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The Justice of VeniceAuthorities and Liberties in the Urban Economy, 1550-1700$
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James E Shaw

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780197263778

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263778.001.0001

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Public Office and Private Property

Public Office and Private Property

(p.45) 2 Public Office and Private Property
The Justice of Venice

James E. Shaw

British Academy

Removal of the judges' right to discretion, to exercise their arbitrium, meant that they were less likely to convict criminals, instead choosing to let trials lapse altogether. This chapter discusses such findings in terms of the lesser court staff and the concrete practice of justice at the court. It tries to demonstrate the existence of a gulf between the rhetoric and practice of justice, between the high concerns of the political elite, and the actual implementation of power at the bottom level. The early modern state was an agglomeration of public and private interests, and its freedom of action was correspondingly limited. While the government struggled to impose central control over the courts, at the same time it allowed key elements of its institutional structure to fall into private hands. Corruption was a structural problem that would not be eliminated by rare and toothless government investigations.

Keywords:   corruption, Giustizia Vecchia, political elite, central control, arbitrium

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