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united armies of France and Venice enter victorious into Constantinople, and divide the spoils of that wealthy city.
The doge, never so much blinded with success as to lose sight of the true interest of his country, did not think of procuring for the republic, large dominions on the continent. The Venetians had, for their share, the islands of the Archipelago, several ports on the coast of the Hellespont, the Morea, and the entire island of Candia. This was a judicious partition for Venice, the augmentation of whose strength depended on commerce, navigation, and the empire of the sea.
Though the star of Dandolo rose in obscurity, and shone with no extraordinary lustre at its meridian height, yet nothing ever surpassed the brilliancy of its setting
This extraordinary man died at Constantinople, oppressed with age, but while the laurels, which adorned his hoary head, were in youthful verdure.
The annals of mankind present nothing more worthy of our admiration. A man, above the age of eighty, and almost entirely deprived of his sight, despising the repose necessary for age, and the secure honours which attended him at home; engaging in a hazardous enterprise, against a distant and powerful enemy; supporting the fatigues of a military life with the spirit of youth, and the perseverance of a veteran, in a superstitious age; and, whilst he led an army of religious enthusiasts, braving, at once, the indignation of the pope, the prejudices of bigots, and all the dangers of war; displaying the ardour of a conqueror, the judgment of a statesman, and the disinterested spirit of a patriot; preparing distant events, improving accidental circumstances, managing the most impetuous characters; and, with admirable address, making all subservient to the vast plan he had conceived, for the aggrandizing his native country. Yet this man passed his youth, manhood, and great part of his old age, unknown. Had he died at seventy, his name would have been swept, with the common rubbish of courts and capi
tals, into the gulph of oblivion. So necessary are occasions, and situations, for bringing into light the concealed vigour of the greatest characters; and so true it is, that while we see, at the head of kingdoms, men of the most vulgar abilities, the periods of whose existence serve only as dates to history, many whose talents and virtues would have swelled her brightest pages have died unnoted, from the obscurity of their situations, or the languor and stupidity of the ages in which they lived.
But the romantic story of Henry Dandolo has seduced me from my original purpose, which was, to give you an idea of the rise and progress of the Venetian aristocracy, and which I shall resume in my next.
THE senate of Venice, ever jealous of their civil liberty, while they rejoiced at the vast acquisitions lately made by their fleet and army, perceived that those new conquests might tend to the ruin of the constitution, by augmenting the power and influence of the first magis
In the year 1206, immediately after they were informed of the death of Dandolo, they created six new magistrates, called correctors; and this institution has been renewed at every interregnum which has happened since.
The duty of those correctors is, to examine into all abuses which may have taken place during the reign of the preceding doge, and report them to the senate, that they may be remedied, and prevented for the future, by wholesome laws, before the election of another doge. At the same time it was ordained, that the state should be indemnified out of the fortune of the deceased magistrate, from any detriment it had sustained by his maladministration, of which the senate were to be the judges. This law was certainly well calculated to make the doge very circumspect in his conduct, and has been the origin
of all the future restraints which have been laid on that very unenviable office.
Men accustomed to the calm and secure enjoyments of private life, are apt to imagine, that no mortal would be fond of any office on such conditions; but the senate of Venice, from more extensive views of human nature, knew that there always was a sufficient number of men, eager to grasp the sceptre of ambition, in defiance of all the thorns with which it could be surrounded.
It was not the intention of the Venetian senate to throw the smallest stain on the character of their late patriotic doge; nevertheless they thought the interregnum after his death, the most favourable opportunity of passing this law; because, when the inquisition had taken place after his glorious reign, no doge could expect that it would ever afterwards be dispensed with.
The correctors having been chosen, and the inquisition made, Peter Ziani was elected doge. In his reign a court for civil causes, denominated the Tribunal of Forty, was created. Its name sufficiently explains the intention of establishing this court, to which there is an appeal from the decisions of all inferior magistrates in civil causes tried within the city. It is to be distinguished from the court of forty, formerly mentioned, whose jurisdiction was now confined to criminal causes: it afterwards got the name of old civil council of forty, to distinguish it from a third court, consisting also of forty members, which was established at a subsequent period, to decide, by appeal, in all civil causes, from the judgments of the inferior courts without the city of Venice.
Towards the end of his life, about the year 1228, Ziani abdicated his office. At the election of his successor, the suffrages were equally divided between Rainier Dandolo and James Theipolo. This prolonged the interregnum for two months; as often as they were balloted, during that time, each of them had twenty balls. The senate, at last, ordained them to draw lots, which decided in favour of Theipolo.
During his administration, the Venetian code was, in some degree, reformed and abridged. One of the greatest inconveniences of freedom, is the number of laws necessary to protect the life and property of each citizen; the natural consequences of which are, a multitude of lawyers, with all the suits and vexations which they create; les peines, les déspenses, les longueurs, les dangers mêmes de la justice,' says Montesquieu, sont le prix que chaque citoyen donne pour sa liberté.' The more freedom remains in a state, of the higher importance will the life and property of each citizen be considered. A despotic government counts the life of a citizen as of no importance at all.
The doge Theipolo, who had himself been a lawyer, as many of the Venetian nobles at that time were, bestowed infinite labour in arranging and illuminating the vast chaos of laws and regulations in which the jurisprudence of a republic, so jealous of her liberty, had been involved. After a long reign, he abdicated the government; and, to prevent the inconveniency which had happened at his election, the number of electors, by a new decree of the senate, was augmented to forty-one.
In the reign of his successor, Marino Marsini, two judges, called Criminal Judges of the Night, were appointed. Their function is to judge of what are called nocturnal crimes, under which denomination are reckoned robberies, wilful fire, rapes, and bigamy. We find also, that Jews lying with Christian women, is enumerated among ́nocturnal crimes; though, by an unjustifiable partiality, a Christian man lying with a Jewish woman, whether by night or day, is not mentioned as any crime at all.
A few years after, in the reign of the doge Rainier Zeno, four more judges were added to this tribunal; and, during the interregnum which took place at his death, in the year 1268, a new form of electing the doge was fixed, which, though somewhat complicated, has been observed ever since.
All the members of the grand council, who are past
thirty years of age, being assembled in the hall of the palace, as many balls are put into an urn as there are members present; thirty of these balls are gilt, and the rest white. Each counsellor draws one; and those who get the gilt balls, go into another room, where there is. an urn, containing thirty balls, nine of which are gilt. The thirty members draw again; and those who, by a second piece of good fortune, get the gilt balls, are the first electors, and have a right to choose forty, among whom they comprehend themselves.
Those forty, by balloting in the same manner as in the former instances, are reduced to twelve second electors, who choose twenty-five, the first of the twelve naming three, and the remaining eleven two, a-piece. All those being assembled in a chamber apart, each of them draws a ball from an urn, containing twenty-five balls, among which are nine gilt. This reduces them to nine third electors, each of whom chooses five, making in all fortyfive; who, as in the preceding instances, are reduced by ballot, to eleven fourth electors, and they have the nomination of forty-one, who are the direct electors of the doge. Being shut up by themselves, they begin by choosing three chiefs, and two secretaries; each elector, being then called, throws a little billet into an urn, which stands on a table before the chiefs. On this billet is inscribed the person's name whom the elector wishes to be doge.
The secretaries then, in the presence of the chiefs, and of the whole assembly, open the billets. Among all the forty-one there are, generally, but a very few different names, as the election, for the most part, balances between two or three candidates. Their names, whatever is the number, are put into another urn, and drawn out one after another. As soon as a name is extracted, the secretary reads it, and, if the person to whom it belongs is present, he immediately retires. One of the chiefs then demands, with a loud voice, whether any crime can be laid to this person's charge, or any objection made to