely more noble than those actuating his political plans. A patriotism as lofty as it was beneficent led him to desire that his country should be in the van of Italian progress in Renaissance studies. His sagacious prevision enabled him to proportion the nature and extent of the benefit he conferred to the need it was intended to supply. Many statesmen do more harm than good by failing to appreciate this law of supply and demand. They grant more than is required, and that which should have been a boon becomes a burden. Charles V, at the time of the Reformation, on more than one occasion committed this error, as also did Wolsey and Mazarin. Lorenzo, like Richelieu, recognized the value of moderation in giving, and caused every favor to be regarded as a possible earnest of others to come.
The earlier years of his power were associated with many stirring events which exercised no inconsiderable influence on the state of learning. For example, his skilful playing off of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan against Ferrante, King of Naples, led to greater attention being directed by the Florentines to Neapolitan and Milanese affairs, with the result that humanists and artists from both these places paid frequent visits to Florence, where they were welcomed by Lorenzo as his guests. Then when the revolt of the small city of Volterra from Florentine rule was suppressed by Lorenzo's agents, with a rigorous severity that cast a stain on their master's name, owing to many unoffending scholars having suffered to the extent of losing their all, Lorenzo made noble amends. Not only did he generously assist the inhabitants to repair their losses, not only did he make grants to the local scholars and send them copies of many of the codices in his own library to supply the loss of their books which had been burned by the soldiery, but he purchased large estates in the neighborhood, that the citizens might benefit by his residence among them. In this way, too, he brought the Volterran scholars into more intimate relations with the Florentine humanists, and thus contributed to the further diffusion of the benefits of the Renaissance.
All was not plain sailing, however, as regards the progress of the "New Learning." Despite his efforts, Lorenzo could not prevent its development being checked during the papal-Neapolitan quarrel with Florence. That war originated in a dispute with Pope Sixtus IV, who kept Italy in a ferment during the whole duration of his pontificate, 1471-1484. Were no other proof forthcoming of Lorenzo's marvellous diplomatic genius than this one fact, that he checkmated the political schemes of Sixtus, and finally so neutralized his influence as to render him wellnigh impotent for evil-doing, such an achievement was sufficient to stamp him one of the greatest masters of statecraft Europe has known. In any estimate of his ability we must take into account the unsatisfactory character of many of the instruments wherewith he had to achieve his purposes, and also the fact that he had neither a great army at his back with which to enforce the fulfilment of treaty obligations—for Florence never was a city of soldiers—nor had he the prestige of an official position to lend weight to his words. To all intents and purposes he was a private citizen of the Florentine republic. Yet such was the dynamic power of the man's marvellous personality, and the reputation he had earned, even in his early years, for supreme prescience and far-reaching diplomatic subtlety, that far and wide he was regarded as the greatest force in Italian politics. Sixtus sallied forth to crush; he returned to the Vatican a crushed and a discredited man, to die of sheer chagrin over his defeat by Lorenzo in his designs upon Ferrara.
Then followed the memorable dispute, in 1472-1473, over the bishopric of Pisa, when the Pope's nominee, Francesco Salviati, was refused possession of his see, Pisa being one of the Tuscan towns under the control of Florence. To this Sixtus retaliated by seeking the friendship of Ferrante of Naples, a move Lorenzo anticipated by forming the league between Florence, Milan, and Venice. This league thoroughly alarmed both the Pope and Ferrante, and on the latter visiting Rome in 1475 a papal-Neapolitan alliance was formed.
Even then hostilities might not have broken out had the young Duke of Milan not been assassinated in 1476, leaving an infant heir. This entailed a long minority, with all its dangers, and the apprehensions regarding these were not fanciful, inasmuch as Lodovico Sforza, uncle of the baby Duke, usurped the position under pretext of acting as regent. These crimes were plainly responsible for the Pazzi conspiracy in 1478 against the Medici themselves, a conspiracy which resulted in Giuliano, the younger brother of Lorenzo, being murdered in the cathedral, during mass, on the Sunday before Ascension, while Lorenzo himself was slightly wounded. That Sixtus and his nephew were accessories before the fact is now regarded as unquestionable. The vengeance taken by the enraged Florentines on the conspirators, their relatives, friends, and property, was terrible; the innocent, alas! being sacrificed indiscriminately with the guilty.
The Archbishop of Pisa, Francesco Salviati, had entered eagerly into the scheme, and, although his sacred office prevented him from actually assisting in the deed, he was present in the cathedral until the signal was given for the perpetration of the deed, when he left the building to secure the Palazzo Publico. He was therefore summarily hanged with the others from the windows of the civic buildings. Sixtus made the execution, or the "murder" as he called it, of Salviati, his pretext for calling on his allies to make war on Florence. When he saw, however, that this action was only throwing the city more completely than ever into the arms of the Medici, he changed his tactics and said he had no quarrel with "his well-beloved children of Florence," but only with "that son of iniquity and child of perdition, Lorenzo de' Medici," and those who had aided and abetted him, among whom the humanists were expressly mentioned. Against Lorenzo and his associates a brief of excommunication was launched, and the city was urged to regain the papal favor by surrendering the offenders.
The result might have been predicted. The "brief" only tended to knit the bonds of association closer between Lorenzo and the "City of the Flower," while the humanists to a man rallied round their patron. Even the choleric Filelfo, now a very old man, who had been on anything but friendly terms with the Medici, addressed two bitter satires to Sixtus, in which the Pope was styled the real aggressor, while the great humanist offered to write a history of the whole transaction, that posterity might know the true facts. The only power which gave its adhesion to Sixtus was Naples, while Venice, Ferrara, and Milan declared for Florence.
Thus commenced that tedious war which not only ruined so many Florentine merchants, but retarded the cause of learning so materially. When the people were groaning under heavy taxes, when all coin which Lorenzo could scrape together had to be poured out to pay the condottieri, or soldiers of fortune, by whom the battles of Florence were fought, there was of course but short commons for the humanists who had made Florence their home. Many of those adapted themselves to circumstances, but others, to whom money was their god, left the banks of the Arno for those southern cities where the pinch of scarcity did not prevail.
In this campaign the Florentines gained but little prestige. The larger share of the cost was quietly suffered by their allies to fall on the city of bankers. The Milanese were occupied with their own affairs, owing to the coup d'etat accomplished by Lodovico Sforza. The Duke of Ferrara withdrew owing to some disagreement with the condottieri engaged by Lorenzo. The Venetians only despatched a small contingent under Carlo Montone and Diefebo d'Anguillari; accordingly, in the end, the whole burden of the struggle fell on Florence. The Magnifico's position gradually became precarious, inasmuch as many persons declared the war to be in reality a personal quarrel between Pope Sixtus and the Medici. Complaints began to be heard that the public treasury was exhausted and the commerce of the city ruined, while the citizens were burdened with oppressive taxes. Lorenzo had the mortification of being told that sufficient blood had been shed, and that it would be expedient for him rather to devise some means of effecting a peace than of making further preparations for the war.
In these circumstances, and confronted by one of the most dangerous crises of his whole life, Lorenzo rose to the occasion and effected a solution of the difficulty by daring to perform what was undoubtedly one of the bravest acts ever achieved by a diplomatist. By some statesmen it might be condemned as foolhardy, by others as quixotic. Its very foolhardiness and quixotry fascinated the man it was intended to influence, the blood-thirsty, cruel, and pitiless Ferrante of Naples, who was restrained from crime by the fear neither of God nor man, and who had actually slain the condottiere Piccinino when he visited him under a safe-conduct from the monarch's best ally. But the Renaissance annals are filled with the records of men and women whose natures are marvellous studies of contrasted and contradictory traits. Such was the Neapolitan tyrant. While a monster in much, he had his vulnerable points. He was ambitious to pose as a friend of the "New Learning," and he knew that Lorenzo was not only the most munificent patron, but also one of the most illustrious exponents, of the Renaissance principles.
Although his enemy, Ferrante received Lorenzo with every demonstration of respect and satisfaction. He lost sight of the hostile diplomatist in the great humanist. Two Neapolitan galleys were sent to conduct him to Naples, and he was welcomed on landing with much pomp. Never did Lorenzo's supreme diplomatic genius, never did his versatile powers as a statesman, as a scholar, as a patron of letters, and as a brilliant man of the world, blaze forth in more splendid effulgence than during his three-months' stay in Naples. Though opposed by all the papal authority and resources; though Sixtus by turns threatened, cajoled, entreated, promised, in order to prevent Lorenzo having any success, the successor of St. Peter was beaten all along the line, and the Magnifico carried away with him a treaty, signed and sealed, which practically meant that henceforth Naples and the papacy would be in antagonistic camps.
It was the Renaissance card which won the trick. With startling boldness, yet with consummate art, Lorenzo played the game of flattering Ferrante. No ordinary adulation, however, would have had success with the Neapolitan Phaleris. He was too strong-minded a man for anything of that kind. But to be hailed by the great Renaissance patron of the period, by one also who was himself one of the leading humanists, as a brother-humanist and a fellow-patron of learning, was a delicate incense to his vanity which he could not resist. He liked to be consulted on matters of literary moment, and, when he blundered, Lorenzo was too shrewd a student of human nature to correct him.
Another fact in Lorenzo's favor was that he had the warm support not only of the beautiful Ippolyta Maria, daughter of Cosmo's friend, Francesco Sforza of Milan, and now wife of Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, King Ferrante's heir, as well as of Don Federigo, the monarch's younger son, who, along with Ippolyta, was a friend to the "New Learning," but he also had the whole body of Neapolitan humanists on his side, scarce one of whom but had experienced in some form or another the Medicean bounty. Such powerful advocacy was not without its influence in bringing about the result; while Ferrante more and more realized that if the Florentine Medici were crushed he would have no ally to whom to look for help when the inevitable shuffle of the political cards took place on the death of Sixtus.
In February, 1480, therefore, Lorenzo returned in triumph to Florence, to be received with rapture by his fellow-citizens. Had he delayed a few months longer, his visit and his ad-miseri-cordiam appeals would not have been needed. In August of that year Keduk Achmed, one of the Turkish Sultan's (Mahomet II) ablest generals, besieged and took the city of Otranto. In face of the common danger to all Italy, Sixtus was compelled to accept the treaty made by Ferrante with Lorenzo, and a general peace ensued. The decade accordingly closed with an absolution for all offences granted by the Pope to Florence, conditional on the Tuscan republic contributing its share to the expenses of the military preparations to resist the invasion of the Turk.
Notwithstanding the war, the progress of the Renaissance during the first decade of Lorenzo's rule was very marked. To the rapid diffusion of printing this was largely due. Lorenzo had not imbibed the prejudices against the new art entertained by Cosmo and Federigo of Montefeltro. He looked at the practical, not the sentimental, side of the question as regards the new invention. Having seen that the press could throw off, in a few days, scores of copies of any work, of which it took an amanuensis months to produce one; also that the scholars of all Italy could be furnished almost immediately, and at a low price, with the texts of any manuscript they desired, while they had to wait months for a limited number of copies whose cost was wellnigh prohibitive, he supported the new invention from the outset. Having resolved to further his father's efforts to establish printing in Florence, he stimulated the local goldsmith, Bernardo Cennini, to turn his attention to type-casting in metal, and even agreed to pay him an annual grant from the year 1471 until he had fairly settled himself in business. Nor did he confine his favors to him. John of Mainz and Nicholas of Breslau, who arrived in Florence, the former in 1472 and the latter in 1477, also participated in his open-hearted liberality. Printing struck its roots deep into the Tuscan community and flourished excellently. Though the Florentine craft never attained the reputation of the Venetian Aldi and Asolani, the Giunti of Rome, the Soncini of Fano, the Stephani of Paris, and Froben of Basel, it had the name, for a time at least, of being one of the most accurate of all presses.
To Lorenzo it owed this celebrity. At an early date he perceived that the new art would be of little value if there were not careful press readers. He was therefore among the first to induce scholars of distinction to engage in this task. For example, he enlisted the aid of Cristoforo Landino, who in his Disputationes Camaldunenses had really inaugurated the science of textual criticism by urging that a careful comparison of the various codices should constitute the preliminary step in any reproduction of the classics. Landino's work on Vergil and Horace merits the warmest praise. Lorenzo also impressed Poliziano into the work, whose labors in marking the various readings, in adding scholia and "notes" illustrative of the text of Catullus, Propertius, Ovid, etc., were of the utmost value. To Lorenzo and to his younger brother Giuliano, another great humanist, Giorgio Merula of Milan, dedicated his Plautus, published in Venice in 1472, showing at how early an age the Magnifico had taken his place among the recognized patrons of the Italian Renaissance.
We ought not, moreover, to omit mention of another achievement of Lorenzo, though performed in a sphere of effort lying outside of the strict limits of our Renaissance survey. Seeing it was the "Revival of Letters," however, which induced the revival of the cultivation of the vernacular Italian literature, surely it is not out of place to refer to it here. Early in life Lorenzo became imbued with the conviction that his native tongue was unsurpassed as a medium for "the expression of noble thoughts in noble numbers." Not only did he encourage others to study Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, but by following out his own precepts he became one of the great Italian poets. His Selve d'Amore, his Corinto, his Ambra, his La Nencia da Barberino, his Laude, his Sonetti, his Cansoni, etc., are all poems that live in the Italian literature of to-day. Not as a man ashamed of the vernacular, and forced to use it because he can command no better, does Lorenzo write. "He is sure of the justice of his cause, and determined by precept and example and by the prestige of his princely rank to bring the literature he loves into repute again."
But of these poems we cannot here take further note. By the scholars of the Renaissance such work was looked askance at. If they did produce any of these "trifles," as they were called, they almost blushed to own them, and were ashamed to communicate them to each other. That he dared to be natural says much for Lorenzo, and it was largely due to his encouragement that Cristoforo Landino undertook his great work on "Dante," to which we owe so much to-day.
In conjunction with his patronage of printing, there was no line of effort in which Lorenzo did more real good than in collecting manuscripts and antiquities, and in making them practically public property. On this account he is styled, by Niccolo Leonicino, "Lorenzo de' Medici, the great patron of learning in this age, whose messengers are dispersed through every part of the earth for the purpose of collecting books on every science, and who has spared no expense in procuring for your use, and that of others who may devote themselves to similar studies, the materials necessary for your purpose." The agents he employed travelled through Italy, Greece, Europe, and the East—Hieronymo Donato, Ermolao Barbaro, and Paolo Cortesi being the names of some of his most trusted "commissioners." But the coadjutor whose aid he principally relied on, to whom he committed the care and arrangement of his vast museum and great library, was Poliziano, who himself made frequent excursions throughout Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa to discover and purchase such remains of antiquity as suited the purposes of his patron. Another successful agent, though at a later date, was Giovanni Lascaris, who twice journeyed into the East in search of manuscripts and curios. In the second of these he brought back upward of two hundred copies of valuable codices from the monasteries on Mount Athos.
To still another service rendered by Lorenzo to the cause of the Renaissance attention must be called—the founding of the Florentine Academy for the study of Greek. This institution, distinct, be it remembered, from the Uffiziali dello Studio (or high-school), exercised a marvellous influence on the progress of the "New Learning." Accordingly, as Roscoe says, succeeding scholars have been profuse in their acknowledgments to Lorenzo, who first formed the establishment from which, to use their own classical figure, as from the Trojan horse, so many illustrious champions have sprung, and by means of which the knowledge of the Greek tongue was extended not only throughout Italy, but throughout Europe as well, from all the countries of which numerous pupils flocked to Florence—pupils who afterward carried the learning they had received to their native lands.
Of this institution the first public professor was Joannes Argyropoulos, who, having enjoyed the patronage of Cosmo and Piero, and directed the education of Lorenzo, was selected by the latter as the fittest person to be the earliest occupant of the chair. During his tenure of it he sent out such pupils as Poliziano, Donato Acciaiuoli, Janus Pannonius, and the famous German humanist Reuchlin. Argyropoulos did not hold the appointment long. His death took place at Rome in 1471, and he was succeeded first by Theodore of Gaza, and then by Chalcondylas. Poliziano certainly discharged the duties of the office frequently, but at first only as locum tenens. He was then almost incessantly engaged in travelling for his patron in Greece and Asia Minor, and was too valuable a coadjutor to be tied down to the routine of teaching until he had completed his work. During the next decade he became the "professor," and discharged the duties with a genius and an adaptability to circumstances that won for him the admiration and love of all his students.
This decade was also remarkable for the commencement of the devotion to the cultivation of literary style, a pursuit yet to reach its culmination in Poliziano in Florence and in Bembo and Sadoleto in Rome. Originality gradually gave place to conventionality, until men actually came to prefer the absurdities of Ciceronianism, and a cold, colorless adherence to hard-and-fast rules of composition, to a work throbbing with the pulsation of virile life. Humanism was beginning to take flight from Italy, to find a home and a welcome beyond the Alps.
The final decade of Lorenzo's life constituted the midsummer bloom of the Tuscan renaissance, the meridian of the intellectual and artistic supremacy of Florence. In Lorenzo it found its fullest expression. He was typical of its spiritual as well as of its moral meaning; typical, too, of that mental unrest which sought escape from the pressing problems of an enigmatic present by reverting to the study of a classic past whose ethical, social, and political difficulties were rarely of a complex character, but concerned themselves principally with what may be termed the elementary verities of man's relations to the Deity and to his fellows.
Lorenzo's amazing versatility has been pronounced a fault by some who believed they detected in him the potential capacity of rivalling Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto on their own ground, had he only conserved his energies. This is a foolish supposition. Lorenzo's many-sidedness was but the reflection in himself, as the most accurate mirror of the time, of all that wondrous susceptibility to beauty, that eager craving after the realization of the [greek: to kalon] ("the Good") so characteristic of the best Hellenic genius, whether we study it in the dramas of Sophocles or the Republic of Plato or in the statesmanship of Pericles. If Lorenzo had resembled his grandfather and concentrated his energies upon finance and politics, there might have been a line of reigning Medicean princes in Florence half a century earlier than actually was the case, but Europe would have been distinctly the loser by the absence of the greatest personal force making for culture which characterized the Renaissance.
This last decade of Lorenzo's life—from his thirty-first to his forty-second year—was memorable in many respects. In the year 1481 he was again exposed to the danger of assassination. Battista Frescobaldi and two assistants in the Church of the Carmeli, and again on Ascension Day, made an attempt to stab him, but were frustrated by the vigilance of Lorenzo's friends. There is no doubt that this second attempt was also instigated by Girolamo Riario, the nephew of Sixtus IV. Thereafter Lorenzo never moved out without a strong bodyguard of friends and adherents—a precaution rendered necessary by the repeated plots that were being hatched against him by his enemies.
No sooner had the presence of the Turks at Otranto, in the extreme southeast of Italy, been rendered a thing of the past by the surrender of the Moslem garrison to the Duke of Calabria in September, 1481, than the peninsula was again ranged in opposing camps by the attempt of the Venetians, assisted by Sixtus and his nephew, to dispossess Ercole d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, of his dominions. The Duke had married the daughter of Ferdinand, King of Naples, an alliance which, by strengthening him, gave on that account great offence to the Venetians. They therefore sought to provoke him by insisting on their monopoly of the manufacture of salt in North Italy, and by building a fortress on a part of the Ferrarese territory which they pretended was within the limits of their own. When he remonstrated, they declined to remove it. In vain he appealed to Sixtus. The latter was one of the wolves waiting to devour him. He then turned to Lorenzo.
To the inexpressible chagrin of Venice and of Sixtus, the Magnifico promptly espoused his cause, formed an alliance with Ferdinand and other states, and, before the Pope and the Venetians were aware he had moved, they found themselves confronted by Naples, Florence, Milan, Bologna, Mantua, and Faenza. The allies were commanded by Federigo of Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, while the Venetian-papal troops were placed under Ruberto Malatesta of Rimini. In this campaign, however, Lorenzo was really the master-spirit. Although successes were won on both sides, a more than usually tragic complexion was given to the war by the death of the two commanders of the opposing forces. They had been friends from youth, and such a trifle as the fact that they were hired to fight against each other never disturbed the tenor of their mutual regard. Armstrong says no more than the truth when he remarks: "It was a pathetic coincidence. The two rival generals had bequeathed to each other the care of their children and estates, a characteristic illustration of the easy good-fellowship in this game of Italian war."
The war dragged on with varying results until Lorenzo played his reserve card. He induced the Slavic Archbishop of Carniola, who, visiting Rome as the emperor Frederick's envoy, had been shocked by the shameless immorality of the Pope's life, to begin an agitation for a general council. In this he was supported by several of the rulers in Northern Italy and Eastern Europe. The move was so far successful. The Pope became alarmed, and hurriedly broke off his alliance with Venice, on the plea that the prevention of fresh schism in the Church must take precedence of every other consideration. The real fact of the matter was he dreaded the fate of Pope John XXIII, for he knew the actions of his nephew Girolamo Riario would not stand conciliar examination. Moreover, his other nephew, Giuliano della Rovere, afterward Pope Julius II, a bitter enemy to Girolamo, and Lorenzo's warm friend, had, during the disgrace of his cousin, gained the Pope's ear and told him some plain but wholesome truths regarding the unpleasant consequences of a permanent rupture with Lorenzo.
All these considerations induced Sixtus to yield and leave Venice to prosecute the war alone. This it did against a quadruple alliance, for the Pope, when the haughty republic of the lagoons refused to disgorge its Ferrarese prey at his orders, promptly changed sides, and was as keen against the aggressor as he had previously been favorable to it. The Venetians sustained two severe defeats, while their fleet was almost shattered by a storm. The pecuniary strain was beyond their resources longer to maintain. They therefore resorted to the customary project of inducing some other power to intervene. In this case they took the step of inviting the Duke of Orleans to lay claim to the dukedom of Milan, and the Duke of Lorraine to the throne of Naples. The move was successful as regards Ludovico of Milan; he withdrew from the alliance, and much against the wish of the other allies the peace of Bagnolo was concluded in August, 1484. To Sixtus the news came as the knell of his dearest hopes. He gave way to one wild outburst of passion, in which he cursed all who had been engaged in making peace, then apoplexy supervened, and within a few hours he was a corpse. He was succeeded by Cardinal Cybo, a warm friend toward the Medici, and one who had such a profound admiration for the genius of Lorenzo in statecraft that he seldom took any step without consulting him, though unfortunately he did not always follow the Magnifico's advice.
If no one else reaped honor and glory from this Ferrarese war, Lorenzo undoubtedly did so. By both sides the fact was admitted that he had acted throughout as a far-seeing, sagacious diplomatist, who, while giving preeminence, as was natural, to the welfare of his own state, had sought to conserve the cause of letters, even amid the turmoil incident upon the collision of political interests. He had proved the friend even of the enemies of his own country, when once they had passed from the scene of conflict, as, for example, when he dared Girolamo Riario to raise a finger in the direction of dispossessing the son of the Pope's general, Ruberto Malatesta, of his Rimini estates. He was the friend of the oppressed everywhere, and in more cases than one his powerful protection saved the children of his friends from being robbed by powerful relatives. This connection between Florence, Naples, Milan, Rome, and Ferrara tended to the promotion of intellectual intercourse between them. As printing was now being briskly prosecuted all over Northern and Central Italy, the interchange of literature went on ceaselessly among them.
This, however, was Lorenzo's last great war. True, he was implicated in the prolonged quarrel between the papacy and King Ferrante of Naples, yet it was more as a mediator between the two antagonists than as the ally of the last-named that he took part in it; although, as Armstrong points out, he paid for the services of Trivulsio and four hundred cross-bowmen, that by enabling the Neapolitans to check San Severino, the leader of the papal-Venetian troops, he might induce Innocent VIII to lose heart and retire from the struggle.
Lorenzo, during the last six years of his life, or, to speak more definitely, after the peace of Bagnolo, had become in Italian, as he was rapidly becoming in European, politics the master-spirit that inspired the moves on the diplomatic chess-board. In the mind of the historical student whose attention is directed to this period, admiration and wonder go hand-in-hand as we contemplate the marvellous sagacity and prevision of the man, together with the skill wherewith he made Florence—the weakest from a military point of view of the five greater Italian powers—the one which exercised the most preponderating influence upon the affairs of the peninsula. His supreme genius conceived and consummated the great scheme for ensuring the peace of Italy by a triple alliance of the three larger states—Florence, Milan, and Naples—against the other two, Venice and the papacy.
As showing how entirely it was dependent upon him, the alliance was operative only so long as he was alive to bind the antagonistic forces of Naples and Milan together by the link of his own personal influence. He, in a word, was the subtle acid holding in chemical combination many mutually repellent substances. When his influence was withdrawn by death, within a few months they had all fallen apart, the triple alliance was forgotten and Italy was doomed. Even by those with whom he was nominally at war he was resorted to for advice. He it was that kept Innocent VIII from taking up a position that would have rendered the papacy ridiculous in the eyes of Europe, when he sought to threaten Naples with consequences he was powerless to inflict.