Niccolò Machiavelli.

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battles are feldom declfive. The General of the viftorious army being
afraid of a peace, will not reduce the enemy to a neceffity of fuing for
it: according to the pra61iceof the Italian Condottieri or hired Com-
manders, fo often mentioned in the Hiftory of Florence. A Prince,
on the contrary, who commands his own forces in perfon, makes the
beft advantage of his vi61ories, in order to bring the war to a conclu-
lion the fooner ; as peace in general muft be more for his intereft, and
that of his Subjei^h : but a general, who protra6ts a war, only ferves
himfelf, and does little or no good to others, except fuch as deal in
crape and black cloth,

C H A p.

Cha?3. XXX. The First Decad of Livy. tit


nal the Romans never fumjhed their Generals t^ith any
extraordinary degree of Severity^ izben they had been
faulty \ not even when the Comnionivealth had fuffered^
eitb^.r throi'Zh their imorance or mi [behaviour,

^T^ H E Roman Republic was not only lefs ungrate-.

J^ fill than any other, as I have faid before, but
alk) more gentle and iriCrciful in punifhing its Gene-
rals when they had ofTended : for if their oifence pro-
ceeded froni wilfulnefs or malice, even in that cafe, their
chadifements were mild and moderate ; but if from ig-
norance or error, inftead of punifhing, they often
rewarded them. This, however, v/as very well judged :
for they thought it of fuch importance, that thofe,
who commanded their armies, fhould have their minds
free and diieno-ap-ed from all other concerns, in form-
ing their defigns and taking their refolutions, thac
they never clogged an enterprise, which was difficult
and dangerous of itfelf, with additional apprehenfions
and incumbrances, left they (liould be dilcouraged
from adino; with fufficienc ioirit and vio-our. When
they fen: an army againil an enemy, they imagined
the Commander in chief had weight enough already
upon his mind, confidering the cares, perplexities,
and emibarradments, that always attend fuch expedi-
tions, which mud be neceiiarily very great. Now, if -
beudcs thefe difcouragements, weighty as they are,
their Generals had been dilheartened by the examples
of feveral, who had either been crucified, or put to
fome other cruel death, after they had loft a battle, ic
would have been impoffibie, that fuch Commanders,
amidft fo m.any cares and apprehenfions, fhould ever
exert them.felves properly, or attempt any thing great
and noble. So that the i2;nominy of having failed in
any enterprize being a fufficicnt punifliment in their

opinion, they did not care to add to it, left it fliould


112 Political Discourses upon Book L

appear too heavy, and deter them from engaging in ic
at all.

Let us fhew in the firR place, how an offence was
punifhed, that proceeded not from error or ignorance,
but from wilful and deliberate perverfenefs. The two
Ccnfuls, Sergius and Virginius, had laid fiege to Veii :
the former was polled, with part of the Roman army,
on that fide of the tov/n, where they expeded to be
annoyed by the Tufcans-, and the latter, with the reft
on the other fide. Sergius, accordingly being attack-
ed by the Falifci, and other people of Tufcany, chofe
rather to be defeated, than to afli for any afTitlance
from hisCollegue \ whiiil Virginius, on the other hand,
expelling his ftomach would come down at lad, wait-
ed fo long before he fent him any fuccour, that thofe
forces were utterly routed, to the great difgrace of his
Country *. A bad example indeed, and not only wor-
thy of ail reprehenfinn, but fuilicient to give us a very
unfavourable impreffion of the Roman Government,
if both thofe Commanders had not been punilLed.
Neverthelefs, though any other people v/ould have put
them to death, the Romans contented thcmfelves with
infliding only a pecuniary fine upon them : not becaufe
their offence did not deferve a fcverer puniilimenr, but
becaufe the Romans were unwilling, even in this cafe,
to deviate from their antient cufcoms, for the reafons
which have been already aifjgned. As to excufing
errors or faults that proceeded from want of judgment,
we have a remarkable inflance, in the cafe of Teren-
tius Varro, by whofe temerity the Romans were fo
totally routed at the battle of Cannce, that their liber-
ties were in the utmoft danger. However, as this
wasowing to rafhnefs and imprudence alone, they were
fo far from punilhing him, that they lljev/ed him great
honour: for at his return lo the City, the whole Senate
v/ent out to meet him in their formalities ; and, not hav-
ing it in their power to congratulate him upon a vidory,

* Upon this occafion, it is not poflible to forget the condnft of the
Admirals Matthews and Leftock in the Mediterranean, at the begin-
ning of the late French war.


Chap. XXXII. The First JDecad of Livy. 113
they thanked him for his return to Rome, and that he
had not abandoned them out of defpair, " quod de
** falute ReipubliccC non dcfperaflet. " When Papi-
rius Curfor, the Dictator, would have had Fabiusput
to death, becaufe he had engaged the Samnites con-
trary to orders, the chief rfa.'bn which the Father of
Fabius urged againfl the Sentence, was, that the
Roman people had never proceeded with fo much ri-
gour even againfl: any of their Commanders who had
loft a battle, as Papiriiis then would have them do,
againft one that had gained a vi(flory.


That a Prince or Commonwealth ought not to defer their
heneficence till it is extorted, from them by necejfity,

AL T H O U G H the Romans found their ac-
count in being liberal to the people in time of
danger, and when Porfenna invaded them in favour
of the Tarquins, The Senate (apprehending the com-
monalty would rather chufe to have Kingly Govern-
ment reftored, than undergo the burden of a war)
thought proper to remit all their taxes, in order to
keep them firm and ftcady to the new eftablifhment ;
and declared at the fame time that *' the poorer fort of
" people contributed fufficiently to the good of the
*' public, by getting children and bringing them
up •, " (all which was done to make them more chear-
fuily fubmit to the hardfhips of a Siege) yet, 1 would
not advife any other Republic or Prince to truft fo far
in this example, as to ncgledl or defer proper means to
ingratiate themfelves with the people, till they adtu-
ally fall into difirefs and adverfity. M they do, they
muft not expe6l to fucceed as the Romans did : for
then the multitude will not think themfelves fo much
obliged to them as to the enemy for this fudden giift
of beneficence, and will be apt to conclude, that as
foon as the danger is over, they will take that away
again, which they had been forced to give them.
Vol. III. 1 But

IT4 Political Discourses upow Book I.

But if the Romans fucceeded in afting thus, it was
becaufe their Government, being a new one, was hard-
ly fettled at that time, and the people had already feen
fcveral laws made in their favour, particularly that
which allowed of appeals to them in judiciary matters:
fo that they were eafily perfuaded, that the lafl: indul-
gence, which was fliewn them, proceeded rather from
the afFe(51;ion of the Senate, than the fear of the ene-
my ; befides, the remembrance of the injuries and
opprelTions, they had fuffered under a regal govern-
ment, was (till frefh upon their minds. But as cafes
of this nature feldom occur, it will likewife very rare-
ly happen, that the fame remedies will have the fame
cffedl : upon which account, every Commonwealth
and Prince ought well to confider befare any exigency
compels them to it, what perfons they may bed avail
themfelves of in times of diftrefs ; and afterwards
treat them in fuch a manner, as they muft otherwrfe
be obliged to do, in cafe of neceffity. Whoever does
not puiliie this method, whether be be a Governor of
aCoinmonwealth or a Prince, but efpecialjy if the lat-
ter, and thinks it time enough to court the people,
when the dorm is ready to break upon him, will
find himfelf deceived, and that fuch a condudt inftead
of doing him any fervice, will only ferve to accelerate -
his rurn "^^

'^ ThFs was the cafe of our Kin-g James II. wha did hwnfelf more
harm by foothing and carefTing bis Subje6is, and annulling every thing
he had done before to their prejudice, when the Prince of Orange
was upon the point of invading his dominions and he ftood in need
of their afliftance, than if he had continued firm to his former mea-
fures ; for by fo doing, he might at leaft have fpared himfelf the mor-
"tification of making fo publick and authentic a confeflion of what was
laid to bis charge. Befides, this piece of meannefs only ferved to en-
courage his Enemies the more in the profecution of their enterprize.

" A certain Perfian King (fays the Editor of Guliftan, or Rofari-
um Politicnm) having grievoufly opprefl'ed his people, many wealthy
:3nd trading men amongfl them withdrew themfelves and their effefts
into foreign Countries, as the only method to fecure their liberties and
properties; Toon after this, a war breaking our, th,e Prince finds his
Kingdom deferted by its inifabirants, his Revenues funk to nothing,
his Exchequer empty, and no way left to raife the fupplies neceflary
to oppcfe the Enemy, but a military force, which encreafes the mif-
chief. For fays he, in Perlian verfe,


Ciiap. XXXllI, The First DecaP of Livy. 115


That iihefi an evil or inconvenience is arrived at fuch a
height, either at hime or alroad^ as to become dangerous^
it is better for a State to temporize and give zvay to ;'/,
than to endeavour to remove it by violence,

WHEN the Romans had fo well eftablifhed
themfelves, that their power, reputation, and
dominion encrealcd every day, their neighbours, whp

The Prince who defines to have necefTary fupplies in tinle of war.
Should govern his people mildly and gently in time of peace.
For even Slaves, though bound v\ ith golden ch3ins,will abhor a tyrant t
If you wou'd have Men ferve you freely, treat them like free men.

It happened about this time, that a piece of Hiftory out of the
Tieafary of Princes, a celebrated Perfian book, was read to the fame
Kinor, viz, how Suhac, one of the mod powerful Princes in the Ealt,
was depofed from his Kingdom j and Feridun, a private man, advanced
in his room. Upon which, the King afked one of his Courtiers (and
as it happened an honeft one too) who ftood near him, " How this
" Feridun, who had neither arms, nor treafure, nor followers, could
" poffibly obtain the Kingdom ? Jull as your Majeliy hath heard from
" the Hiltory, anfwered the Courtier j the people cfteerning him for
" his liberality and juftice, flocked to him from all parts, and exalted
" him to the throne with unanimity and refolution. Seeing therefore,
** continued he, that the afFe6lion of the people is the bed fecurity ot
*' the Prince, how could your Majefty, by liftening to evil Counfellors,
" take fo much pains to render your Subje6ts difaffe(?l-ed, except you
" was grown weary of your Kingdom ? For fmce Kings are known to
** reign by the favour of the people, they ought to value their favour
<* as much as their Crown." The King then alking by what means
he might gain the love of hisfubjt^tsj " Ah, Sir (replied the other)
*' every Kin^ that would depend upon their free Afiiftance in time of
'* jieed, fhould govern them with juftice, benevolence, and clemency,
** before he has occafion for their help : fo that they may think them-
** felves fecure at all times of being protected in their liberties and
" properties under his Government : for an oppreiiive Prince can no
•• more be faid to be a King, than a Wolf that attends a flock of fheep
" can be termed a Shepherd ; and that King who injures his Subjeils
** under the colour of Law, dellroys the Fundamentals of his own
*' Government." The K'ng enraged at his honeft freedom, ordered
the Courtier to be thrown into prilbu : but in a fliort time after the
whole Kingdom rebelling, thofe that had fled their country returned,
and added a weight to the defedVion ; and the agents of his oppreiTion,
and even the King's own creatures, joining intne revolt concurred to
ruin him. For, Ti»ys the (ame author,

If a King will do what is unjuft, though under the fanfiion of laws.
Even the inltruments of his opprellion will become his enemies in the
day of trouble.

I 2 had

Ii6 Political Discourses UPON Book I,

had paid no attention to them before, began to be
aware what a thorn this new Republic was like to
prove in their fides, when it was too late to corre6b
their error ; but refolving to apply fome new remedy
to an evil which they fliould have taken care to pre-
vent, no lefs than forty little States entered into a con-
federacy againft them. The Romans, therefore,
amongft other expedients, which they generally had
recourfe to in times of imminent danger, thought fit
to create a Dictator •, that is, they committed the
whole power of the State to one perfon alone, who
was to form fuch refolutions as he judged moft pro-
per for the public fafety, without conUilting any one,
or being fubjed to the leaft controul in the execution
of them. This expedient was of fignal advantage,
and not only enabled them to extricate themfelves out
of very great difficulties and dangers at that time,
but afterwards proved of admirable fervice in all the
various accidents and difafters that befel that Com-
monwealth, before it arrived at its higheft pitch of

From hence, I fliall endeavour to (hew in the firft
place, that when any evil or inconvenience threatens
a State, either at home or from abroad (whether ow-
inor to interior or exterior caufes) and is got to fuch a
head, that every one begins to be alarmed at it, with-
out doubt, it is much better to temporize and give
way to it, than to offer to eradicate it : for it gene-
rally happens, that thole who endeavour to extinguifh
it, ftill add to its ftrength and malignity, and imme-
diately pull down that ruin upon their own heads,
which they only apprehended before. Now thefe cala-

Therefore, let Princes make friends of their Subje6ls inpeaceful times j
That ib they may fecure them againft their enemies in time of war :
For even the meaneft wretch will fight boldly for a jult and good King.*'

The fame author, in many other parts of his work endeavours to ex-
cite noble ideas of generofity in his readers. See the pages 233, 435 to
445, and 586, 587. He much applauds the following infcription upon
the monument of Bihram Cour, a King of Pcrlla, " A liberal liand is
better than a ftrongaim j" importing that the authority of Princes is
better fupported by bounty and munihcence, that! by a violent exertion
of powej-, and force of arms,


Chap XXXIII. The First Decad of Livy. 117
mities are more frequently occafioned in a Republic,
by interior than exterior caufes; as when any Citizen
aflumes a greater degree of power and authority than
he ought to do, as it often happens •,' or when fome
Jaw, on which the very life and foul of its liberty de-
pended, is either abrogated or neglecfled, and the evil
has been fuffered to grow fo predominant, that it is
become more dangerous to attempt a remedy, than
to let it take its courfe : for it is difficult to difcover
thofe inconveniencies in their original, becauie man-
kind are naturally apt to favour the beginning of
things, efpecially of fuch as fcem to have fome fort of
greatnefs or merit in them, and are patronized by
young men. So that if any young man of a noble
family, and extraordinary virtue, happens to fpring
up in a Commonwealth, the eyes of the whole City
are foon turned upon him, every one vying with an-
other in (hewing him fuch extravagant honours, that
if he has any fpark of ambition or vain glory in him,
his natural endowments, added to the favour of the
people, may foon ftrcngthen his hands fo effeftually,
that when his fellow«citizens are fenfible of their error,
they will hardly find any remedy, but fuch as will
tend only to augment and eftablifh his power the
fooner. Many examples might be adduced to fup-
port this-, but I fliall content myfelf with one which
happened in our own City.

Cofimo d' Medici, from whom the houfe of Medici
in Florence originally derive their grandeur, arrived
at fuch a degree of power, by the reputation of his
wifdom and the favour of a blind multitude, that the
Republic began to be afraid of him ; and the Ma-
giftrates thought it would be very dangerous to med^
die with him, and dill more i'o to let him alone. But
Niccolo da Uzzano, who v;as reckoned a ma^^ of con-
fummate experience in State-aftairs at that time, per-
ceiving the error his fellow-cicizens had been guilty
of, and the dangerous confequences that mud of ne-
ceffity happen, from fullering Cofimo to grow fo po-
pular, prevented them from incurring further diffi-

1 3 cuities

Ii3 Political Discourses UPO!^ Book I,

cultics wliilft he lived, and never would permit them
to life any means to depreis him, becaufe he knew
fuch an attempt would end in the ruin of the State,
as indeed it did after Uzzano's death. For thofe that
furvived him, not following his advice, began to en-
ter into combinations againil: Cofimo, and at lad pre-
vailed fo far, that they drove him out of Florence,
to the great vexation of his party ; vyho iikewife pre-
vailing in their turn, foon after recalled him, and
made him head of the Commonwealth ; to which digr
nity he never could have attained, if it had nat been
for fo violent an oppofition from his enemies *. The
fame happened at Rome in the cafe of Julius Crelar,
whofe great virtues and excellent qualifications recom-
mended him in fuch a manner to the favour of Pom-
pey, and his other fellow-citizens, that by degrees he
became fo powerful and formidable, that they no
longer loved, but feared him, as Cicero tells us, who
fays, " It was too late when Pompey began to be
^* afraid of Casfar." Thefe apprehenfions put them
iipon feeking means to rid themfelves of him j but
the remedy proved worfe than the difeafe, and only
hailened the ruin of that Commonwealth.

I fay then, that fince it is difficult to difcover thefe
evils in their beginning (becaufe men are liable to be
feduced by favour and flattering appearances atfirft)-,
it is wifer to tem.porize and fubmit when they are clear-
ly difcerned, than to oppofe them by force : for in
fhe former cafe, perhaps they may entirely pafs away
pf themfelves, or at lead be averted for fome time f ,

• See the Hiftory of Florence, Book IV. towards the end.
+ " Experience lias taught me (fays Montaigne, Part III. Chap. xiii.
** of his Eflays) that Evils have theii- proper limits and duration, ami
** that we often ruin ourfelves by impatience. Whoever endeavours
f* to cut them (hort by force in the middle of their cour'e, does hut
*' lengthen and multiply them, and enflames inftead of appealing
*' them. I am of Grantor's opinion, that we ought neither obltinately
'* and wilfully to oppofe evils, nor truckle to them for want of cou-
rage^ i but that vye are n.-mually to give way to tiiem according to
their circumftances and our own ; I find they ftay lefs with me who
let them alone, and have loft thofe which are reputed the moft ob-
" flinate r^nd tenacious. To kick againft Necefiiry, is like the foily of
'^' ttefiphon, who undertook to kick with hu mule.*'



Chap. XXXIV. The First Decad OF LivY. 119

and in the latter, men ought to be very cautious and
circumfpe<3:, left whilft they are endeavouring to era-
dicate an inveterate evil by violent meafures, they
fliould (till add to its virulence, and either crufh them-
felves by attempting to pull down another, or drown
the plant by over-watering it. They fhould well con-
fider the nature of the malady, and if they find them-
felves able to work a cure, kt them fet about it im-
mediately without any ceremony •, if not, they had
better give the matter up and fit ftill, left it Ihould
happen to them as it did to the littk Princes above-
mentioned, that confederated againft Rome, who
would have -dSicd more prudently in endeavouring to
make that Common wealth their friend, and to hav^
kept upon fair terms with it, after it had fo well efta-
blifhed itfelf, than in provoking it by hoftilities to
think of new inftitutions, and making frefh provifions
both of offence and defence. For this confederacy
not only ferved to keep the Romans united, and con-
fequendy to ftrengthen them ftill more, but put them
upon creating other ofEcers, and trying new expedi-
ents, by which they loon extended their power to a
very great degree. Accordingly, amongd: other In-
ftitutions, was that of a DicSlator, to which it was
owing, that they not only then, but afterwards fur-
mounted many imminent difHculties and dangers, and
prevented numberlefs evils which other wife muft" have
befalkn that Commonwealth.


That the Authority of a DtBator was always of fervice
to the Roman Coynmotruoealth^ injiead of any prejudice :
and that the power which is ufurped by any Citizen^
not that which is conferred by the free fuffrages of the
peopUy is pernicious to liberty,

TH E inftitution of the Diflatorial authoritv at
Rome has been condemned by fome writers, as
a thing that chiefly contributed to the cftabliilimenc

I + of

t2d Political Discourses upon Book T,

of Tyranny. They alledge that Julius Csefar, the
firfl: Tyrant that ever v/as in that Republic, kt himfelf
np under the title of Di6lator, and that without it he
never could have put any tolerable face upon his

Thofe however, who afTert this, feem nor to have
exao^xined the matter to the bottom, and therefore
their opinion ought to have bur little v;eight. For
neither the name nor the power of Dictator was the
caufe of Rome being enflaved, but the authority which
was afTum.ed by thofe that afterwards made the office
perpetual : fo that if there had been no fuch Title,
Ca^far would certainly have taken fome other, that
would have ferved his purpofe as well ; becaufe where
a man has the povv^er in his ov/n hands, he may afTume
any Title he pleafes ; but it is not the Title that gives
him the power. We fee accordingly, that whilil the
Diclatorlhip was difpofed of by the fuffrages of the
people, agreeable to its firft inftitution, and not feized
upon by private violence, it was always of great fer-
vice to the State ; for, thofe magiftrates who force
themfelves into office, and that authority which is il-
legally obtained, are prejudicial to a Commonwealth,
not thofe that are called to it in the lawful and ordi-
nary courfe of Government : and we may obferve.
that no Diclator, who had been duly appointed, ever
did the Roman Republic any prejud'ce during fo long
a period • but, on the contrary, much fervice. I'he
reafons of this are very evident. For many circum-
llances, which would not be fufferecl in an uncorrupted
Republic, muft concur to enable a man to alTume an
extraordinary degree of authority, and opprefs his
Fellow-Citizens. In the firft place, he mud be ex-
ceeding rich, and have a great number of partizans
and adherents ; which no well governed Common-
wealth w'il permit : and even if they ^iid, fuch men
are always fo dreaded in a free State, that he would
not have the fuffrages of the independent citizens.
iBefides this, the Di&ator was not appointed for life,
but for a time only, and with a limited authority, ex-

Chap. XXXIV. The First Decad of Livv. 121
tending no further thnn the prefenc danger or exi-
gency v/hich he was created to remove : and though,
indeed, be was commiflloned during that term to
make fuch provifions as he thought proper for the
occafion, without confulting any one elfe, and to fen-
tence offenders in a fummary manner ; yet he had no
power to do any thing to the prejudice of the State :
ne could neither deprive the Senate nor the people of
their fhare in the admJnidration ; he could neither
abrogate old laws nor make new ones. So that if
we jointly confider the fhort duration of the Didlator's
power, the limited authority he was veiled with, and
that the Roman people were not then corrupted, it
was impofTible he could tranfgrefs the bounds of a
good Citizen, or injure the State : on the other hand,
it plainly appears from experience ^ that fuch an officer
was always of the highefl fervice to it.

It mult be allowed then, that amongft many other
admirable inftitutions in the Roman Commonwealth,
this deferves particular regard, and may be reckoned
as one of the principal caufes, that contributed to

Online LibraryNiccolò MachiavelliThe works of Nicholas Machiavel ... : translated from the originals : illustrated with notes, annotations, dissertations, and several new plans on the Art of war (Volume 3) → online text (page 12 of 44)