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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been aware of it, which mufb have been of fatal con*
fequence to him ; for then they would have perfecut-
ed him as much as ever they had carelTed him before :
fo that it would have encrrafed the llrength of his
enemies, and given them a fairer opportunity of ruin-
ing him.

it is necefTary therefore, in all undertakings, to
confider every thing maturely beforehand, and not

M ^ 13

t63 Political Discourses upov Book T,

to take a relblution in which the danger is fure to
over-balance the advantage propoied, how feafible
foever it may appear in fome lights : othervvife, a
man may exped: to meet with the fame fortune that
Cicero did, who, inftead of ruining Marc Anthony,
as he defigned, ftill added to his reputation and great-
nefs. For when Anthony had aflembled a powerful
army, confifiing chiefly of the fojdiers who had fol-
lowed the fortune of Julius C^far, and was declared
an enemy to his Country by the Senate, Cicero, in
order to alienare the affedions of his Soldiers, from
him, advifed the Senate to put 0(5tavius at the head
of their army, and fend him with the Confuls againil
Anthony ; alledging, tliat the very name of Odavius
Cxfar (as he was Nephew to Julius) would bring over
all his uncle's friends to him, by which Anthony muft
be fo weakened, that it would be an ea:Ty matter to
fupprefs him. But it happened quite contrary ; for j
Odavius being corrupced by Anthony, drferted the
interefts of Cicero and the Senate, and joined the
enemy ; by which alliance, both they and their whole
party were utterly ruined. And this indeed might
have eafily been forefeen : fo that they Hiould by no
means have liftened to Cicero's advice, bur have been
jealous of the very name of a perfon, who had en-
fiaved his Country, and made himfelf abfolute lord
over it : and not to have fo fondly hoped that any of
his family or followers would ever do any thing in fa-
vour of liberty.


^bat the People^ deluded by a falfe appearance cf advan-
tage, often feek their own deJiru5iion : a7id that they
are eafily moved by magnificent hopes and promifes.

AFTER the Romans had taken the City of Veii,
the people became poffefTed with a conceit,
that it would be much for the advantage of the State,


Chap. Llir. The First Decad of Ijvy.. i6^
if one half of them (liould go to live there ; for as
the country was rich and well cultivated, it would
fupporc them very well, and the Ci:y being fo near
Rome, k could not occaOon any coni'ufion or altera-
tion in the government of the Commonwealth. But
the Senate and wifeit of the other Citizens thought
this would be of fo pernicious confequence, that they
freely and publicly declared they would fooner die,
than ever conl'ent to it : fo that v/hen the thins came
to be debated, the people were exafperated at the
Senate to fuch a degree, that they would certainly
have taken up arms, and great tumults and bloodflieci
rnufl have tnfued, if fome of the oldefl and mod re-
fpeclable Citizens had not interpofed their authority
and checked the fury of the multitude.

From hence we may obferve, in the firll place, that
the populace are often fo far deceived with a falfe
appearance of good, as to folicit their own ruin and
bring mfinite dangers and difHculties upon the. Com-
monwealth, if they are "not undeceived by fohi^ ppfr
fon whom they reverence and confide in. and. con-r
vinced by him that they are in the wrong. . But when
it happens that they have been .formerly deceiyeji ^ei-
ther by perfons, or in the appearance of things, and
cannot repofe that confidence in any one, then-ruin
mud of necedlty enfue. So true is what Dante tells
us in his Canto upon Monarchy.

II popolo moire valte grida .

Viva la fua morte, & muoia la fua vita.

Strange caprice ! oft the fenfelefs multitude
Chufe death inftead of life, and ill for aood.

To this diffidence in the people it is fometimes owing
that a Commonwealth cannot come to any good re-
folution, as we have obferved before with regard to
the Venetians, who, being attacked by many enemies
at once, could not refjlve to make their peace with
any one of them, by reftoring what they uiurped •»


170 Political Discourses upon Book I,

which was the caufe * of the war wherein fo many
powers combined againft them, that they were brought
almoft to the brink of ruin.

If we confider therefore, to what things it is eafy,
and to what it is difficult to perfuade the muhitude,
we (bail find, that if the meafures propoied ro them
appear at firft light to be either magnanimous, or like
to be attended with great profit, they come into them
with much eagernefs, though ever To deftruclive at
the bottom : on the other hand, if they fcem pufilla-
nimous, of fuch as may endanger their intereft, it
will be very difficult, if not impoffible to make them
go down, notwithftanding others may be convinced,
that they will really prove falutary and advantageous
in the end. The truth of this may be confirmed by
numberlefs examples out of the Roman, and other
Hiftories, both ancient and modern. From hence
arofe the bad opinion, which the people of Rome
conceived of Fabius Maximus, who never could per-
fuade them that it was the lafcft way to ad upon the
defenfive againft Hannibal, and to wafte his forces by
flow meafures, without hazarding; an enaagement with
him ; for they thought it looked like cowardice, and
not being able to difcern the expediency of proceed-
ing in that manner, his arguments had not the lealt
efFeft upon them. Nay, fo obftinately do people
fometimes perfift in errors of this kind, that though
they gave the officer who was next in command un-
der Fabius, authority to fight the enemy, in fpite of
his General, and their army would certainly have been
routed, if it had not been prevented by the prudence
of Fabius ; yet they were fo far from being con-
vinced of their error, that thev afterwards made
Varro Conful upon no other account, but becaufe he
had boafted in every public place of the City, that
if they v;ould veft him with proper authority, he would
foon give a good account of Hannibal and his army.

"What was the confequencc ? He fought him indeed,


• The famous league of Cambray.


Chap. Lllf. The First Dscad of Livy. 171

but fufFcred fo total a defeat at Cann2e, that Rome
was never before in fuch danger of utter ruin. Lee
me cite another inftance out of the fame Hiflory.
Hannibal having been in Italy eight or ten years, had
filled that Province with the (laughter of the Romans,
when Marcus Centenius Penula (a man of very mean
extraction, but of fome rank in the army) prefented
h'mfelf one day to the Senate, and told them, that
if they would give him a Commifilon to raife an ar-
my of volunteers, he would engage to deliver Han-
nibal either dead or alive into their hands very foon.
Now, though the Senators looked upon this only as
a piece of fool-hardinefs, yet, confidering, that if his
requeft fhould be refufcd, and the people come to
know of it, perhaps it might occafion ill-blood and
fedition in the City, and they might be obliged to
comply with his requeft though againft their inclina-
tions ; chufing therefore rather to hazard the lofs of
thofe that were fimple enough to follow him, than to
run the rifque of exciting frefh difcords at home ; as
they well knew how much fuch a refolution would be
applauded by the people, and how impoffible to con-
vmce them of its ablurdity. In confequence of this
CommifTjon, he marched with a diforderly and undif-
ciplined body of men againft Hannibal, whom he
engaged, but failed of his promife -, for he, and all
the reft of them were cut to pieces. If we look into
the Grecian Hiftory, we fliaii there find, that Nicias,
one of the wifcft of the Athenians, could never make
that people fcnfible of the pernicious confequences
that muft proceed from their invading Sicily : fo that
in contempt of his opinion, and that of other pru-
dent men, they perfifted in an expedition which prov-
ed the ruin of their State. When Scipio was made
Conful, he defired to have Africa for his province,
and faid he would undertake to demolifh Carthage ;
but as the Senate, by the advice of Fabius Maximus,
refufed him that favour, he threatened to propofe it
to the people, well knowing how fond they were of
fuch enterprizes. We might likewife produce feveral


172 Political Discourses upon Book I.

examples in our own City, as when Hercules Benti-
voglio, and Anronio Giacomini, eenerals of the Flo-
rentine forces, had routed Bartolomeo de' Alviano, at
St. Vincenzo, and went to lay fiege to Pifa. This
undertaking was refolved on by. the people, who were
in a manner fafcinated by the pofitive aflurance of
lucceis they had from Bentivoglio, though moit of
the wifeft Citizens oppofed it : but the tide ran fo
Ilrong againft them, and the people were fo dazzled
with thofe promifes, that it was all to no purpofe.

I fay then, that there is no furer way to ruin a Com-
monvvealth, in which thd people have any confider-
able fhare of authority, than to propofe gallant, but
dangerous enterprises to them •, for where they have
the greateft weight, fuch' undertakings Vv/ill always be
embraced as feem tp carry an air of magnanimity with
them-, nor will any other perfon who diffents from
them, how wife foever he may be, have it in his
power to provide a remedy. ' '-"^

But let it be remembered, at the fame timej^ that
if thefe things moft commonly end in the defbru6lion
of the State, the particular promoters and condudlors
of thfem very feldbm efcape ruin : for, as the people
make not the leall doubt of fuccefs, fo they never im-
pute iany mifcarriage to ill fortune, or want of power
in the Commander, but to treachery or ignorance ;
for \Vhich, he' is almofl certainly either put to death,'
banifhed, or imprifoned : as it happened to many of
the Carthaginian and Athenian Generals. Nor "are
their former fuccefies and fervices in the lead: confi-
dered upon thefe occafions : their prefent misfortune
cancels the memory of all pail merits ; as it fell out
in the cale of the abovementioned Anronio Giaco-
mini, who, not raking Pifa as he had promiled *, and
the people expected, fell into fuch difgrace with
them, that, notwithftanding the many great fervices
he had formerly done the Republic, he was fuffered"

• M.'ichiavel fays a little before that it was Bentivoglio, that gave
then) aflurancc of iucctis; fo that he ieenii to have made a miftake


Chap. LIV. The First Decad of Livy* jj^
Ao live more through the lenity and gratitude of thofe
that were in authority, than from any convidion of
his innocence, or defire in the people to^favchim.


Hczv greatly J he prefence of a grave man in authority ccn^
tributes to appeafe an enraged multitude,

T^ H E fecond thing obfervable from the paflage
related in the beginning of the laft Chapter, is,
that nothing conduces more to bridle the rage of an
angry rnultitude, than the prefence of fome grave
man in authority : for as Virgil fays,

Tum pietate gravera ac meritis fi forte virum quern
Confpexere, filenr, arredifque auribus adftant.

iEn. I. 15^,

If then fome grave and pious man appear.
They hulli their noife, and lend a lifl'ning ear.


Thofe therefore that command armies or govern
cities, fhouid always upon any mutiny or fedition,
take care to prefent themfclves (whether to their Sol-
diers or Citizens) in the mofl refped:able and awful
manner, clothed in all their enfigns of office and au-
thority, to infpire the greater veneration and revc-'
rence. Not many years ago Florence was divided in-
to two factions, called the Fratefchi and Arrabiati,
who at laft fell together by the ears : but the former
beinK worfted, and the mob on the other fide goins:
to plunder the houfe of Paolantonio Soderini, (one
of the heads of the Fratefchi, and a Citizen of great
reputation in the Republic at that time) his brother
Francifco, then Bifnop of Volterra, and now a Car-
dinal, happening to be there and bearing the uproar,
immediately put on his richelt robes and Epifcopal
I'lochet, and wcnc out to meet the armed multitude,

• whorp

xj-4 Political Discoitrses upo^J Book I.

whom he foon appeafed by gentle language and the
dignity of his perfon: a circumftance that was much
talked of, and applauded at that time. I conclude then^
that there is no way fo proper or neccfiary to compofe
a popular commotion, as the interpofjtion of fome per-
fon of a grave and refpccftable prcience. — To return
therefore to the fubjed: of the laft chapter, we may
fee from the inflance there cited, how obitinately the
Roman people were bent upon removing to Veii, be-
caufe they had taken it into their heads that it would
he greatly for their advantage, without ever confider-
ing the difadvantages that lay concealed under fo fpe-
cious an appearance : and that from the tumults w:hich
arofe upon that occafion great mifchiefs mud have en-
fued, if the Senate had not wifely applied the autho-
rity and good offices of fome grave and refpedable
pcrfons to prevent them.


Kqw tafy a matter It is to govern a State where the People
are not corrupted-^ how hard to ere5i a Principality where
there is an equality amoyigft them \ and that where there
is no equality^ a Commonwealth cannot he eftablijljed.

THOUGH we have elfewhere already dif-
courfed at I'irge concerning what is to be hoped
or feared from corrupted States, it may not appear al-
together fuperfluous however, to confider a refolution
of the Roman Senate upon a vow made by Camillus to
dedicate a tenth part of the fpoils taken from the Vei-
entes to Apollo. But this booty having fallen into
the hands of the Commonalty and there being no other
way of getting an exacl account of it, the Senate pub-
lifhed an edid, requiring every one to bring a tenth
part of his plunder to the public Treafury. Now
though this edidl was foon after revoked, and another
method found of iliewing their gratitude to Apollo,



Chap. LV. The First Decad of Livy. 175

without difgufting the people^, yet it (liews the con-
fidence which the Senate had in their honour, and that
they made no doubt of their punftually fulfilling the
purport of the edict as they were commanded : on the
other hand, we fee that the people did not take any in-
dired means to evade the force of it by delivering falfe
accounts, but openly and honellly oppofed it as an ille-
j^al exadion. This and many other examples which I
have produced before upon other occafions, may ferve
to demonftrate the probity and devotion of that people,
and what confidence was repofed in them upon that
account. Indeed no good at all is to be expeded
where thefe principles are not to be found, as we have
fuflicient experience at prefent in thole States that are
mod corrupted ; but above all in Italy, and even in
France and Spain too, which are not without their
fhare of corruption : and if there are not altogether
fo many diforders in the two lad mentioned, as daily
happen in Italy, it is not fo much owing to the virtue
of the people, who are much degenerated, as to the
form of their government, which being Monarchical,
keeps them united in the power of their Princes and the
vigour of their laws, which are not yet totally cor-
rupted. In Germany indeed there ftill remain flrong
traces of ancient goodncfs and virtue : to which it is
owing that many Republics there retain their liberty,
and keep up their laws and difcipline in fuch force,
that no enemy, either foreign or domeftic, dares to
attack themf : and that this is really matter of fa6b, I
fhall prove from an example not altogether unlike that
jult now mentioned relating to the Senate and people

* As it was refolved to fend a golden vefTel to Delphos, and there
was no gold to be had in the City^ the Roman Ladies did a very ge-
nerous thing upon this occafion, which delivered the people out of
their perplexity : for they met together, and agreed to confecrate all
their Jewels to this purpofe. In acknowledgment of which iacrifice,
the Senate granted them the honour of funeral Orations, which the
men only had been favouied wirh till that time.

f The great and rapid conquefts which Charles V. made in this
Ccnmtr}' hut a few years after, Ihew, either that our Author's Maxim
d-jes )iot always hold good; or that the Gtrraans were become very
corrupt, all on a fudden as it were.


17"^ Political Discou:rs£s UPO'N Book 1.

of Rome. When thcfe Republics have occalion for
jDoncy upon the pubhc account, the Councils or Ma-
giilratcs in whom the lupreme authority is lodged, lay
a tax of one, and fometimes perhaps of two per cent*
according as the exigency requires, upon every man's
property : after whichj at the time and place appoint-
ed^ i trie people having firft taken an oath chat they pay
their refpedtive proportions to thefull of their property,
throw their money into a cheft provided for that pur-
pofe by the Collectors of the taxes, who never count
it, or require any other proof or voucher, but their
own confciences* From hence it appears, how much
virtue and regard to Religion arc iett among this peo-
ple : for v/e may be afTured that every man pays his due •,
becaufe if they did not, the whole would not amounc
to the fum it ufed to do at the fime rate ; in which cafe
the fraud would have been long ago detected and an-
other m.ethod taken. And this degree of honour and
integrity is fo much the more to be admired, as it is
row fo rare, and to fpake truth, hardly any where
elfe to be found ; which I think is chiefly owing to
two caufes. In the firft place, they never have had
much commerce with their neighbours, being fekiom
vifited by them, andfeldomer goingabroad themrdvesv
but livino; contented with the food and clothincr
uhich are the produ(5l of their own country, and
thereby preventing all opportunities of evil converfa-
tion that might corrupt their manners : thus they have
kept themfelves untainted by the example of the French,
the Spaniards, and Italians, three nations that are
wicked enough to debauch the whole world. In the
rext place thofe Commonwealths that have kept them-
felves free and uncorrupt, will not fuffer any of their
Subjects to live like gentlemen -, on the contrary they
always miaintain as much equality amongft them as
they can : and in Germany they hold fuch perfons in
fo great abhorrence, that if by chance any of them fall
under their lafh, they certainly put them to death as
the authors of all corruption and diforder. By Gentle-
iiien, 1 mean fuch as live iii.idlenefs iiad juxury upon


Chap. LV. The First Decad OF Livv. 177
the income of their eliates, without any profeOlon or
employment •, a fort of Subjeds that are very pernici-
ous in every Republic and Province : though indeed
thofe are ftill more fo that are called Lords, and have
Caftlcs and Junfdidlions and VafTals of their own.
With thefe two forts of men the Kingdom of Naples^
the territories of Rome, Romagna, and Lombardy
abound : from whence it comes to pafs that there is
no fuch thing as a free Sate in all thofe Provinces, be-
caule the Nobility are mortal enemies to that kind of
Government, and indeed to all civil liberty; and there-
fore to attempt the eftablifhment of a free Republic
in fuch countries would be a fruitlefs labour. But if
any one had it in his power to new model the Govern-
ment of thofe Countries, he muft of neceOity reduce
them into Monarchies -, for v/here the whole mals is fo
corrupted that laws are not a fuiiicient remedy, recourfc
muft be had to forcible meafures and regal authority,
to controul the ambition and correct the licentioufnefs
of the Nobility, with a high hand and arbitrary pow-
er. I'he necefTity of proceeding in this manner is
obvious from the example of 1 ufcany, where three
Commonv^ealths, Florence, Siena, and Lucca, have
fubfifted a long time, though that Country is not a
large one : and notwithftanding the refl: of the Cities
in that Province are dependent upon them, yet from
their fpirit and manner of government, it plainly ap-
pears that they are in fome meafure free, and would be
fo entirely if they could: the Reafon of which is,
that there are but very few Gentlemen there, and no
Lords, with fuch jurifdidion as 1 have beforemention-
cd : but fuch an equality amongfb the inhabitants, that
an able man who was well acquainted with the politi-
cal government of ancient Republics, might eafily
eflabiifli a free Commonwealth there : yet fo great has
been their misfortune hitherto, that they never have
had any perfon that either could, or knew how to go
about fo laudable an undertaking.

From what has been laid we may draw this conclu-
fion, that whofover (hall endeavour to found a Com-

VoL. IlL N monwealth

178 Political Discourses UPON Book I.

monwealth where there are many Nobles and Gentle-
men, will never eiTedt his purpofe, except he can tirft
root them all out : on the orher hand, wnofver would
eftabhih a Kingdom or Principality where there is near-
ly an equality amongft the people, will not be able to
fucceed in that attempt, unlels he ennobles feveral of
the mod amt)idous and turbulent difpofuion amongft
them; and that too not only in ritle but in f^ct, by
giving them Cafties and other pofftfTions, by heaping
favours and riches upon them, by exalting them to
honour and prt-fcrments, and by granting them power
and juriidiction^ ; that fo while they maintain the
authority of the Prince, and he fupports them in
their ambition, the reft of the people muft be obliged
to wear a yoke, v;hich nothing but downright force
and neccifjty could ever make them fubmit to : and
thus when the power of the Prince over- balances the
ftrength of the people, things may be kept in good
order, and every man within his proper bounds. But
fince no body but a man of great authority, and r^ie
abilities, can conftitutea Monarchy in a Country tliat
is naturally difpofed to a Republican form of Govern-
ment, or ered: a Reoublic in one that is calculated for
a monarchy, many have attempted both, but few have
fucceeded in either; the g^'eatnefs of the undertaking
dirmaying fome, and the difficulty embarrafiing others
in fuch a manner, that moft of them have failed in
their firft endeavours. I he example of V"'t nice niay
fcem perhaps to refute my pofuion, that a Common-
wealth cannot be formed where Gentlemen abound ;
becaufe none but fuch as are Noble Venetians (or Gen-
tlemen, which is the famje) can be admitted into any

* This is prailifed by the Kings of Spain in their Sicilian and Nea-
politan dominions, whci e there are few Villages that are not ereC:red in-
to Principalities, Duchies,|or Marquifare? ; ihofe nations being wonder-
fully fond of great titles. This policy ferves two ends in countries that
are fubjeft to revolutions. In the firft pluce, it ruins the Nobiliry by
making them fpend their fortunes tofupport fuch titles in a fumptu-
ovis manner : and in the next, it fecures the people who are thei eby
made flaves and enemies to the Nobility. So that they can never joirt
to deliver tlieir country from Tyranny ; for if one fide rtiould endea-
vour to introduce a new Government^ the c^-' '^r would be fure to op-'
pofe it,


Chap. LVI. The First Decad of Livy. 179

office, or Jliare in the adminiftration of that State*
But this inftance does not in the lead invalidate my af-
fertion : for the Venetian Nobles arc rather io in name
than in fad ; as they have no great polTclTlons in land
or eflates, their riches chiefly confiding in moveable
goods and merchandize. Befides, none of them have
any Signiories or jurifdidion over others : fo that a
Gentleman amonglt them is nothing more than a title
of honour and pre-eminence, not founded upon any
of thofe circumftances which make themfjconfiderable
in other places. And though in other Commonwealths
the Citizens are diftinguiflied into feveral orders, yet at
Venice they are divided into two only, the Nobility and
the Commonalty ; the former either adlually enjoying
or being qualified to enjoy all employments and pods
of honour, whilfr the latter are tocallv excluded from
them* ; which occafions no diiturbance in the State
for reafons that have -been elfewhere already affigned.
Let him therefore who would eilablifh a government,
form a Republic, if there either is, or he can make,
an equality amongil the inhabitants of the Country :
on the contrary, if there is a great and manifeit ine-
quality, let him eredl a Monarchy ; othcrwife his Go-
vernment will not be duly poifed, and confequently

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