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For when, as I have said, it has come to this that the citizens and
even the magistrates fear to offend him and his friends, little further
effort will afterwards be needed to enable him to proscribe and ruin
whom he pleases.

A republic ought, therefore, to provide by its ordinances that none of
its citizens shall, under colour of doing good, have it in their power
to do evil, but shall be suffered to acquire such influence only as may
aid and not injure freedom. How this may be done, shall presently be

[Footnote 1: Quod omnia mala exempla ex bonis initiis orta sunt. (Sall.
Cat. 51.)]

CHAPTER XLVII. - _That though Men deceive themselves in Generalities, in
Particulars they judge truly._

The commons of Rome having, as I have said, grown disgusted with the
consular name, and desiring either that men of plebeian birth should be
admitted to the office or its authority be restricted, the nobles, to
prevent its degradation in either of these two ways, proposed a middle
course, whereby four tribunes, who might either be plebeians or nobles,
were to be created with consular authority. This compromise satisfied
the commons, who thought they would thus get rid of the consulship, and
secure the highest offices of the State for their own order. But here a
circumstance happened worth noting. When the four tribunes came to be
chosen, the people, who had it in their power to choose all from the
commons, chose all from the nobles. With respect to which election Titus
Livius observes, that "_the result showed that the people when declaring
their honest judgment after controversy was over, were governed by a
different spirit from that which had inspired them while contending for
their liberties and for a share in public honours_." The reason for this
I believe to be, that men deceive themselves more readily in generals
than in particulars. To the commons of Rome it seemed, in the abstract,
that they had every right to be admitted to the consulship, since their
party in the city was the more numerous, since they bore the greater
share of danger in their wars, and since it was they who by their valour
kept Rome free and made her powerful. And because it appeared to them,
as I have said, that their desire was a reasonable one, they were
resolved to satisfy it at all hazards. But when they had to form a
particular judgment on the men of their own party, they recognized their
defects, and decided that individually no one of them was deserving of
what, collectively, they seemed entitled to; and being ashamed of them,
turned to bestow their honours on those who deserved them. Of which
decision Titus Livius, speaking with due admiration, says, "_Where shall
we now find in any one man, that modesty, moderation, and magnanimity
which were then common to the entire people?_"

As confirming what I have said, I shall cite another noteworthy
incident, which occurred in Capua after the rout of the Romans by
Hannibal at Cannæ. For all Italy being convulsed by that defeat, Capua
too was threatened with civil tumult, through the hatred which prevailed
between her people and senate. But Pacuvius Calavius, who at this time
filled the office of chief magistrate, perceiving the danger, took
upon himself to reconcile the contending factions. With this object he
assembled the Senate and pointed out to them the hatred in which they
were held by the people, and the risk they ran of being put to death by
them, and of the city, now that the Romans were in distress, being given
up to Hannibal. But he added that, were they to consent to leave the
matter with him, he thought he could contrive to reconcile them; in the
meanwhile, however, he must shut them up in the palace, that, by putting
it in the power of the people to punish them, he might secure their

The senate consenting to this proposal, he shut them up in the palace,
and summoning the people to a public meeting, told them the time had
at last come for them to trample on the insolence of the nobles, and
requite the wrongs suffered at their hands; for he had them all safe
under bolt and bar; but, as he supposed they did not wish the city to
remain without rulers, it was fit, before putting the old senators to
death, they should appoint others in their room. Wherefore he had thrown
the names of all the old senators into a bag, and would now proceed to
draw them out one by one, and as they were drawn would cause them to be
put to death, so soon as a successor was found for each. When the first
name he drew was declared, there arose a great uproar among the people,
all crying out against the cruelty, pride, and arrogance of that
senator whose name it was. But on Pacuvius desiring them to propose a
substitute, the meeting was quieted, and after a brief pause one of the
commons was nominated. No sooner, however, was his name mentioned than
one began to whistle, another to laugh, some jeering at him in one way
and some in another. And the same thing happening in every case, each
and all of those nominated were judged unworthy of senatorial rank.
Whereupon Pacuvius, profiting by the opportunity, said, "Since you are
agreed that the city would be badly off without a senate, but are
not agreed whom to appoint in the room of the old senators, it will,
perhaps, be well for you to be reconciled to them; for the fear into
which they have been thrown must have so subdued them, that you are sure
to find in them that affability which hitherto you have looked for in
vain." This proposal being agreed to, a reconciliation followed between
the two orders; the commons having seen their error so soon as they were
obliged to come to particulars.

A people therefore is apt to err in judging of things and their
accidents in the abstract, but on becoming acquainted with particulars,
speedily discovers its mistakes. In the year 1494, when her greatest
citizens were banished from Florence, and no regular government any
longer existed there, but a spirit of licence prevailed, and matters
went continually from bad to worse, many Florentines perceiving the
decay of their city, and discerning no other cause for it, blamed the
ambition of this or the other powerful citizen, who, they thought, was
fomenting these disorders with a view to establish a government to his
own liking, and to rob them of their liberties. Those who thought
thus, would hang about the arcades and public squares, maligning many
citizens, and giving it to be understood that if ever they found
themselves in the Signory, they would expose the designs of these
citizens and have them punished. From time to time it happened that
one or another of those who used this language rose to be of the chief
magistracy, and so soon as he obtained this advancement, and saw things
nearer, became aware whence the disorders I have spoken of really came,
the dangers attending them, and the difficulty in dealing with them; and
recognizing that they were the growth of the times, and not occasioned
by particular men, suddenly altered his views and conduct; a nearer
knowledge of facts freeing him from the false impressions he had been
led into on a general view of affairs. But those who had heard him speak
as a private citizen, when they saw him remain inactive after he was
made a magistrate, believed that this arose not from his having obtained
any better knowledge of things, but from his having been cajoled or
corrupted by the great. And this happening with many men and often, it
came to be a proverb among the people, that "_men had one mind in the
market-place, another in the palace._"

Reflecting on what has been said, we see how quickly men's eyes may be
opened, if knowing that they deceive themselves in generalities, we can
find a way to make them pass to particulars; as Pacuvius did in the case
of the Capuans, and the senate in the case of Rome. Nor do I believe
that any prudent man need shrink from the judgment of the people in
questions relating to particulars, as, for instance, in the distribution
of honours and dignities. For in such matters only, the people are
either never mistaken, or at any rate far seldomer than a small number
of persons would be, were the distribution entrusted to them.

It seems to me, however, not out of place to notice in the following
Chapter, a method employed by the Roman senate to enlighten the people
in making this distribution.

CHAPTER XLVIII. - _He who would not have an Office bestowed on some
worthless or wicked Person, should contrive that it be solicited by
one who is utterly worthless and wicked, or else by one who is in the
highest degree noble and good._

Whenever the senate saw a likelihood of the tribunes with consular
powers being chosen exclusively from the commons, it took one or other
of two ways, - either by causing the office to be solicited by the most
distinguished among the citizens; or else, to confess the truth, by
bribing some base and ignoble fellow to fasten himself on to those other
plebeians of better quality who were seeking the office, and become
a candidate conjointly with them. The latter device made the people
ashamed to give, the former ashamed to refuse.

This confirms what I said in my last Chapter, as to the people deceiving
themselves in generalities but not in particulars.

CHAPTER XLIX. - _That if Cities which, like Rome, had their beginning
in Freedom, have had difficulty in framing such Laws as would preserve
their Freedom, Cities which at the first have been in Subjection will
find this almost impossible._

How hard it is in founding a commonwealth to provide it with all the
laws needed to maintain its freedom, is well seen from the history of
the Roman Republic. For although ordinances were given it first by
Romulus, then by Numa, afterwards by Tullus Hostilius and Servius, and
lastly by the Ten created for the express purpose, nevertheless, in the
actual government of Rome new needs were continually developed, to meet
which, new ordinances had constantly to be devised; as in the creation
of the censors, who were one of the chief means by which Rome was kept
free during the whole period of her constitutional government. For as
the censors became the arbiters of morals in Rome, it was very much
owing to them that the progress of the Romans towards corruption was
retarded. And though, at the first creation of the office, a mistake was
doubtless made in fixing its term at five years, this was corrected not
long after by the wisdom of the dictator Mamercus, who passed a law
reducing it to eighteen months; a change which the censors then in
office took in such ill part, that they deprived Mamercus of his rank
as a senator. This step was much blamed both by the commons and the
Fathers; still, as our History does not record that Mamercus obtained
any redress, we must infer either that the Historian has omitted
something, or that on this head the laws of Rome were defective; since
it is never well that the laws of a commonwealth should suffer a citizen
to incur irremediable wrong because he promotes a measure favourable to

But returning to the matter under consideration, we have, in connection
with the creation of this new office, to note, that if those cities
which, as was the case with Rome, have had their beginning in freedom,
and have by themselves maintained that freedom, have experienced great
difficulty in framing good laws for the preservation of their liberties,
it is little to be wondered at that cities which at the first were
dependent, should find it not difficult merely but impossible so to
shape their ordinances as to enable them to live free and undisturbed.
This difficulty we see to have arisen in the case of Florence, which,
being subject at first to the power of Rome and subsequently to that of
other rulers, remained long in servitude, taking no thought for herself;
and even afterwards, when she could breathe more freely and began
to frame her own laws, these, since they were blended with ancient
ordinances which were bad, could not themselves be good; and thus for
the two hundred years of which we have trustworthy record, our city has
gone on patching her institutions, without ever possessing a government
in respect of which she could truly be termed a commonwealth.

The difficulties which have been felt in Florence are the same as have
been felt in all cities which have had a like origin; and although,
repeatedly, by the free and public votes of her citizens, ample
authority has been given to a few of their number to reform her
constitution, no alteration of general utility has ever been introduced,
but only such as forwarded the interests of the party to which those
commissioned to make changes belonged. This, instead of order, has
occasioned the greatest disorder in our city.

But to come to particulars, I say, that among other matters which have
to be considered by the founder of a commonwealth, is the question into
whose hands should be committed the power of life and death over its
citizens' This was well seen to in Rome, where, as a rule, there was a
right of appeal to the people, but where, on any urgent case arising in
which it might have been dangerous to delay the execution of a judicial
sentence, recourse could be had to a dictator with powers to execute
justice at once; a remedy, however, never resorted to save in cases
of extremity. But Florence, and other cities having a like origin,
committed this power into the hands of a foreigner, whom they styled
Captain, and as he was open to be corrupted by powerful citizens this
was a pernicious course. Altering this arrangement afterwards in
consequence of changes in their government, they appointed eight
citizens to discharge the office of Captain. But this, for a reason
already mentioned, namely that a few will always be governed by the will
of a few and these the most powerful, was a change from bad to worse.

The city of Venice has guarded herself against a like danger. For in
Venice ten citizens are appointed with power to punish any man without
appeal; and because, although possessing the requisite authority, this
number might not be sufficient to insure the punishment of the powerful,
in addition to their council of Ten, they have also constituted a
council of Forty, and have further provided that the council of the
"_Pregai_," which is their supreme council, shall have authority to
chastise powerful offenders. So that, unless an accuser be wanting, a
tribunal is never wanting in Venice to keep powerful citizens in check.

But when we see how in Rome, with ordinances of her own imposing, and
with so many and so wise legislators, fresh occasion arose from day to
day for framing new laws favourable to freedom, it is not to be wondered
at that, in other cities less happy in their beginnings, difficulties
should have sprung up which no ordinances could remedy.

CHAPTER L. - _That neither any Council nor any Magistrate should have
power to bring the Government of a City to a stay._

T.Q. CINCINNATUS and Cn. Julius Mento being consuls of Rome, and being
at variance with one another, brought the whole business of the city to
a stay; which the senate perceiving, were moved to create a dictator
to do what, by reason of their differences, the consuls would not. But
though opposed to one another in everything else, the consuls were of
one mind in resisting the appointment of a dictator; so that the senate
had no remedy left them but to seek the help of the tribunes, who,
supported by their authority, forced the consuls to yield.

Here we have to note, first, the usefulness of the tribunes' authority
in checking the ambitious designs, not only of the nobles against the
commons, but also of one section of the nobles against another; and
next, that in no city ought things ever to be so ordered that it rests
with a few to decide on matters, which, if the ordinary business of the
State is to proceed at all, must be carried out. Wherefore, if you
grant authority to a council to distribute honours and offices, or to a
magistrate to administer any branch of public business, you must either
impose an obligation that the duty confided shall be performed, or
ordain that, on failure to perform, another may and shall do what has
to be done. Otherwise such an arrangement will be found defective and
dangerous; as would have been the case in Rome, had it not been possible
to oppose the authority of the tribunes to the obstinacy of the consuls.

In the Venetian Republic, the great council distributes honours and
offices. But more than once it has happened that the council, whether
from ill-humour or from being badly advised, has declined to appoint
successors either to the magistrates of the city or to those
administering the government abroad. This gave rise to the greatest
confusion and disorder; for, on a sudden, both the city itself and the
subject provinces found themselves deprived of their lawful governors;
nor could any redress be had until the majority of the council were
pacified or undeceived. And this disorder must have brought the city to
a bad end, had not provision been made against its recurrence by certain
of the wiser citizens, who, finding a fit opportunity, passed a law that
no magistracy, whether within or without the city, should ever be deemed
to have been vacated until it was filled up by the appointment of a
successor. In this way the council was deprived of its facilities for
stopping public business to the danger of the State.

CHAPTER LI. - _What a Prince or Republic does of Necessity, should seem
to be done by Choice_.

In all their actions, even in those which are matters of necessity
rather than choice, prudent men will endeavour so to conduct themselves
as to conciliate good-will. This species of prudence was well exercised
by the Roman senate when they resolved to grant pay from the public
purse to soldiers on active service, who, before, had served at their
own charges. For perceiving that under the old system they could
maintain no war of any duration, and, consequently, could not undertake
a siege or lead an army to any distance from home, and finding it
necessary to be able to do both, they decided on granting the pay I have
spoken of. But this, which they could not help doing, they did in such a
way as to earn the thanks of the people, by whom the concession was so
well received that all Rome was intoxicated with delight. For it seemed
to them a boon beyond any they could have ventured to hope for, or have
dreamed of demanding. And although the tribunes sought to make light
of the benefit, by showing the people that their burthens would be
increased rather than diminished by it, since taxes would have to be
imposed out of which the soldier's stipend might be paid, they could not
persuade them to regard the measure otherwise than with gratitude; which
was further increased by the manner in which the senate distributed the
taxes, imposing on the nobles all the heavier and greater, and those
which had to be paid first.

CHAPTER LII. - _That to check the arrogance of a Citizen who is growing
too powerful in a State, there is no safer Method, or less open to
objection, than to forestall him in those Ways whereby he seeks to
advance himself_.

It has been seen in the preceding chapter how much credit the nobles
gained with the commons by a show of good-will towards them, not only in
providing for their military pay, but also in adjusting taxation. Had
the senate constantly adhered to methods like these, they would have put
an end to all disturbances in Rome, and have deprived the tribunes
of the credit they had with the people, and of the influence thence
arising. For in truth, in a commonwealth, and especially in one
which has become corrupted, there is no better, or easier, or less
objectionable way of opposing the ambition of any citizen, than to
anticipate him in those paths by which he is seen to be advancing to the
ends he has in view. This plan, had it been followed by the enemies of
Cosimo de' Medici, would have proved a far more useful course for them
than to banish him from Florence; since if those citizens who opposed
him had adopted his methods for gaining over the people, they would have
succeeded, without violence or tumult, in taking his most effective
weapon from his hands.

The influence acquired in Florence by Piero Soderini was entirely due to
his skill in securing the affections of the people, since in this way he
obtained among them a name for loving the liberties of the commonwealth.
And truly, for those citizens who envied his greatness it would have
been both easier and more honourable, and at the same time far less
dangerous and hurtful to the State, to forestall him in those measures
by which he was growing powerful, than to oppose him in such a manner
that his overthrow must bring with it the ruin of the entire republic.
For had they, as they might easily have done, deprived him of the
weapons which made him formidable, they could then have withstood him in
all the councils, and in all public deliberations, without either being
suspected or feared. And should any rejoin that, if the citizens who
hated Piero Soderini committed an error in not being beforehand with him
in those ways whereby he came to have influence with the people, Piero
himself erred in like manner, in not anticipating his enemies in those
methods whereby they grew formidable to him; I answer that Piero is to
be excused, both because it would have been difficult for him to have so
acted, and because for him such a course would not have been honourable.
For the paths wherein his danger lay were those which favoured the
Medici, and it was by these that his enemies attacked him, and in the
end overthrew him. But these paths Piero could not pursue without
dishonour, since he could not, if he was to preserve his fair fame,
have joined in destroying that liberty which he had been put forward to
defend. Moreover, since favours to the Medicean party could not have
been rendered secretly and once for all, they would have been most
dangerous for Piero, who, had he shown himself friendly to the Medici,
must have become suspected and hated by the people; in which case his
enemies would have had still better opportunities than before for his

Men ought therefore to look to the risks and dangers of any course which
lies before them, nor engage in it when it is plain that the dangers
outweigh the advantages, even though they be advised by others that it
is the most expedient way to take. Should they act otherwise, it will
fare with them as with Tullius, who, in seeking to diminish the power
of Marcus Antonius, added to it. For Antonius, who had been declared an
enemy by the senate, having got together a strong force, mostly made up
of veterans who had shared the fortunes of Cæsar, Tullius counselled the
senate to invest Octavianus with full authority, and to send him against
Antonius with the consuls and the army; affirming, that so soon as those
veterans who had served with Cæsar saw the face of him who was Cæsar's
nephew and had assumed his name, they would rally to his side and desert
Antonius, who might easily be crushed when thus left bare of support.

But the reverse of all this happened. For Antonius persuaded Octavianus
to take part with him, and to throw over Tullius and the senate. And
this brought about the ruin of the senate, a result which might easily
have been foreseen. For remembering the influence of that great captain,
who, after overthrowing all opponents, had seized on sovereign power in
Rome, the senate should have turned a deaf ear to the persuasions of
Tullius, nor ever have believed it possible that from Cæsar's heir, or
from soldiers who had followed Cæsar, they could look for anything that
consisted with the name of Freedom.

CHAPTER LIII. - _That the People, deceived by a false show of Advantage,
often desire what would be their Ruin; and that large Hopes and brave
Promises easily move them_.

When Veii fell, the commons of Rome took up the notion that it would be
to the advantage of their city were half their number to go and dwell
there. For they argued that as Veii lay in a fertile country and was
a well-built city, a moiety of the Roman people might in this way be
enriched; while, by reason of its vicinity to Rome, the management of
civil affairs would in no degree be affected. To the senate, however,
and the wiser among the citizens, the scheme appeared so rash and
mischievous that they publicly declared they would die sooner than
consent to it. The controversy continuing, the commons grew so inflamed

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