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2 - Machiavelli in the chancery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2010

John M. Najemy
Affiliation:
Cornell University, New York
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Summary

From June 19, 1498, to November 7, 1512, Niccolò Machiavelli served as a high-ranking official in the chancery of the Florentine republic. His election as second chancellor, aged twenty-nine, without previous notarial, secretarial, or administrative experience, was doubtless a political success. The faction supporting the firebrand preacher and fundamentalist religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola had reached the height of its power under Florence's new popular constitution at the end of 1497. Although by the beginning of 1498 its control was already teetering, it still managed to assert its influence in elections to the chancery in February, when Machiavelli lost, possibly because he was known to be critical of Savonarola in private, although he was not associated with any anti-Savonarolan faction. But the friar's party suffered a precipitate fall from power in April when its political leader, Francesco Valori, was murdered; at the end of May, Savonarola himself was tried and executed, and many of his supporters, including chancery staff, were removed from office. This gave Machiavelli his chance. Another circumstance favored Machiavelli after Savonarola's fall. Traditionally, the chancery was meant to be nonpolitical; unlike political magistrates who held power for short periods in order to limit, at least in theory, factional or personal influence over government, chancery officials served long periods, often for life.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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