In 1229, there was a fierce rivalry between two powerful Venetian families, both of whom were vying for the office of the Doge, the chief officer in the Venetian state. The 40-man committee that was supposed to elect the Doge was split down the middle. This factionalism caused problems, and a big fear was that one family would monopolize the Dogeship. As Italian cities like Florence, Pisa, etc., turned to monarchy, the Venetians were worried that they might be next. To ensure that didn’t happen, they made this system:
- The Great Council, with several hundred members, would cast lots that would choose 30 men from among them.
- Those 30 would be reduced by casting lots to 9.
- Those 9, as a unanimous group, would name 40 men.
- Those 40 would be reduced by lot to 12 men.
- Those 12 would name another 25 men.
- Those 25 would be reduced to 9 men.
- Those 9 would name 45 men.
- Those 45 would be reduced by lot to 11.
- Those 11 would choose 41 men.
- Then, those 41 would elect the next head of state.
This was not some strange system that some eccentric political scientist devised. That in itself would be fascinating. This was the way that the biggest Republic in the world at that time, and the longest lived, chose their head of state for centuries.
I wonder what would happen if we used this system today in electing our president. I wonder if it would improve the quality of our leaders and the character our national dialogue.
History is fascinating.