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culpatory evidence, and assisted by those friends who knew all his actions, the falsehood and villany of these accusers would probably have been discovered, and his life saved,
In the year 1645, the Turks made an unexpected and sudden descent on the island of Candia. The senate of Venice did not display their usual vigilance on this occasion. They had seen the immense warlike preparations going forward, and yet allowed themselves to be amused by the grand seignior's declaring war against Malta, and pretending that the armament was intended against that island. The troops landed without opposition, and the town of Canéa was taken after an obstinate defence.
This news being brought to Venice, excited an universal indignation against the Turks; and the senate resolv. ed to defend, to the utmost, this valuable part of the empire. Extraordinary ways and means of raising money were fallen upon : among others, it was proposed to sell the rank of nobility. Four citizens offered one hundred thousand ducats each for this honour; and, notwithstanding some opposition, this measure was at last carried. Eighty families were admitted into the grand council, and to the honour and privileges of the nobility. What an idea does this give of the wealth of the inhabitants of Venice?
The siege of Candia, the capital of the island of that name, is, in some respects, more memorable than that of any town, which history, or even which poetry, has recorded. It lasted twenty-four years. The amazing efforts made by the republic of Venice astonished all Europe ; their courage interested the gallant spirits of every nation ; volunteers from every country came to Candia, to exercise their valour, to acquire knowledge in the military art, and assist a brave people whom they admired. The duke of Beaufort, so much the darling of the Parisian populace during the war of the Fronde, was killed here, with many more gallant French officers.
During this famous siege, the Venetians gained many important victories over the Turkish fleets. Sometimes they were driven from the walls of Candia, and the Turkish garrison of Canéa was even besieged by the Venetian fleets. The slaughter made of the Turkish armies is without example ; but new armies were soon found to supply their place, by a government which boasts such populous dominions, and which has despotic authority over its subjects.
Mahomet IV, impatient at the length of this siege, came to Negropont, that he might have more frequent opportunities of hearing from the vizier, who carried on the siege. An officer sent with dispatches, was directed by the vizier, to explain to Mahomet the manner in which he made his approaches, and to assure him that he would take all possible care to save the lives of the soldiers. The humane emperor answered, that he had sent the vizier to take the place, and not to spare the lives of soldiers; and he was on the point of ordering the head of the officer who brought this message, to be cut off, merely to quicken the vizier in his operations, and to show him how little he valued the lives of men.
In spite of the vizier's boasted parsimony, this war is said to have cost the lives of two hundred thousand Turks. Candia capitulated in the year 1668; the conditions on this occasion were honourably 'fulfilled. Morsini, the Venetian general, after displaying prodigies of valour and capacity, marched out of the rubbish of this well-disputed city, with the honours of war. The expense of such a tedious war greatly exhausted
a the resources of Venice, which could not now repair them so quickly as formerly, when she enjoyed the rich monopoly of the Asiatic trade; the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope having long since opened that valuable commerce to the Portuguese and other nations.
This republic remained in a state of tranquillity, endeavouring, by the arts of peace, and cultivation of that share of commerce which she still retained, to fill her empty exchequer, till she was drawn into a new war, in the
year 1683, by the insolence of the Ottoman court. The Venetians had for some time endeavoured, by negotiation, and many conciliatory representations, to accommodate matters with the Turks; and though the haughty conduct of her enemies afforded small hopes of success, yet: such was her aversion to war on the present occasion, that she still balanced, whether to bear those insults, or repel them by arms; when she was brought to decision by an event which gave the greatest joy to Venice, and astonished all Europe. This was the great victory gained over the Turkish army before the walls of Vienna, by Sobieski, king of Poland.
In this new war, their late general Morsini again had the command of the fleets and armies of the republic, and sustained the great reputation he had acquired in Candia. He conquered the Morea, which was ceded formally to Venice, with some other acquisition, at the peace of Carlowitz, in the last year of the last century.
During the war of the succession, the state of Venice observed a strict neutrality. They considered that dispute as unconnected with their interests, taking care, however, to keep on foot an army on their frontiers in I. taly, of sufficient force to make them respected by the contending powers. But, soon after the peace of Utrecht, the Venetians were again attacked by their old enemies the Turks; who, beholding the great European powers exhausted by their late efforts, and unable to assist the republic, thought this the favourable moment for recovering the Morea, which had been so lately ravished from them. The Turks obtained their object, and at the peace of Passarowitz, which terminated this unsuccessful war, the Venetian state yielded up the Morea ; the grandseignior, on his part, restoring to them the small islands of Cerigo and Cerigotto, with some places which his troops had taken during the course of the war in Dalmatia. Those, with the islands of Corfou, Santa Maura, Zante, and Cephalonia, the remains of their dominions in the
Levant, they have since fortified, at a great expense, as their only barriers against the Turk.
Since this period no essential alteration has taken place in the Venetian government, nor has there been any essential increase, or diminution, in the extent of their dominions. They have little to fear at present from the Turks, whose attention is sufficiently occupied by a more formidable enemy than the republic and the house of Aus- . tria united. Besides, if the Turks were more disengaged, as they have now stripped the republic of Cyprus, Candia, and their possessions in Greece, what remains in the Levant is hardly worth their attention.
The declension of Venice did not, like that of Rome, proceed from the increase of luxury, or the revolt of their own armies in the distant colonies, or from civil wars of any kind. Venice has dwindled in power and importance, from causes which could not be foreseen; or guarded against by human prudence, although they had been foreseen. How could this republic have prevented the discovery of a passage to Asia by the Cape of Good Hope ? or hinder other nations from being inspired with a spirit of enterprise, industry, and commerce ? In their present situation there is little probability of their attempting new conquests ; happy if they are allowed to remain in the quiet possession of what they have. Venice has a most. formidable neighbour in the emperor, whose dominions border on those of this republic on all sides. The independency of the republic entirely depends on his moderation; or, in case he should lose that virtue, on the protection of some of the great powers of Europe.
I have now finished the sketch I proposed, of the Venetian government, with which I could not help intermingling many of the principal historical events; indeed I enlarged on these, after you informed me, that you in
, tended to give your young friend copies of my letters on this subject, before he begins his tour. I wish they were more perfect on his account; they will, at least, prevent
his being in the situation of some travellers I have met with, who, after remaining here for many months, knew no more of the ancient or modern state of Venice, than that the inhabitants went about in boats instead of coaches, and, generally speaking, wore masks.
Venice. Having travelled with you through the splendid eras of the Venetian story, and presented their statesmen and heroes to your view, let us now return to the present race, in whose life and conversation, I forewarn you, there is nothing heroic. The truth is, that in every country, as well as Venice, we can only read of heroes; they are seldom to be seen : for this plain reason, that while they are to be seen we do not think them heroes. The historian dwells upon what is vast and extraordinary; what is common and trivial finds no place in his records. When we hear the names of Epaminondas, Themistocles, Camillus, Scipio, and other great men of Greece and Rome, we think of their great actions, we know nothing else about them ;-but when we see the worthies of our own times, we unfortunately recollect their whole history. The citi. zens of Athens and Rome, who lived in the days of the heroes above mentioned, very probably had not the same admiration of them that we have ; and our posterity, some eight or ten centuries hence, will, it is to be hoped, have a higher veneration for the great men of the present age, than their intimate acquaintance are known to have, or than these can be supposed to form, who daily behold them lounging in gaming-houses. All this, you perceive, is little more than a commentary on the old observation, That no man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre. The number of playhouses in Venice is very extraordinary, considering the size of the town, which is not thought to contain above one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, yet there are eight or nine theatres here, including