“He fully saw the force of my argument, but persisted in his determination. If you ask my opinion, therefore, signors, and you do not think the honour too great, I would suggest that the highest and most acceptable honour that could be bestowed upon him, would be that which you have at various times conferred upon foreign personages of distinction, namely, to grant him the freedom of Venice, and inscribe his name upon the list of her citizens, without requiring of him the renunciation of his own country, or the taking the oath of allegiance.”
“The honour is assuredly a great and exceptional one,” the doge said, “but so is the service that he has rendered. He has converted what would have been a defeat into a victory, and has saved Venice from a grave peril.
“Will you retire for a few minutes, signor, and we will then announce to you the result of our deliberations on the matter.”
Chapter 12: In Mocenigo’s Power.
It was fully an hour before Polani was recalled to the council chamber. He saw at once, by the flushed and angry faces of some of the council, that the debate had been a hot one. At this he was not surprised, for he knew that the friends and connections of Ruggiero Mocenigo would vehemently oppose the suggestion he had made.
The doge announced the decision.
“The council thank you for your suggestion, Signor Polani, and have resolved, by a majority, to confer upon Messer Francisco Hammond the high honour of placing his name upon the list of the citizens of Venice, without requiring from him the oaths of allegiance to the state. As such an honour has never before been conferred, save upon personages of the highest rank, it will be a proof of the gratitude which Venice feels towards one who has done her such distinguished service. The decree to that effect will be published tomorrow.”
The merchant retired, highly gratified. The honour was a great and signal one, and the material advantages considerable. The fact that Francis was a foreigner had been the sole obstacle which had presented itself to him, in associating him with his business, for it would prevent Francis from trading personally with any of the countries in which Venetian citizens enjoyed special advantages.
Francis was immensely gratified, when he heard from the merchant of the honour to be conferred upon him. It was of all others the reward he would have selected, had a free choice been given him, but it was so great and unusual an honour, that he could indeed scarcely credit it when the merchant told him the result of his interviews with the council. The difficulty which his being a foreigner would throw in the way of his career as a merchant in Eastern waters, had been frequently in his mind, and would, he foresaw, greatly lessen his usefulness, but that he should be able to obtain naturalization, without renouncing his allegiance to England, he had never even hoped.