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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wards, wlien fome of thole very men came into autho-
tiry, us they had wifhed, and from that degree of e-
niinence were enabled to lee further and clearer into
things, tl ey foon began to perceive the caufes of thefe
diforders, the dano;ers that hun^r over their heads, and


Chap. XL. The First Decad 01^ LivY. 157

the difficulty of providing any efFe6lual remedy : and
finding they were owing rather to the malignity of the
times, than to any particular men, they prelently
changed both their opinion and conduct ; as a more
intimate knowledge of particulars had opened their
eyes, and convinced them of the prejudices they had
conceived, and the errors they had lain under, whilft
they judged of things by general appearances. So
that thofe who had heard them talk in another ftrain,
whilll they were private men, and favv them a6t: in a
manner lb different from, their former profefTions when
they had got into power, could not be perfuaded that
this was the efFe6l of more experience, or deeper infighc
into the State of affairs, but that they were cither cor.
rupted by others, or intoxicated with their own pow-
er : and the fame thing happening feveral times after-
wards gave rife to the proverb, " Coiloro hanno un'
*' animo in piazza, & uno in palazzo ; thefe men are of
" one opinion in the houfe, and another out of doors."
From what has been faid therefore, it appears, than
it is an eafy matter ro undeceive the people, by fetting
particulars before their eyes, when they have been
mifled by judging of things in general, as Pacuvius did
at Capua, and the Patricians at Rome •, and, 1 think,
we may conclude upon the whole, that no prudent man
ought to dcfpife the judgment of the people in parti-
cular matters, fuch efpccially as the diitribution of of-
fices and honours, in which they are fo feidom wrong,
that if a fmallcr number were to have thedifpofal of
them, they would err much oftener*. It may not then

* Very difterent is old Montaigne's opinion upon this point. *S A
dozen men, lays he, mult be culled out of a whole nation, to judge an
acre of land j and thejudgment of our inclinations and aflions, the hard-
t(l and moft important thing that is, we muft refer to, vox populi, the
iTiothsr of ignorance, injuftice, and inconltancy. Is it reafonable that
the life of a wife man fhould depend upon the judgn")e<it of fools ? " An
*' quidquam Stulrius," fays Tully in the -fifth bock, of his Tufculan DjU
putations, *< quam quos (ingulos contemnas, eos aliquid putare effe uni-
*' \erfos? Can any thing be more fooiillithan to think, th it thoie
** you defpife when frnglc, can be of any value in the bulk ?" He that
makes it his bufinefs to pleafe them, will never luccecd ^ it is a maik.
that oevcF tofbe reached or hit. *' ^Jihil tarn ineltim.abile eit (iu.»'u
** opinio multiludiiiis« Nothing is to be lo little elieenied as the


158 Political Discourses UPON Book I.

feem foreign to our purpofe, to fhew in the next Chap-
ter what methods the Senators of Rome took to over-
reach the Plebeians, in diftributions of this nature.

«« judgment of the miiUltude." Demetrius pleafantly faid of the
voice of tlie people, *' That he made no more account of that
•' which came out of their mouth, than of what fumed from their
** lower part?." Cicero goes further in his fecond book de finibus.
*' Ego hoc judico, fays he, fi quando non turpe fir, tamen non efle non
** turpe, quum id a multitudine laudatur. I am of opinion that
** though a thing be not foul in itfelfjyetit cannot but become fo when
** it is commended by the multitude." No art, no dexterity, could con*
du(St our fteps in following fo wandering and fo irregular a guide, la
the confufion and noife of vulgar opinion no good path can be chofen :
let ns not then propofe to ourfelves fo variable a Conduftor; let us
conftantly follow our ov/n right rcafon ; let the approbation of the
public follow lis, if it will j and as it wholly depends upon fqrtune, ws
have no caufe to expect it fooner any other way than that,

— — Non quicquid turbid a Roma
Elevet, accedas, examenque improbum in ilia
Caftiges trutina, nee te quasfiveris extra.

— — Whatever refliefs Rome
Extols or cenfures, truft not to its doom : "^^
Stand not th' award of an ill judging town,
Nor by its falfer fcale adjuil your own."
No, no, for other judgments aik no more,
To know thyfelf, thyfelf alone explore,'-

pERSius, Sat. i. V. 5.

If popular opinion, neverthelefs, be of that ufe to the Public, as to
keep men in their duty; if fome are thereby excited to virtue; if
Princes are moved by hearing the world blefs the memory of Trajan,
and abominate that of Nero ; if it moves them to fee the name of that
great bead, once fo terrible and dreaded, now fo freely curled and re-
viled by every fchool-boy, let it, in the name of Heaven, increafe and
be cheriflied as much as poHible amongft u.s. For even Plato himfelf,
bending his whole endeavour to m.ake his Citizens virtuous, adviles
them not to defpife the good elleem of the People, and lays, " That
•* it happens by a certain Divine infpiration, that even the wicked
*' themfelves, as well by word as opinion, can often diftinguilh the
** good from the evii." This Perfon and his Tutor are marvellous
bold Artificers, to add Divine operations and Revelations wherever
human force is wanting ; and perhaps it was for this reafon, that
Timon railing at him, calls, him " the great Forger of Miracles," as
Cicero fays in his firft bock de natura deorum, cap. xx. ** Ut Tra-
•' gici Poetae contVgiunt ad Deum aliquem, cum aliter explicare ar-
*' gumenti exitum non polTunt. As Tragic poets have recourfe to
** feme Deity, when they cannot otheivvife tell how to wind up the
*' plot."' Book II. Elfay 16.


Chap. XLIX. The First Decad of Livy. i j^


T<? prevent a mean or wicked man frora being advanced to
the Magiftracy^ care fiould be' taken td fet a Candidate
of the noblefi family^ and m.ft eminent merits in com-
petition with one of the bafeft and vilejl of the People*

WHEN the Patricians began to be apprehenfive
that Tribunes, vefted with Confular power,
would be chofen out of the Plebeians, they always
had recourfc to one or other of thefe two expedients ;
they either fet up fome of the worthieft and moft ref-
pedlable of their own order, or corrupted feme of
the mod fordid and bafeft of the Plebeians to ftand
Candidates, and boldly to foUicit that honour which
was only due to the moft deferving. The latter me-
thod made the people afhamed of beftowing it upon
fuch unworthy men; and the former, of taking it from
thofe that were the moft deferving. This may fervs
as a corroboration of what I faid in the preceding
Chapter, that though the people are frequently de-
ceived in judging of generals, they very leldom err
in particulars.


If fuch Cities as Rome^ which were originally free^ found
it exceeding difficult to make laws juffciently effectual
to fecure their liberties ; tt is abnojt impcffMe for thofe
that have ah: ays been in a ft ate of fer villi y and deepen-
dence ever to become free,

OW difBcult a matter it is to eftabiifh fuch laws
in a Commonwealth, as may at all times effec-
tually preferve its liberties, is fufficiently evident from
the hiftory of the Roman Republic. For though
many good provifions were at firft made by Romulus,


'j6o Political Discourses upOM Book t.

and afterwards by Numa, then by Tullus Hoflilius^
Serviu'^s and ladly by the Decemviri who were created
for that purpoie ; yet in procefs of time frefli exigen-
cies and accidents often made new laws neceflary; as
it happened when they created the Cerrforfhip, which-
was one ol" thofe InRitutions that chiefly contributed
to preferve the liberties of Ronie fo long; tor as the
Cenfors were appointed to infpe(5t the manners and
condu(51: of the Citizens, and to correal their enormi-
ties and extravagancies, it was in a great meafure ow=
ing to them that they continued uncorrupt for fuch a
number of years. They were guilty of a great error
however, in the creation of thele officers, fince they
were to contmue five years in power : but this was af-
terwards wifely corrected by Mamercus the Dictator,
and the term of their authority reduced to eighteen
months : at which the Cenfors were exafperated to
fuch a degree, and watched his condudl fo narrowly,,
that they found means at iall to expel him the Senate,
to tlie great regret both of the Patricians and the Ple-
beians. Hiat Livy does not inform us whether Ma-
inercus found any redrefs upon this occafion, muit
eiiher be a negleft in the Hiftonan, or a defed in the
laws: for furely that Commonwealth cannot be wifely-
conflituted, where a Citizen is liable to be perfecuted
without refoLUce or means of defence, only for pro-
Hiulging a law for i.he maintenance of public liberty.
But to our purpofc : I fay that from the creation of
thcfc new Magift rates, we may obl'erve how difficulc
it is, even in States that were originally irtc, like-
Kome, and fubjedl to no other povvcr, to make fuffi-
cient provifions for the fupport of iibeity : and, how
almoil impolfjble for other States, which were found-
ed, and always h^ve lived in fubjedion, ever to make
juch laws as may effedually fecure them \n the enjoy-
ment of liberty and tranquilliry. We might inflance
in the cafe of Florence, v;hich being fubjec^l to the
Roman Empire in its origm, and always accuftomed
lo live under the government c)t others, continued a»
lung time in that Slate of fcrv.ility,, wiihoui io m.uch.

6 2S>

Ch^p. XLIX. The First Decad of Livy. i6i
as ever afpiring to liberty : at lad, however, fome
little attempt was made, and the Citizens began to
form new laws for themfelves : but as they were mix-
ed and entangled with the old ones, which were bad,
they had little or no efficacy : and thus they conti-
nued two hundred years, as appears from authentic
hiflory, without any regular form of Government
that deferved the name of a Republic. The fame
difficulties and inconvenicncies that occurred in that
State, have ever been incident to all others, which
had the like origin : and though ample authority has
often been truilcd in the hands of a few Citizens, to
new model it by the free fuffrages of the people, yec
they never confulted the good of the public in thofe
rrformations, fo much as their own private advantage:
whence it came to pais, that things grew worfe and
v/orfe, indead of better, and their confufion daily

But to be flill more particular : Amongfl other
thingjs which ought to be confidered by a Legiflator,
he lliould take great care in whofe hands he lodges
the coirnizance of capital caufes, and the execution
of penal laws *. This was v/ell attended to at Rome,

* Lord Bacon, in a piece entitled, " A Propofition to his Majefty
** for the compilement and amendment of our Laws," f:i3's, " It is
'' certain that our Laws, as they now ftand are fubjecl to great unccr-
" tainty and variety of opinions, delays, and evafions : from whence
" it follows : I. That the multiplicity and length of fuits are great ;
"a That the contentious perfon is armed, and the honeft fabjedt
*' wearied and opprefTed ; 3, That the judge is more abfoUite, who
** has a greater liberty in doubtful cafes ; 4.. That the Chancery
*' Courts are more filled, the remedy of the Law being often obfcure
*' and doubtful 5 5. That the ignorant Lawyer fhrouds his ignorance
*' of Law in this, that there are fo many and fo frequent doubts ; 6.
** That mens affurances of their lands and eltates by Patents, Deeds^
*' and Wills, are eft

*' ii;couvenieucies

(ften fubjeft to quefiion and precarious; and many
of that nature." He then obferves, " That if it
had not been for Sir Edward Coke's Reports, the law by that time
would have been ahnort like a Ship without Ballaft ; fince the Cafes
of modern experience are fled from thole that have been adjudged
*' ar.d ruled in former times." " But the necelTitv of this work/'
continues he, •' is yet greater in the Stature Law. Tor fii ft, there is
*' a number of enfnaring penal laws, which lie upon the fubjeft, and-
*• if they (hould be awaked, and put in execution in bad times, would
** grind them to powder. There is a learned Civilian \vho expounds

Vol. III. M an

if 2 Political Discourses upont Book I.

an appeal to the people being allowed in mofi: cafes :
and in any matter where the necefilty was prefTrtig,
and it might be dangerous to delay the execution of
juftice by an appeal, they created a Didlator, who
law it immediately performed ; they never had re-
courfe to this remedy however, except upon very ur-
gent occafions. But Florence, and other Cities of the
fame fervile call, had a foreign officer fent to refide
amongft them by their Prince, who vefled this autho-
Ficy in him : which cuftom they kept up after they
became free, and continued the fame power in a fo-
reigner, whom they called their Captain ; a dange-
rous pradice indeed ! confidering how eafily fuch a
perfon might be corrupted by the more powerful Ci-
tizens *. But other revolutions happening in that
State, this cuftom was afterwards changed, and eight
of their own Citizens were appointed to execute the
Office of Captain, which was ftill worfe and worfe ;
becaufe, as I have faid elfewhere, where there are
but few Magiftrates, they are always liable to be aiade
tools of by thofe, that have the chief power in their
jiands. Againil this inconvenience, they have made
admirable provificn at Venice, where there is a Coun-
cil of Ten appointed, with power to punifh any Ci-
tizen without appeal : and left their authority ihould

** that palTage in the Scripture, ♦• Pluet laqueos fuper eos ; It fliall
** rain fnaies upon them,"' of a multitude of penal Laws, which are
** worfe than (liowers of hail ami tenipclt upon Cattle, becaufe thty
** fall upon men. There are fome penal laws fit to be retained, but
*• their penalty is too great ; and it is ever a rule, that any ovei-great
«« penalty (befides the acerbity of it) deadens the execution of the
*' Law. There is a further inconvenience of penal Laws, obfoletc
*' and out of ufe j for that it a gangrene, negleft, and habit
** of difobedicnce upon other wholefonie Laws, that are fit to be con-
*' tinued in pra6tice and execution : I'o that our Laws end\ire the tor-
*' ment of Mez.entius, tiie living die in the arms of the dead. Laft-
«• ly, there is fuch an accumulation of Statutes concerning one inat-
** ter, and they are fo crols and intricate, that the certainry of the
•' Law is lolt in the heap "'' Tf there was reafon for fuch a repiefen-
Tation at that time J furely there is much more at prelent. But wc
may thank Heaven, that" the cognizance of capital caiifej, aitcl the
'* execution of pcual Laws aie lodged in fuch hands as they are;"
other%vi(e what would becenie of us ?

* See the Uiltory of Florence, Book XL towards the beginning, and
alibi pafhrn.


Chap. L. Th'E First Decad of Livv. }6^

not be fufficient to controul perlbns of more than or-
dinary power or quality, there are two Councils of
Forty ^% and the Pregadi f befides, (which is the
hiahefl: Court in that City) and ail of them commif-
fioned to take cognizance of capital offences, and to
punidi them : fo that, if there is any body to accufe,
there are always judges enough, and of fufficient au-
thority to curb offenders of the highefl rank. If
Rome then, which was originally free, and governed
by fo many wife Citizens of its own, found daily oc-
cafion to make new laws for the maintenance of irs
liberties, according to the variety of unexpeded con-
tingencies ; it is no wonder that other Cities, which
flood upon fo much weaker foundations, fhould meec
with fuch difficulties and obltacles in their way, thac
they could never furmount them, and become per-
fedlly free,

C H A P. L.

That no one Magijlrate or Council Jhould have it in their
'power to flop the conrfe of public affairs in a Com*

^TAITUS Quintius Cincinnatus, and Caius Julius
'X Mento, being Collegues in the Confulfhip at
Rome, but difagreeing and thwarting each other in
their meafures, all public bufinefs was at a ftand :
upon which, the Senate advifed them to create a Dic-
tator to expedite thofe affairs, which their quarrels
would not fuffer them to difpatches. But the Con-
fuls, though they differed in every thing elfe, unani -
mouQy agreed to oppofe the creation of a Didator :
fo that the Senators having no other remedy, were

* Le Qnarantie are two Tribunals, each of which confifts of forty
judges, and has its particular juhfdi^ion, one taking cognizance of
criminal, the other of civil caufes.

t This Council is compofed of two hundred Senators, and is called
the Pregadi, or Conit of Requefts, becaufe at its firll inftitution it
was prayed to charge itfelf with the care of the Corjimonweakh.

M 2 Gbiiged

164 . Political Discourses UPON Book I.

obliged to have recourfe to the Tribunes, who, with
the afiiftance of the Senate, at lad compelled them
to fubmit. From hence, in the firft place, we may
obferve, of how great utility the Inftitution of Tri-
bunes was to that Republic, not only in curbing the
ambition and infolence of the Patricians to the Ple-
beians, but in moderating thofe differences and emu-
lations tliat happened amongft themfelves : and in
the next, that fpecial care fhould be taken in a Com-
.monweakh, not to put it in the power of a few per- clog or impede the common courfe of affairs,
particularly of things, the difpatch whereof, is ab-
solutely neceffary for the fupport and welfare of the
State. For example, if you lodge the power of dif-
tributing honours and emoluments in the hands of
fuch a Council, or appoint fuch an officer to execute
any other of your commands, you ought either to
make fome provifion beforehand, that will force them
to dilcharge thofe funclions, or in cafe they will not,
to referve a power of appointing others that may and
will : otherwife that Inftitution will be both defedive
and dangerous -, as it would have proved at Rome, in
the inftance jufl now quoted, if they had not had the
authority of the Tribunes to quell the obftinacy and
perverfenefs of the Confuls.

In the Republic of Venice, where the majority of
the great Council have the difpofal of all honours and
employments, it once happened, either through dif-
guil, or fome other motive, that they would not ap-
point any new Magiftrates to fucceed the old ones in
thtir fcveral departments either at home or abroad,
when their authority expired •, which prefently occa-
fioned great confufion and diforder : for the towns
ih t depended upon them, and indeed their own City
itfclf, being leftdeftitute of lawful judges, could ob-
tain no redrefs in any injury, till either the majority of
that council were appeafed, or fome other expedient
found out. And certainlv this would have been at-
tended with fatal confcquences, if they had not been
pi evented by fome of the mod prudent. Citizens, wha
•-"i took

Chap LI. The First Decad of Livy. i6'^
look a favourable opportunity to get a law pafTed,
that no office or employment whatfoever, either within
the City or without it, Ihouid ever be vacated till new
officers were chofcn to fuperfede the old -ones: and
thus this defed: was remedied, and the great Council
deprived of a power to interrupt the courfe of juftice
and other public affairs, which otherwife muft have
ended in the total diflblution of that State.


That a Prince or Reptthlic fljould feem to do that cut cf
favour and liberality^ ivhich they are forced to do by

WISE men make the beft of all circumflances,
and though they find themfelves under an
ablblute neceffity of acling in a particular manner, yet
they always contrive to do it with fo good a grace,
that it feems rather the effedl of favour and liberality
than neceOlty. Of this addrefs the Roman Senate
^vailed itfelf, when it refolved to pay the Soldiery out
of the public treafury, who before were obliged to
maintain themfelves in time of war at their own ex-
pence. But the Senate perceiving that no war could
be long fupported upon this footing, and confequenriy
that they fhould neither be able to carry on any fiege
of importance, nor tranfpart their armies into diftanc
countries, both which they thought mud fome time
become neceffary, refolved to pay them out of the
public (lock : yet it was done in' fuch a manner, that
they made a merit of what v/as entirely owing to ne-
ceffity : by which they firmly fecured the affedions of
the people, who v/ere overjoyed at a favour fo extra-
ordinary, that they never had conceived any hopes of
obtaining:, nor even fo much as thought of foliciting
it. And though the Tribunes took great pains to
perfuade them, that it was fo far from being an Adt
of Grace as they imagined, that it would rather be a

M 3 very

l66 Political Discourses upon Book 1.

very heavy burden than otherwife, as grievous taxes
mud be laid upon them to defray that expcnce, and
confequently that if the Senate was bountiful, it was
out of other men's purfes; yet all their remonftrances
■were to no purpoff, for the people ftill looked upon
it as a great obligation, which they thought confider-
ably enhanced by the manner of raifing the taxes ;
much the heavier part of them and thofe which were
firft colledled being levied upon the nobility.


The hejl, the fofefi^ and leafi cffenfivt way to rtprefs the
infolence of a private per/on^ who grows too powerful
in a Commonwealth^ is to be beforehand with him in
the means he takes to advance himfelf»

WE have feen in the lall Chapter how wonder-
fully the Senate ingratiated themfelves with %
the Plebeians, by their feeming bounty, in ailovv'ing
them pay in their wars, and by their lenity in coUtc^l-
jng the taxes : and if they had perfifled in that courfe,
they would not only have prevented all fubfcquent
diflenfions in Rome, but wholly deprived the Tri-
bunes of their credit with the people, and confe«
quently of all authority in the City. For indeed
there is no better method, nor eafier, nor lefs apt to
excite diflurbances in a Commonwealth, elpccially
a corrupt one, when an ambitious and overgrown Ci-
tizen is to be oppofed, than to anticipate him. in the
ways and means by which he propofes to accomplifh
his defigns. It is certain, if this method had been
followed by Coiimo de' Medici's enemies, it would
have been better for them than driving him out of
Florence : for had they imitated his example in ca-
refllng and cajoling the people, they might have dif-
armed him of thofe weapons which he mod cffedu-
ally availed himleif of, v^ithout violence or difguft.
Pietro Soderini acquired all the power he had in Flo-
re ::cc


Chap. LIT. The First Decad of Livv. 1^7
rence merely by favouring the people, which gave
him the general reputation of their Protcdor and the
Champion of the public liberty : and without doubt
thofe Citizens, who began to grow jealous of his au-
thority, would have aded much more wifely, more
honourably, and fecurely in forellalling him in the
ways he took to aggrandize himfelf, than in oppofing
him with fuch vehemence as to endanger their coun-
try at the fame time : for, if they had deprived him
of thofe arms, in which his (Irength chiefiy confifted
(as (hey eafily might have done) they would have had
it in their power to over-rule and defeat his meafures
in all Councils and public deliberations, without any
violence or the leaft apprehenfion of the people. But
fliould any one objed, that if the Citizens, who op-
poled Pietro, were guilty of an error, in not being
beforehand with him in the methods by which he
gained fuch a reputation amongfl the people -, I an-
fwer, that Pietro likewife was wanting to himfelf in
not oruarding againft the means which they took to
make themfelves formidable to him. In this howe-
ver, he was in fome meafurc excufable, becaufe, in
the firfl: place, it would have been exceeding difficult
and dangerous ; and the next, he did not think it
confident with his honour : for the method they took
to depofe him, was to fet up the Medici againft him,
by whofe co-operation they fucceeded in their dcfigns,
and at lafi: effedted his ruin. Pietro therefore, could
not in honour deferc the people, whofe liberties he
had undertaken to defend, and go over to the Me-
dici : nor, if he had lb defigned, could he have done
it fo fecretly and fuddenly, but the people would have

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