License and Slavery peculiar defects in republican governments—Application of this reflection to the state of Florence—Giovanni di Bicci di’ Medici re-establishes the authority of his family—Filippo Visconti, duke of Milan, endeavors to make amicable arrangements with the Florentines—Their jealousy of him—Precautionary measures against him—War declared—The Florentines are routed by the ducal forces.
Republican governments, more especially those imperfectly organized, frequently change their rulers and the form of their institutions; not by the influence of liberty or subjection, as many suppose, but by that of slavery and license; for with the nobility or the people, the ministers respectively of slavery or licentiousness, only the name of liberty is in any estimation, neither of them choosing to be subject either to magistrates or laws. When, however, a good, wise, and powerful citizen appears (which is but seldom), who establishes ordinances capable of appeasing or restraining these contending dispositions, so as to prevent them from doing mischief, then the government may be called free, and its institutions firm and secure; for having good laws for its basis, and good regulations for carrying them into effect, it needs not, like others, the virtue of one man for its maintenance. With such excellent laws and institutions, many of those ancient republics, which were of long duration, were endowed. But these advantages are, and always have been, denied to those which frequently change from tyranny to license, or the reverse; because, from the powerful enemies which each condition creates itself, they neither have, nor can possess any stability; for tyranny cannot please the good, and license is offensive to the wise: the former may easily be productive of mischief, while the latter can scarcely be beneficial; in the former, the insolent have too much authority, and in the latter, the foolish; so that each requires for their welfare the virtue and the good fortune of some individual who may be removed by death, or become unserviceable by misfortune.