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endeavours

peace of

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1481.

Soon after the termination of hostilities between Lorenzo
Sixtus IV. and the republick of Florence, Lo- to secure the
renzo began to unfold those comprehensive Italy.
plans for securing the peace of Italy on a per.
manent foundation, which confer the highest
honour on his political life. Of the extensive
authority which he had obtained by his late con-
duct, every day afforded additional proof; and
it appears to have been his intention to employ it
for the wisest and most salutary purposes. By
whatever motives he was led to this great attempt,
he pursued it with deep policy and unceasing

assiduity,

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CHAP. assiduity, and finally experienced a degree of

success equal to his warmest expectations.

VI.

Rise of the modern idea

of power.

The situation of Italy at this period afforded of the balance an ample field for the exercise of political

talents. The number of independent states of which it was composed, the inequality of their strength, the ambitious views of some, and the ever active fears of others, kept the whole country in continual agitation and alarm. The vicinity of these states to each other, and the narrow - bounds of tlreir respective dominions, required a promptitude of decision in cases of disagreement, unexampled in any subsequent period of modern history. Where the event of open war seemed doubtful, private treachery was without scruple resorted to; and where that failed of success, an appeal was again made to

The pontifical see had itself set the example of a mode of conduct that burst asunder all the bonds of society, and served as a convincing proof that nothing was thought unlawful which appeared to be expedient. To counterpoise all the jarring interests of these different governments, to restrain the powerful, to succour the weak, and to unite the whole in one firm body, so as to enable them, on the one hand, successfully to oppose the formidable power of the Turks, and, on the other, to

repel

arms.

VI.

repel the incursions of the French and the Ger- CHAP. mans, both of whom were objects of terrour to the less warlike inhabitants of Italy, were the important ends which Lorenzo proposed to accomplish. The effectual defence of the Florentine dominions against the encroachments of their more powerful neighbours, though perhaps his chief inducement for engaging in so extensive a project, appeared in the execution of it, rather as a necessary part of his system, than as the principal object which he had in view. In these transactions we may trace the first decisive instance of that political arrangement, which

more fully developed and more widely extended in the succeeding century, and which has since been denominated the balance of power. Casual alliances, arising from consanguinity, from personal attachment, from vicinity, or from interest, had indeed frequently subsisted among the Italian states ; but these were only partial and temporary engagements, and rather tended to divide the country into two or more powerful parties, than to counterpoise the interests of individual governments, so as to produce in the result the general tranquillitya.

But

was

a It is commonly understood that the idea of a systematick arrangement, for securing to states, within the

same

CH A P. But before Lorenzo engaged in these moVI.

mentous undertakings, he had further personal Conspiracy

dangers of Frescobaldi.

same sphere of political action, the possession of their respective territories, and the continuance of existing rights, is of modern origin, having arisen among the Italian states in the fifteenth century. Robertson's Hist. of Cha. V. v. i. sec. 2. But Mr. Hume has attempted to shew that this system, if not theoretically understood, , was at least practically adopted by the ancient states of Greece and the neighbouring governments. Essays, v. i. part ii. Essay 7. In adjusting the extent to which these opinions may be adopted, there is no great difficulty. Wherever mankind have formed themselves into societies, (and history affords no instance of their being found in any other state,) the conduct of a tribe, or a nation, has been marked by a general will; and states, like individuals, have had their antipathies and predilections, their jealousies, and their fears. The powerful have endeavoured to oppress the weak, and the weak have sought refuge from the powerful in their mutual union. Notwithstanding the great degree of civilization that obtained among the Grecian states, their political conduct seems to have been directed upon no higher principle; conquests were pursued as opportunity offered, and precautions for safety were delayed till the hour of danger arrived. The preponderating mass of the Roman republick attracted into its vortex whatever was opposed to its influence; and the violent commotions of the middle ages, by which that immense body was again broken into new forms, and impelled in vague and eccentrick directions, postponed to a late period the possibility of regulated action. The transactions in Italy, during the four

teenth

VI.

dangers to encounter. The moderation of his CHAP, conduct could neither extinguish nor allay the insatiable spirit of revenge that burnt in the breast of Girolamo Riario. Defeated in his ambitious projects by the superiour talents of Lorenzo, he once more had recourse to his treacherous practices; and, by an intercourse with some of the Florentine exiles, again found, even in Florence, the instruments of his purpose, By their instigation, Battista Frescobaldi, with only two assistants, undertook to assassinate Lorenzo in the church of the Carmeli, on the day of Ascension, being the last day of May 1481. This attempt was not conducted with the same secrecy as that which we have before

related,

teenth and fifteenth centuries, bear indeed a strong resemblance to those which took place among the Grecian states; but it was not till nearly the close of the latter century, that a system of general security and pacification was clearly developed, and precautions taken for ensuring its continuance. Simple as this idea may now appear, yet it must be considered that, before the adoption of it, the minds of men, and consequently the maxims of states, must have undergone an important change : views of aggrandizement were to be repressed ; war was to be prosecuted, not for the purpose of conquest, but of security ; and, above all, an eye was to be found that could discern, and a mind that could comprehend, so extended an object.

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