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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of fhort duration.

* There are feveral Employments in that Republic at prefent, how-
ever, peculi.^rly appiopriated to the Ciitadini or cjmmon Citizens,
and to which the Nobles are never admitted ; as t;ie Chancellorfhip,
the Offices of Secretary of State and Embalfies, the function of Keli-
dents, &c. But properly fpeaking, thefe Nobles and Cirizens are all
Merchants, fome of whom have a lliare in the adminiilration, and
others none at all : the firil abufing the power which they have over
their dependents, from uhom they exa6l great fubraillion, and arc
ftiled their Excellencies, as if they were Princes.


iSo FoLiTiGAL Discourses upon Book I.


Before any great misfortune hefals a State^ It is generally
either prognojlicated by fome Portent^ or foretold by
fome Perfon or ether.

WE fee from many inftanees, both in ancient
and modern Hiftory, that before any great
misfortune happens to a State, it is commonly fore-
told either by loothfayers, or revelation, or figns m
the heavens, or fome other prodigy. How this comes=
to pafs I know not : but not to go far for a proof,
every one knows that friar Girolamo Savonarola fore*
told the return of King Charles VIII. of France inta
Italy before it happened'^; and that, befides this pre-
didion, it vv'as reported all over Tufcany, that armed
men were feen fighting in the air over the town of
Arezzo, and the clafhing of their arms heard by the
people there -j-. It is likewiie generally known, that

* See what is faid of this Prophet in chap. vi. of the Prince ; chap.
3ci. and xlv. book I. of the Political Difcourfes. Savonarola foretold
the return of that Prince into Italy indeed, but it did not happen ; as
Mr. Bayle has proved at large in his Notes upon the word Sa\'onarolay
5n his Di6lionary : where likewife the Reader will find fufficient argu-
iTient to convince him, that notwithftanding the extraordinary auite-
rity of his life, the fervour and eloquence of his Sermons, and his
pretenfion to Divine Revelations, he was certainly an impoltor, a
falfe Prophet, and influenced by worldly confiderations, to a(5l the
part he did. The whole, though very curious, is much too long to be
inferted here. See likewiie General Dictionary, vol. ix. p. 83, & feq^

•f It grieves one to find fuch (lories as thefe, fcattered in great abun-
dance, not only through the works of Pagan Authors, but even'
through thofe of the greateft and beft of the Jewifli and Chriilian Hif.
torians, — To give but two or three inftances. The writer of the Hif-
tory of the Maccabees, book II. chap. v. fays, " About the fame time
Antiochus prepared for his fecond voyage into Egypt. And then it
happened, that through all the City, for the fpace of almoft forty |
days, there were feen Horfemen running in the air in cloth of gold^
and armed with lances, like a band of Soldiers: and troops of horfe -
men in array, encountering and running againft one another, with
Ihaking of fliields, and multitudes of pikes, and drawing of /words,
and calling of darts, and glittering of golden ornaments, and harnefs
of all forts. Wherefore, every man prayed that Apparition might
turn to good." Thus likewife, d'Avija tells us, in the tenth Book of
his Hiftory cf the Civil Wars of France, " That there was a Prophecy


Cliap. LVI. The First Dec ad of Lrvr. i8i

before the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, the Dome
and mofl pare of the Church of St. Keparata in Flo-
current, not only in the camp, but through the whole Kingdom, that
Henry III, fliould be killed by a Friar." See vol. II. p. 52. of thelalt
Tranllation. And in the eleventh book he favs, ** That before the
battle of Yvry, a heavy (form of rain falling from the Heavens, with
dreadful thunder and lightning, threw the whole army into a terrible
panic: not only becaule retreats have an ill afpe6l to thofe that are
.not acquainted with the fecret motives of their Commanders, but oa
account of the fame that wasfpread abroad of the prodigious Itrengtb
of the enemy's forces, and becaufe both fortune and the weather feem-
ed to confpire againff their own army, which was almoll half drowned,
and marched as if it was flying under favour of the night, though
clofe drawn up, and in good order. The terior of the rawer men was
increafed by a frightful Phcenomenon, which, as the rain ceafed, ap-
peared in the middle of the iky : for there were feen two large armies
of a blood-red colour, which vifibly rufhed together in the air, amidfl
horrible claps of thunder, and foon after difappeared, leaving the
event uncertain, and were covered again with exceeding thick and
dark clouds. This fpedlacle, though diverfely interpreted by many,
feemed moll probably, as they thought, to portend the ruin and de-
ftru6lion of their army, which being inferior in ftrength, and entirely
deftitute of any other afTiitance than their own forces, retired, as if it
was already conquered, whilft the Enemy kept advancing ; and the ra-
ther, becaufe thefe were the very place? where tlie king's prsdeceflbrs
and his faftion of the Hugonots loft the firft battle againlt the Doke of
Guife, in the late Civil wars, and in which, the prince of Conde was
both wounded and taken prifoner amidit a terrible flaughter of his
men." p. 116, 117.

The ftory of the Apparition of St. James of Compoffella mounted
upon a white Horfe, and fighting like a Dragon for the Spaniards,
againft the Moors, might likewife here be recited out of the Spanifh^
Hiftorians, and a thoufand more out of our own, if fuch trafh was
worth tranfcribing —Montaigne, however, feems to approve of thefe
things ; for fpeaking of Tacitus, book HI." chap. viii. he fays, '* A
inan may think him bold in his ftories, as where ne fays, that afoldier
carrying a burden of wood had his hands fo frozen to it, that they were
fevered from his arms. Annal. XIII. cap xxxv. I always fubmit to
fo great authorities in fuch things. In what he fa5'-s alfo of Vefpafian,
Hilt. lib. IV. cap. Ixxxi. that by the favour of the God Serapis, he
cured a blind woman by anointing her eyes with his fpittle, and I
know not what other miracles, he follows the example and duty of all
good Hiftorians, who keep Regillers of fuch events as are of impor-
tance, Amonglt public accidents are alfo common rumours and opi-
nions J for it is their part to relate the things commonly believed, not
to regulate them : that is the province of Divines and Philofophers,
■who are the guides of men's conlciences. Qiiintus Curtius therefore,
wifely fays, lib. IX. cap. i. *' Equidem plura tranfcribo quam credo :
nam nee affirmare fultineo de quibus dubito, nee lubducere quae ac-
cepi, i. e. Indeed I relate more things than I believe, for as I will not
take upon me to affirm things whereof I doubt, fo I cannot fmother
what I have heard." We might likewife quote the authority of Livy
in this refpe6f, lib. I. in the preface, and lib. VIII. cap. vi. " Haec ne-
^ue affirmare neque refellere operse pretium eft , ... . famas reruni

N 3 rencc^

3 82 Political Discourses upon Book I,

rence, were beat down by lightning ^^ ; that before
the difgrace and baniihrnent ot Pietro Soderini (who
had been appointed Gonfalonier for life by the Flo-
rentines) the Palace was demolifhed in the fame man-
ner. Many other exan^ples of this kind might be
produced •, but for the fake of brevity, I fhall men-
tion only one more, and that out of Livy, who tells
us, that one Marcus Ca^dicius, a Plebeian, reported
to the Senate, that as he was palTing along the Via
Nova at midnight, he heard a voice, m^uch louder
than that of any man, which commanded him to go
and tell the Magiitraces^ that the Gauls were upon
their march to Rome-f. The caufe of thefe things, I
think, is not unvv'orthy of difculTion by fuch as are
better verfed in the knowledge of natural and fuper-
natural m.atters than I pretend to be. Perhaps, (as
fome Philofophers are of opinion) the air may be full
of intelligent Beings, which foreleeing future events
and compaffionating mankind, give them timely warn-
ing by thefe notices, to provide againft the calamities
that are to befal them J. However that may be, no-

fiandum eil, i.e. It is not worth while either to affirm, or to refute
thefe matters; we muft ftand to report." And as Tacitus wrote in a
century, when the belief of Prodigies began to decline, he fays, he
(liould not omit giving a place to things, however, received by fo ma-
ny worthy men, and with fo great reverence to Antiquity. This was
well faid : let them deliver Kificry to us, more as they receive, than
as they believe it. — If fuch Hiftorians are to be commended, certainly
our good Sir Richard Baker, and fome others, of more recent dates,
deferve the higheft applaufc

* See the end of the lail book of the Hiftory of Florence.

+ See lib. V. cap. xxxii.

X The Philofophers here meant, are probably the Cabbalifts, or
Roficrucians, wlio fuppofe there are elementary Beings called Sylphs,
Gnomes, Salamanders, &c. and that this Science introduces people
into the fardf uary of nature. They pretend that the Hebrews knew
thefe aereal fubftances j that they borrowed their Cabbaliftic know-
ledge from the Egyptians ; and that they have not yet forgot the art
of convcrfing with the inhabitants of the air. The Abbe de Villars
pleafantly expcfes the ridiculous fecrets of thefe Roficrucians in hi»
Compte ce Gabalis. It is certain, however, that the notion of good
and bad Angels, Genii, Daemons, Intelligences, Spirits, or by v^hat
other name any one has a mind to call them, was fpread all over the
Eaft long before the promulgation of Chriltianity, both the Jews and
Heathens believing that, not only every nation, but every particular
perfon, had one of each fort of thefe Beings, that was continually en-
deavouring to do him either good or harm, according to the degree of


Chap. LVL The First Decad of Livv. 1S5

thing is more certain than that fuch prefages have been
obferved. and that foir.e great and heavy misfortune
has always attended them.

their rerpe(5^ive powers ; as mT2;bt be fliewn at large from n thoufand
paHagesboth in facred and profane hiitoiy. Evci y one rtmen^hers rh^
Daemons of Socrates, Plotinus, Brutus, ^c. Inclce'i all the Chrifiian
Churches countenance it : in tiie Liturgy of our ova ii we pray, "That
God, who has ordained and conftituiecl rhe fervices of Angels and
men in a wondei ful order, would mercifally grant, that as his holy-
Angels always do him leivice in Heaven ; fo, by his appointment, they
may fuccour and defend us on earth, ScC." The Caivinilis adinit of
it i and the Romilh Cliurch makes it a ptadlicai Doctrine. " No (yf-
tem is better adajned, fays a great Modern, to bring the Doctrine of
the Platonifcs (duly reftitied) into repute, than tlieDo6liine of" occa-
fional caufes Tknow )iot what may happen, but it is my opinion,
that mankind will be forced, one time or other, to abandon mecha-
nical Principles, -unlefs they aflociate to them the wills of intelligent
Beings or Spirits : and to fay the truth, no Hypothefis is better fitted
to account for events, than that which admits of lucli an aflociation j
I mean fuch events efpecialjy as go by the name of cafualty, fortune,
good luck, ili luck, dreams, &c. the caufes of wh:ch are certainly
r^egulated and determined by general laws, that are unknown to us j
but which are probably only occafional caufes, like thofe that make
our fouls ait upon our bodies." Some have taught that the whole
world is filled and aniinated by Genii : others have compared the na-
ture of tnefe Intelligences with triangles. For, according to them,
the Divine natui-e is like that of an equilateral triangle j that of Das-
mons to a triangle, two fides of which are equal, and the other un-
equal J whillt tint of man is like one, all fides of which are uneven.
—But as the field is large, thofe that are defircus of making further
difcurfions into it are referred to the learned Dr. Dodwell's DiiTerta-
tion on the Genius or Fortune of the Emperors. Preie6t. 2. ad Spar-
tiani Hadrianum, p. 174, & feq. To vol. I. p. 192. iV. p. tg. VII. p.
336. VIII. p. 4.36. IX. p. 527. X. p. 22T. of the General Di(5tionary5
to vol. I. No. 12. of the Spectator j and to vol. I. No. 13. and 48. of
the Tatler, where this Subjedt is much better bandied,

'« Milton, (fays Mr. Addifon) has finely defcribed this mixed com-
munion of men and Spirits in the earthly Paradife ; and had doubtlefs
his eye upon a verfe in old Heliod, which is almoft word for word the
iame with his third line, in the following pafi^age."

— Nor think though men were none,

That Heav'n wou'd want Spectators, God want praife:

Millions of fpiritua] creatures walk, the Earth

Unfeen, both when we wake and when we lleep.

Al! thefe with ceafelefs praife his works behold

Both day and night. How often from the fteep

Ot echoing hil! or thicket, have we heard

Celeftial voices to the midnight air,

Sole, or refponfive to each other's note,

Sinking their great Creator ? Oft in bands

Whillt they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk.

With heav'nly touch of inftrumental founds

In full harmonic number join'd, their Songs

Divide the night, and lift our Soul to Heaven.


j84 Political Discourses upon Book L


^he MuUiiude united is ftrong and formidable \ hut fe-
paratedy it is weak and contemptible.

MANY of the Romans, after their country had
been plundered and laid wafte by the Gauls,
left Rome, and went to live at Veil, contrary to the
exprefs injundions of the Senate. Upon which, an-
other Edi6l was publifhed, to remedy this diforder,
commanding every one, upon . very fevere penalties
to return to his iormer habitation before a certain time :
and though every body made a joke of this Edid at
firll •, yet, when the day appointed drew near, they
all thought fit to obey it ; for as Livy fays, '' Ex fe-
*' rocibus univerfis, fmguli, metu fuo, obedientcs
*« tuere : though they were fo ftubborn and contu-
«' macious all together ; yet fingly, every man began
*' to be afraid of himfelf, and that made them all ac
*' laft become tradable and obedient". And certainly
nothing can give us a more juft idea of the populace
in luch cafes than this inftance : for they are always
rcfradory and bold at firfl, and fpeak freely againft
the decrees of their Sovereign ; but when they fee
the rod fhaken over their backs, they begin to diftruft
each other, and every one takes care of himfelf.

From hence it appears, how little account is to be
made of what the multitude fays, either for or againft
the government of their Prince ; provided he is
in a condition to keep them in a good humour, when
they are fo, and to prevent them from doing him any
hurt when they are in a bad one. By a bad humour,
I mean fuch as proceeds from any common occur-
rence, and muft except that regret which is owing ei-
ther to the lofs of their liberties, or of fome Prince
that was much beloved by them, and is ftill living-,
for, upon fuch occafions, their refentment is always


Chap.LVIII. The First Decad of Livy. 185.

very (harp, and cannot be kept under without rigo-
rous meafures But as to difgufts which arife from
other caufes, they are eafily difll pared ; cfpecially
when they have no body to head them : for as there
is nothing fo terrible as their fury in one cafe, \o no-
thing is more weak and contemptible in the other; be-
caufe, though they may have arms in their hands, they
are prefently reduced, if one can ftand their firft (hock:
fince when their ardour begins to cool, they muft na-
turally be fenfible they are doing wrong; and there-
fore, every man beginning to be afraid for himfelf,
will endeavour to provide for his own fafety, either
by flight, or making his peace fome other way.
When the populace therefore are once in motion, it
is their belt way, in order to fecure themfelves, to
chufe fome leader, who may not only regulate their
proceedings, but keep them firm together, and take
proper meafures for their fecurity; as the Roman
people did when they left the city upon the death of
Virginia, and appointed twenty Tribunes to protect
them : otherwife it will always happen, as Livy oh-
ferves, that when they are united, they will be (Iron g
and refolute ; but when divided, and every man
thinks only for himfcif, they will become feeble and


^bat (be multitude are wifer and more conjlant in general

tban a Prince,

LIVY, and all other Hidorians agree, that nothing
is more changeable than the multitude: they
often condemn a man to death, and afterwards bit-
terly lament the lofs of him ; as it happened in the
cafe of Manlius Capitolinus, v/hom the Roman peo»
pie firft fentenced to die, and then bewailed his death !
" populum brevi," fays Livy, " Pofteaquam ab eo
" periculum nullum erat, defiderium ejus tenuit ;
** after the people were out of all danger from him,


iS6 Political Dscourses upon Book I.

*' they heartily wifhed him alive again ^\" And in
another place, where he is fpt^aking of what happen-
ed at Syracuie, after the death of Hieronymus, ne-
phev/ to Hiero, he lays, *' Hjec natura rnukitudinis
" eft", aut hutnilitcr lervit, aut ioperbe dominatur ;
*' fuch is the nature of the mukitude, they either fer-
^ vilely obey, or infolently domineer."

I know not thei-efore, whether in endeavouring to
defend a notion that is exploded by all other authors,
I may not have taken a tafl<: in hand, which I (liall
either be obliged to abandon with difgrace, or find
very difficuk to acquit myfelf of with reputation : but
however that may be, I think, and always fhall think,
there can be no harm in maintaining an opinion by
arguments and reafoning alone, where no violence is
offered to enforce it. -' I fay then, in regard to the fault
with which writers in general reproach the multitude,
that particular men, and Princes efpecially, are as
liable, or more fo perhaps, to be accufed of it : for
every one that does not regulate his condufl: by laws,
will behave himfelf as ill as a multitude that has broke
loofefrom all reftraint. This may plainly appear, if
we ccnfider how few good and wile Princes there are*
or ever have been in the world -, I mean fuch Princes
as have had it in their power to violate the laws, and
break down the barriers chat were oppofed to their li-
centioufnefs or ambition f. Amongft fuch indeed,
we may number the Kings of F,gypt, who reigned in
the moll early times, when that country was governed

* Thus likevvife the fame fliftorian fays, in the cafe of Appius
Claudius (not the Decemvir) lib, IL cap. Ixii. *' Haud ita multum
interim temporis fuit : ante tamen quain prodi(Sta dies veniret, nnorbo
moritur : cnjus laudationem cum Tribuni plebis impedire conaren-
tur, plebs fraudari fblenni honore I'upremum diera tanti viri noluit i
& laudationem tarn scquis auribus mortui audivit, quam vivia ccufatio-
nem audierat, & exequias frcquens celebravit/'

f Dioclefian uled to fay, '• Tliat nothing was more difficult than
than to govern well j" and he perfe(5liy knew the reafons ot that diffi-
culty. They are recited by Vopifcus, an author who remarks, that
in the great number of Roman Emperors, there were reckoned but
very few good Princes, and commends the expreflion of a Jelter, who
ufed to fay, " That all the good Princes might be painted ia a ring."
Vopifc, cap, xliv,


Chap. LVIII. The First Decad of Livy. 187

by laws •, to whom we might add thofe of Sparta, and
in our own age thofe of France alfo, which Kingdom
is ruled with more lenity and veneration for the laws,
than any other that we know of at prefent *. But
Princes that live in fuch governments as thefe and are
retrained by laws, are not to be compared with a dif-
folute and unbridled rabble, or ranked amongft thofe
whofe natural difpofition vrt are to examine in com-
mon with that of other men, to fee whether it refem-
bles the difpofition of the united body of the people ;
becaufe, in that cafe, we ought likewife, on the other
hand, to compare them with thofe common people
who are under the fame re ft rid ions as themfelves, and
then we fhall find full as much goodnefs in one as the
other, and that the populace are neither apt to be too
infolent when in power, nor too abjedl in fubjedion ;
but like the Roman people, who whilfl the Republic
continued incorrupt, fhewed no figns either of one or
the other, but kept up their proper dignity with ho-
nour, and lived like free' men, in due obedience to
the laws and authority 9f their Magiftrates. If it be-
came necefTary indeed, at any time, to make a (land
againft fomjc defigning and over-powerful Citizen,
they did it effecftualiy ; as in the cafe of Manlius Ca-
piiolinus, the Decemviri, and feveral others, who
were taking meafures to opprefs and enflave them.
On the contrary, when the intereft of the public re-
quired it, they were no lefs obedient to their Confuls
and Didlators, than thev had been llubborn and in-
flexible in maintainins: their rights and liberties at
other times. Nor was their regret for the death of
Manlius at all to be wondered at, fince it was the
mem.ory of his virtues that occafioned it, which were
fuch as made every one lament the lofs of him, and
mioht have made a Prince behave as they did, in the
fame circum.ftances ; for nobody can deny that it is
natural for all men to praife and admire virtue, even
in their enemies ; and it is my opinion, that it Man-

• Some exceptions might be made in thefe times,


i8§ Political Discourses upon Book I.

lius could have been raifed from the dead, in the
inidft of their lamentations for him, the people would
have pafied the very fame fentence upon hmi again.
In like manner we read of feveral Princes, and luch
as have been accounted Vv^ife ones too, that have put
people to death whom they heartily wiQied alive again ;
as Alexander did in the cafe of Clitus and others of his
friends, and Herod with regard to Mariamne. But
what Livy fays concerning the nature of the muki^
tude, is not meant of fuch a one as is retrained by
a regard to Laws, like the Roman people-, but of a
feditious unbridled rabble, like that of Syracufe, which
have broke their reins, and behave like madmen *,
committing a thoufand irregularities and extravagan-
cies, like Alexander and Herod in the inflances juft
now cited.

The multitude therefore is no more to be accufed
of fury and inconftancy than a Prince : for they are
both fubje6t to caprice and enormicies when they are
above the Laws, and can tranfgrefs with impunity :
cf which feveral examples might be produced (befides
thofe already quoted) from amongft the Roman Em-
perors and other Princes and Tyrants, who were guil-
ty of as much levity and inconfiftency in their conduct
as ever any multitude was. I mud beg leave then to
differ from the common opinion, that the people
when mafters are more light, changeable, and un-
grateful than particular Princes : indeed if any one
fays ihey are both fo, he will be pretty near the mark ;
but if he declares in favour of the latter, he is very
much miflaken. For the people that have the autho-
rity wholly in their own hands, and condudl them-
felves according to the Laws, will act with as much,
or perhaps more (leadinefs, prudence, and gratitude
than any Prince, be he accounted ever fo wife : on the
contrary,, a Prince that has got above the power of
the Laws, will be more fickle, imprudent, and un-
grateful than any multitude whatfoever ; which does
not proceed fo much from any diverfuy in their na-
tures, (for they are pretty much the fame j or if there


Chap. LVIII. The First Decad of Livy, 189

be any fuperiority in this cafe, it is on th^ fide of the
people) as from the difference of the veneration which
they refpedively have for the laws of their country.
If we examine the conduct of the Roman people, we
iliall find that for the fpace of four hundred years they
hated the very name of King, as much as they were
fond of glory, and fludious tor the good of the Coni-
monweakh, which plainly appears from numberlefs
inftances. But if any one fhouid objeft that they were
fliamefully ungrateful to Scipio, a former difcourfe,
wherein 1 have proved at large that the people are not
fo ungrateful as Princes, may ferve for a lufficient an-
fv;er *. As to prudence, liability, and judgment, I
maintain that thty far exceed Princes in thofe qualifi-
cations : and there is much reafon in that laying,
*' Vox popuii vox Dei : the voice of the people is the
" voice of God :" for it is certain that the united

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