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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body of the people feldom err in their prognoilica-
tions ; fo that it feems as if they forefaw the good or
evil that was to befal them by fome fecret inflincl or
infpiration. In judging of doubtful matters they are
very rarely miftaken : when two Orators for inilance,
equally eminent in their profeiTion, have harangued
them upon different fides of a queftion, they hardly
ever fail to incline to what is mod rational ; which
Ihews that they are capable both of difcovering truth
and embracing it : and if they fometimes err in their
judgment concerning fuch a6lions as appear either
magnanimous, or highly for their advantage, (which
we have allowed before) f are not Princes ofcener mif-
led by a variety of paflions, to which they are much
more fubje6f, and greater flaves than the people ? In
the eledlion of Magiftrates they make a more judici-
ous choice than Prmces j for it is a very difficult mat-
ter to perfuade them to advance a man of corrupt
morals or infamous charader j which yet is an eafy
and common thing with Princes. U they take a dif-
guft to any thing they retain it for ages > but Princes

• See Chap. xxix. of this Book.

f See Chaptera xlvii.and liii. of this Book.


ipd Political Discourses upon Bookf*

foon change their opinions : of both which things, I
will giveaninftance in the Roman people, who during
the courfe of fo many hundred years, and in the
choice of fo many Confuls and Tribunes, did noc
make above four eledlions of which they had any
caufe to repent ; and held the name of King in fuch
deteftation, as I haveobferved before, that no Citizen,
how much foever they were obliged to him, ever af-
fefled that name or power, v/ho did not feel the weight
of their refentment. It is evident likewife that thole
States where the people have had the chief authority,
have always extended their dominion further, and in
a fhorter time, than ever they were able to do under
the government of any Prince; as the Romans did
after the expullion of Kings, and the Athenians when
they had (hook off the yoke of Pififtratus : for which
no other reafon can be affigned, than that a popular
Government is better than a Regal one. Nor can the
pafiages quoted out of Livy at the beginning of this
chapter, or elfewhere, in any wife ferve to invalidate
this aflertion : for when all the good and ill qualities
are duly ftated betwixt a Prince and a popular Go-
vernment, it will plainly appear that the balance will
be greatly in favour of the latter, efpecially in point
of probity and true glory *. But if a Prince feems to

* " I know fome men of parts, fays Mr. Br.yte, who are furprifed,
that in Kingdoms where the Prince's authority is unlimited, the in-
ftru^ors of youth are allowed to rsad the books of the ancient Greeks-
and Romans to them, in which we find fo many examples of the love
of|liberty, and fo many antimcnarchical Maxims." But this is not
jnore furprifing than to fee Republican States permit their Law-Pro-
fefibrs to explain the Code and Digell, in which there are fo many
principles which fuppofe the Supreme and inviolable authority of the
Emperor. Here we fee two thi)igs which fcem equally furprifing,
but in reality ought not to furprife any body : for omitting feverat
reafons which might be urged, may we not fay, that the fiance books
which contain the poifon with regard either to Monarchs or Republics,
contain likewife the Antidote ? if we fee on oi^.e hand the great Max-
ims of liberty, and the noble examples of courage, with which it has
-been maintained or recovered ; we fee on ihe other, fadlions, fedi-
tions, and tumultuous humours, wiiich difturbed, and at lafl. ruined
that infinite number of little States, which Ihewed themfelves fuch
zealous enemies to tyranny in ancient Greece. Does not this pi(5ture
fccm to be a leflbn very capable of difabufing thofe that are terrified


Chap. LVIII. The First Decad CF LiVY. 19I
have the advantao-e in enacting o-ood laws, and efta-
blifhing new Stac-Jies and inflitutions for the benefit

at Mcnp.rchy ? Mr. Hohbes thought To j for he nubliflied a Tranflation
of Thucyditles with this view. Turn the taV)its, and you will fij»d
that this piftuie will be very proper to eive an infliuclion different
fiom the former, and to ftiengthen the horror againft Monarchy: for
whence came it (Tome one may fay) that the Greeks .and Romans
chofe rather to be expoftd to tlicfe coiwuficns than to live under a
Monarchy ? Did not th,is arile fiom the hard co: duion to which Ty-
ranfs had i educed then) ? Ai.d mult not an evil be very grievous, in-
fufFerable, and deploTabie, when people chufe to deliver them(elves
from it at fo dear a rate ? It is certain that the defcription which Hiftory
has left us of the condu(51 of fcveral Monarchs gives us horror, and
makes our hair ftar.d of an end. It is to no purpofe to obje6l, that,
generally (peaking, more dilorders have been occafioned by the con-
fpiracies which have puc an end to Tyranny, tlian there would have
been by fnffciing it j or to urge what happened upon the death of
Hiero the Syraciilan, The people of Syi acme, who iiad enjoyed great
happinefs under the long reign of that Prince, immediately loft their
patience under his SucctiTor, who governed in a tyrannical manner,
and n(;t only killed iiini m the very beginning of the iecond year of
his reign, but foon after put two of Hitro's daughters, and three of
liis grand-dau2,hters, to death a'.fo. Cf thefe five PrincelTes, there
were tliiee againft whom no complaint had been made, and who had
fled as it were to thi: foot of the altar. Was not tiiis removing oneTy-
ranny to t-ilahlilh a greater, " ut tyrannos uUcifcendo, quse odiffenc
fcelera ipfi imitarentur," as Heraclea, one ot Hiero's daughters, repre-
Tented to her murderers ? V/as Livy in the wrong to remark upon
this occafion, " that the people are incapable of keeping within due
bounds, a'id that they are humble even to bai'enefs when they obey,
but infolentto the Jail degree when they command ?' The maffacre
of thefe five PrincelTes was not the ra(h aftion (Tfome private perlbns
only : it was commanded by the Senate and people of vSyracuTe, and
this too whillt the memory of Hiero was itill frtlh amongft them, a
Prince whom they had loved fo tenderly and juniy But the injuftice
of their barbarous decree was fo manifeft, that they immediately per-
ceived it and revoked it ; which fiiruified nothing, for it was already
executed. The factions however were net extir.g'jidied by the ent're
extirpafi(;n of thai family ; they incicafed daily, and in a (hort time
overturntrd the liberty of tke country ; for they expoied Syrjcufe to
the Romans, who befieged and conquered it. Silius italicus finely
defcribes the confufion into which that City fell after the Tyrant Hie*
ronymusand hii relations were killed.

Sesvos namque pati faftus, Juvenemque cruento

Fiagrantem luxu. Si miictrntem turpia iluris.

Ha id ultra faciles, quos ir:* metufque coquebant

Jurari obtruncant, nee jam modus enfibus, addunt

F;emineam csedem, atque infontum raptafororum

Corpora prolternunt ferro, nova fsvit in armis

Libcrtas, jadtatque jugum, pars Punica cailra,

P:;-s Iralos & nota volunt: nee turba furentum

Vciit, quic neutro fociari f2ed:.Te mrdit. Lib. XIV. 1. los.


igt Political Discourses upon Book h

of civil fociety ; the other without doubt have fo much
the fuperiority in maintaining and improving what
is already eflablifhed, that they defcrve more glory
than the founder.

To cut this matter fliorr, I fay that if fome Princi-
palities have fubfifted for a long courfe of years, there
are inftances of Republics of no lefs antiquity, and
that both have owed the length of their duration to
the obfervation of their laws : for a Prince that fol-
lows no other rule but the didates of his own will, if
he has it in his power fo to do, is unwife and coun-
terads himfelf ; and a people that proceed in the
fame manner deferve no better title *. Since the com-
parifon therefore is betwixt a Prince that is retrained
by laws, and a people in the fame circumftances, I
am convinced there will be no more virtue found in
the latter than in the former : but if we are to com-
pare them as equally free from all t'es and reftri6lions
of that kind, and perfedtly at their own liberty, we
Ihall ftill find fewer and lefs pernicious errors in the
people than in the Prince, and thofe too much eafier
to be remedied. For a licentious and tumultuous

A man may reprefent this as long as he pleafes, he will not con-
vince thofe that are prejudiced agamft Monarchy : they will anTwer
him, that from the very confideration, that the diforders of it cannot
be remedied but by fiich (hocking miferies, he ought to conclude that
it is a very great evil.

* The following refle(51:ion madeby Oernhielm,in his Life of Pontus
de la Gardie, a Swedilh General, is a very good one, viz. that a Prince
who hearkens only to his paffions without regarding what is due to
God, his fiihjefts, and the laws of his country, deprives himfelfof
the mod neceflary fupports of his power ; for he cannot expert to find
that fidelity in his fubjeots, which is fufficient to oppofe an enemy that
fhall attack him* This he exemplifies in the cafe of Eric, King of
,Sweden, *' Praevenit adventum ducum fama collefli in regem exer-
citus : ad quam excitus, implorat opem civium, quorum plerique per-
tsefi acerbi regiminis, furdas obvertunt aures precanti, hilares adve-
niife tempus quo jugi indies ingravefcentis ieventur onere, antequam
fuccumbaiU penitus interituri. Itp.que fubnixus ope paucorum ia
quorum aiumis nondum obfbleverat majellas fui princlpis, congrciTuf-
que c\im pluribusac fortioribus, non poterat non redigi adangultias,
Atquetum prceft^roci regi adparuit, Sc favore civium & fuccefiu fulci-
endae potentix dellitui potentes rerum, cumexuta reverentia numinis
&legum,examplapotcitate ufurpant nil }U"a:ter trucem quidvisin fub-
-jedlos agendi licentiam. Id Erico regi accidit, quern lolio fublimeni
vidit, 161 oriens, eundum cccidens vidit provolutum adaiiena genua **

7 people

Chap. LVllt. The First Decad of Livy. 193

people are foon appeafed and reduced to right reafon
by the interpoficion of fome grave and refpeclable
perfon * : but who can plead againfl a Tyrannical
Prince, or what redrefs is there but the fword P P>oni
hence we may eafily come to a determination betwixt
them, and conclude that evils and diforders which re-
quire the fharpeft remedies, are certainly more dan-
gerous than thofe that may be cured by gentle means.
Befides, when the people are in a ferment, and have
thrown off all reftrainc, there is not fo much to be
immediately apprehended from any prefent mifchief
they are likely to commit, as from what may after-
wards enfue-, for fuch a State of confufion may chance
to end in tyranny : but with regard to a Prince the
cafe is quite different -, becaufe the prefent evils are
moit grievous, and it is hoped that his enormities
will at laft make him fo odious, that the people v/ill
fhake off his yoke and refume their liberties. We feq
the difference then ; in one cafe the ca]an:iity is actu-
ally prefent, and in the other there is only a probabi-
lity at m.ofl of its happening : the feverity of the peo-
ple extends only to fuch as they think are ccnrpiring
againft the public good ; whild that of a Prince is
chiefly exerted upon thofe that he imagines may in-
jure his particular interefts. But the tide of prejudice
I know runs high againft the people : becaufe every
body is at liberty to fpeak ill with impunity of them,
even v^hen they have the government in their hands ;
but againft a Prince no man dares to open his mouth
without much caution and referve. Now fince the
fubjedl feems naturally to lead me to it, it may not be
amifs perhaps to fay fomething in the next chapter
concerning leagues and confederacies made with
Princes or Commonwealths ; and to confider which of
them arc moft to be depended upon.

• See Chap. liv. of this Eook<

Vol. HI. O . CHAP.

194 Political Discourses upon Book L


Whether an Alliance made iv'uh a Prince cr a Common-
wealth is mojl to be confided in,

^ IN C E it dail}' happens that Treaties and Alli-

anccs are made either betwixt two Princes, or

two Commonweakhs, or betwixt a Commonwealth
and a Prince, it icems neceiTary to examine whether
the fideliiy of a Prince cr a Commonwealth be the
n:ore ilabie, and toconGder wiiichofthem is mo ft to
relied on j and upon enquiry it appears that in moil
cafes they are much alike, though they differ in fome.
I am perfuaded however, that when a Prince
or a ConimonweaUh is forced to enter into a treaty
by downright necedity, neither of them will obferve
the conditions of it ; efpecially if their State fliould
be endangered by it •, for in fuch a cafe, both one and
the otiier would prefcntly break it, how kindly foever
they may have been ufcd. Demetrius, furnamed Po-
liorceres, had fhewn the Athenians many great fa-
vours : but happening to be defeated by his enemies,
and flying to Athens ior refcge, as a people that were
his allies, and under confiderable obligations to him,
he was refufed ilielter there; a circumifance that
mortified him much more than the lofs of his army *.
After Pompry was routed by Casfar at Pharfalia, he
fled into Egypt to Ptolemy, in hopes of finding pro-

* Though he had fliewsx tliem many great favours, yet he had
been guilty of luch opprc!';oii that they couUi never forget it. Among
other inrtances which nii-jht be quoted, he exaded two hundred and
fifty talents of them at one time, which he faid was for pin-money
for his concubine Lamia, a faying galled them more than the
lofs of their ujoney : after wliich he upbraided them with their meaa-
nefs, and told them there was not fo much as one man amongit them
that had theieaft fpark of courage : like the taunt of Tiberius to the
Roman Seiiare mentioned by Tacitus, Annal. lib. III. cap. Ixv. *♦ Me-
morise prod-rur Tibeiium quoties curia egrederetur Grsecis verbis ia
hunc modum eloqui lolitum, homines ad Ser-uitutem paratos ! Scili-
cet etiam ill\im, qui liberrateni publicam noUet, tam projeilas Servi-
, cntiumpatientiae titdebat."


Chap. LIX. The First Decad of Livv. 195

tedion there, as he had formerly reftored that Prince
to his Kingdom : but Ptolemy, inftead of prorefting
him, bafely caufed him to be murdered. In both
thefe cafes the ingratitude was owing to the fame
caufe ; yet the humanity of a Commonwealth we fee
was greater than that of a Prince *. But whenfo-
ever either one or the other is afraid of fuffering
any great damage, they will both ad in the fame

It mud be obferved likewife, that if any Prince or
Commonwealth fhould fo punctually adhere to their
engagements as to run the rifque of being ruined by
it, their motives for fo doing may proceed from the
fame caufes : for as to a Prince, it may probably hap-
pen that he is confederated with fome other great
Potentate, who though he cannot proted him at that
tim.e, may (as the other is perfuaded) be able to re-
flore him to his dominions afterwards, if he (bould
chance to lofe them ; or if he has always firmly fup-
ported his interells, he may either think an accom-
modation with the enemy impoffible, or that he can-
not depend upon his word : which was the cafe of all
the Neapolitan Princes who took pare with the French
when they invaded the Kmgdom of Naples. And as
to Republics, it was exadly the fame with Saguntum,
which was ruined by continuing firm to its alliance
with the Romans-, and v^ithFloi'ence in the year 15 12,
when it lided with the French.

All things being duly confidered however, I am of
opinion, that where the danger is imminent, it is bet-

• A certain modern fays, " th?.t Kings do not look i?pon any one as
naturaiiy either their friend or their enemy; but that their private
interell is the only confideration by which they judge with whom they
are to enter into an alliance. None but the ignorant would rQ]y oa
the friendfhip of Sovereigns, even tov.'ards one another. To fee the
prefents which they exchange, and the intercourle of refpedful let-
ters betwixt them in time of peace, would make one believe they are
the raoft finceie friends, and will love each other as long they live j
but it is very often true that they are at the fame time negociating a
treaty in order to a rupture, and intend to ferve one another no
longer, than till they have an opportunity of commencing hofiiU-
tie» with advantage."

O 2 ter

1^6 Political Discourses UPON Bookl.

ter to truft to a Republic than a Prince : for though
they fhould both be difpofed to a6t in the fame naan-
ner, yet the former being flow in its motions, will be
loncrer than a Prince before it comes to any refolution,
and confequently before it determines to violate its
enc^agements. Treaties are generally broken for the
fake of fome advantage: and in this refped. Republics
always behave with much more honour than Princes ;
for we might produce many examples, where a very
fmall matter of gain has tempted a Prince to forfeit
his honour, when a profpedl of the-greateft advantage
could not corrupt a Commonwealth. ThemilLOcles,
in an harangue to the Athenians, fciid he had fome-
thino- to propofe, which would be of infinite advan-
tac^e to their country •, but that he durfl: not make it
public to every one, becaufe that would prevent its
being put into execution. Upon this, the Athenians
deputed Ariftides to hear his propofals, and to take
fuch refolutions upon them as he ihould think mod
proper. Themiftocles therefore reprtfented to him
in private, that the whole Navy of Greece lay in a
place (though indeed under the protection of their
good faith) where they might eafily either take or de-
flroy every Ship, which would make them abfolute
mafters of all the other States in Greece. But when
Ariftides cam^e to make his report to the people, he
told them that Themiftocles had imparted fomething
to him which indeed would be of exceeding great ad-
vantage, but highly difhonourable to the Common-
wealth ; upon which account it was unanimoufly re-
jected, without any further enquiry into the nature of
it. Now Philip of Macedon and many other Princes,
who were governed by feif-intereft in every thing,
would not have been fo fcrupulous and delicate upon
fuch an occafion ; efpecially Philip, who gained more
by violating his faith than any other method vvhatlb-
ever. As to breaking a treaty, by not pundually ob-
ferving every article of it, it is fo common a thing,
that 1 ftiall fay nothing of it here : I fpeak only of
outrageous and extravagant infradions j of which,

I am

Chap. LX. TtiE First Dec-ad of Livy. 197

I am of opinion, a Republic will always be more
tender than a Prince, and confequently is more to
be confided in.


^bat the Confulfmp cud all ether Bignilies in Rome wefe
conferred witbcut refpe6l of age,

"T appears from Hiflory of the Roman Com-
__ monwealth, that after the Plebeians obtained the
Honour of the Confulfhip, they admitted any Citizea
to it without the lead refpedl either of age or extrac-
tion : indeed the Romans at no time ever regarded
age, but conRantly preferred men of merit and virtue
whether they were old pr young-, as is manifeft from
the indance of Valerius Corvinus, who was made Con-
ful when he was but tv/enty-three years of age •, which
gave him occafion to fay (a little oftentatioufly indeed)
in one of his harangues to his Soldiers, that the Con-
fulfnip was " praemium virtutis, non fanguinis •, the
" reward of virtue, not a privilege of high birth *'
Now whether they acled wifely in this, or not, would
bear fome debate. . As to Nobility of blood, they
were under a necefnty indeed of difpenfing with that ;
and the fame neceillry that operated at Rome, miuft
likewife Iiave its weight in any other State that afpires
to the grandeur which Rome attained to, as we have
elfewherc obferved : for men will not expofe them-
felves to all manner of hardfhips and perils without
fome hope of reward : nor can they be deprived of the
hope of ever obtaining that reward, without manifeft
danger. It foon became expedient therefore to in-
fpire the Plebeians with the liope of being admitted
to the Confulfnip ; with which they were amufed a
confiderable time without obtaining; that honour: but
afterwards being refolved to live upon cxpeftation no
longer, it was found neceffary to them to it.
A State however that has no occafion to employ the

O 3 Plebe-

198 Political Discourses upon Book I.

Plebeians in any great and glorious undertaking, may
treat them in another manner if it pleafes, as I faid
before-, but if it afteds to emulate the Rothans, it
muft make no diltindlion an-;ongft its lubjcdls. So
much for this part of the queftion.

As to the matter cf age, it feems clear that it is ab-
folutely necefTary to make no difference in this point :
for in advancing a young man to fome dignity which
requires the prudence of maturer age, we may be af-
fured (if the power of electing is in the people) they
will never prefer any one that has not highly merited
it by his virtue and extraordinary fervices : and if a
young m*an has diflinguiihed himfelf in that manner,
it would not only be very ungrateful, but of bad con-
fequence, if a Commonwealth, inftead of availing it-
felf of fuch abilities, (hould wait till he was grown
old, and had loft that vigour of body, that courage
and activity which might have been of eminent fervice
to his country * : accordingly we fee the Romans ad-

* Our laws, fays Montaigne, book I. chap. Ivii. ahfurdly deter-
mine that a man is not capable of managing his ellate till he is twenty-
five years of age. Augnftus cat off five years from the ancient Ro-
man Standard, and declared that a man was old enough at thirty to
be a Judge. Servius Tullius excufed Gentlemen of ahove forty feven
years of age from the fatigues of war; Augultus diliniifed them at
forty-five ; though methinks it feems a little unreafonable that men
Ihould be fent home to their fire-fides, till they are fifty- five or fixty.
I am of opinion that our vocation and employment (hould be ex-
tended as far as pofiible for the public good j but I think it a fault on
the other hand that we are not employed foon enough. This Em-
peror was Arbiter of the whole World at nineteen, and yet would
have a man to be thirty before he could bear the loweft office. For
my part, I believe our underftjudings are as ripe at tweniy as they
ever will be, or are capable of being. A mind that did not give evi-
dent proof of its force by that time, never gave proof of it afterwards.
Natural parts and Genius exert themfelves at that term or never,
rf hey fay in Dauphiny

Si 1' efpino no picquo quan nai

A pena que picquo giamai. i. e*.

«' If the thorn does not prick then, it will fcarce ever prick.'*

Of all the great a6tions I ever heard or read of, I have obferved both
in foimer ages and in our own, that more have been performed by
men before the age of thirty than after ; and often too in ttie lives of
the very faiHC peribns. May I not fafely inftance in thofe of Hannibal


Chap. LX. The First Decad of Livy. jgg
vanced Valerius Corvinus, Scipio, Pompey, and
many others of that age ; and to {o good purpofe,

and Scjpio ? The better half of their lives they lived upon the glory
they had acquired in their youth : they were great njen after, it is
true, in compariron of others; but by no means in compariion of
themfelves. As to jny own part, 1 do certainly bJieve, that fince
that age, both my underilandingand iny coiiftitunon have rather cie-
cayed than improved, and retired rather than advanced. It is poffibie
that with thofe who make the belt iife of their time, knowledge and
experience may increnfe with tlieir years ; but the vivacity, quicknefs,
fteadinefs, and other parts of much gi eater importance, and more ef-
lentially our own, languifh and decay

ubi jam validis quaffatum eft viribn? nevi

Corpus, & obtufis ceciderunt virihus arrus,
Claudicat ingenium, delirant linguaque mmfque.

Lucret. lib. III. 452,

Sometimes the body firft fubmits to age, fometimes the mind, and I
have feen enow whoTe biains have failed them and grown weak, be-
fore their flomach and their legs : and as it is a dileale of no great
pain to the Patient, and of cbi(:are Symptoms, the danger h Co mucli
the greater. For this reafon it is that I complain of our Laws j not
that they keep us too long to our work, but that they employ us too

Online LibraryNiccolò MachiavelliThe works of Nicholas Machiavel ... : translated from the originals : illustrated with notes, annotations, dissertations, and several new plans on the Art of war (Volume 3) → online text (page 19 of 44)