Niccolò Machiavelli.

The 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

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in confideration of fifty thoufand Ducats, which they
promiled to pay him upon the reftitution of it. In
confequence of this, the King fent an army towards
Pifa, comm.anded by Monfieur Beaumont, who, though
a Frenchman, was much efteemed and confided in by
the Florentines. Beaumont accordingly arriving with
his troops before Pifa, and intending to batter the
town, began to make the neceflary difpofitions for a
Siege : but whiifl he was thus preparing for it, the
Pifans fent Deputies to him, with an offer of furren-
dering the town to the French, provided the King
would o;ive them his word, that he would not deliver
it up to the Florentines before the expiration of the
four next months : to which the Florentines feeming
very averfe, the Siege was carried on, and at laft raifed
with great difgrace to thole that had begun it. The
reafon why the Florentines rejected this propofal, was
becaufe they were doubtful of the King's honour :
for fo weak were their counfels, that they threw them-
felves into his arms, though they durft not truft him;
not confidering how much better it would be for them.,
that the King fhould have polTefTion of the town,
(that fo he might either deliver it up to them, or
give them an opportunity of difcovering his defigns
if he refufed it) than to pay him for p^omifes only,
before he could pofiibly be in a condition to put ic
into their hands. Certainly then it would have been
much more for their interelt to have fuffered Monfieur
Beaumont to get polfeffion of the town upon any terms
whatfoever, as may appear from another event, which
happened about two years after. Upon the revolt
of Arezzo, the fam.e King fent Monfieur Irnbait with
^ body of French forces to the fuccour of the Flo-

K 3 rentines,

1^4. Political DiscorRSES UPON" Book!,

rentincs, who ibon after his arrival near that townjj
finding the inhabitants (like the Pifans) inclinable to
fubniit to him upon certain conditions, began to en-
ter into a treaty with them for that piirpofe. But
the Florentines, not liking the conditions, v/ouid not
confent to it : upon which, Imbalt, rightly judging
that they did not Onderlland their own interelt, came
to a private agreement with the inhabitants, withouc
pommunicating it to the Florentine Comnfifiaries -^
in confequence of which^ he entered the town with
all his forces, and having upbraided the l^^lorentines
\vith their little experience in the affairs of the world,
he reprefented to them, that if they really defired to
have Arezzo reftored to them, now was their time to
apply to the King, who having got pofTefTion of it^
had it then in his power to oblige them, which he
could not have done before. The Florentines indeed
were highly exafperated at Imbalt for proceeding in
^his manner, and fpoke very hardly of him •, nor
could they be pacified till they were at lall convinced
that if Beaumont had done as he did, they might
have recovered Pifa as well as Arezzo. 1 fay there-
fore, that weak and irrefolute Commonwealths never
^6t as they ought to do, except they are abfolutely
compelled to it : for their weaknefs will not fuffer
them to come to any refolution in a matter that h
doubtful 'y fo that they always continue in fufpence
till their doubts are removed either by downright ne-
^effity or violence ^.


^bat the fame accidents often happen to different people,

WHOEVER compares thefe times with thofe
that are pad, will find that the fame appetites,
humours and defires are, and always have been, in-

• See book II. chap. xv. of thefe Difcourfes,


Chap. XXXIX. The Fir^t Decad of Livv. 135

cident to all States and people : (o that by diligently
examining the couife of former ages, it is an eafy
matter for men to forefee what will probably happen
a<yain in any Commonwealth, and not only to provide
fuch remedies againft future evils as their predecelTors
did, but (if there be no precedents) to ftrike out new
ones, according to the nature and fimilarity of the
cafe. But fince refearches of this kind are too ofteia
neo^ledted, and hiftory is either not much read, or
little underftood, efpecially by thofe that govern States,
it comes to pafs that the fame evils and inconvenien-
cies happen in all times.

The Republic of Florence having loft Pifa and fe-
veral other territories about the year 1:^9:^, was forc-
ed to make war upon thofe that had feized them. But
as they were very powerful enemies, the war was at-
tended with a heavy expence, and but little advan-
tage, which occafioned grievous taxes, and confe-
quently much clamour and difcontent amongfl: the
people : and becaufe the war was conduced by a
Magiftracy connfting of ten Citizens, who were call-
ed, I dieci' della guerra, Decemvirate of war, the
Commonalty began to be out of all patience with
them, accufing them with being the authors of the
war, and all the burdens confequent upon it ; and
feemed to be perfuaded that if their authority was
abolifhed, thofe troubles would foon be at an end.
So that when the time came that thofe Magiftrates
were to go out of office, inftead of chufing a new
Council of ten, they threw all their power into the
hands of the Signiory. But this ftep, inftead of put-
ting an end to the war, as the common people had
perfuaded themfelves, threw things into ftill greater
diforder, and proved the occafion of much heavier
misfortunes; for when that Magiftracy was abolifhed,
which had conducted their affairs with fome degree
of prudence, they likewife loft Arezzo and many
other places •, fo that the people beginning to repent
of their folly, and perceiving that their weaknefs pro-
ceeded from the dileafe, and not from the remedy

K 4 that:

136 Political Discourses upon Book L

that had been made ule of to cure it, thought proper
to re-eilablifh the Council of ten.

The fame thing happened at Rome with regard to
the Confuls : for the FJcbeians there feeing they were
entangled in one war after another, in fuch a manner,
that they enjoyed neither comfort nor reft, inftead of
imputing it to the ambition of their neighbours, who
were perpetually feeking their deftrudion, thought
it entirely owing to the malice of the Nobility; and
that as they could not wreak their revenge upon them
"whilft they continued at home, and under the protec-
tion of their Tribunes, they led them abroad under
the Confuls, in order to harrafs and difirefs them wher)
there was no body at hand to defend them : upon
which account, th^y refolved either to abolifh the
nan:ie and authority of Confuls entirely, or at leaft
to lay them under fuch reftridions, that they would
not have it in their power to opprefs them either at;
home or abroad. The firil that endeavoured to gee
a Law pafled for this purpofe was Terentillus, one of
the Tribunes, who moved that a Committee of five
perfons might be appointed ro enquire into the abufc3
of the Confular power, and to reilrain it : at which
the Nobility were not a little alarm.ed, as they thought
the JVIajefcy of the State would be degraded, and they
fhould have no fhare left in the adminiftration of the
Republic. Such however was the obftinacy of the
Tribunes in this point, that the name of Confuls wag
wholly extinguilhed 5 and after trying feveral other
expedients, they chofe rather than Confuls to havq
Tribunes created with Confular power : fo that they
feemed to be more averfe to the name than the au-
thority of Confuls. Upon this footing things con-
tinued a long time ; till at laft, the people being
' aware of their error, reftored the Confuls, as thq
Florentines did their Council of ten.


Chap. XL. The First Dec ad of Livy. i^j


CcHcernir.g the creation of the Decemviri at R.ome ; what
is moft worthy of notice in it-, and whether fuch an In^
fiitution may he of greater prejudice or advantage to a

BEFORE I fay any thing of the troubles and
commotions that happened at Rome in confe-
quence of creating the Decemviri there, it may noc
be amifs perhaps to give fome account of the Inftitu-
tion itfelf, and then to point out fuch things as feeni
moft worthy of notice in it ; which arc many indeed,
and deferve to be well confidered both by thofe than
would maintain the liberties of a Commonwealth, and
thofe that have any defign to enflave it. For, upon a
thorough examination, we Ihall find many errors 'com-
mitted by the Patricians, many by the Plebeians to
the prejudice of their liberty, and itili more by Ap-
pius, the Head of the Decemviri, to the deflrudlioa
of that Tyranny which he intended to have eftablifh-,
ed in Home.

After many contefls and difputes therefore, betwixt
the Nobility and the People, concerning the intro-
du6tion of feveral new laws for the further fecurity of
their common liberties, it was agreed by both fides
to fend Spurius Poftumius and five other Citizens to
Athens for a copy of thofe laws whi:h Solon had for-
merly given to that State ; that fo they might form
a new body out of them for the government of their
own. After the return of thefe Deputies, it was
thought proper to appoint a Committee to examine
and digeft thefe Laws, and to eflablifh fuch as might
feem mod falutary and convenient : in confequence
of which, ten Citizens were fixed upon for that pur-
pofe, who were to continue in office for a whole year;
^mongft whom was Appius Claudius, a man of great
parts jind fagacity, but of a reftkfs and turbulent


12? Political Di scour !>es upon B'ook I.

difpofieion. And that they might be at liberty to atfl
without the leafr rcfcrainc or controul, in adapting;
thefe Laws to their own conllitution, all other Ma-
gittrates were fufpended from their refpedlive offices,
particularly the Conkils and Tribunes, and no appeal
to the people allowed of: fo that this iMagiflracy was
veiled with ablolute power. But Appius by the fa-
vour of tlie people engroiTed the authority of all the
ten : for he had made himfeif fo popular by his affa-
ble and O/bliging behaviour, that people were afla-
nifned to fee fuch a total change in his nature and
difpofition ; and that one, who but a little before had
been the mod inveterate and implacable perfecutor of
the Plcbeian.% fhould now all on a fudden become
their avowed Protedlor and favourite.

During the firfl year, every thing was condufled
with great modefly and decency, the Decemvir of
the day having no more than twelve Li6lors to attend
him .in the difcharere of his ofiice ; and thouo-h the
2uthoriry of this iViagiftracy was abfokue, neverthe-
]efs, one of the Citizens having committed a murder,
they cited him to appear before the people, and left
them to take cognizance of the matter. The new
Laws were written upon ten tables, and cxpofcd in
public before they were ratified ; that fo every one
might have the liberty of reading and canvaffing
fhem, to fee if there was any defed; which might be
iupplied before their confirmation. But before the
power of the Decemviri expired, Appius cauled it
to be whirpered about, that a complete body of lav/s
could not be well compiled without the addition of
two more tables to the other ten ; upon which infi-
nuations, the people readily confented, that the De-
cemvirate Ihould be continued for another year; not
only to prevent the revival of Confular power, but
becaufe tlicy were in hopes they jliould be able to fup-
port themfelves without the affi fiance of Tribunes;
(ince the cognizance of capital caufes feemed now tg
be wholly referred to them, as we have faid before.

A time

Chap. XL. The First Decad or LivY. 135

A time being appointed accordingly for the eledlion
of a nevv Decemvirate, the chief of the Nobility ex-
erted all their intereft to be chofen •, and none with
mors eagerneis than Appius, who follicited the votes
of the people with fo much earneilneis, and yet with
fuch a fhew of humility and complaifance, that his
^flbciates began to fufpe6t him of fome bad defign,
*' credebant enim, fays Livy, haud gratuitam ia
f tanta fuperbia comitatem fore •/' for they could noc
imagine that a perfon of his pride would floop fo low
without fome private view ; and th<"refore not daring
to oppofe him openly, they refolved to circumvenc
him by arti^fice; and with this view, though he was
the youngeft of all the Candidates, they gave him the
power of propofing all the ten to the choice of the
people ; not imagining that he would name himfeif
for one, becaufe it would be not only a fcandalous but
an unprecedented flep. " Ille vero impedimentuni
*' pro occafione arripult •," but he made an advan-
tage of what they defigned as an impediment, and
named himfeif firft of all, to the great furprize and
difguft of all the reft of the Nobility : after which,
he named nine other fuch perfons as he thought were
fittefl for his purpofe.

But this eiedtion was hardly over, before both the
Nobility and people began to be fenlible of their er-
|"or : for Appius foon " finem fecit ferendse alienee
•' perfon^e," threw off the mafo.ue, and not only be-
gan to fhew his own innate pride, but in a fhort time
rnade his Collegues as bad as himfeif; increafing the
number of Li6lors from twelve to an hundred and
twenty, in order to over-awe the whole City. All
parties at firft were equally terrified -, but after a while
the Decemviri began to wheedle the Senate, and op-
prefs the people: and if any perfon was injured by
the one, he was ftill worfe treated upon appealing to
the other. So that the Plebeians being at laft con-
yinced of their folly, began to turn their eyes upori
^he Nobility, " Et inde Jibertatis captare auram, un-
!!t de fervitijtem timendo, in cum ftatum Rempubli-

^' cam

I4-0 Political Discourses upont Book I.

" cam adduxerant," and to look up to thofe very
perfons for the prefervation of their liberties, whole
power they had oppofed with fuch a degree of vi-
rulence, out of a dread of being enflaved by them,
as had reduced the Commonwealth to that condi-
tion. But the Nobility, inPtead of fympathizing with
the people in their mifery, could not help rejoicing at
it, " ut ipfi tcedio priEfentiumi Confules defiderarent,"
in hopes that the grievoufnefs of their lufferings
would make them wi(h to fee Confular power re-
ftored. Ac laft however when the fecond year of
the Decemvirate expired, the two additional Tables
were fin lined, but not yet expofed to public view:
from whence the Decemviri took a handle to continue
themfelves frill longer in office. For which purpofe
they had recourfe to violence, and appointed guards
from among the young Nobility to fecure them in
their ufurpation, to whom they gave the goods and
eftates of fuch perfons as they thought lit either to
put to death or impole fines upon -, " quibus donis,
*' fays the Hiflorian, juventus corrumpebatur, & ma-
" lebat licentiam fuam, quam omnium libertatem,"
by which bribes the youth were debauched, and
chofe rather to live in licentioufnefs themfelves, than
to fee the liberties of their country reftored-

Whilil: things were in this fituation, the Sabines and
Volfci invaded the Romans, which threw the Decem-
viri into no fmall conllernation, when they confidered
how loole they fat in their Seats, and upon how weak
a foundation their power was built : for they were
not able to carry on a war without the afiiflance of
the Senate •, and if the Senate fliould be fuffered to
aifemble, they knew there would prefently be an end
of their ufurpation. Neverchelels, as the necelljty
was urgent, they refolved to run that rifque ; and
having called the Senators together, many of them
fpoke with great acrimony againit the arrogance and
I'yranny of the Decemviri, particularly Valerius and
Horatius ; and their authority would certainly have
been abolill^ed at that time, if the Senators had thought »


Chap. XL. Tpie First Decad OF Lrvv. i^t

fit : but they were lb jealous of the Plebeians, that
they would not exert their whole ilrength upon that
occafion, ltd if the Decemviri were obliged to reiign
their power, ihe people f]:iould let up Tribunes again.
The matter therefore was compromifed for the pre-
fent, and a war being refolved upon, they lent two
armies againfl: the enemiy, commanded by fome of
the Decemviri, whilft Appius ftaid at iiome to take
care of the City. But he happening to fall in love
during that interval with a young woman, vvhofe
name was Virginia, and attempting to carry her off
by force, her father killed her with his own hands to
fave her honour and that of his family. This imme-
diately occafioned fuch an uproar in Rome, and fuch
tumults in both armies, that the Soldiers leaving the
camp, and the people the City, retired to Mons
Sacer, where they (laid till the Decemiviri abdicated
the Magiftracy : after which, new Confuls and IVi-
bunes were created, and Rome once more recovered
its liberty.

From this fhort narrative, we may obferve in the
firft place, that the inilitution of this Tyranny ac
Ron:e was owins; to the fame caufes which often oc-
cafion it in other States ; that is, the extravagant de-
fire of liberty in the people, and the immoderate am-
bition to command in the Nobility : for when they
cannot both agree about any law that is to be made
in favour of liberty, and either fide throws all its
weight into the fcale of fome one perfon, whom they
have m.ade choice of for their champion and protect-
or, from that moment. Tyranny may be faid to com-
mence. The Decemviri were created at Rome, and
veiled with fo great a degree of authority by the con-
fent both of the Nobility and Plebeians, but with
ditFerent views ; one fide hoping to abolifh the Con-
lular Power, and the other, that of the Tribunes :
accordingly after their creation, the Plebeians look-
ing upon Appius as their firm friend, began to court
and carefs him exceedingly, and to fi:rengthen his
hands in fuch a manner, that he might be able to de-

pre Is

142 Political Discourses UPON Book I.

prefs the Nobility. But when things once come ta
fuch a pafs that the people are weak enough to exalc
fome one man only, to humble thofc whom they hate,
if he is a perfon of any fubcilty and addrefs, he will
foon make himfelf abfolure Lord over them all if he
p-ieafes : for he may extinguifh the Nobility by the
help of the Plebeians, whom he will take care to fa-
vour and chcrifh till he has thoroughly effeded that ;
after which, the people having no body to prote(5l
them upon occafion, will begin to perceive when it is
too late, that thev have loft their liberiv and lie
wholly at his mercy. This courfe h^s always been
taken by fuch as have become Tyrants over free
States; and if Appius had followed it, his Tyranny
/would have taken deeper root and continued longer;
But he acted quite the contrary, and imprudently in-
curred the hatred of thole perfons that had advanced
him to power, and were able to have fupported hini
in ic •, whiKl he "ingratiated himfelf with thofe that
were neither pleated at his exaltation, nor ftrong
enough to defend him afterwards •, thus abandoning
his friends to court others who never could be fo. For
though the Nobility are naturally defirous to rule
and domineer themfelves, yet fuch of them as have
no fnare in a tyrannical government will always hate
the I'yrant ; nor can he for his part ever gain them'
all : for fo great, generally fpeaking, are their ava-
rice and ambition, that it is not poflible any Tyrant
fliould have eirlier riches or honours in his diipoiat
fufficien: to fatiate them. Thus Appius in leaving
the Plebeians, and joining the Nobility, was guilty
of an egregious error, for the reafons juft now af-
ligncd •, and becaule it is neceffary that a man who
would keep poirelTion by violence of what he has got,
ihould be ilronger than thofe that endeavour to wrell
it out of his hands ; therefore thofe Tyrants v/ho
make the people thefr friends, and are hated by the
Nobility only, will be more fecure ; becaufe they
have a ftronger foundation to depend upon than
others, who make the people their enemy, and the


Chap. XL. The First Decad of Livy. 14.^

Nobility their friends. For by thefe means, tiity
may always fupport iherTifeives wirhout foreign aU
fidance, as N^bis the Tyrant of Sparua did ; wfeo
having fecured the affe(5lions of the people, did noc
give himfelf much trouble about the Nobility ; and
yet he dt^fended himlclf againfl: all Greece, and the
whole power of the Romans, which he never could
have done v/ithout the favour of the people. Bur,
on the other hand, >when a Tyrant depends on the
Nobility alone, as the number of his friends is fmali
at home, he cannot fupport himfelf without foreiga
aid ; for he will want guards for the fecurity of his
perfon, Soldiers, to ferve as Militia, inflead of his
own people, for the defence of the country, and
powerful allies to fuccour him in diftrefs : all which
if he can procure, he m.ay pofTibly maintain his power
without the affedions of the people. But Appius
defpifing the people, whom he might have made his
friends, and having no other refource, was foon

The Senate and people of Rome likewife commit-
ted a grois error in the creation of the Decemviri :
for though Vve have alTerted before, in the difccurfe
concerning Diflators, that thofe Magiftrates only en-
danger the public liberty who force themfcives into
office, and not thofe who are legally appointed by the
free fuffrages of the people -, yet the people that:
chufe them, ought at the fame time to take great
care to lay them under proper checks and reftraints-
to prevent their abufing their power : but the Ro-
mans, indead of taking fuch meafures to oblige the
Decemviri to keep within due bounds, entirely freed
them from all controul, by making their power ab-
folute, and abolifhing all other Magifbracies, that
might in any wife have ferved to balance it, and thii
merely out of the exceflive defire (as we have faid be-
fore) which the Senate had to fupprefs the Tribunes,
and the People the Confuls. Thefe pafTions fo blind-
ed their underftandings, that both fides equally con-
tributed to the diforders that enfued : for men, as


144 Political Discourses upon Book L

King Ferdinand of Arragon ufcd to fay, often refem-
ble certain little birds of prey, which purfue others
with fuch eagernefs, that they are not aware of a
greater bird that is hovering over their heads, and
ready to foufe down upon them and tear them to
pieces. But enough has been faid to fhew the error
which the Romans were guilty of in creating the De-
cemviri to preferve their liberty -, and that of Appius
in the means he took to eftabliih Tyranny.


That It is impolitic in any man who was humble and mer*-
ciful before^ to become arrogant and cruel on a fudden^
and without objcrving any gradation,

AMONGST the other falfe Heps which Appius
took to fupport his Tyranny, the changing his
difpofition and manner of condudl fo fuddenly was of
no fmall prejudice to him. Jt muft be owned indeed,
that his artifice in cajoling the people by pretending
to be their Champion •, the addrefs he made ufe of in
getting the Decemvirate prolonged ; his relblution in
propofing himfclf again, contrary to the expeclation
of the Nobility : and his namino; fuch CoUesues as
he could make tools of, were mafterly and well timed
ftrokes of policy. But v^hen he had done all this (as
we have fhewn before) he certainly judged very wrong
in changing his deportment fo inilantaneouily, in
perfccuting and opprefiing the people after he had
been their avowed protector, in becoming fo fierce
and arrogant, after fuch an appearance of humility
and affability ; and that too without any excufe to
juftify himfclf, and in fo fudden a manner, that every
body prefently difcovered the deceitfulnefs and villainy
of his heart. For a man that has worn the mafk of
honefly and goodnefs for a while, and finds it necef-
fary at laft to throw it off, and alter his condu6l for
the accompliQiment of fame great purpofe, Ihould do


Chap. XLII. The First Decad of Livy. j^^
ft by infenfible degrees, and avail himfelf of proper
opportunities and conjundtures ; not per faltum^ by a
fudden leap and all at once : that ^o the difference of
his behaviour ma'y not deprive him of his old friends,
before * he has had time to gain new ones to fupporC
his authority : othervvife his defigns will mimediately
be feen through, and Bnding himfelf deflitute of all
forts of afTiftancr, he mud inevicably be ruined.

C HA P. XLlif.

How prone Alankind are lo ccrruption,

T may further be obferved, from what happened

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