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Both have declined after extending their territory. Herein lies the first cause of the decline of Venice. Its second cause may be found in the slowness of its deliberations. Slowness of action, it is true, is a fault which is found in all democracies, but it is extreme in Venice. Their Senate seems to be sometimes asleep. So difficult it is at times to cause it to move.
The Venetians were advised in good time of the preparations made by Turkey for invading the Island of Crete. Nevertheless, they did not think of preparing their defence, as if they had never suffered from the perfidy of the Turks, or as if Heaven had assured them that the powerful expedition prepared by Turkey was not directed against their own possessions. Their confidence was founded upon the promises of a Turk who had told them that the military preparations of the Porte were directed against Malta. They were blind to their danger, and they refused to heed the advice of Sorance, the Venetian ambassador at Constantinople, who had warned them of their peril and entreated them unceasingly to take precautions. Fearing to offend the Turks by showing their suspicion, they did not arm, but trusted for their security to their alliance with the Turks, which had recently been renewed. Thus their fortress of Saint Theodore was taken by surprise and Candia besieged. Only then would they believe that the Turks were hostile to them. ..
The Venetians lost Cyprus in a similar manner. They could not make up their mind what to do, although Jerome Zane, their admiral, and Pascal Cicogne, their general at Candia, urged them not to wait until attacked by the Turks, but to fight the Turkish fleet on the sea, and so prevent a hostile landing.
By similar irresolution the Senate lost in the last century the whole of the Venetian territory on the mainland. The Venetian government could not make up its mind as to the policy to be pursued until the sovereigns united in the League of Cambray had invaded the Venetian possessions.
The third cause of the disorder in the affairs of Venice lies in the fact that the Senate is composed of a large
number of members. Hence bad proposals are more likely to be adopted than good ones, especially if a bad policy is outwardly attractive, and therefore popular, while a wise policy seems unpleasant. In Venice, as in ancient Athens, wise men may propose, but fools deliberate. The resolutions are formed by a majority. The votes of fools have as much weight as the votes of wise men, and fools are more numerous than are men of understanding.
Lastly, the Venetian Senate is, in time of danger, liable to steer a middle course, which is the worst course of all. If two different policies are proposed, one brave and daring, and the other timorous and cowardly, the Venetians are apt to follow a policy which is partly brave and partly cowardly without inquiring whether it is wise and whether it will avert the danger.
The extracts given from the book of the French diplomat make it clear that Venice, in times of great emergency, when rapid and decisive action was required, was as shortsighted, vacillating, and hesitating as was Athens, that in the later centuries of her existence she was never prepared for war, and was always forestalled by her enemies, all timely warnings notwithstanding. Three centuries ago Turkey fooled Venice in exactly the same manner in which she fooled Great Britain in 1914 and in which Bulgaria fooled her in 1915. Over the grave of Venice, as over that of Athens, the words 'Too late 'may be inscribed. Venice, like ancient Athens in the time of her decline, had many heads but no head. Improvidence and irresolution arising from divided counsels destroyed both.
If we survey the history of the world we find that nearly all true democracies have been exceedingly short-lived, that they have.gone the way of Athens. The republics which flourished were, like Carthage and like Athens in the time of her greatest glory, aristocracies directed by single men of genius. The Republic of the Netherlands, like that of Venice, was an aristocracy. William the Silent, her Stadtholder, was her Themistocles. He established the power of the Republic, and his successors of the House of Orange, the Princes Maurice, Frederick Henry, and William the Second, maintained it. At that time she ruled the sea, colonised the world, dominated the world's trade, and was the richest State in Europe. In 1650 the Dutch Republic changed its Constitution. It abolished the Stadtholder, whose supreme position had aroused the envy of the democrats. The politicians were established in power. From 1650 to 1672 the Netherlands were a true Republic. Her politicians quarrelled among themselves like those of Athens and Venice. Her counsels were divided, and during the twenty-two years of democratic control she experienced defeat after defeat and lost her naval supremacy, her world trade, and her greatness. The Dutch wealth and power fell to England, ruled by one man, by Cromwell. Improvidence and irresolution springing from the rule of political committees brought about her decline.
It is only natural that aristocratic or oligarchial republics have shown a greater vitality than democratic ones. Aristocratic Venice existed during nearly a thousand years. The wealth of the wealthy can be preserved only by prudence, fore sight, and timely energy. It may be destroyed by a defeat, and it may be preserved or increased by a timely victory. Wealthy men are therefore apt to take more provident and more statesmanlike views in matters of foreign policy than the labouring masses, which live from day to day. Besides, the wealthy and the powerful are as a rule far better informed on foreign affairs than the poor and the ignorant, who may easily be deluded by wily agitators. If one set of politicians proposes to the people a wise and patriotic, though costly, policy of military preparedness in view of possible dangers from without, while another set promises them peace, higher wages or a reduced cost of living, and disarmament, and holds up the former policywhich is supported by the well-informed rich and its supporters to odium, the people will readily vote for a policy of unpreparedness and for a reduction of armaments.
Before the War the French, Belgian, and British armies were starved, and national defence was neglected because the workers were told by their leaders that not Germany, but domestic capitalism, was their greatest enemy. Before the War adequate military preparation was systematically opposed in France, Belgium, and Great Britain by politicians who pandered to the short-sighted and ill-informed masses. The story of Athens in the time of Demosthenes repeated itself.
The question now arises whether inefficiency and improvidence are inseparably connected with democracy, whether it is not possible to combine the advantages possessed by democracy with the governmental efficiency and foresight which are found in highly organised and semi-military States such as Germany, whether it is not possible to blend representative government and one-man rule. Before deciding whether this is feasible we must inquire into the causes of the governmental efficiency which is found in the most highly developed monarchical States.
The efficiency of a nation, as of any commercial or industrial undertaking, depends mainly on two factors : its organisation and its direction, its Constitution and its director or directors.
If we study the organisation of the most successful monarchies of all time, we find two different types. Some have been ruled by a prince of the greatest genius who governed in person, who was his own Prime Minister, such as Peter the Great of Russia. Some have been ruled by men of moderate, or even of small, capacity who have entrusted an able Minister with the task of government, such as Germany under William the First and Bismarck. It is frequently asserted that the combination of a William the First and of a Bismarck is unique or almost unique. That view is erroneous. A wise king rules, but does not govern. Monarchy is a business which is best carried on through a manager. The direct rule of the sovereign is dangerous for the nation and for himself, even if the monarch is a man of the greatest genius. That may be seen by the example of Napoleon the First. For psychological reasons alone the highly technical and laborious task of government is as a rule far more ably fulfilled by a patient and painstaking Minister who lives for his work than by a high-spirited, though able, sovereign who necessarily can only devote part of his time to the dry and tedious details of administration.
The most successful States have been raised to greatness not through a great ruler but through a great statesman, such as Bismarck, working under a ruler of moderate ability. Civilisation arose in the East. Every Eastern ruler has his manager, his Vizier. Moses had his Aaron, Pharaoh his Joseph, and Solomon his Asaph. According to the Mohammedan tradition, these were the Viziers of Moses, Pharaoh, and Solomon. The foundation of the greatness of France was laid by the co-operation of the able Henry the Fourth and of Sully, his great Minister, and by Richelieu and Mazarin, who governed France in the King's name under the rule of the incapable Louis the Thirteenth and during the minority of Louis the Fourteenth. These statesmen raised France to the greatest glory and made her wealthy and powerful. Louis the Fourteenth, though personally highly gifted and well supported by great Ministers such as Colbert and Louvois, wishing to govern himself, weakened France through his impetuousness and pride. As the greatness of Germany has been established by Bismarck working under the conscientious but moderately gifted William the First, and that of France by three all-powerful Ministers, Sully, Richelieu, and Mazarin, so that of Sweden was the work of Oxenstierna, who co-operated with the great genius King Gustavus Adolphus. His work was destroyed by the rashness and pride of Charles the Twelfth as that of Bismarck seems likely to be destroyed by the pride and vanity of William the Second.
Many Englishmen are interested in the science of legislation, but only a few in that of national administration and organisation, although the latter is infinitely more important